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37 Acapulco to Panama Canal & Central America Cruise Reviews

The draw of this cruise was the destinations along the south/west coast of Central America and ultimately the Panama Canal into Colombia, finishing in Cartagena. My booking included flights from Heathrow with AeroMexico: Voyages of ... Read More
The draw of this cruise was the destinations along the south/west coast of Central America and ultimately the Panama Canal into Colombia, finishing in Cartagena. My booking included flights from Heathrow with AeroMexico: Voyages of Discovery reps were on hand at Heathrow to assist with check-in and the flights were good and on time. I was impressed that although we arrived into Acapulco at 8:00 am we were taken straight to the ship and only had to wait about an hour for our cabins to be ready so full marks for that bit of organisation, which gave those of us who came in on that flight almost a whole extra day in Acapulco. The ship has everything you need for those who want enjoy days at sea and visit great places. The company prides itself on its lecture programme and this was very good, appealing to varied interests from history to geology to wildlife to anthropology. There were also port lectures of variable accuracy and usefulness, though it was good that it was made clear there were alternatives to the trips organised by the ship. There are several bars and lounges, a pool and a large sun deck. In its daily programme, there is always a warning that sun loungers should not be reserved and that items left for more than 20 minutes will be removed but in practice this didn't happen, so why bother to mention it? Most days it wasn't a huge problem but annoying on the occasions when about 25% of the loungers had been abandoned for hours. The "theatre" is a lounge, all on one level and so it is hard to see the shows and slides in the presentations if you are not near the front. I understand there is not enough headroom to install raked seating. The entertainment was nothing great: good dancing but a lot of off-key singing, though the troupe was very enthusiastic and pleasant in their other duties such as shore excursion escorts and quiz hosts. There is music in the bars at various times throughout the evening. There are two restaurants, one waiter service and one self-service, both serving the same menu. The self-service Vernada gets very busy at breakfast and lunch and it can be hard to find a seat, so I recommend the Discovery as less hectic and it has a good breakfast menu in addition to the usual buffet. Note that it is described as "open seating" but in fact you are led to the table and tables are filled in order of arrival. You can ask to be seated alone (maybe not at dinner when it is busy) or at a round/rectangular table and while the request is met, it is clearly not what they want to hear and disrupts their system; but sometimes you just want to eat in peace. The food is good but a bit samey. Shore excursions were good, with good guides on the ones I went on, if not great value for money. The advance booklet described them well, and included details of mobility levels required but these were regularly ignored by participants so there were hold-ups and waiting for some less mobile passengers. The average passenger age is well over 70 and there are a lot of zimmers and sticks in evidence, which also influences the excursions offered and restricts landing by tender. Full marks to the shore excursions team for their arrangements for the late change of port in Nicaragua. Drinks and wine are expensive - shore prices rather than the duty free you get on many cruise ships. Overall, the cruise was great value for what I paid, but would not have been for the published price or for the amounts paid by some who had booked early. The ship is reminiscent of a 3-star package tour hotel I thoroughly enjoyed my trip because of the destinations. The ship was a means to that end. Read Less
Sail Date February 2016
24 April-Acapulco EmbarkationWe spent 2 nights in Acapulco prior to the cruise, there were no problems whatsoever and we felt no threats or danger. We stuck to the touristy things-cliff divers, Papagayo Park, the Zocalo (where we ate ... Read More
24 April-Acapulco EmbarkationWe spent 2 nights in Acapulco prior to the cruise, there were no problems whatsoever and we felt no threats or danger. We stuck to the touristy things-cliff divers, Papagayo Park, the Zocalo (where we ate breakfast with normal Mexican people in a cafe) and some markets. We also did the Walmart run to stock up on soft drinks-Dr Pepper, sunscreen and bug spray. We got to the cruise terminal around 3pm, very easy embarkation; the whole thing took about 15 minutes. I was surprised to see our cabin had been changed from the originally booked B221 to B322 and was worried as I had done no research on this cabin. We followed the crew's directions to our new cabin and were VERY happily surprised and shocked to see a BALCONY!!! We had been given a huge 17 category upgrade from JJ to BC! I took the initial photos with the cabin in pristine condition, then we dropped the backpacks and ran upstairs to check out the buffet. After stuffing ourselves silly, we went off to explore the ship a bit, then back to the cabin to unpack. Our room steward came by to introduce himself, nice guy from the Philippines who was happy to learn we had just been there last year in Palawan. We went up to the pool for a while, then back down to get ready for muster which was 7:30pm, half an hour before sail away. Then we were up on the deck for sail away as we watched the lights of Acapulco fade away. Time for more food so back to the buffet, and then we finished up the night with the Welcome Aboard show hosted by cruise director, Billy Hygate.25 April-HuatulcoHad to get up fairly early for breakfast then meet in the Princess Theatre for our shore excursion-Eco-walk and Bird-Watching. This was a small tour, only 10 people, two of whom were very keen birders and had been to Central America before and knew most of the species. The guide was excellent and he found a lot of interesting birds for us. Of course my favourites were the Orange-chinned parakeets but we saw lots of very pretty birds like trogons, flycatchers, a motmot and the local Crested Blue Jay who was gorgeous. We only had a short stop here so after the tour, we had a chance for some quick shopping to get rid of our leftover pesos, and then back on board. We ate at the buffet again, and then saw the production show "Dance" which was pretty good. Then we went to Explorers Lounge to play the Majority Rules game which was loads of fun and definitely "adults only"!26 April-At SeaOur first sea day was very relaxing and gave us more time to appreciate the ship. We had breakfast in the dining room for a change and the Eggs Florentine was delicious.Then we went to the port talk given by a fellow Aussie-Adam. He only spoke briefly about San Juan del Sur and Puntarenas and spent more time talking about Ocho Rios and the shopping there. He had "Savvy Shopper" packages on offer which give you a nice portfolio and a coupon book but we passed knowing we wouldn't have enough time for shopping (or money). We both went up to the pool for a while; I was more interested in relaxing in the Jacuzzi after the long walk yesterday. We had pizza and hotdogs for lunch by the pool-both of which were really good. Ina went back to the pool and I went to a port lecture by Dr Thomas Ryan called "Mayas, Lords of the Jungle" which was pretty interesting. He had a quiz afterwards and I won a huge 650 page book called "The Path Between the Seas" by knowing one of the answers.This was our first formal night and while we didn't have real formal wear, we did our best for the Captain's Welcome Aboard party and Champagne Waterfall. We didn't do any of the photos opps, just seemed a bit contrived with a waiter helping people slosh champagne all over the place so I concentrated on getting as many free glasses as I could before they stopped serving free champagne. We opted for the buffet as many people were in tuxes and business suits tonight. There were servers at the buffets and I assumed this was because of formal night because the servers were in formal uniforms. The production show was "Motor City" which was a nice medley of Motown hits and cool costumes.27 April-San Juan Del Sur, NicaraguaWe had to get up early for breakfast and there were still servers at the buffet, we weren't allowed to serve ourselves much to my annoyance. I found out some people had gotten Montezuma's Revenge in Mexico and the ship staff won't allow anyone to serve themselves at the buffet. They won't even let you put your own condiments on the hotdogs and burgers on deck 15 either. We met in the Princess Theatre for the tour-Masaya Market, Masaya Volcano and Granada City Tour. This time there were two large buses full, we got one of the Princess camera crews so hopefully we will be on the DVD. The market was awesome-lots of bird souvenirs and I went nuts over feather paintings and other artworks. The stop was way too short; we only got through half the market before we were rushed back to the bus. We did the most shopping though we saw some people with hammocks and other goodies. The stop at the volcano was a brief peek into the cauldron and a viewpoint at the top of the stairs which we decided to view from the bottom. The lunch stop at La Filete was OK but basic food. The final stop was at Granada which is a beautiful colonial city with lots of old buildings and churches. I managed to catch a free wifi signal near the museum and download emails. There was a dance performance in the zocalo with nice costumes. On the way back to the ship, we had time so made a stop on Lake Nicaragua to see the volcano. Closer to the ship, I spotted about 10 monkeys in trees and shouted out but the guide wouldn't stop. I also saw a motmot (national bird of Nicaragua) but once again, they didn't stop. There was a small market near the ship, then we had to get the tender back to the ship. By dinnertime, I was annoyed to see servers at the buffet again; I was hoping they would let us choose our own food. I tend to be a gutsier traveller and neither of us are the sort who get sick so I wasn't the least bit worried unless the sickness screwed up other aspects of the cruise like ports of call. Other people seemed to be happy with the overkill of germ prevention. The evening's entertainment was a magician called Gaetano and his assistant Heidi who managed to change in and out of her skimpy outfits very rapidly. We crashed out early knowing tomorrow would be an early day.28 April-Puntarenas, Costa RicaUgh-still more buffet-serving paranoia! Are they ever going to let us serve ourselves? We finished quickly, then managed to get down to the docks and were allowed off 15 minutes early. Our guide, Alvaro from Odyssey Tours hadn't arrived yet but he showed up before 7am and handed us to his birding guide-Nestor who studies biology and knows birds very well. We headed off to Carara National Park to see the scarlet macaws, this is one of the rare places in the world where they are common and can be easily found. The trails were muddy because the first rain of the season had been the previous night and we were struggling to stay on our feet. Ina was the first to fall flat on his back-not hurt but got all muddy. I later fell on my side because I was protecting my camera. We spent about an hour watching the scarlet macaws come and go, then headed back to one of the main trails near the park entrance. There weren't many birds on this side but the leaf-cutter ants were really interesting. From Carara, we went to the town of Tarcoles but decided to pass on the crocodile show, head straight for lunch at a typical Costa Rican lady's home and then shopping at Molas and Cafe which had a nice selection and accepted credit cards (I was in trouble, LOL). The final stop was the El Manantial Sanctuary also called Lapa Sanctuary to see Costa Rican birds up close flying free. On the way, we saw a beautiful motmot (national bird of Nicaragua) and 2 trogons nesting. The sanctuary was really nice, most of the macaws were free to come and go as they pleased but chose to hang around for the free food. All the birds here had been recovered from smugglers or private collections. There were also some non-Costa Rican birds like Hyacinth Macaws, cockatoos and eclectus. Nestor dropped us back at the end of the market near the ship where I quickly bought some more parrot art and we made it back on the ship in time. Back on the ship, we had to really rush eating and get back to the Adrian Zmed concert which was a really great show in the Universe Lounge. After the show, we did a quick casino run to get cash on our cruise cards to pay for shopping and tours without paying a cash advance fee. We would each take a $100 draw, play a few rounds on the slot machines and then cash in. Most cases, we came out a couple dollars ahead.29 April-At Sea/Royal WeddingI set my alarm for 4:30 am and was up to the MUTS screen to watch the royal wedding in time to see the royal family arrive and the actual wedding. Catherine Middleton was of course a stunning bride and it's pretty special to have the memory of watching the wedding from the top deck of a cruise ship off the coast of Panama. After the balcony kiss, I went to the dining room for breakfast; Ina has eaten long ago and was lounging around the pool. The Eggs Benedict were good and I shared the table with a couple others who had gotten up for the wedding. I made a quick casino run, and then noticed several adults sitting around doing arts and crafts with posters and construction paper near the casino. I decided to make a "From Panama With Love" poster featuring a scarlet macaw for tomorrow. I had to grab a quick pizza, and then rush back down for the port lecture on Panama by Dr Thomas Ryan. By this time, I was pretty tired but decided to stay awake until after the show because of the early Panama day. There weren't any production shows but there was a celebration of the 100th ship to join the Carnival Corporation, a humongous cake and free champagne, so I managed to drink 4 glasses as Ina doesn't like champagne. Ready to crash, I set the alarm and passed out. Ina watched a movie.30 April-Panama Canal/ColonWe were up before dawn as the ship headed towards the canal. Dr Ryan began his narration around 6am and unfortunately told everyone about the "secret" deck at the front of Baja and Caribe decks so it started to get crowded. We stayed up front through Miraflores locks, and then ran back to the balcony when the ship photographers appeared on our side of the ship. Our balcony was on the port side and we got to see all the passing ships up close. We stayed on the balcony for most of the crossing as we were getting good views of passing ships and the land though no parrots were seen, just sea birds. We got to see a few cruise ships passing-Sea Princess, Amsterdam and Regency Seven Seas. It got hot as we approached Gatun locks so we went back up front for a while to see how the locks work which was really interesting. We docked in Colon half an hour late and it was a madhouse to get off the ship with lines doubled up to the casino and back, then a madhouse in the few souvenir shops available. I did manage to find a few nice molas at prices similar to the shop in Costa Rica. The only way to get a better price is to get away from the touristy places. I got online to check emails from the coffee shop-free with purchase of drink, and then boarded the ship just in time for sail away. Because we were late, we almost forgot the production show in Universe Lounge-Tribute but saw half the show. We had some buffet food before turning in for the night.1 May-At SeaFinally a day we didn't have to get up early! We lazed around the pool and Jacuzzi all morning, and then I went to the port lecture called "Pirates of the Caribbean" after lunch. We did another casino run without much luck this time but lost about $2 between us. Other than the port lecture, there wasn't much of interest going on; a couple of ballroom classes, trivia, a cooking demo might have attracted others. The production show "What a Swell Party" was really good with a roaring 20's theme and nice costumes. We watched the 3rd heat of the karaoke competition which was amusing but one guy was really good. Next was the Newlywed Game which was hilarious and got VERY personal and adult!! Once we got back to the room, I put on CNN and saw the fantastic news that Osama Bin Laden had been killed by US Navy Seals which totally made our day!2 May-Ocho RiosAfter the usual buffet breakfast, we were disappointed to see rain over the island of Jamaica-not good for bird watching. We docked on time and got off the ship very easily, no long lines. Wendy Lee, our birding guide picked us up and took us to a great place for yellow-billed parrots where we had good views and spent an hour watching them frolic while trying to keep my camera dry. Some olive throated parakeets showed up briefly but disappeared when the rain started up again. Fern Gully was closed due to maintenance and it was too rainy to go into the hills with the camera gear so we went to Wendy's sanctuary and saw some native parrots she had rescued up close until we got rained out again. It was only a 6 hour cruise stop so we had to head back to town as I wanted to see Enchanted Gardens again. It's changed since 2008, Clarence doesn't work there anymore but the new aviary guide-Damien also really loves birds and has a nice rapport with them. We did save the admission as we didn't book a full tour, the manager just let us go to the aviary for free and we tipped Damian $10 for a half hour visit. My little Jamaican parakeet-Tiki whom I had named last time we were there was doing great and loves to sit on peoples' heads! After r the tour, Wendy dropped us at Island Village where I managed to get online and check emails for free at Bluemont cafe (with purchase) make sure our pet parrots were doing fine with the bird sitter, then do a bit of shopping. We finished off the day with a visit to Margaritaville to have some jerked pork and buy more t-shirts with parrots on them. Of course when we boarded the ship, the weather was beautiful!Back on the ship, we grabbed some pizza, and then took a break to see a movie-Social Network and relax a bit. The entertainment was really fun, they had adults (most over 50) batting balloons around like little kids and acting silly, then the crew put on a talent show that featured Indian dancing, several singers, tap dancing, hip-hop and a surprise performance by cruise director Billy Hygate of "If I Were a Rich Man" that was worthy of any theatre on the West End or Broadway.3 May-At SeaLast sea day and a chance to sleep in and eat breakfast in the dining room for a change-more Eggs Benedict. Then we began the horrendous duty of packing, went down to see the last lecture by Dr Ryan about Fidel Castro. I managed to win a CD of his book by answering a question right. We picked up the cruise DVDs and went back to finish packing. Lunch was a yummy Italian buffet with expanded pastry bar and we stuffed ourselves silly again. Not much to do in the afternoon, just an arts and crafts class and I made one last casino run with a small win. We spent the afternoon at the pool and hot tub, and then rested a bit before going to the dining room for dinner-just couldn't resist Baked Alaska. The show was a couple doing piano and banjo tunes, then we caught the finals of Princess Pop Star. 4 May-Disembarkation Fort LauderdaleOne last chance to stuff ourselves at a breakfast buffet and then we carried our own stuff off the ship. No dramas, we went with the assigned group, smooth entry into the USA and we were off to get the rental car. The shuttle was a regular bus that let us out at the airport where we had to get our rental car. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
Room #C204 AF (mini suite, no balcony) CategoryEmbarkation: We flew from Tijuana (we live in San Diego) to Acapulco on Volaris Air. This was a nice experience (great price, too!) even though practically none of the employees spoke ... Read More
Room #C204 AF (mini suite, no balcony) CategoryEmbarkation: We flew from Tijuana (we live in San Diego) to Acapulco on Volaris Air. This was a nice experience (great price, too!) even though practically none of the employees spoke English. The airplane was clean and the seats were comfortable (leather). We took the red eye flight from Tijuana to ACA; landed at 6:30 AM and had a tour / airport pick up scheduled with Rudy (www.tourbyvan.com). What a GREAT choice!! Rudy had Roger waiting for us at the airport, with our names on a sign, right on time. Roger was smiling and patient with us, even though it was so early in the morning and he had worked late the night before. He took us to Super Wal-Mart to stock up on bottled water and additional supplies before meeting up w/ the rest of our group for the tour.If you are in Acapulco, you simply MUST book Rudy and his company, for a tour. This is the best way to spend a day!Embarkation: We arrived at the ACA terminal around 3:30 PM. There were no lines, at all, and we were greeted with a cold towel. We were literally on the ship in under 7 minutes flat! Also, our bags were waiting for us as soon as we arrived at our cabin. This is the 1st time my luggage has arrived at the cabin before I did! Nice touch, Princess! We also brought on a box of wine (Black Box is the brand and it is quite yummy!) and Princess didn't even blink an eye. I LOVE that Princess is not as strict on alcohol/wine as all the other major main lines are... This is a BIG plus in my book!Room: We had a mini-suite, category AE, no balcony. Nice size, overall. We were in C204, which is all the way forward. Having only stayed mid-ship and AFT, I wasn't sure how this would be in regard to feeling lots of movement. That was a non-issue. Also, it was nice having the 'secret door' right outside our cabin to enjoy the large deck since our cabin did not have a balcony. There was decent storage and the bathroom was OK in size. I must comment that if Princess does NOT get the smoking issue under control, I fear that many of us will not cruise with them again. Our cabin was filled with the stench of what smelled like old cigarette smoke. Since there was no balcony door to open, we had no choice but to request that the walls be scrubbed down, the drapes drycleaned and the carpets steam cleaned. That helped, but since our next door neighbors were smoking, the smell was always lingering. This was a common complaint throughout the ship. Princess -- if you are reading this, take note of how your competitors handle this issue. Smokers have a choice of to smoke or not to smoke, non-smokers don't have a choice on whether they breathe or not! The casino was VERY smoky, which was GREAT, since it kept me out of there (Princess -- are you taking note of lost revenue here??!!). Hallways smelled smoky, too. I must also comment on Princess' movie choice, Black Swan. Truly, this was NOT appropriate for a group/mixed company setting. For those of you who have not viewed this film, just know that it is barely one step above pornography! How embarrassing to be with a group of new friends, taking in a movie, where it is so uncomfortable, you wish could just disappear! Princess -- shame on you!! If you insist on showing such a naughty/explicit film, please, have the courtesy to edit it (like the airlines do) before subjecting your passengers to it in a group setting. I am NOT a prude, at all, but this made all of our group very uncomfortable and we all walked out (as did lots of other passengers, shaking their heads on the way out of the theater). The MUTS selection was very slim (but at least those movies weren't pornographic!), and I know that Princess could do much better with their selection. Perhaps they