- Before the cruise - San Diego, California
- From San Diego, California to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
- Along the Pacific coast to Huatulco
- Along the land bridge between Mexico and Panama
- Drive through the Panama Canal
- From the Panama Canal to Willemstad, Curaçao
- On the way to Fort Lauderdale
- Our Panama Canal cruise in review
With MS Rotterdam we drive from San Diego in California along the west coast of North and Central America through the Panama Canal and through the Caribbean to Fort Lauderdale.
Many new destinations await us, such as Puerto Vallarta and Huatulco in Mexico or Puntarenas in Costa Rica.
Before the cruise - San Diego, California
The day before the cruise begins, we will fly from Düsseldorf to San Diego. The plane is surprisingly empty and we have a comfortable seat with extra legroom. Even so, a flight that lasts more than 12 hours is an ordeal.
On the approach we see the extensive development of San Diego. We are looking forward to this city, which we do not know yet. You can find detailed information in our article San Diego. We land at 14:10pm local time, according to German time it would now be 23:10pm Our luggage arrives quickly and immigration doesn't take long either.
Facades of San Diego Broadway
It's sunny and warm. We take the bus, which stops right at the terminal, into town. It's a 15-minute drive from the airport to downtown San Diego. Our hotel is located on Broadway near the Gaslamp District, a well-known trendy area of the city.
We're exploring San Diego
After checking in, we go to Broadway Pier. The ferry to Coronado Island, a peninsula in the bay of San Diego, starts here. We walk south along the promenade along the water, past the aircraft carrier MS Midway, which serves as a museum, to the art object Embracing Peace.
Tuna Wharf Park with the monumental statue Embracing Peace
The sculpture of a couple lovingly embracing each other can be found many times around the world. This is intended to commemorate the capitulation of Japan and the end of the Second World War. In our post San Diego attractions we provide information about attractive things from A to Z.
In the Gaslamp District
It gets dark early, at 16:30pm we are surprised by dusk. We actually want to go to Seaport Village. That'll have to wait until tomorrow.
We want to experience the beginning of the evening in the Gaslamp District. There are plenty of bars and pubs, many shops and restaurants in the nightlife district of San Diego. We opt for a typical American sports bar with large TVs, delicious beer and fast food.
Taste & Thirst sports bar in the Gaslamp district
We won't last long. At 19:30pm we are back at the hotel. We have been on our feet for about 24 hours and are completely overtired.
By bus and trolley through San Diego
After ten hours of sleep and rest, we make our way through San Diego. We leave our luggage at the concierge. We take the bus to the Old Town San Diego. This is a historical museum village where old handicraft techniques are demonstrated. There are also very nice bars and cafes.
From Old Town San Diego we take the Green Line trolley to Seaport Village. This is located on San Diego Bay and offers amusement right on the water: shopping, dining, entertainment. We go back at the waterfront to the World Pier, where the Rotterdam has now moored. Our floating hotel for the next 14 days makes a good impression.
MS Rotterdam - our floating hotel
Check-in on the Rotterdam went smoothly, and after ten minutes we were already on board. We have a bite to eat at the Seaview Pool in front of the Lido restaurant. It is now very cloudy and the weather is changing.
Bark Star of India in the Bay of San Diego
We like our small suite very much. It has an entrance, a bedroom and a seating area. The individual areas can be separated by curtains. Our suitcases are also quickly in the cabin. Before the rescue exercise began at 16:00pm, we unpacked and stowed everything. You can find all the details about this ship in our post MS Rotterdam.
We're leaving San Diego
From the Seaview Pool on deck 8, we watch the Rotterdam leave San Diego. It's dark now and it's raining lightly. In the afternoon at 5 o'clock nothing can be seen. Too bad. I was looking forward to the drive through San Diego Bay past Coronado Island and Point Loma.
View of San Diego's waterfront
In the evening we eat in the serving restaurant. We don't have a set meal time. The service is quick and perfect. Waiters, assistants and drinks waiters, they are all a well-coordinated team and it runs like clockwork.
Then we stroll a bit over the ship and finally land on Billboard onboard. Two piano players and singers - a woman, a man - have been performing rousing songs from the last 50 years.
From San Diego, California to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Our cruise starts with two days at sea. So we have a lot of time to explore Rotterdam. The weather is sunny and warm. We're going south and it's getting a few degrees warmer every day.
