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Richard in Panama

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About Richard in Panama

  • Rank
    Cool Cruiser

About Me

  • Location
    Boquete, Chiriqui, Panama
  • Interests
    Travel, reading, gardening, writing, bloging www.richarddetrich.wordpress.com
  • Favorite Cruise Destination Or Port of Call
    The world . . . which I've gotten to do twice now . . . and, of course, CRUISING THE PANAMA CANAL
  • If you have a personal or hobby CRUISE or TRAVEL BLOG, include the url here:

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  1. Richard in Panama

    Tropicana show

    Who said anything about "just the cruise lines" or "have to do a tour with the cruise line"??? Bad reading.
  2. Richard in Panama

    Tropicana show

    When we take the whole ship [PEARL MIST] there always appear to be locals and tourists who just show up, pay the charge to get in at the desk without any problem. I've never seen it totally full. It's in Spanish, of course, but it's a great show. It starts at 10PM and finishes about midnight. Typical show stuff but on a huge scale. Nothing particularly risque, actually pretty conservative like Cuba. I've not seen kids: it's late, and it's really not something younger kids would be interested in. It is outdoors, although it feels like an indoor theater with trees over the area. It can rain. Sprinkle, show goes on, they just wipe off the stage. Really rain, they can take it indoors into a much smaller venue, and the show is scaled down somewhat. When you go in they give the guys cigars, not the best but hey they are Cuban, and the women a flower. And yes, it's Cuba, so folks do smoke the cigars, but it's open and not really an issue for most people. I don't know how it works if you go on your own, but the cruise groups always receive a "welcome" drink of champagne, and then a bottle of Cuban rum, one bottle for every four people (!!!), a bucket of ice, and a can of cola ... DIY Cuba Libres! It's a fun evening! Don't miss it!
  3. Richard in Panama

    CUC Denominations

    Don't let this discussion scare you! It's not nearly as confused or complicated when you are in Cuba! 16 cruises and not once was a guest conned with someone trying to give them change for a CUC with worthless CUPs! Try that in the rest of the Caribbean where there are old worthless and new currencies. Both are called "peso." CUC or "Kook" is the one you as a tourist use. You change at the official office at the pier. Simple. $100 US gets you 87 CUC. You can change extras back before you leave. Get some 1 CUC coins that are handy for bathroom tips. CUCs have monuments on the bills. CUPs "Koops" have people. Really, it's not that complicated. Ejoy Cuba!!!
  4. Richard in Panama


    I think you are talking about me, but you either totally misread, or wish to misinterpret my post, or just vent about cruise line excursions. This is not at all what I said. ALL CUBA EXCURSIONS ARE INCLUDED ON PEARL SEAS CUBA. You don't buy shore excursions. No one is selling anything. Regulations for US citizens traveling to Cuba have been tightened by the Trump administration. You must be on an authorized people-to-people educational trip sponsored by anapproved organization or travel company, which must include cultural,people-to-people encounters. There is a whole list of hotels, restaurants,and stores which the Trump administration feels are either owned or controlled by the Cuban military which you cannot use. Of course you can, but it is against the US restrictions. Can you flout the law and just hope on a plane and do what you want? I guess. And people have been doing this for years even although it was illegal. But if you want to follow the law, you obey the law. Guests are expected, by Pearl Seas and the US Treasury Department which approves, regulated, and by the law can ask for proof of what you did in Cuba for up to five years under the new regulations of the Trump administration. This is different from what it was under Obama. UNDERSTAND THAT YOU HAVE LOTS OF FREE TIME TO DO WHAT YOU WANT TO DO. People can choose to hang out on the ship, enjoying the free drinks, or go off on their own and meet the Cuban people and do their ownpeople-to-people experience. And people DO go off and have wonderful encounters and adventures on their own. It is totally up to you. The Cuban people are warm, wonderful, open and they love US Americans. Just like most people in the US, people in Cuba can distinguish between their feelings about governments and policies, and their feeling about people. People to people we have no problems! Please, let's keep the boardsfactual and honest and not just post inaccurate information. Thankyou! Richard
  5. Richard in Panama

    Cuba Cruise Input - Viking, Azamara, Regent, Oceania?

