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Coral Princess Panama Canal w/Scooters;Great Time

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I am sorry to be so slow in posting a review of our Panama Canal cruise on Nov. 11-21, 2017 but life has other priorities. We are Jane, AKA Calamity Jane, age 75, and Morgan, age 79, AKA, Captain Morgan. (our cruise nicknames which we chose for a cruise group we are a part of.)

This was our first Princess cruise and our first to the Panama Canal. Morgan has wanted to see the Panama Canal since he learned about it in 8th grade some 66 years ago. His dream was finally realized by taking this cruise.

We both have some mobility challenges so we rented scooters to assure we could comfortable move around the ship. Those make a huge difference for anyone with mobility challenges.

I can't tell you how many people stopped to ask about the scooters. One woman, clearly in pain said she had not considered how much walking it took to get from place to place on the ship, several others asked on behalf of their older parents traveling with them. Scooters are not available on the ships, you rent them from a private company in advance. Your scooter is waiting for you in your stateroom, you leave it at the Courtesy Desk when you disembark. You can find companies that specialize in scooter rentals at sea by searching the internet.

Those few details out of the way, I'm ready to begin the review. Just as a further introduction, we live in Delaware, the only state with no commercial airport, so we either have to drive to Baltimore, MD or Philadelphis, PA, each about 80 miles from home. We find Baltimore the most convenient and user friendly, so we always fly out of there.

Our son lives in the FLL area, so when we cruise from there or Miami, we add time some family time, in this case it was Thanksgiving and that week-end. We stay in hotels with handicap rooms for the safety features so I will mention those as well. Ok, that's it for the intro. Let the review begin.

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Warning; my reviews tend to be a little long because I include some details that will help you understand the name, Calamity Jane. I am typing this in Word and then cutting and pasting. I hope the font and spacing make it easy for you to read. Feel free to ask questions at any point.

I will preface this by saying there have been times in the past nine years since our first cruise when Morgan has sworn he did not want to go on any more cruises.

Fortunately, I only canceled once because of his feelings.

Shortly after returning from our cruise in Feb. Morgan said, “You have planned all of the other cruises. I have wanted to see the Panama Canal since we studied it in 8th grade. Find a cruise there for us to take. Say no more, I was on the phone or internet with our travel agent.Within no time flat, she had a cruise picked out for us. She snagged the last handicapped cabin so the plans were underway. Insurance purchased within the 14 day window to assure preexisting conditions would be covered, the To Do List was in the travel folder along with the confirmation of the booking. Let the countdown begin.

We fly out of Baltimore since DE has no airports. I decided that since we had a noon flight, we should spend the night before near the airport, leave our car under the hotel’s park and cruise plan so we wouldn’t have the morning traffic and stress. All reservations made for pre-cruise, and post cruise, all documents in folder, we were ready to go.

The biggest pre-cruise challenge was in assuring I had all medications covered.Morgan has two injectable insulins he takes daily and a total of 18 prescription meds as well as some over the counter meds. I started preparing the pill organizers several weeks in advance to assure I had what the needed.Since Morgan is a kidney transplant recipient, I always make sure we have a 5-6 extra days supply of meds, so we had 4 weeks covered.

The day to leave arrived. Things were packed, and repacked. We were running a little behind our planned departure time as always, but not too much behind when the first calamity occurred. Ok, where are the passports ? I always keep them in the file cabinet,but I had taken them out a day or two ago…..what did I do with them? The mad search. The more frantic search. The questioning myself, what safe place did I put them in? Finally, I discovered I had ‘logically,’ stuck them in the side handle of one of the suitcases.

By then, the nerves were shot, it was getting to the point in the day where we would run into rush hour traffic on the almost 2 hour drive to the hotel near BWI so we decided to scrap that idea and just get a good night’s rest at home. I cancelled the hotel, we went to Texas Roadhouse for dinner and called it a day.

Very glad it worked out that way. Cost for parking at airport was only a few dollars higher than the one night ‘park and cruise,’ rate at the hotel.

Next day, up and ready to go. OOPS, another slight delay as Morgan had a health issue that potentially could have been a problem. We decided to go and see what happened over the next 24 hours. Fortunately, he was fine. We made it to our plane on time, had a good flight to Ft. Lauderdale and to our hotel for the night.

