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cruisingbarb

October Barbados to Panama

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Hi,

Hopefully you will have a few words for us about your Panama Canal adventure--we head to Barbados in a month (no pressure--it's only the holiday season, LOL). I have met about 3 other couples doing this trip too. Enjoy the season--and your memories from the sailing! :D

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Hi,

Hopefully you will have a few words for us about your Panama Canal adventure--we head to Barbados in a month (no pressure--it's only the holiday season, LOL). I have met about 3 other couples doing this trip too. Enjoy the season--and your memories from the sailing! :D

 

 

:)I am jealous.... wish I were going again in a month! Here are some highlights.

 

First, your trip won't start like ours did... with a hurricane! My husband and I were on the last plane into Barbados before they closed the airport because of Hurricane Tomas. We spent Saturday, our Barbados sightseeing day, in our hotel with no electricity, no food until noon, lots of wind, rain, etc. Exciting.

 

Sunday things were a bit better. Sightseeing was still impossible, so we made our way without incident to the terminal, where we ate, drank, and wandered for a few hours, then boarded and set sail on time - of course to the strains of Vangelis Conquest of Paradise.

 

Our first stop was "Captains choice" in the Grenadines. We went to Carriacou Island and had a nice wander around - not a toursty place at all. Next day was Grenada, where the smell of spices in the market was fantastic. We bought necklaces of fresh nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and other whole spices and wore them around for the day, then they perfumed our cabin for the whole trip, and now hang in my bathroom where I continue to enjoy them and the memories they bring back.

 

We went to two different Venezuelan islands, Isla Margarita, and Los Roques, substituted for Blanquilla by order of the Venezuelan government. (We never did find out why.) We took the bus tour around Isla Margarita. I enjoyed it; my husband was pretty bored. It's an attractive island, but not stunningly beautiful. It is known for its pearls, and I am still kicking myself for not buying a necklace at the stand at the roadside overlook we stopped at. Prices there were very reasonable, not so true at the shop we stopped at later.

 

Los Roques was a disappointment. Because the crew had not known we were going there, they had no information about where the good snorkeling was.... and only a few passengers found it (not us). The beach was pretty though and the folks who went to the small town quite enjoyed it.

 

One of the most interesting little quirks of the trip was the Venezuelan pilot, who joined the ship at Isla Margarita, and didn't leave until Curacao. He seemed to have gotten himself a nice little mini-vacation that extended far beyond Venezuelan waters!

 

I was only going to hit a few highlights, but I am finding that impossible, and I need to sign off now. I'll be back soon and go on from there.

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Thanks for the info!

Hmmmm--Blanquilla still is on our intinerary, but the cruise DOC includes Los Roques--so I guess that is what it will be. No tours offered, just a desciption.

 

Any more info--Cartagena, Panama?? Eleven days til we leave!

 

Happy New Year

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Thanks for the info!

Hmmmm--Blanquilla still is on our intinerary, but the cruise DOC includes Los Roques--so I guess that is what it will be. No tours offered, just a desciption.

 

Any more info--Cartagena, Panama?? Eleven days til we leave!

 

Happy New Year

 

So sorry to take so long to get back to this. Let's see how far I can get tonight.

 

After Los Roques came the ABC Islands, starting with B - Bonaire. It was a quiet, unassuming little place. We enjoyed our wander around the town of Karlendijk although it was blindingly hot (should be better in January), and found a very funky museum that had staff who spoke English (and no signs in English) but were very friendly. There were lots of excursions that we didn't take, and I can't remember which ones people liked. I think I'd take one next time though, as the town really doesn't offer much.

 

Next stop stop Willemstad, Curacao. We made the right choice not to take an excursion here, as the town is wonderful. It was definitely one of my favorite places on the whole trip. It is charming to wander around, great markets, beautiful old buildings. I highly recommend the Kura Hulauda Museum, it was a wonderful look at the slave trade but also oh so much more, and in a wonderfully restored old part of the city. We ended the day sitting in a harbor-side bar, watching the swinging bridge go back and forth and the people walking by as the sun set - truly a beautiful scene.

