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Panama 1004
Panama 1004

Cruising on the Radiance of the Seas

San Diego - at sea - Cabo San Lucas - at sea - Acapulco - Huatulco - at sea - Puntarenas - at sea - Panama Canal - at sea - Oranjestad, Aruba - at sea (2 days) - Miami

 
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Rating (out of 5):    Ship    Food    Service    Itinerary

This was a cruise of firsts for us. It was our first time through the Panama Canal. It was our first 14 day cruise. It was our first cruise on Royal Caribbean. And, it was our first cruise where we met a number of fellow cruisers before the cruise, on Cruise Critic.

Day 1 (Oct 24) - Boarding in San Diego

We booked our air through the cruise line, so this is the first time that we've flown in on cruise day. Usually we're a day early. The traffic from the airport to the cruise dock was horrendous. It took us at least an hour in the bus to travel about a mile or so. Could have walked it faster. When we got to the cruise terminal, people were lined up outside the building in a huge lineup. It was very hot, too. Our bus parked by a large door and we went right in. However, there was a huge lineup inside as well. It must have taken us over an hour to go through the check-in lineup. This was the slowest embarkation that we've been through.

I usually by a 12 pack of Coke on our normal pre-cruise "shopping" day. However, being a 14 day cruise, and arriving the same day as embarkation, I bought a 24 pack in Calgary and packed it with me (as carry-on). After standing in line over an hour with the 24 pack, I though I was going to lose the use of my right arm. But I certainly appreciated it during the cruise!

Once on board, we dumped our stuff in our room and headed off to the buffet for lunch. Then we checked out the ship. What a beautiful ship.

Day 2 (Oct 25) - A Day At Sea

The ship had some interesting furnishings throughtout. The deck layout maps at the elevator banks were wonderful. They were done on thick glass and included a silhouette of the ship sliced from top to bottom that showed the deck levels. Flanking this (on both sides) was a deck layout showing where everything was on that particular deck.

In case you couldn't remember what day it was, the floor of each elevator had a large removeable panel that displayed the day of the week (ie. "Monday", etc). They must have changed the panels at midnight, because the next morning, there was the new day of the week.

We had a Cruise Critic meeting in the afternoon where we met about 30 people that we had corresponded with on the Web previous to the cruise. We were to become good friends during the cruise.

Day 3 (Oct 26) - Cabo San Lucas

We arrived at Cabo just after sunrise. Having done the tour here on a previous cruise, we decided not to do an excursion this time. Instead, we just waited for the crowds to depart (tendering site) and then headed in to town. We walked up and down the streets checking out the souvenir shops, restaurants, hotels, etc. The dock area is always interesting with lots of fishing boats, brown pelicans and white herons.

It was quite a hot day, so we spent the afternoon lazing around the ship and looking at the scenery from our balcony. Still haven't done a trip around Los Arcos yet. Maybe next time.

Day 4 (Oct 27) - A Day At Sea

Another sunny day to enjoy floating on the sea. The Radiance has two snooker tables that have some sort of gimble leveling system. Now all they need is a bowling alley! The Schooner Bar is a beautiful area. Lots of gorgeous woodwork and all of the artwork and sculpture is done in a nautical theme.

RCCL seems to be the only line that still has a fitness program aboard. The program is called "Shipshape". You get shipshape dollars by doing the walk-a-mike on the top deck, joining in on sports events (basketball, shuffleboard, etc) or taking the sit-to-be-fit classes. It was a lot of fun, and we earned enough dollars for 2 t-shirts and a really handy RCCL backpack.

At the front of the ship is an adults-only pool area called the Solarium. It is done in an African safari theme, including elephants, a panther and jungle noise coming from hidden speakers. It was a beautiful area.