We were meeting our son and family who live in FLL for dinner. We used Uber to get to the restaurant. Great, no problem, right? Wrong. We arrived, went inside.

That’s when Morgan announced that his shoe had apparently come off in the Uber. He discovered it as we walked into the restaurant and by then the driver was GONE. (Since Morgan is diabetic, he has no feeling sensation in his feet, but he realized the difference in his gait with one shoe off and one shoe on.) We called UBER, the driver was located and brought the shoe back to us. WHEW. Enjoyed dinner and headed back to our hotel for the night. We stayed at the Hyatt Place where we've stayed once before.

We were so tired that night that by the time the C Pap machines were set up for both ofus, we discovered that the switch that controlled the light in the sitting area of the room, also controlled the outlet where Morgan’s C Pap was plugged in.Oh, well, so what if the light in the sitting area was on all night. We didn’teven notice. We slept well, got up, had a decent hotel provided breakfast and waited for our sonto come to take us to the port at 12:30.

Embarkation was the best we’ve ever had. Bags were dropped, we waited a few minutes for wheel chair assist and off we went with two terrific port helpers. Instead oftaking us to the regular passenger entrance, they took us to the Crew and Guest entrance where there was NO LINE at all. We zipped through security, then to the check in area, NO LINE either. At that point, we were handed off to Princess transporters who pushed us to our cabin where our rented scooters awaited.

The cabin was huge ! The balcony was huge ! I decided then and there I was in love with Princess Cruise Line. I videoed the cabin and balcony pictures to send our son and TA. Sorry I did not take still photos.

We watched the sail away from our balcony, went to reserve spots on the Sanctuary area for Canal day, went to the Muster Drill (with life jackets as required on Princess.) Dinner soon followed at 5:15,30 min earlier than originally noted. We started to ask for a change, but we had decent tablemates and decided if we changed to 7:30 or 8:00 it would bevery late by the time dinner was over. Glad we didn’t switch. No extra shows or entertainment for us thatnight. It had been a full day.

Final funny of the night. We went to the elevators on Deck 7 to go to our cabin, C 633 on Deck 10…go figure. Morgan went in the elevator and BAM, the doors closed before I could get on. So,I went to Deck 10 expecting him to be there waiting…No Morgan. I went back to Deck 7, no Morgan. I rode backto Deck 10, no Morgan. LOL… I finally went to Deck 6 to find poor, tired, confused and frustrated Morgan trying tofigure out where in the world I was. (He had not realized the cabin numbers and the deck numbers did not match. From then on, we discussed our destination ahead of time. We also learned to time the lead scooter not going all the wayin or out until the other scooter was in the range of the automatic doors. We were lucky to usually both fit on the sameelevator.


To Be Continued……………..

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Sounds an interesting experience. Will be following along.



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Calamity Jane and Morgan PT 1Panama Canal Cruise



Before we went to bed, we did manage to order room service for breakfast. I was up early and loaded the Princess At Sea app on my phone so I could view the activity offerings for the day. Breakfast was due at 9:30. When Morgan awakened, I started rambling on and on about what the ship offered, etc. Poor guy. He finally said, “QUIET ! QUIET ! You are really wired aren’t you ? “ I said, “YES, I’m on a cruise.” He said, “Lord, I have my own human TV.” LOL…. I can’t help it, I love cruises.. I did stop talking though because I know he has to ease into the day.

We ordered room service quite often on this ship. That morning they arrived with the invitation for Morgan for the Ultimate Balcony Dinner I had planned as a surprise. They presented him with the menu and confirmed the time we wanted to have it served on Nov. 14 as I had reserved. More on that later.

That first day we were totally lazy and relaxed. As a matter of fact, we ordered lunch from room service, too. We decided we could just lounge around in the room and on the balcony until time to get dressed for dinner. The ship could be explored on one of the other 9 days.

After dinner we went to the theatre to a show, but after 5 min. we left because it just didn’t‘grab us.’ We did enjoy several other shows during the week, though. We parked and sat in our scooters in the back of the theaters, so we could make quick moves in and out ahead of the crowds.

