We had been recommended to cruise through the Panama Canal also to visit Vancouver so this seemed to be the ideal cruise for us. 19 nights appeared a long time but the ports of call and the destination seemed appealing. We were surprised on the first day when we realised this was not one cruise but two cruises in one. Although when we checked on board with Princess they said if you booked it as one cruise it was considered one cruise, even though we had to settle our on board account after 4 days, receive new cards and start again in Los Angeles. However, one assumes because of poor sales for the full cruise, Vancouver to Fort Lauderdale, Princess offered a 4 day mini-cruise from Vancouver to Los Angeles at very attractive prices.
The 4 day cruise clearly was very appealing to people living in the Los Angeles area who appeared to look at it as a cheap long weekend of gorging themselves on as much food as possible, the Horizon restaurant was kept very busy.In Los Angeles the now very over weight mini-cruisers were replaced by customers who joined for the remainder of the cruise to Fort Lauderdale.
After Los Angeles the tenor of the cruise changed to people who clearly just enjoyed cruising, thankfully. This was a repositioning cruise and we got the impression Princess struggled to find adequate ports of call. The first port was Victoria on Vancouver Island which the ship could have reached within the hour of leaving Vancouver but because of the itinerary the ship circled the Island until the following morning. Having said that it is a beautiful place, if you ever get the chance to go to the Butchart Gardens make sure you go.
The second port of call was Los Angeles. What a disappointment, we hear about what a wonderful place this is and yet it was probably the worst port of call in the whole cruise and when you consider the next stop was in Guatemala you will appreciate our views on Los Angeles. We then sailed past the coastline of Mexico, we were told Princess are not calling there at the moment because of safety issues. This was clear in Guatemala because for our trip Princess had arranged a well armed police guard to keep us secure around Lake Atilan. We were told because of the Mexican threat. Guatemala is clearly a very poor country and the poverty was distressing.
Onward to Costa Rica and Puntarenas, much more civilised and a good port of call. We opted for a private excursion with Okey Dokey Tours including zip lining, fantastic. Panama City was next and there were plenty of varying excursions available. The next day was the day we navigated the Panama Canal which created a great deal of interest for all onboard and it was well handled by the Princess crew.Plenty of history but the cynics on board suggested it was only two locks and a big lake!
Cartagena in Columbia came next and for us the best port of call, plenty of history and things to see. We again opted for a private tour with Dora Tours. She was excellent and by far the best tour guide we have ever had.Then came Aruba which apart from shopping for jewellery appeared to offer nothing much more. Two more days at sea and we arrived in Fort Lauderdale. 19 nights on board, 7 ports of call and 10 sea days.
The last time we cruised with Princess was on the Emerald Princess which is a bigger ship with more amenities. On the Island Princess we chose "anytime dining" so we had only one choice of restaurant (apart from the two where you have to pay extra), on the Emerald you have a choice of four plus the specialities. So the menus was somewhat repetitive. I cannot mention the Bordeaux restaurant without highlighting the ultra efficient maitre'd Mihaela and the fantastic waitress Ana Maria. Both Romanian ladies who were a credit to Princess, highly efficient and great fun.
We used the Sabatinis restaurant on two occasions. In hindsight once was enough as it is always the same menu, however we did have an excellent time. The staff in general were all very good, to wake up to the Deputy Cruise Director Kimberley on the Wake Up show every morning was a treat. Princess you should make her a Cruise Director asap. The Sanctuary was new to us, this facility has not featured before. A worthy addition and we were pleased to learn this facility will be enlarged on the new ship. Although at $40 a day for the two of us is somewhat excessive.
Overall we enjoyed the cruise, it was in hindsight too long for us, too many sea days and not enough ports of call worthy of attention.