Jump to content
Cruise Critic Community
milepig

Canal crossing a total loss

Recommended Posts

Totally disgusted. The trip of my lifetime in the trash heap due to a 100% in the middle of the night Panama Canal trip.

 

We'd been told a 2:00pm anchors up with the first lock at 3:30pm. This was preceeded by early and rushed morning tours that ended with a "get on the ship now, we've gotta go". Then we sat, and sat, while, unbelievably, a maintenance barge showed up and spent several hours scrubbing our hull. This must have been planned, I doubt you can just call 1-800-scrubbers at a moments notice and have one show up but the need to clean was never given as a reason, its presence was unacknowledged. Then we got a 6:30 first lock time, already after dark. No updates from the captain. We finally hit the first lock between 9:30 and 10:00pm and, of course, then did the entire run including the fabulous lake crossing in the dead of night. Never a word of explanation, much less an apology.

 

As far as many were concerned, the 5 days in Costa Rica troIMG_9078.JPGmping through identical jungles was the least important part of the trip (you see one white-faced monkey, you've seen them all.)

 

All that money and time wasted.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Are you on the Star Breeze? I saw this complaint (Panama Canal transit in the dead of night) on a Star Breeze review from February. I assumed it was a fluke peculiar to that cruise, because really, why would ANYONE want to transit the Panama Canal at night? Unbelievable. I really think Windstar has some 'splaining to do on this one..

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I went back and looked at the reviews again. Someone on a January cruise reported a nighttime Panama Canal transit as well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the heads up about the night time passage. I checked the "itinerary & ports" page on the Windstar website for the Puerto Caldera to Colon itinerary and it states the following:

 

At nearly 51 miles long and connecting two oceans with a vast “highway of water,” the Panama Canal easily earns its reputation as the Eighth Wonder of the World. Enjoy a cool and breezy nighttime passage during which the lights illuminate the inner workings of the waterway. Experience a once-in-a-lifetime thrill as your ship is raised, then lowered 85 feet to sail gracefully through three massive locks that transport you from the calm Pacific Ocean to the shimmering waters of the Atlantic.

 

I'm sorry that you feel ripped off, but they did deliver on the night time experience that they said they were going to. I have had this itinerary on my bucket list, but I think we might reconsider based on the night time canal transit.

 

Does anybody have any experience going from Colon to Puerto Caldera? I'm curious if that canal transit is also at night. The website just posts the same info as Puerto Caldera to Colon itinerary.

Edited by BBQ Lover

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We did the Colon to Puerto Caldera trip on the Windstar 3 years ago and the Panama Canal passage started early morning. It was a fantastic experience. I wonder why they would schedule this for at night as it certainly is the highlight for this itinerary and it would not be the same at all to do it at night.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Thanks for the heads up about the night time passage. I checked the "itinerary & ports" page on the Windstar website for the Puerto Caldera to Colon itinerary and it states the following:

 

At nearly 51 miles long and connecting two oceans with a vast “highway of water,” the Panama Canal easily earns its reputation as the Eighth Wonder of the World. Enjoy a cool and breezy nighttime passage during which the lights illuminate the inner workings of the waterway. Experience a once-in-a-lifetime thrill as your ship is raised, then lowered 85 feet to sail gracefully through three massive locks that transport you from the calm Pacific Ocean to the shimmering waters of the Atlantic.

 

I'm sorry that you feel ripped off, but they did deliver on the night time experience that they said they were going to. I have had this itinerary on my bucket list, but I think we might reconsider based on the night time canal transit.

 

Does anybody have any experience going from Colon to Puerto Caldera? I'm curious if that canal transit is also at night. The website just posts the same info as Puerto Caldera to Colon itinerary.

 

I've never seen that language, and with the last spring cruise finished the pages are now down. Is this from the fall 2016 itins? Maybe they added the language. Still doesn't explain the statement onboard "we'll enter the first lock at 3:30" that we heard the day before.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmmmm.... We started looking at the 2017 cruises specifically due to the canal crossing. Like others above I have noticed that this is the third recent mention of a night passage. Now I think I am going to reconsider. Too bad,,, Windstar looked interesting.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Star Breeze always does a nighttime passage. Doesn't always start that late, but seldom before 6pm. Less expensive to do a night passage. Costs an extra $30,000 for daylight transit. EM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Many of the small ships do night transit. Star Breeze always. Hard to tell what time they start. Costa an extra $30,000 for daylight transit.

Here is Star Breeze Feb. 7, finishing at Miraflores:

SB21_zpsccucmdwl.jpg

 

Jan 15 at Miraflores:

 

SB13_zpsrymxyufk.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I guess I owe WS a partial apology. It is apparently documented in previous reviews and on future itinerary pages that the Canal Crossing is at night. I can't check what it said for our cruise, since it is off the WS site, but it is clear from the fall pages that it is at night.

