Panama Canal Cruise – Emerald Princess Commentary/Ratings and Photos

After spending 15 days aboard the Emerald Princess, which is a ‘Crown Class’ ship, we feel qualified to provide some commentary and ratings on the ship’s services and activities. Note also, the passenger capacity on the ship is 3,114 but there were approximately 2,000 on our sailing. Therefore, some comments / good ratings may be because the ship wasn’t full. We did provide many of these comments in our Princess Survey, a link to which was emailed to us as soon as we disembarked (seriously, we were still on the pier when it arrived!).

Housekeeping staff/housekeeping: Amazing. We aren’t sure if it was the medallion system that allowed Lawrence to always come by when we weren’t there, or if we just weren’t in the room that much, but our housekeeper was great. He refilled our ice bucket twice a day and kept everything tidy throughout the 15 days. From what we understand, there were 19 cabins assigned to each steward, and there was only one steward per room. In the past there were two per room (possibly with more rooms assigned). Rating: 5/5

Always tidy and with ice in the fridge.

The room was comfortable, big enough with a lovely balcony that came in handy often.

Plenty of storage in the closet and the adjacent cupboard, where there was also a safe.

Main Dining room staff: Other than one dinner on day 2 of the cruise when Erwin was overrun, our DaVinci dining room staff was very good and service usually wrapped up within 90mins. Olena from Ukraine was a favourite and we asked for her when we thought of it and we were accommodated in her section every time we asked. The noise level was always pretty low, notably they do a good job of clearing tables quietly. Ambience was good and level of chit chat with staff was as expected, pleasant but not over the top. There were no weird staff singing or dancing on any of the nights that we were there, though we did miss some kind of production around baked alaska on one night. Rating: 4.5/5

Dining/food options:

Main Dining Room: MDR was available for full sit down multi-course meals daily. On all days that I noticed, it was open for at least breakfast and dinner. On sea days it was open for breakfast, lunch, tea time and dinner. Food was usually above average and with a daily rotating menu, it was always possible to find something you wanted for each course, even if it was one of the mainstay ‘Princess favorites’. There were 3 ‘formal’ nights (all sea days) that we didn’t participate in. Rating: 4.5/5

World Fresh Market (Lido Buffet): Lido is the buffet that is more or less open from 6am to 10pm daily with short breaks to switch over service from breakfast to lunch to dinner to snacks. The variety of options is large. There are always vegetarian, gluten free and other ‘specialty’ diet options (ie sugar free dessert). Along with fruit, cheese, cold cuts, salad, soup and bread/pastry options, there is a rotating selection of ‘mains’ and ‘sides’. There is literally something for everybody here and it’s always hot and tasty. Rating: 4/5

Lots of options in the Marktplace.
Marketplace seating, almost never with this few people.

Pizza/Cones/Hotdogs/Burgers/Tacos: these outlets are open on Lido during the lunch and dinner hours and offer nice alternatives to the marketplace and dining room. Anything we had was good and as expected. There was almost no wait ever, other than possibly for a few minutes at lunch. Pizza can be picked up in seconds. Pizza is the thin crust variety with standard options of Margarita and Pepperoni as well as a rotating daily special. Rating: 4/5

Slices, coffee and cones available most of the day.

International Cafe: open 24 hours on deck 5. Offerings were a little limited and some things cost extra (gelato and coffee, for example) but certainly a suitable option if you had a hankering for a Sandwich or pastry when the primary dining options weren’t available. We did get gelato one day on the way back from the Huatulco excursion ($3.25USD for 3 scoops) and it was delicious. No comment on the coffee options since we don’t drink it. Rating: 4/5

Room service (24hrs): one day for dinner on a formal night we decided to give room service a whirl. Happily, there were quite a few options so it was a good time to try a few things we hadn’t already. Ordering was easy from the app and it provided a real-time order status. Delivery took about 25 mins and all was good except one of the items was missing. John called and they sent that up maybe 15-20 mins later. We ordered ‘free’ items but there were also paid for options including from the specialty dining restaurants. Rating: 3.5/5 (go out if you can!)

How our room service food arrived.