Day 5 (Oct 28) - Acapulco, Mexico

Acapulco is a huge city of some 3 million people. We arrived early in the morning and headed off on a ship's tour. We travelled through the tourist part of Acapulco and arrived at the cliff diving site. We stopped for an hour or so to watch the divers. It was great. There were 6 or 7 divers, 4 of which dove together. they dove from a height of about 125 feet. The water at the bottom didn't look all that deep. I guess they know what they're doing! After visiting the souvenir shop at the dive site, we drove along the hilly coast overlooking the "Black Lagoon". Saw lots of movie star homes. Our last stop was at a fancy hotel. It had beautiful grounds and boasted the longest swiming pool in the world (about a mile long).

On the way back, the tour guide explained the meaning of the name Acapulco, of which the "co" part meant place or town. He mentioned a number of names ending in "co" - AcapulCO, MexiCO, HuatulCO, TampiCO. Someone at the back of the bus shouted out "CostCO".

We headed back to the ship for lunch and spent the afternoon on board. It was quite hot out and we didn't wish to head out to the shopping area.

Day 6 (Oct 29) - Huatulco, Mexico

We arrived in Huatulco about 10:00 in the morning. It is a fairly new port for cruise ships. There isn't much there - just a small village with a typical cruise shopping mall. We didn't do an excursion there, we just walked around the town and along the beach. The beach is right off the cruise ship pier, so its easy to get good shots of the ship from the beach. The water was quite murky in this bay, so snorkelling wasn't an option. Some friends went to the next bay for snorkelling and said it was excellent.

We had lunch on the ship and spent the afternoon aboard the ship. The Radiance has a very nice gym which included a rowing machine. I did my 40 minute rowing workout every day. At home I do an hour workout, so 40 minutes is kind of a treat.

Day 7 (Oct 30) - A Day At Sea

We really enjoyed the promenade deck on the Radiance. It did not completely wrap around on one deck. There were stairs at the bow and you had to climb up a deck where the bow opened up to a helicopter landing pad. The promenade was very wide, so walking was easy.

The "lobby" area in the middle of the ship was called the Centrum. It was very large and 8 decks high! The largest we had seen before was only 3 or 4 decks high. At the very top, forming the Centrum ceiling, was the future cruises office with a glass floor that looked down 8 decks to the floor of the Centrum. They had almost continuous live music (instruments, singers) there which could be noisy at times.

Day 8 (Oct 31) - Puntarenas, Costa Rica

We arrived at Puntarenas just after sunrise. We had booked an all day excursion. We drove through the countryside to the Corobici River. There, we boarded a number of Zodiac boats and rafted down the river for about an hour or so. It was very interesting as we saw small crocodiles, howler monkeys, bats, iguanas, storks and other bird life. After the rafting, we went to a country restaurant that was surrounded by tropical gardens and some zoo animals. Had an excellent meal there (chicken and rice) and then drove back to the ship. The countryside was very interesting.

The town of Puntarenas seemed very impovershed. Once we got back to the ship, we decided to stay on board rather than walking around the town.

Day 9 (Nov 1) - A Day At Sea

Another day at sea. Can't really remember what we did this day, so I'll mention the previous evening. It was Hallowe'en and about a third of the folks had brought costumes with them. It was fun seeing so many people dressed up. The culinary staff had done some beautiful pumpkin carving in the Windjammer and other areas of the ship were decorated with witches, bats, spiders, etc.

We have come to depend on the ship's internet facilites to keep in touch with the kids back home. On this cruise, the ship lost internet connectivity from Acapulco until we hit Aruba (about 8 or 9 days). The ships crew gave various explanations, depending who you asked. It was a real pain not being able to communicate with the kids. This is the only time we have had that happen. The really annoying thing was often when you asked, rather than saying it was down, they suggested that you try it. Then you had to go to the purser's desk to reverse the charges. Not a good way to handle it.