There were several bars and clubs that we enjoyed on various nights. One night the club had Buy One Get One For $1.00 drinks. Ithought that meant just that. Morgan ordered Jack and ginger for himself and a strawberry daiquiri I for me. I left to go to the ladies room, came back to see 2 of EACH drinks on the table. LOL. Needless to say, that’s what they meant, not a $1,00 for a second selection of a different type.

The ship went through several time zone changes. Whenever we needed to change, we would find a note on our bed when we returned in the evening. On our second sea day we called for room service breakfast again. According to my watch, it was 9:15. When I said we’d like to order breakfast, the voice said, “I’m sorry, breakfast ended at 10:30, it’s now 11:15. OOPS,the note had said, set your clocks AHEAD one hour. I’d set my watch BEHIND one hour. LOL Let me just say, reading is fundamental. I changed mine the other 2or 3 times, Morgan never changed his watch at all. The gifts we had of cheese and crackers trays and chocolate covered strawberries sure came in handy.

The first port stop was Aruba which I have wanted to see. We were only there from 7:00 AM to12:30 PM so we knew that was too early and too short a stop for us to try to leave the ship. We woke up early, but took a little ‘nap,’ before getting ready and BAM, next thing we knew it was11:30. We got ready quickly and went upto deck 14 to be able to see the island. It looked lovely. Morgan is interested in going back to Aruba to explore. The ‘time thing,’ got me again. I’d been looking at the time on my iPad, not my watch. Oh, well. Lesson learned. Since this was the night we were having the balcony dinner, we ate very lightly for lunch, then went to a presentation about the Panama Canal. Interesting, but the lecturer’s voice almost put us to sleep.

Balcony dinner review will be at the end of this review. One word: Incredible.

Note on bed; set your clocks back one hour tonight. OK, back to EST. Today was Cartegena,Columbia day. It was a surprise to see such a beautiful skyline. The port was quite industrial with huge cranes moving cargo containers all day long. We enjoyed watching. Once again, we stayed onboard. Wandered the ship a bit, went to shops for duty free liquor and a few ‘trinkets.’ We went to bed early because Canal Day was next. We were expected to arrive at the Canal between 6:00-7:00 AM.


To BeContinued.

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Finally, it was Panama Canal Day. I woke up around 5:30 and saw a few lights and lightening in the distance. I could not make out much else. Morgan awakened at 6:00. By then it was light enough to see a little land. We took pictures of the surroundings from our balcony. There was a live broadcast from the bridge of the ship so we also took a few pictures of the TV broadcast. It was totally fascinating to watch those ships that were ahead of ours as they traveled through the locks.The entire trip through the three locks takes about 2 hours.

We were on the 10th deck so we were above the walls of the canal. They canal is only about 6 inches wider than the ship so those on lower decks can actually reach out and touch the walls. They are discouraged from doing so, but I’m sure some do. There are new, wider locks that opened earlier this year that allow larger ships to make the passage.

We eventually went up to the Lido deck for some breakfast. We’d munched on more of our cheese and cracker gift tray while we watched the passage. Then we went to the Sanctuary, the Spa Deck where we’d reserved two loungers in the shade for the day. By that time, we were in Lake Gatun where we would be anchored for several hours. Some passengers were picked up from there on tenders to be taken to excursions they had booked. We were to pick them up in Colon, Panama at 5:00 that day.

The Sanctuary,an adult only area, was a super special experience. It was the aft (back) of the ship and therefore you had a panoramic view of the lake. You are taken to your reserved lounger where you are pampered for the day. The server asked if we wanted cucumber water or orange water to refresh us. They soon brought the lunch menu which we weren’t quite ready to order from yet.

Morgan took full advantage of his lounger by taking a good nap. I was taking pictures and just enjoying the peaceful surroundings. I had a nice conversation about my shiny red camera with a couple from NY. The man said he’d never seen that Canon with a red body. He gave me some photo tips because he had the same camera in black.

There were several ships on the lake with us. The lake is a man made lake that was built to hold ships waiting to go through the other set of locks that then take them to the level of the Pacific Ocean. Some cruises do the full passage through both sets of locks, so they go from Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles.

