We have cruised on Costa (1), Holland America (1), and Royal Caribbean (3); this was our first cruise on Princess.
Our sailing was out of Ft Lauderdale, my wife and I were sailing with 2 other related family members. We had scheduled 8 hours of travel time but due to heavy fog in Baltimore our flight was delayed by 4 hours, we became nervous about 1:00 PM knowing we would need to be shipside by 3:30 PM to board. We finally arrived in Ft Lauderdale and deplaned at 3: 15. My wife and I depressingly sure we were going to "Miss the Boat". We had agreed as a contingency plan, to try to get to Aruba if Princess pulled anchor without us. Maybe there we could try to get onboard and resume the rest of the cruise. Our travel agent also helped to keep Princess Representatives informed of our travel delay and our expected time of arrival in Ft. Lauderdale.
We found the last Princess Representative patiently waiting for us at baggage claim. Our luggage, which seemed to take forever to reach the carousel, finally arrived. Asking if we were still going to make it to the boat on time she seemed desperately rushed but optimistic in her responses to our questions about the exact time of sailing. She was on a radio and giving a play by play to another Princess Representative (who we believe was shipside). After a short "bag drag" we found we were the only ones on the bus with a 10 to 15 minute time distance to shipside check in. Upon arriving to the Port, our luggage was grabbed up right from the bus. Clearance and check in was hurried and expedited, we reached the gang plank at 3:45 and were delightfully relieved to be "on the boat". We were escorted to our rooms during the life saving drill and given instructions to wait for the second drill in one of the designated areas; thank goodness it was the lounge. As we toasted to our amazed accomplishment and luck, we noticed the Island Princess underway. I noted that my watch read 4:15 PM.
Service by the staff of the Island Princess was consistently excellent. The quality of the food and service was great for all meals served in the dining rooms. We chose "Anytime Dining", usually waiting no more than 10 minutes for a table; our cheerful hostess always seemed to remember us, occasionally seating us with others, which added enjoyable conversation during meals. The consolidated mass confusion and quality of food in the Horizon cafe was typical of most cruises. Once seating was secured, the service at your table was consistently attentive to refills and table top services.
We met loads of pleasant people from all over the globe. This was a mature traveler's cruise; children could be counted on less than one hand and were well supervised by responsible parents. Shipboard activities during sea days were enjoyable for the most part, during which ship's service and entertainment personnel, exceeded expectations. The evening shows and entertainment were enjoyable, in good taste and frequent enough for everyone that wanted to attend.
Princess provided a very knowledgeable professional lecturer that kept everyone informed on all aspects of the ports of call, the passage through the canal and other geographic and historical subjects. The day we transited the Panama Canal he gave everyone on board a great "play by play" of the mechanics and actions as we made our way through. Most people watched on their balconies as he described everything over the ships PA system or on the TV from your room.
The Panama Canal was the main and most fascinating attraction, the other ports were timed too short for any extended enjoyment; most shore excursions were limited to just a few hours' time.
San Jan Del Sur and Cabo San Lucas required tendering into shore. Tendering in to these ports was safely designed and efficiently initiated, but diminished the time allocated on shore. We participated in shore excursions that involved bus rides to interior Central America, we always felt secure. The buses were clean and in good working condition, the tour guides spoke English well and were informative on the history and cultures of their area. We participated in a river raft trip and saw lots of birds, monkeys, crocodiles and iguana lizards (well worth the $ 79.00 excursion fee) a good lunch was provided.
May I suggest that planning an extra day to meet your cruise embarkation schedule is a good idea from any port destination. Our level of anxiety was overwhelming.
The Island Princess and the ports visited proved to be a wonderful vacation for all.