We took the Island Princess 10 day roundtrip from Ft Lauderdale to Panama Canal (Nov 29- Dec 9). We had a great time. This was our 5th cruise (4th with Princess).
We flew in to Ft Lauderdale the day before the cruise. We stayed at the Comfort Inn Airport/Cruise port. Free shuttle from the airport (we were picked up promptly) to the hotel and next morning free shuttle to the cruise port (also prompt and efficient). Shopping area nearby. Fast food, very close to the hotel, sit down restaurants about half mile away. No close liquor store that we could find. We walked about 1.5 mile to find one and it had a very small wine selection. We purchased two bottles to take on board.
Embarkation: A little slower than we are used to, had to sit in terminal for 1.5 hours. Didn't get onboard til 1. We found out later that they had a crew change. Our room was ready but you could tell the crew was a bit behind getting everything organized.
Ports: We loved Aruba and had a fantastic time on the snorkeling (ship wreck) excursion. Disappointed that the stop was so short. We would have loved to have some time to walk around the city.
Cartagena, Columbia; although we were excited to say we had been on the South American continent we did not enjoy Cartagena. We took the Highlights tour to the fortress and old town. There was tons of walking, and the downtown area attractions were not very conducive to large tourist crowds (it was very hot and humid). The guide did not give us very good information about the stops. Street vendors were constantly bothering us.
Panama Canal; Going thru the canal was exciting. We had a lecturer onboard who was very good. He talked us thru the locks. Went into the canal very early in the morning. I think some people missed it, despite information given in the Princess Patter and announcments made. Once parked in Gatun Lake, we tendered to a yacht club and took an excursion. We did not know until onboard the ship that this was possible. We took the ferry excursion that goes thru the rest of the canal...thru the Culebra cut, other two sets of locks into the Pacific Ocean at Panama City. We were bused back to Colon to get the ship. Wonderful trip. So glad we found out about it.
Limon, Costa Rica; We took the Tortuguero canal tour. Nice trip. Good guide. They made a quick stop at a banana plantation which was a little disappointing because we only stayed about 15 min. Not sure why they bothered with that.
Montego Bay, Jamaica; We had been to Ocho Rios before and took an excursion so decided not to do anything in Montego Bay. The ship was late leaving that port as one tour bus was in a wreck and was delayed returning to the ship. Also...the snorkeling tour group said they were very disappointed in that tour. Not enough snorkeling equipment for everyone, then they were taken to a beach and left without guide or instructions to get the bus back to the ship. They had to call princess to find out what to do.
Entertainment/lectures: Loved the Princess dancers/singers/band. Comedian and variety entertainment was also very good (Billy Vader and Duncan Tuck). Did not care for the hypnotist. The cruise director gave a wonderful talk about cruise ships, the third officer gave a good lecture on cruise ship navigation. The onboard lecturer was great talking us thru the canal but we did not enjoy his talks about the ports as they were more information about shopping than history.
Food/wait staff/room steward: Excellent as always.... We had anytime dining. With this size ship you need reservations to get a table for two. Not sure how well that went because we always shared dinner tables and met some wonderful people. We never tried the specialty dining. Horizon Court buffet always had good food and variety. Pizza was good too.
Disembarkation was on time, no hassle. Just so you know, some airlines now offering service to take your bags directly to the airport from the ship and checkin for you. It was 20 dollars per person. We did not do that but thought it was a great idea, especially if you had a long wait at the airport and wanted to go do something.
We did purchase the princess transfers to the airport. That went smoothly until we got to the airport. It was pouring rain and the bus did not have a place to park underneath a roof, the bus driver insisted he unload all of the luggage before we all got off the bus. So...all of our luggage was soaked! Luckily, no damage to anything. I did notice that other smaller shuttle companies were parking where there was shelter.
Conclusion: Great trip, Great experience.