2018 Panama Enchantment

Oceania


On this impressive voyage from the West Coast to the East Coast, you will enjoy the perfect blend of exciting days in fascinating ports of call and warm, relaxing days at sea.

* From the decks of "Insignia", admire the Panama Canal, an astonishing engineering feat first imagined 500 years ago
* Off the coast of Cabo San Lucas, admire the beauty of the dramatic rock formations of Land’s End


Day 1, Fri, June 15, LAXative / Embark
Day 2, Sat, June 16, San Diego
Day 3, Sun, June 17, Cruising the Pacific
Day 4, Mon, June 18, Cabo San Lucas (Tender)
Day 5, Tue, June 19, Cruising the Pacific
Day 6, Wed, June 20, Acapulco
Day 7, Thu, June 21, Cruising the Pacific
Day 8, Fri, June 22, Puerto Quetzal
Day 9, Sat, June 23, Corinto, Nicaragua
Day 10, Sun, June 24, Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Day 11, Mon, June 25, Cruising the Pacific
Day 12, Tue, June 26, Panama Canal Daylight Transit
Day 13, Wed, June 27, Cartagena, Columbia
Day 14, Thu, June 28, Cruzzzing the Caribbean
Day 15, Fri, June 29, Georgetown, Caymans (Tender)
Day 16, Sat, June 30, Cruzzzing the Caribbean
Day 17, Sun, July 1, Miami, Florida


Day 1, Fri, June 15 – LAXative / Embark (1PM – 9PM)
A flight at 7:45AM means a Shuttle pickup about 5AM for the long flight to the LAXative airport.

United UA 1169Houston – LAXative7:45A – 9:23A3:38

Arrive, look for the Oceania rep, and transfer (included) to embark on the INSIGNIA – sister ship to the REGATTA. Arriving at LAXative this early, it will probably be a LONG wait until I get onboard and get something to eat. I had to settle for a C2 "deluxe" ocean view cabin - their least expensive, least convenient, kennel with an outside view of sorts: (4018, port, bow) rather than a veranda. After the usual pre-cruise rigmarole, we finally head south.

Day 2, Sat, June 16 – San Diego, CA (8AM – 4PM)
Yes, this cruise includes time to see something of San Diego. Hooray!

San Diego is living proof that a big city can still feel like a small town. Its Spanish heritage is evident at popular sights like the Junípero Serra Museum, where the first mission was founded, and at Point Loma, which is dominated by a statue of explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo. The breathtaking point is also a great spot to watch for migrating Pacific gray whales. Other noteworthy attractions include the thought-provoking San Diego Museum of Man, the peaceful Botanical Building and Lily Pond, and the signature San Diego Zoo, where rare species such as giant pandas and lowland gorillas are exhibited. Ship buffs will enjoy the maritime museum, where you can board and tour the vessels.

(PBK) SAN-004 San Diego Highlights and Harbor Cruise 3 hours @9:30-12:30
Explore San Diego by land and sea on this excursion that features the city's landmark sights and points of interest. Board your coach at the pier and set-off on a narrated panoramic tour that takes you past the Embarcadero with its harbor views, the Gaslamp Quarter, La Jolla Cove and Village, La Jolla Shores, Seal Rock, Old Town State Park, Mission Bay Park, Heritage Park, Mormon Battalion Memorial and Balboa Park.

The 1,174 acre Balboa Park is San Diego's crown jewel and is the largest urban cultural park in the nation. The Park was established in 1868 in the heart of the city, bordered by downtown to the southwest and fringed by the early communities of Hillcrest and Golden Hill to the north and east. Originally called City Park, the name was eventually changed to commemorate the Spanish Explorer Balboa.

After your coach tour, you'll head to the harbor where you will board a sightseeing vessel that will have you viewing numerous city sights from the water. Your sightseeing cruise also includes the South Bay where you will see the old sailing ship "Star of India", the US Navy Surface Fleet, Coronado Bay Bridge, beaches, and busy shipyards. Following your voyage, you'll meet your coach and make the short transfer back to the ship.

Please note: This tour includes limited walking.

