On Thursday, January 16, 2020 at 6:45 a.m. we left Vernon with our neighbours, Mark and Eva, bound for Kelowna for the first leg of our flight to San Diego, CA and the beginning of our 35 Day Panama Canal Cruise scheduled to begin on Saturday.  Vernon was -15 C [5 F] and snowing as was the Kelowna Airport upon arrival.  Our Kelowan>Vancouver flight was delayed, departing at 9:50 a.m. and did leave us ample time to make our way to the U.S. departure gate where we planned to meet up with our long time friend, Marjorie who would be making her first Holland America cruise.  Marjorie, coming from Vancouver Island encountered more delays then we did and boarded our flight only 10 minutes before they closed the doors.  Our first departure to San Diego was half an hour late and once we began to taxi out for takeoff the pilot determined our plane had a mechanical problem with the nose gear and aborted our take off, taxied on the tarmac to await the mechanical crew to troubleshoot the problem.  We rode around a lot but no one came to our rescue so finally returned to a departure gate where repairs were undertaken and our fuel topped up.  We still could not depart the gate  as a fuel spill behind our plane had happened in the meantime and we had to await clean up.  Finally some 2.5 hours later we did depart for San Diego and arrived at 6:45 p.m. some 12 hours after we had left Vernon.  Temperature upon leaving Vernon was -15 C [5 F] and snowing; temperature in San Diego +15 C [59 F] and no snow!  Our luggage arrived with us but Marjorie’s was not on our flight.  When making her luggage claim we learned that it was coming on a later flight leaving Vancouver at 8 p.m. and would be delivered to our San Diego Hotel early Friday morning.  That did happen and all was good.  We had a late dinner at our hotel following check in with Marjorie’s nephew, Kevin joining us.  He lives in Victoria, B.C. but spends part of his time working in San Diego.

 

On Friday, January 17 we awoke to find it raining and by 10 a.m. it had ended.  We enjoyed a day of leisure around our hotel complex with 19 C [66 F] the high in San Diego.

 

Skies were sunny the morning of Saturday, January 18 and we had to wait until 3:30 p.m. to board our ship due to some Women’s March earlier that would result in street closures near the cruise ship terminal.  We arrived a bit early, 3:10 p.m. to find no line ups and at 3:30 p.m. were in our stateroom for this first time.  We had ½ hour before participating in the Mandatory Fire & Safety Drill.  Afterwards, in the Ocean Bar we met Oliver whom we’d first met in 2017 while on our Hong Kong>Singapore cruise also with Holland America.  Then Oliver was our Server, now he is Bartender in the Ocean Bar.  At dinner that evening the three of us met our tablemates, a couple from Edmonton, Alberta and a single male from southern England.  Unpacking came next prior to bedtime.  Clocks were set ahead 1 hour tonight.  

 

Our ship, the Oosterdam, 936 feet in length, carries 1,964 passengers plus a crew of 812 and has a maximum speed of 24 knots.  Oosterdam, a Vista-class ship, recently emerged from dry dock with exciting updates—including completely refreshed suites and new lounge, dining and entertainment venues, such as Music Walk™, with Lincoln Center Stage, B.B. King’s Blues Club and Billboard Onboard. Guests can choose from among delectable specialty restaurants, hone culinary skills with EXC Port to Table and thrill to BBC Earth Experiences.  We first sailed on Oosterdam in 2013 and 2017 was when the last renovations were undertaken.

 

Daily at 4 p.m. we enjoy Happy Hour in the Ocean Bar before our evening meal.  From 4 to 5 p.m. one pays $2 for the second drink.  It turns out that one of our Bar Stewards, Malone we had also met on a previous cruise.

 

A sea day on Sunday, January 19 and our first full cruise day.  We awoke to clear skies that later became a mixture of sun and cloud for the remainder of the day.  Following breakfast we explored the ship and were delighted with the renovation results making it just an excellent ship!  Sad to say there is no “true” Library as such any more … only a small reading area adjacent to the Crowsnest Bar and a very cool area of the ship.  As the best alternative for a quiet place to read we found the Explorer’s Lounge on Deck 2 suited our purposes.  Another loss we found was the demise of the daily publication of The Canadian and similar print editions of headline news and events.  Gone “paperless” is the explanation provided us.  Online versions of these provided guests with very little in the way of daily news happenings.  Dinner this evening was good and not liking the evening show “Bandstand” on the Mainstage we walked out early.

