Westbound Panama Canal (March 6-20, 2020) Trip Report

daedelus

This will be my greatest performance!
Joined
Dec 23, 2017
Greetings DisBoard friends,

We just returned from the "last cruise on the seas," the now well known WBPC! The crew tells me we set a new record for most consecutive days at sea (11). I think the tag-line for this cruise would have to be, "Out of an abundance of caution..." I'll explain.

Even before we boarded, we knew this was going to be an interesting cruise. At the port in New Orleans (which was still recovering from Mardi Gras...) we dropped off our luggage and then stood in an unusually long line to get our docs verified prior to entering the terminal proper. We had heard that someone would be looking through each page of one's passport to verify there hadn't been any travel to high-risk countries, but that was not the case. Once through that line and security, we were able to check in. Due to the large number of people who were not able to cruise for a variety of reasons, we were able to upgrade our inside stateroom to ocean-view pretty cheap. Nice! Once they called our boarding group, we had our temperatures scanned before heading to the gangway. Note, this probably should have been moved to "pre-luggage drop-off," but no one asked me. We did see a couple being escorted out of the terminal with their luggage at one point. Not sure why, but I can suppose they may have had a temperature.

The first couple of days aboard were pretty normal for DCL. Sea day, day in Cozumel, day in Grand Cayman. Most of the water based excursions in Grand Cayman were cancelled the day before due to high winds and choppy seas, so we hired a cab and free-styled it all over the island. Had a great time! Then the cruise got interesting.

On the morning of day 4, we woke up expecting to be in Cartegena, Colombia. We were not. In fact, we were at sea with no land in sight. It turns out there had been a medical emergency the night before that the onboard medical staff was not able to adequately treat. Captain Henry turned the ship around and returned to Grand Cayman to deliver that guest to medical personnel and get them proper treatment. As he said, they would have done so for any of us, no matter the situation. I talked to him several days later and he said that the guest was stable and receiving proper care. Bravo to him and the crew for that!

We had been told we would be stopping in Cartegena for a couple of hours to swap entertainers, but that no guests would be able to go ashore due to the delay. We arrived around 1400 and rather than dock, we were held offshore at an anchorage. After conferring with the Colombian authorities, the ship was not allowed to transfer anyone on or off due to the possible health risks. It appears that even if we had made port on time, we would not have been able to get off due to the health concerns.

The Panama Canal crossing went off like clockwork, and was as fascinating as always. Dr. Richard Costanza was onboard to narrate the passage and we cleared the western end of the canal at around 1700 on crossing day. Also on this day they announced that "out of an abundance of caution" we would no longer be able to serve ourselves at Cabanas, the soda station or any other self-service food/bev locations. They added extra crew to the stations at Cabanas and after the first day or two of this, we all got into the routine and it didn't terribly impact service times.

Our 4 (planned) sea days were just as expected - relaxing. On our last sea day before Puerto Vallarta, Captain Henry made another announcement. Poor guy, every time he came on the PA (especially when he piped the announcement into the staterooms) the whole ship would go silent and hold their collective breaths! This time he told us that "out of an abundance of caution" we would be bypassing both Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas and heading straight to San Diego, arriving a day early on Thursday. Fun note, on the last couple of days, Captain Henry started to preface his normal announcements with, "no bad news, just a navigational update!"

Arrived in San Diego early Thursday, no problems. About 600 people decided to disembark early. The rest of us waited until Friday to do so. I talked to several crew member who said Wonder would most likely sit off-shore (where it currently is as of this posting) and the crew would deep-clean the ship from stem to stern, top to bottom. A good number of crew were sent home early, but many remained onboard. All were confident that DCL would do right by them and take good care of them. I certainly hope so - they were absolutely amazing to us!

A couple of notes about the crew and entertainers, most of whom deserve a medal for going above and beyond the call of duty on this very unusual cruise.

Of our planned entertainers, Heath Hyche made it aboard and did a great show. Pretty sure he departed in Grand Cayman, as he wasn't with us the rest of the cruise. We also had:
- Jon Armstrong (magician, comedian, all around great guy) The amazing performer went WAY above. Not only did he do his normally scheduled shows, which were incredible, but he went out of his way to work with the cruise staff and did numerous additional shows and sessions including some "how to do magic" classes that were amazing. He's also just a really nice guy. Kudos to him for being such an amazing team player and being willing to help during the cruise.
- Leslie Iwerks - Leslie was also supposed to get off in Cartegena, but she did almost a dozen extra talks, seminars, presentations, documentaries, etc. to help fill in the schedule. She was just incredible. Her documentaries and presentations of her Disney Imagineering series were awesome.
- Dr. Richard Costanza - "Dr. C" was our Panama Canal narrator but also pitched in with presentations on everything from the real pirates of the Caribbean to Vikings! Really interesting guy and a great narrator.
- Voice Play - what a disappointment these guys were. Don't get me wrong, they did a great show during their scheduled times. But they were on the ship with us until Thursday in San Diego and did absolutely nothing to help with the entertainment schedule. Nothing. We saw them around the ship, at meals, etc. I'm not going to pass judgement on them as I don't know their circumstances, but suffice to say people were very puzzled by their lack of engagement to say the least.

I cannot emphasize enough how amazing the cruise staff and regular performers were. Just incredible. One night Soul Duo, Bongi Maestro and the other onboard band put together a "super-band" and played a dance concert for us on deck 9. We had impromptu dance classes with Wilhelm and Natalia. The crew did their amazing (Panama Canal traditional) crew talent show. So good. The cast of the WD theatre did a musical review in the main theatre that had been scheduled as a 30 minute D-Lounge gig. Incredible. And of course, Deano (club host) was just awesome. He hosted so many trivia sessions that they literally ran out of prizes.

All in all, my hat's off to the amazing team on Wonder for keeping us safe and healthy and making the most out of an unfortunate situation. Every single member of that crew was cheerful and polite to the very end. I hope that in addition to cleaning the ship, they're all getting some well deserved R&R. On board. :-)
 

lorimay

🏖🏝⛱
Joined
Dec 11, 2008
SO glad to hear how Disney and crew made it so special in spite of everything going on in this world!
I love Bongi!!!!

Glad you made it home safely and healthy!
 

drclaws

I'd rather be Mousing!
Joined
May 21, 2000
If you listen to the podcast that had Jon Anderson on it, he went into a bit of detail about the entertainment rearranging. Apparently VoicePlay originally decline to do anything additional, then their management contact DCL and offered to do somethign for an additional $10,000. DCL declined. Have think you will not see VoicePlay associated with anything Disney moving forward. Also had read some reports that they were acting like a jerks at times.
 

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  • daedelus

    This will be my greatest performance!
    Joined
    Dec 23, 2017
    I did indeed hear that podcast. What a disappointment! I was one of their audience "victims" during their main stage performance and they seemed really cool at the time. But we did see them around the ship and they perpetually looked irked to be there.

    I realized I forgot to mention that there was another performer onboard, Gavin Lee. He's a broadway singer / actor type. He did one show too and was on the whole time. Oh well.

    But I think you're right. While Jon Anderson probably has his pick of cruise engagements, I don't think VoicePlay will be back. Sucks for them, they have a good show. Hard lessons and all that.
     

    DVC Kathy

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    May 22, 2003
    Gavin Lee did have a Q and A session with photo ops and autographs in D Lounge on the last Wednesday.

    It was great, and ran very long.
     

    o&smom

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 23, 2011
    I was wondering why Voiceplay did not put together any other entertainment. I thought it probably had to do with contracts. I agree that they will probably not be back. We really enjoyed them on two of our cruises where they were performers.
     

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