 

I did chuckle that the printed brochure talks about the "glittering waters", which, of course, don't glitter much in the dark. We were able to see how things worked at night, since the locks are fairly well, lit, so the main issue I was complaining about was that this the almost 10:00pm entry into the first lock one just wanted to go to bed long before the entire crossing was completed in the early hours of the morning.

 

Still, no one on ship who we talked with was anything other than surprised about the night time schedule, so we weren't the only ones who missed the news.

Edited by milepig

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I will admit that I was also totally unaware of the night-time situation. We have been long considering any WindStar Canal trip. Having done the Canal just once on a Princess ship and having sailed the Corinth Canal in Greece on Wind Spirit many years ago. the idea of a Canal sailing on a Wind Star sailing ship was intriguing.

 

This night thing now has me wondering if every Canal passage on Wind Star ships is scheduled at night.

 

I'll definitely be double checking that aspect before booking a Canal cruise.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I had the same experience on my January Windstar cruise and wrote about it here:

 

Cruising the Panama Canal at Night: We Try It on Windstar's Star Breeze

http://www.cruisecritic.com/articles.cfm?ID=2191

 

My impression is that Windstar strives for an afternoon/early evening crossing to avoid heat and bugs and cost, but with canal traffic, the whims of Panamanian officials and other circumstantial events, the line cannot guarantee an entry time. Not that they say _that_ in the brochure.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I had the same experience on my January Windstar cruise and wrote about it here:

 

Cruising the Panama Canal at Night: We Try It on Windstar's Star Breeze

http://www.cruisecritic.com/articles.cfm?ID=2191

 

My impression is that Windstar strives for an afternoon/early evening crossing to avoid heat and bugs and cost, but with canal traffic, the whims of Panamanian officials and other circumstantial events, the line cannot guarantee an entry time. Not that they say _that_ in the brochure.

 

Thanks for the link. What you describe is exactly our experience, except we were at least an hour later than you. No notifications, no updates, just hanging around at anchor seemingly forever.

 

We also got to Colon almost an hour late, throwing some people with tight connections to a flight into chaos. (A reason I always allow tons of time.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Our ill-fated Star Pride cruise, which started in Colon, also did the canal at night. Our itinerary said 2:00pm - 11:59pm, so we had expected at least part of the transit to be in the daylight. We did not enter the first lock until right about sunset though, so it was dark by the time we were done with that lock. They had announced the timing the previous night and many people were very upset.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We did the Canal on Windstar's Wind Spirit a little over 2 years ago. We picked the Colon to Puerto Caldera route specifically because it included a daytime passage through the canal (we arrived at the Caribbean entrance at about 4:30am) , while the Puerto Caldera to Colon route was a night passage. I assume that is because Colon is right at the entrance to the Caribbean side of the Canal, while the Puerto Caldera to Colon route requires a day at sea to reach the Pacific entrance to the locks after leaving Isla Coiba. I think you would have to give up a port earlier in the cruise in order to arrive at the Pacific side of the Canal in the early hours of the morning.

 

Then there is the scheduling of the actual transit. We were told that the Wind Spirit paid about $90,000 for a Canal transit while the container ships paid $300,000 to $400,000. Don't know if that makes a difference when the Canal schedules a vessel's transit. Also remember that the Windstar ships don't take up an entire lock so the Canal authorities try to schedule additional vessels to lock through with the Windstar ships. When a vessel actually transits the locks is determined by the Canal authorities. So it is not surprising that the actual transit time may vary by several hours from what is published in the Windstar literature.

Edited by Alturia

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
We did the Canal on Windstar's Wind Spirit a little over 2 years ago. We picked the Colon to Puerto Caldera route specifically because it included a daytime passage through the canal (we arrived at the Caribbean entrance at about 4:30am) , while the Puerto Caldera to Colon route was a night passage. I assume that is because Colon is right at the entrance to the Caribbean side of the Canal, while the Puerto Caldera to Colon route requires a day at sea to reach the Pacific entrance to the locks after leaving Isla Coiba. I think you would have to give up a port earlier in the cruise in order to arrive at the Pacific side of the Canal in the early hours of the morning.

 

Then there is the scheduling of the actual transit. We were told that the Wind Spirit paid about $90,000 for a Canal transit while the container ships paid $300,000 to $400,000. Don't know if that makes a difference when the Canal schedules a vessel's transit. Also remember that the Windstar ships don't take up an entire lock so the Canal authorities try to schedule additional vessels to lock through with the Windstar ships. When a vessel actually transits the locks is determined by the Canal authorities. So it is not surprising that the actual transit time may vary by several hours from what is published in the Windstar literature.