 

A second sea day on Monday, January 20.  Partly cloudy skies upon waking that later turned into full sunshine … got to like this!  Formal Dress Code tonight.  Richard obtained the Guest Passenger Count from Guest Services and he spent quality time on the outer decks.  Comedian, David Crowe performed live on the Mainstage tonight.  Clocks were set ahead 1 hour tonight.

 

This cruise marks the third time we’ve done the Panama Canal back to back so have decided not to purchase any Holland America shore excursions on this cruise.

 

In port at Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on Tuesday, January 21, our first stop.  Clear morning skies upon waking.  Richard went ashore for a walkabout and to take photos.  Two other cruise ships in port with us, Norweigan’s Norweigan Joy and Oceania’s Insignia.  A great warm and sunny day with it being 25 C [77 F] at noon.  After dinner in our stateroom we watched the movie, Judy, before retiring.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

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

 

In port at Manzanillo, Mexico on Wednesday, January 22 and we again awoke to clear morning skies.  Richard went ashore.  Pianist, Juan Pablo Subirana, performed live tonight on the Mainstage.  We have enjoyed calm seas since the beginning of our cruise.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Manzanillo       https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manzanillo,_Colima

 

Delivered to our stateroom each evening is “When & Where” a publication of the next day’s daily events.  We found this document to be sadly lacking in event descriptions as it did not fully describe said events and activities.

 

A sea day on Thursday, January 23.  We awoke to partly cloudy skies.  We are scheduled to attend a Mariner Luncheon today.  Richard met and talked to 1 of the 14 guests who did not join our cruise until Puerto Vallarta.  Bad weather [ice storms] had prevented these folks from arriving on time in San Diego to begin the cruise.  At about 1:30 p.m. the Captain announced that we had a medical emergency causing us to change our cruise course to Acapulco where a Mexican Nay boat met us and took the sick lady to hospital.  This mishap did not affect our arrival time in Huatulco on Friday morning.  Watched the comedy movie, Night School, in our stateroom before bedtime.

 

 

Passenger Guest Count – San Diego to Fort Lauderdale

Nationality

Total Count

 

 

Australia

15

Belgium

6

Canada

524

Switzerland

2

Chile

1

China        

4

Germany

10

Denmark

2

Finland

2

Fiji

1

United Kingdom

121

Ireland

2

India

1

Italy

1

Japan

1

Korea

1

Mexico

2

Netherlands

39

Norway

6

New Zealand

2

Portugal

1

Romania

18

Russia

1

Turkey

1

Taiwan

1

United States

1,131

South Africa

1

 

 

Total

1,897

 

 

In port at Huatulco, Mexico on Friday, January 24 and under partly cloudy skies to begin the day four of us, Anita, Marjorie, Steve [our U.K table mate] and Richard went ashore and engaged a taxi for 2 hours.  We toured the many bays, beaches and other “hideaways” on narrow dirt roads that no motor coach could travel on.  It was a very warm day and each person paid $20 U.S. for the taxi.  That evening in the Lincoln Center Stage we listened to great music performed by two violinists, one chello, one string base and one piano player.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

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

 

In port at Puerto Chiapas, Mexico on Saturday, January 25.  We awoke to early morning cloud that soon gave way to clear sunny skies with highs near 28 C [82 F] that we had enjoyed on previous days.  Richard did go ashore.  The live evening show on the Mainstage was a musical tribute to John Denver performed by Jim Curry … a great performance!

Web Sites of Interest

 

Puerto Chiapas            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_Chiapas

 

Jim Curry                     http://www.jimcurrymusic.com/about-jim-curry/

 

 

In port at Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala on Sunday, January 26.  Once again, clear morning skies upon waking.  This is a container port and no shuttle service into town was provided.  Today we learned that Kobe Bryant and his daughter were two of nine people killed in a helicopter crash today.  Watched the movie, A Dog’s Journey, on TV in our stateroom following dinner.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

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

 

In port at Corinto, Nicaragua on Monday, January 27.  Early morning skies were partly cloudy.  Richard was VERY surprised and pleased to finally find new chaise lounges on the Promenade Deck.  The previous ones date back to 2013 and prior … were wooden with extremely dirty cushions and 99 % of them were broken, not adjustable.  Nick Diffatte, magician, shared the Mainstage tonight with Jim Curry singing the songs of John Denver.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

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

 

