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4 Acapulco Princess Island Princess Cruise Reviews

Background I traveled with my partner Jimmi (jmcal123) and two friends that we met on our Freedom cruise. I am a lifelong cruiser, sailing on everything from Crystal to Carnival. While I am not loyal to any one line, this is my 17th ... Read More
Background I traveled with my partner Jimmi (jmcal123) and two friends that we met on our Freedom cruise. I am a lifelong cruiser, sailing on everything from Crystal to Carnival. While I am not loyal to any one line, this is my 17th cruise on Princess since 2003. We booked this cruise almost 18 months in advance, so we had plenty of time to research, plan, and study the Panama Canal. Well, the last is me. I am a history dork and the first time through the canal, it was booked last minute, so had no time to research. We chose the eastbound itinerary so that port intensive part of the cruise, 4 straight to start or end your cruise was at the beginning of our cruise and we could relax at the end. Overall, this cruise met and exceeded our expectations with new ports, new friends, plenty of sun, laughs, and relaxation. We liked it enough that we booked the Coral Princess for November on a partial Canal transit. Pre-Cruise Having traveled to Mexico many times, I have to say that the process at ACU was the easiest I have been through. Once landed, we went through immigration, got our luggage, and went through customs in 15 minutes. Pressing the button and waiting for red/green light to determine if your luggage is checked is like reading the list of lottery numbers with a much better chance at winning. I really like that you setup and pay for cab prior to getting into the cab and just present a ticket to the driver. It was a 45 minute drive to the hotel. Be warned that the cab drivers are crazy and have no problem going fast and/or on the shoulder of the road. We booked the Crown Plaza Acapulco for our pre-cruise and for $68 was a steal. The only negative was that it took more than 30 minutes to check into the hotel. This hotel is in the middle of the hotel zone. It is a great location near restaurants, grocery store and a pharmacy all overlooking Acapulco Bay. We had an ocean view facing west towards the cruise port. One of the things I really enjoyed about this hotel and Acapulco in general is that it does not cater to American tourist. Unlike PV, Cabo, or Cozumel, Acapulco is a busy destination for people that live in Mexico and especially from Mexico City. So announcements were in Spanish, menus were catered to the locals, and on a weekend, the hotel was busy. One of the more entertaining parts of our stay at the beach was a fight in the "non-roped" off part of the beach between two women. It was funny because no one seemed to stop it, no cops or security arrived, and no one was arrested. We found a Mega (I think) grocery store a few blocks away and went to stock up on water, vodka, and wine for the trip. Dinner that evening was setup by our cruise critic group that had arrived early and was conveniently right across the street at El Fogon. It was simple, inexpensive, and tasty. It was an extremely long day and we were asleep early. I woke up early while Jimmi slept and walked along the beach just after sunrise. It was nice to be the only one aside from a few vendors setting up shop on the beach. Embarkation & Cabin We arrived early and as it turned out too early. Upon arrival, we chose not to have someone cart out luggage in, and then were told to go to the wrong place. After we walked all over the place with all of our bags, we found that we have to wait in the little shop area (w/ bags) until noon. We met up with a good majority of the cruise critic group, all with the same idea, in this area. Once opened, you carry your bags to the next building, put them in the big bins that are lifted onto the ship and proceed to the line. We were probably in the first ten people to board the ship and wanted to call ahead for the Chef's Table so ran to our room, more on that later. We had E736. We had originally booked an outside cabin, but through several price drops, past passenger deals, and changes, we ended up with this cabin and we really liked this room. We picked this room because it was on the port side and it was fully covered. While there were some vibrations and movement (we both really enjoy this), we thoroughly enjoyed the cabin and would book it again. It was perfect for the sun and we spent the majority of our Panama Canal day on our balcony. The best part of this cabin is the balcony because it stretched slightly to the aft so you get a 270 degree view. There is the occasional person who pops around the corner though, so if you do not like the occasional voyeur, then this is not the room for you. ? Cruise Critic Get Together &Sail away Perhaps the best deal of this cruise was the "Meet & Mingle" that was setup by our travel agent (who was sailing with us) through Princess. For about $13/person you had an open bar. 2 drinks and you got your monies worth and the conversation became livelier. Our roll call was around 8 people for almost a year, but people started showing up in the end and we had a group of about 15. Our gathering was interrupted by the Muster drill at 7PM and sailing shortly afterward. It was dark and the alcohol had taken effect. Tara (friend)and Jimmi managed to be the stars of the video for the first night and that was how our day ended. Gym and Working Out I am a runner and was very happy to have the single level promenade to run around. I made a deal with myself that I can eat a piece of pizza for every mile I ran. (I really like Princess Pizza) I ran 27 miles and ate 23 pieces of pizza. What I did not anticipate was how good ice cream goes with pizza... and it seems like I was there almost every slice of pizza. With a great outdoor running option, I did not have to use the gym, so aside from walking though it and filling my water, I did not use it. Huatulco This is a repeat stop for me and we planned to do absolutely nothing. We succeeded in our plans and it was a great way to spend the day. We got off the ship right after 10 and stopped at the first restaurant with shade and sun. Beer, cerviche, and guacamole filled our time. We did walk around for a bit and bought a few Coke's (Sugar instead of HFCS = GOOD). I have all but given up carbonation at my daily life, but splurged on this trip. Our day was short here, 10-3, and it was formal night, so it was back onboard early and some sun time. Upon leaving and making our turn southeast, the wind picked up quite dramatically and then the waves. I looked on the Navigator's report and it had Force 11, severe storm, but it did not seem that bad. It was fun to watch the waves torn apart by the wind. Needless to say, we were rocked to bed that night. This is apparently normal for this area. Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala The wind and waves of the previous night broke and we awoke to still seas and hazy warmth. While doing my daily run, I noticed we were stopped just outside of the port along with many other boats. A member of our cruise critic part (MrSHY) had done a lot of research on our first three ports and we chose to do the two longer day excursions with him and our group. We had a trip to Antigua planned trough Turansa tours today, so we were ready by 9. Shortly after 9, the captain announced that we would be missing this port due to a transportation labor strike that caused blockage of the main roads in the country. So we ended up with a day at sea and an extended day in San Juan Del Sur. While I was disappointed to miss Guatemala, I was not upset to have a sea day to relax and that we did. This was the last time that Princess is scheduled to stop in Guatemala, so it may take a land vacation to get to this country. We spent several hours in the Lotus pool and on our balcony reading, drinking, laughing. This day also could have been called the dolphin and sea turtle day as we saw many. At one time I saw a bale of turtles easily numbering over 100. It was quite a sight and makes you think about cutting the plastic soda can holder. ? The downside to this day was that because our tour was a prepaid independent tour and we technically did not show up, we were going to be out the money we spent on it. Our organizer spoke with the tour operator about a refund and they said no refund as they were there waiting for us. They eventually refunded 50% of our tour price which means we were out $25/person. After thinking about this further, this is totally unacceptable. Regardless of whether they showed up or not, where exactly were they going to take us if the roads were blocked? Antigua is about 2 hrs from the port city. Based on this logic, I will not recommend Turansa tours. Anyway, we are filing a claim with our insurance for the remainder of the funds. San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua Due to the missed stop the previous day, we had a full day in Nicaragua and we were thankful for that. Our tour organizer had notified our tour company and they arranged to start earlier and add a lunch stop in our tour. We used our Elite status to just head onto the first tender and it is a 15 minute tender ride. It was windy and the tenders rocked. We bussed to Grenada for the day. It is about 1.5 hours each way, but it is scenic and there is plenty to learn about the country on the way. All but about 15 km were along Lake Nicaragua with the two volcanoes in sight. The city of Grenada is old (1500s) and really pretty. Flush with pastels, churches, and hotels, we were dropped off in town square and had some time to wonder around, photograph and check out some of the hotels. Jimmi and Tara were on a quest for coffee, so they had to sample some. Based on reviews of this city, I was expecting poverty and was ready for the constant quest for a dollar out of the tourist, but it was not like that at all. We did have one young boy follow us. I think he was more interested in the fact that I was playing his game than he was about selling me something. It was entertaining. Our lunch was at a grill and was one of the best meals of the entire trip. Upon returning to the pier, the tender line was very long. We tried to pass some of time in the market setup there, but it just did not seem to move. We waited almost an hour to board the tender and were back on board as the sun was setting. It was a long day, but a very nice experience. Apparently, the delay was due to the wind and a tender that broke down in the tendering process. I saw only 2 running and it was 15-20 between tender arrivals. I wish we had time to explore San Juan Del Sur, and if I should return to this quaint port that is how I would spend my day. There seems to be plenty of restaurants and beach area in town and I am sure there was a local beer with my name on it. Puntarenas, Costa Rica There are many, many options for tours in Costa Rica. Jimmi and I are planning a land vacation here in 2011, so we decided to take an easy route and after doing some research, chose Calypso Tours. This tour was not offered through the cruise line. Our agent negotiated a rate for us and it was a great option. The tour is a catamaran ride to Tortuga Island in the Gulf of Nicoya about an hour off the coast. It is actually in the Pacific and not in the bay. While on the ride there is a bar and fresh fruit was also served. Upon arrival to the island, you had the option for a complimentary snorkel trip or just the palms, sand, and water. We chose the latter. At around noon, lunch was served, the company did a fine job of creating an elegant dining area out of items that they brought of the boat. After lunch it was more beach, sun and water. It was HOT on this particular day... as hot as I remember any day while on vacation and the water was refreshing. There was a small gift shop on the island, a volley ball net, and banana boats rides were available in the afternoon. We had about 4 hours of beach time before the return trip. We had a great day and highly recommend this tour. Upon arrival back in Puntarenas, we scouted out the local market and shops, and Jimmi and Tara continued their search for their perfect cup of coffee. Panama Canal This was the reason that we booked this cruise and it certainly is the highlight. I am a big history dork and did a ton of research on the old and new canals before the cruise. I highly suggest reading The Path between The Seas. It can be a little wordy at times, but it is an amazing and interesting history. The book is for sale on board and the naturalist lectures sections from this book. If you are contemplating a Panama Canal cruise, I highly suggest a full transit. The "western" side, or Balboa, (which is actual further east than the "eastern entrance" or Gatun) is far more interesting and scenic than the Gatun locks. The Culebra Cut is the narrow 8 mile passage connecting Mira Flores Lake to Gatun Lake that cuts through