My Mom really wanted to do a Panama Canal cruise as her last big holiday. She turned 80 this past year, so I thought we should do this before her health takes a turn for the worse. She enjoyed this so much, I think she's ready to go ... Read More
My Mom really wanted to do a Panama Canal cruise as her last big holiday. She turned 80 this past year, so I thought we should do this before her health takes a turn for the worse. She enjoyed this so much, I think she's ready to go on another.
This was our first time sailing out of Port Everglades and we found embarkation was efficient with almost no standing in line. We arrived at the port about 11:20 and were on the ship shortly after 12 and cleared to go to our room. The weather wasn't great in Fort Lauderdale, but managed to mostly stay dry before boarding.
After our drill and preparation for sailing, we were told that weather at Princess Cays was unsafe for tendering, so they changed the itinerary to Ocho Rios on Day 3 instead. My wife was pleased, as she was disappointed when Ocho Rios was removed from the itinerary a few months prior. However, the weather in Ocho Rios was very rainy and we got soaked. Only went to the little shop area for about 20 minutes and returned to the ship. Fortunately the weather was much better the rest of the way.
Cartagena was a great place to visit. We did the Fort and Old Town tour and our tour host, "King Arthur" Arturo was very engaging, knowledgeable and clearly proud of his city and country. Unfortunately, we arrived at Las Bovedas at about 8:20am on a Sunday, so almost all shops were closed, so we didn't get to see much. Touring two of the churches was also a bit awkward as they were in the middle of services. My only real complaint about the tour was that we spent 25 minutes in a jewelry store that Arturo obviously hand-picked. Most of us just stood or sat where we could, waiting to get moving again.
The Panama Canal was a great experience, and nice to be a part of a little history in being the first Princess ship, the largest cruise ship (so far) and only the second cruise ship to go through the new Agua Clara locks. We didn't do an excursion in Panama, instead staying on the ship and doing the "Escape Room." It was difficult to get into the Escape Room, but we managed to be there at the right time. This was put together by the cruise director's staff, and while not super challenging, it was not too easy, either. We enjoyed the experience and the effort put in by the staff.
We also participated in the Steel Drum class put on by Dennis Smith, along with the accompanying performance. We had a lot of fun and Dennis did well with a varied level of musical talent that he had to work with. Really, these are all about having some fun and participating, so I think everyone had a good time.
Costa Rica was my favourite destination. The market there was almost all authentic local stuff. We did the train tour of the banana plantation and jungle and got to see a lot you wouldn't see just in the port. It is a beautiful country and I would return. The train is a little rough because of the condition of the tracks, but I really enjoyed it. I did take a battery operated fan with me and used it a couple times when we were stopped to look at something or wait for the "Dole" train to go by the other way.
Grand Cayman was my sister's favourite spot. She wanted to stay there and is contemplating how she can move there. She did the snorkeling at Stingray City and another area with a reef. She loved the warm, incredibly blue water and it made me wish I had gone along.
The entertainment on board was overall pretty good. We enjoy going to the trivia games, the game shows, some live music and shows and there was no shortage of things to do. This cruise staff with Tais, Brenna, Lili, Duvall, Victoria and Micca were the best we've had to date. Tais, Brenna and Duvall were especially engaging, clearly not afraid to entertain at their own expense. I hope to see these folks on future cruises.
Service was on the whole very good. A few were fantastic, a few less than fantastic, but on the whole, very good service. Our cabin steward, Joey, was perhaps a bit shy or awkward, but he got us anything we needed and served us well. The area where service really excelled was in the dining room with headwaiter Antonio. My wife has a number of food allergies that are difficult enough to accommodate at home and Antonio made sure that she had what she needed every day and went beyond by getting her a special bread every day and even desserts. Her diet has no sugar, dairy, eggs, yeast or soy, so desserts are especially difficult, but she had a special dessert every night. We were quite concerned when she was put on this diet in early December, but we were blown away at how well they did to meet her needs.
The ship itself was very familiar, having cruised on it two years ago, but it's been in for upgrades since, so we were looking forward to seeing the changes. On the whole, not huge changes, except on the Lido deck with the World Fresh Marketplace replacing Horizon Court and the addition of Planks and Steamers, neither of which we tried. The Ramen bar was a nice treat, though, in Steamers at lunch time. The ship still shows it's age in a lot of places, but it still feels very much like home, having now spent 17 nights on board. I would have no hesitation sailing her again, and no doubt will.
Finally, those little picky things, as a review wouldn't be complete without a few critiques. The selection process for things like the Escape Room and Steel Drum class could be done more fairly, I think. It's like the people that show up the earliest get the tickets, so if you're willing to go 30-45 minutes early, you'll likely get the tickets. The problem with that is if you say something is at 9 and you've already given the stuff away by 8:40, you get frustrated. It shouldn't be about who can get there the earliest, it should be show up at 9 and we'll do a raffle, as the lineups get mixed up and some people get offended that people "butt" in line, when they were just sitting there waiting and when the cruise staff shows up, they walk into line with the rest of their party. In the end, there is no way to make everyone happy, but I think they could do better.
Another annoyance was the laundry room on Dolphin deck. Every person that tried to get a box of soap out of the dispenser couldn't, as it jammed up. You'd call customer service and they would come, "unjam" the machine, give you a box of soap, leave, then someone else would come in and the machine would be jammed. It happened to me twice and I waited 25 and 30 minutes for the person to come back and unjam the machine. Every person that came before me that day and after me while I was there had the same issue. I finally called the front desk and told them if they can't get the machine working, they should be leaving the soap out for people and sucking up the cost, which would really be very little. In future, I'm bringing my own liquid soap, as the water doesn't get hot enough to dissolve the "All" brand powder soap they use and you had white powder on your clothes afterwards.
My only other "complaint" isn't really with the cruise staff, though I think they could have intervened. We were watching the movie under the stars and a group of people were sitting off to the side at the tables, talking and laughing very loudly, making it difficult to hear the movie. Is it too much to ask for a little courtesy towards your fellow cruisers? Read Less