    When Obama opened the door to Cuba there were few restrictions. Fall of 2017 Trump put in new policies. These new regulations do not apply to everyone, just US Americans. Like all US Treasury Department regulations, you choose to comply or not to comply. You are correct, you decide. Many US Americans have been visiting Cuba, going through Canada, Panama or other locations, for years. Illegal? Yes. But I haven't heard of people being put in jail for doing so. So, again, it's your choice. The ship I lecture on, PEARL SEAS, legally is taking US Citizens, and others, not just to one port [Havana] but around the island. It is all legal, all according to the new regulations which require participation in the INCLUDED people-to-people adventures giving you a real insight into the culture and people of Cuba while at the same time enjoying the touristic sights. So folks just enjoy the experience with the cruise line taking care of all the legal details. There is time for all of the guests to go off and do their own thing and make their own people-to-people encounters. In my CUBA book I tell the story of one woman, in her late 60s who didn't speak a word of Spanish, who felt sorry for the dogs roaming the streets in Cienfuegos, so took a little plastic cup of cheese off the ship [not recommended or allowed, but anyway] ... and long story, in the book ... but through this she ended up meeting three similarly aged Cuban women, being invited into their homes, making friends, and actually being invited back to Cuba to stay in one woman's tiny little casita. That's people-to-people! Good luck to you and happy travels! Regards, Richard
  6. Richard in Panama

    Pre arranged classic car tour OR arrange one after we walk off ship?

    Cubans are warm and wonderful and love US American visitors. Many in the tourist business, which would include many of the Yank Tank taxi drivers do speak some English, some quite fluently. A "Hola!" and a friendly smile coupled with a positive attitude and some humor makes it possible to communicate without a common language. On PEARL MIST, where I lecture about our trip around Cuba and the four ports we visit, the tours are all included, including 20 to 30 minutes riding the old classic cars between our tour stops. It's great fun, no hassle, all included. Different ships do things differently. Different strokes for different folks. But the old classic car ride is something you want to do. Word of warning: some of these cars are better than others. A lot of the cars have been kept running just by Cuban ingenuity since because of the US Embargo they can't get genuine replacement parts. I've actually been in a car where the driver couldn't get a gas tank, so had a plastic container of gas IN THE TRUNK with a plastic tube feeding gas to the engine. You could smell the gas in the car. Had we gotten rear ended ... so I didn't stay in this guy's car very long. With the cars we use on the tours, arranged by our tour operator, there is more control. Enjoy Cuba and go while you can and before Cuba becomes another St Thomas or St Martin! Regards, Richard
  7. Richard in Panama

    Cuba Cruise Input - Viking, Azamara, Regent, Oceania?

    Actually it's far more complicated to comply with the law. This is why the price of these acrivities is INCLUDED in the price of the cruise, as in the case of PEARL MIST, so these activities are not "Just another way to make more money for the cruiseline." So don't be "Sad." So guests are required to participate, but on your own free time you can go off and enjoy Cuba, meet people, have dinner in one of the many Paladares, and do your own people to people interactions. Regards, Richard
  8. Richard in Panama

    Cuba Cruise Input - Viking, Azamara, Regent, Oceania?

    Another one you should look at is PEARL MIST ... small, intimate ship. Great crew and service. Great food. No lines. Open seating. Resort casual, no dressing up. Well-educated, well-travelled guests who have had fascinating lives and who are interested in the ports ... i.e., in Cuba! No lines. No waterslides. No casino. No climbing wall. No kids. Very, very nice. Oh, no art auctions, teeth whitening, or Botox and no nickle and diming. Everything included but gratuities. Full disclosure: I lecture on board, much of which you can get in my new CUBA book, but it is a special experience. We go to Havana, Cienfuegos, Casilda for Trinidad, and Santiago de Cuba, all around the island, not just one port. Per US law you need to participate in the excusions, which are included, but there is time when you can go out and do your own thing and meet some real Cuban people. Regards, Richard
  9. Richard in Panama

    Havana Night Clubs?

    I would strongly suggest the Tropicana Show ... 70 some dancers, incredible, incredible! On PEARL MIST the trip is included for all our guests and they love it. Yes, it's later than my bedtime at home, but it's worth staying up for. That show has been running contstantly, through wars and revolutions, since the 1930s. Our group always has great seats, and they include a welcome champagne drink, and then 1 bottle of rum for every FOUR people! And a bottle of their knock off version of Coke, and the last time we had REAL Coke in tiny bottles. The venue itself is amazing! I'd go visit the Hotel Nacional during the day since that's when you'll get the best view. We go to Hotel Nacional on the tour, have a mojito in the bar that has the pictures of all the famous people who've stayed there, then the entire group gets in the old Yank Tank cars and we drive about 20 minutes to the next stop. Really fantastic! Regards, Richard
  10. Richard in Panama

    Is your US Passport Stamped upon entry or exit from Cuba?