the Continental Divide and was the most labor intensive part of the canal build. This was the part I was looking most forward to. We were up early this day, too early probably at 5 AM. We started out on Baja deck forward directly under the bridge and stayed there through the Mira Flores Locks. People did try to push their way in throughout, so you have to hold your ground. After this, we retired to our room to view the remainder of the day from our balcony. The extra cost of a balcony pays dividends on this day as we can lounge on the bed, head to the balcony to check on progress or read outside. Even though I had done the Canal before it was interesting enough to watch all six locks. In reality, these locks are no different than any other lock system, but the history, time frame, the lives lost, and the significance of joining two oceans makes them much grander. Once in Gatun Lake, we took a break to eat and meet up with our travel mates. On the Gatun (decent to the Atlantic), our balcony sunk below the Canal walls on the second and third lock. It was fun seeing all the hands reaching out to touch it. We also chose to walk the promenade for another perspective. My Second (but much more informed) Canal Experience was everything I hoped it would be. We watched our approach to Colon from our balcony looking back at the Gatun Entrance. The line to get off the Island at Christobal Pier was ridiculous, but moved. We quickly walked though the market and found some chairs under a palapa with a few beers. This is a great, relaxing way to end our long Panama Day. The lines returned for re-entry to the Island, so we walked around until everyone boarded and were one of the last groups to get onboard. Our day at sea following Panama made us realize the difference in the Atlantic and Pacific sides. The Pacific Ocean just does not compete with the Caribbean Blue of the Atlantic side. Ocho Rios, Jamaica Up until one week before we left this was going to be a "stay on the ship" day. I am not a fan of Jamaica and wished there was a different stop instead of this one on this itinerary. We booked Mystic Mountain with the Bobsled run through Princess. I have to say of the many tours I have done in Jamaica, this was my favorite. It is a short ride from the port to the entrance. Once there, you take a scenic, 15 minute tram ride to the top. It is so quiet and peaceful, quite the opposite of a normal Jamaican experience. You did not have people trying to sell you stuff you do not need, or drugs, and you did not hear "Hey Mon" or "No problem Mon". At the top of the lift there is an Olympic tribute area, a small and expensive gift shop and a restaurant. The view is fabulous overlooking Ocho Rios and the infinity pool and water slide can keep adults and children occupied for a few hours. The main draws though are the alpine rollercoaster and zipline. We chose to do the rollercoaster it was fun. You control the braking and can go alone or connected to someone else. I would have gone a second time, but it requires you to buy 2 rides for $20. A note here, the line for the alpine coaster got longer as the day went on. We had lunch at the restaurant (would not recommend it) and spent several hours in the pool. It was relaxing. We headed back down on the chairlift with enough time to stop and walk through the stores. Some of our group chose to have rum shots out of coconut. This was a much better day than I had thought possible and would recommend it to anyone who has done the norms in Jamaica. All that being said, it appears that Princess charged us a different price than others taking the same excursion so a little further investigation is needed. Dining Food is subjective, so here are some of my thoughts. I thought the fish selections, lobster, and wellington were very good. I mentioned above how much I enjoyed the pizza. The soufflEs are awesome as were the majority of the appetizers and the Alfredo when it was fresh. However, almost every shrimp order was undercooked. Also, the salad dressings were barely edible—bland with the only flavor coming from the items I added to it. It was like just adding oil or mayo to your salad. We did do Sabatini's one night and it was excellent. I think that I prefer Portofino on RCL for a similar experience, but we enjoyed our meal very much. For $20, it is a great value. Overall, it was what I expected and I certainly do not go hungry. Service and lack of it I usually do not comment on service as my expectations are usually met by just being professional and attentive. I have to call out two different occasions on the Island that the dining room staff was just completely unprofessional. The first experience our server did not seem interested in working. In the middle of taking our order, she yelled out, in her native tongue to a server at a different table. Our table mates all looked at each other in disbelief. When our order came out she literally threw parmesan cheese on our pasta dished... from about 3 feet above our dishes, getting it all over the table. The second experience was our last night, and our server was just slow. Not only did he forget items, but he brought them out in the wrong order. It seemed like he was a server in training. Chef's Table Wow. I was very excited about this opportunity and we planned our embarkation day around getting it. We missed out on this opportunity last time, so we planned for it this time. Upon boarding at noon, the DINE line was busy. After finding someone who could help us out in person, we were told to call back after 2PM. I got through at 1:30 and verified that I was on the list. To point out my obsessive compulsive further, I had Jimmi call back at 2 to verify this. We did not hear anything back for 2 days. We ran into a two fellow cruise critic members who said they got their invitation. I was irritated as I was verified on day one. We did end up with an invitation for the second chef's table. What can I say, it was a great event. Jimmi particularly liked the grand spectacle of walking through the dining room with the chef coats on and of course the wine. For me, it was interesting to hear about the details of the kitchen and all about food. The appetizers were a caviar dish, tuna tartar, and an escargot phylo cup that was just incredible. The champagne was flowing freely as were the conversations. The wine pairings were fantastic. Our particular menu after appetizers was shrimp risotto, bloody mary sorbet with a greygoose shot, a large plate of protein (beef