Number of Cruises: 8
Cruise Line: Celebrity
Sailing Date: January 13th, 2001
Itinerary: Southern Caribbean
We had heard horror stories of problems with airfare, long waits for luggage in Aruba, missing luggage, etc. We started out leery but everything went just fine. Flying out of Washington D.C. National to Newark and connecting with a Continental Charter was no problem at all. The planes were on time and nice. The Charter flight treated the trip as an international flight (which it was) with free cocktails, free headsets, a movie and a complete hot meal. We arrived in Aruba an hour early (hey, no problem with that!) and with only the minor irritant of the flight attendants forgetting to give us our immigration cards, we were through immigration, and customs within minutes. Celebrity staff waiting with plenty of buses and before you knew it, we were at the ship (a very short drive). We headed for the Captain's Club line (the other was short though) and within a minute, we were on the ship. Total time from plane to onboard ship, less than 40 minutes, pretty nice. I won't go into much description of the ship since I did that with the last cruise on the Horizon. The ship still looks great though, everything clean and fresh. The main changes since our last cruise were a complete makeover of the Coral Seas Café, new outdoor carpet on the top decks, and a new canopy over the pool bandstand. The Coral Seas Café looks fabulous and is such a vast improvement it is hard to believe. Gone is the baby blue formica walls, cheesy art, and worn out brass chairs. Instead, the room now has light colored wood walls and paneling, great carpet that looks more like Galaxy or Mercury, beautiful stone-look tile floors and beautiful light wood upholstered chairs with light wood tables. The whole effect is much more upscale and pleasant. The best part of the redo though is that they now have 4 lines for the buffet instead of 2. I couldn't believe it since the ship was so full, but we never once had to wait in line for the buffet the whole week! There is also 2 separate omelet stations in the morning which convert to pizza later and now 2 soft ice cream machines. The whole thing is really a much needed and welcome change. If you would like to see pictures of the new Coral Seas Café, go to my cruise page and look at page 3 of the "Second Horizon Cruise". It is the only area of the ship that I photographed since I took so many pictures on the last cruise. http://members2.clubphoto.com/andrew89261/
The new carpet around the top decks is a nice camel color, much better than the charcoal gray that it used to be. I looks very nice with the nave blue accents on the ship. The canopy over the bandstand is functional and looks great too.
Just a few more things about the ship and the cruise before I get into the fabulous itinerary. After reading some negative things lately about the Horizon, we were anxious to see for ourselves if much had changed in the little over a year since we had been on board. I am happy to report that things are very much the same, and in many cases better. We honestly thought that the food was even better than the last cruise. Meat all cooked to perfection and lots of interesting choices. The buffets were excellent and varied. The casual afternoon tea was wonderful with all sorts of great little sandwiches (different ones each day) and delicious sweets.
We had the best waiter and busboy that we have ever had and made friends with a couple of great bar personnel. The ship was quite full but absorbed passengers well. On the sea days, the decks were quite crowded though. Also, I guess all cruise lines do this, but they move people around between the ships so much that there wasn't one crew member from our last cruise still there (that we remembered anyway). One thing that also struck us as odd was that during the whole 7 night cruise we never once met or set eyes on our cabin steward. He did a decent job, but I am used to them introducing themselves to you early on and greeting you in the corridors. No big deal though.
The entertainment in the show lounge was mostly dreadful but we don't care about that anyway. The pool band, Voltz, was fabulous and entertained many times in the Zodiac Lounge in the evenings. The ship's orchestra was good and the entertainment in the lounges was much better than before. I guess entertainment is a crapshoot for the most part anyway.
Now on to the itinerary which was, in a word, fabulous. Having seen the islands in the Caribbean more than enough, it was a refreshing change to see some really different ports. Our first day at sea, like every day on the cruise, was beautiful without hardly a cloud in the sky. We were quite fortunate in that on the entire cruise we didn't have a drop of rain or an overcast sky.
We woke up in Colon, Panama to another gorgeous day with a nice strong wind to keep you cool. The port in Colon is new and in the process of really being fixed up. Although some of the city looks nice from the ship though, we were advised not to venture into it. As we saw while driving through town on the way to the Gatun Locks, it looks pretty rough. The Gatun Lock tour was interesting and we saw two large ships go through the motions. Unfortunately, the Crown Princess was waiting in the Gatun Lake to go through but she didn't until the afternoon. We could see her as she entered the ocean from our ship. I would have rather gone through the locks with the ship but the tour was interesting also. We saw some iguanas by the side of the road and got back to the ship for a little shopping. As we were getting back on board, I saw a large BMW parked near the ship. The license tag said Panama and Presidente. I joked to Chuck that the President of Panama was on the ship but we later found out it was no joke. She had been on board for a tour and lunch with the captain. She is responsible for getting more cruise lines to dock here and this we the first time for the Horizon so it was quite an occasion. Sail away that night was beautiful with the glimmering lights of Colon behind us and the many ships anchored waiting to go through the canal all lit up too.
