We wanted to experience the Panama Canal and go somewhere warm in January so we booked this cruise and had a fabulous time. We arrived in sunny Fort Lauderdale and stayed at the Marriott North for a couple of days Pre-Cruise. It is a nice Marriott and a good price since it isn’t on the beach. We took Uber to the port and it was very easy. We arrived at 11:30 and we were boarding soon after. The embarkation couldn’t have gone smoother. We are Platinum next cruise and will speed things along even faster. We had lunch in the DaVinci dining room and they announced the staterooms were open before 1:00 which was a nice surprise.
This was our third trip on the Emerald and she didn’t disappoint. We have had some fun cruises on the Emerald and the ship isn’t brand new anymore but still very pretty and in good shape. We always seem to have a good crew on this ship and the staff seems happy and eager to please.
We had a wonderful stateroom steward, probably one of the best we have ever had. He was friendly and anticipated our every need. We had traditional early seating at 5:15 which was a little early but the late seating is too late for us. My husband is on a very low sodium diet and the head waiter gave him the menu every night for the next night so he could Pre order and they prepared his meals low sodium. We ate in the dining room all but two nights and really enjoyed our waiter and assistant. We thought the food was good in the dining room. I always am amazed that people complain on these reviews about the food. If I don’t have to shop for it, cook it or clean up after then it is great for me. We certainly found something on the menu to eat every night and didn’t come home lighter! The buffet was good as were the hamburgers by the pool. We had escargot, lobster, beef tenderloin, steak, lots of shrimp and scallops and enjoyed every bite.
The entertainment was enjoyable. The new Rock Opera which debuted on the Emerald this sailing (it is also on the Sky I believe) was absolutely superb! The singers and dancers on this cruise were tremendous. We had some other really good guest performers that were very talented and some good magicians and comedians. The Princess theater was packed every show and for the 7:30 show you had to arrive at least 30 minutes early to get a seat. I really think it would help if Princess would add a third showtime or repeat the shows because every passenger seemed to want to go to the theater every night. I noticed lots of people brought books to read while waiting.
We also had Medallion Net Wifi and we were able to text, email and call if we wanted. It is really a game changer if you need WiFi. Most of the basketball games that my husband NEEDED to see were on a ESPN channel in the stateroom but one that wasn’t on ESPN he was able to keep up with it online. I however went to the theater since I don’t require basketball at sea.
We had a balcony booked but this cruise was over sold so they offered us an amazing deal to give up our balcony and move to an inside cabin. Well that was ok but the inside they moved us to had two more berths that fold down from the wall. These extra beds just stuck out from the wall and made the room seem so much smaller and we both cracked our head on them a couple of times. That was a bummer. Fortunately we were aft Riviera deck so it was a quick escape to the terrace pool and bar and outside seating which helped us to not kill each other in that cabin for 15 days.
We really enjoyed the ports since they were all new to us. We did a couple of private excursions (in Cartagena and Nicaragua) and a great Princess excursion to the Starbucks Hacienda Coffee Plantation in Costa Rica. We had an awesome guide and a delicious lunch. It was a small group of 10 in a van which made it so nice. It was well worth the money. Starbucks gave us the VIP treatment too. We were on our own in Huatulco which was ok. There isn’t much at the port (some restaurants and shopping) so I would book a tour if I went back. Puerto Vallarta was beautiful and we took a taxi (7.00 each way for the taxi not per person but you need exact change and we tipped a couple of dollars) to the Malecon boardwalk and it was fine with lots of shopping and restaurants and walking along the ocean and downtown.
The day of the Panama Canal crossing was an all day event and was fantastic. We were up at 6:00 am with the other 3000 spectators but there were plenty of places to watch the crossing. The most popular spot was Lido deck all the way forward where they opened the unmarked doors to the very front of the ship. They even served mimosas up there which was festive. We went through the new locks and it was a marvel. There was a commentator that talked us through the Canal and he was very interesting. He did a number of port lectures as well which we didn’t attend but watched them in our stateroom later. His name is Bill Fall and he was very knowledgeable and interesting.
The first two sea days were really bouncy. I think we were having high winds so I don’t think it was normal. When we arrived in Cartagena it was calm and stayed very calm until we left Puerto Vallarta and headed toward LA. The seas were not quite as calm and the temperature dropped to the 60’s for the two days back to Los Angeles.
Disembarkation was also very organized and we were off by 8:30 then took an Uber to LAX and were there in plenty of time for a 12:10 flight.
We enjoyed this cruise very much. We found the majority of the staff and crew to be very friendly and efficient. We went to a Meet and Greet with our roll call and enjoyed meeting the Captain and several other officers that attended and spoke. They were warm and approachable. The Captain was really delightful and we saw him often around the ship. He seemed to enjoy talking to passengers and answering questions.
Inside cabin with extra berths. We did not like the cabin but the location aft Riviera made it doable.
It was a 4 hour tour and we went to several places in the city including Old Town.View All 367 City Tour Reviews
Starbucks Hacienda Alsacia was a wonderful excursion. We had a great tour guide with a small group of 10. Starbucks treated us like VIPs and the tour was really really good! We had an excellent lunch and then a drive to Sarchi and a stop to see the artisans there.View All 38 Coffee Plantation Reviews
We took a private tour with Macau which was a drive to Granada and lunch and walking tour including the chocolate museum which was fun. We had a great lunch in Granada and went to the edge of a volcano. Then we went on an hour boat ride on Lake Nicaragua. It was a great tour with a really good guide.
We didn’t take an excursion which was a mistake as there isn’t much to see at the port near the ship. There is a public beach right at the port but it was crowded.
We took a cab downtown to the Malecon and walked around, ate and shopped.