Road Scholar 15591

This is a repeat of an early 2012 RS/HAL Cruise. I had planned a somewhat similar Oceania cruise, but this had some ports advantages and avoids yet another W/SW Oceania itinerary. I would do the cruise in December.

Discover the interplay of humans and nature in the Caribbean, learn about efforts to conserve the natural wonders of Costa Rica and make a partial transit of the Panama Canal, observing the operation of its busy locks and delving into the story of one of history’s greatest feats of engineering. Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 10 to 24 participants.

*View colorful fish and coral on a Glass Bottom boat ride off the coast of "Fleece-the-Tourist Sandbar".
* Enjoy an expert-led walking excursion in Willemstad and explore the Hato Caves.
* Onboard lectures delve into the European, and especially Dutch, influence on the Caribbean.

Day 1 - Embark on Cruise from Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Day 2 - “Fleece the Tourist Sandbar” (8AM)
Day 3 - AT SEA #1 of 4
Day 4 - Oranjestad, Aruba (1PM)
Day 5 - Willemstad, Curacao (8AM) (not available on Oceania cruises)
Day 6 - AT SEA #2 of 4
Day 7 - Cartagena, Colombia (7AM)
Day 8 - Colonial Panama & Miraflores Locks, Gatun Locks Panama (5AM)
Day 9 - Puerto Limon, Costa Rica (6:30AM)
Day 10 - AT SEA #3 of 4
Day 11 - AT SEA #4 of 4 / Farewell Munchies
Day 12 - Ft Lauderdale / Departures (7AM)

DAY 1 - Embark on Cruise from Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Please plan for flight arrivals of no later than 11:30am or noon. You may board as early at 11:30 am, but no later than 90 minutes prior to sail time (departs at 4:00 pm). Cabins should be ready by 1:00 pm.

After embarkation to the ship, check-in at the Front Desk and then proceed to the dining room for lunch. The Embarkation Buffet Lunch will be at the Lido Deck which opens at 12:00 pm. You will then participate in the ship's Safety Drill followed by a Welcome orientation at approximately 2:00pm. Your Group Leader will leave information for you designating the location of the meeting place. Meet your group leader and fellow Road Scholar participants during a welcome and introduction session. **Note: Participants will receive a full itinerary once onboard. The Road Scholar group leader will deliver an itinerary to each participant's stateroom and try to meet all members of the group prior to the program orientation.

Aboard the ship, dine with the group in the main dining room. You may also choose to dine at another location on any evening. Evening at leisure.

DAY 2 - Half Moon Cay (Fleece-the-Tourists Sandbar), Bah-hamas (8AM)
I’ve been here twice before. Probably just stay onboard. If I'm REALLY bored, we’ll disembark at Fleece-the-Tourists Sandbar and take a short exploratory nature walk with our leader for almost ½ mile on flat, even terrain. For the next hour or so we will take a leisurely stroll and uncover interesting facts about the nature and history of the Bahamas. We will also have the chance to take a seat in the shade and rest at the chapel if necessary. Enjoy (?) a BBQ buffet lunch on the island or perhaps take lunch back on the ship.

This afternoon, enjoy a Welcome Happy Hour on the ship. Dinner in the Lido by choice each night except the last one.

DAY 3 - At Sea #1 of 4
This afternoon you will have a lecture, “The European Influence in the Caribbean”, a light-hearted look at some lingering traditions inherited from bygone days.

DAY 4 - Oranjestad, Aruba (1PM)
We’ll dock in Aruba, disembark and receive an orientation of Oranjestad, the capital city of the Island from the local guide. Board the Road Scholar motorcoach for a field trip to various historic sites on the island. Visits will include the Fort Zoutman Historical Museum, the Archaeological Museum, and the geological site and botanical gardens at Casibari. The Group leader will host on-site discussions and highlight the history of the island. You may choose to take time at leisure to explore the city on your own before returning to the ship.

DAY 5 - Willemstad, Curacao (8AM)
(Stops at this port are NOT available for Oceania Cruises.) Arrive to Curacao, disembark and take part in a short walk before boarding the Road Scholar motorcoach for an orientation to Willemstad and nearby areas. This field trip will include visits to the historic down town, the Governor's Palace, and a floating fresh fruit market and will be led by the local guide.

Enjoy a buffet lunch at a local restaurant. Proceed by motorcoach and visit the Hato Caves used by the Amerindian Arawaks 1,500 years ago and in later years were used as a refuge for escaped slaves. There is a climb of approximately 50 steps to reach the cave entrance. Return back to the port and then to the ship and cruise to Panama.

