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Panama 0319
Panama 0319

Cruising on the Oceania Marina

Lima, Peru - Salaverry, Peru - at sea - Manta, Ecuador - Esmeraldas, Ecuador - at sea - Panama Canal transit - Puerto Limon, Costa Rica - at sea - Santo Tomas, Guatemala - Roatan, Honduras - Harvest Caye, Belize - Costa Maya, Mexico - at sea - Miami, Florida - at sea - Norfolk, Virginia - New York (2 days)

 
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Rating (out of 5):     Ship    Food    Service    Itinerary

We booked this cruise for a number of reasons. We had done the Panama Canal less then 18 months ago on the Island Princess, but this cruise extended the normal canal itinerary of LA / Miami to Lima, Peru / New York City, making it an 18 day cruise. It was also our favorite ship (Marina) on one of our favorite cruise lines (Oceania). And, of course, it was on the list of available T/A priced cruises. Another bonus was that it checked off two more countries for us - Peru and Guatemala. The only bad part of the trip was the flight to Lima. It was split over two legs - Calgary to Montreal to Lima - with a total of 12 hours flying time. We find as we get older the longer flights bother us more. At least the flight home would be tolerable at 5 hours from New Jersey to Calgary.

The ship was not full. There were 1066 passengers whereas the double occupancy limit was 1250. About 150 of the passengers were already aboard from the previous Easter Island cruise , making it a 32 day cruise. The previous leg was even less crowded with only about 900 guests. There were only 2 children on our cruise - definitely an old peoples cruise! Choosing clothes to bring was complicated as it was (end of) summer in South America, hot in the Panama area and the Caribbean, and early Spring on the northeast US coast. One big plus of this cruise was that there was no great time zone change. In fact, the first half of the cruise was on Alberta time.

A first for us was an abnormal outbreak of a bacterial based gastro-enteritis that was sufficiently widespread to require extreme sanitization measures by the crew for several days. The following paragraph is based on what we saw and what we heard, realizing that every employee we heard from had a different set of facts! The outbreak was caused by a bacterial infection. (ie. definitely not Norwalk which is a viral infection). Apparently a number of passengers on a Machu Picchu pre-cruise tour came down with an infection after eating a meal at the same hotel in Cuzco. Even though sick, the passengers still boarded the ship in Lima which started the ball rolling. In support of this theory is that the ship was disease free for the whole of the previous 16 day Easter Island cruise. The infection finally ran its course about two weeks after we boarded. During this time more and more sanitization procedures were put into place. These included:

  • hand sanitizer dispensers were placed throughout the ship
  • chairs, tables, railings, etc. were regularly wiped clean with disinfectant
  • all food was served by employees
  • place mats, cutlery, condiments, etc. were placed on the table after being seated
  • there were no hard cover menus, just disposable paper menus
  • casino cards were trashed after each play
  • the "crossing the Equator" celebration was cancelled
  • the "staff olympics" event (if it is still an event!) was cancelled
  • the library was locked down
  • staff in the gym were wiping down the equipment after each usage
  • people exhibiting symptoms were confined in their rooms for two days
The staff worked extra hard as the disinfectant procedures occured over top of their regular responsibilities. The extraordinary actions must have been effective as we arrived in New York with a clean ship.

Trivia was well organized on this cruise with two sessions of general trivia per day - at 4:30 and 8:30. Teams had a maximum of 8 members, which we have always found too large (6 is perfect). And, of course, the driving force was the accumulation of those much coveted BIG-O Points. We would turn in our points at the end of the cruise for fabulous Oceania paraphenelia like hats, t-shirts and umbrellas. But the true winnings were having fun with and getting to know our new team mates.

Days 1, 2 (Mar 15, 16) - Travel to Lima

Marjorie was working today, so Christina and I took Rusty to the cat kennel. Soon after Marjorie arrived home we had a quick dinner, loaded our suitcases into the car and headed over to Christina and Matt's to drop off the car. We had a bit of a visit and then headed to the Westin Hotel airport where we turned over our car to Christina. It was about 8 PM and our wakeup call would come at 5 AM. We toured the hotel before heading to bed. We awoke at 5 AM and shuttled to the airport to check in to our 4 hour flight to Montreal. We were ontime and landed at YUL about 12:30. We had plenty of time for lunch at YUL as our next leg (to Lima) left at 6 PM. Once again we were ontime and landed at Lima (8 hours later) at 1:30 AM. A cab was waiting to drive us to the Swissotel in San Isidro - a suburb of Lima City. By the time we hit the sack it was 3 AM. We were ready for a day in Lima.

