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Trip Report Panama Canal Transit

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My Panama Canal Cruise with HAL On the Beautiful and Elegant Statendam:

I am usually a solo traveler, but did a Panama Canal Transit with a good friend who had it on the top of her Wish List. We were on HAL’ s Statendam . San Diego to Fort Lauderdale, Jan. 20-Feb.3.

We flew from Newark Airport on Continental (using FF miles to upgrade to First/Business). We checked into the Wyndham Garden Hotel and immediately went to a late lunch with my Sister-in-Law who lives near San Diego. I had probably the best lasagna I’ve ever had at Fillipi’s. After she gave us a driving tour of San Diego.

The next day we took a taxi to the pier and embarked at 11:30 am. HAL has a policy to allow immediate access to cabins, so I found mine on Deck 9 and my friend’s on Deck 4.

For the next nine days we headed south From San Diego toward the Panama Canal. We made stops in Puerto Vallarta, Huatulco and Puerto Chiapas, Mexico and Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala. Since I’ve been all over Mexico, we didn’t do any excursions. The only one of those ports that was at a town was Santa Cruz in Huatulco.

After the last port, we lost power in two out of our five engines so did not arrive at Fuerte Amador, Panama until 10 pm rather than the scheduled 4 p.m. Consequently we could not go ashore as planned.

Early (5 am) the next day we were on deck to see our entrance to the Panama Canal. It was quite exciting. Hot Drinks and Panama Buns were served on the decks. It took us all day to go through the entire canal and it was very interesting.

Our last stop was Cartagena, Colombia. I took a HAL City Highlights Tour. This city was a complete surprise! It was beautiful, and historically quite interesting. I found it intriguing enough that I would like to return.

We had three days of very bad weather: The sea day between Panama and Cartagena and then the two days after Cartagena into Fort Lauderdale. It was so bad that open decks were closed and we were asked to bolt down items in our cabins and avoid using the stairs.

On Feb. 3rd we arrived on time into Ft. Lauderdale…7:00 am.

We used Luggage Direct , so we received our Continental Boarding Passes on board and didn’t see our luggage from the evening prior to disembarking until we landed at Newark.

My General Impressions:
The Statendam is smaller than most other ships I have cruised on and at first I found the constant movement and rocking a little disconcerting.

Service on was outstanding. Everyone from the Captain (Frans Consen) on down were friendly and made the cruise very special. Captain Consen is quite the character….we all loved his announcements!

The librarian, David, was great. He organized a Book Club and the ten of us who participated had a real treat.

In general the food was also very good. One thing I like about HAL ships is that they have delicious hard ice cream . To my dismay and many others we spend a few days with a broken ice cream maker.

The amount of activities offered each day was a little slim. I would have liked more.

This ship seriously needs mechanical work. Not only did we have engine trouble, but twice the emergency alarms sounded since electrical fires were detected.

The was a wonderful trip, primarily due to the transit of the Canal. I liked the Statendam and hope they are able to get her problems solved.

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