My alarm went off at 8 am and I woke to complete darkness. There was a moment of fear. Had Cuban pirates boarded the ship in the night and consigned me to a barrel? I fumbled for the light and I was instantaneously back in my comfortable cabin. Since childhood I’ve never had bedroom curtains. And I’ve spent over 1000 days in Antarctica in summer where it never gets dark. I’d much prefer to sleep in the light than sleep in the dark. So I had some trepidation about taking an inside cabin. But this voyage was very popular and by the time I booked, only a handful of inside cabins were left. Panama was altogether too tempting.

Even so, when family wished me “bon voyage” I said that I’d only know when we were sailing if the captain announced it – or there was a bow cam on my cabin TV.

Just before leaving Sydney a friend Skyped from Canada to tell me he and the family had just returned from a cruise in the Caribbean. I told him I was heading that way but had an inside cabin. He replied: “So did we. The price was great and we only ever returned to the cabin to sleep.” He had the right attitude. I stopped my negative ruminations and went for a shower.

Today is a sea day. The captain cleverly managed to avoid running into Cuba so we continue towards Colombia. Sea days are meant as days to rest but there was no time for that. There were excursions to book. Yes, I know there are people who book excursions months in advance but I like to get a feeling for a ship before committing to spending days off the ship in the same company. Though, with 2200 passengers, the chance of meeting the same people on two excursions is remote.

My morning is consumed with selecting excursions. After the first reading I was sweating: the options were too vast to decide. There are six landing days: Cartegena, Colon, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Acapulco and Cabo San Lucas. But I have to finally make a selection so let’s get serious.

Cartegena – I’ll do my own thing. It was once part of one of the scariest countries on earth so I welcome the chance to see how the picturesque old city has changed to be a tourist haven. Anyway, it all worked out in “Romancing the Stone” didn’t it? Colon – still too scary though it’s better than it was. There are no traffic lights and I suspect that’s because it’s too risky to stop. Ever. I rode my motorcycle to Miraflores Lock over a decade ago so want to see Gatun Locks. So let’s go kayaking on the ecological wonderland of Gatun Lakes with a stop at the locks on the way.

Costa Rica? Here’s a challenge. There’s a page and a half covering 28 options for excursions. Zipline or coastal cruise, coffee plantation or rainforest? I elect to go for the 9.5 hr excursion to the Monteverde Cloud Forest. It’ll give me a chance to check my rain gear.

So we come to Guatemala. I’ve been here twice before. I’d like to see more of Antigua, the capital. The first time I was here all my clothes were stolen from the back of our van so all I saw of town was the police station as I filed a lengthy report. The next time I visited I wasn’t brave enough to leave my bike anywhere so I’d like to, finally, have a look around the city. There’s a cheap option of a bus to the capital for a self-guided tour so I put a tick next to that.

Acapulco. I know it was once home to the movie stars in the 40’s and Elvis was there in “Fun in Acapulco” and there are exhibition divers of a coastal cliff. So I elect for the cliff divers and a city tour with enough time to explore by myself afterwards.

Finally, we come to Cabo San Lucas. I’d like to see the famous rock arch of Los Arcos but sailing on a vessel that was a NZ Americas Cup challenger appeals, too, and so does snorkeling. It’s all too difficult and it’s weeks away so I hold off on a decision. A passenger later tells me that the ship anchors not far from Los Arcos and another confides that the dock holds local touts offering every excursion so there’s no need to pre-book. My indecision looks set to be rewarded though Visa has told me that there’s a lot of credit card fraud throughout Mexico so it may be the most costly saving I’ll ever make.

Because the excursion booking form on my cabin computer isn’t working, just before lunch I visit the excursions desk and find that all my preferences are available. I head for the Asian buffet in the Windjammer Café for a celebratory lunch.

Words: David McGonigal.