A couple of weeks ago we sailed on the HAL Zuiderdam for ten days on the Panama Canal Sunfarer cruise. We enjoyed this cruise so much from March and the price was so good ($499pp) that we talked our friends Dick and Kathy into going with us. Our captain was Bart Vaartjes, our hotel director was Darren David Lewis, and our cruise director was Michael Landring. Our cabin was 4114 and we ate dinner at 5:15 every night. Our server was Nur and he was great. I bought the internet (1000 minutes for $250).
Day 1: Embarkation 12/11/16
We got to the port around 10:30 and dropped off our bags. Then we parked our car in the parking garage. We walked right in and went through security and check-in quickly. We ended up waiting about 30 minutes before they let us on. We stopped at our cabins which were ready and dropped stuff off. Then we went to the Lido deck for lunch. After lunch we went to a Mariner reception where we had some drinks in the Crow’s nest. It was raining so hard that the glass was leaking and water was soaking the seats but they put a bucket and towels to catch the rain. After that we went to the muster drill. Then we sat near the pool and watched us leave the port. We had dinner reservations at 5:30 but we were all ready and went to dinner at 5:15 which was nice. After dinner we walked around and Don slipped on the stairs going down which twisted his knee. He was in a lot of pain after that so we went back to our room. The cabin steward brought me our schedule after 9pm with a Holland America bag. I had to ask him to check our phone because it wasn’t working.
Day 2: Half Moon Cay 12/12/16
I got up at 5am and played on my computer on the Lido deck. Then I woke Don up at 7am. The four of us went on the tender about 9am to Half Moon Cay. We went to the Ocean Bar on Deck 3 for our tender tickets and immediately went to get on the tender on Deck A. The water was really choppy and later we heard that they were delayed in getting us on the island because of the rough water. We didn’t notice the delay since we didn’t plan on going until 9 instead of 8 as they announced we would arrive. We had a wonderful time on the beach and the water was cold at first but then warmed up the longer you stayed in it. At 11:30 we went to the island barbecue for a snack. After that we returned to the ship and had lunch. After lunch we sat by the pool for a little while and then it was time to prepare for dinner and happy hour in the Crow’s Nest. Dinner was wonderful and after dinner we went to see the comedian, Derrick Cameron, who was funny.
Day 3: At Sea 12/13/16
We had a lovely day at sea. Kathy joined me on the Lido deck to watch the sunrise. Then Don arrived after 8am. The three of us went to the dining room for breakfast. After breakfast, Don went to the shore excursion talk and I went to the Cruise Critic meet up. There were about 40 people there and I enjoyed meeting them. After that we sat on Deck 3 in the lounge chairs and relaxed until lunch time. After lunch we returned there and relaxed until it was time to prepare for dinner and happy hour. Dinner was great again and then we went to hear the show which featured the Island Magic Steel Band and they were awesome. They played Broadway hits, classical music and even Glenn Miller. It wasn’t what I expected and I’m glad we went.
Day 4: Curacao 12/14/16
We didn’t arrive to Curacao until 2pm at the Megapier. We walked around town but Dick wasn’t able to do much walking. We went to the Starbucks first so everyone could get on the free internet. Then we walked across the floating bridge and to the floating market. Along the way we stopped to hear the bells chime and play music at 5pm. On the way back, I heard a familiar voice and looked to see another couple we know. Carolyn had worked in my husband’s courtroom years ago. Then we found out they were with another couple and all of them were on the same ship as us! We had been on it for 4 days and never crossed paths with them on the ship! We didn’t get back to the ship until 7pm and went to the Lido deck for dinner. At 11:30pm there was a special firework show to celebrate that the Prinsendam was in port with us. Of course, I set my alarm and was the only one to get up and go see the fireworks. But it was so loud it woke everyone else up! It was a wonderful day in Curacao!
Day 5: Aruba 12/15/16
We had a relaxing day while we were in Aruba. We got off the ship at 8am and went to the bus station. We planned to buy the bus pass and then head to Eagle Beach. Even though they advertise the bus pass, they were not selling it to the cruise ship passengers. Instead you had to pay $5 each way so we decided to get back on the ship. We spent the day relaxing around the pool which was really nice. Before dinner we went to Happy Hour and after dinner we went to the show One World featuring the dancers and singers. Kathy and Dick went on a tour for $25 each and was dropped off at Eagle Beach for a couple of hours. They said you could rent a chair for $15 but they just put their stuff on the beach and had a lovely time.
Day 6: At Sea 12/16/16
At 9, we went to a port talk on Colon and Puerto Limon. Then we sat on deck 3 and read until lunch time. At 1pm we went to see the movie “Discover the Panama Canal.” We went up to the Lido deck and had a snack (Hamburger and fries) before getting ready for dinner. The captain announced that we had a medical ermergency and a guest needed a blood transfusion. He asked anyone who was 0+ or A+ and had a blood donor card to please come to the medical center. At 4, we met up with Carolyn and her group for happy hour. After dinner we went to the show which featured a magician/juggler, Nathaniel Rankin. When we got back to our room, we turned our clocks back an hour.