    After 14 now trips to Cuba, lecturing on PEARL MIST, I can tell you that the one thing that is certain, is that nothing is certain. If you as a US citizen have visited Cuba illegally, i.e. not with an approved people-to-people trip with an approved people--to-people cruise or tour operator acting as your "sponsor" or chaperon, and your passport has been stamped, you may have a big problem with the US. On the other hand if you are on an approved cruise program, sometimes they stamp at the end, or along the way ... it's like there is no standard policy. Cuban immigration in Casilda, Cienfuegos, and Santiago de Cuba is pretty casual, and very friendly, but then we are a small ship Immigration in Havana is more formal, more typical immigration-official-attitudes, but with a friendly "Hola!" and smile even those attitudes can melt. Cubans are VERY happy to have US Americans visiting. Regards, Richard
  11. Richard in Panama

    Cuba & Recent level 3 warning from the State Dept

    Having done now 14 cruises on PEARL MIST around Cuba, and just having returned from Cuba, quite frankly the only evidence of any illness relative to Cuba I have witnessed, or experienced, has come from drinking too much Cuban rum and not from any real or imagined sonic weapon deployed either inside the US Embassy, [perhaps as a way of eliminating the possibility that after all these years of the Embassy building sitting vacant, one of the "usual suspects" had installed listening devices, that the US deployed some new, perhaps imperfect, sonic device to prevent outsiders from evesdropping - and we know how candid the US has been in the past about potential dangers of stuff like Agent Orange] or deployed by some hostile force outside the Embassy. It would appear that one thing the CIA and Cuban intelligence agree on, is that neither has any idea what is going on. Some have suggested "stress" as a potential cause and obviously the US State Department has experienced a lot of stress over past months. I would not let all this kefuffle deter you from exploring and enjoying Cuba while you may, and before it becomes another cruise ship parking lot like Nassau, St Thomas, and St Martin. The Cuban people are wonderful, welcoming US Americans, and they understand that while they may have issues with the US government as well as their own government, in terms of people to people, they welcome and love visiting US Americans. If there is any advantage of a police state, it is that nobody has guns but the military and police, and Cuba is a very safe place to walk around. And I've just finished my newest book CUBA: A GUIDE FOR CRUISING AROUND CUBA. My book, or on your own, the more reading and preparation you do before your trip, the more exciting and rewarding will be your Cuban adventure. Regards, Richard
  12. Richard in Panama

    Pearl Seas Cuba 2017 Cruise...How was it?

    Sorry that I won't be on PEARL MIST in March. Not really opportunities for snorkeling or swimming since most of the ports are on the Southern side and the beaches are on the Northern side, plus the conditions for the cruise are that it is an educational people-to-people cruise as defined by the US government, which presumably does not involve sun and sand. No dance lessons. There isn't a whole lot of time for onboard activities. This is not your typical Caribbean island cruise. There is ONE tour company, run by the Cuban government which determines what you will see. They tell you what ports you will visit, and things do change, sometimes last-minute. You need to go with the right expectations. The big surprise for me was that the buses are all brand new, made in China, spotless, with working, not locked, bathrooms on board. Most of the cruise lines that wills be going to Cuba are just going to go to Havana. PEARL MIST'S small size makes it possible to go to several ports with very limited port infrastructure. Havana is wonderful, but a lot of us actually enjoyed Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba more. Long lines in the Havana terminal to get through immigration if there is another big ship in port with you. Long lines to change money in Havana. This is Cuba and the cruise line has nothing to say in the matter. By contrast several times in Cienfuegos there was nobody manning the immigration, you just walked through or got a pleasant greeting from the government officials. Same pretty much in Santiago. I definitely recommend that you carve out some time on your own to walk around and make it a real "people to people" experience. Walk through some of the local neighborhoods. Cuban people are warm, welcoming, and even deep in local, poorer areas, I felt no concern for safety, although I use my head and exercise common sense. In my opinion NOW is the time to see Cuba, even if the experience isn't finely tuned. Once Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian all get there spilling out thousands of passengers it won't be the same.
  13. Richard in Panama

    Pearl Seas Cuba 2017 Cruise...How was it?

