Panama Canal cruise, October 25, 2011 to November 8, 2011.
Let me start out by saying, my husband and I are not seasoned travelers. We save for several years to take a special vacation. The Panama cruise was our 5th cruise in about 20 years time. Our group turned out to be 5 couples, all in our later 50's to mid 60's. We were on a Princess ship back in 2002, so were prepared for the small bathroom ( especially the shower ), and the limited drawer and shelf space. Our room had a balcony, located mid ship. We were next to 2 other couples, so we opened our balconies up to enjoy the bigger space. We printed the sign provided by Cruise Critic with our internet name and taped it to our door. This turned out to be a great sign for knowing if you were headed for the stern or bow.
All and all this was a wonderful vacation. Embarking went very smooth and once on the ship, we were able to graze on the lido deck and found our luggage, within a few hours, in our room. As mentioned above we were a party of 10. We had late traditional seating, and were able to be together at a large table.
Initially, we were disappointed with the food portions in the formal dinning room. When we think of a fillet of beef we do not think it would be 3 inches in diameter and less than Â½ inch thick, but the portions were small through out the cruise. On the up side- you eat all day and have multiple choices, so by the time dinner comes, the small portion turned out to be enough. Maybe they do this to decrease food waste. We had no complaints. On the subject of food- another disappointment was going to the special restaurant. One evening, while at sea, we booked dinner in Sabatini's. We thought the portions were the same size as the dinning room, we felt the selection really was not anything special and the experience took over 3 hours, which was way too long. Only three other parties were in the restaurant that night. I would not recommend spending the extra money to eat there.
We communicated with Cruise Critic members prior our trip. A meet and greet was arranged along with a cabin crawl/poker run. We had the best time with those activities, and enjoyed meeting some new people. Two excursions were arranged by a CC member. We participated in one, and should have participated in the second one because the ship excursion was not that great. Our Cost Rice tour with Okey Dokey was very good, but could have been better, if we would have left on time and lunch arrangements were organized better. We did see a variety of sights and did more up close and personal activities then the ship's excursions. We did the ship tour in Cartegena and were stuck in traffic most of the time. As a result, limited time was left for our stops. I mainly wanted to shop, and felt that we were rushed to make decisions about purchases. The CC tour left early and had more flexibility.
The entertainment was wonderful. Because we ate late, the last show in the auditorium was never full. The only time we could not see a show, was when the crew put on their talent show. There was only one performance, at 10pm. By the time we got to the auditorium, it was more than full.
I did have a massage in the spa one time. The treatment was wonderful. The therapist was running about 40 minutes late, but I was not shorted on time and she let me use the thermal room afterwards. The price was extremely expensive which is why I only used the service once.
Our favorite activity was wine tasting. We bought the wine card, which saved us money for wine with dinner, plus we got to try many wines at the tasting, so we were better prepared with choices when it came time to make a selection. Most of the wines on board were California wines. We would have like other countries wines, but the selection and quality were good.
Not sure when or where our next cruise will be. Princess did a good job overall. We seem to prefer the smaller ships.