Specialty dining: for a (reasonable) supplementary fee you could dine in a specialty restaurant. Options are Sabatini Trattoria for Italian ($25USD), Salty Dog Gatropub ($12) and Crown Grill ($29) for Surf and Turf. We felt we had enough other options, we didn’t need to book specialty dining, so no comment other than Salty Dog was virtually empty every time we walked by (at least once daily as it was on 7 midship) and it shared quarters with the Wheelhouse Bar, plus we could never find the price or the menu while on board, I heard it was $12 afterwards. Rating: N/A

Notable absence: any kind of midnight buffet ~ chocolate or whatever. It wasn’t really ‘missed’ and frankly almost no one would have been up to enjoy them at midnight. Some other ships we’ve been on have done them earlier (like 9pm), which seems like it might be met with more success with the older crowd.

On the second last day of the cruise there was a (funny) cooking demo in the Princess Theatre, and a short galley tour. As the theatre was quite full, we bypassed the tour as we have done it on other ships.


Entertainment / Cruise Director staff: We weren’t impressed with the cruise director, Dave or the assistant directors, Georgia and Andrew (all were British). Maybe because we are more used to the style of Carnival’s John Heald (British but very funny) or maybe they just weren’t very dynamic, either way we didn’t go out of our way to interact with them. The ‘Wake Show’ was pretty boring – not much more than reading the Princess Patter which was delivered each night in paper format. DJ Manuel from Portugal was a bright light amongst the entertainment staff, he was super funny at Trivia though we never went to his late night club DJ’ing. Rating: 3/5

Hired talent: Magician, Comedians, Singers, etc. that flew in just for the one or two shows that they did. Other than one comedian that we didn’t find that funny, all other entertainers that we saw were very good. No complaints. Rating: 4.5/5

Almost always there was live music on deck 5 Piazza.

Entertainment options:

In cabin: there were plenty of in cabin options to choose from including NFL Football, MSNBC, Fox News, BBC and some miscellaneous European sports channels and a few other ‘repeat’ type channels. Also there were on demand movies and on demand TV shows (notably Love Boat and Cheers) which could fill in if you didn’t like the live options.

Around the ship: The Princess Patter kept everyone up to date on the ship happenings including in the Main theatre (musical productions, comedians, bands, magician, cooking show, enrichment talks, etc). There was a lot of Live music around the ship and there was always plenty of other activities including things like Trivia, Line Dancing, Karaoke, Cards and daily Sudoku’s and crosswords.

Princess theatre. All main shows were here daily plus other activities during the day.
The Explorer’s Lounge. Often the location of trivia and other activities.

Movies Under the Stars: There were many different shows on the big outdoor screen, Movies, NFL, concerts, etc.

We watched several movies, football and concerts on this screen.

Casino: Whenever we walked through (rarely) it was almost dead in there, but notably there was no one smoking ! That was a pleasant surprise.

Ports / Excursions Excursions:

We did two Princess excursions in Costa Rica and Hualtulco:

Costa Rica ~ Port was non-descript, excursion : Rainforest Tram and Animal Rescue Centre: Rating: 2/5. If not for the driving issues we’d bump that up to 3/5. Refer to Costa Rica day for details.

Huatulco ~ Port was nice, though most shops closed, excursion: Flavors of Colorful Mexico: Rating: 4/5. Refer to Huatulco day for details.

We’ve blogged about these locations already on the days we visited them, but haven’t rated them:

Cartagena ~ had an amazing port area, full of macaws, peacocks and other wildlife = A great way to enter the country. Rating: 4.5/5

Fuerte Amador (Panama City) ~ tender port, which are generally a real pain in the arse, and it was, small port area was okay. Rating: 4.5/5

Puerto Vallarta ~ Rating: 4/5

Canal Transit: as expected this was the highlight of the cruise. This was already covered in two posts. Rating: 5/5

Notes for future cruise booking cabin selection:

⁃ Do not book near the lido pools – doors are always open and it’s hot in the halls.

⁃ Be aware of how close or far the laundry is (if applicable).

⁃ Be aware of what side of the ship the afternoon sun will be on for the majority of the days (sea especially). To fully utilize the balcony it’s better (for us anyway) to have morning sun and afternoon shade.

