First let me say that this was our second time on the Island Princess, the first being in 2008 to Alaska. We purposely booked this cruise so we could be on the same ship as last time, since our experience was so spectacular. Maybe I was expecting too much so I was slightly disappointed. I an not saying the service/food/experience was not good, just not as good as last time.
We boarded the ship early (around 12N) and were pleasantly surprised to find our luggage had already been delivered to our cabin (which we were able to go to immediately upon getting on board). Boarding was fast, organized and painless. We unpacked and went to the Horizon Court for lunch. After lunch we reacquainted ourselves with the ship and we found it had not changed in the 4 years since our last sailing. It did not look worn and everything was clean. The sail away party was pretty pathetic but I think that was due to the advanced ages of most of the passengers! I would definitely say there was a More
great percentage of the over 65 on this cruise and we only saw 5 children the entire time.
The days at sea were relaxing. I went to the gym every sea day and took the spin/cycling class. The instructor was good and the bikes in good condition/repair. I then took the free zumba class and Toby from the cruise directors staff was a terrific and funny instructor. We did the class in the Universe Lounge on the wooden stage floor. It was a great class. Compared to other cruises I have been on, there was never a problem getting a lounge chair on the Lido deck. The bar staff were plentiful and getting drinks was fast and easy. The fresh made pizza was delicious and the smell of the garlic was divine!
I guess the primary dissatisfaction with this cruise was our anytime dining. On previous cruises we only had to wait for a table once or twice but on this cruise I got the distinct impression that the hostess/maitre d' staff were not prepared for the number of anytime diners they had. In our dining room there were main seating as well so the number of anytime tables was severely limited. We were given a "pager" every evening no matter what time we arrived at the dining room (5:45, 6, 6:15, 6:30, 6:45 and 7). The hostess reminded us we could make reservations but we relied to her that the whole purpose of anytime dining, is to go anytime. If I wanted to make reservations, I would have booked the early seating but 5:45 is way too early to eat and 7:45 is too late. The first nights meal was underwhelming according to my husband but my meal (prime rib) was cooked well and very tasty.
The evening entertainment was okay. Nothing spectacular and definitely the production shows are about 10 minutes shorter than on previous cruises. We were told by the production manager when we took the back stage tour that this was intentional so that passengers could enjoy "anytime entertainment". The only problem with this was there was often no other entertainment except the lounges.
Our cabin was a mid ship balcony. The room was comfortable but not as large as balconies on RCL or Carnival. On both of these other ships we had a couch in our cabin. In this cabin we had 2 wooden chairs.
The food in the Horizon Court was tasty an well displayed. I really enjoyed the Sushi bar they had for lunch one day! We had dinner 2 nights at the buffet just so we would not have to wait with a pager in the dining room. Both evenings the food was delicious with a too much to pick from variety.
One of our splurges was having the "Platinum Photos" taken. The photographer took 92 pictures of us, and then narrowed it down to the best 50. These are all done in black & white with special lighting and they came out fantastic. They are very pricey and are printed in the US and shipped to your home 6-8 weeks after the cruise. I would definitely recommend these if you have a special occasion. (it cost $575 for 6, 8x10 portraits)
Our ports were Aruba, Cartagena, the canal, Limon and Ocho Rios. The highlight of the cruise was the partial transit of the canal. We arrived in the zone at 0500 but everyone was up on deck or on their balconies. It started to rain so most passengers were either in the Horizon Court or Promenade deck to watch our passage. Fortunately the rain stopped just as we got to the first lock. The photographer told us to stand on the Promenade deck and it was a great tip. It was not overly crowded and we were able to stand at the railing. We could easily see the walls of the lock and watched as we were raised up.
Disembarking the ship was the most organized of any cruise we have taken. We had our car at the port parking and originally we were supposed to disembark at 1055 but I changed it to a little earlier at 1015. We went to the Provence dining room a the assigned time and immediately were told to proceed to the gangway. Our luggage was waiting for us in the "aqua" area and in less than 15 minutes we had cleared customs and were walking to the parking garage. Less
Island Princess Cruises to the Panama Canal & Central America
On this jewelry making tour we worked with students at the Escuela de Joyeria del Caribe and made 4 pieces of silver jewelry with raw emerald pieces (a pendant, earrings, a bracelet and a ring). The students helped us and were very patient with our limited skills! The price of the excursion included one of the 4 pieces of jewelry that we made and for $30 we could purchase additional pieces. After making the jewelry (about 1 1/2 hrs) we got back on the mini bus for a tour of the city and our tour guide was excellent pointing out many sights. We then went to an Emerald Museum and afterwards we were able to purchase emerald jewelry. A member of our group bought a number of pieces that needed to be sized that took longer than the tour could wait. The shop provided her private transportation back to the ship along with a detailed tour of the city. The service here was excellent and I would recommend this excursion.
We disembarked the cruise ship in the middle of Gatun Lake and were tendered to shore where we got on our mini bus for the drive to Old Panama City. The walking tour took us to the Old City, the Colonial City and to a museum. Our tour guide Javier spoke excellent English and kept the walking pace fast but slow enough for everyone to keep up. The Colonial part of the city was the most interesting and there was a short 20 minute time period for limited shopping
Cool Runnings tour was so much fun. The staff on the catamaran were very friendly and fun. They made sure everyone had a fun time. We sailed by and stopped in front of Dunn's River Falls for photos though we could not get off and climb the falls. Then after sailing a little bit more, we dropped anchor for 3-45 minutes of swimming in the gorgeous Caribbean Sea. On the way back to the ship, the Rum Punch was flowing freely! This tour was so much fun, I will be doing it again on another cruise I am taking in January!
Excellent tour and I highly recommend the Golden Bean Coffee tour. While the drive to the plantation was long, our tour guide did an excellent job of explaining her country, the land, the crops and economy. The countryside is gorgeous and I would like to go back for an extended time. We took the tour on a Sunday so it was not operational but our guides explained and demonstrated the entire coffee growing, harvesting, drying and roasting process. The tour was very educational. After the tour we stopped for lunch at a gorgeous hacienda type hotel. The food was delicious (beef or chicken, rice & beans, plantain and salad) and the grounds/views gorgeous. While the bus ride was long (almost 2 hours) I still think this tour was definitely worth the time and money as we got to see so much of the beautiful countryside.