Panama Canal Cruise 2015

We left Vernon for Kelowna at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, January 13, 2015 to leave our car with our long time friend, Marjorie who drove us to the airport for our flight to San Diego and the beginning of our 30 day Holland America Panama Canal Cruise.  Vernon was -1 C [30 F] when we left as was Kelowna.  At the airport we had an enjoyable White Spot lunch with Marjorie prior to our flight on United first to San Francisco and continuing on to San Diego.  Due to Anita’s limited mobility we had requested a wheel chair for her upon arrival in San Francisco knowing of the long walk involved first to claim luggage then pass through Customs and on to our connecting flight.  This also secured preferred boarding for us on the connecting flight to San Diego.  We arrived there at 9:30 p.m. and welcomed the 16 C [61 F] temperature that greeted us upon exiting the terminal for our hotel.  After obtaining our room we had a late dinner and by 11 p.m. were in bed.

The Panama Canal Cruise we had booked with Holland America onboard the Statendam was not our first cruise through the Canal as in 2006 we made the same journey and on the same ship.

We enjoyed just fantastic weather on our 30 day cruise, many days were clear and sunny and most importantly warm with highs ranging from 28 C [83 F] to 32 C [90 F] just a great escape from winter.

The Web Sites I have provided are here to provide more background for you … enjoy!

Wednesday, January 14

We awoke and opened the curtains to be greeted with clear skies and sunshine.  At a nearby deli [hotel had new owners and in-house restaurant was not yet open] we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast looking out across the street to see our ship, the ms Statendam, in dock … that’s how close our hotel was to the cruise ship terminal.  The check-in process to board the ship was quick and efficient and 1 hour later we entered our stateroom for the first time.  A brief lunch in the Lido came next then we unpacked and began seeking out the locations we would frequent on the upcoming voyage.  After a brief rest we attended the mandatory Passenger Safety Emergency Drill.  Next came our first visit to the Ocean Bar.  Our early fixed dining had us at a table for 6 with the other 4 members also being Canadian.  One couple came from Ottawa and the other from St. Catharines in Ontario.  We did not attend the opening night performance in the Showroom at Sea featuring the singers and dancers of the Statendam choosing to watch a movie on TV before retiring.

Our ship, the Statendam, 719 feet in length, carries 1,260 passengers plus a crew of 580 and has a maximum speed of 22 knots.  She has ten decks, served by 8 elevators.  Onboard facilities include 2 pools and hot tubs, 7 bars, casino, gymnasium, medical centre, photo gallery and retail stores.  Entertainment is offered nightly in the Showroom At Sea and the Wajang Theatre offers daily movies.  Onboard dining is in the Rotterdam Dining Room, while buffet meals are provided in the Lido Restaurant.  The Pinnacle Grill offers an elegant, sophisticated dining experience featuring premium Sterling Silver beef, inspired seafood dishes and many select wines.

 

 

 

Thursday, January 15

Our first day at sea and clear skies and sunshine greeted us on our walk to breakfast.  Many activities are available daily and are outlined in the On Location Program, provided to us each evening.  Most activities available to us we had no interest in other than the daily Team Trivia and so chose not to participate.  As was our custom on previous cruises, Richard spent time on the outer decks doing his daily walk on the Promenade Deck then enjoying the sunshine until lunch.  The afternoons he spent time reading outdoors in the shade.  Anita chose to read in the Library and for the first time did not do any crafts on this voyage.  Richard obtained the passenger count by nation for this cruise segment from the Front Office.  Dress code for dining was Formal, the first one and was followed by the Captain’s Champagne Toast in the Showroom At Sea during which he introduced the senior officers.  This evening “Encore”, an evening at the symphony, was the live show in Showroom At Sea and we enjoyed the performance.  Clocks go ahead one hour tonight.

Mornings we also had available to us the Times Digest, eight pages of headline news from the pages of The New York Times and The Canadian, headline news more meaningful to us.  For guests from the UK and Australia other publications were also available.

Our routine, as on past cruises, sees us attend in the Ocean Bar for pre-dinner drinks during Happy Hour at 4 p.m. where one buys one drink at regular price and receives a second for just one dollar.  Servers in the Ocean Bar treat regulars like us with just superb service.  Once they know your drink preference you never have to tell them a second time unless you want to change.  Richard was most pleased that Molson Canadian beer was available throughout the 30 day voyage.