⁃ A level or two below lido is great for easy access to Lido but not too far away from the promenade/piazza stuff.

Medallion Application (for iPhone):

We both work for a software company so made a few notes to help with the app enhancements (most of which I provided in my Princess survey):

⁃ Chat is almost useless. No alerts, no date / time sent on chat, it should be on top of the first page of the app, or better yet have it on the bottom toolbar or even a configurable layout by user preference. Chat typing is super hyper on line 1 (flickering) until enough is typed to get to line 2

⁃ Why isn’t there a list of activities per venue available? Journey view is clunky and not user friendly, performance is poor and takes a long time to reload every time it’s accessed. Why do the journey event bars go longer than the event does? Why can’t all events for a single location be in the same swim lane / line?

⁃ Shipmates locate feature doesn’t always update with current location (though admit it is a very nice feature when it works).

⁃ Menus aren’t available online unless you have a reservation booked, we never did figure out the cost or what the menu was in the Salty Dog Gastropub 😦

⁃ Port guides weren’t available at the excursions desk so we were told they must be screen-shotted to be used in port as without internet they are not accessible. Ideally, you should be able to download a .pdf so it can be used without internet. Alternatively print them yourself before you leave home. Plus the screenshots are very compact and hard to read.

⁃ Explore the ship view should have an option to hide the icons as they often block the names of locations.

⁃ ‘Ship information’ option doesn’t have a map view showing where the ship is, nor was the knots updated regularly (often it was 0 when we were clearly moving).

⁃ Connection to Medallion-Net drops regularly (every 24hrs?) for no reason, requiring the steps to reconnect to the wifi network.

⁃ There should be clear instructions to medallion-net about logging out and back in once on ship. Issues arise if it still think you’re ‘off ship’ when you’ve embarked.

⁃ Why isn’t there a page or icon on upcoming port weather?

⁃ Reorg the main page to have the most used options at the top of the screen instead of having to page down and down. We used: dine my way, chat, journey view, find shipmates/compass. The rest were much less frequent.

One of the many pool and hot tub areas.
The big screen pool.
In addition to this mini put, there were tennis/racquet court, shuffleboard and croquet areas.

Panama Canal Cruise – Emerald Princess Food Photos

As we had many, many meals on the Emerald Princess, it would take up way too much of our extremely limited WordPress media storage to post all of the photos. Nonetheless, it is worth posting a few more than what we have scattered through other posts.

This is our second last post for this trip, with the final one covering our comments and ratings for the things we saw and did. I’m sure you won’t enjoy the photos as much as we enjoyed eating the actual food, but nonetheless here is a sampling of the good eats we had (mostly taken in the DaVinci Main Dining Room, but some are in the World Fresh Market buffet).

The main dining room generally had three course meals, though could be 4-5 course if you add a pasta and maybe a cheese tray? We generally stuck with 3 as that was plenty of food. As such I will sort the main dining room photos into Appetizers, Mains, Desserts.


Beef satay with peanut sauce.


Beef Wellington. A favourite but could do without the spinach!


Available daily, the Love Boat. A chocolate cake.

World Fresh Market (Lido Buffet)

The Market had so many options for every meal. Here are some of the various choices, nowhere near representative of the hot choices – since I took no pictures of that area. Most items were well marked and there were always gluten free selections.

Fruit = Always available. Pre-cut to the left.
Always a selection of meats and cheeses.
Always bread choices.
One day there was this seafood buffet.
Dessert at lunch and dinner. Sometimes preplated, other times cut by the server.
Cake day. You go to the cake station for a portion of these.
A second cake day!

Panama Canal Cruise – Day 17: Emerald Princess Disembark and LA (January 17, 2023)

After a lovely final breakfast in the Marketplace, we had a bit of time to finish packing before disembarking. The disembark process was well organized, and because we were taking our luggage off ourselves, we didn’t have to do some steps that others did, including getting the bags ready the night before and then picking them up when on the pier. We all only had carry on, so it really wasn’t a big deal to take them ourselves. We were through the entire process including customs in about 15 minutes.

