Travels with Charlie Adams: What is is like to cruise the Western Caribbean and Panama Group Tour with WSBT's Charlie Adams

By Charlie | January, 25, 2009

This is Edgerton's Group Travel host and motivational speaker Charlie Adams. I hosted a group trip to the Western Caribbean and Panama January 12th to the 23th. Much of the trip was aboard the beautiful MSC Lirica. I have written a review of this remarkable group travel experience. This gives you a feel of what it is like to go on a Cruise, as Edgerton's offers several Cruise packages.

MONDAY JANUARY 12th: Travellers from such locations as Mishawaka, Fort Wayne, Berrien Center, Adrian (MI), Warsaw, St. Joseph, Edwardsburg and Benton Harbor gathered for the Travels with Charlie Group Travel Experience to the Western Caribbean and Panama.

Trish O'Hanlon was the trip manager. Her husband Bob, the area's number one Notre Dame fan, came too. He is always a big hit on trips! He loves to do his special Irish Jig dance for travelers when they ask him to do it.

Edgerton's had a shuttle pick us all up for the trip to Chicago. Trish guided us onto the airplane and we were off for Miami. A shuttle was waiting to take us 30 minutes to the Sheraton Yankee Clipper Hotel on the beach in Fort Lauderdale. The unique hotel, built in 1956, has landmark status. Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe are among those that stayed there over the years. The bar inside is called "The Wreck" which is famous for its underwater view of the hotel swimming pool. Every Friday a mermaid swims in the pool. You don't see that in Bremen. Billy Crystal and Robert DeNiro filmed a scene from "Analyze This" in that bar. David Caruso shot a scene for CSI Miami there. In 1960, Where the Boys Are was filmed on the beach right outside the hotel's back doors. Edgerton's always finds unique places to stay in group travel trips.

A lot of the group gathered in the lounge to watch the Notre Dame-Louisville basketball game on ESPN. It is so neat to see everyone in group travel quickly connect and enjoy each others company. Group travel is terrific!

TUESDAY JANUARY 13TH - There was no rush to get up and get to the ship. Edgerton's had arranged it where our group didn't have to leave until noon. Travellers strolled around the Sheraton Yankee Clipper Hotel. Gene and Judy Montgomery of Edwardsburg (MI) and Dave and Diane Harder of Adrian (MI) went for a walk on the beach. Dave is an outstanding photographer and took many pictures.

At noon tour manager Trish gathered us in the lobby. Edgerton's had a shuttle waiting for the short trip to the MSC Lirica. Everyone was so excited about their passionate Italian style of cruising! We got to the ship area and in fifteen minutes we were on board. The MSC Lirica has a nice touch as soon as you get on board. Every passenger has a ship worker waiting to escort them right to their room. That way you don't have travellers stumbling around trying to find their floor and their room.

Many in our group had Edgerton's book them rooms with a balcony. I am finding that more and more travellers want balcony's on Cruises. I went into Gene and Judy's room and could see why. There is the bed, a couch, and then two nice chairs out on the balcony. Travellers love being able to sit outside in privacy and take in the incredible views.

The captain of the ship is Giacomo Romana! What a name! You could tell he was nervous because he had Edgerton's travellers on board. Some ship captains go their whole lives without the incredible, uncomparable experience of having Edgerton's travellers. Giacomo knew this would be the highlight of his career (!).

Travellers zipped around the ship getting the feel of it. What struck me was how clean it looked. Everything sparkled. You could tell the MSC Lirica took great pride in having even the tiniest things as clean and shiny as possible.Workers were constantly waxing or shining something.

After dinner, travellers gathered in The Broadway Theater for the first show of the trip. It was called "The Odyssey." The dancers and singers performed parts of Phantom of the Opera, Mamma Mia and other shows. The packed theater gave them a standing ovation.

This particular trip has an international feel. There are travellers from all over the world. Bob and Linda Lux hosted this trip for Edgerton's last year and said it was tremendous.

TUESDAY JANUARY 14TH: The MSC Lirica spent the day at sea. I saw several travellers like Judy, Diane and Barb doing arts and crafts at the tables by the pool. Barb and her husband Dick are from Fort Wayne (photo below). What a neat couple.
photo of Edgertons travellers Dick and Barb in the W Caribbean

Many of us joined them for coffee each morning. Dick has all the problems of the world figured out. Washington DC needs to fly him up. Give him a week and he would have our nation straightened out.

Tour Manager Trish celebrated her birthday this week! Many of you have travelled with Trish. She has meant so much to Edgerton's travellers over the years. Her husband Bob surprised her with a cake after dinner. My wife Nancy circulated a birthday card.

The show at the Broadway Theater was outstanding again. A juggler and a dancer put on amazing shows. What has struck me so far is that the MSC Lirica has the best shows I have ever seen on a cruise ship. The quality of the performers is something you would see at the Morris Performing Arts Center in South Bend.

WEDNESDAY JANUARY 15th: We arrived in Costa Maya, Mexico, which is on the Yucatan Peninsula. Many of our travellers were anxious to experience where the Maya Indians lived for centuries. They were one of America's most sophisticated pre Columbian cultures. The Maya Indians flourished between 300 and 900 AD. Several of us went on an excursion to Ruins. It is awe inspiring to stand at the steps and think of all the history. We explored the virtually unexcavated Chacchoben Mayan Ruins.

In the evening the MSC Lirica headed towards Costa Rica!

JANUARY 16TH AND 17TH: January 16th was a day at sea. January 17th saw the MSC Lirica arrive in Costa Rica, a country between Nicaragua and Panama. Several of us went zip lining.