In port at Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica on Tuesday, January 28 and upon opening our curtains were greeted with partly cloudy skies outside.  Ship clearance to go ashore was some half hour late today causing a scramble for those guests heading out on shore excursions today.  We are docked in yet another container port and the town some 30 minutes away via shuttle bus.  Did not go ashore here.  Singer, Cyndi Wheeler, performed on the Mainstage after dinner.  Clocks were set ahead 1 hour tonight.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Puerto Caldera            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puntarenas_Province

 

A day at sea on Wednesday, January 29 with partly cloudy early morning skies.  Formal Dress Code tonight and for the three of us, dinner at the Pinnacle Grill for the first time on this cruise.  While seated at breakfast there were a few rain showers that were short lived and gave way to sunny skies.  Dinner was delicious from beginning to end..

 

Scenic cruising of the Panama Canal on Thursday, January 30.  This is our third time here and the first for Marjorie.  Made use of Room Service for an early breakfast as by 6:50 a.m. Richard was out on the Bow on Deck 4 for photos.  While approaching the first lock there came the call for a medical emergency.  Prior to leaving this first lock the ship had discharged the patient to go for hospital care.  It was a very warm and hot day going through the Panama Canal and again we were not disappointed as we always seem to see new things that amaze us.  After dinner we watched the movie, The Art Of Racing In The Rain, on TV in our stateroom  The evening live shows offered on the Mainstage most often did not appeal to us.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

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

 

A sea day on Friday, January 31 and upon waking cloudy skies greeted us.  Later the sun returned but it was windy, so much so that one could not sit comfortably on the outer decks.  Tonight after dinner we watched the movie, Brian Banks, a true story, in our stateroom before retiring.  Clocks were set ahead 1 hour tonight.

 

In port at Oranjestad, Aruba on Saturday, February 1.  Party cloudy morning skies upon waking.  Richard and Marjorie went ashore and did a walkabout taking some photos.  The anticipated free shuttle turned out to run only hourly so instead opted for a 2 hour partial tour of the Island which in the end was 3 hours long … $20 U.S. per person.  An excellent tour in a small mini bus with numerous great photo ops at well- appointed stops.  Observed numerous all-inclusive and time share hotels mainly near the beaches and the ocean.  That evening on TV in our stateroom we watched the movie, Long Shot, before bedtime.

 

The first of two consecutive sea days on Sunday, February 2.  The early morning cloud burned off to provide yet another sunny, warm day.  Today is Super Bowl Sunday.  Calm seas continue to be the norm.  Watched the movie, 55 Steps, a true story before retiring.

 

This is day two at sea on Monday, February 3 and cloudy skies greeted us when the curtains were first opened that morning.  Formal dress code tonight.  Watched the movie, Angel Has Fallen, before lights out tonight.  Clocks were set back 1 hour tonight.

 

At anchor off Half Moon Cay, Holland America’s private island, on Tuesday, February 4 and clear morning skies greeted us as we walked to breakfast.  One of HA’s sister ships, Veendam was also at anchor alongside of us.  As tomorrow, Wednesday is the conclusion of this cruise segment we said our good byes to new made friends in the Ocean Bar and at our dinner table.  We three, along with 29 others will stay on board for the return voyage back to San Diego.  In our stateroom after dinner we watched the movie, Braven, on TV.

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

Half Moon Cay             https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Private_island

 

In port at Fort Lauderdale this Wednesday, February 5.  This morning we need present ourselves to U.S. Customs & Border Protection in the terminal so as to continue our cruise.  While in the terminal Richard used the opportunity to access WiFi to return the ebooks he borrowed prior to leaving home and download new ones to read en route to San Diego.  On this “turn around” day a number of issues came to our attention …

Š       Guest Services did not deliver our final Account Statement to our stateroom for this first cruise segment.  Richard had to personally request same.

Š       No Shore Excursion book for the return cruise was delivered to us, Richard had to request this also.

Š       At the Mandatory Fire & Safety Drill attendance was taken by voice call out and was most difficult to hear the names being called.  What happened to the card scans performed on previous cruises?

Š       At dinner no new guests joined our table.  An inquiry of Guest Services provided no answer.

Web Sites of Interest

 

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

 

At anchor off Half Moon Cay on Thursday, February 6 under early morning cloudy skies.  Another HA sister ship, Eurodam also at anchor beside us.  Did not go ashore but Marjorie did as she had purchased a shore excursion here.  For a second day we had no new dinner guests at our table.  After discussions with staff we were given a new table for dining on Friday.  Watched the movie, Life Of The Party, in our stateroom before bedtime.