should take a note from HAL's screening rooms? Dining: We had early seating at 5:30 PM. Princess -- I really enjoyed that dinner is at 5:30 PM instead of 6:00. That gives us extra time to make the earlier shows. Thanks!! The menu was OK... I, of course, enjoyed the fettuccini alfredo (had grilled chicken added) and it was good (heavy, but good). I must comment that Princess' dessert selection is quite awful when compared to Celebrity or HAL. The ice cream consistently tastes like a science experiment (picture heavy, day old cream with very little sweetness to it and touch of freezer burn!). When I ordered the Volcano dessert, all I can say is YUCK! That was nothing but a giant bowl of whipped cream/chocolate sauce, banana (this was the ONLY place we found bananas on our trip!...the boat was out of bananas the entire time!) and the tiniest scoop of chocolate ice cream you have ever seen. Truly awful tasting, unless you love whipped cream swimming in chocolate sauce and no ice cream. I am not sure why the Volcano has such a following on Cruise Critic... Maybe I just had a bad one? I guess that Princess did us a favor by not having great desserts since we did not gain any weight on this journey!Service in all areas was superb! Waiters are very nice and prompt. Pursers desk attendants are always kind and helpful. You are constantly greeted with a big smile and a "good morning/afternoon/evening" by all crew members. The singers/dancers did an EXCELLENT job! I definitely think they had better performances that the Celebrity Solstice performers. I thoroughly enjoyed each "Broadway" style show. Also, we enjoyed the production shows that were in the Universe Lounge. The stage has different 'elevator levels' that really adds to the feel of the show. Also, getting to sit so close to the performers was great!Disembarkation: On the last night, we put our bags outside our cabin door by 9:30 PM and they were never picked up! They sat in the hall, all night, unsecure. Then, on disembarkation day, we had the 'pleasure' of hauling off 6 bags with no help! Nice touch, Princess! I know that our cabin steward knew the bags were there, since he reached across the bags to pick up an extra gratuity that we gave him! Also, I must comment on how pathetic it is that Princess did not make Panama City a port of call, for Panama on this cruise. Instead, we docked in Colon, Panama. We were told, constantly and consistently, to NOT leave the razor wire area for fear that we would be mugged/robbed or worse! Huh? Why on Earth would Princess pass up an amazing city (picture New York City meets Chicago skyline!!) like Panama City, for a dump and unsafe place like Colon? The Panama Canal is definitely a cruise/experience that everyone should see. It is no wonder to me, that this is the 8th Wonder Of The World. Truly, an experience that I will treasure for a long time!Our boat also came down, with some sort of gastro Virus. There were so many passengers that were ill and quarantined. It was so odd to not be able to have any salt/pepper shakers on the tables, no touching of anything in the buffet line (coffee cups, stir sticks, nothing!), but even with all the sickness, you would still see people coughing/sneezing and not covering the mouths, yet, the Princess reps said nothing. When we asked them why they were forcing hand sanitizer on us, as often as possible (which we were thankful they did), but did not tell people to cover their mouths when coughing/sneezing, they answered that they would get in trouble if they said something like that. Wow... Perhaps our politically correct society has finally gone too far? We are currently booked in the Grand Suite on Sapphire for Sept. 2012/Alaska, and I am really going to have to give this some thought whether or not to cancel. If Princess does not get their smoking policy more in line with Celebrity, as well as improve the quality of their food (especially desserts!!), then I will probably jump ship and go with a slightly smaller suite and know that I will have more of an "A" experience.All in all, this was a "B+" cruise... Not an "A", but with a major improvement in the smoking policy and raising the quality of the food, Princess could easily slip into the "A" category.I really want to emphasize, that what Princess really brings to the party, is their amazing and friendly staff! We truly, truly loved the big smiles and warm, welcoming ways of all the staff that we interacted with. I know that those nice folks work about 80 hours a week and I am always amazed how they keep smiling and always bust their chops to take good care of us. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
Ship's Description Coral was built as a Panamax ship; therefore it's narrower than most new ships and long. There are 2,000 passengers therefore the sq. ft of space per passenger is extremely large. The ship is also designed ... Read More
Ship's Description Coral was built as a Panamax ship; therefore it's narrower than most new ships and long. There are 2,000 passengers therefore the sq. ft of space per passenger is extremely large. The ship is also designed so the passengers can view the Panama Canal and Alaska views from many different points. The Horizon Court is at the front with large windowed view. There are also multiple terraces for viewing, two forward on 10th and 11th floor, same on aft on both of these floors. Also the Promenade Deck is open all around and so most of the Lido. The Sun Deck is also great for viewing. The Atrium is open to the 8th floor where you have the Library, internet cafe and very large game room. The Crooners and Patisserie are very large with many areas for seating. The photo gallery is at the aft and restaurants more center and forward so you don' have to always passing the photo studio. The theaters are beautiful; the Universal Lounge is on two levels with a movable stage. The Princess theater is very large and beautifully appointed. All lounges, bars, restaurants are beautifully designed. Restaurants and food We ate breakfast and lunch at Horizon except for a few other occasions. Horizon food for breakfast is great, many choices and also an omelet bar. Lunch has plenty of choices, salads, sandwiches, hot entrees, desserts, all very tasty. We had the reserved late seating for dinner at the Provence dining room. The foods mostly was great, especially fish and seafood. The waiter brought out whatever you wanted and any extra without any problem. I don't recall one mediocre meal, all delicious. The wine list is extensive and prices are reasonable. Our waiter and his assistant were extremely accommodating, polite and very efficient, their aim was to please. Cabins We had an outside cabin, no balcony. I thought the cabin was a bit small; maybe an extra two feet on either side would have been better. We travel heavy so could have used more drawer and counter space. Plenty of closed and shelf space near the bathroom area. Bathroom is small but sufficient. Ports Embarkation - Acapulco - we didn't spend any time there, just took the bus from the airport to the ship, embarkation was very quick since we came in late. Huatulco (pronounced wah-TOOL-co), Mexico We didn't take an excursion, walked around this quaint little village. Very nice area around the port and we also walked into the center of this small town. Some artisans are selling jewelry, and also interesting bamboo made mugs, bowls, etc. Enjoyed walking around this village. Juan del Sur, Nicaragua We took the Princess excursion to the Masayan market, the volcano nearby and the city of Granada. A bus ride to the market. I enjoyed this market, easy to shop and look without too much of a hassle. We bought some beautiful wooden bowls and wooden hot plates. We walked around the outside area of this market and this town was quaint. We were lucky to be able to see the bottom of the volcano since it was a clear day. You can stand on top and look right inside the volcano, steam coming out with sulfa smell. Had lunch at a local restaurant, buffet of simple local food. Disappointed with Granada, very dirty and needs tons of work, children are sent out to beg and also some very poor women begging and following. I couldn't wait to get out of there. A long bus ride back lucky that roads were good. Didn't have time to walk around the small village Puntarenas, Costa Rica Took the excursion to Cloud Forest with the train. This was a very long bus ride and once near the mountain, the road was not paved and going up and down winding mountain road. The forest was beautiful and the scenery gorgeous, we didn't see much wildlife. The train was a small narrow train, about 4 cars that goes inside the forest. We had lunch at the visitors building and also later stopped at a large gift shop. Didn't walk around the port, didn't look like much was there. Panama Canal We got up around 5 am and took our spot on the balcony on deck 10 forward; we stayed there till 9:30. We had a nice clear sunny day, but it got very hot later on the day. To watch the canal's operation was very exciting and at time unbelievable that this was constructed over a 100 years ago. It took the ship to complete the canal almost the whole day. We went to deck 10 aft to see the Gatun locks in operation. Stopped at Colon port for a few hours, we didn't like to shop there, many people pushing and most shops had tons to junk. Couple of good duty free shops, so if you want liquor or perfume this may be a good spot. Ochos Rios Jamaica Didn't do an excursion, walked around the port and went to Margarittavile for lunch. I bought some nice glass beaded necklaces but thought that most of the shopkeepers were too aggressive Read Less
Sail Date March 2011
The cruise on P & O's Oceana appeared to have it all. Flying from Glasgow to Acapulco with Thomson Airlines and boarding the ship in this romantic spot (on Valentine's day) Thereafter sailing south on the Pacific Ocean before ... Read More
The cruise on P & O's Oceana appeared to have it all. Flying from Glasgow to Acapulco with Thomson Airlines and boarding the ship in this romantic spot (on Valentine's day) Thereafter sailing south on the Pacific Ocean before a daytime transit of one of mankind's historic engineering feats through the Panama Canal to the Caribbean. Followed by visits to four romantic and exotic Caribbean Islands. My wife and I were not to be disappointed. It was a dream come true. The flights from and return to Glasgow were on time and comfortable. Pre-booking seats took alot of stress out of the flights. Having read previous reviews with some discordant notes in relation to Oceana, we wondered what to expect as this was our first cruise with P&O. We had chosen freedom dining and had a balcony cabin on "A" deck. The freedom dining was excellent and allowed us to choose when and where to dine, at the same time enjoying the four formal nights immensely. Looking out or relaxing on our balcony was an absolute pleasure, especially with a malt whisky in my hand! We found Oceana and her staff to be first class and that includes, ship, staff, food and entertainment. As this was our first visit to this part of the world, we booked trips for every port except Barbados, where because of an afternoon flight we chose to walk into Bridgetown which we fell in love with. A wonderful experience all round. Well done P&O. In each of the ports of Acapulco, Huatulco, San Juan del Sur, Curacao, Tortola, St Marten,and Antigua, we found the trips to be interesting,colourful, and good value for money. The rum punch's were wonderful. Well done Oceana and staff, and well done P&O. Read Less
Sail Date February 2011
What a fantastic holiday we had aboard the Oceana..Staff were helpful and friendly nothing was to much trouble,our waiters Lucas and Dismish were wonderful and went out of their way to look after us nothing was to much trouble..Drinks were ... Read More
What a fantastic holiday we had aboard the Oceana..Staff were helpful and friendly nothing was to much trouble,our waiters Lucas and Dismish were wonderful and went out of their way to look after us nothing was to much trouble..Drinks were the same price as at home no rip offs.Tips were down to the individual.Cabins were comfortable with plenty of storage space, and the cabin steward always kept it clean for us.It was nice to be able to dress up on the formal nights as we don't seem to do that at home any more as things now are more casual.The one disappointment we had was after our 8.30 meal we could not get in to see one of the shows as many of the first sitting stayed to watch the comedian for the second show leaving not enough seats for the second seating.We were very disappointed as he was really good.This was noted and hopefully will be sorted out for further cruises. The highlight of the cruise was of cause sailing through the Panama Canal (which we were up at 5pm to get a good viewing spot) we had gone earlier to listen to the history of the Panama Canal so we could understand what it was all about, this was very interesting and we found it useful as we went through the locks, we could imagine the hundreds of men so many years before many who had lost their lives working on it.It is a truely a amazing piece of History. We also visited Acapulco (where we landed from Gatwick)Huatulaco,San Juan Del Su,Curacao,St Maarten,Tortola,Antigua,and finally Barbados for our flight home.Each place had its own places of interrest and we enjoyed each one very much. We highly recommend P&O Oceana and we are hoping to sail with P&O again. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
Supposed to leave Gatwick on 20th December, however Thomas Cook plane delayed for 24 hours due to major technical problem, so put in hotel overnight and given chicken curry for dinner. On boarding plane on 21st they gave us for dinner, yes ... Read More
Supposed to leave Gatwick on 20th December, however Thomas Cook plane delayed for 24 hours due to major technical problem, so put in hotel overnight and given chicken curry for dinner. On boarding plane on 21st they gave us for dinner, yes chicken - unfortunately I hate chicken so now hadn't had decent meal for 24 hours, the snack was a cheese paninni which was awful. Entertainment on board flight dire, please P&O if you want repeat bookings don't use Thomas Cook again. We had booked emergency exit seats but found large people next to us - in fact I was unable to sit in my seat on the return journey due to lack of room - not pleasant and suffered backache for days afterwards. Eventually arrived in Acapulco and immediately left for Huatalco, cannot fault the arrival system at Acapulco or the on-board check-in, very good. However one day during the cruise my husband spilt a small amount of tea on the sheet which was still there 4 days later, this would never have happened 2 years ago. Entertainment (with the exception of Jimmy James on New Years Eve and Tony Guppa) not very good, on-board theatre company very amateurish and entertainments staff seemed more concerned with children than anything else. The Cruise Director was hardly seen apart from one night when he did "Call My Bluff" as a substitute entertainment for the dance troupe as one of them was ill. For instance, one afternoon we went to play Whist, however no member of staff from Entertainments was there - ergo no cards! We were given 1 days cruise back as "on-board credit" however nobody was told that if we didn't use it, it could be refunded, resulting in many people booking spa treatments etc. they really didn't want. It really wasn't good enough P&O - to be delayed 24 hours is bad enough, this was the holiday of a limetime for us, and was a treat for my 60th birthday. It took 3 days to get over the 24-hour delay and jet-lag, plus where our suitcases had been left on the tarmac at Gatwick, our clothes were all damp, meaning I had to spend quite a lot of time washing/ironing. I could have gone anywhere in the world for £4,500 but chose to have a P&O cruise due to the great time I had 2 years ago, but I won't be repeating the experience. My idea of holiday entertainment is not "Oceana's Got Talent" - this was not a 4-star ship, more Butlins, however the food was good and the service in the restaurants was good too. Please sharpen up your act P&O - on the basis of our cruise 2 years ago, I have actually recommended you to friends who are going on Oceana this summer for which I feel dreadful. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
I wont re-iterate other reviews about our 24 hour delay due to Thomas Cook, but I would like to say that the organisation of the Arora Hotel in Crawley was fantastic. However, we waited almost 2 hours to retrieve our luggage at Gatwick and ... Read More
I wont re-iterate other reviews about our 24 hour delay due to Thomas Cook, but I would like to say that the organisation of the Arora Hotel in Crawley was fantastic. However, we waited almost 2 hours to retrieve our luggage at Gatwick and many of the cases were inexplicably wet! Having waited at the airport for nearly 12 hours everyone was exhausted. We finally got on our way having had a 4am call at the hotel and the plane was delayed another 2hrs 20 mins from what we had been told when checking in. When we finally arrived at the ship we set sail immediately and were sent to the Buffet dining for something to eat - nothing very appetising was available. Also, we were not taken to our cabins on arrival by staff and were just told to go to our level by the lift, which it turned out was not on our side of the ship, so we had to go back to the Atrium to find out where the appropriate lift was. I have to say that it took about 3 or 4 days to get over the journey and I slept for hours (which isn't usual). We booked cabins with limited view due to lifeboats being in the way, so no complaints there; as long as we had light to wake up to each day. We saw our cabin steward that evening and only saw him once more for the whole of the cruise. Cabin a bit small. There were no bed side tables but a 3 drawer chest of drawers on one side which was difficult to open and nothing on the other. I used the dressing table seat (all wood) next to my side. You couldn't walk round the end of my side of the bed, but I had to climb over the bed in order to get out. Otherwise cleanliness, toiletries etc were good. I was disappointed with the food and I think P&O are trying to cut corners. On previous cruises with other companies, if you want a main course as a starter portion you could have it. You could also have a second portion of anything if you wished. The Christmas Day meal was very disappointing. I think nearly all the Brussels Sprouts were sent back as you could not cut them with a knife let alone eat them. A lot of the food was tasteless - very disappointing. I actually lost weight on this cruise! We enjoyed afternoon tea, but they cannot prepare crumpets, they are just shown the grill and not toasted at all! Very limp and pale. The entertainment was mediocre - Jimmy James, The Fortunes and Tony Gubba were good. The show team were a bit amateur but what I couldn't understand was that each show was repeated the following night. Therefore we didn't get many shows. One night the show was cancelled as one of the cast was ill. What happened to "The Show Must go on"? I once went to see the skater Robin Cousins, he was ill and the understudy skated in his place. We had a fantastic night and booked to go again when Robin was better! We were not impressed with Marco Pierre White's Restaurant. Although we only went to lunch one day the food was not good. Also, I didn't like the idea that passengers trying to get from one side of the ship to another walk through the restaurant. It was just like a motorway service station. We didn't go on any trips organised by P&O and we had a good time in every port taking trips or booking taxis ourselves. Next time I book a cruise it will more than likely be with Princess or Celebrity. Read Less
Sail Date December 2010
Background: We are two couples ranging for mid-30s to early-50s and travel together quite often (8 cruises in the last 5 years). On our first cruise, our best friends and travel companions became engaged on the balcony of the Caribbean ... Read More
Background: We are two couples ranging for mid-30s to early-50s and travel together quite often (8 cruises in the last 5 years). On our first cruise, our best friends and travel companions became engaged on the balcony of the Caribbean Princess. Now on the Coral, our gift for their five year anniversary is a renewal of vows package on this cruise. We live in New England so we headed out a day early to Acapulco. Aeromexico to Mexico City the 6 hour lay-over, thanks for going out of business Mexicana and screwing up our connecting flight, then a one hour flight to Acapulco. Arranging air fare from New England to Acapulco was not the easiest and we had our reservations when it came to Aeromexico - should not have worried, the flights were easy and good, even provided free meals and alcohol!! Haven't seen that since PanAm. Anyway we arrived at Acapulco Airport at 8:10pm, simple to get through, get luggage and get out. We had prearranged for a driver to pick us up and take us to the Crown Plaza through Rosie' tours. Off we went through police and machine gun laden streets. I state this for a reason, none of us were thrilled to be reading all the news about the drug wars and figured we would be the tourist section and be there less than 24 hours. That being said, although initially disturbing to see, you quickly realize that presence is what is keeping things at bay. The Crown Plaza is okay for one or two night pre-cruise stay, more I would not do. It was simply okay, but at $75 a room, okay is just fine. Acapulco: Rosie herself from Rosie's tours picked us up at the hotel for a tour at 9:30am. I know there is a lot about Rosie on these Boards but I will tell you she was fabulous!! Her narration and knowledge was wonderful. She also seems to know everyone. She took us to the Cross and Chapel of Peace (highest point in Acapulco), the Diego wall, Los Flamingos Hotel (Old Hollywood), some look out points and the Cliff Divers. Then she took us to the ship all by 1:30pm. $50pp - well worth it and a wonderful tour guide. It made our day and never once did we feel nervous in Acapulco. To put it in perspective, I have felt far less safe in a variety of Caribbean islands such as Jamaica, Grenada, Antigua, etc. Emabarkation and ship: Easiest I have ever done, a total of 10 minutes and we were on the Coral. It was our first time on this class of ship, we thought it carried an elegance and flow missing from the newer ships in the fleet. Now we know what everyone is always talking about with the Coral and the Island Princess. The common rooms, bars, lounges are all well maintained and were never crowded even for more popular events. I attribute this to the passenger to space ratio - what a difference it makes. The staff and crew were all wonderful with the exception of Melanie the assistant cruise director. A very unhappy mean spirited young lady who pleasured in put downs of passengers (the line is not than fine between being cruel and being funny). I hesitate to mention the food because it is such a hot topic, but we had a great experience with the food. We had one or two dishes that were not so hot, such as the coq au vin and the mussels on the last night, but everything else was fabulous. On the issue of the escargot - although we had anytime dining we hooked up with a serving team rather early in the cruise (Felix on Ronald) and ended up with a standing reservation with them. All we had to do was ask Felix about the escargot and we had four appetizers the next night. Additionally, we were going to celebrate the Renewal of Vows for our friends at the Bayou Cafe on Italian night so were going to miss our favorite appetizer of eggplant parmesan - no fear, Felix arranged for the four of us to have it the following day. Lesson here: be nice and