Two days at sea
I like the Rotterdam very much. She has style. The ship is elegantly furnished and well maintained. The space on the outside decks and in the inside areas is generous. You can walk around the ship on deck 3.
The promenade deck of the MS Rotterdam
The approximately 3,50 meter wide promenade is protected under the lifeboats. Three and a half laps equals one mile. In the middle of the ship, 20 cabins were fitted with sliding doors on each side. In this way, guests have direct access to the promenade and their personal deckchairs in front of each cabin. Very comfortable.
Vista Suite 6138
Our Vista Suite 6138 is located on deck 6 forward to port between stairs A and B. It is spacious and there is plenty of storage space. The furnishings are tasteful, the colors are warm and cozy. I especially like the beds. The mattresses are wonderfully comfortable and there are pillows of different sizes.
Only the bathroom looks a bit worn. Nothing has been done there for a long time, and the ship has been in service since 1997. Two room attendants take care of our cabin. Service and cleanliness are perfect.
Relax by the pool
We spend most of our two days at sea lazing around. The loungers at the two pools are just as comfortable as the deckchairs on the promenade. After a short time, this is our preferred place to relax.
Lido Pool of the MS Rotterdam
We also listen to lectures about our next travel destinations. The cruise director briefly explains the destinations of the cruise. Very informative and very good. And captain Pieter Bant introduces himself, a Dutchman - suitable for the Holland America Line.
Early in the morning we reach Bahía de Banderas, the wide bay in which the Mexican seaside resort of Puerto Vallarta is located. We dock in the cruise port when it is still dark. The location of the marina is beautiful.
Puerto Vallarta with the Zona Hotelera
I especially like the mountains in the background. The wide bay is heavily built up and still looks inviting. Palm trees, hibiscuses, rubber trees, bougainvilleas and many other green and flowering plants create a fantastic setting.
We leave the Rotterdam shortly before 9:00am It's going to be a hot, sunny day. It is an estimated 500 meters to the port exit. For this route, the port administration provides shuttle buses that take passengers to the terminal.
The cruise terminal is currently being extensively converted. Everything looks spacious and clear and is designed very chic. We think Hamburg could take Puerto Vallarta as an example.
Bus travel in Puerto Vallarta is not a problem
Our plan for Puerto Vallarta is to take the local bus to downtown. The original Puerto Vallarta is about five kilometers from the marina. You can find interesting information about the place and its sights in our article Puerto Vallarta.
Traveling by bus is not a problem. As a precaution, we ask the driver whether we have chosen the right bus. We can pay with US dollars. For two US dollars and 10 pesos change we drive to the Malecón. This is Puerto Vallarta's beautiful promenade, which runs almost three kilometers along the sea.
Puerto Vallarta - Malecón with the Museo Naval
Sculptures, including some very unusual ones, are regularly displayed there. We go to the Naval Museum.
From the Malecón to Isla Cuale
A small market takes us to the Parroquia Nuestra Señora de Guadeloupe. The parish church is not particularly big, but very pretty. The tower decorated with a crown is particularly striking.
Our next destination is Casa Kimberly, the house where Elizabeth Taylor lived. It's a steep uphill walk over cobblestone streets, stairs and uneven paths. And there is little to see. The Casa Kimberly is a luxury hotel and at least today it cannot be visited.
Nearby, the Gringo Gulch Bridge leads down steps to Isla Cuale. The Cuale River, which flows into the sea a little later, encloses an island overgrown with tropical plants. In the middle of lush greenery there are cozy bars and restaurants, small shops selling arts and crafts and kitsch, as well as an eco-center.
Romantic district and Playa los Muertos
We leave Isla Cuale over the next bridge and enter the romantic quarter. There are many small shops, galleries, restaurants and pretty colonial houses here. We're going towards the beach. A scenic path separates the hotels and bars from the long, sandy bay of Playa los Muertos, one of Puerto Vallarta's famous beaches.
Muelle de Playa los Muertos in Puerto Vallarta
From the Muelle de los Muertos, where excursion boats moor and pelicans rest, you have a beautiful view of Puerto Vallarta. Sun, sand, sea, boats: it's just the thing after a cold November in Germany.
Conclusion Puerto Vallarta
At the water we go back, cross the Cuale River on a bridge and reach the Malecón again. At the Nuestra Señora de Guadeloupe church, we board a bus heading for Marina Vallarta and arrive at the cruise terminal in the early afternoon.