Just to see what was built over 100 years ago completely changed the world was awesome. Being able to transport people and cargo from the Atlantic to the Pacific without having totravel all the way around South America is amazing. The number of lives lost to malaria was staggering. Just to think of the work involved in digging through the land is amazing, too. I have not read, but may, The Path Between The Seas,which is an account of the building of the Canal.

Now back to ourregularly scheduled review.

We asked one of the attendants about lunch. They looked at each other like, “Now?” One said he would see what he could do. I ordered tuna salad, expecting my usual tuna, mayo, relish, instead, this is the tuna salad. Wow ! LOL,,,it was good, I must say.

About 20 min.later, a server placed a tea cup on the table. OOPS, I forgot that a delicious fruit juice had been served to all of the Sanctuary guest a little earlier. It was now time for Afternoon Tea. Next came the plates of little sandwiches and desserts. Oh, my soul….the life of the rich and famous ! Oh, let me not forget to mention the woman who came around with cool, damp clothes for us to use to refresh our hands and faces. Oh, my !

No wonder the servers were not sure if lunch would still be available. If we’d known about the ‘tea,’ we probably would not have ordered the lunch. LOL It was shortly after this that the rain started. After all, we were in a rainforest. It sprinkled off and on for about 45 min, then turned to pure RAIN, rather heavy at that. By then it was almost 3:30 so we called it a day and went to our cabin. We could have stayed until 5:00. Most people were leaving or had already left.

Of the three other couples at our dinner table, only one couple was there. One couple had taken an excursion, ($200.00 each) on a trip that we later found out they were very dissatisfied with. It was a Princess sponsored tour which they complained about and did get some money back from the ship. One group, also Princess sponsored tour was to return to be picked up by us at 5:00. We were to depart Colon at 5:30 or 6:00.. That tour returned at 10:00 !!!! Those on that tour were also unhappy, hot, tired, had not had food in the 12 hours since they left the ship !!

After a light dinner (after our Sanctuary food, LOL) we went to a show but decided not to stay. Instead we went to one of the clubs that had a jazz group playing that night. We really enjoyed them. The variety of music on the ship was refreshing. String chamber music in the Atrium before dinner each night, piano musicin the afternoon, a party band at various times in various locations, the shipband for shows, great entertainment.

When we went back to our cabin another note about a time change ! This was getting OLD !!! This had truly been a day to remember. Good thing I took notes or I would have forgotten some of the details.


To Be Continued……

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Next day, next port, Costa Rica which is another industrial port. Excursions were available but we had no interest in doing any of them. We spent the day out and around the ship, relaxing and napping on the Lido deck and watching the coming and going of trucks as cargo was unloaded. You have anew awareness of the goods that islands have to import in order to run their economies.


One of the things we enjoy most about cruising are the interesting people you meet. We spent a long time talking to a couple from OK. He was a farmer who has 1,000 acres of land. One night at a club I met a woman who was 70 and had just become engaged. Lovely story about her fiancé and how they’d both lost their spouses and found each other. I was the first person on the cruise she told about their engagement.


After dinner we went back to the club where they had jazz quartet again, then to the cabin. VOILA,another ‘turn your clock,’ etc. CRAZY .


Another Sea Day was next. We relaxed, went to the shops and browsed. Back to room and ordered salads from room service for lunch. Tonight the show I’ve heard about called On The Bayou will be performed at three different times. We will go to that right after dinner, then maybe the late show of an impressionist whose show we enjoyed a few nights ago. It’s nice to have choices.


The show was very good. It was set in New Orleans. Good music and dancing. After the performance the jazz band lead the audience dancing to the atrium where the Captain’s party and balloon drop was to be held. We debated about the balloon drop or the show and decided to stay for the party. That was a ball. When the party band broke out with Disco Inferno, I videoed it to send to Lenita who is like our other daughter. Her dad wrote Disco Inferno so whenever it plays, it is a ching ching for her Dad. IWe were the last to leave the party.


Grand Cayman is the last port of the cruise. We’ve been there several times and decided to stay on the ship again. Since scooters cannot go on tenders, it was just as well. We watched the Eagles football game in our cabin.


