Took my bride of 30 years on this New Year's Eve cruise on the Island Princess to celebrate her "special" landmark birthday on New Year's Eve. Considered other choices for a trip but this cruise offered everything we wanted in one, neat, package. We wanted a mini suite with a balcony and we got one on the Dolphin deck, D707, in the aft section of the ship not far from the stern and rear bank of lifts.
We departed Ft. Lauderdale in a timely fashion after a relatively simple check in at the port. Parked at Park n Go near the port who offered a very reasonable rate. Would recommend them. When we got on board we went directly to our cabin and to our surprise a few of our bags were already there and the rest followed promptly. Our mini suite was lovely. Plenty of room, a full couch that could sleep one or two people, a chair and coffee table, two televisions, refrigerator, make up table and chair. The bathroom was quite roomy and featured a full tub and shower combo, full sized vanity for our stuff and plenty of towels. The closet outside the bathroom was stocked with plenty of wooden hangers even though we brought our own. Probably unneccessary to have brought so many. We went to the Horizon buffet on deck 14 for a bite. The lifts near our stateroom were nearly always empty and always came within seconds. That was certainly unexpected but welcome. From the time we got on to the time we returned everyone, and I mean everyone, on the crew was so gracious and kind and welcoming.
The food, overall, including the Horizon buffet was very good. One night we paid $25 pp to eat at their Italian restaurant, Sabbatini's, which was top of the line. I would definitely recommend that if you take this cruise eat there at least once.
The shows were very good as well and the on board troupe put on four different stage shows all of which were very enjoyable. There were a few singing acts, a magician, a hypnotist, two comics and a crew night where some crew members strutted their talents. A cooking demo in the Universe lounge was very enjoyable and the tour of the galley immediately following was eye opening. I would rate the overall entertainment that was offered to be a B+ bordering on A. The shows were not too long, 45 minutes or so, but that was enough as our 7:45 PM seating at dinner allowed us time to get to the Provence dining room in plenty of time after showtime.
We opted for traditional dining for dinner in the Provence dining room on Deck 6 but if you chose anytime dining you would be eating in an equally nice dining room on Deck 5 where you would eat your breakfasts and lunches if you desired or do the Horizon buffet if you chose.
There were two formal nights on the 10 night cruise and many folks, most in fact, dressed very nicely. Of course there were a few who didn't but that was certainly in the minority.
Our wait staff was most proficient as were the waiters that served you if you chose to eat in the Bordeux dining room for lunch or breakfast. The menus were identical and the food choices covered the full range anyone could ask for. We had lobster dishes a couple of nights, steak and prime rib on a couple of nights, and lots of fish, pasta and vegan dishes were offered. If you didn't like the food you were in the minority as well.
The pool deck on deck 14 included two pool areas, one covered, one not. Both featured jacuzzis and were rarely crowded. There were ample deck chairs and lounges for all which was certainly welcome.
The casino was so so. Some older machines mixed in with some newer slots but none of the really new slots land casinos offered. Overall we found the slots real tight. There were numerous table games, blackjack, three card poker, Let it Ride, craps and roulette.
The cruise was a bit bumpy due to rough seas. As the Island Princess was a smaller, older, ship in the Princess line you felt the shudders from time to time as we crashed through the swells but nobody I saw got sick. Our stateroom in the aft section rocked and rolled a bit at night but we were in bed so who cared. The balcony got well used and the view was top notch.
There were several laundromats throughout the ship that we used a few times even though we overpacked, so we thought. They were clean and well maintained. $2.00 for a wash and $2.00 for the dryer and they were good sized. They had bill changers, irons and ironing boards and a vending machine for detergent, bleach and softener if you wanted that. I would consider underpacking nezt time and doing a wash or two on board.
The cruise offered a ton of things to do so if you didn't find something that interested you it would be your fault. There were lounges with music all the time and they were real good too....not your run of the mill calypso band that some cruises offer.
The 3:30 PM tea in the Bordeaux dining room was excellent. Tea, scones, pastry and cookies galore. We did that twice but really should have done it more but took several land tours which kept us off the ship during the tea time.
The island tours were numerous and they offered quite a variety. The price was generally within range as tours go and seemed to be well coordinated.
The tip situation always sticks in my craw but it is a fact of life on board. Our mini suite called for a $12 pp gratuity or $240 for the both of us for the 10 night cruise. Our room steward, Benedik, was a doll and we gave him a generous tip on top of this as we did for our waiter, Michael, and junior waiter Victor.
It was my wife's 75th birthday and they decorated our stateroom door with a lovely birthday sign and balloons which stayed up all cruise long. They presented her with a lovely Princess decorated cake and candle and sang happy birthday on New Year's Eve which she really appreciated.
Our kids chipped in some birthday gifts like some on board credit, a champagne breakfast in our suite (worth every penny), chocolate dipped strawberries, two bottles of wine we used in the dining room, delicious canape tray. Oh my. We had room service a few times and they delivered right when they said they would. We usually gave the server a few bucks but that was not done by all who used the service.
Overall we were very happy with the itinerary and ports of call which included Aruba (too short a stay there), Cartagena, Limon Costa Rica, Panama Canal and Grand Cayman. A lovely cruise, a super ship not overly large so you can get around easily without the mob scene on larger ships. Only about 2000 were on the Island Princess and it seemed like there were many less than that based on the uncrowded venues.
I would recommend this cruise to anyone who wants to relax and have a great time. Not cheap, especially over New Year's Eve, so if you want to do the trip at some other time you will save mucho bucks and get the same thing.