medallion, lobster tail, scallops, and lamb chop), a cheese course, and the beautiful custard dessert. We had a great night, with a good buzz, and fantastic meal. The $75 price is a great value. On top of the food and wine, we each received a cookbook and two pictures. Our crowd at the event heard of the chef's table through different avenues and most did not reserve immediately, which made me think that we probably would have missed out on this again, in spite of being told we were first on the list if enough people did not sign up to fill 2 tables. Entertainment (Copied from all my other reviews) For some reason on cruise ships, we always miss out on the provided entertainment. We did not see any of the production show (though I have slept through my fair share in the past). The live music, especially passion, was worth turning the headset up for. They need to take some vocal lessons. I also did not care for the live music in the Bayou (why wasn't there jazz?) or in the Martini bar. That being said, if I have sun, pool, ocean, and a good book, I am more than satisfied. This is why I like Princess... they do not seem to force activities down your throat. There is enough to occupy if you need help and not enough so that you are exhausted when you get home! Bottom line is that people need to know how to entertain themselves and we certainly did on this cruise. The Island Princess I have sailed on the Coral Princess on three separate occasions, so there were no big surprises. I love the open, one-level promenade, and our cabin was perfect. The upper levels have plenty of open deck space with plenty of chairs to accommodate. We occupied the Lotus pool area for long periods when we were not in our sun mood. Not that I ever stayed up late enough, but the lack of a nightclub on this class is disappointing and I still think the Sanctuary is a waste of space. It literally takes up all the good space of the aft. I understand the revenue stream, but it does not seem utilized enough to take up this much space. And at $70 for the Panama Canal day, I can understand why. The ship does need an exterior paint job... we saw the Panama Canal wear and tear firsthand. I am not sure how MUTS will fit in when she does into dry dock in October, but I have liked the option on other ships. I really do love the size and class of the ship. Final Opinion This Princess experience lived up to our expectations. New places, great weather, and good friends - both new and old -- made this trip memorable. This itinerary was the perfect combination of busy and relaxation. While there were some lapses in service and misses with food, there were also some very memorable - Sabatini's and the Chef Table being two. While I do not want to say I am loyal to one line, we have been really happy with our Princess experiences. Further, with our elite status and the OBC combinations offered, the alcohol setup and laundry make it hard to choose other cruise lines. We have the Oasis planned next fall and are really excited for it, but will most likely back on the Island class for the next two cruises. After trying to plan a land vacation with family members, I realize why I am addicted to cruising and the ocean. It is easy to travel and plan, you are away visiting many places in a short period of time, and it is relaxing in the sun and water. These are a few of my favorite things. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
We are a family of four (my husband and I in our early forties and our two boys ages 13 and 10). This was our 7th cruise (all on Princess). GETTING TO ACAPULCO: We are from the Seattle area, and have learned to not travel the day of ... Read More
We are a family of four (my husband and I in our early forties and our two boys ages 13 and 10). This was our 7th cruise (all on Princess). GETTING TO ACAPULCO: We are from the Seattle area, and have learned to not travel the day of embarking on a cruise, for several reasons. 1. Giving us (and the airlines) a few extra days to get us "there" takes a ton of stress off. (We have learned this the hard way) and 2. Getting to our destination early allows us to unwind and get acclimated to the weather and time change (plus it lets us start our vacation a little bit early). So we flew Continental to Acapulco. We loved Acapulco. We stayed at the Grand Mayan resort for 3 nights, and it was incredible. The Grand Mayan was a 10 minute drive from the airport. It was an awesome resort, a family friendly place with a great lazy river, aqua park for kids, the longest pool we have ever seen, great public facilities, and our two bedroom room was spacious (we all loved the soaking pool on our balcony). There was a terrific beach right out front. We had a good pre-Christmas experience there. The only con to the resort is because it is in the "newer" part of Acapulco, it meant it was a 40 minute drive to the older Acapulco/cruise ship terminal area. We found ourselves taking taxis every day, but well worth it. While in Acapulco we saw the cliff divers, Fort San Diego, the artisans markets, the Flamingo hotel, Hardrock Cafe, etc. All in all we had a great time. EMBARKATION: The day of embarking went fairly smoothly. We got to the terminal early and had no delays, and were on the ship by 1:00pm. THINGS WE LOVED ON/ABOUT THE SHIP: The location of the Horizon Court is awesome (at the front of the ship with great views). We always like the burger bar and pizza. We liked that the gym was open 24 hours. We loved the way they decorated for Christmas. We thought they did a great job celebrating Christmas for the kids (crafts, cookies to decorate and a visit from Santa). Our boys liked the Ultimate Drink Card, and we used the coffee card daily. We thought most of the crew was upbeat (except for a few pushy servers pushing those drinks). We thought the entertainment was average (The piano man was incredible and very entertaining, we saw a few productions shows, a comedian, and a mentalist who was so so.) Room service was ok (sometimes it took a while and occasionally the order would be incomplete). We loved that the day we went through the canal they had an ongoing informational blurb over the intercom system spouting great and interesting facts about the history of the canal and the procedures to transit the canal. We loved that. We loved that there was always great and uncrowded views going thru the canal (check out the secret passages to the front of the ship on deck 10 and the secret passages on the back of the ships on decks 9 and 10). Tea time is always fun. WE absolutely loved the putt putt golf course on the top. THINGS WE DID NOT LIKE: We thought the Island was beginning to show wear and tear (for example: the carpets were stained, the fabric seats in the Horizon court were soiled, some rust on our balcony, the couch in the cigar lounged had been feebly repaired.). We missed Skywalkers, we missed MUTS, we missed the International Cafe. We thought the cigar lounge was a "smoker's closet" - gross, small and smelly. We thought the Cruise Director (Frank) was a bit phony. We thought the food had dropped significantly in quality and selection (for example: no escargot and no crab, instead alot of veal, lamb and meatloaf - yep, meatloaf on a cruise ship...hmmm). And late at night there was minimal variety and quantity in the Horizon Court. We had a difficult time deciphering Princess' rules (as to what rules were being enforced and which ones most people could and did ignore.)