 

Next day was Aruba. I hope you don't go there on a Sunday,as it was dead! The best part was sailing into the harbor - quite a tricky maneuver that you will want to be on deck for. The most sought-after excursion, the submarine, was so murky from a nearby storm that they came back up before going all the way down, and eventually (after a bit of resistance) refunded the money for all who booked it. We found a cafe with free wireless and hung out there for quite a while, then took a taxi around part of the island... not nearly as scenic as I had imagined.

 

We had two days at sea after Aruba, so a good time to say a bit about the on board experiences. The Flyer was lower-key with less organized activities and entertainment than the Royal Clipper had on the transAtlantic trip we did a year ago. I wondered if that was because our trip wasn't transAtlantic, but it appears instead to be a difference between the two ships and their crews. The crew on the Royal were very entertaining and usually hysterically funny, with activities and entertainment almost every night. We had very little evening activity and entertainment on the Flyer. One big issue when we did was smoking. Although the Tropical Bar was supposed to have a smoking and a non-smoking side, the rules were not well enforced, and the smoke tended to stray to the other side even when they were. I think that smoking should be banned during entertainment, personally.

 

The Flyer sails a lot more than the Royal Clipper, because of the configuration of the sails. That part of the trip was absolutely glorious, and I loved the days at sea. There were not as many sailing related activites as on a transAtlantic trip, but mast climbing was certainly popular.

 

Next stop was Cartagena, Columbia. It is a fantastic city, beautifully restored, and felt totally safe. THey were gearing up for a festival, and some of the folks actually saw one of the many parades (we didn't). The walking tour was very popular, with earphones and a number of guides assigned to small groups of passengers. What I learned later talking to other passengers was that the quality of the guides varied considerably with some describing the tour as brilliant, and others finding it not helpful at all. We went on our own with friends, hired a cab driver who took us to several sites, then dropped us with a pre-arranged time to pick us up. This worked fine. After wandering for an hour or two, my husband decided that he really wanted to eat paella (I think because the city reminded us so much of being in Spain). We got directions to a small restaurant from a police officer. Not a soul in the restaurant spoke English, but my rusty Spanish sufficed and it was a wonderful experience. We ended the day while still in dock with a music and dance performance by local performers in the Tropical Bar that was fantastic (only marred by a passenger smoking a cigar right on the edge between the smoking and non-smoking sides of the ship.) I would go back to Cartagena in a minute.... it is a truly wonderful city. Oh, one other bit of useful info - the shop in the port that you walk through to get to and from the ship is excellent, with a great assortment of items, many at reasonable prices.

 

After another at sea day, we headed for the San Blas Archipelago. We anchored off of three small, heavily inhabited islands and took the tender to one of them - I never did know its name. What an experience! The Kuna Indians who inhabit them were granted self-governing authority by Panama, and still live very much as they always have, fishing and selling the beautiful embroidery and other crafts they make to tourists who visit the islands and in Panama City. I have read reviews of the visit to San Blas that found the poverty overwhelming, but I did not see that... the people seemed well fed and happy, the children dressed in school uniforms and happy to chat in Spanish (their official language is a native indian tongue) with the tourists, although they expect a dollar to have their picture taken. No swimming beaches on these islands... the surrounding water is their sewer system so swimming is not a good idea. A tender took folks out for snorkeling and diving in a different direction from the inhabited islands, but the trip to the islands was enough for me. Take lots of one and five dollar bills so you can buy as many beautiful molas as you want. They are gorgeous - I have given many as presents and they are well appreciated.

 

Gotta go again, but I'll try to get back in the next day or two to finish off the saga. In case I don't, going through the canal was wonderful!

