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View Full Version : Enrichment Voyages .. anyone heard of them?


Cheerysmom
January 28th, 2008, 12:43 PM
I just received an advertisement for at 21 day Enrichment Voyage cruise. It sound fabulous - the best of three worlds: Bahamas, Caribbean and South America. Ocean and River. I have always wanted to cruise down the Amazon. and the ad says "2 for 1 - with free air". Amost too good to be true.

But, I have never heard of them and wonder how they compare.

Anyone?

Druke I
January 28th, 2008, 01:55 PM
They received some notoriety a couple of months ago when their featured ship, MV Explorer hit an iceberg near Antarctica, and sank!

Some information (including your post) on Google.

houston77068
January 29th, 2008, 10:13 PM
this is not the ship in the artic incident, this ship is used primarily for semester at sea school cruises. Apparently this is a new venture to use the ship for regular cruises in between school cruises. I agree this dues look good and I'm trying to research for more info myself. I will post follow up if I find any additonal info. Go to http://www.semesteratsea.org/ for more info

houston77068
January 29th, 2008, 10:16 PM
also check http://www.enrichmentvoyages.com/aboutus.cfm

ladykona
February 12th, 2008, 01:50 PM
The Enrichment Voyages are the former Seminar at Sea program sponsored by Semester at Sea (University of Virginia). Semester at Sea sends college students from all over the US on a 100 day voyage around the world...every fall, spring and summer. The usual trip is at the winter holiday time but now they are trying to make better use of the MV Explorer by offering more opportunites to sail. The ship was built in 2002 for Royal Olympic Cruise lines so it is a beautiful ship. The atmosphere onboard is very relaxed, friendly and enriching. Thus, the new program name...Enrichment Voyages. I have sailed on 10 Seminar at Sea trips and have really enjoyed the experience. When you return to the ship, it's like returning home. The crew and staff are wonderful. Many people sail each time the program offers a trip!

Creeks
February 5th, 2009, 06:23 PM
It is now a year after the original question.
Has anyone been on an Enrichment Voyage?
They have some interesting trips....

teachingmom
March 13th, 2009, 05:23 AM
I am a single mom (age 51) traveling alone with son (age 11). Booking MV Explorer with Enrichment voyages. We are aware there will not be any other children on this trip, OK with that. Never on a cruise before, Anything I should know? Do I need to worry constantly that he is going to fall overboard? Are cabins provided with same basics as hotel rooms? (ie hair dryer, iron?) How likely is motion sickness? We have lower deck inside cabin. Hoping to take advantage of the many "field trips" as we are going for the cultural experience. Any comments on those?

ColoRockiesFan
March 13th, 2009, 07:18 AM
I am a single mom (age 51) traveling alone with son (age 11). Booking MV Explorer with Enrichment voyages. We are aware there will not be any other children on this trip, OK with that. Never on a cruise before, Anything I should know? Do I need to worry constantly that he is going to fall overboard? Are cabins provided with same basics as hotel rooms? (ie hair dryer, iron?) How likely is motion sickness? We have lower deck inside cabin. Hoping to take advantage of the many "field trips" as we are going for the cultural experience. Any comments on those?

I haven't been on the ship that you just booked but I did survive a trip around the world with the same program (Semester at Sea). The ship is casual, no casino, a large library, and the emphasis is on education (and not partying - although some students may disagree with me). The Enrichment voyages attract people that are more interested in education, culture, history, etc.

No need to worry that he'll fall overboard. Just don't let him dangle off the balcony!

There are no irons in the cabins (fire is the biggest threat on a ship). But, laundry services will probably be available. There might be hair dryers but I'm not sure. There will be soap/shampoo/towels, etc. And, cabin stewards will straighten your cabin/change towels/sheets daily. There is also a gift shop where you can pick up sundries.

Have you been told that there are no other children also booked? I would think that other families would also be interested in this type of voyage.

Weather is always unpredictable. But, as someone who can get easily carsick, I was never once sea sick. Your cabin is on the lower decks so there will be less motion. Just be sure to pack ginger pills (or candy) and possibly bonine. (Dramamine can make you sleepy - but will probably be available onboard at the medical clinic).

One thing I've learned over the past years - put all the clothing you think you need out on the bed - then take away half. Overpacking is the norm!

Your son is so lucky to have such an experience! I wish I could have started when I was 10!

Enjoy!! You will addicted to sailing for the rest of your life!

teachingmom
March 17th, 2009, 06:49 AM
You have no idea how much I appreciate your comment. My son struggles greatly with "standard" academics in school. But he is very bright. (He figured out the public bus system in Mexico in one day at age 10) Anyway, as a former teacher, education and knowledge is VERY important to me. So I never want him to get the feeling that he is "dumb" because he doesn't score well on paper tests. Thus I invest every extra dime in traveling with him. I was thrilled to find this exrichment voyage - what a marvelous opportunity. But traveling alone with a child is a nerve-racking adventure, especially one as independent as he. Nevertheless, we are very excited about this trip.

We will be flying out of DC National Reagan airport, which I have never used before. We are about four hours away. I will stay overnight somewhere in the city. How can I find out if there is long term parking at that airport? I called a couple hotels to see if they offered a stay-and-fly program where I could leave my car for two weeks if I stayed the night before I left and the night I got back. No takers so far.

One other concern, I checked the website for the State Department and it doesn't seem that any immunizations are required for any of the Central American countries we will be visiting. But do you recommend anything other than tetnus? We've already had those.