Day 7: Colon, Panama 12/17/16
I got to the Crow’s Nest at 4:30am and it was crowded! Don, Dick and Kathy arrived soon after me. We stayed up there until around 10am. One reason it took so long was that they got the medical emergency off the ship when we were in the 2nd lock. After that we ate breakfast and then relaxed on the 3rd deck until lunch time. After lunch we sat on the 3rd deck and watched as we returned through the locks At 4pm the four of us got off the ship and walked to the stores. We bought 4 soft drinks and a small bag of doritoes for $4.18 USD. Then we returned to the ship and had dinner. When we went to bed, we turned our clocks back an hour.
Day 8: Limon, Costa Rica 12/18/16
Don, Kathy, and I got off the ship and walked around town. We walked to the Cathedral Sagrada Corazon de Jesus and it was beautiful. Then we walked to the park and saw the sloths and a hummingbird. We gave the little boy a dollar as a tip and we saw 3 sloths including one with a baby. Then we went to the supermarket where they sold coffee ($11 for 12 oz.) but the market near the ship sold it for $8 for 17.6 oz or $15 for two. We got back on the ship and got Dick and then went on a tour of the area. Kathy got us the tour for $15 per person (the other people paid $35) and we drove in an air-conditioned van for 2 ½ hours. Our tour guide, Carlos was excellent. We saw a banana plantation, canals, sloths, and howling monkeys! Then we got back on the ship and had lunch and a nap. When it was time to be on the ship, we heard them call 5 people’s names and cabins because they had not returned yet. I heard one person was left behind and she was an adult who was traveling with her older parents. She got off the ship to buy something quickly but didn’t make it back in time. Plus, she had all the passports! The parents talked to her and she was going to be taken to San Jose and put on a plane to Ft. Lauderdale. We also watched them put another person in an ambulance along with all their luggage. At 4pm we went to happy hour before dinner. After dinner, we went to the show featuring the comedian/ventriloquist Phil Hughes who was very funny. When we went to bed, we turned our clocks forward one hour.
Day 9: At Sea 12/19/16
After breakfast, we went to a computer class on Windows 10 which was fun. For lunch we had special Mariner’s luncheon for repeat guests. After lunch we went to a talk with the Captain where he answered questions. Before dinner we had happy hour with Carolyn, Ken, Jack and Peggy. They had gone zip lining in Costa Rica and Carolyn wanted to get off but she had to go through 5 platforms before she was allowed to get off. She said she was crying and shaking and would never do that again! After dinner, we went to the show which featured a fabulous singer, Sonia Selbie. She had such a strong voice and a great personality!
Day 10: At Sea 12/20/16
After breakfast, we went to the movie theater to see Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children which I enjoyed. After lunch we went back to our room to pack and rest before happy hour. After dinner we went to the farewell show Musicology which featured the Zuiderdam dancers. It was a nice last day on the ship!
Day 11: Debarkation 12/21/16
We requested to get off around 9:45 and our tags were Lime 1. We were off the ship by 10:15. It was fast and easy to get off the ship.
Things I Learned:
1. We really liked Half Moon Cay!
2. Starbucks in Curacao doesn’t take my Starbucks card.
3. Curacao is beautiful at night.
4. Aruba doesn’t sell the $10 bus pass to cruise passengers.
5. You can see ships go through the Panama Canal by going to www.pancanal.com .
6. Panama railroad cost $8 million and was 47 miles long
7. Panama Canal Took in $7 million.
8. Theodore Roosevelt was the first president to travel outside of the United States
9. New locks opened in June.
10. Atlantic side 4 feet and Pacific side is 21 feet.
11. 39 ships a day
12. 3rd bridge across the canal is 60% built
13. 1000’ x110’ - old locks’ 965’ x 106’ - ships
14. 1400’ x180’ - new locks. 1200’x160’ - ships
15. 52 million gallons of fresh water is lost for each transit (26 each side)
16. 3 million gallons per minute
17. 8-12 minutes in each lock.
18. Panama is still unsafe to walk around outside of the port terminal.
19. The Republic of Panama - 1903 succeeded from Colombia
20. The canal transports 4% world trade and 16% US trade.
21. Panama has 12 million acres of rainforest.
22. Main language of Panama is Spanish.
23. 1547 miles of coastline in Panama
24. Canal went back to Panama in 1999
25. 1949 Costa Rica became a country
26. 500 Costa Rican colon to $1 USD
27. San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica
28. Main language of Costa Rica is Spanish
29. 25% of the country's land is protected national parks and protected areas
30. 800 miles of coastline in Costa Rica
31. Costa Rica is the only country without a military.
32. 22 venomous snakes in Costa Rica.
33. Shake out your shoes and watch out of nasty spiders in Costa Rica.
34. Stay away from ants in Costa Rica.
35. 67 volcanoes in Costa Rica.
36. In Costa Rica, Poison dart frogs’ venom can kill 10 grown men.
37. No visa in Costa Rica needed but you pay a departure tax of $29
38. Tour - $15 pp. 10am to 12:30pm
39. Banana takes one year and 2 weeks to mature.
40. each box of bananas is 40 lbs.
41. We saw pineapples, sugar, cacao bean, Cassavas root, noni fruit, sloths, howler monkeys in Costa Rica.
42. Costa Rica didn’t have as many homeless people sleeping on the sidewalk.
43. I don’t ever want to do zip lining!