The Island Princess is certainly not one of the big mega cruise ships. It's designed to fit through the Panama Canal locks, so it's very thin. There aren't the grand fancy atriums, climbing walls, or skating rinks. It feels like the old style cruise ship -- maybe that's why they kept showing reruns of "The Love Boat" on TV. The overall feel of the ship is that it needs to be updated. There are old boat pictures, carpet with seashells, a very small atrium area. Hallways are very narrow.
The rooms are tiny, the showers tinier. Our room had one queen size bed, one side chair, and enough walking around space to make a prison proud. There is no clock in the room; make sure you take a travel clock if you want one. You can phone for a wake up call, though. The linens were worn. Our comforter had a hole in it. It seems to be policy that sheets DO NOT get changed automatically. Even at Motel 6 you get your sheets changed every couple of days. After a week, when we asked, our steward More
cheerfully went for new sheets. The same policy seems to exist for soap. When our sliver broke in two, we asked for a new bar and got one immediately. My point is, you shouldn't have to ask for soap or sheets. I talked to a couple of guests in other areas. One told me she had holes in her linen, asked her steward when they were due for a refurbish, and he said they were only 2 years old.
The food was good, plentiful, and typical cruise fare. Lobster, steak, baked Alaska. By the end of the cruise we were tired of sauces and nouvelle cuisine. Would you seriously choose a sandwich of veal and tuna? Ham and marmalade? Or a salad of watermelon and feta cheese? The waiters were wonderful, the headwaiter was funny. The chefs put on a show near the end that was hilarious, followed by a tour of the kitchen. The ship offers 2 dinner seatings as well as freestyle. The headwaiter told us that on the next cruise so many people had chosen freestyle that they would be waiting every night.
The production shows were excellent. There were also a couple of comics and a ventriloquist who was great if you like that sort of stuff. One thing you need to know about the shows: If you are in the late seating for dinner, you WILL miss at least one show. The theater is fairly small, the lounge venue with table and chair seating is very small and has lots of bad seats. Some shows are repeated a second night, but the second night show has only one 8:00 show. There is no late show. We heard lots of grumbling about that.
The day before the Panama Canal, there are several good documentaries on TV about the building of the canal. As you go through, there is an excellent commentary broadcast in the public areas. If you want to see the locks, get up early to fight the crowds. Most go up to the buffet area. Our steward suggested the bow area of decks 10 and 11. If you keep going forward, you come to an unmarked door which leads to a wooden door, which leads to a big balcony. Get there around 6 am. If you don't take a tour, and go back through the locks, an interesting perspective is from the fitness center at the top back of the ship. You can walk on a treadmill to get rid of the veal/tuna sandwiches and watch the locks from the back view.
The Fitness Center (yes, some people do go to the gym on a cruise) is small but okay. The bikes aren't in the best shape, but neither are the people. All free classes are at 7 or 7:30 AM. Any other classes like yoga, pilates or spin cost money. Princess is well known for nickel and diming you. Skip the free lectures; they are blatant sales pitches for $600 to $900 detox programs with algae. Don't count on seeing any fitness staff actually IN the gym; they're too busy selling stuff to make sure you know how to use the equipment safely.
On the whole, we've had better, we've had worse. Very little illness on board, and hand sanitizers everywhere you looked. Less
Island Princess Cruises to the Panama Canal & Central America
This is the port for the Panama Canal. The Canal part was a 5. We stayed on the ship and listened to the commentary. At the Cristobal port, you can only go on the pier, where there is a convenient and tacky flea market which does have some fine native crafts hidden among the souvenirs. The flea market gets a 1, so doing the math, it averages out to average.
Limon itself is an industrial port, with lots of poverty. We took an excellent excursion with elderly frail parents -- Eco River Jungle Cruise and Banana Plantation (a bus and a boat). The guide was a naturalist who really knew her stuff. This was one of the unexpected highlights of the trip. Our trip was in the afternoon. Apparently many animals sleep in the heat of the day, so we were afraid we wouldn't see much. But, we saw lots of wildlife, including sloths and howler monkeys, herons and bats. Wonderful trip, not too expensive, not too tiring for older people and plenty interesting for the young.