This was our 4th cruise and our first on the Princess line. We chose this particular cruise because of the Panama Canal itinerary. We are in the "way over 70" age group, able to get around and expect to do a lot more cruising. Here's my review:
The Ship: The outside has seen better days, but the inside has nice carpets, dated furniture and yet a very comfortable feel in the public spaces. The atrium was beautifully decorated for Christmas and there was also a menorah which was lighted each day. The ship layout is confusing, as even after 9 days aboard, I still didn't know which way to turn after I got off the elevator!
Dining: We ate at the 5:30 seating in the Provence Dining room each evening. We had a table for two after initially being herded to a table for 10, which was not at all what we requested. The low ceilings in both dining rooms were claustrophobic. The super-fast, napkin in your lap -- menu in your hand -- what do you want to order -- was quicker than McDonalds. Hold the phone.... I'd like a glass of wine first, please. I hate being rushed! The menu was basically the same every night except for 3 or 4 new main dish items. The shrimp cocktail offered every night looked like what you get in a super market platter -- tasty, but tiny. I wouldn't rave about the food, but DH liked the prime rib -- I liked the scallops.
The Buffet: we ate here sometimes, but the layout was just two long serving areas which led to crowding. Granted, there were 2 of these areas, but sometimes one was closed. A very poor layout compared to other ships. The metal patio chairs are uncomfortable. Burgers at the Grill were very good and I loved the thin crust pizza at the Pizza Place.
Our Stateroom :-- formerly known as our "cabin". We had a balcony mid-ship. This room was smaller than usual, probably due to the Panamax size of our ship. The bed was very comfortable. The heavy comforter was too hot and so we had to ask for a top sheet for our bed, as none is provided. There was no couch. I brought a balcony chair inside to have a comfortable seat to sit and read. The closet space was super with lots of hangers and we had plenty of other storage areas -- a big plus. The bathroom sink ran hot water instead of cold and brushing your teeth with hot water was a new experience. The flimsy, stained shower curtain and tiny shower gave us a new challenge each morning. The provided shampoo doesn't lather up -- bring your own. The FRIDGE never got cold! We reported it several times and so our room steward brought a big bucket of ice each day and made it into a cooler/ice box.
Health: I noticed right away that the only Purell dispensers were in the buffet area -- none at the dining room entrances or anywhere
else on the ship that I could see. By the 7th day, I knew several people that were sick and when you went to the theater, you could hear lots of coughing. (We didn't stay.) I asked one of the maitre d's and he said it was company policy not to have the Purell at the dining rooms. Can you believe that??
Tour: We took the "Panama Canal & Locks Transit by Boat" tour. We tendered to land from Gatun Lake -- took a tour bus -- then boarded a ferry. We continued west through the whole canal and the Miraflores locks and the Galliard cut to the Pacific Ocean. A wonderful, historic tour. We returned by air conditioned bus to our ship which was now docked in Colon, Panama. By the way, Columbia and Panama are near the equator and very hot and humid. It rained -- but who cares? It's the rain forest!
Entertainment: Yes, the shows were short. The comedians were good but the violinist, David Klinkenberg was excellent. We enjoyed Dr. Dean's lectures on the Panama Canal and Costa Rica. The SLR digital camera class was also excellent. The learning experience is another reason that we chose Princess and we were not disappointed.
The Rescue at Sea: We had some excitement on board as we headed to Jamaica. An announcement came over the intercom that a small boat had been sighted and it was drifting. One man said that he thought he had seen a body in the bottom of the boat, but no sign of life. Perhaps it was just empty. Our Captain announced that he was turning around to investigate. We all went out on deck and we could finally see a very small boat, far out on the ocean, with a red ( shirt ) flag on a pole. It was being tossed around in the 3-4 foot waves. As our cruise ship drew closer, we saw that yes! There were people in the boat. We were all gathered at the ships railing and the people on the boat were waving and a man held his arms out as in prayer. They pulled alongside and we could see that there were actually five people.
