Saturday, June 15, 2013

A European Feel With A Latino Vibe On The Monarch.....

A while back soon after moving to Panama, I stumbled onto a website for a cruise line out of Spain that was geared toward Spanish speaking passengers called Pullmantur.  Back then I was intimidated at the thought of being stuck at sea surrounded by people that spoke only Spanish, but two years later things have changed.  Since we moved our lives to Panama nearly two years ago and live our day to day lives surrounded by Spanish speakers, a cruise would be no different.  And since we're feeling more confident in our ability to communicate in Spanish a little more with each passing year, we were ready to embark on an adventure.

Playing the slots

View of the glass elevators in the main atrium

We booked our adventure through a website called which I closely watched as the price of the cruises went up and down.  Once we had decided on a date to start our cruise I watched until the price seemed to be at an all time low before we made the call.  The  lowest price for an inside cabin was $370 a person but since the lack of natural light bothered me on our last cruise, I wanted to go with an ocean view room this time around.  Clyde called the toll free number to speak to a cruise counselor to see if he could sweet talk his way into any further discounts. 

Did I do something wrong officer?  Was I a bad girl?
  Nope, a kid got sick in the pool and it had to be shut down for cleaning.

Sexy Guys contest for the ladies. 
Number 7 had the best body but another guy with belly overhang (not in the photo)
 who hammed it up for the female judges and crowd ended up winning. 

The first thing the cruise counselor explained to Clyde was that the language on board would be Spanish, and that the ships in the Pullmantur fleet are older and smaller without all the bells and whistles of the larger, fancier cruise lines.  But what people do like about these cruises are that everything is included and the ships stop at great ports of call. Pullmantur is owned by Royal Caribbean and the ships that bear the Pullmantur logo used to be in the  Royal Caribbean fleet until they were replaced by larger ships. Once all of the preliminaries were understood, the counselor gave us a free upgrade to a "superior ocean view" cabin with a guaranteed unobstructed view.  Then he sold Clyde on the idea of purchasing travel insurance through them for an extra $112, a decision we'd later appreciate.

Is a Mermaid made out of Butter really better?

Pineapple Owl

Hell!  I don't know.  This was a special Asian buffet.

More Restaurant Art

Pullmantur cruises offer an ALL INCLUSIVE package that includes food, alcohol and on board activities for one low price.  Other cruise lines offer food but alcohol and even soft drinks are not usually included and add up to a significant amount through the duration of the cruise.  The price for each ticket we purchased was $550 before taxes and port charges were added bringing the total up to around $1500 for the week.

The Clydester who found a fire hydrant on deck.

Art by the pool

But what Pullmantur offers that no other cruise line does, is the freedom for passengers to embark and disembark at ANY of the ports of call that they stop at, making for an interesting mix of people on board.  There were passengers on board from Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Holland and the islands of the Antilles just to name a few.  Along with hearing Spanish it was quite common to hear Dutch, German, Papiamentu, Australian and other languages among the crowds of passengers.  The European crowd although multi-lingual didn't seem to speak any Spanish.

A view of deck with two pools and two hot tubs on a day at sea!

A view of the pool goddess. 
A great place to get some sun in just a few
 inches of water, until they closed both pools for four hours for cleaning when kids
 got sick in both of them.

Although our ship was scheduled to leave Colon at 6pm we were allowed to board the ship four hours early.  It must have been around 3pm by the time we made our way through the check-in process and onto the big, blue floating hotel.  We had expected to board an old, simple, worn out ship but were quite impressed by the beauty and layout of the Monarch.  The large center atrium in the middle of the ship housed a grand piano, round glass elevators, and a luxurious staircase surrounded by shops and  restaurants. The twelve decks of the Monarch held 2,744 passengers, 858 crew members and featured live Broadway type of shows nightly.  It also included  a beauty salon, spa, casino, library, Internet café, , kids and teen clubs, basketball court, ten bars and lounges, two swimming pools, two hot tubs, jogging track, gym, aerobic and spinning classes, shops, restaurants and so much more. 

