Posted August 3rd, 2008, 01:59 AM
I have done the partial Panama Canal twice on the Coral Princess and am scheduled on the Island in November from Ft. Lauderdale to LA. The Coral is the sister ship to the Islan
d, and I very much like the size of the ship and her configuration. She never seems crowded even when she is full. I have been on Celebrity a few times, but I prefer Princess (maybe because I am an elite passenger, and love the perks). The ship is the perfect size for the canal, and the shore excursions are getting more diverse due to customer demand and additional options. I also believe the food is better on Princess. You couldn't do wrong on either line. I have however sworn off Jamaica because of the crime, dirt and pushiness of the locals in Ocho Rios. I would not go back since I have been there at least ten times. However, if you want a good tour, they have done a 4X4 back country tour to the plantations with a herbalist guide to introduce you to the local remedies. The only part I didn't like was the guide who put a huge spider on his head. The Dunns river falls is also ok if you have never done it, but stick with the group. However, that said, I went directly back to the ship. You can shop in other ports (although you can get blue mountain coffee near the ship).
I have also been warned not to get off the ship in Cartagena ( by a couple of nuns who lived there) but it should be ok with an organized tour. Neither Jamaica nor Colombia are really places you want to do on your own. In Costa Rica, I recommend a combination tour which includes a boat ride down the estuaries, the rain forest bucket tour and a nice lunch. The guides are excellent and the people are friendly. I prefer the west coast of Costa Rica, and we will be doing a tour on our own.
Aruba is great for snorkeling (beautiful water)and shopping, and Panama is so so, however there is a great train tour which will take you to the Pacific side. Also buy the "
The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal 1870-1914
by David McCullough in paperback before you go as it is usually gone in the ship's store by the time you get to the canal, and you can get a used volume for as little as $11 on Amazon.
I hope you have a wonderful time no matter which cruise you pick.