 

A sea day on Friday, February 7 and once again Formal Dress Code for dinner this evening.  We enjoyed more sunny skies today.  Richard obtained the Passenger Guest Count from Guest Services for this second cruise segment.  At dinner we had a full table of six … at last!  The 3 new ones came from Chicago.  Watched the movie, London Has Fallen, prior to retiring.

 

Passenger Guest Count – Fort Lauderdale to San Diego

Nationality

Total Count

 

 

Australia

14

Canada

567

Switzerland

2

Costa Rica

1

Germany

13

Denmark

9

Dominican Republic

1

Ecuador

1

Estonia

1

Spain

2

France

2

United Kingdom

69

Ireland

3

Isrrael

2

Korea

2

Nicaragua

1

Netherlands

43

New Zealand

2

Poland

4

Portugal

2

Romania

18

Russia

3

Sweden

20

Turkey

4

Ukraine

1

United States

1,143

South Africa

1

 

 

Total

1,931

 

 

Our second sea day on this Saturday, February 8.  Early morning skies were partly cloudy and later, about 1:45 p.m. we had a brief, but heavy rain shower and for the first time were subject to some high sea swells that afternoon.  Nothing serious but did create some ship movement.  Clocks were set ahead 1 hour tonight.  Our dinner guests arrived very late.

 

In port at Oranjestad, Aruba on Sunday, February 9.  Cloudy early morning skies upon waking and it later became a very warm day.  Richard did not go ashore but took some photos from the ship.  Two other cruise ships were in port with us.  Tonight our dinner guests were a “no show” so after asking we would again be at a new table on Monday … third time lucky?  On the Mainstage we enjoyed a great performance from piano man, Brett Cave, singing songs from the Beatles and Elton John.

 

Passengers on this second cruise segment are an older set than the group on the first part of our cruise and, as usual from past cruises tend not to “bond” so easily with us.

 

Monday, February 10 was a sea day and under partly cloudy skies we made our way to breakfast.  At dinner this evening a couple registered for Anytime Dining joined us and our server informed us this could be the pattern on future nights.  Mike Robinson, a Canadian and comedian/ventriloquist performed on the Mainstage.  Clocks were set back 1 hour tonight.

 

Scenic cruising of the Panama Canal on Tuesday, February 11 and Room Service was again used for early breakfast as Richard was out in the early morning for more photos.  Another Medical Emergency had a guest leave the ship at the second lock.  After another hot day that evening we watched the movie, Instant Family, before retiring.

 

A sea day on Wednesday, February 12 and Formal Dress Code for dinner this evening.  For a second time our dinner will be at the Pinnacle Grill.  Our meal was all one could ask for, perfect in all respects, from the wine to appetizer, main course and dessert.  Today the hot weather continued to favour us.  On the Mainstage, piano man Brett Cave presented a new show which was good but not as good as his previous one.  Clocks were set back 1 hour tonight.

 

We’ve observed that the seas are much calmer on the Pacific side as opposed to those in the Caribbean.

 

In port at Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica on Thursday, February 13.  Awakening to clear skies we found ourselves at another container port with the closest town a 30 minute shuttle ride away.  Richard did go ashore for a walkabout and take some photos.  One constant while in port is that Richard takes a photo of a current license plate.  At 10:30 a.m. the Stretcher Team was called to A Deck for a medical emergency.  Another hot day, 30 C [86 F] for the high.  The movie, Cold Pursuit, was our evening entertainment following dinner.

 

In port at Corinto, Nicaragua today, Friday, February 14.  Clear early morning skies as we’re docked in a container port.  Another hot day, 32 – 34 C [89 -93 F] and Richard did go ashore.  Tonight The Dutch Tenors performed on the Mainstage and they were terrific, the best of all live presentations on this cruise.

 

 

 

Web Sites of Interest

 

The Dutch Tenors                         https://dutchtenors.com/                     

 

In port at Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala on Saturday, February 15.  Richard went ashore enjoying the sunny morning skies giving the promise of yet another hot day.  Watched the movie, The Hangover, in our stateroom before bedtime.