Thank you SO much for responding.
Vickie

ColoRockiesFan
March 18th, 2009, 06:51 PM
We had quite a few children on my Semester at Sea trip. Every age from 6 months (yes, someone brought an infant) to 17 years. It was amazing to watch some of the youngsters (ages 9-12) mature so quickly as they experienced such new cultures and places. The life skills they learned were phenomenal (and just as important as standard academics).

Now for some practical stuff. There is long term (economical) parking at Reagan National:

http://www.metwashairports.com/reagan/parking_transportation_4/parking_2/parking_rates

For hotels in DC that allow you to park/stay/fly, try this website:

http://www.yourdchotels.com/html/hotels-dulles-airport-dc.asp

You may also want to check the East Coast Departures boards here on Cruise Critic.

For information on vaccinations, try the CDC Travel website (your physician can also offer help on what is needed):

http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/contentVaccinations.aspx

Please let me know if I can help any further!

ColoRockiesFan
March 18th, 2009, 07:03 PM
I found another website that might be useful for the Park/Sleep/Fly:

http://washingtonnational.parksleepfly.com/

sherbie
March 18th, 2009, 07:37 PM
Hi! I've been trying to post this review of my experience on the MV Explorer. Haven't gotten the hang of posting yet! However, it's certainly pertinent to your question, so I'm going to copy it here for you. Hope it gives you the information you need.
Sherbie

I’m an experienced traveler; my MV Explorer cruise through the Caribbean and up the Amazon River and back was to be a highlight of my cruising experience. Wrong! These highly-touted Enrichment Voyages are leaving out one very important
fact: the ship, apparently due to its hull design and lack of sufficient stabilizers,
is unstable. If you take this ship, be prepared for MAJOR nonstop ship
movement even in calm seas with no wind. A goodly portion of all our
passengers were seasick. The only relief we got was when we were in port.

Amenities are few. The free internet, great library were very good.
The food was quite poor. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all scheduled; during non-scheduled times there was no food available, except hamburgers for $5 for 1 hour on the pool deck). Food Quality: remember your dorm days at college? This is a notch below
that. Dining room: they tried hard, but meals took forever and quality was fair to mediocre. Desserts were awful. Room Service: minimal, only half sandwiches available. Couldn't even get a soda!
Swimming Pool: laughable. Only filled while in port, because all the water sloshes out when you're at sea. It's tiny. Only has vertical ladder for entry, so anyone with a disability couldn't get in or out. Not heated. No jacuzzis.
Entertainment: mediocre (they tried hard; their internet guru turned out to have a beautiful singing voice, and she entertained a couple of nights).
Lectures: some better than others, all dumbed down a tad to accommodate the wide range of listeners.
Room design:spartan! We had an ocean view room, but what we really viewed was the deck outside where all the people were walking! So unless we were fully clothed &
occupied, we couldn't open our window!
I booked this cruise through Online Vacation Center. They are offering these "Enrichment Voyages" and touting them as "adventurous." They are not explaining the problems with ship motion, and they're glossing right over the quality of the amenities. Our price averaged $200 per day per person. We could have taken a Princess Cruise that had basically the same itinerary at the same time, and that would have been only $100 per day (and obviously would have been a more comfortable trip), but we were already locked in to the MV Explorer.
If you are used to cruising with the major lines, with all the nice amenities and
good stabilizers, I think you'll be very disappointed in this cruise. I don't think anybody with a physical handicap (like needing a walker, or using a cane) should be on this ship because the movement made it difficult and dangerous for them to be up and about. And as far as the "enrichment" goes, most major cruise lines now include guest lecturers who give the same information.

ontdi
March 21st, 2009, 12:26 PM
Hi Vickie,
Welcome (to you & your son) to the MV Explorer & the Nassau to Costa Rica cruise in May. We are also on this sailing & very much looking forward to it. I am usually a "big ship" cruiser, & welcome the change that this enrichment voyage will offer. You will read pros & cons concerning this type of cruise, but we are travelling with open minds.
The Semester at Sea site itself will give you lots of details concerning amenities in the stateroom, (yes to hair dryers!), meals, dining rooms, deck plans, etc.
What an incredible opportunity you are offering your son. As you are aware, the "normal" classroom setting does not always work well for all individuals.
On the Roll call section of CC, further down the page & under All Other cruises, you will find a listing for the Roll Call for this particular sailing. It is not very active, but it is alive & we would love to see you there. Thom65 did this cruise last year & said how great it was. He was also able to answer a lot of our questions.
Looking forward to seeing you on the Roll Call board & also onboard the MV Explorer.
Cheers,
Dianne

teachingmom
March 22nd, 2009, 08:26 AM
Sherbie: Thanks so much for your posting – it has been difficult to find anyone who has been on the MV Explorer. Seems a little odd since it lists a capacity of 800. But it is my understanding that this is only the second season that the company is taking on “tourists” between semesters at sea.

As I mentioned, we were drawn to this as an enrichment program, not for a typical cruising experience. So I am OK with a tiny cabin and college cafeteria quality food. We are looking at it from the perspective that the ship is our mode of transportation to visit 7 countries in 14 days. It is sort of a mini “mission trip” for us. I have exposed my son to the hardship of life in a backwoods town of central Alaska, the realities of a family living in a tent on the beach in Hawaii because they can’t afford housing, the dire poverty of Appalachia, the homeless in our nation’s capital DC, and the meager existence of a family in a small fishing village of Mexico. Even though we live at the American poverty level for a family of two, I want him to know that we are rich, rich, rich in comparison to a single mom and child in developing countries. My goal is to cultivate a sense of appreciation in him.

