I did a 10 day Panama Canal cruise from Ft Lauderdale to Acapulco. First, stayed at Rodeway Inn, FLL. Free shuttle from airport, free shuttle to cruise (though I didn't need it), decent continental breakfast daily, lovely clean heated outdoor pool, hardly anyone in it, nice staff, free internet, cheap, right next to highway exit and near Enterprise rental so convenient for driving, what more could you ask for? Cruise itself: nice balcony cabin, food was plentiful and good though not stunning, everything orderly and clean. What stands out as excellent were the crew: at least half made special efforts to greet me by name daily, know my preferences, dance with me, chat on a personal basis (not just formal), were always friendly and sincere and helpful. I invited half of them back to visit me and really hope they come! The only thing I could possibly criticize is Princess still allows smoking on balconies (and some people even had cigars though this is supposed to be forbidden). I made it plain I was an avid allergic anti-smoker yet was placed between smokers on either side of me. It again meant I could not use my balcony (like on Carnival, RCI much better) for the whole 10 days. This would not have been a big deal but I was quarantined to my cabin for 24 hours with suspected Norwalk and had no access to air except by balcony. I had no problem with the concept to keep the rest of the passengers healthy, and I was not up to going out anyway, but it was claustrophobic and I would have liked to leave my door open but the jerk especially on one side refused, even after I explained the situation, to stop smoking on his balcony even for a few hours. My point is, if they are going to make me essentially a prisoner with only my balcony for fresh air, they should have told my neighbours to butt out for the duration. That is really my only complaint, but until they confine smokers to one side and let me book on the other, I will go to Celebrity, who, I gather, has outlawed smoking on balconies.The cruise ended in Acapulco and some people were so afraid of crime they didn't even get off the ship. All the news of bad stuff is so highly overrated! I was traveling alone, and walked the street outside my hotel as much as I wanted, up to 2am for 3 nights in a tank top and skirt and had not one hassle. People were friendly, respectful, taxi drivers were honest and on-time, there were lots of people, even little kids, out at night because it was Semana Santa (Holy Week around Easter when lots of Mexicans on vacation), and I felt entirely safe. Buses were easy to use, I wandered the shops and sights, and everyone was helpful. There is crime everywhere in the world, no worse in Acapulco than anywhere else as far as I could see. Police officers even posed for pictures with me, streets were much cleaner than many other places, and I would return anytime. I stayed at the Hotel Emporio and it was an absolute gem. Gorgeous views, beautiful pools, quiet, clean, helpful people, gym, travel agency, restaurants, comfy bed in room with safe, frig and micro, including huge breakfast buffet for less than $100/night. There was an earthquake one morning which scared me to death but they were not concerned and I was assured by their confidence. Hotel is strongly built and had no ill effects, though we shook terribly! Pretty beach but I was told surf was rough. I ended up at the pools all day anyway as they were so peaceful, hawkers will approach on the beach like anywhere, but they are not aggressive. Starbucks and mall across the street, lots of shops and restaurants within 5 minutes. Couldn't ask for more!
Yup, very small shower. Everything else had plenty of room. Nice and quiet, thank God! Compared to Carnival nightmare, it was a pleasure to actually be able to sleep at night. Room steward and room service staff were sweet. They have to do something about smokers on balconies, though. Pollutes the whole side of the ship. The morning show put on by Billy and Boogie made my day! Nat the Brazilian, Jorge from Mexico, and Mel from England were exceptional cruise direction staff. Jorge and Nat made themselves available to dance with all of us (too many) single ladies, Nat's Brazilian dance class and Jorge's Spanish classes were awesome, and Mel took the time to chat and had the guts to sing karaoke for our pleasure. Kudos to waitstaff Alex (Mex)for finding me dining mates, John (India) for remembering how I like my mocha, Francisco (Mex), Ricardo (Peru) and Jorge (Peru) in Horizons for getting me everything I needed, Denis (Ukraine) in Bordeaux for his jokes, Alejandro (Mex) in Explorers for learning salsa with me, and Diego (Peru) for smiling even at early morning room service; the crew made this ship. I hope I am not forgetting someone!
Panama Canal itself is a phenomenon not to be missed. My only wish would have been a few more single men my age! (43)
Guides and drivers for Dunn's River Falls climb were super, and climb was so fun I am glad I did it though touristy. Bobsled ride was also a blast. Town not so much. Really aggressive hawkers and beggars, followed me and flirted in not a nice way, like they expected tips for everything. Never got to see the beach because even my Jamaican friend now living in Ft Lauderdale said it was not safe for me to go anywhere by myself. People wanted tips for everything, even directions, and not nice about it. Thrust useless hunk of wood on me and said it was free then when I took it, asked for $20. Had to run gauntlet of hawkers just to get photo of falls climb. Would not go back. I sympathize with poor people needing to make money but the government could pay them to be nice hosts for people getting off in port and create jobs that way, making people want to come back and spend more time.
The 5* goes to Tabacon Hot Springs, not so much Puntarenas, where doesn't seem to be too much. Did the Princess excursion to Tabacon and it was worth any amount. A 3 hr drive was pleasant, great guide talked non-stop about Costa Rica, coffee, economy and social system, birds and wildlife, had a pit stop at a lovely souvenir shop, so bus trip was not boring, saw lovely countryside which never would have seen otherwise. Tabacon is just a dream, clean flowing river they pump springs water into so you have hot waterfalls! Clean, efficient, several lovely pools, gorgeous gardens and grounds, restaurant and shop, swim up bar, waterslide, awesome, wish I'd had more time. We slept the ride back and I wish I had the name of the company who contracted the excursion; they were awesome.