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Western Mediterranean or Panama Canal?

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Tossing around 2 cruises for 2021.  Love them both but have to decide on one. 


Western Mediterranean on the Epic, 7 nights, right now the promo is all perks, airfare included with the option to add 2 more days pre-cruise for $25/per person and book our own hotel or stay 3 nights pre-cruise and book one of their hotels.  West Med Ports are: Barcelona, Naples/Pompeii, Civitavecchia, Rome, Livorno Pisa/Florence, Cannes France, Palma Majorca Spain, Barcelona - I will be adding in either 2 or 3 nights precruise. Cruise is Sun-Sun (7 days)


Panama Canal is on the Encore (new ship) 12 nights, UBP and SD only for perks,  w/ airfare included, same rules for adding additional days pre-cruise.  Panama Ports are: Miami, Bonaire, Curacao, Aruba, Santa Marta & Cartagena Columbia, Panama Canal/Gatun Lake, Colon Panama, Puerto Limon Costa Rica, Miami Cruise is Mon-Saturday (12 days)


Roughly, the cruises are only about $1500.00 difference in price (but one is longer than the other).  Price difference is not a decision maker

West Med is leaving in May and Panama Canal is leaving in February.  Leaving from NYC so weather could be a factor, but definitely not a decision maker.  Traveled in the winter many times


Both are equally intriguing to me, for obvious reasons.  I know this will be everyone's personal opinion but which cruise would you prefer and why? 

Edited by BarnCat1
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If you were embarking out of Rome I'd like that itinerary to do the prenights out of, Barcelona not so much. I'd take the 12 day on the Encore over a 7 day on the lowly Epic. I just did the 15 day transit on the Bliss and have sailed rome, Naples ....... For the overall experience with ship, ports, weather I'd do the Panama Canal 12 day first. Costa Rica and Cartagena and wonderful.....  You need more than one day on Rome. 

Edited by tallnthensome
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No contest in my mind... the Encore trip is longer = even more stress reduction. IMHO some of those Med' ports are "meh" at best, Palma seriously? Cannes, not really an enthralling 'destination'... 


That said, the top deck plans for Encore concern me unless you are Haven bound; but each to their own on that account.

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We love Barcelona and enjoy the Med & Panama Canal...

Our goal is to seek sun & warmth for a couple of weeks Feb/March & not leave Alaska during the Spring/Summer Months...

Having said that - we'd lean toward the Panama Canal in Feb vs. Med in May...

I agree with Herdingdog - a Full Transit of the Canal is preferred...

Whichever you choose - or if you find a 3rd option out there - ENJOY!!!

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Since you're asking for personal opinions only, I would do the Panama cruise for similar reasons as noted above, longer cruise, good weather virtually guaranteed, and while Colon is a terrible port you're only there to connect back to the ship if you do an excursion.  


It would break my heart to dock in someplace like Florence that has not one, but six or more world-class museums and only be able to spend an hour in one, or have to choose to see the Duomo but not the Ponte Vecchio...these are cities best explored in days not hours, and not on a bus.


We were on the April 1, Jade Panama Canal (partial transit) cruise and booked the "Panama Canal by Ferry" excursion.   It was a LONG day, but we went all the way to the Pacific on the ferry and then back to the ship in Colon, and going thru on the ferry was 100% different than on the ship.   It was fun going thru the first lock on the ship, but I felt disconnected, but getting off and experiencing it on a smaller vessel made it seem like we actually did it vs. watching it from afar. 


Either way, what a fun choice to have.  




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2 hours ago, Notnewtoit said:

No contest in my mind... the Encore trip is longer = even more stress reduction. IMHO some of those Med' ports are "meh" at best, Palma seriously? Cannes, not really an enthralling 'destination'... 


That said, the top deck plans for Encore concern me unless you are Haven bound; but each to their own on that account.


I have to stick up for the Epic!!   I have done the Western Med 7 times now - 3 of them on the Epic.  It is a brilliant cruise, the only problem being that it is only 7 days!!  I wish I could go again this year.  I would be excited, but my next two cruises are planned (the Greek Islands and next year Norway).  


Palma is a great port with variety - old town, amazing cathedral, lovely trips into the countryside and a great beach.  Cannes is one of my favourite ports.  Cannes itself is a great size to explore.  A stop in Cannes also means the opportunity to visit Antibes, Eze, Nice, Monte Carlo.  Last time I visited Isle St Marguerite - it was lovely.  The other three ports are "the big three" in the Western Med.  Most of the cruises cover them - Naples, Civitavecchia and Livorno.    There are so many choices for days out.  Of course you won't see everything.  So go back next year.  Who wouldn't want to embark from Barcelona? ???   Before you leave you can visit Sagrada Familia, Montserrat, Park Guell,  Camp Nou  and eat tapas until you burst.  


I don't think that you can compare Panama and Western Med - that is apples and pears.  However, thousands of passengers every year have a great time exploring  the Western Med


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Went to the Panama Canal this past February. IMO it is all hype and no real WOW. If faced with OP's choice it would be Europe and I wouldn't think twice about it.

Edited by zqvol
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NCL deviations are a max of 2 days. But you can do them on both ends.


Warm weather in winter,  longer cruise is my choice if time off and budget allow.


Longer cruise has higher fees and expenses, not sure what is in the 1500.

- 5 more nights of DSC

- Higher svcs charges for SDP and UBP

- Higher NCL insurance rate

- Maybe higher expenses for shore excursions, though our Mediterranean excursions bill is pretty hefty

- Higher airport parking fees if you park at home


Nice options, enjoy the trip you select. 

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Thanks everyone for your replies and the photos. 


There is a Western Med cruise that embarks from Rome, with the same itinerary and  roughly the same timeframe, so we could always switch to that one and spend extra days in Rome instead of Barcelona, if we decide to go on the Western Med cruise.  I do wish there were some cruises longer than 7 days for that area.  


There is also a Panama Canal cruise one way that transits all the way through the canal, we could very well consider that one too instead of taking the ferry excursion. Adds a few ports in Mexico and debarks in Los Angeles.  


Still have some time to figure this out.  Maybe even hold off and get some reviews of the Encore too, new doesn't always mean better. 

Edited by BarnCat1
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