make friends with waiters! We tried the pub lunch in the Bayou Cafe. Excellent and well attended. Choices were fish and chips, cottage pie, ploughman's lunch and bangers and mash. Dessert was bread and butter pudding - the only thing not very good. Nice English beer choices. This is a great alternative to the dining room or the buffet. Huatulco. Very beautiful and unspoiled landscape. We backed into the port which is really a large cove with a series of small coves inside (still amazes me how they back these ships up like they are at the grocery store parking). We did not have anything organized of planned. Where the ship docks is a small town, same touristy merchandise you will find all over Mexico and the Caribbean. However, where the ship docks is a beautiful cove and beach lines with bars and restaurants, water sports and small boats. If you are beach oriented people, no need to go anywhere except right off the ship. San Juan Del Sur: Beautiful day in Nicaragua. First, Nicaragua is stunning. Driving through, it has the poverty we have all become accustomed to in Central America and the Caribbean, but at the same time it is more modernized with actual highways and such. We took a ship sponsored tour, the Amayo Hacienda. About a 30 minute drive from the tender port, a beautiful old working plantation on the shores of Lake Nicaragua with terrific views of the two volcanoes. The tour is actually run by Grey Line Tours, but the family that owns the 600 acre property was the host. Everyone including the tour operators and the family members could not have been more friendly and accommodating. They offered boat rides on the river, horseback riding, walking the grounds, bird watching and cow milking (yes we milked a cow). The family prepared and served lunch in a traditional style. It was a very nice excursion. I would recommend it but if what the tour people said is true, the family only opens their home to this excursion 3-4 times per year. They said the next one will be in March. PS - there is nothing to do in San Juan Del Sur right off the tender port that would take more than 5 minutes. Nothing. Puntarenas, Costa Rica: We did not like any of the ship sponsored shore excursions and only found one private that we liked but he wanted full payment up front with no cancellation fees. Needless to say no excursion was booked. If you are stopping at this port and wish to get off the ship, you have two options, book an organized tour or shop for 15 minutes at the end of the pier with the native craft folks. That is all. I had the impression there was more of a town from reading others reviews. Do not let them fool you, there is nothing to do. We did the end of the pier shopping in the morning. To be perfectly fair, the people could not have been nicer, their wares were nice and very well priced, we bought wood trivets that we had seen in Honduras for more than double what we paid here. Panama Canal: What a day! We began our approach to the Miraflores locks at about 7:00am and were through them by 8:00am. For some reason, Later to learn was fog, we stayed still for well over an hour before continuing on the journey. The Western side is the reason they call is the great ditch, the water is brown. Traveling through the Cut and down into Gutan Lake was beautiful. We began our approach to the Gutan Lock a little before 4:00pm and we out by 5:15pm. The Gutan locks are amazing. As we are the last two cabins aft on Emerald, from our balconies, we would be under the tops of the locks during the descent. We could, and did, reach out and touch the walls of the locks. It is an experience that everyone going through the locks should have. I took many people's suggestion and moved around the ship to get different perspectives. And by the way, as I did not know this, someone from the staff narrates over the PA system during the transit, not annoyingly or overly so, just right. We were supposed to stop in Colon for a 4 hour call from 5-9pm. Due to the delay getting through the canal, the fog, and the wildest thunder and lightening storm I have seen in years, we did not call in Colon. We were not planning on doing anything, so we did not care. Jamaica: We stopped here once before but stopped at Montego Bay rather than Ochos Rios. Big mistake. Montego Bay is awful, this was not bad. There is plenty of shopping and bars right off the pier. We chose to go to Mystic Mountain. We did this through the ship as the Sky Explorer chair lift. You can do what you want once on top such as Bobsledding, infinity pool, water slide and ziplining. All of the other excursions included another stop such as Dunn's river falls which we were not interested in. If you are afraid of heights, as I am, you will white knuckle yourself to the top, it takes 15-20 minutes. I did much to the amusement of my companions. The rest of them did the bobsled which they loved, not me, I sought out alcohol. The ride down was not as bad as going up. There are shuttle buses back to shopping and the pier. I will say a much better experience in Ochos Rios than before. Renewal of Vows: If you are thinking about this package, it really is worth the money. As I previously mentioned this was a gift for our travel companions, on day two we all met with the "planner" and met her again last night at 6:15pm at Crooners, she takes you to the chapel, the bride gets a beautiful orchid bouquet, the groom an orchid boutonniere. They have a photographer present, music etc. The ceremony is brief but very well done. Chatting with the captain, after with the signing of the certificate. The package include a bottle of champagne (which they delivered to the Bayou Cafe after the ceremony), a framed picture from the ceremony, the certificate, flowers, champagne, and they even leave a copy of the "ceremony speech from the captain" in your room along with a box of Godiva chocolates. Our planner even found us a bartender to take a video of the ceremony with our camera (for their two girls at home who will be dying to see this). Bayou cafe. After the ceremony, our planner had arranged for us to go to the Bayou Cafe. This is another thing that Princess could repeat. Having been to Sabatinis many times and the Crown Grill a couple of times, this was by far the best alternative restaurant we have been to. The steaks were perfect, the appetizers were unique and tasty, do not miss the baked oysters and the sausage and grits. Service was wonderful. All in all, a terrific night. Read Less
Sail Date October 2010
We booked this 10-night Panama Canal full transit cruise while aboard another Princess cruise 16 months earlier. Booking far in advance lends itself to a certain level of anticipation that sometimes builds higher-than-necessary ... Read More
We booked this 10-night Panama Canal full transit cruise while aboard another Princess cruise 16 months earlier. Booking far in advance lends itself to a certain level of anticipation that sometimes builds higher-than-necessary expectations from having envisioned the cruise over and over, researched and planned excursions, and read and re-read every other review on the planet, and then talked and talked and talked about how fun it's going to be. Fun we had, and here's my story: PRE-CRUISE HOTEL: We stayed at the Crowne Plaza Acapulco for two nights pre-cruise, and couldn't have been more pleased with the choice! We arrived from the airport about two hours before official check-in, but our room was ready. Well, I should clarify that. The room we had booked had been oversold, so we were upgraded to a suite. Considering we had only paid $65 + tax for our standard room, the fact that we had a suite was an excellent perk! Our suite faced out at the ocean, and had a wrap-around balcony that extended from the living room around to the bedroom. The room was very open, light, and airy, and at night we could hear the waves crashing ashore. The only negative was that the hotel was located smack dab next to MTV's Spring Break, so the first night we heard a lot of THUMP, THUMP, BOOM, BOOM and all the hootin' and hollerin' from the spring breakers nearby. Though our suite was on the 18th floor, we could still hear the music and screaming from below up into the weeeee hours of the night. Thankfully, MTV's Spring Break ended in time for our second night of sleep and we both slept like a rock! Keep in mind that this hotel is older, and while clean, it sometimes just feels different because it's old. Don't expect any carpeting in the room. The entire room is tile, so plan to bring slippers or socks so you don't feel the cold floor on your feet. The location on the beach in Acapulco was an added plus. While the water here really wasn't very swimmable due to the undertow, we were still able to lie on lounge chairs, under an umbrella and relax on the beach while ordering food/drinks from the beach servers. We did, however, dip our toes into the water to cool off, and the pool itself was beautiful (with a swim-up bar!) with many open chairs for us to lounge...but we just preferred being in the sand. The best part of this hotel, and our room, was waking up on the second morning and seeing the Island Princess waiting for us in port. Though the hotel doesn't offer a cruise shuttle, cabs are readily available from the front lobby. For a video tour of the pre-cruise hotel, click or paste this link into your browser: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzHMBgr4qOQ EMBARKATION: Embarkation in Acapulco was confusing, as they were obviously not prepared to receive a bunch of cruise passengers. Not many ships sail out of Acapulco, and the left foot didn't seem to know what the right foot was doing when it came to directing passengers on where to go, where to stand, what to do, etc. After much confusion, we found our way inside the shopping mall (for lack of better word) at the cruise port, where we commandeered a few chairs while others sat on their luggage awaiting embarkation time. Around us were gifty little shops selling jewelry, souvenirs, pharmaceuticals, snacks, and coffee. The conversation with fellow cruisers was so invigorating though that we simply forgot about the inconvenience of being crammed into a tiny space while waiting to board. Once the boarding process began, we were on the ship within 20 minutes. Easy. CABIN: We booked an inside guarantee and were assigned a 4-category upgrade within the inside cabin class - perfect! Princess has sizable inside cabins, and we never once found ourselves tripping over each other. Both the closet and the drawers provided more than enough space for the two of us to completely unpack the contents of 2 pieces of luggage while storing our luggage in the closet. To view a tour of this cabin, click or paste this link into your browser: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G5BSjErH13s THE SHIP: Island Princess is a Panamax ship and the perfect size to ensure you'll be able to explore all areas without feeling like you've missed something. Most of our sea days were spent relaxing near the Lotus Pool on cushioned lounge chairs facing the ocean, listening to our MP3 players or reading books. I really can't think of a more relaxing way to spend time on the open sea. We did venture up to the Splash Pool on Deck 16, just to check it out, or so we originally thought. One particular day, after consuming our fair share of "cruise juice" we seized the area as if it was our own private deck. Together with friends Jimmi and Kevin, we lounged, ate, drank, viewed the open ocean, sang, and whiled away our time as if we owned the deck. In fact, other passengers visited the Splash Pool, but only a couple of them stuck around long enough to enjoy it. I guess our singing scared them away. So, this really became our own private area for one afternoon. The only disappointment regarding the space on Island Princess was the surprising lack of quiet public spaces. I searched for a spot to read a book, a spot where I was out of the way of the open walkways, and unavailable for access by servers asking me if I'd like a beverage. This space I could not find, so after endless searching, I always wound up back at the Lotus Pool which was as relaxing as could be but just a little too close to the ice cream. If there was ever an instance when I couldn't find Alex, I knew he had snuck over to the ice cream counter! Island Princess offers a Sanctuary area for adults-only, and we toured this area on Day 1. Beautiful location and nice little perk, but we opted not to purchase this extra. The cost to reserve space in the Sanctuary was $10 per person for each half-day, though the price was increased to $70 per person the day we sailed through the Panama Canal. The Panama Canal package included the use of binoculars, MP3 players, welcome champagne cocktail, complimentary Evian, snacks, stewards on-site for extra special care, and of course a lounge chair per person. SERVICE: This was our second cruise aboard a Princess and our eighth cruise overall, and the service was consistent with our first Princess cruise - fabulous! From the beverage servers in the pool area, to the servers in the theatre, to the wait staff in the dining room and the room stewards. They all met or exceeded our expectations, and it's one of the reasons we will continue to keep this cruise line on our list of preferred lines. FOOD: We opted for My Time Dining so we could choose when we entered the main dining room each night, depending on our mood. Typically, we headed toward the Bordeaux dining room around 7:30 or 8 p.m. and had to wait no more than five minutes. Food was good as expected, though there were a couple of instances when the wrong entrEe or dessert was presented. Not a big deal at all, as all of the offerings were good anyhow. We spent one evening at Sabatini's with friends Tim, Arlene, Jimmi, and Kevin. Sabatini's is not to be missed EVER on a Princess cruise that offers this specialty Italian restaurant. For an extra $20 per person you'll receive an 8-course meal that rivals celebrity chef restaurants. Yes, it's THAT good! In our opinion, Princess offers the best pizza at sea - better than Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Celebrity at least. Their pizza is New York style, piping hot, with loads of cheese and sauce. Merely smelling that stuff will have you speaking Italian by the time you're done with your first bite. Of course, the soft serve ice cream is a nice added bonus, as is the "Cookie Cart" that peruses around the ship every afternoon serving up warm cookies. One of the best offerings on a Princess cruise is the coffee card. For $24, plus the normal 15% gratuity, you can snag a coffee card that gives you 15 specialty coffees. Every time you'd like a specialty coffee, simply present your coffee card, and you'll get one punch. That's a deal! ENTERTAINMENT: We both love comedy and try not to miss a comedic show of any sort. However, one night we tried very hard to enjoy a supposed funny ventriloquist but yawned through the hour's performance. The ventriloquist was very talented at his craft, but lacked severely in the humor area of it. Another evening we got to see a magician, and WOW, was that fun! He created an interactive show where the participants on stage provided much of his humorous content and kept us on the edge of our seats with belly aching and nose pain from the laughing and the snorting. He was hilarious, and his magic was impressive and full of wonderment. PORTS OF CALL: Huatulco, Mexico We opted to hang out at a beach bar near the port. A small shopping village is adjacent to the port here, but we chose to sit under an umbrella to eat, drink, relax and enjoy the ambience of the sights and sounds of this part of the Mexican coast. There is also a little market here where you can stock up on bottled water and sodas at inexpensive prices. Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala Due to a transportation strike, our captain made the decision to skip this port of call at the last-minute to ensure the safety of all passengers. Even if we had stopped at this port, there would have been no transportation available, and roads and intersections were blocked due to the nationwide strike. We had an excursion planned and paid for in advance with Turansa Tours, but they would not refund 100% of our money. Though the transportation strike prevented busses, vans, and other vehicles from getting around the country, Turansa will not make good on our investment and give us a refund even though the missed port was not the fault of the cruise line. They would only refund 50%. We are in the midst of filing a travel insurance claim to recuperate our lost funds, and as a result, I will not recommend this tour company. San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua We toured the colonial city of Granada, Lake Nicaragua and the countryside via Careli Tours. They are the same company who provides the cruise line tours, but we booked them direct for less! Because we had missed Guatemala the day before, our ship's captain got us into port early in Nicaragua. Our tour operator agreed to start our tour earlier, and take us to a good little Nicaraguan restaurant while in Granada. The restaurant was probably the highlight of the tour as the food was loved by most (I believe there were 13 in our group), and the price was right. However, being a vegetarian, let's just say that the cheese I ate was NOT vegetarian cheese. I should have ordered a salad. Puntarenas, Costa Rica We booked a tour to Tortuga Island with Calypso Tours. Once we boarded their catamaran, we sailed through the Gulf of Nicoya for two hours on our way to the island. Waiting for us were chairs, food, beverage, and a covered area for shade. The beach and sand here were inviting, and the relaxation below the canopy of the trees was simply soothing. Tortuga Island was a great way to experience Costa Rica in a non-adventurous sort of way. We love adventure, and plan to be a bit more audacious during our land travels to Costa Rica in 2011. Panama Canal cruising If you've ever been through the Ballard Locks in Seattle, you've been through and seen the mechanics of working locks. The Panama Canal is no different. For us, the thrill of seeing the locks in operation were more about seeing and experiencing history in full force, in person. I had spent some time reading the history of the building of the canal which only led to more anticipation of the cruise. However, when it came down to the actual cruising through the canal itself, the length of time became a bit on the tedious side. To transition through three sets of locks took us nine hours. After the first three hours, I went back to our cabin for a short nap, watched more of the passage on the in-room television, then went back up deck to relax in the shade and read for a few hours while we moved closer to Panama. The experience was good, but the bigger phenomenon was the history of the building of it rather than the traversing itself. Colon, Panama The quick three-hour stop here invited us to sit at the dockside bar and relax in the humidity after making our way through droves and droves of anxious cruisers looking for a deal at the adjacent market. Next time around we'll stay on the ship. The lines to leave and return to the ship were not worth the return of time investment. Ocho Rios, Jamaica We took this opportunity to book the Mystic Mountain Bobsled Adventure and WOW was this a blast! Mystic Mountain is a short 10-minute ride from the cruise port, and in fact, once you're at the top of the mountain, you can see the ship in port from the magnificent views at the peak. The excursion began with a slow chair lift ride to the top, followed by an exhilarating bobsled ride. If you are part of a couple, be sure to connect your bobsleds together as you'll go faster! And no braking! After the bobsled ride, we played like teenagers in the infinity pool and repeatedly tested the water slide to see if we could fly off of the sides with the velocity caused by our body weight. No injuries happened, but in our minds, we flew right off that mountain, down to the shore below, and landed on the helipad of our ship. If you get a chance, go to Mystic Mountain. Spend the day there, and take pictures of the view from the top. This is simply one of the most majestic memories I have of this cruise. DISEMBARKATION: Following our last day at sea, we arrived on time to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale where we waited in the disembarkation lounge until our group was called, then grabbed a waiting taxi and scurried straight to the airport. Keep in mind that if you arrive to your scheduled flight more than 2 hours in advance, you might be asked to stand aside rather than check in early. IN SUMMARY: We really like Princess, and appreciated the Island Princess staff, the features of the ship itself, and the entire experience whether in port or at sea. If you're just thinking about cruising the Panama Canal, go ahead and book it. You won't regret it. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
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
This was the 5th cruise with Princess for my husband and I. We love waking up and being someplace new everyday. We chose this cruise because of it's interesting ports, and of course for the full transit of the Panama Canal. We flew to ... Read More
