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Zuiderdam Panama Cruise - excursions, what to expect?

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We are cruising soon on Zuiderdam to Panama Canal -- we are Diamond on Royal and have been on others but this will be our first time on Holland in a Signature suite. Are those like junior suites on Royal? Hard to tell from the pics online. Also this is a new itinerary for us, so any recommended excurions (easy or maybe moderate, not strenuous) for Half Moon Cay, Aruba, Curacao, Colon, Puerto Limon, Gatun? Thanks!

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From your post, it sounds like you do not really understand the partial transit process. Your ship will transit the Gatun Locks into Gatun Lake. Those going on excursions will be tendered to the dock at the Gatun Yacht club to get on the buses for their tours. The ship will linger in the lake for awhile, then pass back out through the Gatun Locks and dock in Colon, long enough to pick up the passengers who have been on excursions. There are no excursions possible other than those offered by the ship. You will not be in Colon long enough to take a tour, even if one was offered. And it is not a safe place to wander about. Half Moon Cay is the private island, best of the best, a nice beach day. In Curacao we like to walk across the Queen Emma swinging pontoon bridge and wander the shops. I wouldn't get off the ship again in Puerto Limon. It's a long bus ride to your tour. Very commercial port. EM

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Thanks. I understand it is "partial transit" as opposed to fully going through the Panama Canal. I just wanted to check out what to expect in a Signature Suite, having never been on Holland before, and what excursions are recommended since all these ports are new to us. I appreciate the word of warning about Colon, obviously not something mentioned in the excursion offerings there.

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Costa Rica is a beautiful country and one should definitely take an excursion if you have never been to the country.

 

A good one, if it is offered, is one that combines a train trip through the forest, a boat ride through the canals, and a visit to a banana plantation. The only difficulty if someone is mobility impaired is climbing the stairs for the bus, train, and boat.

 

Any aerial tram tour is nice.

 

In the port area is an open air market section where local people have stalls with local crafts and goods. You can find beautiful necklaces and carved figures made out of the local hard woods. Someone will also probably have Guaitil pottery.

 

Because of two port calls to Costa Rica where we took shore excursions, we booked a fourteen day land tour of the country several years ago.

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Thanks, Homosassa for recommending banana plantation. A friend and I did partial canal trip last spring on MS Zuiderdam. She wanted to do banana plantation and I agreed even though I thought it would be boring. Of the many excursions I have done in the past, this truly was one of the best. We were just on a bus tour, which was fine. I learned so much and now truly appreciate my morning banana!

 

I would definitely recommend a tour that includes a banana plantation in Costa Rica. Beautiful country and very nice people that we encountered.

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Signature Suites: I am unable to compare them to RCL jr. suites, but I can tell you a little bit more about them. From what I understand they are approx. 1 and half sized larger then a standard balcony cabin (Called "veranda" on HAL... Neptune Suites being 2x). The bathrooms for example have double sink vanities, tub/shower combo plus a standing shower stall. The balcony has room for a full table and about 4 chairs, even a lounger style would fit out there. The room itself has a desk area, a sofa area, and bed. I loved having a signature suite. It does not include the often mentioned suite perks (like access to Neptune lounge) but I don't miss that.

 

I can't speak to the excursions, but I can after my partial transit in December :cool::D:ship:

 

In my research I am finding many reports of year round heat & humidity, and that is a consideration for the tours I am selecting (ie- no 9 hour strenuous tours, lol).

 

 

We are cruising soon on Zuiderdam to Panama Canal -- we are Diamond on Royal and have been on others but this will be our first time on Holland in a Signature suite. Are those like junior suites on Royal? Hard to tell from the pics online. Also this is a new itinerary for us, so any recommended excurions (easy or maybe moderate, not strenuous) for Half Moon Cay, Aruba, Curacao, Colon, Puerto Limon, Gatun? Thanks!

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Highly recommend the EXC excursion - Canal Experience from Gatun to Colon.

 

Thanks BlackJack2 - we are signed up for that excursion on the Zuiderdam! Really looking forward to it.

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We aren't beach people, so we really enjoyed this in Aruba. https://trikes-aruba.com/

The Banana plantation & tour in Puerto Limon was A++ and the train ride from Lake Gatun to the Miraflores visitors center was a highlight

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In my research I am finding many reports of year round heat & humidity, and that is a consideration for the tours I am selecting (ie- no 9 hour strenuous tours, lol).