And so we are going on this adventure primarily for the field excursions, which brings me to my questions for someone who has been there. Does one book those onboard? They have not yet given me any option to do so ahead of time. The two locations that we absolutely don’t want to miss are the Batania Foundation orphanage & school in Nicaragua and the Embera Indian Village in Panama. Did you visit either of those? Comments? For fun we hope to zip-line (which we have done before), horseback riding, visit some Maya ruins, possibly some canoeing or kayaking. What was your experience with any of that? I want to go cave tubing in Belize, but my son is hesitant about that. Tell us about any shore excursions that you did.

He was very disappointed over your comment about the swimming pool. From the picture of the ship it looks like the pool is only the size of backyard family pool. Is that so? And do I understand you correctly – they drain the pool every day while sailing???? The days we are at sea are precisely the days we want to spend by the pool. Can one swim at night? When CAN one use the pool?

Was there anything you thought “Gee, I wish I had brought ______ along on this trip!”

We are doing the return half of the cruise, starting in Costa Rica and sailing back to Fort Lauderdale. The airport in CR seems to be a couple hours from the port city of Puntarenas – did someone from the ship meet you at the airport? The website says the trip includes airport to ship transport, but the booking agent wasn’t sure if that meant someone would actually be there to meet us. How did you find your way?



Ontdi: I am not very computer-savy. I will try to find my way to the rollcall area on this site. I think I will be getting on the ship when you get off.




Thanks for any and all info....this is a learning process for me.



Vickie

ontdi
March 22nd, 2009, 09:03 AM
Vickie,

Yes you will be getting on just as we are getting off the ship.
What awesome life learning experiences you are offering your son too.
We received our shore excursion information recently, so I'm sure yours will arrive shortly. It sounds as if they prefer the booking be done "preboarding". Then what space is left over will be offered for sale after you are on the ship.
Good luck to you & happy cruising!

Dianne

rustguy
March 23rd, 2009, 05:19 PM
I'll be on the Cost Rica to Fort Lauderdale leg also with my DW and DD. Based on YouTube videos, the pool is in use at sea. Here is one example:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIHnB19Inhc

It probably depends on how rough the seas are. The ship does have stablizers, but being a smaller ship, it will be affected more by rough water.

dwolfe
March 27th, 2009, 06:42 PM
Hello, I have been on two voyages with the Explorer enrichment series: Mayaland and the Amazon. I have done the cave tubing in Belize, you will love it. If you are doing the Panama Canal, take the excursion to the Nature Center and Monkey Island. On both voyages we received a list of the shore excursions about a month before sailing and got them in quickly, even so, some were fully booked. I found most of the lecturers to be very interesting and knowledgable. Some less so, just like school. I highly recommend the resident artist, Ceil Duke, her classes are phenomenal. I took our 14 year old grandson to the Amazon, he loved it. As for the Explorer, she is older and not as steady as the newer, bigger ship. The pool was an issue, it was closed at odd times, sometimes at night or during sea days, not very consistent. The food is dorm food, filling and healthy but not gourmet. The library is wonderful. This is a teaching ship, do not expect a regular cruise experience. You will meet interesting people and go to wonderful places. Wyatt and I had a great time.

florida frank
April 19th, 2009, 05:10 PM
i was on this cruise last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. am returning this year for the puntaranous to ft. lauderdale trip thru the canal. the stabilizers work fine and the food is average....not gourmet....but plenty of it. the staff and crew are wonderful and the enrichment experience is a nice change from the mainstream cruise experience. i recommend you take your son cave tubing, zip lining and to the embera indian tour. also, i am going on the "go with gus" humanitarian tour in guatemala that has been noted by many as the besat tour ever. it`s not offered by the cruise, but gus has a website and a booth at the cruise terminal. hope to meet you in may.

frank

maven9
April 23rd, 2009, 11:49 AM
Is there anyone else out there who can sell/discount this cruise?
I'd like to go on the 5/22 Passage to Panama with Enrichment Voyages.

ontdi
April 23rd, 2009, 03:15 PM
I see it advertised on www.cruisecheap.com.
We had already booked by then & I was just looking to see deck plans etc.

maven9
April 23rd, 2009, 09:47 PM
Thanks for reply. I hope it wasn't a better deal than what you had.
I did book today for the 5/22 cruise.

ontdi
April 24th, 2009, 08:03 PM
So do I! Hope it wasn't a better deal! Have a great time. We are looking forward to this cruise.

Southrim1
May 2nd, 2009, 09:01 PM
Was a student way way way back in the dark ages when the program was called the University of the Seven Seas and run by Chapman College (now Chapman University).

Last May (2008) booked the Enrichment Voyage on the new ship, the MV Explorer. Wanted to see what the new "campus" was like. Two weeks around the Caribbean - Nassau, Cozumel, Belize, Puerto Cortes, Honduras, Pueto Limon, Costa Rica, Colon, Panama, Montego Bay, Jamaica, Georgetown, Cayman Islands and back to Nassau.

First, there is absolutely no comparison with Seven Seas (a converted WWII aircraft carrier) and the new student ship. She is sweet and every bit a floating university.