Our last Sea Day before we get to Fort Lauderdale tomorrow morning.

Since we were going to be in FL for the next six days, I decided to do a couple of loads of laundry. There are laundry rooms on each floor. It was very nice with at least 6 washers and dryers. A machine dispensed tokens which were charged to your account.


A woman was there when I went back to get my clothes out of the dryer. Since she was wearing a Philadelphia Eagles shirt, I started a conversation. Amazing to learn she lives in Canajoharie,NY, (not far from Schenectady,NY where we lived for 21 years. She was recently widowed and was traveling with her sister and the sister’s family. Would you believe it? Her cabin was directlyacross the hall from our cabin. Hey neighbor !

Canajoharie happens to be on the Erie Canal. We stopped and spent the night there on our very first trip to upstate New York back in 1969 ! Schenectady is also on the Mohawk River with a set of locks very nearby.


Princess wants it out before dinner. I packed almost everything before dinner, but felt rushed to do so I finished packing after dinner and had bags out by 8:30.

We were in bedby 11:00 since they expected you to leave your cabin by 8:00. YIKES !

That last morning I finally woke up at 6:00 in time to catch the sunrise. I sat out on the balcony and enjoyed the beauty.I took a couple of photos. On most of our other cruises I have enjoyed several sunrises. On this one, I’ve slept like a baby right through those early hours.Oh, wait, no it was the Grand Cayman day that I saw the sunrise. The last day,we were already docked in FLL when I woke up.


We were out of our cabin by 8:15, went to the dining room for breakfast. We were assigned to leave the ship at 9:45. We turned our rented scooters over to the crew and were pushed off the ship, in their wheelchairs, LOL right on time. The transporters took us to the place to wait for a porter to retrieve our luggage. Then for port personnel to take us through customs. Everything was very fast and efficient. Therewere several very long lines that the transporter told me were made up of crew members who were leaving the ship for their 3 months back to their homecountries. I believe that is what he said.


Our son had arranged for us to stay at a Residence Inn which was near the port. It was a day that he was unable to get away from work to come to get us so we were to call the hotel for their shuttle to pick us up once we had our bags. We were picked up immediately; the driver happened to have been at the airport which is very close to the port. We were take to the hotel, got checked in before 11:00,hallelujah, for early check in, got settled a bit, then waited for the shuttle driver to come back to take us to the airport to pick up the rental car I had booked.

This chapter of the cruise is over exceptfor some general observations I will add.


To be continued. Thanks for joining us on the adventure.

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A word about the Ultimate Balcony Dinner experience. It was fantastic. Two men arrived about 15 minutes before time for the dinner to set up the table on the balcony. The table setting, the fresh flowers, the champagne chilling in the ice, etc.

A photographer arrived next to take our picture once we were seated. Then the service began with the cocktails, the canapes, the crab quiche, the salad, the surf and turf, the dessert. Every serving was huge, delicious and just plain wonderful. Neither of us was able to even finish our entree. Dessert was not touched but was saved for another day in our refrigerator. It was a very lovely evening.

I think the servers must just wait outside of the cabin because they would come in at just the right time to see if we were ready for the next course. I know Princess offers Ultimate Balcony Breakfast as well. I would do the dinner again it was such a pleasant and romantic way to spend the evening.

That wraps up the cruise. We had several airport adventures before getting home, including arriving in Baltimore only to be stuck there for several hours due to a security lock down. Seems someone left a package unattended so the terminal was shut down until the package could be examined an detonated, just in case it contained explosives. No one could go to the second level where the parking vans pick up passengers, no traffic was allowed in the airport area, no passengers could get to their flight gates that were on the second level. What a way to arrive back. Once we were free to get to the van to go to our parked car, the two hour ride back to Delaware was a relief. Home never felt so good once we arrived near midnight.

Calamity Jane and Captain Morgan will hit the sea again in 364 days on the Carribean Princess. Until then, happy sails to YOU.

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What a lovely review, thank you! I’ve never done the Ultimate Balcony Dinner but sounds like it is worth the splurge!


Ps, I lived in Schenectady back in the 70’s. We were a GE family!



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