An occasional visitor to Cartagena, the 100-passenger small cruise ship MS Serenissima called at the city's namesake port on the Caribbean coast of Colombia recently! However, her latest cruise has taken her along Central America's Pacific coast, culminating in every ship-lovers dream –a daytime transit through the Panama Canal.
Built in 1960 as a Norwegian ferry, she was renovated throughout in a somewhat Swedish 18th century country house style – bright, comfortable and intimate rather than luxurious. Most cabins are small and irregular in size and shape, but all have their own facilities including a shower. Inevitably the deck layout is quirky, but this endearing little ship delights those seeking a different experience than 'floating resort'.
There are two lounges and a dining room that takes everyone at a free-seating single sitting for tasty buffet lunches and set dinner, cooked and served by the friendly Filipino crew.
No formal nights here, just smart casual.
No show-style entertainment, but talks and lectures relating to the places visited.
You are welcome on the bridge by the European officers and can even sign up for a tour of the engine room!
As well as port calls and included excursions, the ship sometimes anchors in remote locations, landing guests in zodiacs.
Six countries, some small ports and several tropical beaches later, MS Serenissima entered the Canal locks. A 1400-passenger cruise ship (still smallish these days!) squeezed into the adjacent 'lane', towering above her! It was an appropriate reminder of the choices available in cruising.