As for the Enrichment Voyage, if you are looking for a 2,500 plus passenger ship with floor shows, casinos and the like, then this "little" ship is not for you. 600 to 800 passengers, with programs run by professors and former students.

My wife and I absolutely loved it. Two weeks, a kick back experience on the ship and lots to do on the shore trips. Some ports we just did our own thing and in others the diverse selection of shore "adventures" ranged from pure tourist to fun and educational. Cave tubing, white water rafting, etc.

Going again this year - boarding the ship in Puntarenas, Costa Rica with a transit of the canal, eventually arriving back in Fort Lauderdale two weeks later. They just canceled Cancun and switched us to Montego Bay. No problem.

The food is not so great — it is a floating university afterall. But neither one of us had any complaints as the outside dining, especially breakfast and dinner after dark, made up for the cafeteria style menu. If you are looking for a large pool, forget that, the one on the ship is postage stamp size — it was available during the day for a quick dip. But if you are going just to swim in a pool on a cruise ship, why not just stay home.

The cabin was compact, but had everything that was needed to rest and relax. The cruise was smooth as silk. Even an overnight medical emergency run from Jamaica to Georgetown was smooth as the captain opened it.

Lots of desk space, and a very kicked back atmosphere.

I highly recommend the MV Explorer and the between semesters Enrichment Voyages for anyone looking for something a little different in the way of a sea cruise.

ontdi
May 2nd, 2009, 09:07 PM
Thanks for your very positive reply!
Any trip is only as good as you make it be. We'll be fine.

maven9
May 10th, 2009, 09:18 PM
You've been there...what excursions (w/ ship or OYO) do you recommend?
M.

Southrim1
May 10th, 2009, 09:24 PM
Maven, are you on this Enrichment Voyage — either on ship now or joining the MV Explorer in Puntaranas on May 22?

Southrim1
May 10th, 2009, 10:10 PM
Maven

First, enjoy the lectures on the ship. Pick ones that sound interesting. These are all conducted by professors who have been on the ship before. Yes, they dumb things down a bit for the tourists, but they are on the ship 24/7 so you can always ask questions. Dr. Max Brandt is an expert in his field and a former dean of the ship, and he's a really approachable human being. If you are into music, chat it up with him. Dr. Jill Wright runs things and she is also quite pleasant and an alumni of the Semester at Sea program. You will find that many of the support staff are former students who have a genuine love for what they do.

Number one: In Belize take the trip out to Jaguar's Paw and do the cave tubing. Last year two people freaked out when we had to cross a river and march off into the jungle and turned back to the resort. The key word here to remember is "resort" ... they are not going to allow the guests to be eaten by wild animals. Once you walk about a mile along a clearly marked trail you enter the river (with your inner tube and head lamp) and start your float, which takes you right back to where you crossed the river. It is a hoot. Along the walls are fist-sized spiders that walk on the water (they are harmless). It's an hour plus of floating in the dark and then they serve you lunch. Check out the lobby to the resort

Number two: Since they switched the ports from Cozumel to Montego Bay (because of Swine flu), I would suggest the bus ride out to the Appleton Rum Factory. The trip up and over the mountain to the other side of the island is worth the trip all on its own. The rum factory is a bonus and also worth the trip all on its own.

In Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, they dropped the white water rafting (which was a hoot, but we are later in the season and the river flow may be too low to be safely traversed). The Kayak ride is fun, but not too adventurous.

We are going through the Panama Canal, so you'll get to see all three locks along the way. The Gutan Lock trip is what we did last year, which might be redundant on this trip. On the free day last year we walked over to the bus station in Colon (do not do that alone) and took the bus over to the airport/mall on the Pacific side of Panama. It was fun and quite a slice-of-life experience. It costs three bucks each way. It takes one and half hours to go from the Atlantic side to the Pacific side. The mall is as good as anything in the states (which came as a surprise after walking around the free quarter in Colon — avoid that it is a waste of time). The trip back is an hour, as there are no stops in Panama City.

Puentarenas, Corinto, Roatan, San Thomas de Castilla are all new, so no insights on these places. Last year we took a cab to the public beach (and bar) on Seven Mile Beach in the Caymans and then walked back to the ship (three-and-a-half miles) and stopped in a Fidel Murphy's Pub along the way for lunch. It was one of the best memories on the trip, so we are thinking about taking a cab out to West End on Roatan, have lunch on the beach and then walk back to the ship (looks like just over four miles on the map, which we are allowing three hours to cover - everything slows down when you do a place on foot).

Have fun. The MV Explorer and the Enrichment Voyages are very different from normal cruise ship fare.

MMDown Under
May 10th, 2009, 11:09 PM
Does anyone know the web address for these Enrichment Voyages?

Southrim1
May 10th, 2009, 11:36 PM
Marion and Berry

Website is

http://www.enrichmentvoyages.com/

The cruises are available between semesters of the Semester at Sea program run by the University of Virginia. So they run just twice each year.

MMDown Under
May 11th, 2009, 01:32 AM
Marion and Berry

Website is

http://www.enrichmentvoyages.com/

The cruises are available between semesters of the Semester at Sea program run by the University of Virginia. So they run just twice each year.