This was the 5th cruise with Princess for my husband and I. We love waking up and being someplace new everyday. We chose this cruise because of it's interesting ports, and of course for the full transit of the Panama Canal. We flew to Acapulco a day before and stayed in the Fiesta Americana Villas. Acapulco was very nice and we had a glorious view from our hotel room,...especially at dawn.The only bad thing about Acapulco was that MTV had just had it's big Spring Break beach party there and the place was still loaded with partiers. This was a very LOUD place. We asked for a room on the quite side of the hotel, away from the bungee jump and beach band and we were able to sleep soundly. Boarding the ship was a breeze and only took a few minutes to get processed and to our cabin. Our room was ready and our luggage showed up a few hours later. We attended our Cruise Critic meeting and met everyone we had been chatting and planning with on-line. We had a great group and we met people that we will keep in contact with. (Telemundo!) I'd like to mention Steve, because I know he likes to be mentioned. :) The ship was beautiful. The Island Princess is the smallest ship I've ever been on, but I never felt like we were crowded or that the ship was too small. Food and drinks were good. My only real complaint is that they do tend to undercook the shellfish. We ate at Sabatini's one night and my lobster was served still translucent and grey looking. We also tried the Bayou Cafe and thoroughly enjoyed it. I liked that there was a band in the restaurant. There should be music everywhere I eat! :) We ate breakfast and lunches in the Horizon Court buffet and went to afternoon tea twice. We love Princess pizza, it is ALWAYS great! The Pub lunch was not well attended on this cruise. The last cruise we were on there was a line out the door waiting for fish and chips! In Hutalco, Mexico, we took an excursion with some people from our CC group. We went to a small village where we were given a demonstration of traditional tortilla making by a Zapotec Indian. The tortillas were smoking hot, right off of her wood burning cooking ceramic,...very tasty. Next, we went to a small town called Santa Marie. They were having a celebration and we walked through and admired the food and goods at all the colorful stalls. Lastly, we drove past the mezcal processing, then continued on to the mezcal store for a tasting. This was way more than a tasting and turned into a drinking. They were very liberal with all the liquor they wanted us to taste! Since they had us liquored up, they brought out the crickets. Yes,...crickets. Apparently crickets are bar food in this part of Mexico. All the men in our group tried them, and liked them! The thought of having to floss cricket legs out from between my teeth kept me from joining in. We bought three bottles of Mezcal and headed back for the ship. The next day we were supposed to stop in Guatemala,....but,....there was a nationwide transportation strike. So, the Captain decided not to dock and continue on to Nicaragua where we had an extended stay the next day. We did have a private tour planned in Guatemala, and our tour company, Turansa, has after some bit of prodding, only agreed to refund us 50% of our payments. :( In Nicaragua we had another private CC excursion. We went to Granada for the day with a stop at Lake Nicaragua on the way back. In the middle of Lake Nicaragua is an active volcano, spewing out a cloud of ash. A very impressive sight. Granada was nice and we had lunch at a very good restaurant and tried the local beers. It seems EVERYONE arrived back at the dock at the same time and since this is a tendered port, the line was L O N G. It took about an hour to get back on the ship. In Costa Rica, we had a list of places we wanted to see. So we hooked up with three other people and contracted a van and driver for the day. We first stopped at the Monkey Ladies house. This woman charges the bargain price of $2.00 for you to come into her yard and feed the wild capuchin monkey's and coati mundi's that live in the surrounding forests. I coaxed a young capuchin out to take a banana from me and got a great photo of him stretching as far as he could to get the banana, while trying not to get too close to me. We continued on , stopping here and there for photo's and refreshments. Our driver talked us into doing the Crocodile Man boat ride,....glad he did, this was a beautiful tour. We saw wildlife GALORE on the river. Our final stop of the day was at Villa Caletas. This is a grand hotel set on top of a hill over looking the town of Jaco and the ocean. INCREDIBLE views! We sat in their open air bar area and had a drink while watching scarlet macaws fly by. Perfect! Panama Canal day started early,...we were on deck at 5:15 a.m. to start snapping pictures of the canal area before dawn. The canal was amazing! We stayed up front for a few hours, then started moving around to the other decks to get different and better views of things. I was on deck for hours! I really enjoyed watching the people, machines and the other ships that were also making the transit through the locks. Our stop in Cristobal, Panama was short, but I bought more stuff there than I bought in all the other ports combined. They had good prices and were ready to bargain. Oh, and did I mention it was hot? The whole trip was hot, but this day in Panama was horribly hot. Sweat was dripping off of my face and nose. There were a few little bars there serving ICE COLD beer. I drank two in about a minute and a half. Jamaica was our last stop before arriving back in the States. We have spent time in Jamaica and Ocho Rios on a land vacations, and done most all of the touristy things before. So, we opted to just walk to the grocery store and buy some coffee, then walk to the Jerk Center and have lunch. Of course we had to get a rum coconut from the coconut man before we got back on the ship. I'm not sure if it was because it was Sunday or what, but we were hardly bothered/approached by people offering to braid your hair, be your taxi driver, give you a tour, sell you weed or show you their handmade wares. That alone made it a nice day. The cruise ended in Fort Lauderdale. Disembarkment was a breeze and we were back to the airport and the real world all too soon. We were both back at work the next day and found ourselves wondering what was on the buffet today,....sigh. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
Background: We are a professional couple...him late 30's, her late 40's. This was our 8th cruise together, 6th on Princess. We've previously sailed on the Sun Princess, Dawn Princess, Grand Princess, Crown Princess, and Ruby ... Read More
Background: We are a professional couple...him late 30's, her late 40's. This was our 8th cruise together, 6th on Princess. We've previously sailed on the Sun Princess, Dawn Princess, Grand Princess, Crown Princess, and Ruby Princess. We consider ourselves somewhat well-traveled usually with multiple trips out of the country each year. Pre-cruise: We arrived in Acapulco a day early. We had pre-arranged the airport transfer with Hector, often mentioned on various travel boards. His vehicle was old and the AC was just so-so but his cheerful demeanor more than made up for it. We had booked one night at the Crowne Plaza hotel right in the middle of the bay. Upon check-in, we were given a surprise upgrade to an ocean front suite with two balconies on the 8th floor. The hotel has seen better days but was perfectly fine for a pre-cruise overnight. Luckily, we missed the MTV spring breakers by one day. Others told us the noise was quite bad the prior evening. We met some of our CC group for dinner at el Fogon across the street from the hotel. The food was good and reasonably priced. We then shared a ride from Hector with one of the other couples to see the cliff divers. We got there a little late to get a good spot so we weren't able to see the divers actually enter the water, but still, it was something we're glad we decided to do. Something you can't really see anywhere else. The next morning we had arranged for Hector to pick us up at 10:30 am so we were at the pier by 10:45. After waiting about an hour in a small shopping area, embarkation began. Embarkation: We were led to the embarkation terminal along with about 60 - 80 other people who had arrived early. We loaded our large bags into cages to be transferred onto the ship and then took our hand baggage with us into the Priority Check-in line. This was our first cruise at Platinum Captain's Circle status and thus, the first time using priority check-in. It was a nice perk since the majority of the group was not priority. We were 3rd in the priority line while the other line was quite long. Check-in was smooth and fast and we were on the ship by Noon. We went straight to our stateroom and dropped off our hand baggage and then immediately headed up to the Sanctuary to reserve our spot. We had read on CC that some people had not been allowed to book for the entire cruise on previous voyages and others had said that while they were able to book for the whole cruise, they were not able to choose their loungers. Instead, they had to arrive each morning to choose loungers before the daily users began to choose theirs. So, we did not know exactly what to expect when we arrived there. We were the first ones there and after a minor misunderstanding about the price (the Sanctuary Steward had tried to charge $20 per day...good thing we knew from CC that it should only be $15 per day), we got our choice of loungers for the whole trip. We chose one of the four cabanas on the upper of the two Sanctuary decks. Not sure if it matters, but it seemed like you could choose your loungers only if you booked the entire cruise as well as purchasing the Panama Canal day package ($70 pp), which we did. After securing our seats in the Sanctuary, we headed down to the dining room for lunch. Sailaway: After lunch, we decided to complete our Scavenger Hunt cards. We figured it would be a good way to self-tour the ship and we each picked up all 9 stamps needed to complete our cards. By the time we finished, it was time to head to our CC Meet & Greet in the Wheelhouse Bar. Some of our CC friends (thanks Alex & Tara!) had set it up ahead of time and several of us had pre-paid for a one-hour open bar. Things wrapped up when they kicked us out of the bar to go get our life jackets for the muster drill. With the muster drill complete we went back to our stateroom to unpack before heading out to the Sailaway party to see if we had won anything for our efforts getting our Treasure Hunt cards stamped earlier in the day. Turns out, we did! DH ended up the "grand prize" winner of an art print valued at $500. We would have preferred one of the other prizes but winning is winning. Maybe we'll even find someone to buy it someday. We ended the day with a trip to the buffet and some fun conversation with a few of our new CC friends. Ship Info: The ship is beautiful. It is a bit smaller than the last few ships we've been on, but still very familiar. It was easy to find our way around and we really like the different carpet colors on the stateroom decks. That makes it really easy to figure out which way to go when you step out of an elevator. Blue on the Starboard side (odd stateroom numbers) and red on the Port side (even stateroom numbers). We did miss the International Cafe but the La Patisserie had very good White & Milk Chocolate Mochas! This was also the first ship we've been on that had the covered Lotus Pool. While we spent most of our time in the Sanctuary, we did use this pool one day when the Sanctuary Pool was closed. It was very quiet and nice even though it was a bit deep for me. All in all, we would rank the Island up there with our favorite Princess ships. Stateroom: We booked a Category AA (mini-suite) Guarantee and were assigned the category we booked...Room B229 on Baja deck. This is the first time we have booked a mini-suite and while we did enjoy the extra space, we're not entirely convinced that it is worth the extra money for just the two of us. In the future, we will likely stick to our regular balcony rooms unless we can get a great deal on the mini. There was plenty of storage as we have become accustomed to on Princess. The bathroom is a bit larger with a small tub but it is still a tight squeeze if you are tall and the "affectionate" shower curtains were no different here than in the shower-only bathrooms. The balcony was slightly larger than we are used to in the regular balcony rooms with four chairs instead of two. But, we really didn't use it much except in the morning for breakfast. The bed seemed harder than we are used to but not so bad as to request an egg-crate mattress. We felt the location of the room was quite good, especially for the Panama Canal itinerary. It is just down the hall from the forward open decks, so we were able to get a spot on the rail the morning of the canal transit for a great forward view through the first two sets of locks. Dining: We prefer Princess' anytime dining and request it on every cruise. We ate at a table for two most nights and only the 2nd formal night were we not able to be seated immediately. Even then, we waited just 10 minutes for a table. If we had agreed to be seated with others, we would have been seated immediately. Overall, we felt the food in the dining rooms was very good. We were also pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food in the buffet. We normally don't enjoy the buffet, but we did eat there a few times on this trip for the sake of convenience. Other than a few issues with the temperature of the food (which is always an issue with buffets), the food was very good. The desserts in particular were much better than we've experienced on other ships recently. The Dessert Extravaganza lunch buffet, in particular, had some very good offerings. We enjoyed the English Pub Lunch in the Bayou Cafe. It was a nice change of pace for lunch. We also utilized both the on-deck grill and pizza place for lunch some days. The food from the grill was good and the pizza was very good. Along with the free ice-cream now offered daily, we also enjoyed the milk shakes and smoothies available with the ultimate drink card. With multiple drinks per day, the card was definitely a value for us. Service: We felt the service was on par with previous Princess cruises we've been on. We never ran into a rude or seemingly unhappy crew member. Everyone was friendly and helpful. Overall, service was very good. Activities/Entertainment: Daytime Activities - There was the typical daytime fare. We always enjoy the trivia games and I joined a team for "Body Language" which was fun. We had an exciting come-from-behind victory and left with Princess gold medals for our efforts. As already mentioned, we spent a lot of time in the Sanctuary. Despite the cost, we really enjoyed the Panama Canal day package which included champagne (or mimosa), food delivered to your lounger (without the normal delivery charge), a map of the canal, a stock photo of the Island Princess in the canal (several to choose from), binoculars to use for the entire day, Evian spritzer water, and cool face cloths along with a quiet place with amazing views of the canal off the rear of the ship. Our stewardesses, Eliza, Renata, & Yris, were fantastic. They really went out of their way to make sure we were always comfortable and relaxed. Nighttime Entertainment - This is probably the only real disappointment on this cruise. The first production show we saw, "Do You Wanna Dance", was not good. The dancing was very amateurish and the vocalists were terrible. We thought we would give them another chance with the next production show, "Piano Man", but it was even worse than the first. The dancing was terrible. DH couldn't help laughing out loud when the girls kept turning and hitting each other in the face with their balloon-covered showgirl costumes. And, the vocals were just as bad as the previous show. Needless to say, we didn't give them a third chance and skipped the final production show, "Motor City", and we're actually from the Detroit area. Amazingly though, we went to the Adrian Zmed show after reading all the reviews here on CC, and we thought it was quite good even though it was the same singers and dancers backing him up. Go figure. The comedy ventriloquist, Dan Horn, was just OK. We sat too far back to really appreciate his ventriloquism talent and some jokes were hits, others missed. The comedy magician, Jean Boucher, was funny. He really gets the audience involved so if you don't like going on stage, stay away from the front and the aisles. Casino - We both enjoy gambling a bit but we do it just for fun so we are what you would call "low rollers". But, we did spend some time at the tables and had fun. After a nice hit on the Let It Ride table the first night we played, we were able to play almost the entire rest of the trip using their money. Of course, in the end we did give it all back and a little more. We were glad that the casino offered non-smoking nights and in fact, we don't remember ever having a single smoker at any of the tables we played. We understand that there is going to be smoke in a casino and we tolerate it because we enjoy playing but it was nice to not have to breathe all that second-hand smoke in order to play. Spa - We decided not to use the spa this time except for a trip to the salon for a nail polish change. It was, of course, more expensive than at home ($19 + tip) but that was expected. However, what wasn't expected was that the new polish chipped after three days. But, that may have been due to the high humidity the day the polish was applied. Ports/Shore Excursions: We pre-booked all of our excursions through Princess. We usually use Princess excursions in ports that we've never been to before because we like the security of knowing that they are already set up on the ship's timetable and we've always been pleased with Princess' execution of the tours. Huatulco, Mexico - We did the "Rural Communities & Traditions" tour. This was a bus tour to the rural area outside the town of Huatulco with stops at several different local homes for demonstrations of traditional life in this part of Mexico. We saw demonstrations of tortilla and tamale making (delicious!), adobe brick making, straw weaving, citrus and cactus growing, and medicinal plant growing. This was a very enjoyable experience and it was nice to see actual examples of people using our tourist dollars to improve their lives. The extra structures they are able to build on their properties and the fact that their children must attend school in order for the families to participate in the program made us feel like we were helping in some small way while learning about their culture. Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala - This stop was cancelled due to an unexpected general transportation strike. Our Princess tour was refunded while some friends who had booked independently and prepaid lost their money, unfortunately. This is one time when booking a Princess tour actually saved us a little money. San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua - We did the "Discover Nicaragua" tour where we stopped at the shore of Lake Nicaragua to view the two volcanoes on the island of Ometepe. Then, we were able to see how tobacco is grown and dried and each try our hand at rolling a cigar. That was fun and we got to keep the cigars that we rolled. Afterward, we visited the town of Granada and enjoyed a leisurely walk through the town visiting many of the old buildings and churches. Overall, it was an enjoyable experience but it was a long drive each way. Puntarenas, Costa Rica - We did the "Scarlet Macaw Sanctuary & Mangrove Boat Tour". This was our favorite of all the excursions on this trip. It was about a 45 minute bus ride to the sanctuary with commentary on the history and wildlife of the area. Once at the sanctuary, we were led on a walk through the grounds where we saw many different bird species, a howler monkey, several other types of monkeys, and at least 20 macaws of various types. It was very enjoyable to see these beautiful birds flying free so close to us. We then took a short bus ride to the covered boat and slowly cruised through the mangroves where we saw several types of birds and a few crocodiles. Cristobal, Panama - There was a 3 hr stop in Cristobal after completing the transit of the canal. There are no tours offered by Princess at this port so we just got off the ship along with virtually everyone else and fought our way through the shops in the tiny shopping center at the pier. We bought a few souvenirs and then got back on the ship before the rush. This port is only for those who enjoy shopping with 1900 of their new friends. Ocho Rios, Jamaica - We've been to Ocho Rios before on land-based vacations and previous cruises so we've done all the usual stuff like Dunn's River Falls, etc. so we just quickly got off and walked to the end of the pier to take some photos of the ship. Then, we got right back on and spent another enjoyable day in the Sanctuary. Disembarkation: Because we had an later flight, we decided to book a tour in Ft. Lauderdale rather than spend the morning and early afternoon in the airport. We did the "Everglades Airboat Ride & Flamingo Gardens" tour. First, we went to the Flamingo Gardens park and got there just as they were opening so our group was one of only two in the park at that time. We did a short guided tram ride through the park and then had over an hour to leisurely stroll through and enjoy the plants and animals. They have two Florida Panthers and a bird aviary where you can walk among many different types of small and large sea birds. They also have several beautiful peacocks roaming the grounds. Then, we took a short bus ride to Everglades Holiday Park for a fun and exciting 30-minute airboat ride where we saw more birds and several alligators. After the airboat ride, we watched a short alligator wrestling show hosted by some guy that has appeared on lots of TV shows on Fox, CNN, and Discovery Channel. He uses the money and tips from the show to buy "nuisance alligators" from the guys who catch them from people's back yards, pools, etc. After using them in his show for a few weeks, he transports them to sanctuaries to live out the rest of their lives. Also, after the show, you can get your picture taken (with your own camera) holding a baby alligator for $5. We enjoyed the tour and we're glad we chose to do this to fill our time on the last day of our vacation. The tour ends at the airport and since we had used Princess' EZ Check, our boarding passes had already been provided to us and our large bags had already been picked up outside our room and transported to the airline. So, all we had to do was head straight through security to our gate. This was our first time using EZ Check, but we will definitely do it again in the right situation. Summary: Overall we had a wonderful time as we've done on every Princess cruise previously. If you enjoy the good stuff and don't sweat the bad stuff, it's pretty difficult to have a bad time on a cruise. We loved the Island Princess and now we've finally experienced the Panama Canal! Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
We arrived in Acapulco around 10am, cleared customs, boarded our Princess transfer bus, and were off to the port in about 45 minutes. The ride to the port took about an hour. Upon arrival at the pier around noon, we were happy to see no ... Read More