DAY 6 - At Sea #2 of 4
This afternoon you will have a lecture, “The Concept of a Canal from Dreams to Reality”, discussing the history of the canal and the construction of the new Panamax Canal.

DAY 7 - Cartagena, Colombia (7AM)
You will disembark from the ship and walk several blocks to the motorcoach and then enjoy a field trip in the city of Cartagena led by the local guide. Travel to the hill at La Popa, the highest point in the city, to visit the Convento de Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria, founded in 1607 by the order of St. Augustine.

Continue your area explorations with a stop at nearby Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas. Learn about the fort's impressive history while walking through its fortified tunnels, galleries, and lookouts. Before heading into Old Town to uncover more of Cartagena's colonial treasures, stop at a local museum devoted to educating visitors about the history and characteristics of Colombia's famous emeralds.

In the early 16th century, Pedro de Heredia established the Spanish town of Cartagena on the site of a coastal, Indian settlement. The town quickly grew into an important port and a strategic gateway for Spanish interests in northern South America. The incredible riches obtained through Spain's colonial conquests in the southern continent were stored in Cartagena prior to being shipped to Spain. Unfortunately, this news attracted the unwanted attention of pirates working in the Caribbean.

After suffering various sieges, including one by Sir Francis Drake in 1586, the city began constructing forts and protective walls to safeguard it from further attacks. Present day Cartagena is Colombia's largest port and a vital industrial hub; a place where visitors can enjoy both the rich history and architectural beauty of the city's colonial center (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and the modern lifestyle found in the surrounding suburbs. Return to the ship by motorcoach and then walk several blocks back to the pier.

DAY 8 - Colonial Panama & Miraflores Locks (5AM)
The ship will make a partial transit through the Panama Canal - Gatun Locks. You will disembark at the Lake Gatun Locks Pier, tender ashore and then drive to Casco Viejo or Old City to discover Panama's rich history and culture on foot and by motorcoach led by the local guide. Casco Viejo was established in 1673 by the Spanish Conquistadors; it was the second city settled in Panama.

Enjoy a field trip to the Biomuseo, also known as The Biodiversity Museum: Panama Bridge of Life. The vividly hued concrete and steel museum was designed by the renowned architect Frank Gehry and is his first design for Latin America. It spans 43,000 square feet and features exhibitions that focus on the rich and diverse ecosystems of Panama. Next you will explore the French Plaza on foot and visit the famous golden altar in the St. Joseph Cathedral. Continue your exploration of the city by motorcoach and time permitting, we will make a stop at a craft market to view local handicrafts including molas, embroidery, jewelry, leather, wood and much more.

We will eat lunch at a nearby restaurant featuring local cuisine.

This afternoon, we will travel by motorcoach for a field trip to Miraflores Locks to view ships passing through the first series of locks in the Canal. Also visit the on-site interpretive museum where you'll explore the exhibits as well as watch a movie about the history of the canal. Transfer back to the Colon Pier by motorcoach and board the ship.

DAY 9 - Puerto Limon, Costa Rica (6:30AM)
Early in the morning you will visit a Banana Plantation, a working farm whose production is exported to the US. The visit includes a guided walk on easy trails through the plantation, where the participants will be receiving an introduction to the farming and practices of this crop led by the local guide. Transfer to the Costa Rica Sloth Sanctuary dedicated to the rescue of abandoned or injured endangered and rare animals. Learn about these extraordinary creatures and the sanctuaries’ efforts in researching their behavior, lifestyle and environmental welfare. Enjoy a typical lunch at a local restaurant. Return to the pier by motorcoach and board the ship.

DAY 10 - At Sea #3 of 4
This afternoon you will have a lecture: “A Geographical Overview of Central America”.

DAY 11 - At Sea #4 of 4; Farewell Munchies
This afternoon you will have a lecture: “Conservation and Wildlife Projects in Central America”. Enjoy a Farewell Dinner with the group in the ships’ main dining room.

DAY 12 - Disembark Ft. Lauderdale (7AM)
The ship is scheduled to arrive in Ft. Lauderdale at 7:00 AM. Upon departure participants will be directed by your group leader to the airport shuttle on disembarkation day. Please do not book departure flights before 12:30 or 1:00pm on this day.

Note: Although the ship is expected to dock around 7AM, it should take a few hours before the ship is cleared by local authorities and guests are allowed to disembark. Upon leaving the ship, guests will undergo routine Immigration/Customs proceedings. Participants with flight arrangements out of Ft. Lauderdale should take all of this into consideration when scheduling the return flights.