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I'm starting to work on my next bucket list item,  Panama. My interest started from reading "The Path Between the Seas" many years ago. I see most of the Windstar cruises are between Colon and Costa Rica. Do you fly into (or out of) Panama City for Colon? How does that work? I'm wondering about the airfare costs mainly, I guess. Do you think Windstar does a good Panama trip?

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We did this several years ago on Windstar.  Flew into Panama City, taxi to Colon (about $100) and ended up disembarking in Costa Rica.  We loved the small ship transit through the canal because you could see so much more than on a large cruise ship.  The narrator on board was excellent.  Don't know if Panama now has Uber, if they do, might be cheaper.  Do not go to Colon until day of embarkation, the city is a dump and not that safe.

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2 hours ago, O2B@Cagain said:

I'm starting to work on my next bucket list item,  Panama. My interest started from reading "The Path Between the Seas" many years ago. I see most of the Windstar cruises are between Colon and Costa Rica. Do you fly into (or out of) Panama City for Colon? How does that work? I'm wondering about the airfare costs mainly, I guess. Do you think Windstar does a good Panama trip?

You can also arrange to take the Windstar transfer by bus from a hotel (it is often the Bristol) in Panama City to Colon.  We did that all three times we sailed out of Colon.  You are not required to stay at the hotel in order to take the transfer.  It is quite convenient.  The transit of the canal is so fascinating, especially on a small ship.  Costa Rica is wonderful!

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Highly recommend WS small ship through the canal. We also had an excellent narrater. Most fascinating day. We took the WS transfer to the hotel. It was narrated along the way and we went into the old US military station. We did not stay at  WS  hotel but around the  connor  at the Hilton and the bus dropped us off there. I always recommend to read The Path Between the Seas, before a trip through or at the canal, I think you get more out of the canal with background info. Plus it is a great story. Happy Sailing. 

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We flew into Panama City a few days prior to the start of our Windstar cruise. We stayed in Casco Viejo, the historic district of Panama City. We stayed in a boutique hotel that was fabulous - Las Clementinas. We walked all over and saw the sights, ate, drank and did a little shopping too. We hired a car and driver (the hotel helped us with this) who had worked for US government and the canal. He was a fascinating storyteller and we learned a lot about the canal and Panama on our way to Colon to pick up the cruise. He took us right to the port; he didn't like Colon at all and got us there just in time for boarding to start. We ended our cruise in Costa Rica and took a cab from the port to San Jose for our flight home. There were cabs waiting and we negotiated a rate and off we went.

 

It was a wonderful cruise and we so enjoyed being on a smaller ship. It was so easy to go from bow to stern, port to starboard whenever we wanted. It was on my bucket list as well and I feel so lucky we were able to sail on Windstar!

 

DSCN0687.JPG

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We went from Costa Rica to Colon - at the end we used the WS transfer (which we usually don't do) and it was fine - we had a tour as part of it (part of which duplicated the Old City tour we'd already done) and the airport dropoff was a breeze.

 

I must say that we were one of the unfortunate groups who had a HORRID canal passage. It was 100@ in the dark of night and we saw essentially nothing. I believe that WS heard us loud and clear and the transits are now in the daytime. For us the trip of a lifetime didn't turn out that way

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Thanks, everyone.

milepig: I can't imagine doing a canal trip in the dark. Is that something that happens occasionally?

Re: Colon...Yes, I've heard terrible stories about it. Suspect we will just go with the Windstar transfer there.

Ski Mom: I saw your recommendation on another thread. Thank you again.

Strenz: Yes, I agree that the Path is a fascinating story and I plan on re-reading it prior to the trip.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, O2B@Cagain said:

Thanks, everyone.

milepig: I can't imagine doing a canal trip in the dark. Is that something that happens occasionally?

 

 

We still don't know. It was a very odd day - we were all rushed back from our WS tours - told, hurry, hurry, hurry, the ship is preparing to embark (Panama City is a tender port.) Then we then waited and waited and waited while big ships passed us and entered the canal.