Hereunder is the Guest Manifest Nationality Breakdown for the first half of our cruise.

Nationality

Total Count

 

 

Austria

2

Australia

6

Canada

228

Switzerland

2

Germany

13

Denmark

6

Spain

12

France

1

United Kingdom

122

Ireland

2

Japan

2

Netherlands

28

Norway

3

Russian Federation

7

Sweden

8

Thailand

1

United States

641

 

 

Total:

1,084

 

Friday, January 16

This was a second sea day and the early morning brought us high thin cloud.  Clocks go ahead one hour tonight.  The comedy of Kevin Johnson was presented in the Showroom At Sea tonight.

Having done this cruise once before in 2009 we chose not to engage in or purchase any shore excursions having done all that before.  We did notice a sharp increase in pricing for those excursions offered on board by Holland America.  Richard did go ashore in most ports for photo ops and to enjoy a good walk off the ship.

Saturday, January 17

In port at Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for the day with a scheduled 4:30 p.m. departure.  Early morning skies were partly cloudy before the sun came out to provide just a fine day.  This past November we had spent a month at an adult all-inclusive resort just 2 blocks from the cruise ship terminal so Richard walked there to revisit the place and talk with staff there.  In the Showroom At Sea this evening a superb performance by Jim Curry as he provided a tribute to the music of the late John Denver.

Web Sites of Interest

Puerto Vallarta            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puerto_Vallarta

Sunday, January 18

A day at sea and it was another warm and sunny day.  Our daily routine continued and we enjoyed our leisure time on board the ship.  So much to do one is never bored.  Jeff Peterson combined comedy and some magic during his performance in the Showroom At Sea this evening.

Monday, January 19

In port at Huatulco, Mexico our second chance to go ashore on this voyage.  The day was sunny and hot.  The evening live presentation in the Showroom At Sea had Jim Curry & Jeff Peterson return for a second time.

Web Sites of Interest

Huatulco          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huatulco

Tuesday, January 20

In port at Puerto Chiapas, Mexico for the day.  Another clear and sunny morning.  The Ship’s Singers & Dancers performed “Live From The Stardust Lounge”, classics from old Vegas, the Rat Pack & more in Showroom At Sea.  After the live show we spent time in The Mix listening to David Anthony, The Piano Man.  We continue to enjoy calm seas.

Live shows presented for our entertainment on this cruise are very short in duration, only 35 minutes per show whereas on previous cruises live shows were one hour long each.

Web Sites of Interest

Puerto Chiapas            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_of_Chiapas

Wednesday, January 21

In port at Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala for the day with a scheduled 5:30 p.m. departure.  More clear and sunny skies greeted us as we walked to the Rotterdam Dining Room for breakfast.  Juan Pablo Subirana, a Latin American Virtuoso Pianist, performed live in the Showroom At Sea tonight.  We again visited The Mix to list to David Anthony before retiring.

Web Sites of Interest

Puerto Quetzal            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puerto_Quetzal

Thursday, January 22

In port at Corinto, Nicaragua and partly cloudy skies greeted us as we left our stateroom for the walk to breakfast.  For a change of pace we watched the movie, “The Two Faces of January” in the Wajang Theatre after dinner this evening.

Web Sites of Interest

Corinto             http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corinto,_Nicaragua

Friday, January 23

Sunny skies was the order of the day while in port today at Puntarenas, Costa Rico.  Dress Code was Formal for dinner tonight and clocks were set ahead 1 hour tonight.  The ship was 1 hour late in departing this afternoon due to the late return of guests on a shore excursion.  We watched the movie, “The Trials of Cate McCall” in the Theatre after dinner.

Web Sites of Interest

Puntarenas      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puntarenas

Saturday, January 24

A sea day and we were greeted with cloudy skies when the curtains were first pulled back this morning.  The clouds soon gave way to sunshine and by 11 a.m. we enjoyed sunny skies once again.  Following dinner this evening we watched a movie on TV in our stateroom before retiring.

