Six-Star Luxury through the Panama Canal

Of all the dreamlike vacations imaginable, there is nothing  quite like sailing to faraway places and exotic ports on a six-star luxury cruise ship.

This my husband and I discovered on a 14-day cruise from Miami to Los Angeles through the Panama Canal. The up-close look at the engineering wonder that is the canal was breath-taking; the visits to colourful ports in the Caribbean, Latin America and Mexico enlightening and, if that wasn’t enough, as penthouse passengers aboard the Crystal Symphony, we experienced some of life’s pure delights.

We were spoiled by Teo, our handsome European butler, who stocked our in-suite bar with our favourite wine, delivered canapés each afternoon at 5 and, on at-sea days, brought breakfast to our private balcony. And, oh yes, he did the ironing too.

We basked in our elegantly appointed stateroom whose classic decor was part boutique hotel, part upscale home. It came complete with a king-size bed, Frette linens, flat-panel television with DVD/CD player, spacious dual-sink bathroom with a deep whirlpool tub, separate shower and full-size Aveda amenities.

Whether we ate in the elegant Crystal dining room, the more intimate Italian-flavoured Prego or the exotic Silk Road with its own sushi bar, Symphony really shone in terms of service and gourmet food. Mustafa, our engaging water, anticipated our every need. “I know, light on the dressing and a small portion,” he would say each evening before he took my dinner order, having told him on Day 1 that I loved to eat but my clothes had to fit by the end of the trip.

Then there are the onboard enrichment activities. On our trip, there were bridge classes, Spanish lessons using the Berlitz method and ballroom dance classes. Before transiting the Canal, destination lecturer Richard Morgan, a retired Panama Canal Company executive, detailed the canal’s astounding background, then provided running commentary as we glided through each of the canal’s six locks.

Another six-star plus is “all-inclusive” pricing, a model now favoured by many luxury cruise lines. When it comes to luxury slightly over-the top and the ultimate in quality and service, six stars is the way to sail.

– Anna Hobbs