Day 3, Sun, June 17 – Cruising the Pacific #1 of 6


Day 4, Mon, June 18 - Cabo San Lucas, Mexico (12PM - 8PM) anchor port
Revel in a scenic tour of this exotic desert landscape and enjoy fabulous views of the rugged coastline and an incredible cactus garden. Snorkel in a quiet cove or go in search of migrating gray whales. Or visit the neighboring port of San Jose del Cabo for a taste of old Mexico.

(PBK) CAB-007 Land’s End Boat and Cabo View 4 ½ hours @12:30-5
This diverse tour offers you the best of Cabo San Lucas by both sea and land. As you disembark the ship, your comfortable tour boat will be waiting for you, ready to transport you on a brief sail to Land's End, which lies at the southernmost tip of the Baja Peninsula. Relax and enjoy a complimentary beverage as your vessel journeys across the deep blue waters of the Pacific Ocean while an experienced guide provides an informative narration about the history, ecology and major points of interest in the area. This beautiful, yet desolate stretch of rugged coastline offers up some truly spectacular views of towering granite cliffs, unusual rock formations and vast expanses of pristine beaches that are tucked away amongst rocky coves.

Looking landward, you quickly become aware that this popular resort area lays claim to many miles of unspoiled beaches and impressive hotels. Reaching the sight of the famed "El Arco", the dramatic natural rock arch that rises starkly from the sea, you'll have time to take some photos and watch a sea lion colony at play before heading back to the pier for the second phase of your tour.

Phase two begins by boarding your deluxe motor coach and heading into the heart of Cabo San Lucas to a local glass blowing factory. Here, you can observe the talents of native craftsmen as they use their artistry to design wonderful works of art. Afterwards, get a different perspective of the cape region, striking in appearance, from its arid desert setting and white sand coves, to its swaying palm trees and the deep blue sea.

Your drive will next take you north to view the contrasting coastal scenery before arriving at San Jose del Cabo, a charming and picturesque town. Visit the local mission church and its shady tree-lined plaza. Explore with your guide the Zocalo area before continuing on for a break at a local restaurant where a refreshing cold beer or soda will be served. From this cliff top location, take in the sweeping panoramic view of the Bay of Cabo San Lucas with its majestic rock formations rising from the turquoise blue sea. Heading back, your coach will pass through the small downtown sector of Cabo San Lucas before returning you to the pier.

Please note: This tour includes limited walking over mostly flat surfaces; however, there are some steps to negotiate.

Day 5, Tue, June 19 – Cruising the Pacific #2 of 6


Day 6, Wed, June 20 – Acapulco (12PM – 10PM)
Savor the breathtaking views of Acapulco Bay from Fort San Diego or the Chapel of Peace. Swim or stroll along miles of magnificent beach. Don't miss the cliff divers of La Quebrada or the old colonial quarter of town. Or visit Taxco, renowned for its silver.

I've been here on a Road Scholar/HAL cruise a few years ago and did an excursion much like this one so I may decide to save some of my onboard credit $$ and just stay onboard.

(ONBD) ACA-003 Historical, Picturesque, and Cliff Divers 4 hours
Starting off from the pier, it's a scenic drive to "La Quebrada", the site where Acapulco's world famous cliff divers perform their heart-stopping dives off the high cliffs. From your prime vantage point, watch the divers as they gracefully leap from a height of approximately 140 feet into the shallow and dangerous waters below.

Proceeding on, you'll travel into the renowned Caleta area of Acapulco. It was here that the stars of yesteryear, such as Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, Errol Flynn and John Wayne would spend their holidays and many owned homes here. This conglomeration of Hollywood's elite earned Caleta the title of "refuge of the Hollywood gang." Although those days are long past, you can still see the homes and hotels that remain a stylish reminder of the Caleta's heyday. Stopping at Los Flamingos Hotel, you'll be able to relax and savor the ambience of this unique 1930's built hotel that was once owned by Johnny Weissmuller, while enjoying a complimentary refreshment of either coffee, tea, beer or a soft drink. Perfectly situated on one of the highest cliffs in Acapulco, the hotel not only provides spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and La Roqueta Island, it also benefits from a continuous gentle sea-breeze. The hotel today has retained its original charm and continues to be a popular tourist choice.