Rather than get off the ship and have to head to the airport right away, we decided to take a day in LA and do a private tour of the area. Our guide, Bryan Meyer, picked us up at port San Pedro, drove us around for day, then dropped us off at our hotel afterward. Traffic was typical of LA, so he was a bit late picking us up and it took us almost an hour to get to the downtown historic core for our first stop. During the drive we found out he was a Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch fan, so he pointed out a few things related to the novel/tv series as we passed them during the day.

Our general route for the day.
Super sized Anthony Quinn

Once downtown, we viewed a couple of things from the car and then parked for a short walk around. We first stopped at the Bradbury building, famous from the movie Blade Runner, then headed over to the District Market LA where you could certainly find a snack or something more substantial to eat if so inclined. Many vendors of all different sorts including the largest bulk display of dried peppers we’d ever seen. Our guide’s stories about the donuts made us decide we had to pick some up from there for later. It was still too early to worry about lunch.

Bradbury building
Cool neon sign in the market
So. Many. Peppers!
Donuts. Some of the cinnamon buns were the size of a dinner plate
From the Bosch Novel of the same name

After downtown we headed up to iconic Griffith Park to absorb some views that overlook most of the area. In the ground outside the observatory there is a scale model of the solar system which was pretty awesome.

The Griffith observatory
Sundial that was loosely accurate
Hollywood in the distance

From here we headed toward Hollywoodland to get a closer view of the famous sign and see the area. Along the way we passed the Sowden house of weird architecture and more notably the home of the Black Dahlia murder suspect (and potentially the murder location). It is now available for wedding and other rentals.

Sowden house, a subsequent owner was suspected but never charged in the 1947 Dahlia murder.
As close as you can get without doing a hike through private property (even.though somewhat obstructed). Streets are also narrow and winding up here

From the sign it was time to glide down over Mullholland (as Tom Petty would say). There is a section of the drive that’s still not paved but we didn’t come across that. We did stop at a couple of overlooks so we could see the Hollywood Bowl and Universal Studios. Universal Studios had a working chicken ranch back in the day (late 1800s) as a fall back in case the whole “moving pictures” thing didn’t work out.

Hollywood Bowl
Universal Studios off in the distance

By now it was around 1.30pm and time for lunch. We decided to go for some local tacos even though Bryan made a hard push for In N’ Out Burger, a local staple. We’ll hit that up next time. Turned out the tacos were okay, but nothing special versus anything we could find back home. After the 30 minute break it was off to the Walk of Fame and the Chinese and Dolby theatres. The Dolby is where the Oscars are held now.

A John favourite.
A bit haphazard in organization
The Chinese theatre, Hollywood
They Dolby theatre, where the Ocsars are held

From here it was a drive down the Sunset strip and quick stop at the Whisky A Go Go for a failed photo op as a result of poorly timed sun location. This portion also involved plenty of discussion about Bryan’s band, people he knew in the industry, etc. and ended with the drop off at Doubletree Marina Del Rey, a Hilton hotel. After taking our bags upstairs we and the mommas made a short trek to See’s to pick up a custom box. We were going to do this stop during the day until we figured out there was one close to the hotel.

Hand selected chocolate truffles

Panama Canal Cruise – Days 15 +16: Emerald Princess Sea Days (January 15 & 16, 2023)

January 15, 2023

Princess Patter for January 15, 2023. We always reviewed this the night before as it is delivered with the last refresh of the cabin for the day.

Our day started out with a 5 lap (2mile) deck 7 walk, during which we were treated to a whale and dolphin show. We were only going to do a few laps but since the scenery was quite interesting, we extended it before going to the gym. Neither of us had our phones, so no photos of that round of marine life activity are available.

After the gym, for the first time this trip, the four of us had breakfast in the Main dining room. Let’s just say it was underwhelming and led us to not be sorry that we normally skipped it and went with Lido marketplace for all of the other days of the cruise. The food was fine, but the service was ridiculously slow. Honestly the speed and variety of the Marketplace made it the better choice. Yes, it is nice being served breakfast every so often, but in our case we would say it’s not worth the wait.

At dinner yesterday, Olena had made a big point about telling us that there would be a galley tour after the cooking show today. We received the message and headed over to the Princess Theater for a cooking demo. The demo was really more of a comedy show with Guido Jendrytzko – executive chef and Enache Popescu, director of restaurant operations.