...for example: if babies/toddlers were NOT potty trained they were allowed in the splash pool only - that rule was never enforced by pool staff. Which was gross considering that children (of all ages - as well as us parents if we so chose to hang out with our kids were limited to using only one pool (I'll expand on that below). Not allowed to wear shorts in the dining room for dinner? - sure you were, we saw several people in shorts that were never turned away. Children were not allowed in the first three rows of the Princess Theater - every time we saw a show in the theater there would be several children in the first three rows and even when they were climbing over the seats and being a huge distraction, they were never asked to leave or move. In fact we never even saw Teen Security on the entire ship. So if Princess is going to state rules then why not enforce them. OK, here's my biggest complaint about this cruise. We booked a mini suite for 4 people, we got a mini suite meant for three people. It was a huge inconvenience. Picture this. We could go from our balcony to our front door without ever touching the ground. Our one son slept on a (less than twin size) pullout couch, our other son slept on a crummy, dirty, flimsy roll a way bed (that we had to roll out in the morning ourselves), that went cross-ways from the pull out bed to our bed. We complained the first night to two people at the Passenger Services Desk and their reply was "we are sailing at full capacity, and really how much time do you plan on spending in your cabin?" We were told they would get back with us the next day - they didn't. Four days later we complained, we were told someone would get a hold of us - no one did. I think Princess' attitude is: once on board we, the passengers are stuck so why make anything better for us. In this case we asked for our situation to be rectified (and we were shut down). I have since written a letter to Princess and am awaiting their reply. THIS PART APPLIES TO PARENTS TRAVELLING WITH CHILDREN: On the Christmas cruise there were 500 children on board. If you ask me I think Princess "corralled" the children. For example: The back pool is in the adult/pay Sanctuary (off limits to kids and non-paying adults), the Lotus spa/indoor pool was adult only, so besides the splash pool it left children (families) to use the outdoor pool, and during pool games the kids had no pool. That meant if you child had gotten a bit too much sun, oh well, they could not use the indoor pool (that by the way was filled at 1/4 capacity). The kids were scrutinized poolside and reprimanded if they dare jump (feet first) into the pool, definitely not allowed. Kids clubs: When our boys were younger I think Princess did a great job with that 4-7 y/o group. But...the 8-12 y/o are put on auto pilot in front of PS2's and WII's. And my 10 year old son did not have a good time making a grass skirt for tropical island night. My 13 y/o was in the 13 to 17 teen club, and I think there is a big difference between 13 and 17. That group primarily focuses in a social setting (chatting, hanging out, dancing). There were few if any organized activities. So our kids hung out with us most of the time (which was fine with us). What we tell our kids on cruises, is: They have the right to enjoy themselves just like everyone else, regardless of age, but that they do not have the right to negatively impact any other persons right to enjoy themselves. MISC: There was quite a wide range of age groups. So to any grumpy adults out there that might be reading this, it's not always a kid that pushes the wrong button on an elevator, sometimes it's an adult that changes their mind mid-destination or accidentally pushes the up button when they wanted to go down, so please don't always blame the kids. And to kids out there. Don't scare people by running up or down the stairs taking 4 at a time. Our reflexes are slower and you look like a freight train coming at us. If you asked an older couple they would probably say that the children were running a muck. But if you ask me (from a parent's stand point) I think kids were not appropriately entertained and that they were being punished for being a kid and that they were corralled. It was almost like the ship was too small for kids. TRICKS: It always surprises me to meet people on a cruise that stare cross eyed at me when I order a bowl of strawberries with a side of whip cream for dessert at dinner. They say "can you do that?". Well if you take nothing away from this review, please remember this. Ask away. You might not get everything, but you won't get much if you don't ask. For example: Being in a mini suite we get a glass of champagne upon arrival - we ask for the bottle (and get it), no matter what cabin your in - ask for robes, ask for egg crate on the bed, ask to have your sitting chair of coffee table removed if you need the room, ask for strawberries for dessert or lox for breakfast. I think we are cruising at a time when even the cruise lines are cutting back trying to save money, but it never hurts to ask. We booked this cruise to experience the Panama Canal and that was amazing, awesome and something I think our entire family will always remember. Oh, did I mention that from our balcony, we were all able to touch the canal wall! Those are our favorite pictures. We realize that with any vacation rarely does it go perfectly, so you do the best you can with what you got at the time and we try to make every vacation a wonderful experience. OK, moving