I awoke early the next morning and did my laps around deck 12 as we sailed into Puerto Limon harbor. It was a beautiful sight, with the lights of the town sparkling ahead, the mist shrouded mountains of Costa Rica on the left and a glorious sunrise behind us. It was magical. We had chosen the Rain Forest Tram for our shore excursion in Costa Rica. It was a lovely 2 hour bus ride through beautiful countryside. Mountains in the distance, lush tropical plants everywhere and of course, the banana plantations all over the place. We arrived at the rain forest and were pleased to see that it was sort of sunny. We had a wonderful tram ride through the forest, over an hour long, and saw not only beautiful lush jungle but some wildlife too. We saw a pair of Toucans in the trees, a small viper snake (not near enough to scare us) some beautiful butterflies and a creature called a Coati Mundi which looked like a cross between a raccoon and an anteater. After the tram ride we had a traditional Costa Rican lunch of chicken, rice, hearts of palm salad and of course, plantains. On the ride back to the ship we stopped at a Banana plantation which was interesting. We also saw a sloth in a tree and the bus stopped for us to get a better look. Out guide was excellent and we enjoyed the excursion immensely. We walked around Puerto Limon when we got back but it really isn't set up for tourists yet. They did have a little area near the port where there were stands selling local wares at excellent prices. After a nice deck party that night we retired around midnight to prepare for our next destination, the San Blas Islands.
The San Blas Islands are a group of over 400 islands off the coast of Panama. They are flat as pancakes and very small. Inhabited for a very long time by the Cuna Indians who still cling to many of their old ways. The Cunas are best known for the colorful and beautiful embroidered and appliquéd fabrics called molas. After seeing these beautiful creations it is evident where the late pop artist Keith Haring got his inspiration.
We did a shore excursion that took us by motorized dugout canoes between three islands. The first and largest island was the most interesting with the Indians expecting us and with their molas on display everywhere, we strolled amongst the thatched huts and found several molas to buy. The children were all dressed up and for a small fee you could take their pictures. Some older children did a native dance that was really beautifully choreographed and a treat to see. We thoroughly enjoyed seeing all of this and thought it was a very worthwhile excursion although I have a suggestion. Bring plenty of small bills, ones and fives. I would have bought more and given more money to the children if I had had more change. The ship was having a beach party on another beautiful island and it was nice but the facilities were lacking so we went back to the ship early. The San Blas Islands are a special place and we really felt privileged to see this beautiful native culture still surviving in the new millenium.
The next morning we awoke early to watch the ship approach Cartagena, Columbia.
It has a beautiful harbor and the winding approach to the city is a beautiful sight. There is a
small mountain overlooking the city where the La Popa Monastery sits. You could also see the church
domes in the old walled city in the distance. We had an early shore excursion so once docked we were
quickly on our way. We drove through what once was the wealthy area of the city, now middle class,
but filled with beautiful mansions. Soon we were winding our way to the Monastery. Be forewarned
that the vendors are extremely aggressive but will leave you alone if you ignore them and not make
eye contact. What ever you do, DON'T talk to them, that just gets them going more. Once inside the
Monastery, they aren't around so you can enjoy the lovely courtyard and chapel. The view from the
terraces of the surrounding city is fantastic. Watch out though, the clever beggars have cups on
sticks that they stick up in your face from down below the terrace hoping for some money. It was
enterprising but seemed very sad, very much like the movie, Suddenly Last Summer with Elizabeth
Taylor and Montgomery Clift. The guide said that they had 20 % unemployment so that helps to explain
We visited a large fort in the center of the city and then on to the old walled city. It is so beautiful and interesting. It reminds you of New Orleans or Old San Juan. We wished we could have spent some time just walking around here but the guide keeps you moving pretty quickly. The most time we had to walk around was at a mall that sold only Emeralds. No one in our group was interested in buying Emeralds but that doesn't matter, you have to go. All too soon we were back on the ship. The tour gave a nice overview but if we had it to do over again, we would prefer just taking a cab down to the old city and walking around on our own. The city seemed very safe and I would have no problems doing this on our own. It is definitely, a very interesting and beautiful city.
When we got back to the ship, the P&O ship Victoria was docked next to us. It is always fun to see another ship and she looked pretty nice. Her passengers all gave us hearty waves as we backed out of our berth and headed back out to sea, and another day at sea before our return to Aruba.
Sadly leaving the ship the last morning, we had no problem getting to the airport. We did have a very long wait in line at the TWA counter but after that it was easy. Aruba has US customs in their beautiful new airport so you get that out of the way before you leave the island, making things much easier when you get back home. They managed to loose one of our bags but that was the counter worker in Aruba's fault. She sent one of our bags to Wyoming but we eventually got it back.
I have to say that this was our favorite cruise so far, a combination of a terrific itinerary, one of our favorite ships and perfect weather. I highly recommend this cruise and if you are tired of the typical Caribbean fare, think you will thoroughly enjoy it too.
Again, pictures of this cruise can be found on my Cruise Page at:
They are listed under Second Horizon Cruise.