 

The rumors on board and after were that WS was saving money since a nightime passage is cheaper. We were told they were trying to "protect us from the daylight sun" - which didn't ring true to any of us. It may just be that it was a crowded day, and we drew the short straw and had to wait longer than expected, but you'd think they'd have said that. There were a lot of complaints and I'm sure it wound up on all the evaluation forms. I haven't heard anything about the night time crossing continuing, so either it was truly a one up or WS learned their lesson. In any case, it certainly didn't ruin the entire trip since we had many great days, but it didn't meet anyone's expectations.

 

Now that I type this, I have a vague recollection that there may have briefly been warnings on the booking page after our experience along the lines of "the canal crossing will be (or may be) at night..." but I might be making that up.

Edited by milepig

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4 hours ago, milepig said:

Now that I type this, I have a vague recollection that there may have briefly been warnings on the booking page after our experience along the lines of "the canal crossing will be (or may be) at night..." but I might be making that up.

You aren't making that up. I remember after your cruise and the hoopla that went with it WS did start stating about the crossing taking place day or night. 

 

I couldn't believe that had happened to you. We had such a marvelous crossing I couldn't even imagine doing it in the dark. (OK maybe something else in the dark but not crossing the Panama Canal! 😉

 

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We flew into Costa Rica via Panama and stayed a few days in a nice hotel in the hills above the city, Hotel Buena Vista. Lovely views and away from the hustle and bustle.  Private taxi transfer to the ship. We planned it that way so the highlight of the cruise, the passage through the canal, came at the end. The cruise was great, usual superb Windstar service, and amazing to go through on a small ship. Couldn’t believe it was built so long ago.

We also stayed at Las Clementinas, would highly recommend their lovely apartments.

It’s in the Old Town. Panama City was fascinating.

 

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1 hour ago, Ski Mom 2 said:

I couldn't believe that had happened to you. We had such a marvelous crossing I couldn't even imagine doing it in the dark. (OK maybe something else in the dark but not crossing the Panama Canal! 😉

Yep - sad but true. In we can't remember how many WS cruises, we've had two really bad experiences, and both involved bucket list items.

 

The other was the Tall Ship cruise for Amsterdam. The trip began with some of the best experiences we've ever had bun then unraveled in Amsterdam. We'd all been told that we would arrive early and wait for the tall ships and then we would "lead them in and then moor and watch them pass." Instead we entered and moored hours before the first tall ship arrived. They moored us off to one side around a corner and beyond where the tall ships moored. All we saw was the tips of their masts, and by the time we realized what was happening it was too late to get off ship and hoof it to somewhere where we could see them.

 

If WS had told us this, there was plenty of time to get somewhere where we could have watched, (the tram to Centraal Station ran a few feet from our mooring, for example) but by the time we realized what was happening time for that opportunity had passed. Everyone was beyond angry, and the  Cruise Director (or whatever he was called then) (who later got into a fight with the tourist office representative in front of passengers, but that's another story), had to stand up in front of all of us to talk about the situation. When some people said "This isn't what we were promised" his response was "I NEVER promised you that." When the passengers hauled out a piece of paper with the information printed on it he said "I don't know where you got THAT, I didn't promise you anything" and pretty much stormed away. Later in the same trip he also gave us completely wrong information and then denied he'd said it, but that's also another story.

 

We actually took a couple years away from WS after this, but then a deal that was too good to pass up came along, and ever since everything has been fine.

