Star Breeze Arrives off Panama City, PanamaStar Breeze arrives off Panama City, Panama on March 3, 2016. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
The biggest bug I’ve ever seen is clinging to the frame of my stateroom window.
Hitching a ride as we spend a day at sea cruising down to Balboa, Panama, this particular bug looks like a grasshopper on steroids. He’s clinging to the frame of the window, resting comfortably – if vertically – in the shade as Windstar Cruises’ Star Breeze plows through the Pacific Ocean and enters the Gulf of Panama at an easy 13 knots.
Now, I have no idea what this bug is. I just know I dislike bugs intensely. Even though a layer of thick marine glass separates us, I’m leery of my new ride-along companion. I first noticed him after breakfast. Five hours later, he’s still there – clinging to the window sill. My rough comparisons show he’s bigger than a can of Coca-Cola, and wider than the base of a champagne bottle. Clearly, I’m Keyser Soze-ing the size of this bug, but those are the tools I have to work with.
With a day of sailing the Pacific Ocean ahead of us prior to our evening arrival in Balboa, let’s take a virtual walk around the decks and the public rooms of the Star Breeze: …head up the Forward Staircase… Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
For most guests aboard the Star Breeze, this day of being underway fits in nicely with the established shipboard routine. This consists primarily of reading, socializing, and drinking. Since we’re sailing along at 13 knots, there’s a great breeze across the open decks that is helping to keep temperatures down and guests rooted to deck chairs on Decks 7 and 8.
This routine continued undisturbed until around 4:00 p.m., when the hazy outline of Panama City started to appear off our bow. First one, then several cargo ships and tankers came into view; all are at anchor waiting to enter the Panama Canal. This afternoon, guests enjoyed some relaxing time at sea. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders
By 5:00 p.m., we had dropped our anchor at our overnight anchorage near the local marina. We’re not quite in Balboa, and we’re not quite in Panama City, either – we’re somewhere outside of both. The views are stunning, and guests flocked to the forward-facing open decks on Decks 8, 7, and 5 to take in the spectacle. As we dropped anchor, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Jewel steamed past us, having exited the Canal on her westbound transit.
Today’s cocktail is the Balboa Breeze: vodka, pineapple juice and cranberry juice. It’s in full swing up at the Star Bar on Deck 8 as we sail in, with the outdoor seating packed and guests crowding the Yacht Club for a little air-conditioned relief from the searing heat. It’s only when the ship stops moving and the breeze settles down that you realize just how hot it really is – and how easy it is to give yourself a heck of a burn if you aren’t careful.
But the excitement that precipitated our arrival into Balboa and Panama City spilled over into another evening event: Windstar’s signature on-deck barbecue. One of my favorite Windstar Cruises staples, this on-deck barbecue would best my already high expectations thanks to the great crew here onboard the Star Breeze, and the wonderful cuisine prepared by Executive Chef Budhi.
If you’ve never sailed with Windstar before, here’s what happens: the pool deck (Decks 7 and 8 midships on Star Breeze) is turned into a gigantic outdoor party. Tables, complete with electric ‘candles’ and brilliant white tablecloths, are set up. Food stations are rolled into position – and the biggest outdoor barbecue you’re likely to experience on the high seas begins.
We’re talking salads, lobster tails, paella, jerk chicken, flank steak, shrimps, suckling pig, and more. German potato salad, tomato and feta cheese salad, pasta salad (two kinds – or is it four?), plus freshly-made Sangria to wash it all down with. And that’s just dinner. Wait until you see the dessert table…
The crew of the Star Breeze worked hard to infect guests with a fun, jovial atmosphere. They’d pose for pictures; dance, wave napkins, the whole bit. All while serving food, preparing drinks, and making sure their guests were tended to. Our F&B managers made the rounds, making sure food was prepared properly and to guests’ liking.
All of this, of course, took place under the backdrop of Panama City and the entrance to the Panama Canal.
Tomorrow is our last day onboard the Star Breeze, which will conclude with our evening transit of the engineering marvel that is the Panama Canal. Entering from the Pacific Ocean, we’ll sail into the Miraflores Locks – the deepest and tallest locks in the entire canal – and begin our transit out to the Caribbean Sea, where our voyage will end Saturday morning in Colon, Panama.
It seems like a great way to conclude our yachting journey.
And whatever happened to the giant bug, you asked? He’s still there – clinging softly to my windowsill. Maybe it’s the sangria talking, but I swore I saw it wink at me.
Star Breeze - Costa Rica & Panama
|February 27, 2016||Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica||Embark||6:00 PM|
|February 28||Quepos, Costa Rica||7:00 AM||6:00 PM|
|February 29||Bahia Drake, Costa Rica||7:00 AM||5:00 PM|
|March 1||Golfo Duce, Costa Rica||8:00 AM||4:00 PM|
|March 2||Isla de Coiba, Panama||7:00 AM||6:00 PM|
|March 3||Balboa, Panama||5:00 PM||Overnight|
|March 4||Balboa, Panama / Transit Panama Canal||Overnight||1:00 PM |
Enter Canal: 5:00 PM
|March 5||Colon, Panama||7:00 AM||Disembark|
Our Live Voyage Report from onboard Windstar Cruises’ Star Breeze continues as we transit the Panama Canal. Be sure to follow along with our adventures on Twitter @deckchairblog.