Island Princess Cruise Review by cruiserolina: Island Princess - great ship for cruising the Panama Canal
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Island Princess - great ship for cruising the Panama Canal
Embarkation at Port Everglades, Ft Lauderdale: went very easy. It took around 5 minutes from the time we entered the terminal until check-in, including going through security. As you entered the terminal, you were given a group number. We then had to wait around 30 minutes before we could board the ship, waiting for our group number to be called. When we boarded the ship, our room was ready for us. We were able to drop off our carry-on's and then proceed to go to lunch.
Food: Lots of selections for every diet whether you eat in the main dining room or the buffet. We especially liked the salad bar and fresh fruit in the buffet at lunchtime. In the Horizon Court buffet, if you wanted lemonade, you had to ask a waiter for some. There also was not any hot chocolate available. All of the food services closed down by midnight, except for room service. We had anytime dining and found we had very little wait time if you went before 6:30 PM and were willing to share a table with other More passengers. On formal nights, there was a little more wait time. Also, the dress code is strictly adhered to on the formal nights. We found out that the minimum dress code allowed in the main dining rooms by men is a long sleeved shirt. A tie was not required. Even the invitation to the past passenger party stated formal attire, no short sleeves, as it was held on the second formal night.
Entertainment: Most of the shows on the ship lasted 30-40 minutes. The dancers were very good in the various show productions. The entertainment that was brought on board was better than the average cruise ship.
Cabin: Location was in midship which was perfect for going anywhere in the ship. Our cabin steward always had the room in satisfactory condition. Each evening, our bed was turned down, chocolates on bed, and the Princess Patter was received which listed all of the activities for the next day. Upon arrrival to cabin, and on last day of cruise, a luggage mat was placed on one end of bed for unpacking/packing.
Excursions: Half of the ports we did on our own. In the Panama Canal, if you want to get off of the ship, you must book one of the ship's excursion. The ship docked at the pier in Aruba, Cartagena, Colon, and Puerto Limon. In the Panama Canal and the Grand Cayman Island, tenders were provided to get to shore. Also, at each cruise terminal, before getting back on the ship, there were chilled damp towels and chilled water available.
There was a port lecturer, Bill Fall, on board who gave a talk on every port. He was born and raised in Panama and gave a unique perspective to the Panama Canal. All of his talks were extremely informative as well as educational.
You could send an e-postcard free from the computers in the internet cafe to your family and friends. However, the message that you had written in the postcard did not show up when the recipient opened up the e-postcard, which we found out later after getting home.
Afternoon tea was nice in one of the main dining rooms. The waiters served hot tea, small sandwiches, cookies, petit fours, and scones.
Average age of passengers was 60-65. Some of the passengers were rude, jumping ahead of lines for elevators, etc. Overall the majority of the passengers were very pleasant.
On the last night of our trip we received a nice summary of our trip from Princess.
Disembarkation: was a little disorganized, as well as they were running behind schedule. A few days before departure, you are given a disembarkation questionnaire to complete and drop off at Guest Services. This determines what luggage tags you will be given and when you are going to get off of the ship. At least a day ahead of time, you received your luggage tags in your cabin. Depending upon your luggage tags, you were supposed to meet at a particular lounge at a particular time for disembarking. There were malfunctions in our waiting lounge for announcements. Once off of the ship, we collected our luggage in the cruise terminal, proceeded through customs, walked out of the terminal, and took a cab to the Ft. Lauderdale airport which dropped us off at our terminal. The cab fare was slightly less than $15 total. Less
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Port and Shore Excursions
Ship docked right next to the downtown and main shopping areas. We did not take a ship excursion as we have been here before. We walked off the ship, went through the cruise terminal, and walked out onto the main street. Turning right, we walked down towards the Renaissance Hotel. There was a marketplace with a Starbucks which had free wifi access. A little further down the street was a small park on the waterfront which had iguanas running around. We crossed the street and headed back towards the main shopping areas. There is a large "I love Aruba" sign for picture taking. Most vendors will accept USD. Be sure to bring water with you as it was very hot and humid.
Ship docked at the industrial port of Manga. A kiosk is located on the dock near the ship where you can get a free map. We opted to do this port on our own. There is a free shuttle bus which will take you from your ship to the cruise terminal. Otherwise it is about a quarter mile walk. In the terminal area, there are flamingos, peacocks, monkeys, and parrots, as well as some shopping and eating venues. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is the Old Walled City and is approximately 2 miles from the ship. To get there we took a taxi outside the terminal for $10 USD total. We were dropped off at the clock tower, or entrance to the Old Walled City. Across the street was the convention center. We walked into the Old Walled City and walked to Piazza Aguana, San Pedro Claver Church, toured the emerald museum (free), toured the gold museum (free), walked to Piazza Bolivar, Inquisition Palace, Cartagena Cathedral, Santo Domingo Cathedral, walked the wall to Las Bovedas and then took a taxi back to the cruise ship. Again, the fare was $10 USD total. Be aware that the street vendors are very aggressive in the town. Just keep walking, avoid eye contact, and tell them "no, gracias", unless you are interested in doing a purchase. Most vendors will take USD. Be sure to bring water with you as it was very hot and humid.
Panama Canal Tour
Panama Canal: Cruise ship transit through the Gatun Locks was awesome. Because this was just a partial transit, the cruise ship dropped anchor in Gatun Lake. You can only get off the ship onto a tender if you have booked a ship's excursion. At this point, we got off the ship on an excursion which would take us through the rest of the locks to the Pacific Ocean. After getting to shore on the tender, we boarded an air conditioned bus which took us to Gamboa. The bus ride was around an hour. In Gamboa, we boarded a smaller ferry. The ferry transported us across Gatun Lake and through both the Pedro Miguel and the Miraflores locks. We were able to see the new construction of the expanded locks, the Centennial Bridge, and the Bridge of the Americas by taking this tour. The ferry docked at the end of Panama City. Here we boarded an air conditioned bus which transported us back to Colon, Panama, which was about a 1.5 hour bus ride. The ship was docked close to the downtown and the main shopping areas in Colon.
Colon: The ship docked close to downtown late in the day. This was due to the fact that the ship had to go back through the Gatun Locks to the Caribbean, and to pick up the passengers that got off in Gatun Lake for excursions. (All excursions ended up in Colon). In this downtown area, there were numerous shops and restaurants.
The ship anchored away from the port and you had to be tendered to shore. The tender ride was around 15 minutes. The tender docked close to the downtown and main shopping area. We did not do an excursion as we have been here before. We walked around on the streets. Most vendors will accept USD. Be sure to bring water with you as it was very hot and humid.
The ship docked at the industrial port. Within walking distance at the port was a marketplace with lots of vendors selling various items. If you wanted to see more of Costa Rica, an excursion was the way to go. We did a ship excursion which took us on a boat ride on the Tortuguero Canal, visited a rainforest preservation, and visited a banana plantation, including the packing operation, which enabled us to see much more of the countryside. While we were waiting to board the tour bus, we had the opportunity to take a small shuttle bus for this tour, which we opted for at no extra cost. This was a good decision as the group was smaller and allowed for a more personal tour. Most vendors will accept USD. Be sure to bring water with you as it was very hot and humid.
We saw one of the many banana plantations. There were rows of banana trees. We visited the packing operation and witnessed the bananas being processed and packed for shipping. We were educated about the growing, packing, and transportation of bananas. Very interesting.
The Tortuguero Canals
We took a boat ride on the canal where we saw assorted vegetation and wildlife.