We recently completed a ten day cruise through the Panama Canal aboard the Island Princess. We chose this cruise specifically because of its itinerary and the ship’s reputation. Our primary interest in cruising is to find ships and itineraries of interest to us that provide a maximum number of interesting ports within the short time constraints allowed. This cruise stopped in 7 different countries (including port of embarkation), an unusual combination within 10 days.
Overall, this cruise did provide, for us, most all of what we had desired. We, as well as most everyone we met, rated it as very good, with little to be displeased about.
Crew & Staff: Room service was excellent, acceding to our every desire and needs (of which there were not too many). Service at every restaurant we visited was impeccable. The wait staff was exceedingly polite, and willing to provide for numerous creative food options not available on the menu. Service was prompt, food presentation outstanding. We did find that the fish at dinner was frequently overcooked. In addition, we found the food, though fine in quality, to be a bit bland.
Dining: Two types of dining are available in two different dining rooms, fixed time or any-time dining. We chose the anytime dining option since we normally have dinner between 7-7:30PM. We never had to wait too long to be seated, and specifically enjoyed being seated at tables with other passengers we had not previously known. (Seating for two is also available.)
One of us has diabetic constraints, and as a consequence rarely indulges in dessert. Not here however. We have never tasted sugar free desserts of such high quality.
We did appreciate the Princess policy of allowing passengers to bring their own wine. We brought a few bottles of our favorite wine, which we consumed during the cruise.
We cannot rate either of the specialty restaurants or the casino, since we partook of neither of them.
Trips: Shore excursions must be a Princess specialty. At each stop, there were numerous trips to choose from. (Of course, in addition at each port there were local guides capable of providing comparable tours at cheaper rates.) We did take a tour at each stop, and about half the time used the Princess-provided excursion. Unfortunately, most of the tours were a distance from the dock, requiring significant travel time. Overall, however, we were very satisfied with all our tours, learning much about each country we visited. We would have liked, however, to have had a talk, the day/night before, on each of the ports we were about to visit. (However, the series of talks on the Panama Canal were excellent. And the daily on-board newspaper did provide some minimal discussion of the next day’s visit.)
We would also have like a tour of behind the scenes operation of the ship. We did get to see the galley, but for any more, you need to pay $150 for the privilege. We think this (an intimate view of ship’s operation) should be a free option offered to all passengers.
Entertainment: Shows were excellent, though neither of us is too much into the glitz that seems to be popular on cruises. There were two shows involving comedians both of whom were very good. While at sea there was an excellent bridge instructor, who gave us numerous opportunities to enjoy the game with fellow passengers.
Our ship could not dock at one of the ports of call (Huatalco) due to the Tsunami in Chile which occurred that morning. This was disappointing, but understandable.
Overall, we were very pleased with this trip. Would we go on another Princess cruise ? Absolutely. In fact we left a deposit on the Island Princess for a future cruise of our choosing.