Days 3, 4 (Mar 17, 18) - A day in Lima, then boarding

We slept in till 9 AM and then roused in time to try the included breakfast. It was amazing! Lots of breakfasty things as well as many types of fresh fruit and fruit drinks. As we have mentioned before, South American juices are usually thick and pulpy like a smoothie. Delicious. Right after breakfast we headed out looking for a grocery store. We found one and bought some Peruvian beer and cookies for the voyage. It was quite warm out so when we got back to the hotel I put on my swimsuit and hopped in the pool (Marjorie read). Mid afternoon we decided to do a lunch/dinner combo at a local restaurant (Tanta). Marjorie had a chicken burger and I had butternut squash ravioli. They were both excellent. We wandered and read for a while, holding out till 9:00 PM. The next morning we were up and ready for another attack on the hotel breakast. Wonderful! Our shuttle to the dock came at 11:45. It wasn't a great distance, but traffic was horrendous. We arrived at the ship and did a quick checkin by 1 PM. We had lunch in the buffet and then waited until the rooms were opened at 2:30.Muster drill was at 4:15 and sail away at 5:00. We begged our way into Red Ginger for dinner. Marjorie and I both had the miso sea bass. There was no evening trivia so we just wandered and then headed to bed.
 

Day 5 (Mar 19) - Salaverry (for Trujillo)

We were up at 8:00 AM ready for our first port stop. We were in the industrial port of Salaverry. We had breakfast in the buffet and then split up for the morning. Marjorie was doing a ship's tour while I went to the gym and then read for a while. Marjorie's tour was a bus trip to the city of Trujillo, visiting a colonial house, the town square and the archaeological museum.I had lunch in Waves and then wandered and read until Marjorie returned at 3:00 PM. Our first trivia session was at 4:30, and we joined up with some others to form a team for the cruise. We were rewarded for choosing team mates well by achieving a second place finish. For the remainder of the cruise we did very well. Immediately following afternoon trivia, there was a session to review answers to a daily Mensa quiz that we could work on throughout the day. Easy BIG-O Points. For dinner we scrounged our way into Toscana. Marjorie had a pasta trio, while I had roast beef ravioli. Yummy! After dinner we hustled to the 8:30 evening triva. It was a different crowd than the afternoon crowd, so we ended up forming a new team for evening trivia. As we looked about for new team members, who should we find but Marlene and Bill - our Calgarian trivia buddies from the Easter Island cruise 7 years ago. We had lost contact with them so it was a pleasant surprise to renew our aquaintance. Once again we were wise in our choice of team mates as we were well rewarded at the evening sessions as well. So, we wandered the ship for a while and then went to bed.
 
 

Days 6, 7 (Mar 20, 21) - A day at sea, then Manta, Ecuador

Day 6: Our first sea day carried us from Peru to Ecuador. We were up at 7:30 and had breakfast in the buffet. Then I did the gym while Marjorie earned BIG-O Points at shuffleboard. At 10:00 I enjoyed a lecture on several Inca sites given by an archaeology guy. We had lunch at Waves and then wandered and read. We roused to hit 4:30 trivia followed by the Mensa answers. Dinner was at Toscana. Marjorie had veal marsala, I had veal scalapini a limon. Our evening trivia was themed (Movie scenes) and I think we came in dead last.

Day 7: We were up at 7:00 to watch us dock in Manta. There were no excursions that interested us so we stayed aboard for the morning. We did breakfast at the buffet, then I went to the gym while Marjorie headed to the computer room to do her T/A business. We had lunch at waves. In the afternoon we decided to take the free ship-to-town shuttle to see the town. Where the shuttle stopped there was a craft market, where every second stall sold Panama hats. We wandered the market for half an hour or so and then caught the shuttle back to the ship. Were were back in time for trivia and Mensa review. For dinner we went to Jacques where both Marjorie and I had the lobster thermadore. We placed second at evening trivia.

