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35 Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades) to British Columbia Cruise Reviews

This was our 2nd time on Island Princess. Overall it was a wonderful cruise. Cruise Director, Calli Smit and his team were outstanding especially Sandi and Heather and Mattie. The only downer were minor and had to do with food. The ... Read More
This was our 2nd time on Island Princess. Overall it was a wonderful cruise. Cruise Director, Calli Smit and his team were outstanding especially Sandi and Heather and Mattie. The only downer were minor and had to do with food. The gravy and other sauces were watery. The noon-time pizza in Sabatinis left much to be desired. The matre d in Sabinitins need a class on being a congenial host. However the Crab Shack evening was very nice and the food was exceptional. Congratulations to the captain and crew who got us through a terrible storm safely. The other area for improvement would be to train the port crew on what the Bon Voyage package is. We had purchased this package for our daughter and every crew member we mentioned it to at the port looked at us like we had two heads. We embarked at Fort Lauderdale. Disembarkation was extremely well organized and ran like clockwork. Read Less
Sail Date April 2017
This is not to be taken as a criticism of anyone on the ship.  I think the problem starts on land.It's long, not complete, and it happened to real people, 8 adults and 2 children.This 17 day cruise through the Panama Canal and up to ... Read More
This is not to be taken as a criticism of anyone on the ship.  I think the problem starts on land.It's long, not complete, and it happened to real people, 8 adults and 2 children.This 17 day cruise through the Panama Canal and up to Vancouver on the Coral Princess was to be a perfect family vacation. My wife and I were celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary, her 70th birthday, and my 75th, all in 2011. We had booked and paid for three side by side mini suites. My son and his family completed the embarkation paper work in a separate line from us, and my daughter and her partner. My son registered a Master Card, and my daughter a Visa. They were in separate rooms. No problem getting on, and from then on it was a great cruise. Our rooms were better than expected and our room steward, Rosalie, was a real gem. My wife and I have had a number of cruises (Platinum Level) and no one could compare, or even come close, to Rosalie.We enjoyed tours in Aruba and Cartagena, and the Canal crossing was great despite the rain. The clouds and rain probably saved us northerners. Fuerte Amador and Puntarenas tours were great, and so was the tour with Libby in Cabo San Lucas, the dolphin swim for my granddaughter, and snorkeling for the rest of them. Three of our group visited Alcatraz and were very,very, pleased with the tour.Everybody was always happy with the food, service, and room service. After we left San Francisco it turned colder and cloudier, but that's not the fault of any cruise line.But what had already started to happen can't be blamed on the weather, just PRINCESS CRUISE LINES.When the credit card statements came before San Francisco ALL my daughter's charges were on my son's Master Card. My daughter went down and signed in her Visa again. How they got mixed up I can't imagine, But the same thing happened again when we got to Vancouver. My daughter HAD to go and register her card again, a THIRD time. (Imagine what a comedian could do with this on stage!) We were just lucky this happened between family members. Others may have experienced this.My son and I were more than a little ticked off with PRINCESS. He later decided to ask that the $11/day charge for his two children be reversed for the last two days. He was told it had been. I witnessed this. But it seems it hasn't been. Typical???Then there was the matter of services paid for the cruise, assuming it was for 17 days as shown on our itinerary. Our son bought stickers to put on his two children's room cards. This showed that pop, chocolate milk, hard ice cream, non alcoholic drinks, etc. were prepaid. They ran out in San Francisco. My granddaughter asked for hot chocolate at lunch and, no, we'd have to pay for that. She had lemonade instead.Out of 8 adults in our party of 10, 6 bought tickets for the Sanctuary at the stern, $210 per person.I know my receipt said for the "full cruise". It turned out that PRINCESS had a different interpretation for that, one that hadn't been communicated to myself, or the girl who sold the space to me.That 'payment for a privilege' also ended in San Francisco! If I had wanted to sit in the 'Sanctuary' to watch the city fade away like a bad dream, I would have had to pay for the space I took up. Later on the next day we were advised by the captain that due to adverse currents, and leaving the last port late, we weren't going to get to Vancouver on time. 10:00 became 11:30. Passengers with flights out before 4:00 p.m. would have to make alternate arrangements. Phone