 

LOL - depends where you live on whether heat and humidity will bother you. After thirty years in the hell hole of central Maryland where the temperatures will hit the triple digits in the summer with a matching humidity and twelve years in Florida, I start to feel a chill when the temperature is below 80 degrees and the humidity is lower than 70%.

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We are cruising soon on Zuiderdam to Panama Canal -- this is a new itinerary for us, so any recommended excurions (easy or maybe moderate, not strenuous) for Half Moon Cay, Aruba, Curacao, Colon, Puerto Limon, Gatun? Thanks!

 

We did this cruise in 2014. Highly recommend the following tours if they strike your fancy:

 

 

  • the trikes in Aruba (book on your own - someone else posted the link above)
  • assuming they're still offering it we did the ship's excursion out of Gatun Lake to visit the Embera tribe (can only be done as a ship's excursion, it's a Nat Geo moment in time, truly memorable)
  • the Jaguar Rescue Center which is about an hour south of Limon (http://www.jaguarrescue.foundation/tours/ … booked with Jorge at http://www.portlimon.com/ … fabulous to work with and we remain Facebook friends 4+ years later).
  • a private full day tour with Natasja at Dushi Taxi (you'll have to Google it because CC won't let me post the link) … she will take you anywhere you want to see on the island and is a hoot!

Enjoy!

 

Barb

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Signature Suites on the Vista class ships like the Zuiderdam IMO are the best "deal" on HAL. The cabins are much larger that the balconies (or Insides or Ocean views), but not all that much smaller than the Neptunes. We really enjoy them and book them all the times (of course we hope for an upgrade to a Neptune, but if we do not get it we are still very happy with our Signature.

 

IMO, get a SY cabin on deck 8, aft of the mid-ship elevators. That way you are under the carpeted dining area of the Lido buffet (minimal noise from above vs the ones under the pool area) and just one quick flight of stairs to the Lido deck (pools, spa and buffet).

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On 10/4/2018 at 12:12 PM, BlackJack2 said:

Highly recommend the EXC excursion - Canal Experience from Gatun to Colon.

 

I have a question or two about this excursion, since we are taking it.  I keep reading that the bus rides are awful, and very long, your experience?  We are especially excited about doing this, knowing it's a long day, but our one chance!  Anything else you could share?  Thank you.

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3 hours ago, CM1984 said:

 

I have a question or two about this excursion, since we are taking it.  I keep reading that the bus rides are awful, and very long, your experience?  We are especially excited about doing this, knowing it's a long day, but our one chance!  Anything else you could share?  Thank you.

We were there on a national holiday, so traffic wasn't bad at all.  I brought a book to read, in case we were on the bus for awhile.  It is a long day, but a very interesting day.  

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Having been in both a junior suite on RC and just off a Signature suite on HAL I can tell you they are very similar. I would rate the Signature suite just a bit nicer, perhaps slightly bigger. The bathroom is bigger, with double sinks and both individual shower and tub with shower. The suite was very comfortable and well appointed. There is not a walk in closet in the Signature suites, but three large reach in closets, two with full hanging space and one with shelves. 6 fairly narrow drawers in the vanity and two nice size drawers in the desk.

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On 10/4/2018 at 10:30 AM, jcruiser72 said:

Thanks. I understand it is "partial transit" as opposed to fully going through the Panama Canal. I just wanted to check out what to expect in a Signature Suite, having never been on Holland before, and what excursions are recommended since all these ports are new to us. I appreciate the word of warning about Colon, obviously not something mentioned in the excursion offerings there.

 

Just off the Zuiderdam and in a Signature Suite.  These suites are larger than the standard "balcony cabins", but as expected, a bit smaller than the Neptune Suites (about 2-3 feet narrower).  The bathrooms are very nice sized, with a tub/shower plus a separate shower (fairly small) and two sinks with decent counter space.  The entire ship has been remodeled earlier this year and looks very nice.  The Signature suite has a very large (at least 48 inches) TV on the wall above the couch.  Nice sized balcony, room for about 4 people.  No special "perks", other than a telephone concierge. I think that the Signature Suites are the best "bargains" on the ship, based on a price to space comparison.

 

If you can, try yo get 8099 or 8094.  These are located on the "bump out" of the ship which ends up giving you a partially angled. larger balcony, plus more inside space.  Plus, you can see forward.  One more thing is that they are located just a few feet from the aft stairway (and elevators), which makes it great to run up one deck for a quick coffee, snacks, or ice cream from the Lido buffet!  (also very easy access to the main dining rooms on decks 2 and 3 aft).

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