We liked Puerto Vallarta a lot. The location of the place is exceptionally beautiful. Mountains, sea and lush greenery are real eye-catchers. The place is clean and tidy. We also felt safe and welcome at all times.
The Rotterdam leaves the port of Puerto Vallarta at 16:00pm As we sail out we meet the Marigalante.
The picturesque three-master is a replica of the Santa Maria with which Columbus discovered America. It is used for trips to Banderas Bay.
Along the Pacific coast to Huatulco
After a hearty breakfast by the pool, we circle the ship on deck 3, the Lower Verandah deck. You can see the sea through the metal railing. Today dolphins accompany us from time to time.
Jogging track of the MS Rotterdam
A day at sea
Sun and clouds alternate, temperatures are between 25 and 28 degrees. In the late afternoon, the high-rise buildings of Acapulco appear on the coast.
Pleasant fellow travelers
There are 702 cabins on board the Rotterdam. About 80% of the 1080 guests are Americans and Canadians. The other travelers come from more than 20 countries. The language on board is English, with general information about the ship or safety as well as current news, for example, also in Spanish, Dutch or German. Most of the travelers are over the age of 60. It is accordingly relaxed and serene on board. The crew consists of 572 people.
Always important on a cruise: the food
Choice, taste and freshness: all dishes are excellent at any time and in any of the restaurants.
In the mornings, we almost always have breakfast in the Lido Market buffet restaurant, which also has nice outdoor seating by the two pools. We enjoy eating outside. In the Lido Market, the dishes are offered according to theme. There are stations for fresh, fried, bread and cakes, fruits and so on. The meals are often presented by service staff. You choose, the service takes care of everything else. Very hygienic. And everything tastes delicious and is presented invitingly.
In the bay of Santa Cruz Huatulco
The next morning we reach our second Mexican destination, Huatulco. The harbor Santa Cruz Huatulco lies in a narrow bay and is surrounded by lush hills and mountains.
Huatulco-Bahia de Santa Cruz
To the north is the national park, to the right and left are rocky bays and sandy beaches. It is a picturesque sight. We watch the run in from the balcony and while we are having breakfast. You can find interesting information about this region in our articles Huatulco and Huatulco sightseeing.
The ship is released at 8:00am and we are on our way a little later. It's getting really hot today. We charter one of the small private boats and let us drive to the rocky cliffs of Parque National and the many sandy bays.
Almost all of the surrounding beaches can only be reached by boat. Little paradises. We see frigate birds, pelicans, an eagle and rainbow fish.
Walk through La Crucecita Huatulco
Back at the Marina Santa Cruz we take a taxi and drive to La Crucecita Huatulco. The center of Huatulco is a little inland. It's only two kilometers and there are three very nice ways to get there. We are actually used to walking this route, but the temperature of more than 30 degrees and the high humidity bothers us.
La Crucecita is a place with nice bars, restaurants and shops. There is a lot of silver and handicrafts on offer, but of course also the usual trinkets. We visit the small church and stroll through the town.
Street scene in the center of La Crucecita
Everything is very clean, no dirt, no rubbish. After an hour we go back. At the port we enjoy the stay in a beach bar. We can do well in the shade.
Again we saw something new. This time a region in Mexico that relies on ecotourism. Very different from the large, lively seaside resort of Puerto Vallarta. We liked both Huatulco - Santa Cruz and La Crucecita - a lot.
Santa Cruz Huatulco - Beach and MS Rotterdam
Unfortunately, our stay was a little too tight. We would have liked to have made a trip to Parque National, which has been a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 2006.
Along the land bridge between Mexico and Panama
The Rotterdam leaves the port of Santa Cruz Huatulco shortly after noon. Just an hour later, the sea is so strong that the outside decks have to be locked. The pools are also covered. Water regularly sloshes over the deck. I feel a little seasick, although the Rotterdam plows very reliably through the heavy seas. The unsettled weather lasts until evening, then it gets better.
Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala
The next morning we reach Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala. We have never been to Guatemala. Puerto Quetzal is a pretty barren industrial port. And far from any tourist attraction.