Leaving the hotel, a brief shopping stop will be made so that you can browse for souvenirs, gold, silver and semi-precious stones before arriving at the The Chapel of Peace. This lovely interdenominational chapel is perched 1250 ft. above sea level in an idyllic setting that overlooks the harbor and La Roqueta Island. An impressive feature of the chapel is the towering 128 ft. Trouyet Cross which stands in the atrium. Both the chapel and the cross were erected as a tribute to the sons of Mr. and Mrs. Trouyet who died in an air accident while returning from Mexico City in 1967. Today, it is estimated to have been seen by almost every person coming to Acapulco and the panoramic views from this location are nothing short of amazing.

From here, it's on to the historical Fort of San Diego. Constructed over 200 years ago to protect Acapulco from pirates, it now serves as the home of Acapulco's History Museum. The Fort is one of the most significant historical sites in Acapulco and the museum houses a wide array of exhibits and displays which highlight the area's culture and history. After having the opportunity to immerse yourself in Acapulco's fascinating and colorful past, you'll return to the pier, passing many other noteworthy sites along the way.

Please note: This tour includes a moderate amount of walking - at times on uneven ground, as well as steps and inclines at the Chapel of Peace.

Day 7, Thu, June 21 – Cruising the Pacific #3 of 6


Day 8, Fri, June 22 – Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala (Antigua) (8AM – 5PM)
Drive into the mountains to beautiful old Antigua, once the country's colonial capital, and discover its lovely bougainvillea-draped buildings and breathtaking views of emerald volcanoes. Travel to famed Lake Atitlan and step back in time as you encounter the indigenous people in all of their finery still living along the lakeshore. Or better yet, fly to Flores and experience the magnificent and enigmatic Mayan temples and palaces of the Tikal complex, surrounded by jungle.BUT I’VE BEEN TO ANTIGUA 3 TIMES BEFORE, and both Oceania Antigua tours force us to go through the Jade Factory. NOT AGAIN. Not a 4th time.

The excursion I really wanted on Lake Atitlan sold out almost immediately so I missed it.

(PBK) QUZ-001 Auto Safari Chapin 4½ hours @9:30-2
Starting off from the pier you will enjoy a scenic drive through the beautiful forest and along the Pacific coast as you pass several sugarcane fields and take in views of the majestic volcanoes that dominate the distant horizon. Arriving at Auto Safari Chapin, you will receive a brief orientation and printed guide of the zoological park before embarking on your journey through this open air zoo. Your visit to the park offers you the chance to see lions, giraffes, jaguars, parrots, various kinds of monkeys and of course, exotic birds and many other exotic animals which you are able to view in their natural habitat from the comfort of your tour bus.

Following your tour of the park by coach, you will have a walking tour of the more traditional zoo area where you will be able to see additional exhibits of animals and reptiles from around the world as well as those indigenous to Guatemala. Before rejoining your coach for the return transfer to the pier, relax with a snack and refreshing soft drink or beer in the Park's pavilion.

Please note: There is some uneven terrain and cobblestone surfaces to negotiate within the Park. There will be insect repellant available on the coach.


Day 9, Sat, June 23 – Corinto, Nicaragua (8AM – 5PM)
Nicaragua’s largest port, Corinto sits on an island connected to the mainland by bridges. Nicaragua is home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, and the area offers long stretches of white sand and clear blue waters. Visit the nearby city of León to see the wonderful cathedral, monuments and colonial buildings as well as the ruins of León Viejo, one of the oldest Spanish settlements in the Americas.

(PBK) CIO-004 Old Leon and Colonial Leon 8 hours Lunch @8:30-4:30
Explore the two Leons: the original 16th-century city, which was once buried in volcanic ash, and then a later version, which became an alluring colonial city. Depart from the pier and drive inland to Lake Managua, which is often referred to by its indigenous name Xolotian. Here, in 1524 Spanish conquistadors founded the original city of Leon, now known as Old Leon. Although in ruins, the city is an archaeological marvel because it was abandoned after a series of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes in the early 1600s, which buried everything in ash. The city stood completely undisturbed until 1967, when excavation began, leading to Old Leon’s nickname “The Pompeii of Central America.”

Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city offers a remarkable glimpse into 16th-century life in one of the earliest Spanish colonial settlements. During your guided tour of the well-preserved ruins, you will see a cathedral, convent, royal foundry and private homes constructed of wood, bamboo and mud. Eventually, the inhabitants left and established a newer Leon, which you will explore following a buffet lunch at a local restaurant there.