Another view of the pool

Clyde's poolside entertainment

He was still amusing himself

Butts in thongs everywhere

And more butts

Our cabin was located on the fourth floor nearby elevators, the internet café, excursion desk and international relations desk.  The cabin although compact like on any other cruise line had a safe, phone, hair dryer, tv, bathroom with shower, and large oval window for our viewing entertainment.  The ship was carpeted throughout making it easy to walk around even when the seas were a bit rough. 

Sitting at our favorite place

The Fragatta Bar and Lounge

The crew all seemed to speak at least some English so those that spoke no Spanish were not left in the dark.  All safety drills and announcements were made first in Spanish and then in English, so anything that we needed to know was easy to understand.  But since the two of us enjoy a challenge we tried to speak in Spanish as much as possible.  We did find that most of the Spanish speakers on board were easy to understand as they used a more formal language than what we've become used to hearing on the streets of Panama.  We even began to understand the different Spanish dialects and what country the speakers were from, including those from here.

Our Restaurant Every Night

Coming into Colon

In typical European fashion the two dinner seating's were 7:30 pm and 10:00 pm much later than we ever eat at home.  But during the afternoon there was either a lunch buffet or pizzeria with sandwiches open so we never went hungry.  And although the casual buffet's presented quite the assortment of meal choices, salads, fruits and desserts, it was certainly not the gluttonous type of buffet found in the US that went on for miles.  Some passengers compared the food selection to Carnival cruises and said that there was no where near as much food offered on Pullmantur as they offer on Carnival.  But that being said I still found a way to pack in plenty of calories by sampling a bit of everything the buffet's had to offer.

View of Colon

Finally Docked in Colon which means the week long party is over,
but at least we don't have to go back to work

During the formal dinners we were seated with other English speakers throughout the duration of the cruise.  A couple from Boquette that divide up their time between Panama and the states, and also a mother daughter traveling together from Utah.  The menu was available in both Spanish and English and offered a different selection of appetizers, entrees, side dishes and desserts nightly.  Our waiters Javier and Carlos, were attentive, bilingual gentleman, who always kept our glasses filled with wine.

Ships in the distance waiting to transit the Canal

More ships waiting

After dinner each night we stopped by one of the many lounges or bars for a few more cocktails before taking in the nightly show in the Broadway Showroom.  And we usually love to kick up our heels on the dance floor and tried out the Cyan Disco the first night aboard.  Bumping butts with a mixed group of ages and nationalities on the dance floor made for a fun evening, complimented by some tropical drinks from the bar.  But later that night Clyde broke his toe ending our nights of dancing for a while.  Since I detailed this ordeal in an earlier blog I won't explain it again, and if you missed that blog please refer back to "Caribbean Cruise To The Hospital."

Medi Help Clinic and Hospital where Clyde had his surgery in Cartagena, Colombia

Our first port of call was Cartagena, Colombia on Saturday followed by a day at sea on Sunday. Monday we woke up docked in the port of Oranstad, Aruba for a day of fun in the dry, arid, sun.  Tuesday we headed up to the city of Caracas, Venezuela after landing in the port of La Guairá.  Wednesday was a day spent enjoying the enchanting island of Curacao, after or ship docked in the port of Willemstad.  Thursday was another day at sea to relax before getting back to Panama on Friday where we ended our vacation.

Formal Dinner Night

The nightly shows were full of song and dance numbers in both Spanish and English, with scantily clad hot bodies parading around on stage. The last night on board the show was titled "Rock Never Dies," where the cast performed an hour of popular songs that we all sang along with.  He we sat sandwiched in between Spanish speakers who clapped, swayed and sang along to the music in English.  It just showed me how music has the ability to unite all people, regardless of culture, language, upbringing or country of origin.

Clyde loves this picture

After a week of Spanish immersion I found myself thinking in Spanish, understanding more when I eavesdropped, and returning to Panama a little wiser.  We thoroughly enjoyed the all inclusive package, the different ports of call, and the attentive staff that just about knew us by name before the week was over. Already I long to return home and find the bed made, with an endless variety of food to choose from, and free drinks with little umbrellas and fruit poking out of them.....along the gringo trail.

1 comment:

  1. Broken toe or no, you two know how to have a good time! Thanks for the what-it-is-like entry of your cruise. What, no doggie bags for us? Fred


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