 

Day 8 (Mar 22) - A day in Esmeraldas, Ecuador

We were up at 6:30 AM as we approached Esmeraldas. We had breakfast in the buffet. Marjorie headed off on a tour and I went to the gym and then watched a movie. Marjorie's tour took her to the town of Atacama, where they visited a jewelery shop, a coconut confectionary (candy called cocades) and an archaeological museum. She was back by lunch time so we had a relaxing lunch in the MDR.For the afternoon, we wandered the ship and read on our balcony. At 4:30 we did the trivia / Mensa thing. Those BIG-O Points were really mounting up! For dinner we did the Red Ginger (again) where Marjorie had her favorite miso sea bass, and I had the wasabi rack of lamb. Delicious! We did the evening trivia and then slipped into the theatre to see a concert by a talented flautist. Then off to bed.
 

Day 9, 10 (Mar 23, 24) - A sea day and a canal day

Day 9: We were up at 7:00 for another sea day. We had breakfast at the buffet followed by a future cruises lecture for Marjorie and the gym for me. We competed in the special 10:30 trivia, read, and then did lunch at Waves. We relaxed for the afternoon and hauled ourselves to 4:30 trivia. Dinner for us was in the Polo Grill where Marjorie had prime rib and I had shrimp scampi. I know it's a steak house, but the shrimps were delicious. Our random dinner mates (from New Mexico) had a birthday, so we had chocolate cake. Then we ran to 8:30 trivia to complete the day.

Day 10: This morning we were up at 6:30 to see us enter the Panama Canal. This was our third time transiting the locks over the years so it was more of an interesting experience rather than an educational one. One difference I noticed this time was that there weren't many ships transiting with us. The previous times ships were stacked up at either end of the canal, plus in Lake Gatun. The locks hold two ships side-by-side, and we always had a partner ship blocking the view on one side. This time there were fewer ships waiting and no one beside us in the lock. We had breakfast in the buffet then I went to the gym and Marjorie to shuffleboard. We had lunch at waves In the afternoon we played Top Toss for BIG-O Points and managed 4:30 trivia. For dinner we snuck into Red Ginger. Marjorie had a chicken stir fry while I had the miso sea bass. 8:30 trivia did us in, so a quick wander and to bed. Clocks back 1 hour.

 

Day 11 (Mar 25) - Puerto Limon, Costa Rica

We were up at 7:00 to cool and rainy weather. This was our second visit to Puerto Limon and we had arranged a jungle boat tour. We had breakfast in the buffet. By the time it rolled around to our 9:00 tour, the rain had stopped and it was quite nice out. We were bused to the Tortuguero Canal to board a river boat. The boat went at a leisurely pace and stopped when animals or birds were spotted. We saw sloths, howler monkeys, caimen, iguanas and lizards, and many species of water birds. After the boat cruise we were hosted on shore with pineapple, bananas, juices, beer. Then it was back to the ship by 12:15. We did lunch at Waves. After lunch we wandered back into town to find a grocery store (Mercado). We loaded up on cookies and beer (my Peruvian beer had run out). Back on board I did my bit at the gym then hustled to afternoon trivia. Dinner was at Jacques where Marjorie had some kind of seafood and I had coq st jacques. Very good! We finished the day with evening trivia and our nightly wander.
 
 

Days 12, 13 (Mar 26, 27) - A day at sea, a day in Guatemala

Day 12: Another sea day. We were up 7:00 as we surged along towards Guatemala. We had a relaxed breakfast in the MDR. Afterwards I went to a lecture on the Mayans. I followed that with a visit to the gym. Up until today I usually encountered 5 or 6 people in the gym. Today it was packed, with a lineup waiting to use the machines. I gave up! So, bursting with unused energy, we decided to take lunch in the MDR. Then it was back to the lecture hall (theatre) for a talk on dark energy. The lecturer was good, but it was very, very basic stuff. At 4:30 trivia I was disappointed that none of the questions could be answered by anything gleaned from the previous lecture! For dinner we decided on the MDR - the first time on this cruise that we didn't do a specialty restaurant. We finished in time for evening trivia, followed by our nightly wander then to bed.
 