Thank you for the website, much appreciated.

maven9
May 11th, 2009, 09:58 PM
SOUTHRIM,
You've whetted my appetite, and I was very glad to see your message. I'm a bit surprised that there's not too much communicating from other passengers on this board.
I just received my excursion paperwork from HQ in VA, but appreciate your ideas very much.
I'm wondering about the ship's temp, if the room gets cold? Is your wife packing anything on the heavy side?
I'll ck back often.
M.

ontdi
May 12th, 2009, 01:10 AM
Hi,
I'm onboard now. The ship's hallways & other rooms such as theatre & dining rooms are very cool. I'm very seldom cold on cruise ships, but I wish I'd brought a light weight sweater or shawl, etc. The staterooms have thermostats that are very sensitive, so controling room temp is not really an issue.
We are having a wonderful time on this cruise.
Belize is tomorrow & we are doing the Reef Rocket snorkeling excursion.
Cheers,
Dianne

Southrim1
May 12th, 2009, 12:27 PM
Maven

Just sweatshirt and sweater (mainly for the plane ride), I noticed last year that some people ate inside in the deck six eating area all of the time, but I found it to be on the cool side, so we always ate outside. The rest of the ship always seemed comfortable, so that is really not an issue.

One other thing that I found very helpful is that the ship's staff provides is a daily itinerary, which is delivered to your room the day before. It tells you the events of the day, which professors will be lecturing, dinner hours, where to assemble for the various port trips (they have a staff member assigned to each group), any changes in the ship's schedule and general events.

Be sure to check the bulletins for the various lectures - they usually last about an hour in the student union. Dr. Max Brandt's music lectures are not to be missed. He makes them fun and interesting. Did not know that pre-Columbian cultures lacked one particular type of musical instrument - chordophones (instruments with strings) — guitars and similar stringed instruments were all introduced to Central and South America after the arrival of Columbus.

Some of the passengers thought that the staff members tended to treat them like students, and there is probably a little bit too that, but it was a very minor point. They are just use to dealing with 700 students that if not looked after will tend to set their own agendas — that's just the nature of being a student.

Have fun. The ship is a beauty.

Southrim1
May 12th, 2009, 01:17 PM
Ontdi

Would be interested to hear about your travel experiences over the next couple of days in San Tomas de Castilla and Roatan. These are both new from last year's itinerary (Honduras port last year was Puerto Cortes). We hit both San Tomas de Castilla and Roatan in the reverse order on the return voyage to Fort Lauderdale.

ontdi
May 12th, 2009, 06:08 PM
Southrim1,

Today in Belize we did the Reef Rocket snorkel excursion. The water was warm, clear & not rough. A bit of a current was towards the shore---far better than taking you out.

The next 2 days will be San Tomas de Castilla & then Roatan. We have booked the Rio Dulce Canyon/Livingston trip for San Tomas. The following day in Roatan we have made reservations with Fins & Flippers. They have a wonderful web site if you want to check it out. We just reserved a spot online & will pay when we get there. It would be similar to a private island with beach, snorkeling, snacks etc. The ticket provides unlimited trips across the water to this place. For $20 for all day it seemed like a very good deal. Pick up or boarding is very close to the cruise pier too. Not sure what you would like to be doing, but will report on our experiences.

Tonight is a BBQ for dinner on deck 7, or dinner in main dining room as well.

Don't miss Dr Iain Campbell's chats on birds & astronomy. His love of the subjects is infectious!

Chat later.
Dianne

Southrim1
May 12th, 2009, 07:56 PM
Ontdi

We've also got Rio Dulce Canyon/Livingston booked on the flip side, so you get to be the guinea pig and do all of the trailblazing. Roatan, right now we are thinking about taking a cab over to West End, see the sights, have lunch and then walk the four-and-half miles back to the ship.

Thanks, enjoy the BBQ and maybe a cold Red Stripe!

maven9
May 12th, 2009, 09:19 PM
Thanks ONTDI & PACRIm!
Di,
Did you take any ship excursions? If , which was the best?
I'm solo on this trip, and think I have to do most w/ a group. But, PACRIM: if you have anything going, please LMK! Trust you know since you've been there before! This is going to be great!;)
M. ;)

Southrim1
May 13th, 2009, 12:16 AM
Maven

Not clear on which leg of the voyage you are on. On now? Or joining the ship in Puntarenas on May 22?

We are repeating only two of the in-port programs. Cave tubing in Belize, which was sooooooo much fun. And since they dropped Cozumel and switched to Jamaica, we will sign up for the Appleton Rum Factory tour again. My wife enjoyed both of these trips on the voyage last year so here we go again.

Some of the best in-ports are the ones we did on our own. In Puerto Cortez, Honduras - not really a tourist port, if you know what I mean, we cut a deal with a cab driver on the pier to take us out to El Castillo de Omoa for three hours. A little scary at first, but it turned out great.

In Cristobal, Panama we went to the Gutan Locks in the morning of the first day as an organized tour (that was fun, especially since the tour guide had never been to the locks before and the bus driver got lost getting there) and then to the Free Trade Zone on our own in the afternoon (that was a waste of time — the only reason to go there is if you need a washer and dryer). So the next morning (we were in port two days), we walked over to the bus station (a chaotic place) and got on a local bus to Panama City on the Pacific side of the isthum and then back on another local bus before the ship left port. That was lots of fun.

If you've received your Final Field Program guide, then you have a pretty good description of what the ship has to offer. The internet is a great place to find information about each port — if the cruise ships stop, then there will be plenty (and sometimes confusing info) to read.