    OK, I'm on PEARL SEAS rockin' & rollin' on our way from Cienfuegos to Santiago de Cuba. Rough seas last night, but our little ship did fine. There would be motion on any ship of any size, but really, it wasn't much worse than on a big ship. The ship itself is the perfect size for Cuba. In Havana we were docked next to a MSC giant with all their people enduring lines and swarming the city in typical tour groups. PEARL MIST has no casino, no Botox treatments, no art "auctions," no teeth whitening, watch sales, junk $12 sales, no bumper cars, water slides, climbing walls, ice skating rinks, no kids and no lines! It's a nice small ship were you have spacious rooms all with balconies, eat with whomever you want, very good food, free and free flowing drinks, and a fantastic crew. Lectures ... which I why I happen to be on board ... passengers who are a bit more mature, can afford an all-inclusive cruise, are well-educated and well-traveled and on board for the adventure and the ports. We are visiting not just Havana, although that was great and we were docked right in Old Havana, but also Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba with INCLUDED tours in all ports including Trinidad (fantastic!), El Cobre, and Bacanao Park. No wanta-be Broadway shows but a really talented couple who provide after dinner entertainment. For those for whom feathers and g-strings ... the real ones ... are a necessity ... included was an evening trip to the Tropicana for their traditional night club show including by the way a bottle of Cuban rum for every 4 people. The architecture in Cuba is fantastic. The people we've met have been warm and welcoming including one old guy who insisted on sharing his home-made empanadas with us yesterday morning when we were walking around the main square in Cienfuegos. The buses are ALL beautiful, new with rest rooms that are unlocked and available for use. The guides are good ... but throughout you need to remember that "This is Cuba" so things are different. This is a new experience not just for the US cruise lines and uS guests, but also for both countries, so, as with any trip there are hickups. This is a very comfortable way to see multiple ports in Cuba. My advice is to do some research before you come. There is a good series on Cuba on Netflx. THE HISTORY OF CUBA by Clifford L. Staten is a good background to read. It's on Amazon. The Internet is pretty good ... and if you're reading this ... it is good, and free. Regards, Richard
  14. Richard in Panama

    Has anyone sailed with Pearl Seas?