Sunday, January 25

Scenic Cruising the Panama Canal.  Room Service provided breakfast so Richard could be out on deck early.  He was out on the bow of the ship by 7:30 a.m. under sunny morning skies.  Richard was more conservative in his photo taking, this being the second time here.  Navigating the Canal is still a marvel no matter how often one is able to witness it.  We passed through the first 2 Locks while outside on the bow and the early afternoon turned cloudy and windy.  We were at Happy Hour in the Ocean Bar during transit of the third Lock.  Anita chose today to be laundry day for us as everyone else was viewing the Canal transit.  The evening live show and the in-house movie were both late starts that evening so we watched a movie on TV in our stateroom before retiring.

During the transit of the Canal one could see evidence of the ongoing construction of the new Canal that is being built to take the larger ships.  Opening of this second Canal was to have been later this year but has been delayed until 2016 we were told.  This because of many things, one being a bad batch of cement that had to be replaced.

Web Sites of Interest

Panama Canal http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panama_Canal

Panama Canal Expansion Project        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panama_Canal_expansion_project

Monday, January 26

This morning we were in port at Cartagena, Columbia.  Last night as we retired at 10 p.m. it was windy and caused some limited rock and roll of the ship and this continued through the night, the first on this cruise.  Upon waking this morning the skies were almost clear and it still was somewhat windy.  We had dinner reservations for the Pinnacle Grill this evening – fancy dining!  The live variety show in the Showroom At Sea featured singer Colleen Williamson & Derrick Cameron, comedian.

Web Sites of Interest

Cartagena       http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartagena,_Colombia

Tuesday, January 27

This is the first of two days at sea and partly cloudy skies greeted us first thing this morning.  There was some wind again overnight but not as bad as the previous evening.  There is the Mariner Society Luncheon for us today and Formal Dress Code for dinner this evening.  By mid-morning the sun was out again and we enjoyed just another fine day.  The Ship’s Singers & Dancers performed Unforgettable, the songs of the Hit Parade in the Showroom At Sea.

Wednesday, January 28

Day two at sea and calm seas.  Skies were mainly cloudy in the early morning then in the afternoon a cool wind made it somewhat uncomfortable sitting on the outer decks.  Tonight was the farewell dinner for guests leaving on Thursday.  As the Shows had a late start this evening we watched a TV movie in our stateroom before retiring.

Thursday, January 29

In port at Fort Lauderdale, Florida and the end of the first cruise segment.  With new guests on board the return cruise begins at 4 p.m. following the mandatory Passenger Safety Emergency Drill.  Outside upon waking it was cloudy and windy.  For us, as continuing guests, we need to exit the ship and pass through US Customs.  This process should have been quick but it ended up being a one and one-half hour exercise that consisted of us mainly just sitting and waiting in a holding room.  Finally a US Customs Officer briefly glanced at our passports and allowed us back on board.  This was the coolest port of all to date, perhaps only 21 C [70 F] as the high.  At dinner this evening we met our new dinner guests, a couple from Ladysmith, BC who replaced the couple from Ottawa.  For a second evening we watched TV in our stateroom after dinner before retiring.

 

Cruise Log:               Wednesday, January 14, 2015 – San Diego to

                                    Thursday, January 29, 2015 – Fort Lauderdale

Total Mileage This Voyage

Ports

Mileage

Average

Speed

 

 

 

San Diego – Puerto Vallarta

1,038

17.3

Puerto Vallarta - Huatulco

   698

17.9

Hulatulco – Puerto Chiapas

   225

15.5

Puerto Chiapas - Quetzal

   142

10.5

Quetzal - Corinto

   232

18.6

Corinto - Puntarenas

   282

17.1

Puntarenas - Panama Bslboa

   512

15.8

Panama Balboa – Panama Cristobal

    47

  3.9

Panama Cristobal - Cartegena

   278

17.4

Cartegenia – Fort Lauderdale

1,148

18.4

 

 

 

Total Distance

4,602

 

 

1 Nautical Mile  =  1.15 Statute Miles  =  1.85 Kilometers

 

Web Sites of Interest

Fort Lauderdale           http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Lauderdale,_Florida

Friday, January 30

At anchor off Half Moon Cay, The Bahamas.  Partly cloudy skies this morning and sunshine soon became the order giving us just another great day.  WOW!!  While in Fort Lauderdale all the lounges used for sun tanning and such on the upper outer decks were replaced with new ones.  What a pleasant surprise!  After dinner we watched the movie, “One Chance”, a true story, before retiring.