on...DISEMBARKING: My husband walked off the ship early, shared a taxi to the airport, picked up a rental car and came back for the three of us and our luggage an hour later. It worked out perfectly. As for us three disembarking...that was quick and easy as well. From there we drove to Tampa and did Busch Gardens for 2 days, then drove to Orlando and did Universal Parks for 2 days. In Orlando, we stayed at a Universal Property, The Portofino Bay, which is an absolute wonderful and amazing property. The best part is that if you stay at a Universal property, your room card gets you head of the line privileges, which saved us hours of standing in lines waiting to go on rides. On Jan 3rd our flight was cancelled so Delta put us up at a hotel and we arrived home Jan 4th in the evening. They boys were up early and back to school the next day. Oh, it's such a harsh transition from vacation to reality! Happy travels to all. HUATULCO, Mexico: Huatulco is a small coastal Mexican town. We got off the ship, took a $4 taxi ride into town and just wandered around taking pictures and picking up some souvenirs (vanilla, ceramics, pottery, t shirts and coffee). It was a relaxing day for us. There is a nice beach right by the cruise dock, and there is also some shopping close by the dock. We did know people that went snorkeling close by and seemed to have a good time. PUERTO QUETZAL, Guatemala: In Puerto Questzel we did a Princess "Antigua on Your Own" tour. We usually do not do ship tours, however I had read that there could be some safety/security issues in this area and also it seemed like most prominent areas of interest involved a lengthy drive. So we boarded a bus to Antigua. We had around six hours on our own there. We had a great time. That is a very picturesque town when the drive there showed only 3rd world poverty. This was by far the best shopping. Items to buy were: jade (although I did not think was so cheap, but did a have quite a selection), textiles (I bought a beautiful leather with a woven fabric panel for $140 dollars, there were also table runners, place mats, pouches, purses, bags, cigars, coffee, wood carvings). We had a very nice day, and because we were high in elevation it was cool and comfortable. We were late leaving Antigua and it was 1 1/2 hour drive, but the ship did wait for us. A fun day, but long. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
My husband and I are in our mid-50s and this was our second Princess Cruise. We made our cruise reservations and booked all our tours through Princess. We handled our air transportation and hotel reservation in Acapulco (for one night) ... Read More
My husband and I are in our mid-50s and this was our second Princess Cruise. We made our cruise reservations and booked all our tours through Princess. We handled our air transportation and hotel reservation in Acapulco (for one night) ourselves. Pre-cruise: Having read horror stories about the Mexico City airport (and hearing many more once we began the cruise), we flew Washington/Dulles to Dallas/FortWorth to Acapulco on American Airlines. Flights were on-time and we were the only plane in Acapulco so we were through immigration and customs within minutes. Even through we weren't using a Princess transfer to the hotel, I asked the Princess rep meeting other passengers how much a taxi should cost. He replied $30 and said to make sure we got an official taxi. We did - and you pay for the ride up front at the airport and then just tip the driver. We stayed at the Acapulco Hyatt for $159 - one of the hotels Princess uses but for a fraction of the cost booking it through Princess. In its prime it must have been something but now it is rather tired (moldy smell in halls and bathrooms common in the tropics), and incredibly crowded when a cruise is ending/beginning. There aren't enough elevators for a hotel that size so leaving/returning to your room was time-consuming. There was one bright spot - the hotel's outdoor restaurant on the beach (I think it is called Pescador), had a very nice buffet and cheap margaritas. We took a taxi to the dock at 1 pm for $13 including tip. In Acapulco and at all our other stops, everyone took dollars. Embarkation: Even though our paperwork suggested arriving after 2 pm to avoid the crowds, we walked right up to the check in! Apparently, all the Princess transfers from the hotels had already been processed. We were on board within 10 minutes - spending about 5 minutes in line for the embarkation picture and another 5 minutes for the security picture. Ship and Staff: We knew our way around the Island since our cruise last summer was on the Coral from Vancouver to Alaska. On that trip we were in mini-suite D-712; on this trip we were in mini-suite C-708. The only difference was that the balcony on D-712 was totally covered - a good thing for potentially rainy Alaska - while the balcony on C-708 was 2/3 covered and 1/3 not - a nice compromise for someone who doesn't want to sit in the sun all the time. We like the location because it is quiet and while some nights there was some swaying, it never bothered us. The ship is lovely with workmen constantly working on her. All the crew - from those workmen to room stewards to activities staff up to officers - were cordial and greeted you when you walked by. Passengers: Ages ranged from twenties to eighties, and from family groups to singles; the average age was probably in the 60s. There were very few children on board and the one time we noticed a group of 4 boys in the Lotus Pool area (prominently marked 'for adults only') they never made it into the pool. I don't know if passengers or staff stopped them, but they left and went to the other pool. Dining: We had traditional dining, second seating, at table 189 in the Provence Dining Room. I'm including the table number only because you want to avoid it - it was secluded (at the back of the dining room on the left side), and had a lovely waitress but the air conditioning didn't work/was non-existent in that corner (it shares a wall with the kitchen) and by the end of the meal you had to leave just to cool down. That was the downside; the upside was that we had wonderful dinner companions (just one other couple at a table for 6). I would rate the food as good to very good. The first night the Maitre D' made dinner reservations for us at Sabatini's and the Bayou Cafe - both of which we had enjoyed on our Alaska cruise. We had a less than stellar dinner in Sabatini's early in the cruise - while the