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Panama Canal – Norwegian Star

Kay and Paul Martin booked a 14-day cruise on the 2300-passenger Norwegian Star from Los Angeles to Miami, travelling the whole way through the 77km ship canal from the Pacific Ocean end through to Miami on the Atlantic Ocean.

But for Kay and Paul, who are a well-travelled couple (Paul is an airline pilot), cruising for them is more about the destination than the cruise experience.

For them, this was the best way to see the Panama Canal at close quarters.

“We don’t at this stage in our life cruise for cruising’s sake. That’s a bit different for some of the older people who really are cruising for the experience,” she says.

“The last cruise we did was Alaska’s Inside Passage, and there’s some places in Alaska where you physically can’t get there by road, so to see the place we thought it would be a good idea to cruise.”

Although the day-long voyage through the Panama Canal was “definitely the highlight of the cruise”, there were other highlights for them.

The ship travelled down the coast, stopping at Cabo san Lucas, on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico. It’s renowned for being one of Mexico’s top tourist destinations, and Kay and Paul took the opportunity to go mountain biking though the desert with a family they met on board the Star

It’s the only port stop in the itinerary where the Star moored at sea and passengers were brought into shore on the ship’s tenders.

“It all worked really well and they got it well and truly organized,” says Kay.

The Star also stopped at Mexico’s Puerto Vallarta, Huatulco and Puerto Chiapas where they took a ship excursion to the Mayan ruins and museum.

Kay agrees that many ship excursions can be quite expensive and they usually “did their own thing” at most other ports they visited but this was different.

“You could have taken a taxi there but you wouldn’t have got a guide telling you all about the stuff you see on the way.”

The ship then cruised down to Costa Rica and stopped at Puntarenas where Kay and Paul went on a 2.6kn ‘flight’ through part of the rain forest on the Aerial Tram, a kind of open air gondola. As if this wasn’t enough adventure for them, they also did ten Zip Rides, a form of flying fox which also glides you through part of the rain forest.