The industrial port of Puerto Quetzal
The Rotterdam is on land on a pontoon. A bridge leads to a very nicely designed tourist center. There is information in small huts, tours are offered and a lot of handicrafts. Of course, the usual t-shirts and shirts are not missing.
Shore excursion to La Antigua Guatemala
Because of the long distances in Guatemala, we booked an excursion with Holland America. We believe that Holland America Line tours are good value for money. We decided to transfer to La Antigua Guatemala, the former capital. We organize the stay there ourselves. Antigua has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979.
It takes us 90 minutes to get to Antigua. During the trip, our guide provides information about the country and its people. At first the land is flat, then it goes up into the mountains up to 1500 meters.
Guatemala - Volcan de Acatenango
Sugar cane is grown in the lowlands and coffee in the highlands. We learn a lot on this trip. We like the landscape very much: Lots of green and many volcanoes, including a smoking one. The higher we get, the cooler it gets. While it was still 30 degrees on the coast, it is a pleasant 22 degrees in Antigua.
A well-preserved baroque city
Before we reach Antigua, we change to two smaller buses. Large coaches are not allowed to drive in the baroque city. The streets date back to the 17th century and should be saved from destruction. We planned our tour in advance. Three and a half hours to see the old houses, the Palacio de los Capitanes, the ruins of the cathedral, the Arco de Santa Catalina and some of the former 15 monasteries and 26 churches.
You can find everything about our tour in our article One day in Antigua / Guatemala. Time flies like in flight. We see a lot of this partly well restored baroque city. However, we don't take a break. In the afternoon we meet with the others and drive back to Puerto Quetzal.
Conclusion Antigua Guatemala
A nice day, a successful excursion. We didn't expect a place like Antigua. And we saw vultures, macaws and a hummingbird, all in the wild, even though we weren't on a nature trip.
Antigua - San José Cathedral
We stay a little longer in the marina of Puerto Quetzal and only board an hour before departure. We spend a quiet evening in the Ocean Bar and go to bed early.
Puerto Corinto / Nicaragua
Another country awaits us - Nicaragua. And with Puerto Corinto another industrial port. Traders have set up their stands in front of the ship. A band is playing, supported by a huge amplifier.
In addition, dancers appear in national costumes. Because of the school holidays, there are also quite a few children. It's a very friendly welcome. You can find detailed information in our article Corinto port.
With the cycle rickshaw through Puerto Corinto
A few cycle rickshaws are already waiting for guests in the port area. They belong to the Corinto cooperative and are therefore allowed into the port area. A tour of the town is available for US $ 20. Just outside the port, $ 10 is charged and then $ 5 in town.
The cycle rickshaw - the main means of transport in Puerto Corinto
Josi drives us through the checkerboard streets of Corinto for about an hour. We see the market, an elementary school, a high school, the beautiful church, the beach and the Circo Colorinto. This youth circus is a cooperation project with the city of Cologne, Corinto's twin city.
Then we go on a walking tour. The city is dirty, there is rubbish everywhere. There are a lot of stray dogs. The black beach looks tidy at first glance, but in the back area, plastic scraps, metal parts and bottles pile up in hollows.
Only one residential area we drive through convinces with cleanliness. I will remember Corinto as dirty and unattractive. Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the world, but poverty and garbage do not have to go together.
Conclusion Puerto Corinto
It is nice to look at the lush green land from the ship: mountains and volcanoes in the background, small islands near the harbor, a beautiful long beach.
Puerto Corinto - Barrio el Centro
And the people are friendly. Nicaragua has a lot that can inspire a traveler. Dirt and garbage are not included.
Puerto Caldera / Costa Rica
We drive in a south-westerly direction along the Central American Pacific coast. The next morning we reach Caldera in Costa Rica. Depending on the water level, cruise ships dock in Puerto Caldera or the better known Puntarenas. In Puerto Caldera there is a small terminal for cruise ships with a shop and WiFi.
You can find more information in our article Puerto Caldera. Two other ships are in the harbor: the tall ship "Windstar" and the small cruise ship "Panorama".
Shore excursion to the highlands of Costa Rica
It's very hot again today, over 30 degrees. Later in the highlands it gets cooler. We booked a shore excursion with Holland America Line. We will visit the Espirito Santo coffee plantation in Naranjo and the Fabrica de Carretas Eloy Alfaro, an ox-cart manufacturer, in Sarchí.
