Fattoush Salad {Panama Canal Cruise Excursions}

This Fattoush Salad is fresh and bright and flavorful. LOVE!

Fattoush Salad from afarmgirlsdabbles.com

The flavors from the Middle East intrigue me. I’ve sought them out ever since our family traveled to Egypt to stay with my sister’s family for a Christmas holiday, just a few weeks prior to the 2011 revolution.

My sister Cheryl and her husband Dave made sure that we experienced all we possibly could during our 10-day stay with them, from authentic local eats, to ancient pyramids and churches and markets, to a few days of relaxation on the shores of the Red Sea. I still pinch myself when I think back on all that we took in.

While in Cairo, I enjoyed my first fattoush salad, a Middle Eastern salad made with fresh greens, vegetables, and herbs, and topped with toasted or fried day-old pita bread. I’ve experienced different versions of a simple vinaigrette for this salad, but sumac is usually on the ingredient list, a sour tasting spice that I have grown to adore.

Our family recently encountered a wonderful fattoush salad in a location I certainly did not expect. In Colon, Panama on our Panama Canal cruise. Here’s my version of Fattoush Salad, documented in a recipe for our family to forever enjoy this memorable vacation meal.

*  This is a sponsored post, created in partnership with Princess Cruises.

PANAMA

I recently shared about my family’s Panama Canal cruise with Princess Cruises, highlighting our best tips for cruising in general and cruising the canal. You can read all about our experience here.

In this post, I am going to highlight what we did at each port of this 10-day cruise, roundtrip Ft. Lauderdale. Our ship, the Coral Princess, stopped at Aruba, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, and Jamaica – such a fabulous itinerary!

For this cruise, the highlight was of course the Panama Canal itself. The excursion that we chose here was one that included an up-close look of each of the locks on the Caribbean side, the new Agua Clara Locks (photo above – just opened in 2016 to allow larger ships to pass) and the historic Gatun Locks.

At the Gatun Locks we had the great timing of being able to watch our own ship, the Coral Princess, pass back through the locks. This was definitely a highlight of this excursion for our family.

To read more about our experience on this Panama Canal excursion, go here.

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ARUBA

Our family was so excited that Aruba was on this cruise itinerary. We had visited this small island just the year prior and had fallen head over heels for its warm turquoise waters and excellent white sand beaches.

On our previous visit, we explored much of the island with an open-air Land Rover tour. It was a super fun experience that allowed us to take in the island’s history and great landscape diversity, a tour that our family would recommend again and again.

But what stuck with us the most was how much we enjoyed just playing in Aruba’s stunning waters. So when we had the awesome opportunity to visit this island on our Panama Canal cruise, we knew that all we really wanted to do was head to the beach.

From our past visit, we knew we were comfortable with getting around Aruba on our own. It’s a safe and happy kind of place. So we grabbed a cab for a short ride to Palm Beach.

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I did a little research before we left home, to find a place on the beach to grab something to eat. Eduardo’s Beach Shack was a place that the girls and I desperately wanted to seek out.

This little beach shack was amazing, serving gorgeous fresh fruit smoothies, fresh vegetable juices, acai bowls, and jumbo protein balls. The photo above is the fully loaded raw acai bowl.

So. Good. !!!!!

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COLOMBIA

We were also excited to visited Cartagena, Colombia, to touch ground on the mainland of South America for our first time. The excursion that we chose included a day full of variety.

We started with a tour of Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, a fortress built by the Spanish for protection against pirates while shipping gold out to Europe. The fort sits majestically on a hillside overlooking the harbor and city, providing a striking contrast of this historic and modern seaport.

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Then we walked the quaint narrow streets of the famous “Old City”. Lined with colorful buildings of Spanish Colonial architecture, we had the opportunity to shop and eat, and to just “watch life”.

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I especially liked taking in the Colombian culture, watching the street entertainers and seeing what the food vendors had to offer.

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Then we boarded a speed boat for a view of the city from the harbor. Being so close to the equator, in the sweltering heat all day, this portion of the tour out on the water definitely felt refreshing. It also offered a very different perspective of Cartagena.

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COSTA RICA

Blake and I added Costa Rica to our travel bucket list a couple years ago, so we were very much looking forward to this stop.

Our ship docked at the port of Limón, Costa Rica’s bustling capital city, on a 125-mile stretch of Caribbean Sea shoreline between Panama and Nicaragua. The scene is lush and tropical, with everything from white sand beaches to dense rainforest to towering mountains.

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The excursion we chose at this port was to visit the Sloth Sanctuary. This Animal Planet Exclusive Sloth Sanctuary excursion is offered only through Princess Cruises, giving Princess guests an immersive experience in a small-group setting.