    I don't think a lot of CC folks have been on PEARL MIST. I have ... twice ... albeit as guest lecturer on two cruises, "Great Lakes & Georgian Bay" and "Canada/New England Fall Foliage" ... and I loved it. I know this is telling my age, but my first cruise was back in the 1960s working as cruise staff on a Dutch Student Bureau trans-Atlantic crossing. Since then I've been on more cruises than I can count, had travel agencies for 15 years, and, after retiring early, have spent the last 8 years working for Holland America and Princess, and doing guest lecturer spots on Celebrity, Crystal, Silversea, and last year Pearl Seas. I've watched as ships have gotten bigger and bigger and bigger, but not necessarily better. My favorite ships were the "R Class" Princess ships, the old ROYAL, the PACIFIC, and the OCEAN. I loved having the opportunity to get to know the guests. Sadly, well I was happy to do it, but sad for the occasion, I did the final cruise around South America a year ago on OCEAN before it was sold. The small, all-inclusive vessels really appeal to me now. I get to meet the guests. The guests are generally more mature, certainly more affluent, well-educated and well-traveled. They are fun to be with. I wasn't sure about PEARL MIST, but like I said, I loved it. The staterooms are surprisingly large, and pretty equal, and of course everyone has a balcony. Top deck there are lots of comfortable rockers and shaded lounge ares providing great views. Generally you are close enough to the coast to see something, not 12 miles out like on the big blue-water ships. No one is trying to impress anyone. I've met fascinating people with fascinating stories and experience. There are no lines. No lines! No tender ticket scrambles, or lengthy waits in line to get stickered for tours. Tours, when not included, are reasonably priced. There are piles of bottled water ... help yourself! No $3 charge, plus 15% gratuity, for a little bottle of water. There are piles of snacks in the lounges ... yeah, I know, I shouldn't, but I do. There are coffee machines that make really good ... and this from a Panamanian coffee grower ... specialty coffees with the push of a button. No nickle and diming here. You go for dinner or lunch when you are ready and eat with whomever you want. Great way to meet folks! Yeah, the "gym" is just a few exercise machines and they didn't get a lot of use. Entertainment is low-key, but fun, and entertaining. mostly lounge-type duos, with dancing music. If you want to see Broadlway want-a-bes this is not the ship for you. People on Pearl are interested in the ports. Yes! No casino. No climbing walls. No bumper cars. No waterslides. No kids -- I don't think they are outlawed but it just isn't the kind of ship or itinerary that appeals to young families. It was a little challenging for me as an onboard lecturer, since I had to create my own lecturn stacking up furniture, and there was one pull down, living-room-size screen for PowerPoint, but it worked, and we were all friends and made it work. I enjoyed lecturing and folks seemed to enjoy and appreciate my presentations. Of course I never get to see ... or meet other lecturers. Folks always ask, "Do you know...?" and it's only very rare that ship lecturers get to cross paths. The crew is fantastic. They come from a major crewing agency that provides crew for a lot of the high-end, smaller boutique cruise lines, and private super yachts. Polished, but friendly and eager to serve, heavily from the Philippines. On big ships crew are coming and going in every port, but these guys work together as a team, and all go off on vacation at the same time, so they know each other and work together flawlessly. There are married couples working on board, one father and his son, really nice folks and all speak great English as well as other languages. The itineraries are great. We went to some major cities, and some tiny, off-the-beaten path towns where no big ship could venture. The ship was built for coastal cruising and my experience was that although small it rode well even in some rough weather. Not a lot of rocking and rolling or folks with "slight momentary motion discomfort" as they say. One of the highlights of the day is the cocktail "hour" well, more like two hours, before dinner. Everyone comes. Everyone socializes and has a great time. Whatever you want it's there without any bar tab. So, yes, I'm sold and now a big fan of smaller ship cruising. They key to any successful vacation, cruise or otherwise, is to do some research and know what to expect, and if you do that you will thoroughly enjoy PEARL MIST. And by the way, the fall color was spectacular. So, for what it's worth, and mainly since there isn't a lot on CC about Pearl Cruises, I thought I'd share my experience. Regards, Richard OK the food ... very good! At breakfast you kind of indicate on a check list what you think you might be interested in for lunch and dinner, just to give the chef an idea, but no one holds you to that choice. You can order half portions if you like. If you love lobster, crab, and shrimp, you will be in shellfish heaven, particularly on the Canada/New England runs. Unfortunately, after a lifetime of ordering "two" lobsters on cruise ships, I'm now allergic, but I still enjoy seeing folks pigging out on lobster. I always had interesting options available and because it's a small ship the crew took good care of me and made sure I didn't eat anything that had shellfish in it.
  15. Richard in Panama

    Anyone here work as an enrichment lecturer on Princess?

    Been a while since I've been on CC ... Many cruise lines still have enrichment/lecture programs, but some, in spite of the fact that guests seem to love the lectures, are cutting where ever they can. I always tell folks that if you like the enrichment/lecture programs you need to tell the cruise line. All the cruise lines have slightly different approaches but they are all pretty much looking for the same thing ... articulate, interesting folks who can ENTERTAIN and inform at the same time. Just being an "expert" ["drip under pressure" or "someone 500 miles from home" doesn't in itself cut it. You need to entertain. And you should be somewhat an experienced speaker. If you go to most cruise line Web sites down near the bottom you will find a link for "careers" which will take you to information about guest lecturers and tell you how they want you to apply/inquire. Some will offer you a free cruise, and you pay your own other expenses, like air, etc. Some won't give anything but will provide an opportunity for you to take the stage and do your thing ... sill a great way to build a resume and get exposure. There are outfits like sixthstar ... just add the usual dot com to get to their Web site ...That's a good way to get started. They are booking agents as are others like Posh Talks, etc. They help cruise lines fill lecture slots ... generally you get a cruise, often including a companion, but you pay them $65-80 a night as a booking fee (covers generally you and traveling companion). Some cruise lines want finance lectures, others won't touch them. Some will do personality enrichment talks, others won't touch them. Sometimes, close to sailing, everyone gets a little panic sets in, and the cruise line ups the anty to get the spot filled. Some cruise lines also have paid lecture positions which are generally contracts of 2 to 6 months on board, i.e. work. Again the WEb site "careers" link is the place to look. These are usually with the entertainment department and they are going to want to see resume, head shot, and video of you actually entertaining an audience with your lecture. Hope that helps answer some of the questions! Regards, Richard