Panama Canal - Must do Trip
Panama Canal & Central America
Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
Background - We started our trip by staying with people we met on our Princess Alaskan trip 3 years ago in Fort Lauderdale.
Embarkation - Did not go smoothly since Island was not in its usual berth and Princess reps had no clue also how to handle passengers. We took our friend to do the Bon Voyage experience and a little disappointing. Short tour and waiters had no idea what our friend was suppose to receive. He enjoyed it.
Island Princess - Compared to the Sapphire 3 years before, I really enjoyed being on the Island. Very convenient to find dining rooms, theaters etc. Also found it not crowded. The outside of the ship needs major painting, but the inside was clean, no wear or tear, sparkling. Our meet and greet turned out wonderful.
Stateroom - Our mini suite was clean and convenient to laundry, and mid/aft elevators and although we didn't have a cover on our balcony, I had an umbrella.
Dining - Sabatini's and Bayou Cafe - Food and service More
were amazing. Longtime Princess cruisers were disappointed with the new menus. Since we didn't know what was before, we liked the food. Absolutely the pizza.
MUTS - Only got to watch part of a film. I didn't find it very noisy as people commented. I would have liked their first run movies to be on the TV in the room. Watching Love Boat is not my idea of good TV. Even though I watch football, too many games on Muts and really not enough people watching them to have them on Muts.
Entertainment - Wonderful. I would have liked the shows to be longer since I enjoyed them all. I also enjoyed the singers. Service (not including dining) - Everyone from Steward, front desk, bar waitstaff, stores, room service etc. were very friendly and helpful.
Dining service - We had anytime dining and chose to eat at different tables. Inconsistent waitstaff. One night fantastic service, next night, rushing us out so they could get ready for next patrons. Next night, very slow because he had too many tables and couldn't wait on them at same time.
Port/Shore Excursions - Comments on another thread
Summary - We absolutely enjoyed this trip and would recommend Island Princess to anyone for the Panama Canal experience. Less
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Cabin review: Island Princess Mini-Suite with Balcony Dolphin Deck D612
Our mini suite was on port side. Nice to take pictures while leaving ports. Outside chairs were nice with small table. Used ottoman inside as a foot rest. Room was good, nice to have sofa. Bathroom was fine for one person at a time, shower curtain too short, no cover on balcony, neighbors on top and sides can see and hear you. Bring an umbrella, Plenty of closet and drawer space for 2 people. Hallway not noisy, laundry convenient, convenient to mid and aft elevators. No problems with motion. No noise from neighbors or engines.
Port and Shore Excursions
Arrived to De Palm Island by bus and boat in a timely manner. Brochure/tour desk said we would get lunch. Buffet Breakfast was served till 10:30 with lunch at 11AM. Since I had eaten breakfast, I waited for lunch and missed the boat that left at 11:15. Bus had to wait for us to return to ship. Water was choppy so snorkeling was out. Place is nice for swimming, beach time, water slides, excellent frozen pina coladas and lunch was good. Recommend for children. Adults - go to local beach.
Our tour guide was there on time. There were 8 of us and their van's A/C wasn't working to our satisfaction when we went to La Popa Monastery which was at the highest point of Cartagena. A/C worked when we were in the city. Skipped the fort since no one wanted to walk it. Did not get enough time at the Dungeons, suppose to be craft stores but souvenier shops. Longer walking tour which was very nice. Beware of agressive street vendors. No doesn't mean anything. Eat at local restaurant, terrific food. Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable about Cartagena. Would recommend this tour company since they were very accommodating to my tour requirements.
Embera Indian Tour
Highly recommend. One major disappointment - when we got off the bus we had to walk down a slippery mud embankment to get into boat. There needs to be a railing to hold on to. There is one at the village. Between the rain and the water from the motor driven dug out canoe, 30 minutes couldn't come soon enough to get to village. An experience I would repeat. We were very much welcomed by the natives. While the guide gave us a history, we were offered home cooked fried tilapia and plantains in a home made leaf pouch and fresh fruit. Food was good. Men played instruments and men, women, & children danced. Bring small bills to buy their home made wares. Bracelets were $5 with plates from $20 to $50. I didn't buy enough bracelets. After arriving back to Colon, we were told to stay in port. There is nothing in port unless you want to eat. Unless you didn't get enough pictures of Panama Canal, take an excursion and get off ship.
Hubby and Friend went deep sea fishing. That was the highlight of their trip. Caught fish and even a barracuda. Company provided boat, reels, and bait. Paid by boat not people.
Dolphin Encounter. Lockers to put your clothes. Got in separate pool and touched a stingray. Next different pool to interact with dolphin. We were there for 30 minutes to touch, kiss, held a ball and your hand high so dolphin could touch the ball/hand also. Dolphin did do some tricks. Bathroom and changing facilities available. Pictures very expensive. You buy the CD of your experience or individual pictures. $25 for one picture or $35 for 2.
Well worth the money since you cannot book this on your own.
Turtle farm first. We were the only ones there. Highly recommend. Couldn't believe how big those turtle are. You could pick up babies and get into the pool with them.
The Tortuguero Canals
We were met on time by our tour operator. We were 4 people so a private tour. I had to refresh his memory of what our tour was suppose to be and he did follow through. On our way to Jaguar Rescue Center, we stopped at a beach to take pictures. Jaguar Rescue Center, is a rescue center for animals that will be rehabilitated and sent back into the wild. There is one Jaguar who will not be sent to the wild. We got to see sloths, lizards, snakes, birds, and monkeys. We went into a monkey facility and I was holding a monkey who came to me. This was fun. Donations are absolutely accepted. Next we went to eat lunch (Princess goes to this place for the beach) which was rice beans, chicken.
Food was good and the mooching cat ate well also. Next was Del Monte banana plantation (same one Princess goes to). Very interesting and recommended. Off to the canal tour (same one Princess goes to) and saw alligator, wild sloth, lizards, and birds. Stopped off at a supermarket but no one wanted any coffee. Back to ship after going to top of Limon but since it was raining, we did not stop. Got back to ship on time.