TravelManagers' home-based agent Rose Febo recently enjoyed a bucket list famil to Central America, where she enjoyed a luxury cruise onboard Scenic Eclipse.
Below is an account of the trip, in her own words.
This was my second luxury expedition cruise and I am more enamored with this form of cruising and travel than ever. I think it's not only the sense of wonder and discovery of experiences, it's also the up-close-and-personal immersions in secluded destinations, with all the modern-day comforts we've come to expect.
I travelled with my elderly mother, who is a relatively mobile 73-year-old with lactose intolerance. I was interested to see how airlines and a luxury cruise line would accommodate her.
We flew business class with Qantas on the direct Brisbane to Los Angeles service which was comfortable and enjoyable. The staff were exceptional, particularly the Qantas ground crew in Brisbane. We enjoyed the Qantas Club before departure, which is always pleasant and allowed us to board ready for a good night's rest after watching a movie.
Arriving fresh in LA, we found immigration lengthy as usual, however as our luggage had been checked through to Panama City, we were able to swiftly drop them again at the transfer desk before changing terminals to connect with our American Airlines flight.
Arrivial into Panama City was a breeze, and we were met by our Scenic representative and privately transferred to the Hilton Panama City, where we took advantage of the hop-on hop-off bus to gain our bearings before heading straight for the pool and spa, bubbles in hand.
What an interesting city full of history, colour and flavors. South of the border instantly feels more laid back and relaxing. Tourism is definitely on the rise. Panama was buzzing.
Our Scenic Eclipse itinerary was unique as it was not ordinarily scheduled and was created due to cancelled itineraries in Northern Europe (Russia).
The 'Central American Discovery' began in Panama City bound for Loretto, Mexico and included a charter flight from Loretto back to Los Angeles.
We sailed Central America's western coast bathed in complete sunshine and glorious days, visiting some exotic locations in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico. I had visited Costa Rica and Mexico on a larger cruise ship before, taking shore excursions to canopy zipline and horse ride.
In contrast, the beauty of sailing on Scenic Eclipse was harbouring in secluded locations such as Isla Tortugas and Isla Cerralvo (Jacques Cousteau Island) with private beach access. We visited some main ports such as Puerto Quetzal, enjoying a historic excursion and lunch with local guides to Guatemala's colonial capital of Antigua.
I don't believe you can ever get bored on a cruise unless it's by choice. Onboard and ashore, there were so many activities to choose from a variety of shore excursions to cooking demonstrations.
This was Discovery cruising at its best, with an exceptional expedition team of 12 from geologists to naturalists, a state-of-the-art Airbus H130-T2 helicopter and U-Boat Worx Cruise Submarine capable of diving to 300 metres. You could choose to explore from above, below, or remain at sea level. What this allowed was a unique and once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The exceptional crew escorted us by zodiac to private beach locations, ready for us onshore with a pop-up beach bar complete with music, deck chairs, towels, private butler service and more. They even set up a floating marina from the back of the yacht. Here, we could choose to swim, snorkel, stand-up paddleboard or kayak in comfort. The atmosphere was fabulous, and sundowners were next level.
Onboard, everything is taken care of. From 24-hour butler service to pillow menus, private transfers (including a charter flight), specialty dining, most beverages (including some vintage wines and over 100 whiskeys), butler service, WiFi, shore excursions, nightly entertainment, use of the Senses Spa facilities and gratuities, it's all included, with no bill to settle at the end (except for my massage). It truly was all-inclusive.
From nature to cultural encounters and historic cities to ancient monuments, Scenic Eclipse has left us with memories that will last a lifetime.
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