Slope with coffee plants in the Espiritu Santo coffee plantation
Both places are in the highlands of Costa Rica. Part of our route leads over the Pan, the famous road from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. There is a lot of traffic and it takes us more than two hours to get to our destination, some 70 kilometers away.
Coffee plantation and ox cart
The tour of the plantation and processing areas is very interesting. We saw something similar a long time ago in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica, but there as a very small manufacture.
Espiritu Santo coffee plantation - fruit clusters of the coffee plants
We continue to Sarchí. The place is known for the construction of ox carts, as they were used in the past for the transport of agricultural products. Now they serve primarily as ornaments. Painted and varnished in color, they actually look very pretty.
You can find information about Costa Rica's highlands at Puntarenas sights.
Conclusion Puerto Caldera
Costa Rica's landscape is impressive. Everything is green and the biodiversity is great. Flora and fauna are a pound that Costa Rica is proliferating with. And we see macaques and black vultures.
Costa Rica's tropical highlands
In the evening we have to go to the medical department. I've caught a bad cold.
At sea off Panama
We were on land for four days. A day at sea is very convenient for us before we will sail through the Panama Canal tomorrow.
Where in the world are the Rotterdam passengers? 1079 people are on board. And there are always free loungers and armchairs by the two pools or on the promenade deck. The space available is really considerable.
Sky Deck of the MS Rotterdam
Food is also relaxed. There are seldom queues in the buffet restaurant; at most with the ice cream. In the evenings we almost always eat in the dining room with service. The distance between the tables is generous and comfortable. The restaurant is always well attended. But even without a fixed table time or reservation - as we prefer - you will be seated quickly and the service is professional and quick.
MS Rotterdam - Main Dining Room
The cooking shows that take place mainly on days at sea are also well attended. Holland America organizes the entertaining demonstrations on board together with America`s Test Kitchen, a well-known and popular TV cooking show in the USA for years. On board the Rotterdam that means: Prepare and taste delicious things and learn new tricks.
MS Rotterdam - Cooking Show - America's Test Kitchen
In the afternoon we will again receive current information about the course of tomorrow. Then we will enter the Panama Canal at Balboa at 5:00am, reach the first lock at 6:30am and slowly cross the continent on this famous canal until five in the afternoon.
Drive through the Panama Canal
We get up at 5:00 am. It's already 28 degrees, and it's very humid. The Rotterdam sails slowly in the channel of the Panama Canal. Panama City is on the right in front of us. The skyscrapers look like a string of lights. You can find interesting information about the famous sea route in our articles Panama Canal and Panama Canal Passage
Holland America has Panama Rolls
In the dark we pass the Puente de las Américas, the first of the three bridges over the Panama Canal.
Panama Canal - Puente de las Americas
We have breakfast on the outside deck by the Seaview Pool so we don't miss anything. It gets light at 6:15 am. A little later we enter the Miraflores lock and see the silhouette of Panama City.
In the distance: Panama City
Panama Rolls are available from 6:30am These are delicious small cakes filled with vanilla cream and pieces of peach. A must for Holland America on any trip through the Panama Canal. The waiters keep dropping by with trays full of tempting rolls.
From the Pacific to the Atlantic
This is followed by Lake Miraflores, the Pedro Miguel Lock and the Puente Centenario, the second glaring bridge over the canal. We can watch the passage from many vantage points on different decks. The bow, which otherwise can only be entered by the nautical crew, is also open to passengers.
We have a Panama Canal expert on board, a former pilot. During the trip he gives information about the history of the construction, the locks, the expansion for Postpanamax ships and so on. I ask him about the cost of a passage. They are determined by very different factors, including whether the old or the new locks have to be negotiated. Little Rotterdam fits into the old locks. The expert puts the cost of our passage at around 230.000 US dollars.
The drive through Gatun Lake is wonderful.
In the middle of the Gatunsee the weather changes. The sun gives way to torrential rain. You can practically see against a wall. Then sun and rain alternate: the usual weather for Panama.
A special experience for more than 100 years
At three in the afternoon we pass the Gatun lock and drive under the last canal bridge, the Puente del Atlántico, which was only completed in August 2019.
Gatun lock and Puente del Atlántico
At Cristobal we leave the Panama Canal an hour later and reach the open sea.
