Having cruised from Ft Lauderdale with Princess before the transfer to and from our pre cruise Miami hotel was exactly as we expected, just excellent.
Embarkation was quick and the ship looked in very good condition considering its age. Its layout was similar to the "Grand" class ships except the Horizon Court was at the front. Handy for us as our cabin was on Aloha deck right underneath. Each morning we could grab breakfast and take it back to our cabin in minutes. Whilst our balcony cabin was smaller than our previous one on Celebrity Solstice it was what we expected and a new carpet was a pleasant surprise. The new mattress however was too firm for my liking and for the first time in 10 cruises I didn't sleep so well.
As expected for this time of year we had rain at some point every day but when the sun shone it was hot. This however never caused a problem regarding sun beds. There were plenty free as many people just weren't interested in sitting out in the sun. The Splash pool deck was empty and the deck area below forward of the bar and grill had only a handful of people laying out. The only time there was an abundance of people on deck was when NFL football matches were screened on MUTS.
For dinner in the MDR we had a table of 8 on second sitting and our table companions were great. We got on so well we were always the last to leave the restaurant each evening. The food however wasn't so great and some of the choices were odd to say the least. The menu even had beef burgers as a meal you can have any night. I tried it one night, as the menu choice was particularly poor, thinking it would be more special than the Lido grill burgers. It wasn't!
Entertainment was understandably geared to the majority of US passengers so we found the solo artists not to our liking (and not that funny). The ships dancers/singers did however a good job. The activities team tried their best to get passengers engaged but their "ultimate sailaway" party from Grand Cayman was a flop. The evening deck party however was more successful. Such a shame the atmosphere that night only occurred the once!
Around the ship there were the usual Princess entertainment offerings. One band (Sol Provider) was particularly good in Explorers lounge, whilst another called Phoenix Rising were pretty awful. They were based in the Wheelhouse bar and their music just didn't get people up dancing. Such a waste of a good sized dance floor. They would also pack up just after 11 pm despite a few of us wishing to party on.
In fact the whole ship became a ghost ship after 11 pm (except the casino). This despite 4 sea days and two nights when the clocks were put back an hour. Very disappointing.
Apart from the inept cruise director I would say the crew were the friendliest and happiest I've ever encountered on a cruise. I read reviews stating this about Island Princess and I totally agree.
Our ports of call were Aruba, Cartagena, Panama Canal transit, Limon and Grand Cayman. All except Cartagena I would happily return to. The hassle from unofficial tour guides and street vendors became unbearable in Cartagena. Obviously the point of the cruise was to see the Panama Canal locks and they were very impressive. We made the decision not to take a ship excursion so we could transit the locks again and that was definitely the right choice. Another highlight of the cruise was holding a Sloth. They are actually really cute and soft to hold.
We met some lovely people on this cruise and our CC M&G was excellent but overall I'd say this cruise did not match up to my expectations. I would still recommend it to others though. I think we'll stick to cruising in the main holiday periods when life on board is a lot livelier.