Musical interlude by one of the waiters.

They did two or three recipes, including a very funny bit where each makes a Black Forest cake, then directed people out of the theatre on level 7 to go to the galley tour. There were a lot of people in the theatre and it’s still COVID-times so we passed on the tour (we were also at the wrong spot). We really didn’t have time to do that and get down to Movies under the stars and get a seat for our next activity!


Guido and Enache were on stage

Looks like almost half of the crew works for the food delivery team.

We were now 2 hours behind eastern so the 1pm eastern time Bills game was on at 11am… we made our way up to deck 15 and found some seats for the game. It wasn’t super warm out so there wasn’t really a problem getting chaises on the main deck. It wasn’t very sunny either so it was actually a bit cold to be watching it there. We ended up watching part on deck and part in room.

After the game we decided to do something else we hadn’t done yet: Tea time. Tea time is offered daily between 3pm-4pm in the DaVinci dining room. If you were feeling peckish or missed lunch, this is certainly a way to get in a small meal. There were slider size sandwiches on buns and plenty of ‘dainties’ (aka small desserts). It was a nice touch for something different, though I can’t see us wanting to do this every day. Although not tea drinkers, we both had a cup.

Delicious biscuits.
Dainties kept coming, being circulated by waiters with trays.

As this was a formal night that were were skipping, and we had the tea time, we opted for a small dinner of the daily special, 4 cheese pizza. It surprisingly had no tomato sauce, but it was still delicious.

Next up was Trivia in the Explorers Lounge. This time it was ‘Elton John vs Billy Joel’ – finally something we were close to experts in, or so we thought. Turns out, there is lots of stuff we don’t know. In this case we had to name the song. Elton vs Billy was known by the clue. Some portion of the song was played and we had to write down our guesses. I don’t have our score, but suffice it to say that we didn’t win. It was still fun though!

Not a winning card.

The late Princess theatre Production show at 9pm was called ‘Rock Opera’. I thought it was well done with good singing and song choices, flamboyant costume changes and very good choreography, but John wasn’t a huge fan. I would go again.

January 16, 2023

Another pile of activities to choose from.
Yay! Queen trivia!

As the last day on ship, we skipped the gym but did do Deck 7 laps to start the day, followed by breakfast in the Lido Marketplace with Marie and Sherry.

We decided that we hadn’t been to any enrichment talks yet and since we had been to Bermuda in 2022, we went to the Bermuda Triangle enrichment talk with Patrick McCormack. It reminded us both of being in a very dull university lecture. Lesson learned.

After packing and relaxing (we had wine to finish off), we went to a trivia session in Explorers before dinner called “Let’s quiz again”. Turns out this was a general type trivia/quiz. We did ok but not close to winning.

At around 5.15pm we went down to the DaVinci dining room for our last dinner in MDR with Olena, meeting the other two there. There was something on the menu that we hadn’t seen before on this trip: Prime Rib. It was served with a massive Yorkshire pudding, baked potato, green beans and grilled tomato. What a great last meal for a few of us! We had our desserts and said our goodbyes to Olena. I had put together some items for her that we didn’t need to take back with us and she thanked us very much.

Not super fatty and very flavourful.

Music Trivia (Queen) in the Explorers lounge was up next. Finally a topic we felt like we were experts on. Wait, deja vu. We must admit we did a little bone up on Queen in the afternoon and it did help a little bit. But a lot of the songs sound the same when given such a limited amount of time to listen… Anyway, we did end up (finally) tied for the win. We ‘lost’ on the tie break which someone in the audience came up with: Freddie Mercury’s real name. Um…..let’s see…. We came up with nothing and the other team got it. Oh well, we didn’t need the bottle of warm champagne on our last night anyway. Consolation price was a cheap Princess ‘bag’. (PS Farrokh Bulsara)

Finally! At the last trivia a ‘winning’ card!

We stayed in Explorers because at 8.15pm was Dave’s Movie Madness Trivia. Though not huge Dave fans, this trivia session was really well put together. A+ for effort for Dave on this one. C+ for sense of humour though.