appetizers were wonderful, out of the 3 pastas served one was cold (and shouldn't have been) and one was way over-salted plus some of the fish in our main courses were overcooked. When our waitress and the Maitre D' asked about it they said they would pass our comments on. In fact a couple of nights later our waitress told us that Princess had received a letter of complaint that had been shared with the staff that echoes some of our comments and that orders were made to straighten things out. She also insisted on giving my husband a side dish of the pasta on the menu every night - and they were all very good (that coming from a first generation Italian-American who lived in Italy for 5 years). We enjoyed our dinner in the Bayou Cafe and the entertainment - a jazz trio. Entertainment: Before the ship even sailed from Acapulco, there was a Mexican music and dance review - wonderful musicians, dancers and costumes. We enjoyed the production shows and took the 'backstage tour' given by members of the dance group and the technical staff on the last sea day. If you're interested in the theater I highly recommend it. On that last sea day we also attended the 'cooking show and galley tour' offered by the Chef and Maitre D' - they produced a four course meal while keeping everyone laughing with their own comedy routine and then we all trooped through the kitchen. This is also a very worthwhile offering. Having had a wonderful experience last year on the Coral with the naturalist, we expected the guest lecturer on this trip to also be first rate. We attended only the first lecture by the husband and wife team - it was so excruciating we didn't go to any others. My husband (a professor in a former life) characterized it as listening to your neighbors go through their vacation slides/photos. I (an editor in a former life), wanted to scream every time (and it was many times) one of them would repeat the exact same sentence the other had said less than 5 minutes earlier. Spa: I had a massage on the Coral which was almost ruined by the hard sell by the masseuse to buy expensive products. I booked another one on the Island and as soon as the masseuse started to talk about oils or gels, I politely told her not to waste her time. So she didn't! As a caution: I had booked the massage on line and had a quoted price - and luckily I brought that piece of paper with me - but the price they charged me was $10 more. I realized that a couple of days later when filing away the receipt. I went back up to the Spa and the receptionist said that I was charged the 'right' price. I showed her the on-line booking and she took down a message for the manager. My $10 was returned the next day. Ports of Call: As I said, we booked through Princess so all I can comment on is those particular tours. We also aren't big shoppers so I don't have much to say about the markets. Huatulco - we went on the Huatulco River Float. There is more rafting than floating involved but the nine rapids are small (the guide said class 1.5 to 2 but that must be in the rainy season). It was great fun and we saw lots of birds (which the guide described), locals on the banks fishing and doing laundry, etc. It ended when we reached the Pacific Ocean and beached the zodiacs. Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala - we went on the Best of Colonial Antigua with Lunch tour. It included a lovely drive through the countryside - we even saw smoke issuing from one of the active volcanoes. We wish more time was spent on the historical buildings in Antigua. Instead the bus would take us just a few blocks from one location to the next which was time-consuming and left little time for exploring. The highlight of the tour (and one of the highlights of the trip) was lunch at Casa Santa Domingo - a sightseeing stop in its own right since it is a convent founded in 1642 with beautiful ruins, gardens, a museum, etc. A 'typical', tasty (best guacamole ever tasted by anyone at our table), and elegant lunch buffet was held in one of the gardens. The last stop was at a jade factory and shop. The ship's departure was delayed because some Princess tours were late returning - they hold the ship in those cases. Puerto Corinto, Nicaragua - there were only a couple of tours offered so we decided to treat this as a sea day. The ship docks at an industrial port - and something was being spewed into the air all day. Our balcony (which overlooked the dock) was covered in a fine particulate. It was good to see the crew the next morning cleaning all the balconies. Puntarenas, Costa Rica - we went on the Costa Rica's Favorites with Lunch tour that included an aerial tram (think ski lift with open gondola that has a floor and roof), short hike (saw an anteater in a tree), lunch (good but not great like in Guatemala), then a 2 hour boat ride where we saw crocodiles and over 16 species of birds. The guides were top notch - all botany, environmental science graduates/grad students. Panama Canal Transit - this isn't a tour (you don't get off the ship) but it is the highlight of the cruise. If you're interested in history and/or engineering, read David McCullough's The Path Between the Seas before you get to the canal. Get up early - we went under the Bridge of the Americas around 7 am. As others have stated on the Princess Board, and in fact crew members announced on the Island, go through the 'crew only' doors at the bow of the Baja and Caribe decks for a great viewing position. It is a fascinating transit. We ordered the Panama Champagne Breakfast and Brunch for Two ($28 for half bottle of good champagne, basket of pastries, smoked salmon, fresh fruit, and Alaskan King Crab Quiche) for delivery between noon and 12:30 which worked out well - we were through the first two sets of locks and almost through the Gaillard Cut. We then returned to the bow of the Caribe deck for the transit through the Gatun Locks. Don't forget to go the aft of the ship when going through at least one set of locks to watch what happens to the ship behind you. Cartagena, Colombia - we went on the Best of Cartagena and Fortress tour. Get off the ship here - it is a lovely city. The Old City, which we walked through, is full of picturesque narrow streets with old (renovated), brightly painted 2 and 3 story houses with beautiful balconies and flowers. You also get a beautiful view of then entire city from the two other stops: a fortress and a convent. Aruba - we went on the See and Sea tour. The first half was a sightseeing tour of