If you are the May 22 leg, what is route to San Jose? Through Dallas?

ontdi
May 13th, 2009, 12:42 AM
Thanks ONTDI & PACRIm!
Di,
Did you take any ship excursions? If , which was the best?
I'm solo on this trip, and think I have to do most w/ a group. But, PACRIM: if you have anything going, please LMK! Trust you know since you've been there before! This is going to be great!;)
M. ;)


It's late now tonight & an early morning tomorrow. I'll catch up tomorrow after we are back on the ship.
Chat later.
Dianne

Derby Lane
May 13th, 2009, 07:39 PM
We are also on the cruise with ONTDI on Sunday we were in Montego Bay and went to a Beach Resort for the day, Monday was a sea day but there was a few lectures, card games, bingo and movies going on. It is really great to have free 24 hour wi fi and your own computer in your cabin.
Tuesday we did the ship tour Rainforest & River Safari, part of the trip was by motor couch then a crock (in Boston its called a Duck goes on land and water) then a boat with no cover back to the ship, make sure you bring your SUNSCREEN and insect replent. Today Wed we did the Go with Gus Tour Rio Dulce Canyon/Livington which included going to a village school, this trip was the greatest. Tomorrow thurs we are doing a private tour with Juan Carlos in Roatan Hounduras will let you know how it goes.
Karen

maven9
May 13th, 2009, 08:42 PM
I'm on the 5/22 voyage...thinking you have the better one to fly home after Costa Rica. I was sorry for the 2 missing days in Cozumel, but so it is.
I'm leaving from Chicago, transferring in Ft. L, then on to CR.
How was Jamaica?
PACRIM, there's 2 tours offered by Port Compass which we'd book online or by phone. We've used them in Buenas Aires, one of the best. Look at http://portcompass.com. The Jamaica plantation seems interesting. They would take 4 of us, but we ended up with 6.
M.

maven9
May 15th, 2009, 10:33 PM
SOUTHRIM1 and passengers?
Are you interested in excursions for 5/22 MV Explorer?
We've used PortCompass for an excursion last year in Beunos Aires...very reliable, good guide. They have several for central Am., too. If you send me your address, I will e-mail some of the offerings to you. http://portcompass.com/index.php
I'm vanhuis2525@sbcglobal.net.
M.

ontdi
May 16th, 2009, 12:25 AM
Hi All,

Sorry to be a bit slow in getting back on these boards, but better late than not at all!

In San Tomas de Castilla we did the Rio Dulce/Livingston tour that was offered by the ship. It was an excellent one. We were a little bit late leaving the dock, but more than made up for the time as we were 3PM getting back to the ship. It was a very full & busy day. Most of the trip is on a boat, (makes for easy sightseeing), with a few stops before arriving in Livingston. One of the stops was a natural hot spring & cave experience. The entrance to the cave was an additional $2, but I don't think anyone went to it as it was a slippery walk to it & then very hot, dark & wet inside. Guides suggested not to do it. They provided plenty of bottled water for us. The school project was also very good. The final leg of the trip was a visit to Livingston with a guided walk around town, followed by a bit of free time for lunch etc. All in all a great trip for the money. If you take pictures of people playing instruments in town they will want money.

There is a new terminal building right at the pier with a few places to book your own tours & many stalls with things to purchase. The prices were very good there too. (wooden carvings, baskets, purses, wall hangings, lots of local handicrafts, coffee, etc, etc). No need to shop in town.

The next port was Roatan. We did not do a ship tour here. They seemed more expensive than other ports. I think I mentioned earlier that we found a site on-line for Fins & Flippers. It is about a 3-5 min walk from the ship. It was truly amazing. There were only 6 of us from the ship there & no one else. We had the place to ourselves. It was the most relaxing & beautiful day we'd had. Good catch up time for the rest of the voyage. The water was crystal clear & very warm. Snorkeling was also good. Beer was $2, drink special served in coconut shell--$5, & no food item over $8, most were $5-6 & wonderful. I sound like an advertisement for the place but would love to have stayed there a couple of days. Maybe another time! Also it serves as a rescue center for injured birds & a couple of animals that were taken from private homes. (they shouldn't have had them)

Back onboard & a sea day today.

Lectures continue to be very good, of course depending on your interests.

Keep in mind these are just my opinions & I cannot comment on excursions we did not take.

Anything else?? We are getting ready for Costa Rica in the morning, doing the Tortuguero Canals. Will let you know about that too.

Cheers, Dianne

Southrim1
May 16th, 2009, 01:09 PM
Ontdi

Thanks for info about Guatamala. Very helpful and informative.

Here is what you have to look forward to on Monday (except you'll be going the other way).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COPdu0qwjqI

maven9
May 16th, 2009, 03:47 PM
I'll be on the 5/22 voyage landing in San Jose from Ft. L.
It's great to have these posts...from folks currently on board and passengers I'll meet on the 22d. Hope we can get together.
Also, go back a few posts to my note about PortCompass tours. They have a nice sounding day out of Montego Bay.
M.

Southrim1
May 16th, 2009, 03:59 PM
Maven

I agree, this is so nice having a sneak peek at what's ahead.

As for Jamaica, my wife has her heart set on the Appleton Rum Factory, so I think we are going to take that trip again this year.