And lastly at 9pm we went to the last Princess theatre activity, which was ‘Comedy’ entertainer Carl Strong. Unlike the other two comedians (and even the magician), we found Carl lacking in the funny category. We left after 15 minutes and I’ll leave it at that.

Panama Canal Cruise – Day 18: LAX -> YYZ (January 18, 2023)

Our final day of vacation started with a long walk from our hotel in Marina Del Rey to the Santa Monica pier. As we had just had 2 hours of time changes on the cruise, we were easily able to get an early start (7am) so that we had plenty of time to get back before we had to leave for the airport / check out (11am).

Morning walk (2hrs).

We did see plenty of interesting sights on our walk, including some people who apparently live in their ‘vehicles’ parked on W Washington Boulevard.

Not fancy, but ‘home’.

The walk was at a slowish pace with lots of photos and videos, including one of a guy who did the rings near muscle beach, ending on the Pier.

It was early and not that warm…
The famous Ferris wheel.
We’ve been to the end … now to start at the beginning!

After walking out to the end of the pier (and back) we picked up a Lyft near the McDonalds at Colorado and 2nd to expedite our trip back to the hotel. Before going back to our room we used our $36USD food/beverage credit at the ‘Starbucks’ inside the hotel. Quotes because it was really a scaled back coffee shop with Starbucks coffee and a few other overpriced amenities.

Our flight was at 2pm, so after relaxing for a few minutes then packing we met the mommas in the lobby and ordered another Lyft. We got to the airport incident free, had a bit of a walk to get to the security screening and then the gate, but there were no problems at any stage. Our wait at the gate was maybe 1.5 hours before boarding, but it went pretty fast although the seating was quite crowded.

Short flight out to sea before banking and heading back right over the San Pedro port!

The flight itself was fine and fast (~4 hours) and actually landed early. After getting everyone through customs and into a cab, we headed to Andra and Mario’s for the night since it was too late to do the driving.

Next day we picked up the Kona and did the drive to Niagara region to conclude our Panama Canal trip!

Panama Canal Cruise – Day 14: Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (January 14, 2023)

After breakfast and the below view, the day started with a taxi ride to the ‘old town’ area of Puerto Vallarta, where we were to meet a guide in the central square. It should be noted that the driver had no issue driving full speed down the cobblestone streets. Surprised the taxi hasn’t shaken itself apart by now.

We were up early. Time changed +1hr overnight.
The standard city name in big letters pic

The tour was a free one sponsored by the town of Puerto Vallarta. The group was a good sized, around 10, and we managed to make it there for the start this time without rushing which was nice.

Our local guide and the group

Approximate area we were covering (and the blue dot was our starting point for the taxi: the ship)

The guide was enthusiastic and knowledgeable but his English was not easy to understand. The fact that he wore a mask for the start and that there was a lot of street/neighbourhood noise (cars, trucks, motorcycles, hammering, whistles, etc.) didn’t help the cause. He began by describing why Puerto Vallarta is where it is, basically a place between two points in the middle of a huge bay with 80+ beaches that was a great spot for creating a tourist zone. The name itself changed a few times with the current coming from a lawyer who was instrumental in setting the whole thing up.

Statue for the town’s namesake
The town’s Christmas tree – shouldn’t it be down by now?

From there, we looked at a couple local municipal sites and another mural depicting some of the history of the area.

Apparently this is a common thing in Mexico – murals in city halls.

Then began a slow journey uphill, first stopping at what we will call “The Crown Church” where the guide was an altar boy as a child. For additional white noise there was a woman ringing a bell constantly in the doorway which seemed unnecessary and distracting but keeping with the theme for the day.

Inside the Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe *church*
The top of the Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe from above.
Some roads were quite steep and difficult to go up.

Stories continued throughout the tour, the guide was also apparently the mailman in “Herbie Goes Bananas” circa 1980 for his fifteen minutes of fame (he claims he was well paid). He seemed to have a personal connection to all the stories he told regardless of timeline, which seemed a tad unrealistic but we rolled with it.

We saw quite a few street art murals
Some sketchy construction and lots of laundry.

From the church, we moved on into the residential area frequented by John Houston, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor back in the day. I’d say the mommas were not excited by the incline but there were some nice views and they managed.