Day 10 (Nov 2) - Panama Canal and Cristobal Pier

This was the day we had all been waiting for, and it proved to be very interesting. At sunrise, we passed close to the capital - Panama City. Then we sailed under the "Bridge of the Americas" and into the canal. We went through the Mira Floras locks (double locks) and then the Pedro Miguel locks (single lock), raising us about 85 feet above sea level. The locks were fascinating as we were pulled through by donkeys (small trains), and raised up via water pressure. Then we headed through the narrow canal until we hit Lake Gatun. There, we let off passengers who were doing excursions and sailed around the lake waiting for our turn to traverse the exit locks (Gatun Locks, a triple lock). There were maybe a dozen or so ships ahead of us (mostly freighters). We finally went through the locks into the Atlantic Ocean. The folks that were let off for excursions joined us again at Cristobal Pier.

We had a 4 or 5 hour stop at Cristobal Pier, which was really just a huge cruise ship mall. They did have a lot of colorfully dressed Panamanian natives doing traditional dances, so it was interesting. After visiting the pier, we headed back to the ship for dinner.

Day 11 (Nov 3) - A Day At Sea

We sailed along the north coast of South America towards the island of Aruba. Every so often you could spot the shoreline of SA in the distance. Our days at sea tended to follow a pattern:

  • up on deck around 6:00 AM to take in the sunrise
  • off to the breakfast buffet around 7:00 AM
  • walk-a-mile at 8:00 AM
  • take in some shipboard activity or read from 9:00 to 10:30 AM
  • visit the gym for a workout 10:30 AM
  • lunch buffet or sit-down lunch at noon
  • shipboard activities (trivia, etc) or read for early afternoon
  • walk-a-mile at 4:00 PM
  • formal dining at 6:00 PM
  • live entertainment at 8:00 PM


Day 12 (Nov 4) - Oranjestad, Aruba

This was our first visit to Aruba. We pulled into port just after sunrise. We had booked a snorkelling excursion which departed soon after we had docked. We did a bus ride along the southern coast of Aruba, passing a huge de-salination plant along the way. We stopped at a ferry dock where we boarded a small ferry for De Palm Island. The boat ride was about 15 minutes and we landed at a lovely little island. Just after we arrived, the sky blackened and it poured in rain. However, it soon cleared up again, and we spent the rest of the morning snorkelling in a fairly shallow area (about 10 feet deep). There were lots of fish there, especially parrot fish. Our excursion included lunch at a restaurant on the beach. It was a wonderful day.

After returning to the ship, we wandered around the town of Oranjestad. It is a quaint city with lots of pastel colored buildings. We really enjoyed Aruba.

Day 13/14 (Nov 5/6) - Two Days At Sea

It is a long way from Aruba to Miami, so we had a final 2 days at sea. We made the most of it enjoying the ship and the great weather. I had brought along the DVD of the first season of Corner Gas. My routine was to do a 40 minute workout in the gym, and then return to my cabin and watch a 1/2 hour episode of Corner Gas while I cooled down. There were 13 episodes on the DVD so they lasted me the entire cruise.

We really enjoyed our dinner mates each evening. We were at a table for 6, but only 2 couples were assigned there. The other couple only showed up for the first night and then decided they preferred the buffet. That's the last we saw of them. However, another couple didn't like where they were seated and on the second evening were moved to our table. We had a great time with them and still keep in touch.

Day 15 (Nov 7) - Miami and Home

We pulled into Miami at sunrise. This was our first time at the Miami docks. All of our other Caribbean cruises had been from Ft. Lauderdale or San Juan. There were a number of cruise ships there - it is quite a large docking facility. To one side of the docking area we could see the RCI head office, with separate buildings for Celebrity and RCCL.

This was the strangest disembarkation we had experienced. We were waiting in the lounge for our color to be called, when they called all the colors at once. We stood in a very slowly moving queue for about an hour or so until we reached the baggage area of the terminal. They have carousels there just like an airport. One of the conveyors was broken, so the baggage took forever to come. Not a nice way to end a cruise.

The ship, and everything about it was just wonderful. A five star ship indeed! The only negatives about the cruise were the embarkation and debarkation - both the most painful we have experienced, and the internet outage for 9 days.