It looks like everyone arrives in San Jose between eight and nine in the evening next Friday. I'll be the one in the Red Semester at Sea sweatshirt.

ontdi
May 16th, 2009, 05:54 PM
Back again.
Today we were in Puerto Limon. We did the Tortuguero Canal ride. It was a very easy excursion. ~~~bus ride to the canal, fresh fruit & pop available at no additional cost, then canal ride. It was very slow & peaceful. Saw sloths, howler monkeys, turtle, caymans, tons of birds etc. Back to beginning for more fruit, beverage & back to ship.
They have a fairly new terminal buiding now with crafts, carvings, etc. Of interest to the women----the best pedicure I've ever had for $12 plus tip.
We had rain at breakfast time, but it cleared before we hit shore.

All for now.
Dianne

maven9
May 16th, 2009, 08:23 PM
My flight is scheduled to AR @ 2:35pm. It originates in Chicago.
I'd like to meet everyone...Frank suggests wearing Mardi Gras beads (I only have a lei or ???).
Hopefully I can stay up to greet you onboard. Otherwise, I'll see you ON THE BUS! Or maybe the next morning. I'm in 4017, email: vanhuis2525@sbcglobal.net
M.

florida frank
May 17th, 2009, 10:46 AM
beads.....lei...whatever works. since we don`t sail away till the next day, wear one or the other so we can identify folks at the airport....the bus....the ship...

Southrim1
May 17th, 2009, 11:40 AM
Maven

2:35! Yikes, at least you'll see things on the trip between San Jose and the ship in the daylight. We won't reach the ship until after midnight.

florida frank
May 17th, 2009, 12:41 PM
i get there before noon.....hopefully won`t have to wait for you guys before heading to puntranous !!!!!!!!!!!!!:)

Southrim1
May 18th, 2009, 06:08 PM
Ontdi

I see that you made it through the Panama Canal today.

Here's your transit through the Miraflores Lock. Enjoy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ur---b42hUI

QuePasa
May 18th, 2009, 11:44 PM
Thanks for the video!!!

ontdi
May 18th, 2009, 11:54 PM
Southrim1,
The video was nearly as good as doing the transit of the canal in person!

We did a tour from Cristobal yesterday that took us to the old town of Casco Antiguo. It was very interesting.
The skyline of new Panama City is a beautiful to see. Also it is interesting to see the canal from different places.

The included box lunch was a small sandwich with the crusts removed & a Special K bar! Yum!
Again thanks for the video.
Dianne

MMDown Under
May 19th, 2009, 12:46 AM
Ontdi

I see that you made it through the Panama Canal today.

Here's your transit through the Miraflores Lock. Enjoy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ur---b42hUI

Isn't the Internet just wonderful!!

Thanks so much for the Video.

Southrim1
May 30th, 2009, 11:53 PM
Been on board the MV Explorer for just over a week now. Been way too busy to get on the site, but have a few moments to report updates.

Getting to San Jose, Costa Rica and then down to the port of Punta Arenas was a bit of hassle, but as they say in Costa Rica, Pura Vida!

The port call at Corinto, Nicaragua was interesting and unlikely port call for most ships, but then the MV Explorer is a very different type of "cruise ship."

The contrast between Nicaragua and Costa Rica (neighbors) is dramatic. Took a bus trip up to Leon, which is in need of quite a bit of work, but when you are talking about a city founded in the 17th Century where very little seems to have changed.

Passage through the Panama Canal was event. Not to be missed for anyone taking more than a single sea voyage, especially in Central America.

The itinerary brought us to Puerto Limon and Costa Rica for the second time in the space of a week. The trip over to Cahuita National Park was a major surprise. Walked thought the jungle, looked at animals and returned along a beautiful beach to the starting point. Lunch was suppose to be short, but the handful on the trip stretched it out to 2 1/2 hours as the guide didn't seem to mind. Lovely place. Highly recommended to anyone looking for nothing to do but relax. The city of Puerto Limon, however, needs a complete makeover.

Roatan. Despite the earthquake two days earlier was untouched and a garden spot. Took cab over to West Bay and hung out all day. Water is beautiful, shops are over-priced, but the food (Half Moon Bay restaurant) was excellent. Beer was cold. Paradise. Didn't want to leave.

Biggest complaint on the ship last year (same ship, MV Explorer) was the food. Major improvement this year. More variety and tomorrow night we are having our third BBQ when we return from Livingston. Three times they served Hamburgers on the Pool Deck for lunch — made to order. So the ship went from a 9.5 to a 10 this year. Perfect. Perfect. Perfect.

Anyone looking for a voyage out of the ordinary will not be disappointed by the MV Explorer and its unique "between semesters" Enrichment Voyages.

That's it for now. Having fun.

MMDown Under
May 31st, 2009, 10:48 PM
Been on board the MV Explorer for just over a week now. Been way too busy to get on the site, but have a few moments to report updates.

Getting to San Jose, Costa Rica and then down to the port of Punta Arenas was a bit of hassle, but as they say in Costa Rica, Pura Vida!

The port call at Corinto, Nicaragua was interesting and unlikely port call for most ships, but then the MV Explorer is a very different type of "cruise ship."

The contrast between Nicaragua and Costa Rica (neighbors) is dramatic. Took a bus trip up to Leon, which is in need of quite a bit of work, but when you are talking about a city founded in the 17th Century where very little seems to have changed.

Passage through the Panama Canal was event. Not to be missed for anyone taking more than a single sea voyage, especially in Central America.