Once we finished with Hollywood lite, we headed back down through a market where we were asked to purchase “Mexican Junk”, and ended up in a weekend food/craft vendor area. There we purchased minimal junk and some juice and empanadas for lunch.

Naval mine?
One of many statues

After a bit more walking along the shore where grabbed a taxi back to the port. The cabbie however, interpreted this as “airport” and had to make some corrections when we realized we was driving past the cruise terminal. We did eventually get there after being sardined in the taxi for longer than necessary.

The mommas

Panama Canal Cruise – Day 13: Sea Day (January 13, 2023)

We spent many meals in this Lido dining room. Empty here because it’s late.

Right so nothing really new on this sea day. We didn’t start in the gym today, instead we started with a rousing 5 laps on deck 7 (2miles, 40 mins). After that we went to the gym 😉 and then lido for breakfast. All the sea days kind of feel the same, no rush to do anything, lots of lounging around (reading/blog writing) and/or trivial and plenty of eating. Speaking of which, I did take a few photos on deck 15 to show some of the ‘cold’ options (there’s a whole pile of hot options as well).

After dining room dinner in DaVinci (deck 6) with Olena from Ukraine, we headed over to the Explorers lunge (deck 7) to play Duets trivia with Josie from St Lucia. During Duets trivia, of the 20 questions, 16 were dug out from the way way back archives or from 2015+ rappers. We did not do well. Next up though was Canadian comedian Doug Funk, who was extremely funny. Nicely represented his home country for sure. The lounge was packed and everyone had a great time.

Thin crust pizza sliced on demand and coffee / cones next door
Some of the many daily fresh bread options
And, always a lot of fruit options. Full to the right and cut to the left.

Panama Canal Cruise – Day 12: Huatulco, Mexico (January 12, 2023)

From the ship.
Does this need a caption?

Like in Costa Rica, the four of us chose to do a ship excursion at this port (though there were options on the pier for ‘ad-hoc’ excursions by locals waiting for the ship). This time, unlike Costa Rica, the excursion was excellent. We got picked up at around 8.30am (on time) for “Flavours of Colorful Mexico”. Our guide was Patricia (or Patty). Not only did the tour start on time, but the full size bus only had around 15 guests, so we got lucky there. Our itinerary changed a bit – it went in opposite sequence – we are assuming because there were two full tour buses doing the same tour. On all stops we appeared to be the only Princess tourists.

The first stop was a “Rustic Mezcal Factory” about 30mins from our departure point near the port. Rustic is a good word to describe it – definitely old school. We saw the way that they cook / process the agave from a “maguey” plant. The most surprising part was the 1hp method used to break down the agave, before it is thrown in with some water to ferment.

After the quick demo we went inside to sample some of their products, which included mezcal, some flavoured mezcal cream products, hot chocolate and mole + roasted grasshoppers on cracker (yes grasshoppers!). Grasshoppers were crunchy and salty. Products were available for purchase. We bought a few things and moved on to the next stop.

Next up was the small town of Santa Maria Huatulco. This town was up in the mountains so it was a little cooler than the coast, in theory (it didn’t really seem any cooler). We were supposed to visit the old church but it was closed (don’t get us started on that) and the city hall / government offices. The government building (‘Municipal Palace’) had a mural inside that covered the history of the area, which Patty described. It was nicely done by a local artist.

Closed (for the day) Church.

With the drive in and out of town we definitely got the feel for small town Mexico and Patty described it as a typical Mexican town. It would have been nice to walk around some of the streets as the market wasn’t open.

After reboarding the coach and descending down the mountain, we arrived at our next stop in the Pedro de Moros area to visit a local weaving family. We were given an interesting demo about weaving as well as detailed descriptions about how to dye the yarn using extracts from local plants. The family all participates in the textile business and is doing their best to keep traditions alive. The rugs they made were lovely but we couldn’t see how we would get one back to Canada or where we would use it either, so we settled on a small coaster made by the youngest family member that was there – a 10 year old girl.

Family of weavers.

Our final stop was a short distance away at a local farm where we sampled some local beverages, walked around a large herb garden and saw a corn tortilla demo. Here we also sampled the tortillas with some taco fillings including handmade salsa.