The next announcement that we heard was that they were coming aboard. They had been adrift for THREE WEEKS! They were from Jamaica and were going to the other side of their island for a party . It seems their motors died. Fortunately, they were bringing lots of meat and food to the party, so they were able to survive. Everyone is so happy that we could rescue them. They had drifted about 300 miles away from land.
Bugs in my Princess Bed -- this is a copy of what I've sent to Princess. Island Princess -- Bugs in my Bed:
"I know that this complaint has (hopefully) been registered and forwarded to Corporate. But, I want you to see a picture to help you understand how the bites ruined the first 4 days of my cruise. I had 2 bites on the back of my ankle and terrible itching when I awoke after my first night on board. I reported it and requested that the room steward, Marlo, change all the bedding which he did. The next morning, I had 2 more bites and the head steward came and suggested that I had an "allergy". He said to go to the dispensary to see what kind of bites they were. I went to the dispensary and they wanted to charge me $60 -- of course I refused because I didn't need treatment, but was accommodating the head steward. The dispensary called back in the evening and said that they would only charge me $18. I said "no thank you". I don't have any allergies and these were either spider bites or some other small insect.
The THIRD night, I got 2 more bites on the side of my leg and again went to report it. No one said that they were sorry or offered any kindness. Only my room steward Marlo seemed concerned. His thorough cleaning finally did the trick and my bed was finally "bug free". The first bites still showed even on our 9th day -- a nice reminder of a terrible time.
A good portion of my "Escape Completely" cruise was spoiled by the fact of bugs in my bed. This is entirely unacceptable and people are appalled when I tell them of my experience. I hope that you can make it up to me in some way that would make me want to cruise with Princess again. "
PS..6 weeks later, this is the response from Princess Claims Dept.
Dear Ms. Gibson:
I regret that you apparently suffered from some kind of bites during your
cruise vacation and that you suspect your accommodations aboard ship as the
cause. I hope you will understand that we would never knowingly expose our
guests to a problem of this nature and I recognize your disappointment and
According to an authoritative source, the Virginia Department of
Agriculture and Consumer Services website available at
bites might suggest bed bugs, they are not a good method for diagnosing a
bed bug infestation. This is because bite reactions are so variable from
person to person. For instance, a person who has been bitten while
traveling may not react for several days, and only notice the bites after
they have returned home. These bites do not mean the home is infested.
Alternatively, a person may not react to bed bug bites at all. This can
allow an infestation to get started in their home and remain unnoticed
until the bed bug population increases so much that bed bugs start to be
seen. Because bites are an unreliable indicator of an infestation (they may
not be bed bug bites at all), it is very important to be familiar with the
other signs that bed bugs leave behind to detect a real infestation
(particularly a small one). By looking for specific bed bug evidence, the
infestation can be identified early before the population becomes difficult
You may be confident there are rigorous procedures in place to monitor for
bedbug activity aboard our ships and the threat of any infestation is taken
very seriously. Attention is routinely paid to the outside visible
surfaces of luggage when delivering luggage to the staterooms, and to the
sheets and mattresses while making up the staterooms before and during each
Additionally, each stateroom and its furnishings are completely torn apart
and inspected for any signs of possible bedbug activity at least once every
month. These inspections include the bedding, the headboards, the bed
frames and skirts, any items under the beds, around and under the tables,
the inside and outsides of drawers, the outsides of any luggage, around and
under the edges of carpeting, any other joints or crevices close to the
bed, the drapes, wall hangings, and even behind the baseboards and wall
The ship's reports indicate that upon learning of your situation your
stateroom was carefully cleaned and inspected as described above several
times but no bed bugs, their characteristic traces, nor other bugs of any
kind were found. Therefore we do not know where the bites you report
actually came from or how they might reasonably have been prevented.
Ms. Gibson, passenger reactions, whether critical or complimentary, are
always welcome at Princess Cruises and we appreciate the time you and Mr.
Feiden have taken to advise us of your situation both on ship and ashore.
While we must respectfully decline responsibility for your discomfort, we
now that the true facts have been explained you will understand our
position. Of course, all of the foregoing is without prejudice to the
terms and conditions of the Passage Contract.