Island Princess: The Good, the Bad, and the Mixed: Island Princess Cruise Review by Naomi88
Overall Member Rating
Island Princess: The Good, the Bad, and the Mixed
Destination: Panama Canal & Central America
Embarkation: Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
* Fantastic itinerary, which was why we choose this cruise: Aruba, Colombia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Mexico.
* Passengers - What a friendly, gracious, well-educated group of people! I don't think I met one grumpy person on the entire trip. These are not the "People of Walmart" you might find on a few of the other cruise lines.
* The Ship -- Beautifully designed and very clean.
* State Room - It was very small, but cozy and comfortable. The bunk bed coming down from the ceiling and the mini-fridge were nice touches (and we had no problem pushing the beds together like the previous More reviewer).
* Service - We received excellent service from our cabin steward (Nestor) and waiter (Song), among others. No service problems at all.
* Laundry - I was impressed that this ship had a laundry room, unlike others we have been on. Sometimes crowded, but very convenient.
* Almost never felt crowded - I heard there were over 2,000 passengers on the cruise, but it almost never felt crowded. Embarkation and disembarkation were a breeze, and even the couple of ports requiring tenders were not too onerous.
* @ Sea activities -- There were tons of activities on the days at sea -- Zumba, line dancing, ballroom dancing, ping pong, poker, bridge, pop choir, art auctions, movies, etc.
* The Shows - Most of the shows were just awful. The Bayou show was the best of the bunch, but the plot made no sense (how did the guy die?). The hypnotist was totally fake. The comedians were pretty funny, but for a 15 day cruise, there were way too many comedians and soloist musicians. Where were the magician, the circus, the Broadway-type show, etc?
* The Musicians - Again, this was tailored to Baby Boomers and older. Magnitude = vomit-inducing 70's music. They actually played "I Will Survive" just before the "balloon drop" on New Year's Eve. Playlist = out-of-tune 70's music. DJ Low = doesn't exist (every time we went to a DJ Low event, we found that it was cancelled).
* Evening Activities -- very sedate. We went to bed early a lot, because our only other choices were the shows and the music (see above).
* Early Dining - Who eats dinner at 5:15?? I don't remember signing up for that. Next time I'm definitely going to go with Anytime dining.
* Time in Ports - As with most cruises, there was was way too much time "at sea" and way too little time in the ports. Having to be back on the cruise at 1:30pm on a port day just seems ridiculous to me.
* Upselling - This is also very common on cruises, but it seemed a little excessive on this cruise. Many of the "activities" in the Patter were thinly veiled attempts to sell something. For example, my husband went to the rum tasting, which offered an extremely small shot of ONE flavor of Bacardi, and the rum cake tasting, which offered one tiny piece of ONE flavor of cake (with the opportunity to buy more, of course). And they didn't even give passengers a free glass of champagne on New Year's Eve -- Sorry, but that's just cheap.
* Overworked staff, with little redundancy - The staff were always rushing off from one activity to the next, and none of them seemed to have any replacements. For example, when the ballroom (and choir) teacher got sick, those classes simply got cancelled for several days.
* Book group - This was a good idea in theory, but it failed in execution. It basically consisted of handing out a 550-page book and nothing else. Who wants to read a 550-page book on a cruise? As it happened, I had already read that book, so I returned on the last day to participate in the discussion, and there was NOBODY there, not even a crew member to moderate. What a disappointment.
* Lectures - I only listened to these on TV, but they seemed extremely boring to me. Maybe they could get someone with a slightly less monotone delivery?
* Temperature -- This was very poorly regulated. Some of the areas of the ship were hot (e.g., elevators), whereas others were unbearably freezing (Princess & Universe Theaters). One night I wore my fleece pajamas to the theater and brought a blanket. I got a few dirty looks, but that was the only night I was actually comfortable during the show. I heard stories from people who had to leave a movie or show during the middle (too cold), or abandon their assigned dining room table (also too cold).
* A few cabin issues - The shower was very small and the shower curtain clings to your body. There's no place to shave your legs unless you want to get the entire bathroom wet. And the balcony chairs have zero lower-back support, which caused me a pretty bad backache by the end of the cruise (and I had to pay $16.80 to buy ibuprofen on the ship).
* Food - In the dining room, the food was beautifully presented. I had excellent seafood on several nights, and I thought the Italian Night food was delicious. I also really appreciated the fantastic sugar-free desserts. But much of the other food was bland, and there was not a lot of variety. Why not feature the local cuisines of the regions we visited? I don't think I ever saw anything Caribbean, Central American, or Mexican on the dining room menu (or anything remotely spicy, for that matter). I mistakenly ordered steak twice -- fatty and covered with brown gravy, yuck. The buffet, on the other hand, was quick and convenient, and you could get whatever you like (including some ethnic specialties), but it started to resemble cafeteria food after a few days (too much time under the sun lamps).
* Zumba - I'm a part-time Zumba instructor at home, so it's likely my reaction is much more critical than others'. First, I was thrilled to learn that the ship even offered Zumba, and it was free, and it was offered on every single "at sea" day (except Panama Canal day). The availability far exceeded my expectations. The instructor was friendly, easy to follow, and enthusiastic, and she played crowd-pleasing music. However, as with almost everything on this cruise, it seemed tailored to an older crowd. First, it was way too short (35 minutes) for a Zumba class, and many of us were left sitting in the theater for 25 minutes waiting for the next activity (line dancing) to start, so we could get a full workout. Second, it was too crowded, with many people dancing in the aisles or between the tables and chairs of the Universe theater. Third, the instructor's songs and choreography were out of date (2-5 years old, e.g. "Waka Waka" by Shakira). Zumba is evolving, and the instructor has basically been teaching in a vacuum, with no feedback or exposure to what other instructors are doing. While some of the participants were older or new to Zumba, many of them were young and fit, and there should be a fitness class that satisfies their needs as well. Pretty much all of the other fitness classes cost money (I think $12/day).
Finally, a few things that I'm really glad I brought on the trip:
* A pashmina shawl, which I used as a blanket for many of the shows in the cold theater.
* Laundry detergent sheets (could also use Tide pods), so I didn't have to buy laundry detergent
* A first-aid kit - it kept me from paying exorbitant prices for bandaids and OTC meds (other than the $16.80 ibuprofen, and that was only because I ran out). Less
StarBreeze Panama Canal
Island Princess Panama Canal
Overall, A Good Trip