Overall this was a great excursion compared to our last one. Our guide was fantastic and the stops were all interesting. Thumbs up to Princess on this one.

Panama Canal Cruise – Day 10 + 11: Sea Days (January 10 & 11, 2023)

I’m not going to get into more minutiae of sea days. Same same as the others. Lots of relaxing by the pool, eating, going to shows, watching things on the big screen (Elvis movie yesterday, but there have been concerts and other shows) and writing blog posts. Today was fun times trying to figure out why WordPress was being so bitchy and not allowing me to upload or post my posts. Turns out, after much investigation, our page is at the 6GB max for photos. Therefore, some photos from some older posts have been deleted in order to get the new ones in.

Also today there were a lot of sea turtles, dolphins and mantas swimming / frolicking in the ship’s wake. It’s hard to get photos because they come and go so fast, but it was fun to watch for a while.

Here are some ship photos, then I’ll call us up to date-ish. We have two more port days in Mexico on this cruise (assuming the cartel hasn’t blown up the tourist spots before we arrive) and 3 more sea days.

Dining room setup, deck 6.
Our balcony cabin, deck 14.

Panama Canal Cruise – Day 9: Puntarenas, Costa Rica (January 9, 2023)

In Costa Rica we chose to do a ship sponsored tour ($155USD), although when there were going to be 6 of us, we had booked a private tour (which I cancelled before we left). Marie and Sherry went on a Garden excursion, while John and Janet went on a Rainforest Tram and Animal Rescue Centre tour. Marie and Sherry enjoyed their tour very much. We, on the other hand, had a different experience.

There were predictable traffic issues on this excursion that made it such that the excursion was not worthwhile. Without getting into full complaint (which we did directly to Princess excursions desk), there was 6.5 hours of mostly highway “driving” on this excursion and we missed one of the activities (rainforest walk) due to all of the traffic delays. You see, this time of year in Costa Rica is when highways need fixing from all of the rain / landslide / mudslide damage caused during the rainy season. This means that many highways have sporadic closures of all but one lane, resulting in the dreaded one way of traffic at a time to get by those points in the road.

Moving on, first up was the Animal Rescue Centre. It was very small, and the guides are young volunteers who pointed out the sloths mostly and described why the animals were in the centre. In a nutshell, most of the sloths fall out of trees and damage themselves or are too young to get back up so they need rescue. There were some other animals as well, monkeys, toucans, macaws and some turtles with various sob stories. Here are some photo highlights:

At the entrance.
Typical position of the sloths.
Rescued baby sloth.
There was a batch of rescued sea turtles.
And a bunch of capuchin monkeys and others.

Next stop was the Aerial tram location. First we had a quick ‘local’ lunch and a very quick tour of a butterfly conservatory.

Colourful entrance mural.
While 150 species of butterflies live in CR, only two were available for viewing in the butterfly conservatory. Weak.

The one hour ride on the tram was smooth and had some picturesque scenery, but the enjoyment mostly came from chatting with others on the tram. The couple behind us on the tram was from Boulder, NV. His grandfather worked on the construction of the “Boulder Dam” (now known as the Hoover Dam) and he told a story of when he was a child his grandfather took him through some non-public tunnels within the dam. He’s a bit bitter that the Boulder Dam was renamed the Hoover Dam for no good reason.

Back to the tram: it was essentially an open gondola through the rainforest. We saw a couple of small waterfalls, a couple of toucans and lots of trees, so nothing super exciting. I think we expected some more wildlife, however it was relaxing, we will admit. Some of the views:

The best view from the tram.
One of the small waterfalls we saw.
Some kind of wasp nest up in the foliage.
Typical height.

The 2 hour bus ride back to the ship was unremarkable. It was raining so what might have been a scenic drive was not. We arrived back about 75 minutes late and missed dinner with the mommas! Luckily there are almost endless other dinner options and we made do.

Alligator on the sand bar.

Note: Princess agreed to refund us 25% of our excursion price, which was $155USD so $39 each came back to my account (since I paid). Better than nothing but definitely wouldn’t do that tour again nor would we recommend it.