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Jim Thornton

Age: 76

Occupation:Retired Telephone Enginnering Manager

Number of Cruises: 21

Cruise Line: Cruise West

Ship: Pacific Explorer

Sailing Date: 2009-03-9

Itinerary: Panama and Costa Rica

This was our 20th cruise and the fourth on a Cruise West ship - this cruise was titled Panama Canal and Costa Rica. Our starboard deluxe cabin (321) was on the Upper Deck near of the bow of the ship right behind the unused Observation Lounge. The ship has no balconies.

SHIP - This is one of the smaller ships of Cruise West with a maximum of 100 passengers and has four decks and no elevators. In fact, this ship isn't owned by Cruise West and is inferior to all of their ships. Cruise West should use their Sprit of Endeavour ship from their Mexico's Sea of Cortes cruise. There are no cabin keys aboard the ship - thus your room is always open unless the lock your cabin from the inside.

DINING ROOM - The Dining Room (on the first or lowest deck) has one open sitting. Breakfast was 7:00-9:30 a.m., lunch 12:00-2:00 p.m., and dinner was 7:00-9:00 p.m. The Sun Deck offers early breakfast and lunch typically a half an hour earlier. However, there are no hand sanitation dispensers on the Sun Deck.

BARS - The Tortuga Bar (on the fourth and open deck) is a full bar. There is no area like a Crow's Nest or Dome. There was no captain-welcoming hour. Be advised that your clothing may be soiled by particles from the ship's smokestack on the outside chairs on the Sun Deck.

CABIN - Our room was one of the larger about 165 square feet. There were one king-size bed, a couch that can become a second bed, two large drawers and clothes cabinets, a very small desk, and a combination TV and VCR. There is very limited space for the storage of the suitcases under the bed. The bathroom contains a toilet, sink, and shower. Also, in the cabin are two pair of binoculars, but no bathrobes or refrigerator.

IN-CABIN TV AND SOUND SYSTEM - A small combination TV and VCR but there was never any live TV but the ship has a large collection of VCR movies available. There were no audio channels.

LAUNDRY - There are no self-service laundry rooms but laundry service for-a-fee was available.

EVENING ENTERTAINMENT – There is no evening entertainment.

MEETING ROOM - The Sun Deck, next to the Tortuga Bar was the general meeting room. The Tucan Lounge (on the first deck) was where the library for VCR tapes and books were available as well as a small store, and served as the meeting area before putting on your lifejacket before boarding the zodiacs.

We sailed on a nine-day Panama Canal & Costa Rica cruise from Colon, Panama to Los Suenos, Costa Rica through the Panama Canal stopping at four Panama beach locations of San Blas Islands, Portobelo, Embera Village, and Coriba National Park, and three Costa Rica beach locations of Golfo Dulce, Corcovado Conversation Area, and Manuel Antonio National Park for snorkeling, kayaking, nature walks, seeing old forts, and visiting small local Indian villages all via the ship's small zodiac boats. The pre-cruise bus ride from Panama City on the Pacific Ocean side of Panama to the Colon on the Caribbean Sea side included a stop at the Panama Canal visitor's center (museum).

Next was a six-day Costa Rica land tour. From the small marina of Los Suenos, we went by small tour bus to San Jose for two days seeing the Gold Museum and Central Park. Then we went to Sarapiqui for two days seeing the Museum of Indigenous Cultures, and chocolate and pineapple plantations. Next was La Paz to visit a local elementary school and learn how to make tortillas. The following day was to Arenal to go on a wonderful wildlife observing riverboat ride and later to enjoy the Arenal volcano hot springs. All of the hotels were very nice, had good food and drinks, live TV, etc.

OVERALL OPINION - An enjoyable cruise on a small ship that is able to go into small ports that are inaccessible to the larger cruise ships. But the getting on and off the zodiacs both on shore and on the boat always resulted in wet shoes, and sometime wet clothing, etc. Totally unlike any of the three other Cruise West ships that we have sailed on.

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