 

In port at Puerto Chiapas, Mexico on Sunday, February 16.  Sunny morning skies turned hot later with 32 C [89 F] the day’s high.  Richard did not go ashore.  Watched the movie, American Made, a true story in our stateroom this evening.

 

On Monday, February 17 we’re in port at Huatulco, Mexico under sunny morning skies.  All three of us Anita, Marjorie and Richard did go ashore and once again engaged a taxi for touring at a cost of $20 U.S. per person.  Near the end of our tour we visited a family owned textile weaving ship that sold its own hand made products.  Both Anita and Marjorie came away after making purchases.  Today’s high of 33 C [91 F] kept our good weather on track.  Juan Pablo Subirana, concert pianist, performed live tonight on the Mainstage.  We have seen him before on a previous cruise.  Much to our delight our seas remain calm.

 

Tuesday, February 18 was a sea day and once again we enjoyed clear skies and warm sunshine.  Tonight in our stateroom we watched the movie, First Kill.

 

In port at Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on Wednesday, February 19.  This is our last port on the cruise and clear skies greeted us upon waking.  Two other cruise ships in port with us, Carnival and Princess.  With 3 ships in port we found the port area very congested when all 3 of us went ashore to engage a taxi for 2 hours.  Accordingly, the per person price was higher due to demand and we each paid $30 U.S. per person.  Our driver took us to the outer borders of Puerto Vallarta and we viewed the homes of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton when they resided there during the filming of the movie, Night Of The Iguana.  Our drive allowed for many good photo ops.  It was another warm day, 28 C [82 F] slightly cooler as we near San Diego.  Back on the ship and after dinner we watched the movies, Going In Style before bedtime.

 

A sea day on Thursday, February 20 as we head back to San Diego.  Clear morning skies started our day.  Formal Dress Code this evening.  Temperature now somewhat cooler, with 22 C [72 F] today.  Tonight we watched Deepwater Horizon, a documentary of the 2010 oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico.

 

Our last full cruise day is a sea day on Friday, February 21.  Morning skies were cloudy.  As we leave the ship tomorrow morning we need pack this afternoon.  Much cooler today, 16 C [61 F].  The Dutch Tenors put on a second show this evening on the Mainstage.  Clocks were set back 1 hour tonight.

 

Back in port at San Diego this Saturday, February 22.  Before breakfast, at 6:30 a.m. we presented ourselves to U.S. Immigration officials.  Apparently some non U.S. guests did not feel the need to appear before these officials as this process was some one half hour late in concluding and therefore delaying the disembarkation process as well.  At 10 a.m. we left the Oosterdam for the last time and took a taxi to our hotel.  In the early afternoon Marjorie’s grandson, Malcolm his fiancé, Kristen and great-granddaughter, Jade arrived at the hotel to visit Marjorie.  Jade is 4 months old and it’s the first time Marjorie has met her and Kristen.

The newly arrived visitors live in Huntington Beach, CA.  We enjoyed a short visit with them prior to their departure to play mini-golf and have dinner together.  We relaxed for the remainder of the afternoon and evening.

 

Cloudy morning skies in San Diego on Sunday, February 23 later gave way to sunny skies and somewhat cooler temperatures.  San Diego was cooler during this visit then past times we’ve spent here with only 16 C [60 F] the high called for this Sunday.  Arriving in Vancouver we encountered 8 C [46 F] and cloudy skies.  Our connecting flight to Kelowna was scheduled to depart in 1 hour after we touched down in Vancouver.  Using at times a wheelchair for Anita and golf carts we did manage to pass through Customs and Security en route to our Kelowna departure gate arriving just 10 minutes prior to take off.  We were the last two to board the aircraft.  Both Kelowna and Vernon were 1 C [34 F] upon our arrival.  Cold after what we’d enjoyed the past 34 days!  It was 7:45 p.m. when we entered our Vernon home.

 

Conclusions

 

We were extremely pleased with our ship, the ms Oosterdam and all that was available to us during our 35 day cruise.   Food on board was excellent!  The crew on board were polite and most accommodating to our needs.  We do enjoy the benefits afforded us cruising as 4 star mariners on Holland America ships.  We were unhappy with those areas of the ship that were cooler, sometimes cold.  One wonders why the entire ship cannot maintain a constant temperature.  We chose not to purchase any shore excursions having previously done this cruise on two occasions.  Entertainment shows on stage could be improved.  Last and certainly not least we enjoyed the warm, at times hot weather … a good break from our Canadian winter.