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Wow, thank you for the info--a lot of good stuff there. We actually like the Clipper and the Flyer better than the Royal, but it does come down to the intinerary. Yes, the smaller ships do sail better and more. And you are right about the activities offered on the TA--they are trying to keep the guests from getting bored on all those sea days. When the trip is port intensive, they back off on a lot of the activities.

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I find I'm not sure what to say about the canal passage - it was wonderful. We started through around dawn, and it was worth being up on deck very early..... but I know the timing of each passage depends on factors specific to that trip. They brought a guide on board who was very knowledgable - but it was difficult to get close enough to hear him and see all that you wanted to see at the same time. I hope they figure out how to make his commentary more audible. THe biggest challenges are the heat (at least we had cloud cover or I am not sure how I would have tolerated it) and when to go down below to eat without missing too much!

 

Are you staying in Panama City for a while? If so, I'll try to send you some info on my favorite spots there.

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Yes, we are staying several days. Last time I was there was @ 1992 or so, when I was in the Air Force. I know things have changed a lot!

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DocH20: Having been on both the Star Flyer and the Royal Clipper, how do you compare them? We're looking to book a European cruise in 2012 but not sure until they come out with their itinerary which one we want to do. We've been on the Star Clipper and that would be fine with me, but if we like the itinerary better on the Royal Clipper, may have to go that way so just wondering about the differences?

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Hi CruisinBarb and DocH20

 

It's been quite a while since I've posted on these boards for which I appologize. It has been an interesting time since we left the Flyer at Panama in November with some health challenges. Fortunately we are now beyond them.

 

We shared the Barbados to Panama trip with DocH2O last fall and really enjoyed her's and Jeff's company. Her posts about the trip in December and also in January are very accurate and done far better than I could do. We had been on the transatlantic section prior to meeting them in Barbados and experiened the hurricane on the Flyer as we approached Barbados.....other than the intense rain my wife and I really enjoyed the experience.

 

Regarding your question comparing the Flyer and Royal, we definately prefer the smaller ships (Star Flyer or Star Clipper which are essentially the same). We crossed on the Royal in October 2008 and had a wonderful cruise. We crossed on the Clipper in 2006 and on the Flyer in 2010. However we much prefer the intimacy offered on the Clipper or Flyer, mainly because of fewer passengers. The sailing flexability is also a positive consideration because of the rigging of the smaller vessals.

 

On the other hand, the Royal is larger and has very luxiourious features. This comment comes down to personal preference.

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Thanks for the reply. Although we haven't been on the Royal Clipper, I agree with you that I'm sure we would prefer the smaller, more intimate ship. That being said, it's probably going to come down to itinerary. I hope the 2012 summer/fall schedule comes out soon.

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Cruisingbarb - apologies for not responding, but I haven't been on the site since March... various reasons meant a cruise is not in the immediate future for us, so I have spent my on-line time on other things. I agree with Grampylo that it is personal preference regarding which ship to choose. Itinerary and dates that don't conflict with vital things on my work schedule really will drive our choice on future trips. The one thing that was important to me on the Royal that I missed on the Flyer was the gym... I really did use it - mainly the treadmill - on our transatlantic trip. It was not a huge problem on the Flyer because we generally put into port most days and I could get some walking exercise then, although I wasn't as regular about it as I was on the Royal. I have arthritis and can't do the on-board walks because taking the stairs repeatedly and at speed is just too much on my knees.

 

Grampylo - I am so happy to hear that your health problems are behind you. I have thought of you and Jan often. Geoff has been having some pretty major problems with his knees and almost had a knee replacement, but instead is going to be doing some new sort of injections. I still haven't done anything with my photos from our trip... still plan to but who knows when. Are you planning another trip at some point? I am getting to that point where I want to get something planned, but don't have anything definite in mind yet. Sounds like some changes coming in the various areas visited.

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DocH2O: Thanks for your reply. We don't care for Star Clipper/Flyer Western Europe itinerary so will be doing a Princess cruise in 2012. Still considering their Barbados to Panama cruise in the future. Haven't given up on SC but it's price and itinerary that we look at.

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