The itinerary brought us to Puerto Limon and Costa Rica for the second time in the space of a week. The trip over to Cahuita National Park was a major surprise. Walked thought the jungle, looked at animals and returned along a beautiful beach to the starting point. Lunch was suppose to be short, but the handful on the trip stretched it out to 2 1/2 hours as the guide didn't seem to mind. Lovely place. Highly recommended to anyone looking for nothing to do but relax. The city of Puerto Limon, however, needs a complete makeover.

Roatan. Despite the earthquake two days earlier was untouched and a garden spot. Took cab over to West Bay and hung out all day. Water is beautiful, shops are over-priced, but the food (Half Moon Bay restaurant) was excellent. Beer was cold. Paradise. Didn't want to leave.

Biggest complaint on the ship last year (same ship, MV Explorer) was the food. Major improvement this year. More variety and tomorrow night we are having our third BBQ when we return from Livingston. Three times they served Hamburgers on the Pool Deck for lunch — made to order. So the ship went from a 9.5 to a 10 this year. Perfect. Perfect. Perfect.

Anyone looking for a voyage out of the ordinary will not be disappointed by the MV Explorer and its unique "between semesters" Enrichment Voyages.

That's it for now. Having fun.

Thanks so much for taking the time to provide an update of your experiences on board.

Looking forward to future updates, in due course.

Keep having fun.

VM_Mom
February 27th, 2010, 02:36 PM
My oldest daughter, who is a college student, wants to go on the December-January Panama Enrichment Voyage. I would like for my younger daughter to go along too. I read some reviews that most of those participating on these cruises are retirees? Is that true? If that is the case, I don't know that this is the right trip for them.

Also, I called the contact at semester at sea who assured me my younger daughter (16) is fine to travel with her older sister, who will be 21. This surprised me. Thoughts?

Southrim1
February 27th, 2010, 03:37 PM
My oldest daughter, who is a college student, wants to go on the December-January Panama Enrichment Voyage. I would like for my younger daughter to go along too. I read some reviews that most of those participating on these cruises are retirees? Is that true? If that is the case, I don't know that this is the right trip for them.

Also, I called the contact at semester at sea who assured me my younger daughter (16) is fine to travel with her older sister, who will be 21. This surprised me. Thoughts?

The Enrichment Voyages do tend to mirror regular cruise ship demographics, but with your daughter’s ages of 21 and 16 they will still have a good time on the ship. It’s not like they are playing bingo all day long. Remember, this is not a cruise ship, but the floating campus for the Semester at Sea program, so it has the feel of a college campus. It lacks a casino, stand-alone restaurants and elaborate floorshows, which are the normal trappings of a cruise ship.

Instead, the Enrichment Voyages feature college professors (all alumni from previous Semester at Sea Voyages) who are experts in their fields, especially for Central American music, history, geology, astronomy, the various cultures, etc. They give daily lectures on what you can expect to see in the various ports, plus they are available to chat with just like any other passenger … and my experience from the two Enrichment Voyages I’ve been on is that they are more than eager to engage in conversation about the places the ship visits. It’s a unique experience.

The food is cafeteria style, with BBQ on deck from time to time throughout the voyage. There’s always something to eat. Plus there are the in-port eating opportunities. There are four bars on the ship, including a wine bar (limited hours). Coffee is available 24/7 in the dinning room on Deck 6 (never a shortage of things to eat). The rooms are nice, if somewhat Spartan in nature (private bathroom with shower, TV with six channels, two beds, in-cabin safe for small valuables and closet storage).

In addition, the entire ship is wi-fi (bring your laptop) and Enrichment Voyage passengers have FREE unlimited internet access for email and online web use. If you don’t bring your own laptop, there are 20 or so computers available 24/7 in the computer lab. Since this is a floating university, there is also an 8,000 volume library, which is also open 24/7.

Best of all are the ports of call. The MV Explorer goes places that cruise ships do not necessarily go. For example, the Christmas voyage that you are thinking about sending your daughters on has both Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala and Corinto, Nicaragua on the way down to Panama. You won’t find either port on regular cruise stops (take the half-day tour to León, Nicaragua, they simply do not see tourists there — it’s a beautiful Spanish-colonial city that is like a time capsule). Also brush up on the writing of Rubén Darío, the national poet of Nicaragua, they are very proud of him and what he represents to Central American culture.

The transit of the Canal is the centerpiece to the voyage — it is an experience that both of your daughters will carry with them throughout their lives. Puerto Limo, Costa Rica is a wonderful little city (lots of day-trips to enjoy here — rafting is fun if the rivers are up). Roatan, Honduras is an English-speaking part of the country (island off the coast) … a trip to West End is a must (food is excellent).

St. Thomas De Castilla, Guatemala is another off-the-beaten path port of call. Take the day-trip to Livingston (excellent food) ... it is a small city that has no roads and can only be reached by water taxi. Belize, cave tubing, that's a must at Jaguar's Paw ... and Cozumel gives them a chance to take a day-trip to Chitzen Itza.

I hope this helps. Short of actually attending a Semester at Sea voyage (usually around the world), an Enrichment Voyage aboard the MV Explorer is the next best thing!

florida frank
March 13th, 2010, 10:57 AM
i agree with southrim having also been on two voyages on the explorer. i also enjoy the community college program that provides real world experiences from fellow cruisers. i personally have presented as well as attended these classes.

if your daughters enjoy cruising and also learning about the places visited they will be fine. if they are looking for the "carnival" type cruise they probably won`t.
i am thinking about the upcoming May cruise as it will offer many port cities i have not been too.

frank