Day 13: We were up at 7:00 ready for our day in Santo Tomaso, Guatemala. This would be a new country for us. Just like in Puerto Limon is was raining hard as we got up, but by the time we got to the buses it was bright and sunny. We had our breakfast in the buffet and then got ready for our 9:15 tour. We assembled on the dock and then walked to the buses. We drove to a village where the Rio Dulce flows into Lake Izabal. We loaded into motor boats to tour around Lake Izabal. We made a stop at Castille de San Felipe - built during the 17th century in honour of the Spanish King Felipe II. We got to walk through the beautiful grassy parkland and then entered the castle for a tour. The castle was small, but very interesting. After the tour and a return walk through the park we reboarded the boats and continued our tour of the lake. We slowly circled a small island where the trees were full of water birds - pelicans, cormorants, etc. Back on land, we went to the Catamaran Hotel for refreshments. We were back at the ship by 3:00. I went to the gym (empty!) and then we played afternoon trivia. We did dinner in Toscana where Marjorie had lasagne and I had a lobster tail. Wonderful. Afterwards we did the evening trivia, wandered and went to bed.

 
 

Day14 (Mar 28) - Fourth time in Roatan

We rose today about 7:00 AM to find ourselves in Roatan (Honduras) for the fourth time. Due to several other cruise ships also in Roatan harbour, the docks were full and our ship would be tendering. What a coincidence - the only port of the cruise that was tendering was the one where we had no interest (or reason) for going ashore. So, we put on our sea day clothes and headed off to the buffet for breakfast. With most of the passengers on shore for the day, we had the ship to ourselves. After breakfast Marjorie headed up to the shuffleboard area while I went to the gym (totally empty). We did our usual lunch at Waves (surf and turf "burger" and a chocolate milkshake). We wandered and read, squeezing in a game of Top Toss and afternoon trivia. We were back to the Red Ginger for dinner. Marjorie had the miso sea bass while I had the scallop trio. After dinner we did the 8:30 trivia. Later on, after we had gone to bed I had an upset stomach which kept me up all night. The doctor insisted it was food poising and not related to the bacterial infection going around the ship.

Day15 (Mar 29) - Recouperating in Belize

Today was kind of a write off day for me. I was over my stomach issues but was very tired so that I dozed for most of the day with no interest in food. We were docked today at Harvest Caye, Norwegian's private island in Belize. We had been to "mainland" Belize twice before, but had never been to this private island. I am glad I didn't go ashore as it was very hot (projected high of 28 C). I find that the heat really bothers me now. Marjorie did go ashore to check out the beach and swam in the ocean and then in the pool. She found it very hot too (other than when she was swimming). On board the disease control peaked when they closed the library and started using throw away dinner menus in the restaurants. I'm not sure of all that Marjorie did, but she did appologize for my absence to our trivia team. By the evening I was back to my old self again and had some soup for dinner. Thinking back on 18 years of cruising and 77 cruises, we have only had brief illnesses maybe twice each. And, we have never had to cancel a sailing due to any problems. We've been very lucky! Clocks ahead 1 hour tonight.
 
 

Day16 (Mar 30) - Checking out Costa Maya


We were up around 7:00 and ate breakfast in the buffet. We were docking in Costa Maya. We had been here several times over the years and it has really developed. On our first visit there was nothing there, just a pier and jungle. Dave and I did a bicycle tour along a gravel road and into a small village of wooden huts. Now it is a fully developed cruise shopping plaza. I wonder if the small villages are still around. Anyway, it was very hot so we did a quick tour of the plaza. We were back on the ship again in time for lunch at Waves. We relaxed and read on our balcony, interspersed with Top Toss and trivia. We decided to have dinner at the buffet so had a variety of items. We did evening trivia and then did our usual walk on the uppper deck. Clocks ahead 1 hour tonight.
 

Days 17, 18 (Mar 31, Apr 1) - Another sea day and Miami

Day 17: We were up at 7:00 to another sea day. As usual we had our breakfast in the buffet. Marjorie headed off to shuffleboard and I went to a lecture (A trip through the solar system). Skipping Waves today we lunched in the buffet. It was a typical afternoon including Top Toss and trivia, although I did manage to fit in an extra lecture (The 4 voyages of Captain Cook). Dinner was in the buffet and then we ended the day with evening trivia.