 

They've changed the itin a bit this year. We cruised from Isla Coiba and docked for the night in Panama City. The next morning we went out to an anchorage where we waited, and waited, and waited to begin the passage.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
They've changed the itin a bit this year. We cruised from Isla Coiba and docked for the night in Panama City. The next morning we went out to an anchorage where we waited, and waited, and waited to begin the passage.

 

We waited on the beginning end. We boarded in Colon in the early afternoon. Around 5/6pm the ship steamed in a circle outside of the breakwater for an hour or two and then anchored for the night behind the breakwater.

 

I wonder how much of the waiting is dependent on the Canal authorities and how much is due to Windstar?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We planned our WS Panama Canal cruise almost a year ago, so we went by some of the Wind Spirit posts when we decided on this itinerary. Even though I am a compulsive planner, I did not see any of the CC posts that said we would be going through late at night.

 

The posted itinerary on the WS website had us on board by 11:30am with a 2:00pm sail time for the canal. That was all the info given. I had even cancelled a spa treatment for 2pm (I had actually won a drawing, first time ever) because I thought I might miss something important. The hairdresser even told me they usually went "late afternoon" and it might be a good idea to cancel it.

 

At 8:30pm we were at dinner, still waiting to hear news. We were surprised when finally an announcement came that said that we were entering the Miraflores Locks. We had missed the opportunity to see the Bridge of the Americas and everyone abandoned their meal (in our case, dessert) to rush upstairs. Coincidentally it happened to be the only night that our dinner service was exasperatingly slow, and we were even dining alone for once. We ended up staying up on deck until a little after midnight. We went through the Pedro Miguel locks, the Culebra cut (which we couldn't see), and under the Centennial Bridge, and then we went to bed because we had to be up at 6:30 the next morning. I heard that we went through the Gatun Locks around 3:30am. A few intrepid souls stayed up all night.

 

Did it ruin our whole trip? No. In fact, the Costa Rica part of the cruise was exceptional. But here is my beef. The information about the night crossing was totally non-obvious even to a careful planner like me. And if that is the case, then one wonders if they do it on purpose. We certainly would have considered another line if it had been front page and center when we were cruise shopping. I notice on the itineraries for 2017 it is quite clear on the itinerary page that it is a night crossing.

 

Do I take some responsibility? Of course. I had preconceptions based on the previous year's reports that maybe kept me from seeing what I should have. I also made assumptions based on the fact that here it doesn't get dark until much later, so a 6:00 sunset was a bit of a surprise. However, I don't think I should have needed to be a detective and figure it out for myself. And it did seem as though the crew was always a bit vague when answering questions about it. JMO.

 

Do I feel like I had a complete PC experience? In a way, yes, but only because we took the stupid monkey boat ride and got to see Gatun Lake and part of the Culebra Cut. Then, after disembarkation, we had a private tour and went to the Gatun Locks and experienced them that way, which was extremely fun.

 

I'd like to add that we initially had qualms about taking the Breeze because we love the sailing ships so much, but we fell in love with her and her crew. The cabins are so comfortable and the service in our case was impeccable. In all other respects our WS experience was indeed 180 degrees from ordinary.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Cruise Critic readers make a difference yet again!

 

Just got this note passed along from Windstar:

 

"We have just finalized and updated our website for our Costa Rica and Panama Canal season next year. Last season we started going through the Canal in the late afternoon when it was much cooler to make it a bit more comfortable for guests. However this did not go down too well with the passengers and I know a lot of reviews on your site reflect this commentary. We have now switched back to full daylight transits." (emphasis mine)

 

Sorry to everyone, who (like me) were disappointed with the late afternoon/evening transit, but your voices were heard and anyone considering Windstar for the Panama Canal next year should have a better (and brighter!) experience.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Looks like someone at Windstar corporate has discovered the definition of the word disclosure. Hopefully disclosures about intended itineraries and times for a Windstar cruise will not need a magnifying glass to ferret out any more. Keep in mind that Windstar will still be at the mercy of the Canal Authority for the actual transit time but guests will at least know that Windstar tried to do a daylight transit.

If it's raining [heavily] a day or night transit of the canal isn't fun. I've done the canal several times and learned very early on to bring my sailing rain gear after a couple of all day rain storms while transiting the canal. Pack rain gear if the Canal is in your future. The canal is powered by the rain forest so it does rain a bit in Panama.

Edited by Magnum60

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Forum Jump
    • Categories
      • Q&A: Cruise Insurance with Steve Dasseos of TripInsuranceStore.com
      • Forum Assistance
      • New Cruisers
      • Cruise Lines “A – O”
      • Cruise Lines “P – Z”
      • River Cruising
      • ROLL CALLS
      • Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
      • Member Cruise Reviews
      • Special Interest Cruising
      • Cruise Discussion Topics
      • UK Cruising
      • Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
      • North American Homeports
      • Ports of Call
      • Cruise Conversations
×
×
  • Create New...