Web Sites of Interest

Half Moon Cay http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_San_Salvador_Island

Saturday, January 31

A day at sea and the early morning provided partly cloudy skies.  Formal Dress Code for dinner this evening.  Richard obtained the passenger count by nation for this cruise segment from the Front Office.  In the on board theatre we watched the movie, “St. Vincent” before retiring.

 

 

 

Hereunder is the Guest Manifest Nationality Breakdown for the second half of our cruise.

Nationality

Total Count

 

 

Argentina

9

Australia

12

Belgium

6

Canada

268

Switzerland

8

Chile

3

Germany

11

Denmark

6

Spain

1

France

4

United Kingdom

72

Croatia

1

Indonesia

2

Ireland

2

Italy

2

Japan

2

Korea, Republic Of

2

Mexico

2

Malaysia

2

Netherlands

39

Norway

8

Russian Federation

2

Sweden

3

United States

732

South Africa

2

Total:

1,201

 

Our return cruise has 117 more guests than the first segment had and there were more Americans and Canadians on this segment as well as many more nations being represented.

Sunday, February 1

Partly cloudy skies again this morning as we began our second sea day and by 9 a.m. we again enjoyed brilliant sunshine.  Today is Super Bowl Sunday.  The movie, “This Is Where I Leave You”, a comedy, was our entertainment choice after dinner as the Super Bowl was front and centre in the Showroom At Sea tonight.  At bedtime the winds were up outside and the ship had some movement all night long.

Monday, February 2

In port at Cartagena, Columbia for our second visit.  Opening the curtains this morning revealed more clear skies and sunshine.  Derrick Cameron appeared once again in the Showroom At Sea this evening.

On this back to back cruise of the Panama Canal there are 2 crew members from previous cruises we’ve been on.  One is a Second Maitre D’ from the Oosterdam and from the Rotterdam, a wine steward / bartender.

Tuesday, February 3

Scenic Cruising the Panama Canal.  Room Service provided breakfast so Richard could be out on deck early.  He was out on the bow of the ship by 7:30 a.m. this morning under partly cloudy skies.  The clouds kept the morning pleasant for viewing and the afternoon was hot with the direct sun overhead.  Clocks were set back 1 hour tonight.  We watched TV in our stateroom after dinner before retiring.

Wednesday, February 4

A sea day today with clear and sunny skies upon waking.  Formal Dress Code for dinner tonight.  As both the live show and the movie were repeats tonight we watched TV in our stateroom after dinner.

The guests joining us in Fort Lauderdale just don’t seem to bond like our first group did.  This is a trail we’ve noticed on previous cruises and on extended bus tours we’ve taken in the past.

Thursday, February 5

In port at Puntarenas, Costa Rico for the day.  There was thin high cloud outside when the curtains were first opened this morning.  The day turned out to be very warm.  After dinner we watched the movie, “The Identical” in the Wajjang Theatre.

Friday, February 6

By mid-morning we were in port at Corinto, Nicaragua.    Upon waking there was light high cloud and it turned out to be another hot day.  The male cast of the Ship’s Singers & Dancers performed Street Singin’ in the Showroom At Sea.

Saturday, February 7

In port at Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala.  Clear and sunny skies greeted us as we walked to breakfast this morning.  Jeff Burghart, comedian, was on stage tonight in the Showroom At Sea.

We met up with an older gentlemen from Salem, Oregon a number of times who, like us, was enjoying the full 30 day cruise.  It turns out that he also was on the 2009 Panama Canal cruise on this same ship, the Statendam that we were.

Another couple from Portland, Oregon will be on our next cruise with us, the 50 Day Tales Of The South Pacific that begins September 27, 2015 and departs from Seattle, WA.

Sunday, February 8

In port at Puerto Chiapas, Mexico.  The weather continues to favour us, sunny and hot today.  Nick Lewin, comedian, appeared on stage in the Showroom At Sea.

 

 

Monday, February 9

Today is the first of two days at sea and the early morning skies were clear.  Clocks were set back 1 hour tonight.  We enjoyed a fine performance by violinist Jacqueline Roche this evening in the Showroom At Sea.