Day 18: The next day we were up at 7:30 to watch us come into Miami. We had a quick breakfast in the buffet. This was our first U.S. port so we all had to march out to the terminal building to go through US Customs. We didn't have any excursion booked for Miami, so we caught the free shuttle bus to downtown. We exited the bus at the Brickell Center (about 9:30) and wandered around the huge mall. Then we caught the shuttle to the Bayside Mall about 11:00. Marjorie decided to leave the bus and tour the mall, while I stayed on the bus and headed back to the ship. Marjorie arrived at the ship on a later shuttle (12:00). We had lunch in the buffet. The afternoon was straight forward with Top Toss and trivia. We enjoyed watching the ship fill with gas (several hours) from our balcony, plus the galley loaded up with pallets of fruits and veggies. Dinner was in Toscana. Marjorie had a veal cutlet, I had veal scalopini. Then 8:30 trivia, wander the decks and then to bed. Note: at some time in the afternoon the captain announced that due to an Atlantic storm we would be bypassing Norfolk, Virginia. Instead we would dock tomorrow at Port Canaveral and then have a sea day to New York. That's twice now that we have missed Norfolk! We are destined to never visit Norfolk!

 

Day 19 (Apr 2) - A day in Port Canaveral

We were up about 8:00 as we were docking in Port Canaveral. It was cool and raining. This was a last minute port due to the storm near Norfolk, so the only excursion that had been arranged was a trip to the Kennedy Space Center. By fluke, we had been here a year ago and did exactly that excursion (on a sunny, blue sky day). So we had decided to just walk around the port area. We had breakfast at the buffet. By then the rain had stopped so we headed out for our walk. We first directed our attention to the Exploration Tower, a natural history museum with an interesting gift shop. We bought a jigsaw puzzle for the grands. Then we walked over to a sports fishing building and watched the pelicans that gathered at the fish cleaning station. Seeing the pelicans gorging on fish guts made us hungry, so we headed back aboard for lunch at the buffet. After lunch, Marjorie headed back ashore to find a telephone (to book a client somewhere) and I went to the gym. Then it was afternoon Top Toss and trivia. We had dinner in the Red Ginger. Marjorie had her favorite miso sea bass while I had teriyaki steak. We hustled to evening trivia and then did our trademark wander.
 
 

Day 20 (Apr 3) - Final day at sea

We were up at 8:00 for our final sea day. Marjorie was feeling queezy, so I packed some breakfast down from the buffet. I think she had whatever I had had. While Marjorie slept, I did morning trivia (rapid fire version - no idea what that means!) and then attended a lecture on the seven wonders of the ancient world. At noon we did lunch in the buffet. After lunch I attended a lecture on "how the Erie Canal made New York City". The premise was that the Erie Canal opened up the NYC area to become a powerful trading location. Afterwards I did the Top Toss and afternoon trivia. Marjorie felt well enough to join me for dinner in the buffet. The evening buffet is actually quite nice. It was quiet there and the food was cooked to order. We did the evening trivia and then went to bed.
 

Day 21 (Apr 4) - A day in New York City

We woke up about 7:00 to a "morning at sea". We weren't due to hit NYC (our final port) until 1:30 PM or so. Marjorie had booked a 4 hour city tour. A number of years ago I had spent a week in Manhattan, so wasn't really interested. We had breakfast in the buffet. We spent the morning doing our usual things - trivia, reading, wandering. Being the penultimate day of the cruise, they had a BIG-O Points cash-in sale in the main theatre. We had 305 points, enough for 4 "workout" t-shirts and a ball cap.Then it was lunch at Waves. We finally docked in Manhattan and Marjorie headed off on her tour. I spent the afternoon reading and wandering. Her tour took her through downtown stopping at a spot to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and then at the Ground Zero pools. She returned to the ship at 6:00 PM. We did the buffet for dinner. Then it was time to pack our bags and get them out into the hallway for pickup. Wearing our "tomorrow" clothes we wandered the ship for the final time. Then to bed.
 
 

Day 22 (Apr 5) - Disembarking and home

We were up early at 6:30 for a quick breakfast in the buffet. Then we double checked that we had gotten everything from our cabin and headed to our departure lounge. Our number was called and we headed out to pick up our luggage and exit the terminal building. Outsided it was cold and raining. Marjorie had booked a Super Shuttle to the airport which we had to wait at least half an hour for. Our flight home was a single leg, direct from Newark (EWR) to Calgary on Air Canada. We got to the airport around noon and the flight was at 3:30. We arrived in Calgary at 6:30 and Christina was there to pick us up. We drove back to her place, had a quick visit and then transferred to our car for the drive home. The kitties were happy to see us, with Rusty being picked up the next day from the kennel. We really enjoyed both the ship and the itinerary. Great cruise!