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Opposite Tall Ships experience with Tall Ships. We loved every second and the 12 friends traveling with us  did as well and the one couple we met and have traveled with on WS since then did as well. WS was informed that morning that the harbor master had second thoughts. We were up at 5 am and on deck we knew things had changed. The parade was slow ( sail boats i n a parade are slow  )  but where we anchored was fabulous yes we saw the tips of the masts but we saw thousands of other joyous boats. We saw the king in his boat as well as a boat loaded with cabbage. Having sailed to and watched  Tall Ships in Boston 1976 and NYC (forget year ) this was as good or better. The thousands of boats that circled the Surf was mesmerizing, we were very close go the dock to go ashore fabulous, two nights of glorious fireworks, the  best we  have ever seen, the weather beyond perfect, the little daily gifts. We felt WS was at its best given that people did moan, we felt badly for the crew. Having sailed my life this was truly one of the greatest sails of my life. Did we lead the parade no, where we were anchored perfectly,  yes, did we see the ships yes as we walked along the quays, did we see other ships/boats yes thousands of them. Our experience it was better than what WS could have possibly anticipated/advertised. 

We all are different with different expectations. We loved, loved loved every minute. 

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Strenz said:

Opposite Tall Ships experience with Tall Ships. We loved every second and the 12 friends traveling with us  did as well and the one couple we met and have traveled with on WS since then did as well. WS was informed that morning that the harbor master had second thoughts. We were up at 5 am and on deck we knew things had changed. The parade was slow ( sail boats i n a parade are slow  )  but where we anchored was fabulous yes we saw the tips of the masts but we saw thousands of other joyous boats. We saw the king in his boat as well as a boat loaded with cabbage. Having sailed to and watched  Tall Ships in Boston 1976 and NYC (forget year ) this was as good or better. The thousands of boats that circled the Surf was mesmerizing, we were very close go the dock to go ashore fabulous, two nights of glorious fireworks, the  best we  have ever seen, the weather beyond perfect, the little daily gifts. We felt WS was at its best given that people did moan, we felt badly for the crew. Having sailed my life this was truly one of the greatest sails of my life. Did we lead the parade no, where we were anchored perfectly,  yes, did we see the ships yes as we walked along the quays, did we see other ships/boats yes thousands of them. Our experience it was better than what WS could have possibly anticipated/advertised. 

We all are different with different expectations. We loved, loved loved every minute. 

 

So. You were informed of the changes? We were not!!  And when we asked we were told there were no changes and what we received had always been the plan. You say you there were changes, contradicting what the WS staff told us. What can I say. Different experiences!!  I felt sorry for the crew as well, except for the cruise director who should never be placed in front of a customer, which is what our evaluation said. 

 

We settled down and had a good time despite feeling like we’d been sold a barrel of lies (not benefitting from the intel you rwcwived) but with a bad taste in our mouths. We love Amsterdam and had a great time returning to old haunts and a silly canal parade we discovered on our own but that had nothing to do with WS who I still think oversold the experience. I actually found the first piece of PR that made us book. From the first word it was we would “lead the parade”. That was the highlight and it didn’t happen with no notification we received and then WS had the gall to deny it had ever been promised. 

Edited by milepig

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Hi, again, We went up  onboard at 5 am because we thought  that the ship’s route was changed (due to a time change coming into the harbor time and route), we wanted to experience actually coming into Amsterdam. There were perhaps 3 other people on deck with us. We knew that the harbor master and a crew had a huge argument because the harbor master changed the route. Nick, the hotel manager, was involved because he is Dutch and it was all done in Dutch. My husband and I have been around boats for years  and we know that when the harbormaster speaks it is a done deal. So we thought that WS did a great job with the change and making sure with an uncomfortable situation it was still great. Our friend and my husband had the maritime charts on their devices and both thought that the route that they had for the Surf there was no way it was going to get in that way. I think what happened WS was told it would be in the parade/ lead the parade it was supposed to be until reality set in.  Given the info we had and common sense from the marine charts we settled  in and simply had one of the best travel times of our life.  I know some people were upset but our group and our newly made friends thought the entire “show “ was tremendous. On the trip  I had  never observed then and since so many rude and insensitive people. That was sad. Happy Sailing. 

PS feel for you going through the canal in the dark, that would have been grim. Again, we had a fabulous experience with WS going through. Glad it is now day light  only. 