Our family came away from this experience with a whole new appreciation for sloths. You might even say we’re fans!

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Princess Cruises offers two different excursions at the Sloth Sanctuary. We chose the longer one, which took up the majority of our time at the port of Limón. Besides taking in a very interesting tour of the sloths, we were able to relax with lunch along the river (under the roof in the photo above) and a canoe ride.

To read more about our experience at Costa Rica and the Sloth Sanctuary, go here.

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JAMAICA

This is the stop where our family had the most all-out fun.

We chose an excursion that included a chairlift ride up through the jungle canopy to the top of a mountain.

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Then we strapped ourselves into bobsleds for an incredibly fast ride back down. I rode behind Blake, who never touched the brake the whole way down. He says he’s never heard me scream so loud, for so long. Ever. I just was not expecting that kind of a ride, thinking I was actually going to be able to video it. But I quickly shoved my phone in my pocket, for fear of losing it.

All of us had a blast. We wanted to take another ride on the bobsleds, but knew we’d run out of time to catch the next piece of our Jamaican adventure.

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Next was Dunn’s River Falls, a 900′ tall cascading waterfall. We formed a hand-held chain with visitors from around the world as a guide led us from the shores of the Caribbean to the top of the falls.

This was an absolutely beautiful and thrilling experience, definitely a highlight of our trip.

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We could not contain our smiles and laughter. It was such a great day for our family!

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Blake and I always try to involve our girls in the planning of our vacations, to give them a say in how we spend our time. At the falls, Tessa was able to cross an item off her own travel bucket list: getting cornrow braids in Jamaica. Check!

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Fattoush Salad from afarmgirlsdabbles.com

Now, back to Panama and this fattoush salad recipe.

I think what I liked most about this particular fattoush salad was that the vinaigrette used red wine vinegar. Previously, I had only experienced fattoush salad that featured fresh lemon or lime juice, or white vinegar.

Fattoush Salad from afarmgirlsdabbles.com

The red wine vinegar goes so well with the flavors of sumac and the za’atar spice mixture. I know this is the only way I’ll forever be making this salad.

And, oh! I like to serve some hummus alongside this salad, for dipping the little toasted pita chips in. Soft pitas are also welcome, to give this meal a little more substance.

Fattoush Salad

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients:

for the toasted pita chips:

  • 2 pita pockets (6″ to 7″ in diameter), split in half horizontally to equal 4 thin rounds
  • olive oil
  • 2 tsp. za’atar
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

for the vinaigrette:

  • 1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 c. red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. sumac
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt

for the salad:

  • 8 c. chopped romaine lettuce (I like 1″ to 2″ size pieces)
  • 1-1/2 c. halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 c. minced red onion
  • 3 small to medium radishes, thinly sliced
  • 2 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 c. coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 c. coarsely chopped fresh flat parsley leaves
  • 1 tsp. za’atar
  • flaky sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

for the pita chips:

Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray large rimmed baking sheet very lightly with non-stick spray and set aside.

Very lightly brush olive oil over both sides of each round of pita. Cut into 1″ to 2″ pieces and spread evenly on baking sheet. Sprinkle pieces with half the za’atar and half the kosher salt. Fold and then sprinkle with the remaining za’atar and kosher salt. Spread pieces out evenly on pan. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until fragrant and nicely browned. Remove from oven to cool completely.

for the vinaigrette:

In a small to medium bowl, whisk together all vinaigrette ingredients. Set aside.

for the salad:

In a very large bowl, combine lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, radishes, cucumbers, mint, and parsley. Gently toss to combine. Drizzle some of the prepared vinaigrette over the salad and then fold to coat evenly. Drizzle more of the vinaigrette over the salad and fold again. Add more vinaigrette as needed or serve extra on the side. Transfer salad to serving bowl. Sprinkle with za’atar and a bit of flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Arrange toasted pita chips over the top and serve immediately.

 

inspired by the fattoush salad we enjoyed at the Grand Cafe in Colon, Panama

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Fattoush Salad from afarmgirlsdabbles.com

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Panama Canal Cruise Excursions with Princess Cruises - from afarmgirlsdabbles.com

Princess Cruises offers a variety of excursions at each port. Here are a few more posts from travel mates aboard this same Panama Canal cruise:

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Visit Princess Cruises on their web site. You can also find them on social media on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

For more of our own personal experiences with Princess Cruises (we also visited Alaska!), visit these posts:

Disclaimer:  This trip was sponsored by Princess Cruises. Our family was honored to be guests of Princess Cruises on this cruise to the Panama Canal, and we are grateful for the opportunity to share it all with you. Thank you for supporting us and the brands we so carefully choose to work with. All opinions expressed are our own.