Island Princess Cruise Review by CruiseLoverRick: First Time Panama Canal Cruise with a Full Transit
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First Time Panama Canal Cruise with a Full Transit
The impetus for this cruise was in part to celebrate my 50th birthday. Nothing like a 15 day cruise to help you forget how old one is getting. Although, considering the average age onboard was 71, according to our Cruise Director, most other passengers considered me to be just a baby.
Prior to our departure, we stayed two days at the Double Tree San Pedro. We chose this property due to its close proximity to the Port of Los Angeles and the free shuttle service to the pier on the day of embarkation. The hotel was a rate of $160.00 per night and the hotel overall was a decent moderate property. Friendly staff and just one restaurant which I would say was mediocre at best. It was definitely location that mattered most in choice of this property. The hotel was definitely showings signs of age, but was by no means intolerable.
Had one very strange customer service issue for which they called our room the night before checkout and had the audacity to ask if we could vacate More the room before 900am or they would like us to move to another room that evening. I was completely outraged at such a request and I told them quite bluntly that I had no intent of vacating that room by 900am, nor were we going to move. After explaining my upset to the front desk the following morning, they took 50% percent off my room rate for the last night of the stay. It was most appreciated in terms of good will.
Once arriving I must say I was completely surprised at the size of the Island Princess as I knew this ship had been built to Panamax size, I somehow thought the ship would have to be smaller in order to fit through the canal, but in fact, the ship was still quite large. Embarkation ran very smoothly and efficiently. We had a short wait of maybe 45 minutes after we checked in the waiting area, but we were onboard by 1230pm.
Activities were your typical fair of bingos, game shows, trivia, pool games, and such. I most enjoyed the "Who Wants to be a Millionaire Game" where it was the men against the women. Had a really wonderful meet and mingle from our Cruise Critic role call. We had also organized a slot pull and cabin crawl which I thoroughly enjoyed.
The entertainment overall was excellent, although their was certainly some entertainers I enjoyed more than others. Although, more unique to this 15 day sailing for me, was that often, the entertainers were brought onboard for a longer length of time and would perform twice with two different shows, but the same brand of entertainment. There were jugglers, pianists, trumpeters, vocalists, a mentalist, and a ventriloquist. The highlights were the mentalist, Brent Webb who in a word was simply amazing. He was extremely unique from any other entertainment I had ever seen on other cruises. You can find is site at http://www.brentwebb.net/. The other entertainer that I just loved was Michael Paul Ziegfeld. He was a comedian/ventriloquist and he was absolutely charming. I spoke with him after one of his shows and I had asked him, if he was related to Flo Ziegfeld, from the Ziegfeld Follies fame. Turned out that Flo Ziegfeld was in fact the father of his mother who had adopted him. You can find more information about him at http://michaelpaulziegfeld.com/.
We had chosen anytime dining which for the most part worked out just fine. Although, you didn't need reservations, we found it to be quite helpful as your wait for a table was almost nothing as there was a significantly much shorter queue. The worst issue we ran into was the very first night of the cruise, we had met up with two other couples and showed up without reservations and needed a table for six. After waiting 45 minutes, and yes, I checked with the hostess more than once, upon the last time I checked with the hostess, she had given our table of six to another group. Well, I must say I was livid at that point and I can simply say that the Maitre' D stepped in and got us a table for six and very short order.
We did eat at the Horizon Court (buffet restaurant) for all our breakfasts and lunches and quite a few dinners. I must say, for a cruise this long, one can tire over the 90-120 minute long dinners, at least we felt that way. We never really had too much difficulty finding a place to sit and everyone of our fellow passengers were very friendly.
The ports we stopped at during the cruise were Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala; Puntarenas, Cost Rica; Fuerte Amador, Panama; Cartagena, Columbia; and Oranjestad, Aruba. Of course, the highlight of the trip was our 10 hour transit through the Panama Canal. Overall, we had quite nice weather considering how hot and humid Central America is. We certainly had all the humidity, but the temperatures were mild overall, so it was pretty bearable. One very nice Princess service was upon returning to the ship, they offered a cool damp wash cloth and cold water.
Disembarkation went quite smoothly as well, probably waited a little longer than we should have before tag color was called, but once called, we were off the ship very quickly. This cruise ended in Port Everglades, which I just love as this port is extremely close to the airport. We obtained a porter who helped with us with our 4 pieces and got us a taxi once we were through customs. I have to say, getting a porter is well worth whatever you tip him/her. I usually tip $2.00 per bag, more generous than some I suppose, I really appreciate their assistance. Less
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