You’ll experience the colonial city’s charm firsthand by touring the main plaza and the magnificent Leon Cathedral, whose construction began in 1747. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the cathedral beautifully illustrates several architectural styles and features thick low towers shaped to withstand earthquakes. As you walk through the interior, you will notice the abundance of natural sunlight and rich ornamentation, including a treasured wooden Flemish altarpiece. At the conclusion of your guided walking tour, you will re-board your coach and drive back to the pier in Corinto.

Please note: This tour includes nearly 4 hours of travel on a coach and just over 2-hours of moderate walking. There are an optional 60 steps to negotiate if guests wish to visit the roof of the cathedral. Weather appropriate clothing is recommended. Please check with your guide before taking photos in Old Leon as there are some restrictions. *Daytime temperatures in this destination can be quite high.*


Day 10, Sun, June 24 – Puntarenas, Costa Rica (11AM – 9PM)
NEW Be awed by the spectacular rainforest canopy, whether you walk through it or ride an aerial tram. Discover breathtaking waterfalls, butterfly gardens and a cloud forest. Watch for curious monkeys and brilliantly colored birds. Ride horseback through a rare virgin tropical dry forest. Or enjoy a scenic drive to San Jose and see this charming city and its sights.

(PBK) PNT-011 Jaguar & Macaws Sanctuary & Puntarenas Highlights 4 1/2 hours @1-5:30
Visit a bird sanctuary that breeds endangered macaws for release into the wild and then enjoy free time back in Puntarenas, where you can explore the lively waterfront. After departing from the pier, you will drive inland through the beautiful ever-changing landscape that ranges from dry coastal plains to fertile valleys. Along the way, you will pass sprawling cattle ranches, fields of sugar cane and vast coffee plantations.

In the heart of this agricultural heartland lies the Macaw Sanctuary El Manantial, which is dedicated to the conservation of Costa Rica’s native macaws. The number of Scarlet Macaws and Great Green Macaws has been particularly diminished through habitat destruction from logging and the unauthorized sale of the birds to the pet trade. In fact, it is estimated that there are only 40 breeding pairs of Great Green Macaws in the entire country.

As you walk the sanctuary’s grounds, you can expect to spot the brilliantly colored species flying about freely. You may also see several fledglings, as macaws are bred at El Manantial and then released into the wild. Tapirs, monkeys, peccaries and sloths also roam the sanctuary, which has been extensively replanted to provide a suitable habitat for the animals.

Following the tour, you will drive back to Puntarenas, a long narrow peninsula whose name means “sandy point.” After free time to explore the waterfront and Gothic Revival Cathedral, you will drive back to the pier.

Please note: This tour includes approximately 2 ½ hours of easy to moderate walking/standing. Visitors to the sanctuary are asked to not reply to the birds if they speak. When photographing the birds or any other animals, your camera’s flash must be off.

Day 11, Mon, June 25 – Cruising the Pacific #4 of 6

Day 12, Tue, June 26 - Panama Canal DAYLIGHT Transit

We just make the daylight transit. There are no stops to go ashore for sightseeing. We can of course watch what we pass by, and there will almost certainly be a "previous night" lecture in the lounge about what we will be seeing - maybe even a visual presentation. This is the first time I've made through the Canal without any land excursion stops but at least it is in daylight, not during the night.

Day 13, Wed, June 27 – Cartagena, Columbia (11AM – 5PM??)
Take a scenic drive through the residential area of Manga and admire the beautiful mansions. Explore the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, a fort that was once the most important military structure built in Latin America. Enjoy a boat ride to the Islas del Rosario and continue to the island of San Martín de Pajarales to visit the aquarium. Board a beautiful Spanish galleon, a replica of a 17th century sailing ship, for a cruise of the inner bay of Cartagena.

(PBK) Highlights Of Cartagena (CAR-001) 4 hours @1:15-5:15??
Begin with a scenic drive through the residential area of Manga, where you can admire the beautiful mansions built in Republican-style architecture at the end of the 19th century. Your tour begins with a visit to Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, a fort which was the most important military structure built in Latin America. You will then see Las Bovedas, the dungeons located in the Old City which in colonial times were used as military barracks and a munitions depot. Today, local artisans display their arts and handcrafts here.