 

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Thanks. You were lucky to have gotten the information that would have helped so many people cope and adjust. Had we known a simple. choice would have been to hop on the very convenient tram to Centraal Station or the top of that big ramp thing (blanking in the name) where the views much have been great. But we all stood in deck thinking the show would start at any time until it was too late. 

 

Yes, there were many rude people, I think many were reacting to the rude crew member who repeatedly abused them and accused them of lying (in those words). We never saw him again which is a good thing!  We were also victims of other rude pax. We were standing outside by the railing waiting for the fireworks show (which was great) when people SITTING inside sucking down drinks asked us to move as we were blocking their view. 

 

A very unusual itin. It began fantastic, lost its way a bit in Amsterdam and Rotterdam and then recovered for the rest of the trip where we had some great days. The highlight for us was to arrive in Dover to see fast friends who we met on Singapore-Dubai standing on shore waving at us and we had a great day touring wineries and having lunch before they got us to the train to London for our Michelin started dinner. A bad day can’t get us down!

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Hi again and last,  promise. I see you did not, like Rotterdam, again we had a great day. I discovered that Delfshaven was the old port of Rotterdam and it was the only part of Rotterdam that did not get totally destroyed during WWII and the Speedwell left from there. The original capstans of the Speedwell was in front of the church. In my research I discovered the Pilgrims from Leiden stayed over night in a church there before they left for Plymouth and over. As we know the Speedwell broke down but really the captain did not want to make the journey and everyone boarded in Plymouth. The rest is history.The church’s historian provided us with a lecture, movie and the church has a small museum, absolutely riveting history. I am hopping he will come and give a talk at Pilgrim Hall in Plymouth for the 400 celebration next year.   After the church  we had a walking tour of Delfshaven, then the driver and guide took us into Rotterdam to the see food hall with the trompe l’oeil tile ceiling.,  remarkable. Of course the art museum has some of the greatest Dutch works. I am a travel researcher because my interests and curiosity are very different than most. I get my own tours or create them and find a person who will do it for me. We had a spectacular time in Rotterdam, plus we love harbors. It added to the total enjoyment of Tall Ships. We have some of our best traveling with WS and are therefore grateful. I am first generation US and my husband is French Canadian so the Pilgrims are far from my history but it is still most interesting. Happy Sailing. 

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We were also on Tall Ships and loved it so much we have booked again for 2020! It happened that we were within earshot of the big screaming fight with the harbor master and bottom line,  Windstar did not get what had been promised to them.  But I thought our positioning was wonderful with fireworks overhead, all one had to do was look up. The concert across the water and the ships and boats circling the Surf was the experience of a lifetime. Photo attached is one of hundreds taken on that trip. Listening to Anchors Away being sung in Dutch was hilarious. We walked all over Amsterdam and took a ride on the huge ferris wheel. My Sail Amsterdam 2015 shirt that I purchased is one of my prized possessions! Had a fabulous private tour guide in Rotterdam and thoroughly enjoyed the day as we did all of the ports on that cruise. We stayed on when the ship got to Dover and sailed back across the Chanel. There was a stop in Cherbourg and we were bussed to the American Cemetery and the Normandy beaches, Utah and Omaha. The most extraordinary trip of our lives. Made some extraordinary friends along the way. Great memories.

20150820_222413.jpg

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We loved the Panama Canal trip!  We went from Puerto Caldera in Costa Rica to Colon, which was great since the Panama Canal was transited on the last full day, rather than at the beginning, since for me it was the highlight of the trip.  We were told the night before that our transit would start at 5.30 AM, and we started right on time.  We finished around 12.30 PM, with a complimentary glass of champagne as we went through the last lock.  🙂

 

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In regards when ships transit the canal.  Unless things have changed with the addition of the new locks, ships can bid on a slot to go through the canal.  I guess Windstar didn't offer enough money to get a daytime slot.  At one time, Princess had paid the highest price to get one of their ships through the canal.  They have two ships, the Coral Princess and the Diamond Princess, that were specifically to be as large as possible but still fit into the locks of the canal. (this was pre new locks)

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