We loved the first transatlantic cruise so much (from Cartagena, Colombia to Lisboa, Portugal), so we decided to take one back to the Americas. It is so much cheaper, if you have the time for it (which we obviously do right now). Cheaper how? Well, it included our transportation from Europe to Central America, sleeping arrangements for fifteen nights, food, and unlimited alcoholic/non-alcoholic beverages. The cruise was fifteen nights, from Bilbao, Spain to Colón, Panamá with stops planned for Lisboa, Saint Marteen (Dutch side), and Aruba. Unfortunately, we did not end up stopping in Aruba, because Tropical Storm Matthew (eventually Hurricane Matthew) was going to beat us to the island, so they closed their port. The ship made its way to Colón a day earlier, but we were able to stay on and resume our cruise life for the last night!
As we were making our way to board the cruise ship on September 17, I told Brad we were going to be more social this time around. I am not sure what was going on with us the first time around, but we probably spent more time sleeping than awake. Our interactions with people were also limited to our dinner mates the first time, which were the same people the entire time. I would say we succeeded in being social (as I type this we are on our way to Bocas del Toro, Panamá with one of our friends we met on the ship)! We met some really great people, and have made friends for life. A Panamanian (who lives in Andorra), an Australian, and two Seattlites (not sure if that’s what people from Seattle are called, but it felt right typing it 😏). Not only did we make friends, but we even participated in some of the events. We participated in a ping pong tournament (it’s not important if we won or not, but that we tried), a connect four tournament, a promo video (Brad refused and nominated me because there was dancing involved), took a juggling class, did Zumba, and a trivia game. We also saw the shows after dinner, which were pretty entertaining. The experience the second time around was even better than I had hoped and a lot of it was because of Abdiel, Lucais, Ben, and Rachel!
Let me share a brief insight into our port stops. Brad and I were so excited to be back in Lisboa, even if only for about five hours. I still have to write a post dedicated to Portugal (sorry, we are a bit behind). We spent our time going to Lidl one last time (before leaving Europe), getting Brad a haircut, and then of course eating some pastéis de nata (custard tarts). Of course we walked everywhere, so we also got our fix of the hilly streets and the plazas. I wish we were there for longer, as I would have loved to visit our Airbnb host, Renilda, in Almada.
In Sint Marteen, we (us and our friends) all went to Maho Beach, the famous Airport Beach, and swam for a bit (I may or may not have mainly watched them from the beach because the waves were scary). We almost took a taxi there after being told there was no bus, but luckily after asking one more time a security guy at a casino sent us in the right direction and it was a fraction of the cost a taxi wanted to charge us. It was great weather, only rained/drizzled during part of the bus ride to Maho Beach. We were a bit bummed we did not stop I’m Aruba, but decided to go to Isla Grande with our extra day in Colón. Once off the ship, we walked a bit further away to try and barter with a taxi. What started at $30 per person, we got down to $20 for him to drive us to and from the boats to get to the island and a stop at an old fort. A little more than we would have liked to pay, but we felt better after talking to someone else from the cruise who paid $50 without a stop at the old fort. What a great day it ended up being, and Abdiel even got to see some family! We ended up swimming of course, although the tide was high due to the storm, but still a great time.
October 2 arrived too soon! We all had one last breakfast together before being forced off the ship (literally we were probably the last fifteen people off). We all ate as much as we could (you know, to make sure we really got our money’s worth)! Once off the ship and passsed immigration and customs, we shared a taxi. The first stop was to drop Ben and Rachel at their hotel and then the four of us were all heading to Panama City. While on the bus to Panama City, Ben messaged Brad about them probably not staying in Colón after all. We immediately offered for them to come and stay with us in Panama City at the hotel. They agreed and I was thrilled we would still be hanging out with friends. They have since parted ways with us, but I know we will meet up again. Maybe on the Pullmantur cruise heading back to Europe in May 2017! 😉
We are currently making our way through Panamá, with Lucais, heading north to México. We plan to stop in all of the Central American countries.
Saludos desde Panamá!