Tuesday, February 10

When Richard first opened the curtains on this second day at sea the skies were cloudy.  This was our first day of somewhat cooler temperatures as we neared the end of our cruise.  A variety show, featuring Jeff Burghart and Jacqueline Roche was the live presentation in the Showroom At Sea.

Wednesday, February 11

At anchor off Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and our last stop before arriving in San Diego.  The skies were sunny this morning.  Formal Dress Code this evening and for the second time we have reservations at the Pinnacle Grill.  Clocks set back 1 hour tonight.  In the Showroom At Sea was Encore, an evening at the symphony featuring the ship’s tenor and soprano accompanied by the Statendam Orchestra.  Later we watched the movie, “Pride” in the theatre before retiring.

Web Sites of Interest

Cabo San Lucas         http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabo_San_Lucas

Thursday, February 12

A day at sea and our last full cruise day on board the Statendam.  The day was sunny once again.

Friday, February 13

The skies were sunny upon arrival in San Diego.  Immigration personnel were one half hour late in arriving so we did not disembark until 9:15 a.m.  Both of us were pleasantly surprised that our Hotel had our room available so early that morning when we arrived to check in.  At 10 a.m. it was a pleasant 22 C [72 F] and we enjoyed a pleasant day outdoors enjoying the fine weather.  Our Hotel is situated across the street from the Cruise Ship Terminal.  Before having dinner sitting in the patio of a nearby deli we watched the departure of the Statendam as it left San Diego at 5 p.m. bound for Hawaii.  Our flight on Saturday departed at 8 a.m. so we had an early evening.

Web Sites of Interest

San Diego        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Diego

 

Cruise Log:               Thursday, January 29, 2015 – Fort Lauderdale to

                                    Friday, February 13, 2015 – San Diego

 

 

Total Mileage This Voyage

Ports

Mileage

Average

Speed

 

 

 

Fort Lauderdale – Half Moon Cay

   273

18.2

Half Moon Cay - Cartegena

   909

15.0

Cartegena – Panama Cristobal

   284

18.9

Panama Cristobal – Panama Balboa

    49

  3.5

Panama Balboa - Puntarenas

   500

13.5

Puntarenas - Corinto

   282

17.9

Corinto – Puerto Quetzal

   233

17.9

Puerto Quetzal – Puerto Chiapas

   142

11.4

Puerto Chiapas – Cabo San Lucas

1,134

18.3

Cabo San Lucas – San Diego

   750

18.3

 

 

 

Total Distance

4,556

 

 

1 Nautical Mile  =  1.15 Statute Miles  =  1.85 Kilometers

 

Saturday, February 14

It was sunny and clear this morning at 6:40 a.m. when the sun came up.  By this time we were waiting for our flight in the departure lounge at the San Diego airport.  Our home bound flights were all on time and once again Anita used a wheel chair for her transport.  Upon arrival in San Francisco more sunshine and 19 C [66 F] at 9:30 a.m.  Then in Kelowna more sun and no snow but 14 C [57 F] it felt like spring to us.  Our friend, Marjorie was there to meet us.  We chose to overnight with her before returning to Vernon and treated her to both dinner out that evening and breakfast on Sunday.

Conclusions

We completed a “back to back” cruise, San Diego to Fort Lauderdale and return, and are of the opinion that one enjoys their time more than just cruising from point A to point B.  We cannot say enough about the staff of our ship, the Statendam … they did everything to make our cruise enjoyable – we did not “want” for anything.  Come October, the Statendam will no longer be part of Holland America's fleet.  It has been sold to P & O and will undergo refit in Singapore before the Aussies take control of it. Over the 30 days we did see where Holland America has reduced or cut back on services offered to or available to their guests.  Two examples -- At breakfast in the Dining Room an order of pancakes used to come with a full container of syrup and a container of soft butter.  Now the syrup container comes only half full [one must order “double syrup” to have enough] and no longer is the soft butter offered … one must use what is on the table.  Live piano music was offered in the Ocean Bar daily beginning at 4 p.m. at the start of our cruise but come January 31 on the return voyage it was 6:30 p.m. before live piano was heard in the Bar.

Last, but not least, for any of you who have not been through the Panama Canal, you just don’t know what you’re missing!