We had a pretty long drive into the forest to the zip lining site. The guide said the road would be bumpy at times. "Consider it a free massage," he said. Upon getting there we were suited up and off into the trees we went! We zip lined about 12 times. There is nothing quite like soaring above the tree tops from tree stand to tree stand. I got some good video for the DVD every Edgerton passenger receives after Travels with Charlie trips.

After the last tree, we walked on a trail out on the beach. It was a glorious sun splashed day. Costa Rica is SO beautiful.

photo Charlie zip lining Costa Rica

JANUARY 18TH: January 18th saw us arrive in Colon, Panama. Many in our group went on various excursions. Some folks decided to simply chill out on the ship with a good book. I went kayaking with several from the ship.

photo of kayaking

We were part of a group that went all over the lake. It was so much fun, and good exercise. My arms sure got a workout. We went by the house where the movie "End of the Spear" was filmed a few years ago. I have heard so many good things about that movie and its message.

Towards the end of the excursion the guide challenged us all to a race. There must have been 15 kayaks out there. Nancy and I started churning away. We had entered a kayak contest on the St. Joseph River a few years ago and just about hit each other with the paddles during that competition (!). This time we were more in sync and finished in second place to a German couple.

The excursion continued to the famous Panama Canal. Built between 1904 and 1914 by the United States, it is one of the most impressive engineering feats in the world. I had never been there. When we arrived, I had goosebumps. To stand there and see it in action is a sight to behold.We were fortunate enough to get there as 'The Island Princess' of Princess Cruiselines was coming through. It was an unforgettable experience to see the water shift in the canal and for that massive ship to come gliding by us. It cost 'The Island Princess'  $275,000 for the one way 50 mile trip through the Canal. Of course, that's a whole lot cheaper and safer than going down around the bottom of South America. What was neat was seeing 'The Island Princess' in person.
Photo Panama Canal

Back on the ship, it was formal night. I love those. It was wonderful seeing the Edgerton's travellers are dressed up. Ron and Willa Henry of Warsaw looked like the King and Queen of a small country. Ron and Willa went on the Travels with Charlie trip to the Colorado Rockies by train in 2006. Ron recently retired from many decades of work at beautiful Grace College in Winona Lake, IN. Al and Carol Jewell of St. Joseph, MI looked stunning. Carol had married Al late in life. "I wasn't an old Maid," Carol told me. "I was undiscovered treasure."

JANUARY 19TH AND 20TH: Everyone was excited about arriving in Columbia. Many of the Edgerton's travellers went on City Tours of Cartagena. The Old Walled City was fascinating. Their trips also included a trip up to the monastery on La Popa Hill which has housed the image of the virgin of Candelaria, credited with Cartagena's deliverance from plagues and pirates! Other travellers, including myself, went on a canoe excursion into the Mangroves.

photo of Edgerton's travellers canoeing in Columbia

The canoes were dug out and must have been 75 years old. Our guide, Eduardo, was tremendous. He took us deep into the mangroves and told us all about the history of the city.

That night the show in the Broadway Theatre was fantastic again. A magician played a piano as it turned around and around. The performer was amazing. How he did those things was something none of us could figure out.

The photo below is of Lyle and Linda, two of the travelers:

photo of Linda and Lyle

January 20th was a day at sea as the MSC Lirica headed towards the Dominican Republic. Edgerton's travellers laid out in the sun. It was 10 below zero back in Michiana but in the 80's and 90's on the cruise. January is always a great time to book a group travel cruise through Edgerton's. It allows people to escape the horrifying cold of Michiana. We could hear people in Warsaw and Elkhart screaming, "Help us! It's so cold! We wish we where there! Aaaaaagh!"

JANUARY 21st, 22nd and 23rd: Looking back, January 21st was probably my favorite time of this remarkable group travel trip. We arrived at Samana, Dominican Republic. For the first time, the MSC Lirica couldn't dock because of coral reefs and such. We stay out a bit and people tendered onto the Dominican Republic and/or the nearby small island of Cayo Levantado.

I went on a horseback riding excursion. If you can, I encourage you to go on excursions. Push yourself when you can. On virtually every one we ever go on we see people in their 70's. One time a lady from Goshen went Zip Lining in Hawaii. She was 80 and plans on doing it again at age 90!

The Horseback excursion was top rate. We rode a van up into the mountains. The Dominican Republic is beautiful. Samana is a peninsula of the D.R. After a 30 minute drive we were giving boots and assiged a horse. We also each had a man who walked alongside us. We went through a river and up through the mountains. The view was breathtaking. After 45 minutes or so we arrived at a powerful waterfall. We hiked down a hill right to the bottom of it. Many people went swimming in it!

Trish and Bob and many others spent the day on the small island of Cayo Levantado. It was flat out gorgeous. The MSC Lirica had a buffet set up on the island. The sand was sparkling white and the crystal clear turquoise waters were a sight to behold! The temperature was up in the 80's. Wow, what a day.

That night we had our farewell dinner. Edgerton's travellers were treated to lobster and baked Alaska. We have so enjoyed getting to know each other at dinner each night. It has been a tremdous trip.

On the final day we gathered at 8:45 in the ship and were escorted to a waiting Edgerton's shuttle van. We drove to the Miami Airport and were on the flight home by early afternoon. Group Travel took away all the headaches from the travellers. Edgerton's and Trish had every step planned.

In a few weeks I produced a DVD of the trip. Every traveller takes the DVD home. It is a joy to produce and takes each person back on their trip.

All in all, this was a big hit. As I always say, it is the travellers that make the trip. People like Lyle and Linda Culberton of Fort Wayne and Bob and Connie Froehlich of Berrien Center (MI). Everyone had a great time and can't wait to go on another Edgerton's Group Travel trip!

Charlie Adams

Author and Speaker, host of Travels with Charlie for Edgerton's Group Travel






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