14-Day Panama Canal Round-trip from Tampa
November 25-December 9
We stayed just outside Tampa the night before and drove in Sunday morning. We parked just across from the terminal and got to the check in point around 10:30. These steps were all painless. We did wait a while with a terminal full of people to board the ship. When we did board with our carryons with the first group we went straight to Summer Palace for lunch. We checked our cabin right after and it was ready so we dropped the bags there and went up top.
Our cabin was 9610, a balcony cabin. We were glad to have upgraded to the balcony with such a long trip. Our room steward was fine. He was friendly the first couple of days then very cool after that. I have no idea if we offended him in some way. We had zero special requests and I always tidy up on my own as much as I can. We always had clean towels, a perfectly made bed and towel animals every night. We usually have a relationship with our steward so this was different.
I bought 250 minutes which I thought was a crazy amount of internet time. Latitudes Gold added 30 minutes so I thought I’d be online plenty. The WiFi is insanely slow and some days I couldn’t accomplish anything at all while the minutes burned. We have 2 kids and I thought 2 weeks was way too long to be out of touch. If I did this cruise again I would buy unlimited or none at all. Live and learn, I guess.
App Communication Package
I hadn’t given the app communication much thought. We ended up getting it at 9.95 each for two weeks and it was well worth the money. My husband and I are rarely in the same place during the day so this was most helpful. You can call or text, even send pictures. That’s what I did when I got the where are you message. I’d take a shot of what I was looking at and it worked. If you were on this trip I was the one who always had a book with me. I sat in the window seats down the hall, in the library, even before the show in Stardust.
We sent out a very full bag around the halfway point to be washed and folded for 19.99. We got half off with Latitudes so it was around 10 dollars. Well worth the money in my opinion.
This was a port heavy cruise. Most ports we walked around if there was an area close by. We did the trolley tour in Cartagena. Our favorite day was in Harvest Caye. It was a beautiful and relaxing day.
In the interest of full disclosure I am the pickiest eater I’ve ever known. That being said we both thought the food was very good. We had breakfast mostly in Summer Palace. One morning we went to O’Sheehan’s and three mornings we went to the Garden Cafe. Lunch was where I ran into trouble and it wasn’t the food but variety. We had ten port days out of fourteen so those days we had a choice of the buffet or O’Sheehan’s. I really liked the open faced turkey sandwich but not every day. Buffets are always tricky. I like only a handful of things so I usually had pizza and salad. The chicken salad was excellent. We ate in Summer Palace every evening except one. That night we went to indigo. It was fine. It had the exact same menu but we much preferred the atmosphere in Summer Palace.
As a side note, I called the Garden Cafe ‘Survival of the fittest’ because people acted like NCL was going to run out of food. I hate the pushing and shoving and line jumping. A couple of mornings we went up early and very much enjoyed being able to choose food items in a calm environment. I’m not built for wrestling for food.
We got the thermal spa pass for my husband and he thought it was the best money we spent. He especially enjoyed the view as we went through the Panama Canal locks. I had three spa treatments and they were very helpful. I used the treadmill in the fitness center a few days but mostly I walked on 7. I did Latin Fitness with Yvette by the pool on three mornings and the class was great.
This area is subjective so I understand not everyone will agree with this assessment. My favorite show was the Legends concert with Michael Jackson, Tina Turner and Elvis impersonators. We also really enjoyed the acrobatic duo. I can’t for the life of me remember their names. We thought the entertainment overall was good. I understand why young people wouldn’t be crazy about some of it.
We thought the staff was top notch. We especially appreciated the Summer Palace staff since we spent so much time there.
We carried our luggage off and were called around 8:00 am. The line to get off was long but all things come to an end. We finally cleared the terminal after 9:00 am.