We arrived in Acapulco around 10am, cleared customs, boarded our Princess transfer bus, and were off to the port in about 45 minutes. The ride to the port took about an hour. Upon arrival at the pier around noon, we were happy to see no lines anywhere! We walked right up to the counter to check in and then right onto the ship with no wait. If you use the Princess transfer from the airport, your luggage is taken at the airport and the next time you see it is in your cabin; I liked that. Quickest embarkation we've ever experienced. We did get back off the ship after lunch to check out Acapulco a bit, and picked up a bottle of local wine and some champagne. We had a mini suite on the Dolphin deck which was very nice; carpet looked new and most things were in good shape. Nice large balcony (though uncovered) with 4 chairs and a table. Later in the day when we saw our room steward we asked for our glass of champagne (which was delivered promptly) and for robes (not impressed with the robes that showed up the next day). Two in our group who stayed in the mini suite farther aft had older carpet than the 3 cabins the rest of us had on Dolphin deck mid-ship section. Different design on the carpet, and theirs had some stains too. Their tiles in the bathroom weren't in good shape either. Note that if you're over 6'3" your hair will clean the ceiling over the bathtub! Checked out the food in the buffet which, for the first time ever for me, was forward and not aft! Took some adjusting to this location change. Picked up a soda card which with gratuity comes to about $48 for 10 days. Very nice large pools on the Lido deck; one is outside and one is enclosed in an air conditioned area. There are ping pong tables and a ceramics class area up some stairs near the enclosed pool. The ceramics class looked like a lot of fun and people really made some beautiful art. One wading pool top deck but didn't visit it after walking by on my self-guided ship tour. The atrium area is beautiful and has live music in the evenings. On decks 5, 6 and 7 there are various bars to choose from, some large like the Wheelhouse, though I found it too dark. In other places there are little nooks to sit on a couch with a book or people-watch. Deck 7 Promenade outside is always a favorite place to walk or sit on a lounger. I looked at all eight of our cruise cards to check the dining table; six of our party of eight were together at the same table and we two were at a different table even though our reservations were supposed to be linked according to our TA. Spent 45 mins waiting for the maitre de; he moved us to the Bordeaux room at a nice round table by a window beginning the second night. First night was open seating so we went to Provence room and had Alvin as our fantastic waiter. In the Bordeaux for the rest of the cruise we had Juan Carlos and Ivan who were fabulous. All the food was very good from start to finish. I haven't had such fork-tender lobster tails in a long time. We all found things we liked and ate in the DR most nights. We ate at the buffet for brkfst and lunch, and we always found a nice assortment of food there too. Omelet and waffle station at breakfast. Ice cream farther aft on the Lido was just ok, soft serve only or milkshakes, but it varied in taste depending on how they mixed it that day. Station closed daily at 6 which is ridiculous. Pizza was as excellent as I remembered on a Princess cruise, though that station closes at 7pm—way too early. The Bayou restaurant dinner was enjoyed by 2 in our group, and also offers an English lunch a couple days which was enjoyed as well. Check the Patter for exact dates of the lunch offering. At the two formal nights there were very few tuxedos, and I'd guess that probably just over half of men had suits on or at least a jacket. The rest had a dress or polo shirt. That's the best I can do with estimating formal. . . I didn't pay a whole lot of attention as it's not too important to me. My adorable nephew needed a crib and the first one brought to their cabin was old, rickety and missing a bar! No kid should sleep in something like that. So they told their room steward that crib was unacceptable, and next appeared a very nice, new-looking pack n play which my nephew slept in just fine. Entertainment. We didn't attend many shows. The first we attended was the second night in the theater and the music and dancing was very good. The back 2/3 seats were pretty full and the front 1/3 mostly empty—unlike other cruises where you have to get there early to be in the front! Funny. We also went to the Adrian Zmed show in the Universe Lounge which was very good. We sat in the front row on the side. He chose a lady from the front center to dance a slow song for a minute or two. I think he should do a meet and greet or photo opp for passengers. He performed two nights, which seems to be what most shows do on this ship, so if you miss the first night you can go the second. Caught the end of the Newlywed game which is always amusing. The comedian/singer who was from NJ and performed in the Universe Lounge was very funny too. The evening entertainment in the atrium was very nice. We participated in a few organized games which was fun, and won a gold Princess medal at one of them. There were enrichment classes available. The digital photography one looked interesting but I think we napped instead. We skipped the captain's cocktail party. I liked that the tv had varying shows on various days. Classic movies like An Affair To Remember, episodes of The Love Boat, to the loop of the Panama Canal video being replayed. Up In The Air, The Blind Side, and some other recent films played certain days too, Inside the Actors Studio repeated with maybe 3 actors' episodes. I love the bow camera channel to see ahead of the ship and the nav channel showing exactly where the ship is at that moment. Laundry room on Dolphin had 5 washers and dryers and it was $1 per wash and dry. Also 2 irons. Be aware there is no cold cycle, so even though the machine readout says cold, the water is hot. I found this out by opening the machine as the water had started going in to my dark clothes and burned my hand! Changed setting to "colors" which was not as hot, but surely not even cool. Evenings are less crowded with others doing laundry than during the day. Spa. One in our group had a massage and facial at the spa, and she enjoyed all the treatments. She said the girls were not pushy with selling their products either. Ports: In Huatulco we walked to the beach by the ship and were able to use chairs and umbrellas at a local restaurant and bought drinks from them. $2 beer. The water was very nice and the view of the ship was spectacular. You could rent wave runners here or go for a ride on the banana raft. We did not stop in Guatemala as there was a transit strike. We had a private tour booked with Turansa Tours there, and they refuse to give us a full refund; they said they will refund half our payment as they claim they incurred costs that day. Obviously their decision will impact our using this company in the future, as the skipped port was due to an issue in their country, and they would not have been able to drive us anywhere as roads were being blocked everywhere according to the news. Not a smart business move on their part. Nicaragua we did the ship's Masaya Volcano tour which was very good. Comfy bus and excellent tour guide, Gerald. When I discussed this tour with others, I learned our guy gave lots more information than some of the other guides. The active volcano was really cool to see, but it was very hot there. The tendering was of course a nightmare. The water was rough in the afternoon and one tender of the four apparently wasn't working, so 3 tenders had to take hundreds of people who stood for hours in the sun back to the ship. There is a market at the pier with some trinkets and stuff. Local beer too under a nice thatched roof, which is where we hung out hoping the tender line would shorten. But more buses came and unloaded people and the line grew way too long. There had to be hundreds of people in line by this point. How the ship left on time is beyond me. Costa Rica we had a private tour with Odyssey Tours. We walked to the end of the pier and met up with our guide who informed me they would split the 12 signed up people into two groups for comfort instead of squishing us into one vehicle. Thank you! Got to see monkeys, eat fresh mangoes, see crocodiles on a river ride, swim at the beach, spot a scarlet macaw (beautiful!), find the sloth hiding in the tree, and stop for coffee at a grocery store. Great tour and I highly recommend Odyssey. We also met some fun people on this tour. Entering the Panama Canal. We arrived at the Bridge of the Americas while it was still dark but it was daylight as we entered the Miraflores locks. We were in the Horizon Court at a table at the front for the first few hours. Get there early to get one. We stayed there until lunchtime, then wandered around to view at different points on the ship. For the last locks for us, Gatun, we hung out on the Promenade deck. I think the bow of the ship should also be open for guest on journeys like this one. Amazing to watch the locks work. It takes a long time to go through each but it was wonderful! Hang out on your balcony or deck 7 and get your photo taken as you go through the locks. I think the coolest photos in the Gallery were taken on aft decks with the lock behind you. One person in our group was back there and his photo came out great with a tall-masted sailboat behind him entering the lock. After going through the canal we stopped in Cristobal at what appears to be a large warehouse with vendors selling their wares. There is a nice bar at the waterside end of the pier that's outside. Good $4.50 margaritas! Horrendous line getting off the ship (entire length of ship and then some) and equally long getting back on. If I do this again, I will wait 30 minutes after docking so there's no line to get off the ship. There is no way to avoid the long line getting back on. In Jamaica we did another ship-sponsored tour which was Mystic Mountain, Bobsled, and Dunns River Falls. We went to DRF to use the beach which has eroded since our last time there in 2005 or so. Was still nice clear and warm water, so we enjoyed swimming for an hour. Then we headed to Mystic Mountain. Chair lift ride was cool and waterslide at the top was awesome. Nice pool and great views. We had a snack at the restaurant and then did the bobsled. And then again; it was so much fun. Would go there again in a second! I liked the cold towels awaiting us upon arrival back at each port. One morning at 5am my brother who was with his family on the starboard side woke up to the foul stench of waste. Turns out the waste was transferred incorrectly to a ballast near the fresh air intake. Lasted a little while and was gone. Yuck! Half of us did express walk-off and we were off the ship by 7:35am, at the airport and checked in by 8:10am. Some of our group who did not do express walk-off arrived at the airport gate by about 8:45. Plenty of time to make our 11:05 flight. There are a lot of taxis waiting at the port when you exit; note that the van rides to the airport cost more than a taxi to the airport. A few things we did not like: bed linens and a towel had holes (I couldn't believe my eyes!) and robes were too old; the long and slow tender lines were annoying. Be aware of the photo promotion giveaways; you have to ask to receive them (I got a couple cute photo magnets but only because I asked for them per a sign by the photos I bought). It appears my dad needs to call Princess to get what look like soda charges removed; he had the drink card so there should be no $2.30 charges at bars. I missed MUTS on this ship. Pizza and ice cream stations need to be open later than 6 or 7pm. The survey handed out at the end of the cruise was for input on the ports only; there was no survey for the service/food/ship, etc. No receipts seem to be given out for drinks anymore. And there was no seafood buffet in Horizon Court on sailaway. Ship was very nice and we had great weather except for 2 brief showers one day. I thought the ship handled very well even in the two short spouts of rough seas we encountered. This was the smallest ship we've ever sailed, yet it did not disappoint us! Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
Ahhhhh the Island Princess. What a great time, what a great ship. The itinerary for this Panama Canal saiing was incredible, all countries I had yet to visit and all countries with amazing food! First, my disclaimer. I am a 45 yr old ... Read More
Ahhhhh the Island Princess. What a great time, what a great ship. The itinerary for this Panama Canal saiing was incredible, all countries I had yet to visit and all countries with amazing food! First, my disclaimer. I am a 45 yr old married woman who travels with mom. I live full-time in Hawaii, on the island of Maui. When I travel I do not go to beaches or do any ocean sports as I live on the best beaches in the world. So sorry, folks, no beach reviews from these ports. Although, Huatalco and Jamaica had the most inviting waters. We chose embarkation in Acapulco because we love to visit Acapulco. I had six airports and four flights in two days to get there from Maui. My mother had it easier going from SFO. We flew through Mexico City and it was not a problem, Mexico City airport is easy to navigate and pleasant to sit around in. Acapulco airport, on the other hand, is a little bit mixed up and on what I call "island time". If you're luggage does not show up in the customs arrival area, simply go to domestic, it's sitting there. Apparently happens all the time. We stayed at the Grand Acapulco, which was quite nice and QUIET. Embarkation process was no problem. We arrived early, 11 am, and had to wait an hour, but I used the internet right there in the terminal and ended up meeting my Cruise Critic friends there as well. So the trip was off to a good start. We found our ocean view obstructed cabin with no problem. We met our room steward right away and I made sure I got my egg crate mattress pad. Mom did not want one, but I am a side sleeper and needed the extra cushion. Make sure you get on this right away, as the ship does not have many and the steward will try to talk you out of it. Our cabin was small, but had an incredible amount of storage space and drawers. The picture window was blocked by a life boat, however, natural light streamed into the room and you could look out and see where you were. We enjoyed our room. However, I have to admit, more than once on this cruise I wished I had sprung for the balcony. If you have the budget, please get a balcony, the weather is amazing and warrants a sit outside. I had read many reviews of Island Princess before this trip. I was worried about quite a few things and thankfully none of them ever happened: There was no cigarette smoke anywhere I was, the Cruise Director, Frank, was everywhere and having a good time, my cabin was awesome, the staff were awesome, the food in the Dining Room far exceeded my foodie expectations, the buffet not so much, people loved the entertainment and there was plenty of it. The ship felt large and roomy and honestly, aside from formal night there was never anybody around. The ship felt empty more than it seemed full. This cruise itinerary attracts a large retired population, there were no children on the ship, there were very few under 40. People eat early and go to bed early. I met up with a group from the Cruise Critic roll call and did almost all of my shore excursions with them and we hired private tour operators from Cruise Critic. I only took one ship excursion and it felt like I was being "herded" from place to place. I was extremely happy with my private tour operators. You can email me personally if you want their contact information. The food on the ship exceeded my expectations in the dining room only. The buffet was not good. I am a coffee drinker and I bought the coffee card, which gave me access to espresso drinks and freshly brewed coffee from the bars. The only place you will find freshly brewed coffee is at the bars, the buffet and the dining room use a syrup mixed with water and it is putrid. If you really need your coffee, I highly recommend either bringing your own and a small coffee maker, or the Starbucks VIA, which I had, and VIA is better than the espresso drinks they make. The Panama Canal crossing was awesome. I recommend getting up early and heading to the top of the ship, or to the Baja or Caribe decks all the way forward and watching the approach INTO the canal. Then I took a nap and got back up for the first locks. Then a nap. Then the second locks and the Gaillard Cut, nap and then finally the last locks and sail to Carribean Sea. It is best to move around the ship constantly, unless you have a balcony, of course. The entertainment on the ship was abundant. I played bingo and trivia and had a lot of fun. For me, the best entertainer of all was Martin Kaye, a piano guy in the Crooners Bar each and every night from 9-12 pm. Unfortunately, Martin was on his last cruise and has moved on to the Grand Princess. I am not a fan of the production shows, but they were enjoyed by most everyone I talked to. I did not lay out by the pool at all, but everytime I cruised through there, it seemed to be roomy with chairs open. I preferred the Lotus Pool, which was quieter and covered from the sun. I visited the spa twice, once for a ladies spa night, which was fun and once for a massage. I am a massage therapist and hard to please. I will just say that after my first massage I cancelled my second massage appt. Massage therapist was not skilled and I don't like to be sold products after I just got a massage. The exotic ports on this itinerary were awesome. You absolutely MUST purchase shore excursions. From the ship or privately, but you have to. There is nothing to do in any of the ports aside from Hualtulco, San Juan Del Sur and Jamaica. In every port, we had lunch and all the food was incredible and no one got sick. It's all good. These days there is good sanitation and whatnot most everywhere in the world and especially where the Island Princess takes you. Eat and Enjoy! Internet. If you absolutely need to be on the internet, it is possible, but you better start saving your money. It is expensive. Very expensive. If you wait until the last day, they have better deals. You can expect to spend at least $100 for about an hour of time and everything goes through satellite so it is really slow. There are internet cafes in some ports, but I was so busy having fun I rarely found the time to make it there. This ship is very very nice. The staff is nice. The food is great. The itinerary is exceptional. Please note, that in 2011 the Island Princess will no longer go to Guatemala, which is an amazing port, so go now! Much aloha, Laura K lauraloha@aol.com Read Less
Sail Date February 2010
Background This was our 6th cruise. We have also used Princess to cruise in Alaska. We have been on Carnival cruises 3 times and Celebrity once. This trip was taken to celebrate our 20th Anniversary. This was my wife's first trip ... Read More
Background This was our 6th cruise. We have also used Princess to cruise in Alaska. We have been on Carnival cruises 3 times and Celebrity once. This trip was taken to celebrate our 20th Anniversary. This was my wife's first trip through the canal and my second. We choose Princess because they offered the best itinerary and price for a duration of 10 days which fit our schedule. February 27 We traveled to Acapulco on Saturday to make sure we would have no issues with a delayed flight. We spent Saturday night at Las Brias hotel overlooking Acapulco. We had room with a private pool and great view of the bay. The hotel supplied us with a bottle of wine and some cheese and crackers for a snack before dinner. We had dinner in the El Bellavista Restaurant. It was an excellent. The view from our table was picture perfect as the sun set. The next morning we had fresh fruit and rolls for breakfast on our balcony next to our pool as we watched the sun rise. We could not have had a better start to our vacation. I highly recommend the hotel. February 28 Sunday morning we took a tour of all the sights in Acapulco. It was super. We took the tour from Rosie who was recommended on several cruise reviews that I read before we left. I contacted her and she made sure that everything was set for an enjoyable day in Acapulco. She took care of us and I plan to use her again. She has my strongest recommendation. Rosie's contact information: dew_days@hotmail .com or enjoy@acapulcorosietours.com. We boarded the ship in the afternoon. The boarding process was quick and easy. We had a nice night at sea. March 1 Today we pulled into Huatulco and went on a small boat to a secluded beach for a swim. Now it is back to sea. Formal night tonight. Huatulco is still being developed and unless you take a tour there are only limited options for other things to see or do in port. March 2 Our port call today was in Guatemala which is an underdeveloped country. Poverty is everywhere. Nothing is really available at port except for a few vendors in tents selling their wares. We took an all day trip to a lake thru sugar cane, coffee and pineapple fields. We saw lots of small villages......mostly without running water or electricity. If nothing else, the trip was eye opening. When we boarded the boat to cross the lake there were lots of poor children trying to push you to buy trinkets. March 3 Today we stopped in Nicaragua. We took a tour to Amayo Hacienda. This was the retreat for the first woman elected President in Nicaragua. The owners were exceptional hosts. They went out of their way to make us feel welcome. Activities included a beach, horse back riding and cow milking. The sister of the former president and her daughter served us lunch. It really was a big deal for them to make us feel at home. March 4 We had a little adventure today. We took a tour to visit the hot springs at Arenal volcano in Costa Rica. On our way up the mountain which is only accessible via a narrow road with no guard rails we got into an accident. Our bus was run off the road and came within a foot.....yes 12 inches of falling over the cliff and down the side of a steep grade. The bus had the front 2 tires on the road but was leaning over the edge with one rear set of tires in the air. We all got off safe. No injuries. Eventually after two hours a back hoe......no tow trucks up there..... came along and pulled the bus back on the road. Nothing like a little excitement. We had to turn around and return to the ship. They gave us our money back. I now know why I go to church every Sunday. :) March 5 Today was an at sea day so I will comment about the ship. The Island Princess was a fine ship and in excellent physical shape. Our stateroom which was a mini-suite had a sitting area and a bathroom with a tub. The balcony was also a little larger than a normal balcony and offered us a good place to relax and spend time looking out over the ocean. We were disappointed in the dining options for the cruise. We are not big fans of anytime dinning. We like to eat our evening meal at reasonable time. The options for this cruise were either 5:00pm or 8:00pm. The part calls described above all ended after 6:00pm and left us few options except to eat at the buffet or join the hoard trying to get anytime service. When were able to eat at 5:00pm we were dismayed to find that the number of wait staff had been reduced. It made for a long and painfully slow dining experience. The wait staff was excellent but just overworked. They did what they could to make our experience the best possible. March 6 We got up early this morning to get prime seats on the bow for our transit. The 3:30am wake up time was well worth it. The canal is an awesome engineering feat. It is hard to believe it opened in 1914. The canal system which lifts you up 84 feet and then drops you back down again is a sight to behold. The canal is in excellent shape. You can also see where they are starting to dig to widen the canal. Our clearance as we passed thru the canal was just 24 inches on each side of the ship. We made a brief stop on the Atlantic side of the canal. Vendors were available on the Pier. There was no time for tours or to go explore. March 7 The entertainment on the ship was superb. The shows were top notch and worth seeing. The casino was nice and had electronic Texas Holdem tables. We had the opportunity to stay busy or just relax during our at seas days. The average age on our cruise was 65. Being married 20 years was just a drop in the bucket for most folks on the cruise. If you are looking for a high level of activity you probably should go with Carnival. March 8 We are in Ocho Rios Jamaica today. We took a tour to Dunns River Falls where we climbed 900 plus feet up a water fall. It was an exciting climb. We got plenty wet........good sense of achievement after we finished. Next we went up a mountain to experience the Jamaican Bobsled course. It was a thrilling ride. This is our last port visit. We have one more day at sea before we get back to port in Florida on March 10th. Comments This was an outstanding cruise. It is well worth taking. It was a great way to spend our 20th Anniversary.   Read Less
Sail Date February 2010
10 DAY PANAMA CANAL CRUISE- ACAPULCO TO FORT LAUDERDALE 9 JANUARY - 19 JANUARY 2010 Our journey began in Sacramento, CA where my wife and I and our neighbors, Bob and Joann left for San Francisco on a Friday, late in the afternoon. The ... Read More