The Panama Canal is 82 kilometers long. It runs through the Isthmus of Panama and connects the Pacific with the Atlantic Ocean. Ships have been sailing the Panama Canal since August 1914. And even more than 100 years later, it is still a very special experience.
From the Panama Canal to Willemstad, Curaçao
I am amazed at the antics of the weather. After leaving the Panama Canal, the wind gets stronger and continues to pick up during the night.
A stormy day at sea
It's stormy in the morning too. The promenade deck is locked and the pools are secured. The ship is calm, so I don't have any problems with seasickness. Today we take the missing photos of the Rotterdam.
Atrium of the MS Rotterdam
With Paula, an employee of the Guest Relation Service, we visit two vacant cabins, one with a sea view and one inside. Both are very similar to our cabin, only slightly smaller. The tub does not have a whirlpool function; the inside cabin has a shower. It's much more practical than a bathtub. I sometimes wonder how overweight people in particular get into a tub on the ship.
Favorite place at the Lido pool
In the afternoon the wind dies down a bit. Regardless of the weather, the area around the Lido Pool always offers places to sit, protected from wind and sun, and plenty of comfortable loungers.
The Lido Bar on the MS Rotterdam
The glass roof is open or closed depending on the weather. You feel like you are in a large courtyard. And it is particularly beneficial that there is no constant background music.
Entertainment in the evening
The MS Rotterdam is a medium-sized cruise ship. Elaborate shows with many dancers and singers are not offered. Soloists, duos and smaller groups perform in the World Stage Theater and in the bars.
Classical music is on the Lincoln Center Stage every night, and the performances are always packed. My absolute music favorite is Billboard Onboard. The two artists play and sing top hits of the last 50 to 60 years on two opposite grand pianos. Emily and Joey perform three times a night, and their shows are immersive.
MS Rotterdam - Billboard Onboard
The BBC film production "Planet Earth II in Concert" will be shown on a big screen in the theater. The musicians of the Lincoln Center Stage play to the extraordinary film recordings.
The evening shows by the Indonesian and Filipino members of the crew are just as well attended. We are always surprised at how many artistic talents there are on cruise ships.
A few years ago we were on Curaçao with the Holland America's Koningsdam. The Koningsdam docked at the mega pier built for large cruise ships. Little Rotterdam, on the other hand, drives through the Sint Annabaai, turns in Schottegat and arrives at Mathey Wharf at the Kura Hulanda Hotel.
MS Rotterdam at Mathey Wharf behind it the Koningin Julianabrug
A nice berth
Behind the ship, the multi-lane Koningin Julianabrug high bridge spans the Sint Annabaai. On the left we look at the famous Handelskade, and in front of us is the Koningin-Emma pontoon bridge. What a lovely berth!
MS Rotterdam at Mathey Wharf with the Koningin Emmabrug
Tour to the east of the island
We would like to take a tour of the west of the island. However, we couldn't find a suitable provider at the small terminal at Mathey Wharf. So we stroll along the Sint Annabaai and through the Rif Fort to the Mega Pier. Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas is located there. The Carnival Horizon is expected for noon. Many tours are always offered at the Mega Pier, unfortunately the West is not included. So we decide to take a trip to the east of Curaçao.
The tour is two hours and costs $ 20. We drive to the most easterly point of the island, visit a liquor factory, drive to the beach and stop at some special viewpoints. There is also information about the country and people from the driver. A worthwhile excursion.
Walk through Willemstadt
After the tour we go back to Rotterdam and take a break. In the afternoon we roam Willemstad.
The Koningin Emmabrug with the Handelskade
We like the place this time too. The city is clean and tidy almost everywhere. During our tour we also saw less inviting corners.
Willemstad has many remarkable buildings and squares that you can see several times. You can find details on this in our article A day on Curacao. The shops in the center appeared to me to be of higher quality three years ago. It may just seem like that to me.
Curacao Baroque - the Penha building in the Punda district
After dinner we walk down the Sint Annabaai again to the Rif Fort. It is dark and the heat of the day has given way to a pleasant warmth. The lighted houses of Punda are pretty to look at.
The Rotterdam leaves her berth shortly after ten and rushes quickly past the Handelskade into the open sea. Ciao Curacao.
On the way to Fort Lauderdale
The last days of our cruise are dawning. Two more days at sea and we'll reach Fort Lauderdale.
The last days at sea
If you don't want to laze around the pools, a day at sea offers many options.