Continue on to the Church of San Pedro Claver, patron saint of Cartagena and defender of the slaves during colonial times. His remains lie in a glass coffin beneath the main altar. Afterwards, visit one of the best examples of late colonial architecture, the Inquisition Palace, an eighteenth century torture chamber. Finished around 1770, it serves as a museum showcasing the torture equipment used, as well as other historical artefacts.

As you continue on your tour you will see models of the myriad of fortresses that surround the city. Take a guided stroll through the narrow colonial streets of the Old City, beautifully lined with flower-filled balconies. You'll have some free time for further exploration on your own before returning to the ship.

For ME, the trip is essentially ALL OVER at the end of this day. Just a boring stay-onboard port and days of watching the water go by.

Day 14, Thu, June 28 – Cruzzzing the Caribbean Sea #5 of 6


Day 15, Fri, June 29 – Georgetown, Cayman Islands (8AM – 3PM) (anchor port)
Gads! Back here again. Relax in more boredom. Excursion choices here in 2016 were poor/bad and there is nothing else except watersports, and tendering is required, so just stay onboard. BORING! NO EXCURSION taken here. It's NOT worth it.

Day 16, Sat, June 30 – Cruzzzng the Florida Straits #6 of 6

Day 17, Sun, July 1 – Miami (8AM)
Escape and fly home – short flight – at a decent time. The original flight time was about an hour later but Un-Friendly AwfulLines" changed the schedule.

United UA 2147Miami – Houston11:55A – 1:36P2:41

I should be home about 3:30.

INSIGNIA


The ship is the INSIGNIA – sister ship to the Regatta as on the first Oceania Cruise. The ship is the INSIGNIA – sister ship to the Regatta as on the first Oceania Cruise. I had to settle for a C2 deluxe ocean view cabin. The 4 smaller ships do not offer a larger (C class) no-veranda cabin. The “room” itself is about the same as on the Regatta – just no veranda.

C2-Deluxe Ocean View Stateroom – My “Cell/stable stall/stateroom” is #4018, deck 4, near the bow, portside. The 165-square-foot “Deluxe Ocean View Staterooms” are similar to the Regatta veranda cabins, but smaller; the size difference (from 216) is the lack of the veranda (which I seldom even stepped out on) and with 6 days AT SEA plus the first and last minimal cruising – why pay over a $1000 or more for the few days near land. But they are on the lowest deck so it is a long way to the feeding trough. At least it does have a fairly decent view window – larger than the usual porthole. (I looked through one when on the Regatta.) Each stateroom includes a refrigerated mini-bar, spacious closet and a bathroom with a shower. Wi-Fi????

Excursions (7)
Day 1, LAXative
Day 2, San Diego - (PBK) SAN-004 San Diego Highlights and Harbor Cruise 3 hours
Day 4, Cabo San Lucas - (PBK) CAB-007 Land’s End Boat and Cabo View 4 ½ hours
Day 6, Acapulco - (ONBD) ACA-003 Historical, Picturesque, and Cliff Divers 4 hours
Day 8, Puerto Quetzal - (PBK) QUZ-001 Auto Safari Chapin 4½ hours
Day 9, Corinto - (PBK) CIO-004 Old Leon and Colonial Leon 8 hours Lunch
Day 10, Puntarenas - (PBK) PNT-011 Jaguar & Macaws Sanctuary & Puntarenas Highlights 4 1/2 hours
Day 12, Panama Canal
Day 13, Cartagena - (PBK) CAR-001 Highlights of Cartagena 4 hours
Day 15, Cayman Islands - wasted stop; stay onboard
Day 17, MIAMI

OCEANIA CRUISES:
1 Nov 16, 2016 - Caribbean Charisma, Regatta, 13 days
2 Dec 16, 2016 - Heart of the Caribbean, Riviera, 11 days
3 Jan 13, 2018 - Seaswept Breeze, Riviera, 11 days
4 Apr 22, 2018 - Seaside Sojourn, Marina, 17 days
5 Jun 15, 2018 - Panama Enchantment, Insignia, 17 days
6 Oct 3, 2018 - Cuba, Serena, 8 days
7 Feb 5, 2019 - Allure of the Islands, Rivieria, 13 days