10 DAY PANAMA CANAL CRUISE- ACAPULCO TO FORT LAUDERDALE 9 JANUARY - 19 JANUARY 2010 Our journey began in Sacramento, CA where my wife and I and our neighbors, Bob and Joann left for San Francisco on a Friday, late in the afternoon. The weather in Sacramento had been dismal since the holidays with cold, gray days. O.K., I know you cruisers in the Midwest and East think we are softies out here in California, but, in any case, this weather was a perfect incentive for a winter get-a-way to warmer climates. The plane ride to Acapulco was long and tiring beginning with a redeye out of San Francisco to Dallas/Fort Worth where we caught the Acapulco connection after a five hour layover. To make matters worse, both my wife and I caught colds from our two granddaughters who we babysit a couple days a week...great way to start a cruise vacation! We landed in Acapulco on time and moved quickly through customs. We had prearranged a van to meet us and drive us to the cruise terminal. The cost was $70 regardless of how many people were picked up so I put a post on the Princess Cruise Critic message board asking if anyone else wanted to share our van. Two nights before the cruise, two ladies from New York responded. As it turned out, they were on the flight from DFW with us so it was quite convenient. I will list the website at the end of my review. The cost ended up being $24/couple plus tip. It was a 50 minute ride to the cruise terminal through heavy traffic since it was a Saturday and many locals were in town for the weekend. The trip wound through the hotel district which lines the bay. Frankly, I was not impressed with what we saw of Acapulco. I know some people will disagree, but I think Acapulco has seen better days. The hotel district is quite run down, in spite of the running commentary our driver was giving during the ride. The big surprise so far was the weather. The entire day was overcast, but still humid with temperatures in the high 70's...not what I expected. When we arrived at the cruise terminal, a porter met us and loaded our luggage onto a cart and followed us inside. Don't forget to tip them as they are not afraid to remind you! Check in was quick and easy and we were on the ship by 4:00 pm. After a quick lunch in the Horizon Court buffet, we unpacked and settled into our balcony cabin. After the mandatory fire drill, we went to dinner followed by the Welcome Show. Not sleeping well the night before, we went back to our cabin and quickly fell asleep. During the night, the ship seemed to be rocking and rolling more than normal....a harbinger of things to come. HUATULCO, MEXICO Our first full day at sea dawned to clear skies and warm temps, but very windy. The sea was full of white caps and the water was sloshing out of the pools! During breakfast, the captain came on the public address and announced that he was just informed that our first port, Huatulco, was closed due to 15 foot swells! We had signed up for a 'Sail and Swim' tour so it was probably lucky that the port was closed as it was not warm enough to swim and it would have been a rough sail. So...an unscheduled day at sea!! We found four empty lounge chairs on the covered and enclosed Lotus Pool area and settled in for a quiet and relaxing day....not so bad. As morning turned to afternoon, the seas became rougher and the swells larger. Both pools were eventually closed and drained because most of the water was now on the surrounding deck areas! After a light lunch, we decided to go to afternoon tea in the Bordeaux dining room and got a window table. This dining room is on deck five which is pretty close to the water and now we could see that the swells were gigantic, often rising above the dining room windows and accentuated by frothy white spray. Thank goodness I had taken a seasick pill this morning as none of this bothered me. During the afternoon, we checked out the shops and noticed that people were still in line to sign up for ship tours. I found out that some of the tours were full. In fact three of the five tours we signed up for on line were closed. One word of advice...if you are going to use Princess tours, sign up for them online before the cruise...don't wait to do this onboard as many people did, only to find the more popular ones filling up and closing. PUERTO QUETZAL, GUATEMALA The day dawned clear and calm and as I looked out our balcony door, a coastline dotted with volcanoes greeted me. After a quick breakfast, we were off for our tour: Lake Atitlan and the Mayan Highlands. Two or three dozen buses lined the pier and we were directed to the correct one and began the 2 ½ hour journey. Our guide kept up an informative commentary during the journey as we slowly climbed in altitude, watching the vegetation and local crops change from sugar cane, bananas and mangos to mostly coffee. We drove through several villages and got our first glimpse of the local population. What we noticed the most were the children...lots of them...many running to wave to the bus as we passed through. When we reached the small town of San Lucas, it was time to leave the bus for the short walk to the boats that would take us across Lake Atitlan to the resort where we would have lunch. Looking out the bus windows we could see a large group of locals, all with their craft products waiting to "greet" us! They seemed to focus mostly on the women in our group (maybe they know women are the easy targets) but be warned, if you stop to buy, you will be hounded by more vendors, many of them children... very intimidating and very sad. As we boarded the boat, their last words were "after lunch lady." After a half hour ride across Lake Atitlan, we arrived at the hotel/resort where we were to have lunch. But first we had to make our way through more locals trying to sell their crafts. My best advice if you don't want to buy anything, keep walking and look straight ahead. If you stop to look at something, you will be hounded until you buy! Don't get me wrong, some of their products are very beautiful, but they make it a very difficult when things are thrust in your face. Luckily some vendors were allowed inside the hotel grounds and we were able to buy some souvenirs with less pressure. After a delicious buffet lunch, we began our walk back to the boat through the locals who were waiting for us at the hotel gate. Once we were back on board, they crowded onto to the dock hoping for one last opportunity to sell us something. You can't help but feel empathy for these people, but they make it very difficult to try and help them by buying their crafts. My last vision of this ramshackle village was two little girls, not selling anything, saying goodbye to us as we boarded our bus. It was a long day and we got back on board to sail off to our next port. After another delicious dinner, some shopping at the ship venues it was off to bed. We enjoyed our tour not just for the chance to see the Guatemala countryside, but also for the opportunity to see the people. As impoverished as their lives seemed to us, one thing was obvious...they all seemed happy! SAN JUAN DEL SUR, NICARAGUA We awoke to another clear but windy day as we cruised along the Central American coast. Since we don't dock until noon, we had a leisurely breakfast and some relaxing time by the enclosed and covered Lotus pool. Oh, oh...the captain is making another announcement..."Due to extremely windy conditions, we will not be able to use the tenders to get into San Juan del Sur so we are continuing on to Puntarenas!" Bummer! This is very disappointing...we planned this cruise this time year thinking it would be good weather wise, no rain and a bit cooler, but we didn't plan on this...very disappointing. So, another day at sea. Time to plan some onboard activities! Went to afternoon tea and had an excellent dinner, then went to our second show: The Piano Man which featured the Princess dancers and singers...great costumes and songs! Went out on our balcony at midnight and the seas seemed to be calmer...hope for good weather tomorrow. PUNTARENAS, COSTA RICA YEA!!! A bright sun woke me up early this morning. I let the wife sleep in as we had no tours until after lunch. I went out on the pool deck to work on my journal/review and the weather is finally good...light breeze and temps in the high 70's. I am looking forward to a fun day in Costa Rica. While our friends went on an early zip line tour, my wife and I walked down the pier to the vendor area which lined the beach area. These vendors were not at all aggressive like in Guatemala and my wife found some local jewelry and I bought a polo shirt. We walked into town looking for more local shops, but didn't find any of any quality. We did find an internet cafe straight up the street from the pier...30 minutes for $1 or one hour for $2!! Much better than the ship's rates. Our tour: ECO-JUNGLE TOUR, left after lunch and after an hour bus ride, we arrived at the spot where we boarded the small boats which held about 45 people. We began our slow trip down through the mangrove lined river looking for wildlife. Soon we saw two iguanas sunning themselves in a tree and several species of birds. We then heard loud squawks in the distance and the guide told us that they were scarlet macaws. In a matter of minutes a pair of the birds with brilliant scarlet tails flew across the bow of our boat...what a sight! The guide said that they mate for life and often live 75 years. Later we saw several crocodiles along the shore and the boat driver got close enough for pictures. After we arrived back at the dock, we had time for some local fresh fruits and beverages. Then it was back on the bus for the drive back to the ship, dinner and some shopping. DAY AT SEA After breakfast, we snagged some lounges by the lido pool in the shade, knowing that pool side would be popular on this first official sea day. There was a slight breeze and calm seas, a perfect day for relaxing. My wife and I even tested the pool and hot tub, both of which were very comfortable. After lunch, we discovered that the ice cream bar also serves shakes and malts, but you will pay $2.50...worth it! We listened to a lecture on the Panama Canal in the afternoon, had dinner, saw a great show: Do You Want to Dance, and got to bed a bit earlier so we can be up by 5:00 for our canal transit day. PANAMA CANAL TRANSIT We got up at 5:00 am,UGH, to be in place for the entrance to the canal. The best viewing spots for pictures are the front of Baja and Caribe decks all the way forward through two doors. By the time we got there at 5:45, people were already lined up two deep. The ones with the best spots got there at 4:30! We were number 19 to enter the canal this day, but 17 had already gone through since midnight and there was only number 18 ahead of us. After passing under the Bridge of the Americas, It took about 45 minutes to go through each of the first two locks with a slight gap in between the first two and the third lock, rising up 85 feet from the Pacific! Then we passed under the new Centennial bridge before entering Gaillard Cut, the most difficult part of the canal to excavate since it ran through the Continental Divide and kept caving in during construction. The weather has been great, with some humidity, but not too hot. Next, comes Gatun Lake before we enter the three Gatun locks which will take us down to the Atlantic. While having lunch, we crossed Gatun Lake, which is huge...once the largest manmade lake in the world until Lake Mead was created in Arizona. Once we dropped back down 85 feet to the Atlantic, we soon arrived in the port of Cristobal which provided us with a covered pier full of flea market stalls and duty free shops, food stalls and alcohol sales. The quality is not fabulous (save that for Ocho Rios) but we found some souvenirs and a panama hat! It has been a long day and after dinner and a great show, our cabin and bed are looking awfully good. Good thing we have a sea day tomorrow and can spend the day relaxing. SEA DAY The seas started to get rough during the show after dinner last night and it got rougher as the evening progressed. I get seasick and took a motion sickness pill before we went to bed and slept well. When we woke up this morning, it was still rough, if not rougher. The buffet breakfast was an ordeal, trying to fill your plate and try and find a table with the ship 'rocking and rolling.' We found four lounge chairs by the Lotus Pool and plan on spending the afternoon relaxing. I know there has been lots of discussion on Cruise Critic regarding chair hogs and I noticed that things have not changed. We walked onto the Lido Pool/Deck at 9:00 before breakfast and could not find four loungers together. Many lounges just had towels on them, but we went into the Lotus Pool area and found four together. So, we put our towels, hats and bags on our chairs and went to breakfast! If you can beat them, join them. Bottom line is, don't go up to any pool area at 11;00 am or later and expect to find more than two loungers together. Honestly, we are not sun lovers and enjoyed the Lotus Pool area the most. It has a retractable roof, which is kept closed most of the time and is air conditioned, but not too cool and is quiet. It is usually less crowded. The Lido Pool area is open air and on our trip was quite humid. There is usually a band playing on and off (my wife loved it, but it was just noise to me) and there is usually some other type of group cruise activity. The day we did spend on Lido Deck, it was Mr. Sexy Legs competition where one of the contestants was from Sacramento! The seas became calmer and the skies cleared this afternoon and after a late lunch we went back to the Lotus Pool. Tonight is the last formal night and lobster and pheasant are on the menu. We dined with two ladies from Sacramento that I met on the Princess Cruise Critic Message Board. OCHO RIOS We docked in Ocho Rios at 9:00 in the morning and after a quick breakfast we left the ship for a marathon day of shopping. We decided to cancel the tour we had scheduled for this morning to allow maximum time in town, since this would be our last port. There are three main shopping areas in Ocho Rios: the Taj Mahal Center which is mostly jewelry stores, which are duty free and a smattering of souvenir shops, the Harbor Shops where the Joe Pirana souvenir store is located and the Island Village on the Beach, which has the best quality stores including Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville. It rained the night before, so it never got very hot, but it was quite humid. We shopped all day and never even stopped for lunch, getting back to the ship right at last call!! We had quite a few cab drivers and tour companies lining the street outside of the cruise terminal hawking their services, but other than that, it was a hassle free day of shopping. We weren't able to find any internet cafes in Ocho Rios. DAY AT SEA The last day of our cruise is here and we all agree that it is great to have a sea day to wrap up our vacation. We finally have calm seas and warm temperatures so everyone, it seems, is out by one of the pools. This is the day to fill out the cruise evaluations (ship and itinerary) and count up all your purchases for the customs form. We also received the instructions for disembarkation and it seems fairly organized. Unless you signed up for early departure, which means you must carry off all your own luggage, you are assigned a time and place to meet depending on your deck and cabin location. More on the success of this process when it actually happens tomorrow. DISEMBARKATION We went to our assigned meeting location on the ship twenty minutes early and were promptly told to proceed off the ship. We picked up our luggage and were through customs in ten minutes. We were directed to a van which we shared with three other couples and the cost was $20/ couple plus tip....not bad. When we got to the airport, a ten minute drive,we discovered that one of our bags was over the 50 lb. limit and our travelling companions had the same problem. After a bit of shifting, we were o.k. Be careful, because the charge for being overweight is $90/bag!! We are now through security and waiting for our flight home. So, disembarkation was quick and easy for us, but it appeared that we were the only ship in port this day, so things may different for you. THE SHIP Having cruised primarily on Oceania previously, this was our first time on a Princess ship and it took us a while to get used to a bigger ship. Half way through the cruise, we pretty much knew where everything was and which way to turn when we got off the elevator or stairs. As previous reviewers have noted, the ship has been kept in very good shape. Our cabin was on Aloha deck and was completely covered by the overhang from the pool deck above. Bahia deck below us was also covered, but the decks below that were in the full sun as they jutted out further. The rooms are of typical size with the usual small bathrooms, but we did notice that the closet space is very generous for hanging clothes. We chose Any Time Dining so we were assigned to the Bordeaux Dining Room, but the Provence Dining Room one deck above, is exactly the same for traditional diners. We thought the food was above average with good entrEe choices each night. The Horizon Court, where we ate most of our breakfasts and lunches had a good choice of hot and cold food. There is also a Pizza Bar by the Lido pool with a Hamburger Bar directly above on the Sun Deck. Our favorite was the Ice Cream Bar near the Lotus Pool. There is a Quick Reference card in each cabin which you can carry with you that lists all the hours of the food venues and bars. There were plenty of choices for entertainment. We went to several shows and thought they were excellent. They have two theater venues so if you miss a show, they usually will repeat it the next night. We are not late night people, so I can't comment on those options, but it appeared that there were lots of choices. I love to play slots, but kept out of the casino because I know the odds are especially bad at sea. They did have two smoke free nights. For those of you that are nonsmokers like we are, surprisingly, smoking was not an issue. The first night in Acapulco, we encountered a smoker on his balcony next to us and my wife commented, "Oh, great...someone is smoking right next to us." A few moments later, he went inside his cabin and we never saw him or smelled smoke again. Walking down on of the corridors to get to our cabin, we did notice one cabin that even stunk up the hall. I would have hated to be next to them. Even the cabin steward said it was unusually bad! Other than that, the ship was pretty much smoke-free, even on the pool deck. Our fellow cruisers averaged in age between 60-65 and since it was the middle of January, very few children. I think we counted maybe a couple dozen kids, mostly preteens. I heard the cruise before us had 500 kids!! We had just about every nationality represented...all having a good time. While lounging on the pool deck people watching, I spotted a couple in their 80's walking and holding hands! I even saw some cruisers with handicaps on their scooters or in wheelchairs moving about the ship and even some with walkers. Cruising is for everyone! The tours we went on were very good. Our tours in Huatulco and Nicaragua were cancelled because of high seas which prevented us from docking and we decided to cancel our tour in Ocho Rios to have the entire day for shopping. The tour: LAKE ATITLAN AND THE MAYAN HIGHLANDS in Guatemala and THE ECO-JUNGLE TOUR in Costa Rica were both excellent and I would recommend them both. By the way, they were both sold out by the time we left each day. SUGGESTIONS AND TIPS • Book your tours online before you leave. If you change your mind, you can cancel within the allowed time. • Prearrange transfers from the airport to the cruise terminal or hotel. Groups of 4 to 6 will keep your cost down. The one we used was: Acapulco Rosie's Tours: dew_days@hotmail.com • On canal transit day, get up early, at least by 5:00 am, and go to Baja or Caribe decks all the way forward to their open decks (they will not be marked) and bring a chair if you can't stand for three or four hours. This will offer you the best views of the locks. • Personal choice dining is wonderful. You can eat anytime you want from 5:30 to 10:00 pm and we never had a problem getting a table for four. • Bring lots of cash, especially dollar bills, as all of the off ship vendors will take U.S. currency. • Look for internet cafes in the ports. They are much cheaper than internet on the ship. • Use Cruise Critic to find information about your trip and ask questions. • On sea days, have a leisurely breakfast and or lunch in the Bordeaux dining room. After a while, the food in the Horizon Buffet gets a little monotonous. • Be careful when packing for the trip home. You will probably come back with more than you left home with and you don't want to exceed the 50 lb. checked bag limit. FINAL IMPRESSIONS This cruise definitely receives a thumbs-up from the four of us. The food was good and tours, the ones we took, were excellent. Going through the canal was, without a doubt, the highlight of the trip. Our cabin was adequate and even though we didn't get to use our balcony that much, it was worth the extra cost. The shows were excellent as were all the facilities. The two pool areas offered totally different environments: the Lido Pool, lots of sun/shade areas, warm pool, four hot tubs and entertainment vs. the Lotus Pool, which was covered, quiet and warm pool and two hot tubs. We never felt the need to use and pay for the Sanctuary. The weather was not perfect, some rough seas, but it was never hot and humid, even going through the canal. Anyone who has this cruise on their vacation calendar is in for a real treat. If you have any specific questions about my comments/commentary, please feel free to email me directly: chaslin@surewest.net. Have a wonderful time, I know we did. Read Less
Sail Date January 2010
Introduction: We are a family of four, from Texas. This cruise was a gift to us from my in-laws, avid cruisers with 11 Princess cruises under their belt, 21 cruises in all. We were seven altogether. To cut to the chase, this was a ... Read More
