Whichever direction your cruise is traveling through the canal, you will be flying into or out of the Pacific Ocean end of the canal, Panama City. Since we were going towards the Pacific, our Embarcation was in Colon, about 1 ½ hours from Panama City.
Windstar notified us a couple of weeks in advance that they needed to do some maintenance just before our boarding, so the Embarkation would be delayed from 1PM to 5PM. They arranged for free coffee and free lunch in a ballroom at the company hotel, the Bristol Panama in Panama City. We were told to have our baggage in the lobby by 3:30PM for placement in a truck, and to watch it being loaded onto the truck. We had already independently booked a single night for ourselves there before the cruise.
I normally book directly with a hotel, but their website would only permit three-night minimum bookings! So I booked with Expedia-AARP for a single night, which was $248 plus taxes. I used their concierge to book a $40 per car private transfer from the airport. Because the Pope was in town (which Windstar didn't bother to tell us!) this worked out very well, and was charged to our room.
#133, lowest deck. We choose the Windstar motor vessels for the huge suite size, and this was identical to others we've had. We consider access to the stairs that go right to the Yacht Club, and access from the shore-excursion return. Although our window started out clean, it did get more splashed and dirty than a higher-up window would. There was some confusion at Embarkation over just what the name of our Cabin Steward was - like in a restaurant when the waiters don't know who is assigned to your table. But cleanliness and service were the usual excellent. We never ate in our room or asked for much special service. We had to wait for a our bags, but as you'll read elsewhere in this review, we had special delays, announced in advance, for boarding the ship.
I knew that our ship wasn't brand spanking new, and it was just fine. I can live with a little worn spots of varnish on wood moldings! We did have two bureau drawers that did not lock shut, as is essential on a boat. The one beside my side of the bed I taped shut with a piece of adhesive tape from my medical kit.
Colon is the Embarkation point for the cruise. We booked a Windstar transfer from Panama City to Colon, which is described in the body of this review. I don't consider Colon a shore-excursion destination.
Wed Isla Parida picnic 8:30 and 10:30 jungle hikes ($39 p/p) w/our naturalist and a local guide. Orchids and plant identifications but zero wildlife. Lunch w/many options and full bar available, spa on shore and non-motorized water sports. Continuous Zodiacs until 3:30. Three permanent bathrooms with slow-running water in ranger station far left. We had hoped for fins and snorkels to supplement the prescription masks we packed, but there was little such equipment at the water sports tent.