the island with a couple of stops, all interesting. The highlight was the second half of the tour. We took a boat from the main beach (where all the hotels are) to a 'semi-submarine' waiting for us near the site of a shipwreck. We sat 5 feet below the waterline as we went over and around the 440 long wreck of a German WWII freighter. Lots of fish plus the wreck itself were fascinating. One of our dinner companions did a dive tour of two sites, including this one, and raved about it too. Disembarkation: 50 minutes from leaving the Universe Lounge to sitting at the gate at the airport! We had a Princess transfer to the airport and chose to pay the $15 each to have our luggage checked all the way through and receive our boarding pass in advance. We were told to report to the Universe Lounge at 9:20 - we arrived about 10 minutes early and took a seat (there were seats for everyone in the two groups meeting there). We were called promptly at 9:20, walked off the ship; waited for 2 couples ahead of us to go through immigration; claimed our luggage - nicely separated by luggage tags; waited for a couple of folks ahead of us to go through customs; placed our baggage in the United express luggage line; got on the bus and was en route to the airport by 9:40. We were at the airport by 10 am: asked at information where our gate was (the flight didn't depart until 1:45 pm so it wasn't posted yet); and then walked right up to and through security. It couldn't have been easier or less stressful! Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
This was our first cruise with Princess. Our last cruise was was on a "high end" luxury cruise line so we were concerned that this cruise might be a disappointment. Happily, that did not turn out to be the case. With one ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Princess. Our last cruise was was on a "high end" luxury cruise line so we were concerned that this cruise might be a disappointment. Happily, that did not turn out to be the case. With one exception, discussed below, this cruise was a delight. Dining - I will start with a dining evaluation because my wife and I really enjoy dinning. We thought the food on Island Princess was great. We used both the buffet and the formal dinning room with most meals being taken in the formal dinning room. We thought the meals generally reflected the skills of the ships award winning Italian chef. When taken in context of the attractive overall price of the cruise, the food on the ship was an outstanding value. Food service was excellent from headwaiter to assistant. I think the dinning room service was actually better than I have experience on some "higher end" cruise lines. Public rooms - The Island Princess public rooms were nice in the modern flashy sense of the word. The passengers seemed to spend a lot of time in the public rooms so they must have been answering a need. The paintings throughout the ship were nice. Cabin - We deliberately booked one of the smallest cabins on the ship. It was more than adequate. The interior decor was well done and made the cabin seem larger than it actually was. The only complaint would be the extremely small shower - a comment I heard from several passengers. A big plus was the excellent cabin service that greatly enhanced the enjoyment of the cruise. Fitness and Recreation - I made frequent trips to the gym. I thought it was plenty large and well equipped. The views from the gym were nice. I never found it to be crowded on any visit. Shore Excursions - At most ports there were a wide range of excursions ranging from very active to simple shopping trips. For the most part, these excursions were reasonable well done. The tours in Nicaragua and Guatemala disappointed some of the passengers because both countries have developing economies. I enjoyed both countries - particularly the coffee plantation visit in Guatemala. On the first day, getting the crowds off the ship to the proper excursion was a bit of a problem. After the first day, things we better. Enrichment - Princess deserves an A plus for having a decent enrichment program. On board lecturers made several presentations that greatly enhanced the enjoyment of the cruise, particularly the trip through the Panama canal. The lecture program was not as good as on the late and much lamented Swan Hellenic line, but they were decent. Entertainment - This was a high point on Island Princess. The broadway musical style production shows were well done and very well attended by the passengers. It was really nice that, in addition to the big shows, the other entertainment was really good. The ship piano players were exceptionally good and we particularly enjoyed Brendan Jones who played in the Crooners Bar at night. Service - As previously stated the service was outstanding in both the dinning room and the cabin. Our cabin steward was great. I will add the bar service to the list of great service. From warm brandy sniffers to champagne opened with style, these guys did their job well. Embarkation - Getting on the ship was great. We went down a day early and stayed at the Fairmont Princess (a very nice experience). The Princess staff set up a pre-boarding procedure at the hotel the night before the cruise. It worked great. All we had to do the next day was ride the bus to the ship, pick up a few papers, and walk on board (in time for a great lunch). Disembarking was the one real problem with the cruise. It was a disaster. Communication from the staff on disembarkation procedures had been minimal. What was communicated showed an unexcutable process. In the end, crowds of people stood around for hours and became angry. This was an unfortunate ending for an otherwise great cruise. Princess needs to fix this problem. Unfortunately, I heard many passengers say that the experience getting off the ship had permanently soured them on Princess. Overall Value - Setting the disembarkation problem aside, I thought this was a great cruise - overall and in terms of value for the money. We would do Princess again. However, it would help to learn that they had fixed the problem with getting people off the ship. Read Less
Sail Date November 2007
Island Princess Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 3.0 3.9
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 5.0 3.7
Family 4.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.9
Enrichment 3.0 3.8
Service 4.0 4.4
Value For Money 4.0 3.9
Rates 4.0 4.1

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