Introduction: We are a family of four, from Texas. This cruise was a gift to us from my in-laws, avid cruisers with 11 Princess cruises under their belt, 21 cruises in all. We were seven altogether. To cut to the chase, this was a wonderful cruise, great food, great service, great excursions. Everyone on Princess went out of their way to make our trip memorable. I enjoyed each and every minute of it. December 19, 2009 Precruise We were met by representatives from Princess at the airport who took our bags and we climbed aboard the bus. The airport was farther from the hotel than I imagined from looking at Google Earth. Traffic was slow and uphill, so we were glad to leave the driving to someone else. As we arrived in front of the Grand Hotel, the driver had to make a U-turn on a busy street to drive up the hotel driveway. We left the bus and followed our Princess rep toward the back of the lobby and were greeted by waiters with glasses of something cold and tropical (pineapple and coconut? and non-alcoholic. We sat for an orientation and were advised that we could take an excursion that evening to see the Cliff Divers or wait for a bus tour of the city with cliff divers the next morning. We opted for the next day, got our room keys and went upstairs. We had three rooms on the 18th floor. The view from the balcony was nice -- the beach, the pool. We went to the beach in front of the hotel. It was a cloudy day, so the water was not sparkling blue as you would imagine. After a quick swim, we dressed for dinner. We decided on the downstairs restaurant -- pretty similar to any Mexican food restaurant at home. Not organized as we are used to, but not too dissimilar. We went to buy some wine to take on board, and perhaps some tequila, but I couldn't remember the brands I had heard recommended. Wine was surprisingly more expensive than the same brands at home, and the selection was much less than our regular grocery store. We got some Acapulco t-shirts and magnets and stood for a long time in line to check out. When we checked out with our credit card, we did not understand why we got pesos back and we did not understand the receipt. It looked like we were charged a lot more and got cash back? (Our credit card online showed the correct amount, so still don't understand why we got pesos back.) Warning: our card got frozen by this transaction by the credit card company and our ship charges were denied. We had to call the bank and straighten it out, so it's a good thing to let your credit card company know you'll be charging in a foreign country. Dec. 20, 2009 Acapulco My daughter and I woke up early and sat on the balcony in the pre-dawn darkness. We could hear birds and traffic below. As the sky began to lighten, we could see the Island Princess in the distance. When the rest of the family got up, we had breakfast in the hotel dining room. They gave us a basket with a variety of rolls, pastries and bread -- all excellent, especially the chocolate filled. There was an adult buffet and a smaller version children's buffet with both American and Mexican breakfast foods, as well as a menu. My daughter had the children's buffet and she went back several times for the fresh-squeezed papaya juice. I had a plate of tropical fruit, coffee and bread. We put our suitcases outside of our doors, checked out of the hotel and loaded onto the bus for our city tour. Our guide was 63-year-old Andres, who pointed out all of the homes of celebrities and movie stars. We drove to Los Flamingos Hotel that was owned at one time by Johnny Weismiller and John Wayne. We got out and walked around the paths and stairs, enjoying the spectacular view. Next stop was near the cliff divers to the P&P Jewelry Store for a free drink (beer, margarita, soft drink) and a chance to buy silver or gold jewelry. I realize the sales people work on commission but I do not like to be followed around the store. My husband and daughters were conspiring to buy me something, so I made myself scarce and went outside to take photos of the vendors. They were selling t-shirts, tablecloths, jewelry and other souvenirs. The group then walked to the Mirador Hotel to watch the Cliff Divers. It was very hot as we waited for the show to begin. After the show, we reboarded the bus and went straight to the cruise terminal. Check-in and embarkation was incredibly quick. In fact, my in-laws are 'preferred' and we were able to check in before them. As we stepped aboard and into the atrium, it was shimmering with white lights and garland. We were quickly whisked to the person selling the Ultimate Kid Package (unlimited soda, hot chocolate and mocktails) and the soda card. Everyone but me got the UKP sticker -- I'm not that big of a soda drinker and I'd rather have a real cocktail. Our mini-suite was B218, and we went to look out the balcony. Our room steward, Benedict, immediately welcomed us and offered us a glass of champagne but we were starving and opted to go to the buffet right away. (Benedict was a great room steward -- always seemed to slip in and get our room ready when we were out.) We had a 2 for 1 coupon for the coffee card and purchased two of those on our way to the Horizon Court. Paul found the Princess Pizza near the pool. Back at our room, we unpacked and decorated our door. I went to the Explorer Lounge for the Roll Call Meet and Greet. -------------------- Dinner that night at the Bordeaux Dining Room. We had opted for Anytime Dining as we had several excursions that might have run into the early dinner we were initially assigned. We ran out of time for dessert because of the muster drill and sail away party. We also had to register for the Shockwaves program for our daughters, so we went back later for coffee and dessert. We were glad we had purchased the coffee card as we had latte, cappucino or mocha every morning and every night. December 21, 2009 Huatulco Breakfast in the Horizon Court -- made to order omelets -- as we pulled into Huatulco. We opted not to have an excursion, instead the girls swam in the ocean and when they tired of that they built sandcastles and buried each other in the sand. I was approached by a young woman named Adelaide, who offered me a table, chairs and a beach umbrella. I asked if there was a drink or food minimum and she said no, so I sat down, ordered a Modelo and enjoyed the breeze while watching the girls. Many vendors brought by textiles, jewelry and carvings, none of which I bought, but they were not aggressive and I enjoyed watching them. We went back to the ship for a quick lunch, then found a taxi van to take all of us to the little town of La Cruecita. The town is very clean and has many modern buildings. The square looks like a typical village with a gazebo in the square and a church on one side. The church is beautifully painted inside with a large Virgin of Guadalupe on the ceiling above the center aisle and dark sky and stars above the far aisles. We bought some magnets, Christmas ornaments and t-shirts from a shop on the square. Our taxi came back for us on time, but in the meantime, other drivers had bargained for our business, and we were able to bring the price down. Back on ship, the sea was starting to get rough, the roughest we experienced on the voyage. I went to meet others from the roll call while my husband laid down and tried to feel less motion. I picked up my youngest daughter from the Shockwaves program where she had been coloring a Shockwaves t-shirt. She enjoyed the program, although there was too much other stuff going on for her to want to attend it all the time. We all got dressed for dinner, the first formal night. )While most people looked nice tonight and every night, it was not the huge deal I had read about here on CC. Smart casual was more casual than smart, and no one seemed to mind or be any the worse for it. Definitely not worth stressing over or buying new clothes.) My husband could not eat due to motion sickness and left the table. Both girls felt queasy and took my advice to nibble on crusty rolls and felt better almost immediately, enough to both order a half order of fettuccine. The girls and I left before dessert as we wanted to go to the Champagne Waterfall and then to see Wayne Hoffman, the mentalist and illusionist. I gave him my ring as part of his show and he linked it to two others. His show was great. After the show, we stopped by to see if my husband was feeling any better and wanted to go have dessert with us. He got up and dressed again and we went to the MDR for dessert and coffee. By this time, he was feeling sufficiently hungry that he spied some steak another diner was eating and ordered dinner. You have to love anytime dining! Tuesday, December 22, 2009 Guatemala Breakfast at HC, watching the coastline of Guatemala get closer and closer. At 9:15 met in the Explorer Lounge for excursion to Filadefia Coffee Plantation and Antigua. This was the first of four Princess excursions. The passengers exited the ship on a gangplank, through a "welcome tent" and past vendors with many beautiful items for sale. We were taken to three buses going to Filadelphia, about 1.5 hours away. Our guide was a fairly young man with a good grasp of English and easy to understand. He gave a good talk as we went through the countryside and was available for any questions. When we reached the plantation, the local guide boarded the bus. We stopped first for a quick bathroom break, then reboarded to go to the fields. She explained the coffee grows on lower bushes but is shaded by higher trees. She explained the different layers of the coffee beans, grafting and growing, then harvesting. We reboarded the bus and went back to the processing area to see how the beans are sorted first by washing them, then drying in the sun, hand sorting and finally roasting and packaging. We had lunch on the grounds under a very large tent, such as one would use for a wedding reception outdoors. A mariachi band played and we got our meal: chicken or beef, refried beans, rice, tortillas, chips and guacamole. Dessert was a luscious and light coffee mouse. We had orangeade to drink, and you could purchase a soft drink or beer. Outside of our tent, a male and female mascaradas -- giant puppets -- danced. After lunch, we went to Antigua. Our guide warned us the vendors would be very aggressive and they were - the most aggressive of any on our excursions in Latin American countries. They mobbed the bus as we got off, and it was impossible to hear our guide point out the different things in the plaza as the vendors moved into the crowd and tried to engage everyone to buy their goods. It was sad to see young children hawking goods -- I hope they are normally in school, only here because it is Christmas break. Our guide took us to a jade store/factory/museum and then to a market contained inside a building. Inside the stalls were like mazes. The shop keepers were friendly and had many beautiful items to sell. We returned to the ship in time for dinner -- my appetizer was pineapple and pistachios; mango soup and chicken breast from the "left side" of the menu -- the side that is always available. My husband had the chiappino (sp?), which he pronounced excellent. We went to the Adrian Zmed show at the Universal Lounge. Zmed was a co-star with William Shatner on TJ Hooker, also some guest starring roles such as the Love Boat. They played clips of his career and he good-naturedly made fun of himself now that he's a little older, less hair and a little more out of breath. During one of the numbers, a cast member pulled my 12-year-old daughter onto the floor with a hula hoop. At first she didn't know what to do and then went into action and hula hooped better than anyone to a big round of applause. Wednesday, December 23, 2009 Nicaragua I was awake early because of a cold and unable to sleep much. I went to the HC for coffee and sat on the Lido Deck watching the crew get the area ready for the day. We had breakfast and an early lunch at the HC so we could leave for our excursion to the Masaya Volcano National Park. We took tenders to San Juan del Sur. There were some vendors and dancers, as well as three firemen standing at attention for donations. Very dedicated, those firemen. Our local guide spoke excellent English and was easy to understand. He talked non-stop for 1.5 hours as we drove to the volcano. I looked out the window at the homes and countryside as I listened to him. He told us about the civil wars in the 80s between the Contra and the Sandinistas and related his own personal story that he had been drafted at age 17 by the Sandinistas. At that time, he was in high school and spoke English, having learned it in parochial school at age 12. His parents did not want him to be in the army, but reasoned that his knowledge of English and his education made him a valuable asset. But the Sandinistas wanted him to be "re-educated" and sent him to work in the morgue. Roberto was very passionate about his country and stressed that much has changed since the 80s. He said the country is trying to recover economically and to bring tourism to the country. It was a long 1.5 hour ride to the park -- the only national park in Nicaragua -- I enjoyed looking out the windows so it did not seem as long. If you have children, bring their DS or ipod, or a coloring book. The volcano itself is a large crater with sulfuric smoke. If you are asthmatic, I would not recommend this excursion. Frankly, there is not much to do here -- we peered over the edge, and climbed the stairs for a better look, but that's really it. The bathroom facility is primitive, more like an outhouse. Our guides gave us a snack of a bottle of water, an apple, croissant filled with some type of meat and a bag of corn snacks. We got on the bus and drove a short distance to Catarina, a village with a small market and a nice overview of the two large lakes. We had a beer at the restaurant and used the bathroom. The bathrooms were clean but one lacked toilet paper or a toilet seat. The vendors in the market were not aggressive at all. They had wood carvings, shoes, pottery and other items for safe. These bells were my favorite thing -- I would have purchased them if I thought I could get them home in one piece and not tip the scales on my suitcase. At the crest of the hill, there was a community nativity scene. I liked the fact that the baby had not yet arrived in the manager. We were only here a short time as we had to race back to the ship. On the way back, it became dark and we could see that almost all of the homes had a string or two of Christmas lights, a Christmas tree and a color television set, even though the homes were relatively poor. As it was, we were late to the tenders -- but so were about 1,000 others. The firemen were still there, and other vendors hoping for last minute sales. Back on board, we got in line for dinner outside the Bordeaux. It was the first time we had to wait at all for a table, but then, even the "first seating" diners did, too, as many people came back late from their excursion. We were escorted to a table and our waiter was a young Filipino man named Alvin. He addressed my oldest daugher by name -- he had been in an adjoining section the night before when we had dessert and overheard us calling her by name. He was very friendly to the girls, as was his supervisor, Nelson. They both did magic tricks. The girls loved all the attention and from then on, nothing would do but to be at Alvin's table. December 24, 2009 Costa Rica Again, I awoke too early and went to the HC for coffee and sat on the Lido Deck in the pool area. It was 5 a.m. and a dad brought his two teen-aged sons to swim laps! That's dedication. I moved to the Promenade and watched the crew swapping the decks and wiping the railings. The crew takes an amazing amount of care of the ship. One time we came across an entire group of young men on their knees on the stairs, scrubbing the carpet and getting into the corners of each step. I moved to the Crooner's Lounge and listened to the piped-in music, reflecting how lucky I was to be here. I got up, peered over the rail at the 5th deck of the Atrium and was delighted to see a huge display of gingerbread houses and Santas. I went back to the room and everyone got up and dressed for breakfast in the HC as we had to leave by 7:40 for our excursion to the Original Canopy Adventure zipline. It was already hot and humid. Our guide on the bus was already drenched in sweat. We had a small bus to take us to Mahogany Park for ziplining, about 45 minutes away. The guide told us that Costa Rica was pretty prosperous, due in part to investments in technology and call centers. There is a large middle class, a democratic republic with a balanced social program. The homes we passed seemed to bear him out, as they were small to medium sized, but well maintained with beautiful yards and gardens. Education was free and mandatory with government subsidies for families who couldn't afford to send their children to school. Tourism was also an important industry. As will all the tours we have taken, we felt very welcomed and valuable to the host countries. Our guide stressed that the ziplining was very safe, although not as exciting as some others, but it was safety first. Sounded good to me, as I am not a fan of heights. At Mahogany Park, we first used the rest room -- I mention this because it was very clean (smelled of Lysol!) and there were flush toilets, unlike the day before. We were outfitted with helmets, gloves and harnesses and walked a few minutes down the trail to the first tree we would climb via a metal staircase. The zipline guide explained how to sit, how to hold on to the strap, and how to brake with your hand behind your head. We could see the group ahead of us zipping along the first segment, not far off the ground. So far, so good. The first of seven segments was not too bad, but we landed on a very narrow metal platform, and I had to tippy toe and then pull down the line so the guide could release my pulley. There were plenty of guides, all about 20 years old, and we were tethered at all times by a safety line, but it was a little disconcerting if you are not a fan of heights. We made our way around the tree to the next zipline segment. We were filmed the entire time by the park still photographer and videographer. By the third segment, our 9-year-old was hysterical. The tree was very high up -- about 60 feet -- and the chasm seemed very great. We had to make our way around the tree again to zip off. She was screaming uncontrollably and I wasn't doing too well myself. (BTW, there were other children on the tour and none of them had any problems.) There was no way down except to zip down. At the end of the zipline, we got a bottle of cold water, much needed, took off our equipment, and walked 15 minutes to the base where we had the chance to buy the video of our experience (we did). Having survived once, I think I could do it again... The video does not look at high as it did in real life! Back on the ship, we had lunch and I took the girls to the pool to cool off. There were plenty of chairs available, and the pool was not crowded. After the pool, the girls wanted to play shuffleboard, so we went to the back of the ship where the shuffleboard was. They played a bit and then played checkers using the giant chess set since they don't know how to play chess. Dinner time at the Bordeaux. We were not able to get Alvin as his section was full. The waiter we did get seemed a bit preoccupied, I'm glad we had not been assigned to him for the entire cruise. I had the tropical fruit soup (really, it's a smoothie!) and fettuccine with a mocha and cherries jubilee for dessert. After a long day and full meal, we were sleepy and decided to call it a day. Christmas Day at Sea I woke up early and went to the balcony to see the first light. There, arching from the sea beside the ship, was the most beautiful and most vivid rainbow I've ever seen. Breakfast at HC and then met the family in the Wheelhouse to open presents. We were not the only ones with this idea -- the other large, extended family was very organized and had planned out their Christmas morning with stockings hung up, hot chocolate ordered and pastries delivered! We overheard them reading scripture and singing Christmas carols. Nice! We just drew up some chairs for the seven of us. Grandma and Grandpa spoiled everyone as usual, more than I anticipated as they already spoiled us by giving us the cruise as a Christmas gift! After opening gifts, we went to the Atrium, which was awash in red balloons and streamers in addition to the Christmas decorations already in place. There were tables set up for decorating cookies, tattoos, coloring, making buttons. And of course, Santa arrived down the elevator and was enthroned on the landing with the Youth program direct assisting him in giving out a package to every child that contained a Princess teddy bear. For lunch, we went to the Bayou Cafe for British Pub Lunch. I had the cottage pie, others in our group had fish and chips or bangers and mash. Food was good and hot! More swimming, shuffleboard and checkers in the afternoon. Unfortunately, we were not at Alvin's station as we could not make reservations on Christmas.We went to the comedy show with Billy Vader. We left after a few minutes because it was not appropriate for kids (and not labeled as such anywhere). December 26, 2009 The Panama Canal I was more excited about the Panama Canal than a kid getting up to check for Santa's arrival. My husbnad and I walked forward on the Caribe deck, there were only a couple of others out there as we approached Panama City and the Bridge of the Americas. We saw the pilot's ship and as it began to get lighter, got the girls out of bed to witness the Mira Flores locks. They were somewhat interested but it is a long process to go through each lock. We walked around the ship to see the locks at different perspectives and then had breakfast in the HC where we could hear the commentary. We sat on the deck chairs on the promenade as we cruised slowly through the channel. It was incredibly quiet and peaceful. We watched as the channel opened up into Gatun Lake and then the last locks appeared. We went back to the front of the ship to watch as we went through the locks. There was a green container ship beside us and we waved to the crew as they watched from their ship. We also noticed a road in front of the last lock that cars and buses were passing over and we wondered how that would work. When the gates opened the bridge swung to the side as well. Very interesting! We docked at Colon and there was a huge line to disembark. It moved very quickly and we wandered around the handicrafts and souvenirs. There were tribal people selling their wares, clad in loincloths and tattoos. We had a tropical smoothie blended for us at one of the stalls. After dinner, the girls and I went to see "Do You Wanna Dance" show featuring the Princess singers and dancers in a variety of dance styles and songs. We enjoyed it very much December 27, 2009 Sea Day We had breakfast at the Bordeaux with many waiters at our beck and call, and it was quiet and elegant as compared with the rushed breakfast in the HC. Alvin and Nelson fussed over the girls, bringing them pots of hot chocolate. After breakfast, we carted our laundry to the self-service laundromat on the Baja deck. We were able to use four washers at once and got our laundry done in record time. We enjoyed chatting with the other people who were doing laundry as well. Our daughters went with their grandfather to play Monopoly in the game room and my husband and I had a chance to visit with his mom until it was time to go to the youth program Talent Show in the Universal Lounge. My youngest daughter's part was in the Air Guitar number. The kids all had fun -- some hip hop dancing, some karaoke, some singing -- and everyone got a nice Princess Cruises medal at the end. My husband and I and my in-laws attended the Captain's Circle reception. Waiters carried around trays of drinks -- I had some champagne -- and my father-in-law remarked it was the best Captain's Circle reception they had attended (my inlaw's have 11 Princess cruises). From there, off to dinner. I had roasted tomato soup and lobster and prawns. Alvin expertly freed the lobster from the shell, then did some magic tricks with cups and croutons. He and Nelson kept the girls supplied with hot chocolate and banana-chocolate milkshake for my brother-in-law. Entertainment tonight was Motor City with the dancers and singers.My 12 year old was surprised to find out she knew about 80% of the Motown Sound. It was well done, even better than the night before. December 28, 2009 Jamaica I woke up with a terrible headache -- combination of sinus and migraine -- but got up and went to the HC for early breakfast. We were leaving by 7:20 for Dunn River Falls and Mystic Mountain Chairlift. Instead of meeting in one of the ship lounges, we all spilled out onto the pier and were greeted by an army of Jamaican women in white blouses and blue skirts (and incredibly, some in high heels!) We finally all got sorted out and boarded our bus. Our guide was Shanae, our driver was Dudley and our bus was Number 24. We had to repeat that several times. It was 1.75 hours to Ochos Rios, and we were supposed to be back by 1:30 p.m. Shanae pointed out the various golf courses and resorts, then sang the Jamaican national anthem and recited the national pledge. She is obviously very proud of her country. We arrived at Dunn River Falls and quickly took off shorts and tops and put on water shoes. Shanae gave us the usual warnings about not getting sidetracked by vendors and gave us a few Jamaican phrases. At the falls, we were handed over to two guides named Paul and Lopez who walked down to the beach, took charge of anyone's camera, and told us to hold hands up the falls. Some places were deep, or had hidden pitfalls, some places the water rushed forcefully. Rachel got scared at one point, but got over that and didn't want to leave to use the stairs. She was thrilled to make it to the top. I fell at one point in one of the aforementioned pitfalls and scraped by shin but no big deal. The guides took video and wanted $40 for it (hint -- don't do it -- buy the Princess video instead). Take some bills in your swim trunks to tip your guide or they will follow you to the bus! A few moments later, we drove to Mystic Mountain and ascended on the chairlift which accommodates 4 people. I had read reviews saying too noisy with the road below but I thought that was an extremely minor thing. We were very high up over the tree tops with a spectacular view of the bay. (And yet, I said to myself, what am I doing here? I get scared on ferris wheels!) At the top, we had lunch, which was included in our tour, jerk chicken, fries, macaroni salad and a soft drink. Unfortunately, we were running way