We were interested in going through the Panama Canal and were looking for a cruise that also included some stops on the way. We also wanted to avoid too many sea days. When cruising, we normally book with the Seabourn but they did not quite fit the bill, although we have always been happy with them. We finally settled on the Uncruise “Ultimate Costa Rica and Panama”. We accomplished the stops we wanted and really enjoyed the travel through the canal, but we were quite disappointed with many aspects of the trip and the quality and cleanliness of the ship. I will try to explain why without being too heavy handed.
Cost. The trip was not cheap. The cost per day is comparable to The Seaborn. We assumed the lower cabin quality etc., would be made up for by the land excursions. Not exactly!
The Ship. The ship is old, run down and not very clean inside or out. The decks were dirty and common areas were not regularly cleaned. The outside was also dirty and had not seen a coat of paint for some time. The engine continually pumped out small amounts of diesel into the otherwise pristine sea. The air conditioning system did not work properly (read on).
Cabin. The cabin was small but it was what we expected. The carpet; however, was stained and filthy. It had not been cleaned properly in a long time. The ac kept the cabin cool, but the cabin was very damp (no shower exhaust).
Lounge. The lounge was ok with a nice bar. It was bright and there were tables and games were people could socialize. Nightly talks were held there. Sadly, the air conditioning did not work in there. It was like a sauna. Hence, avoided the lounge most days, and just could not bear to go too many of the talks.
Dining Room. It was fine and functional. As meals progressed, it also became hotter to the point of being uncomfortable. It was never a place to relax after meals – clean up began as soon as service was completed.
Food. Food was ok. Since we were on a two-week cruise, I was sad to see the menu on the second week was almost the same as the first week. Half the passengers did both weeks. Hours were very fixed. One night we had dinner at 17:45 with no reason given as to why. Probably for the convenience of the staff. You could not linger over a glass of wine after dinner, because the crew started cleaning up around you. Again, convenience of the staff seemed to trump passenger wishes.
Staff. If it was not for the quality of the staff, I would have probably jumped ship. The stewards were very nice and attentive. The guides were also great although when on shore they tended to herd you. They were generally very safety conscious. The Captain was affable as were her operational crew.
Shore activities. The cruise was advertised as an ‘adventure’ cruise. We generally went ashore twice a day, which is why we went with Uncruise. The ‘adventure’ was completely lacking in our view. It was the least adventurous trip we had ever been on. We were over-controlled, monitored and herded most days. As experienced travellers, we felt like were were always treated like very young children. We weren’t even given the option of just wandering around most of the towns on our own. In Costa Rica, we did not see much wildlife. Nobodies fault, just the way it was. “Hikes” were short and generally uninteresting (there were a few exceptions). You rarely got to walk more than 50 feet without having to stop and listen to the guide give some endless explanation of something you had already heard about many times. There was no snorkeling and only one kayaking outing. Panama was much better with lots of water activities and more wildlife. The snorkeling, kayaking and paddle boarding was much better there. Going through the canal was great.
Fellow Passengers. Most of the people we met were very nice, diverse and interesting people. On the Costa Rica leg of the voyage, guests were considerably older. Dinner conversation was pleasant. Like all cruise people, the regular Uncruise people are very loyal (many had only sailed with Uncruise, however).
Value for Money. When we compared our Alaska trip on the Seabourn with the Uncruise one that other passengers had done, there was no comparison. We had similar shore excursions, a much better stateroom, far superior food, more flexibility, more entertainment, a cleaner and newer ship that was more environmentally friendly. Believe it or not, the cost per day per person was less on the Seabourn.
Conclusion. Notwithstanding the quality of the ship and its poor functioning ac, we enjoyed ourselves. We felt we were slaves to a schedule, and that we did not like. As on of our fellow passengers said: “She was tired of being nannied.” I would not recommend this Cruise Line.