We drove to Ft. Lauderdale and parked our car at the Park'N Go lot at Port Everglades. We booked ahead on-line and paid $5.99 a day. This was such a great decision - it was close to the port, the lot was manned 24 hours a day and was well lit. We pulled into the lot, they unloaded our bags and put them on the shuttle, and then parked our car. We arrived early for check-in with Princess at about 10:30 and brought snacks, water and something to read during our wait to board the ship. We were in the 1st group to board and had no lines but did not board until a little after 12:00. It was great to be on the ship, eat lunch and get settled ahead of the crowds. We loved the balcony!
The Island Princess was a very comfortable, clean ship and the staff was wonderful although customer service did not appear to be well informed on various disembark details. The food was great. We selected the early sitting in the dining room and ate there every evening except two when we were just too full to have a large evening meal. Most of our breakfasts and lunches were at the Horizon Court. There were so many activities provided on the ship that you had to use your highlighter to mark the PrincessPatter to avoid missing something you were interested in. I recommend attending all the port lectures by William Fall. We did not use any of the Princess shore excursions and booked our own to be a smaller group and pick the places we wanted to see. It was a great decision for us. I relied cruise critic and trip advisor for information. I've reviewed our excursions below. When it was time to disembark, we chose the 1st group and carried off our luggage. The shuttle to the parking lot was on its way and in no time we were in our car. David McCullough's "The Path Between the Seas" provides a great pre-read for the trip.
In Aruba we had 5 hours so we got off the ship early to avoid the heat (ha, ha), picked up a map at the welcome center and walked the street that our port lecturer recommended. After that we took bus #7 and got off at the 2nd beach - Eagle beach where we walked and loafed some. There were folks in the water. On returning to the port, we had the local beer (good) at Iguana Joe's above a shopping center, did some shopping and returned to ship. We had planned to go to the National Archaeological Museum but ran out of time. WIFI available at Starbucks through a Marriott site.
Cartagena, Columbia, was my favorite place. We booked a tour with Lee Miles Tours and it was the best! We saw the La Popa Monastery, San Felipe Fortress photo shoot, Las Bovedas for shopping, Palace of Inquisition for photo shoot, walking tour of Old City, Church of San Pedro Claver and lastly shopping at Pierino Gallo. For 8 of us we each paid $51.00. Mercedes was our tour guide and she was great. This was about a 5 1/2 hour tour. Good reputation and nice selection of jewelry at Lee Miles shop.
For the trip through the Panama Canal we were at the front of Deck 15 by 5:00am so we had the best view. We took some of the plastic chairs and a table from a bit aft to be comfortable along with books and activities to keep us busy until dawn. We went to the stern of the ship for the return trip through the locks which provided us with a nice view of ships adjacent and behind.
In Colon, I had hoped to do a taxi ride with Roberto Whitaker (firstname.lastname@example.org) but did not make contact as he was having trouble with his e-mail. We got off the ship and shopped at the port enclosure for safety reasons. WIFI available at restaurants there, ask for the password.
In Limon, Costa Rico, we booked a 7 hour tour with Okey Dokey Tours for $89.00 each. We did the A-2 with the roadside market to taste local fruits and vegetables, zip line, banana plantation and processing plant, Tortugero Canal boat ride, Bonita Beach, lunch and views of the countryside. Jonnethan was a young college student and a great tour guide. We really enjoyed the zip line (12 stations)where safety was paramount. Our guide for the canal trip was very knowledgeable of the birds and animals. The air conditioner in the van could have been better.
In Ocho Rios, Jamaica, we did a tour with Courtney Taylor Tours. It cost us $35.00 each for about 5 hours. We again designed our own tour and went to the Coyoba Botanical Garden, Fern Gully, lunch at Scotches, a stop at a local supermarket and then a drop off close to the port for shopping. We had hoped to go to Walkerswood Caribbean Foods factory for a tour (would have been an additional $20 each) but it was not open on Sunday. Courtney drove his van and was a great tour guide!
Because the Panama Canal and Limon Costa Rico is not listed below under ports, I've just left all the ports here and hope things are not too confusing.
If we had a redo: we would use all the same guides and switch to open seating for meals (more variety).
Hope this helps you make decisions about excursions.