behind, so we scarfed down the food, took a quick look through the window and jumped on the chairlift going down. I actually loved the going down part -- much closer to the ground and much cooler. We were late getting back (and very glad the tour was booked through Princess, so no worries) -- almost an hour late. It's just too much to do in the time allotted. The tour dispatcher was in constant communication with Shanae and sent a police escort to get us through the afternoon traffic. This didn't do much for my headache, but I'm glad I went on the tour. Dave took the girls for a while and I laid down after taking two Excedrin Migraine tabs. Felt better and had dinner. I had goat cheese souffle and pork tenderloin with a cocoa rub, which I have to say was my least favorite -- I should have had the lamb, which Dave said was excellent. Dessert was a raspberry mouse and a hazlenut mouse with cake between. (Too much headache meds, I'm a little fuzzy on the specifics.) After dinner, we went to the ventriloquist show while the girls played more Monopoly with Grandpa. Sorry to say, I found him not to be entertaining at all and we left. I was sound asleep by 8:30. December 29, 2009 At Sea It's my Birthday! All seven of us went to breakfast in the MDR to enjoy the fabulous service of Alvin and Nelson. We asked Alvin how he manages to wait tables for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He said he goes to bed about 12 or 1, and sleep a few hours before getting up for breakfast service. Takes a nap before lunch, and one afterwards. He was looking resplendent in his white coat with gold and blue braided epaulets; Nelson was wearing a blue jacket designating him as a supervisor. At 9, I scurried off to the Lotus Spa for my massage, my birthday gift from Dave and Norene. I was still feeling the effects of the headache as well as the migraine meds, but after the massage with Grace, I felt 100 percent better. She recommended I have a massage at least once a month at home since I was showing signs of very tense muscles (imagine that, since I had been off of work and off the computer for 10 days!). I then rushed over to the Princess Theater, where I caught the last of the "Hilarious Cooking Show" staring the dining room maitre d's and chef's. Unfortunately I missed most of it, but saw Jorge of the Horizon Court sing a wonderful rendition of "My Way." The show concluded with everyone singing "Leaving on a Jet Plane" and those words were never truer! The family said it was a great show. At the conclusion, the entire audience (and it was SRO) filed out and went to tour the galley. I saw Nelson standing at the back of the theater, and he walked arm in arm with Rachel as they toured the galley. We again had pub food at the Bayou Cafe and the girls again went to play Monopoly with Dave in the card room. There were many families in there -- the sedate bridge players must have been scared off. Paul and I packed up our suitcases and found we needed to buy another bag at the giftshop to accommodate all the new t-shirts, magnets and Christmas presents. We finished up and sat in the Pastriesse (sp?) for a drink before Paul headed for a nap and I played Scrabble with the girls. The card room was completely filled, so we took our game to the Crooner's Lounge, as did a couple of others. Dinner was the American theme. The waiters had on red, white and blue vests. Stephanie pointed out Alvin's bowtie was not lined up with his vest, so they helped him right it. December 30, 2009 We had one last breakfast with Alvin and Nelson (they were like part of the family by now), arriving before the doors of the dining room opened at 6:30. We said our goodbyes, not only to the waiters and our cabin steward, but to Dave, Norene and Brian as they would head to Miami and then to California while we went back to Texas. Disembarkation, Customs and Immigration were incredibly fast -- we were in and out in 15 minutes! Fort Lauderdale Airport, not so much, but we had a wonderful time. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
We boarded the Island Prince on December 20th for a full transit of the Panama Canal. The Island Princess is beautiful ship. She will benefit from her upcoming dry dock in terms of some cosmetics, but the layout is very good. There are ... Read More
We boarded the Island Prince on December 20th for a full transit of the Panama Canal. The Island Princess is beautiful ship. She will benefit from her upcoming dry dock in terms of some cosmetics, but the layout is very good. There are lots of open spaces to relax and it never seemed very crowded, no small feat considering our cruise was a "sold out" Christmas cruise. We had a mini-suite on the aft Dolphin Deck. It was spacious and the balcony was excellent. We had four chairs and a table and lots of privacy. When weren't in port we spent most of our time sitting on the balcony enjoying the warm sea air. Our cabin steward was excellent and was eager to please. The dining was excellent. We had the Traditional late seating and thoroughly enjoyed the food, service, and our table mates. We did the Chef's Table which was an outstanding experience. We had an Ultimate Balcony dinner, which was worth every penny. We also ate in the Bayou, but weren't all that impressed with the service. We are a couple in our early 50s and we weren't sure we would like cruising but the Island princess changed our minds. We had a fabulous time! Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
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
We are experienced cruisers from AZ. We've been on RCCL, NCL, HA and Azamara but had never been on Princess. We decided to try it for this "Holiday Week" trip through the Panama Canal, which we had long wanted to travel and ... Read More
We are experienced cruisers from AZ. We've been on RCCL, NCL, HA and Azamara but had never been on Princess. We decided to try it for this "Holiday Week" trip through the Panama Canal, which we had long wanted to travel and for a chance to see some Central American ports. We arrived in Acapulco the evening before the cruise with time only for dinner due to plane delays. We stayed at the Crowne Plaza. We knew is wasn't going to be perfect but even so were not happy. It was fully booked with many many Mexican families of very noisy children and their parents who filled the elevators, restaurant and all public areas. It was nearly impossible to get an elevator down in the morning when we were checking out and then it got stuck between floors for several minutes (not fun at all). I heard from others on the cruise that Las Brisas would have been a better choice but have a feeling it was out of our price range. There don't seem to be hotel shuttles to the port in Acapulco but we got a taxi driven by the self proclaimed "Second Best Taxi Driver in Acapulco (the best is in the hospital recovering from an accident). We arrived at the port by 11:30 and waited with a porter for 12:00 to board. Boarding went smoothly and our cabin was already ready for us. We headed directly up to the Sanctuary having heard that to book for the full week we should do that first thing and traveling alone on a cruise that would have over 500 children on board we felt we needed the "serenity" of Sanctuary. We had over 30 minutes to wait (with a few other CC Members) for an attendant to arrive at about 1:00 and then were told that a) there was no discount to book for ther full week, b) there was a significant upcharge for Canal Day (more about that later), c) there would be no refunds and d) we could not reserve seating for the week. We all tried to argue with her to little avail. The best we could get was that she would make note of our seating preferences and give us preference during the week for shade (if that's what we wanted) and for the four cabanas (if that's what we wanted). So $230 per person later we headed to the Horizon Court for our first lunch. I have no complaints about the cabin The size was adequate, there was no motion/vibration problem and it was kept clean by an attendant who we almost never saw. This itinerary included four ports in the first four days. In Huatulco we took a walk around the town and beach. Not that much to do there and we were still acclimating to the cruise. In Puerto Quetzal we took took the Filadelfia Coffee Plantation tour and it was one of the highlights of the week. The tour of the plantation was well done both educational and fun and the lunch was probably the best I've ever had on a tour (note: on request we were provided with a vegetarian lunch). In San Juan del Sur, we arranged a short tour of the town on a pedicab and saw the local library (the first in Nicaragua, we were told) and participated in a holiday party for the local children. In Costa Rica we did a river rafting tour (also well done) all before our first sea day. Whew... In between al that we found time to eat and be entertained on the ship. Although we had signed up for Traditional Late Dining, we only ate that once and ate all other dinners in the Anytime Dining Room with the exception of one night at Sabatini's and one night in the Horizon (I think, or maybe not). We are pescetarians (we eat fish but otherwise are vegetarian). Also, I am trying to diet (not a good thing when cruising, I know). The food was not as good, in general, as we have had on the other cruise lines. The menus on the Formal Nights were very "informal" with lobster tail only offered in the main dining room on the Captain's Night (not a formal night). The salmon from the "Alternative (every night)" menu was nearly petrified (tough and dry). Other fish was marginally better with the exception of Barramundi (sp?) late in the cruise which was very good and sea bass which was good once and fair the other time. Salads were ok but skimpy. One appetizer, the last night, with seafood in it tasted really off and we returned it. There was pasta every night with fettucini alfredo there every (or nearly every) night. Bread and rolls with butter on the table every night were a downfall for me, I must get the courage to ask for crudites instead in the future. We had breakfast in the Horizon each morning, nothing special. Note that the coffee is AWFUL. We bought a "coffee card" which entitled us to "unlimited premium filtered coffee" and 15 espresso based drinks for $24. The premium coffee was hard to find (and why couldn't it be standard?) and the espresso was sometimes good, sometimes too acid. My DH got to like the cappucinos though. Also note that we were disappointed with the service in Horizon. We were never asked if we wanted coffee or juice. Also the only juices easily available were orange and apple, anything else was a special order. Dinner at Sabatinis was good quality. I can't remember what I ate, though, they just kept bringing out more and more and more. The production shows were better than average. We liked one comedian who did a fun act together with the cruise director. My husband liked the ventriloquist. My favorite (as always) was the piano bar. On this cruise it was Martin Kaye, a Manchester-Brit with a passion for Elton John who also managed to introduce us to Cold Play and some other post-modern music. When not on tour, we spent our time in the Sanctuary. Service there was spotty, sometimes getting the cabana we had expressed a preference for but about half the time, not. Sometimes we were spoiled with ice-water refills cold cloths and towels and other times, we were pretty much ignored. There was fruit-water set out each day but as the cruise wore on they neglected to put cups out for it. The gates to the Sanctuary area were often bolted shut to keep out non-paying guests but that made access hard for those of us who had paid. Canal day was a bit chaotic. We paid $70 per person for that day and were told we would get champagne, food, use of binoculars and free photos. We got a skimpy glass of champagne (refills were charged for), the same food that was offered every day (nothing special), binoculars that were collected before the transit was completed and the photos... well that was the part that pushed me over the edge. I had presumed (incorrectly) that the photos would be of US ! The photos were stock shots of the ship going through the canal. Oooh (not). I complained about this to the Director of Passenger Services (who responded by sending me a couple of extra stock shots). Also, the afternoon after the canal, a group of passengers decided to have a party on the Sanctuary deck with music played through speakers they attached to their iPods and loud talking and smoking by at least one of them. I complained about this to the attendant and she brought me chips and salsa in response to my complaint. But and however, the Sanctuary is a really good concept and when it works, it works and is a good thing. We are back home now and I have good memories of my cruise and I'm relaxed and ready to get back to the real world (as well as ready to plan more vacations). Who could ask for anything more? Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
This was our 4th cruise, 2 with Carnival and 2 with Princess. We definitely like Princess and will cruise with them from now on. The Island Princess is smaller of course to go through the locks of the Panama Canal, but still everything a ... Read More
This was our 4th cruise, 2 with Carnival and 2 with Princess. We definitely like Princess and will cruise with them from now on. The Island Princess is smaller of course to go through the locks of the Panama Canal, but still everything a person needs for the best cruising experience. There was my husband and I, and our daughter of 26 years old, and we all had a great time, because there was a very good variety of different ages on board. There's so many things to get involved in, which is what we did; such as trivia, dance lessons, singing, drink mixing, sail away parties, toga party, even midnight mass Christmas eve, etc., as many or as few that you want to be involved in. We were involved with as many things as possible, but still felt like we had the most relaxing time of our lives. The cruise staff was so nice and friendly that they made you feel like getting involved, welcomed, and we became like family. We knew them by name and they knew us too. The ports of call were very nice, but most of the tours were a 90 minute drive one way, so we mainly went to the beach on our own at each port and enjoyed a local brewed beer from every country. In Costa Rica we did a private tour, which I posted on trip advisor. Nicaragua there is a hidden place called Pelican Eyes Resort that you can hike up to that let Ship customers use their facilities, and its very beautiful with beautiful views of the ocean.We highly recommend this cruise even over the holidays because everything was decorated so beautifully and everyone was in the Christmas Spirit!     Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Overall, we really like Princess. The Coral Princess is beautiful and very clean. The ship was sold out, but it never felt crowded. We did the anytime dining and never had to wait. There were 7 of us in our group. One night we might have ... Read More
Overall, we really like Princess. The Coral Princess is beautiful and very clean. The ship was sold out, but it never felt crowded. We did the anytime dining and never had to wait. There were 7 of us in our group. One night we might have had to wait for a table, but the head waiter called the other dining room and personally took us up on the elevator. They were very accommodating. On this cruise we ate at both the specialty Italian restaurant and at the Bayou Steak house (first night/last night). We have done the Italian restaurant on other cruises. I think there are 18 courses. It is very good, but we all liked the steak house better. The steaks were wonderful and perfectly cooked. In general, the food is very good, but not great. The service and selection in the dining room and the buffet are very good. We don't do cruises for the food. We did Alaska first, the Italy-Greek Isles-Turkey trip second and now the Panama Canal. For us it is about the destinations and not the food. That being said, there is plenty of it and it is good. We had coffee delivered every morning and really enjoyed that luxury. We also went to the buffet every afternoon and got happy hour snacks and took them back to our cabin. we had 3 cabins that the balconies opened up...it allowed us to all meet each day and talk about our activities with snacks and wine. One day I called and complained that they did not have anything appropriate like crackers and cheese, olives, veggies etc. The person in the customer service area had the head of Horizon Court kitchen call me. He said that if I did not find what I wanted just ask and they would make up an antipasta plate for me. The next day I did just that and sure enough they brought everything I could want. Craig Siddall in Crooners Bar is Great!!! Make sure you go by to hear him!! We went every night. Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
This is our seventh cruise and our third one with the kids in tow. There were six in our party, my wife, myself and our four children - ranging in age from 11 to 18. We left London and flew the eleven and a half hour flight to Mexico ... Read More
This is our seventh cruise and our third one with the kids in tow. There were six in our party, my wife, myself and our four children - ranging in age from 11 to 18. We left London and flew the eleven and a half hour flight to Mexico City and then, after three long hours, got a connection to Acapulco. So it was a very long day travelling (20 hours door to door). We traveled Business Class which always helps on such lengthy journeys. We stayed in The Grand Hotel in Acapulco for one night, which is perfectly okay for a night, and we boarded the ship at about 2pm. Embarkation took about 15 minutes from arrival to getting aboard. I checked in online before we left, which definitely speeds up the process. Our staterooms were ready and very clean and the luggage arrived within the hour. We had two connecting (by balcony) mini-suites (D522 and D524), which are on the port side and reasonably central. The room steward, Henry, was a real gem - top bloke! First impressions of the Coral were that it was far bigger than I expected. We went on the Crown last year and I told the kids to expect a much smaller ship. In fact, it felt pretty much the same size as the Crown (it's slightly longer in fact) - and because it's a big ship, with 30% less passengers, it felt very uncrowded. This was a real pleasant surprise. In fact, my wife and I have decided that when we book future cruises we're going to look carefully at the size/passenger ratio. The public rooms were very well kept and the service throughout was impeccable - which we've almost always have found to be case with Princess. We ate in the Bordeaux dining room on the 'anytime' option. Only on one occasion did we have to wait for a table - which is pretty good given there are six of us. Oddly, I noticed it seemed to be the 'couples' that had to wait more often than families. Thought the entertainment was 'okay' but not outstanding. We particularly liked the pianist and violinist who played in the atrium and they also did a 'classical' show in the Universe Lounge one evening - they are truly talented. The two younger kids (11 and 13) absolutely loved the kids clubs - it was impossible to keep them away - they've both got lots more friends now. Emails were waiting for them by the time we got home! As for the cruise itinerary, as follows: Because there are six of us we find it infinitely more preferable do our own thing (in the main), so we do a bit of research in advance. For example, it's generally cheaper to hire a taxi for the day than it is to pay for six excursions - generally speaking we reckon it's about one third the cost, plus you have more independence. Guatemala: Google Earth revealed an interesting place called 'Iztapa' (not featured on any cruise excursion), which has a beach where all the locals go. It is about five miles from the port. Interestingly, the first cabbie quoted me $160 (one way) to which I said a few words which I won't repeat in this review. The next cabbie, witnessing this, immediately quoted me $30 return. Guess which one I used? We had a great day on the beach (which is then reached by a five minute boat trip from Iztapa.) The kids loved the huge Pacific waves! Nicaragua: Didn't do much here - just went for a wander off the boat, down some back streets, bought a few bits and bobs and then returned to the ship. It was one hot day and we were glad to be back in an air-conditioned ship. Costa Rica: This is the only place we did a Princess excursion because it looked interesting. We went rafting through (slightly) white water and rain forest, where we saw lots of wildlife (monkeys, birds, bats, lizards, etc..) I was somewhat surprised to also see 'crocodiles' - as an inflatable raft seemed like minimal protection to me! However, the organizers really knew their stuff and we felt very safe in their care. An excellent trip which I would wholeheartedly recommend. Panama Canal Transit: 'Awesome' is the only word I can describe this. The scale of the thing is mind blowing in all respects. Each one (of six) is 1000 feet long and 110 feet wide - there was only about a six inch gap each side of the ship! Out of curiosity on one descent I went into the dining room and if felt like a submarine!!! Lots of things appealed to me, including: The close proximity to other huge ships; The scenery - especially through the lake; The sight of the locks from all angles - and it's worth noting that on deck ten, right at the front, there is a door which says 'keep out crew only'. Well don't keep out because you're allowed there. I reckon it's the best place on the ship for viewing the Canal. Cristobal: What a waste of time that was! We were allowed off the ship, but just onto the pier for two hours. For some reason the Panama stop was canceled so people were keen to get off. So we all queued up for half an hour, trudged off the ship and on to the pier, looked through piles of souvenirs (mainly tat) and then waltzed back on the ship. But do you know what, it didn't matter to me because I was still on a high after the Panama Canal transit. Jamaica: Again, we did our own thing. We hopped on a taxi to Dunns River Falls (a five minute Taxi ride from the port) and then paid to go there ($15 per person). The whole day cost us about $100 for six of us - I reckon it would have been nearer $400 had we have gone on an excursion, plus we could come and go as we liked. Great fun it was, climbing up the falls - it was more ferocious and longer than I expected! Then we chilled out on the beach for a few hours. A very nice day it was! On the sea days, and there were quite a few of these, we did loads of different things - kids clubs, trivia, cream teas, swimming, and more. We were never bored. Fort Lauderdale: Disembarkation took a long time. I presume it was because we didn't have a plane to catch so we were low priority. We assembled in the appropriate place at 8:30am (as requested) but weren't clear of customs until about 11:30am. So three hours hanging around was a bit of a pain. We stayed in Fort Lauderdale for three days at the Pelican Beach Grand Hotel. I can highly recommend it because it's right on the beach (unlike most other hotels) and the service was pretty good. It was a bit pricey, but worth it in my view. Overall, a most excellent holiday. We have already booked our next cruise with Princess (August 2009 - Norway and Iceland), who manage to get it just right for our family. No real gripes, other than a couple of stops didn't happen (Panama and one in Mexico), but I tend to be quite pragmatic about such things. As such, four and a half stars out of five from me. Read Less
Sail Date April 2009

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