MS Rotterdam gym
You can torture yourself in the well-equipped fitness center, learn to dance - standard or line - or take part in basketball. Those who like it quieter can play bridge, trivia or shuffleboard. And as a place of retreat at any time, I recommend the impressive library. Impressive because of the size, the extensive selection of books and games and the comfortable reading chairs with a view of the sea.
The extensive library of the MS Rotterdam
Many of the free on-board programs are based on remarkable partnerships with Holland America Line. This includes the reading and meditation activities developed by O, The Oprah Magazine. Or the Microsoft Studio Center, which offers up to six course units on the computer every day.
The galley tour is very interesting. Anyone can take part if they are healthy and have signed a declaration beforehand. Then the hands are disinfected and off you go. There are always ten to twelve passengers with a crew member who explains everything and answers questions. The tour takes half an hour. Well done.
MS Rotterdam - kitchen tour
On the last evening there is another gala. For the first time at a dinner I see the dish "Surf and Turf", which means: lobster tail and filet mignon, as a choice on the menu at no extra charge. And it tastes great.
Positive and negative on board
There's always something wrong with a cruise. I don't find much negative about Rotterdam, I could expand the positive at any time.
What I do not like
The Air conditioning: the temperature difference between outside and inside areas in warm regions is problematic for me. I always find it too cool inside. On the Rotterdam, some places in the restaurants are only bearable with a cloth, jacket or sweater.
Reception area of the Main Dining Room of the MS Rotterdam
The Beverage prices are very ambitious. For example, a cup of cappuccino costs $ 4,50, a 0,15 liter glass of wine costs $ 9,00 to $ 14,00, and a beer costs $ 7,25 to $ 7,75. All prices plus 15% service charge.
What I like
Food and drink: All dishes are always delicious and fresh - whether in the dining room, in the Lido Market, in the dive-in or at the pizza bar.
The drinks are just as good. Water, homemade lemonade, iced tea, coffee and a large selection of teas are available around the clock at no extra charge. The salad bar is absolute top: there are always at least three types of leaf salads; a wide variety of raw and prepared vegetables; with chicken, turkey, egg, ham, crab, cheese; five to eight dressings. And everything is very hygienic: the guest chooses, an employee mixes the salad.
The crew, from management to service: extremely competent and committed employees in all areas of the ship. Always friendly, present, prudent and helpful.
MS Rotterdam - the Exploration Café
The ambience of Rotterdam: very stylish, with spacious indoor areas and spacious outdoor decks.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
In the early morning we arrive at Port Everglades Fort Lauderdale. Two days before Christmas it is very busy there. Six cruise ships are located in the huge area of the port: Sky Princess, Adventure of the Seas, Carnival Magic, Celebrity Equinox, Eurodam and Niew Amsterdam. So there is a lot for us to see.
Port Everglades in Broward County / Florida
Our disembarkation works on time and reliably. We have already booked a rental car from Germany. Since our flight back home only starts in Miami in the evening, we use the car for the transfer there and see something of Florida at the same time.
But first we drive to the center of Fort Lauderdale, along Las Olas Boulevard and start with a walk on the Riverwalk on the New River. While we're in Fort Lauderdale, the Riverwalk can't be missed.
South of Port Everglades we drive on the A1A and then along the water to Miami Beach. One last time we take the opportunity to stay by the sea. It's pretty stormy on Hollywood Beach Broadwalk, but warm and sunny. In Germany, cold and rain await us, and we can withstand strong winds.
Deserted beach on Hollywood Beach
From Miami Beach we take the freeway to Miami Airport and drop off the car. There is chaos at the airport. Just before Christmas it is overcrowded. Our aircraft type changes, we get bad seats, the employees and we too are annoyed. Why do we book comfortable seats for a long-haul flight when something always goes wrong. With an hour delay and a lot of turbulence during the flight, we still got home safely.
Our Panama Canal cruise in review
For someone who, like me, is passionate about cruising, the route through the Panama Canal is a must. Travel reports and films about the passage cannot replace your own experience. Apart from Corinto, I also really liked the stops on the trip.
The Rotterdam is the right cruise ship for this trip. Not too big, but with plenty of space and space for every passenger. In addition, great service and little remedies. Exactly suitable for a decelerated boat trip on this extraordinary route.
Panama Canal - Miraflores Lock and Visitor Center