calls were free, but soon swamped. Internet was free but with only less that 12 public computers and very slow internet service, you'd have to be very lucky. My daughter-in-law did find there was a later flight out, but that was it. My time on the internet had run out and no mention was made of it being free to all.I just couldn't accept the adverse currents being that "unexpectedly" strong. For a ship as powerful as ours?? And later I found out on "Cruise Critic" that we were late leaving the last port due to the complete failure of the security system when boarding the many people who were travelling to Vancouver or Alaska. Some had to wait in line for an hour and a half. Little did they know what they were all in for.Some time after we went for our last dinner and a show, someone delivered luggage tags and directions for putting luggage out to be collected. The directions advised us to put out what we could by 10:00 p.m., and the rest out by 10:00 a.m.. On this four page set of directions it also showed the time and place we could meet on the ship to be taken down for our departure. Our tags indicated we were last in the group of, "INDEPENDENT ARRANGEMENTS WITH EARLY AFTERNOON FLIGHTS", to meet an hour and twenty minutes after the first group who had a 11:30 meeting time. Any hope for four of our group who had a 2:10 flight was gone.Besides that one of our group was given a different coloured tag, indicating a time 40 min. later that the rest of us.Now some days prior to this we had been given a form to fill out and hand in. Our group were in four different cabins so I collected four forms and filled them all out the same. I requested an early time off the ship for each cabin. When I took these to passenger services these were stapled together. I offered to write on an explanation for the request but was told that wasn't necessary. I wish I had ignored her. Later I was to find it was all ignored.Anyway, we three men hurried down to passenger services to see if we could make some changes. There we found two people at the desk and a line stretching half way across the ship. During the 30 min. wait there was lots of time to study the schedule of passenger departure times.It really annoyed me to see that the first off had a "PRINCESS CRUISE HOTEL PACKAGE - 3 NIGHT TO VICTORIA". Then "SEATTLE BUS TRANSFER". This was followed by two groups who could get there own luggage off. Then three groups "YVR FLIGHTS TO USA PRINCESS AIR" , another walk off, a "YVR FLIGHTS WITHIN CANADA/NON-US WITH PRINCESS AIR", another couple of walk offs and two organized tours, and then "PASSENGERS WITH PRINCESS TRANSFERS TO YVR AIRPORT". One walk off group was next, and then 1 hr, and 10 min. later than the first PRINCESS group the people who hadn't paid anything but the price of their cruise, plus some people who could obviously be late.This understandably led to thoughts of discrimination on the part of PRINCESS CRUISE LINES. We finally got to the counter and tried to get on the early group as previously requested.  We were given a story about customs requiring it to be that way and threatening fines if it were changed.  We were given a time 20 min. earlier to appease us. As for the charges for changed flights, it was suggested that perhaps our flight insurance would cover it.As well the person with the later departure tag was given one that put him with the rest of us.We got off the ship about 1:00 and started the search for our luggage. My wife and I found ours last, about 1:30. It came out with a mixed set of tagged luggage, some which should have been off well before.By 2:00 we were all in the van we had arranged to take us to the airport, and then home.NOTE THIS:Now I had looked out at 6:30 that morning. The ship was sitting still off Victoria in calm seas. About 7:00 it started to move slowly. Later it was going faster, but not hurrying. When I was home I looked up the website for the dock we eventually tied up at and found no indication of a 10:00 booking, only an arrival at 11:32.Later a retired police officer, a fellow passenger, informed my son that he had looked out about 4:30 a.m. to find us in the same position I witnessed two hours later.Makes you wonder!Makes you want to travel with PCL again doesn't it.With all our cruises with PCL we only had one problem, and this seems to have been corrected.Obviously more needs to be done, and the buck stops at head office. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
Zuiderdam is great ship and we enjoyed ourselves on the 22 day repositioning. This was our longest cruise to date and we did not have a 'nothing to do' day. Embarkation (disembarkation was much better) was a bit slow due to ... Read More
Zuiderdam is great ship and we enjoyed ourselves on the 22 day repositioning. This was our longest cruise to date and we did not have a 'nothing to do' day. Embarkation (disembarkation was much better) was a bit slow due to having a gastric infection with small # of passengers on the previous group requiring additional cleaning, but a glass of champagne at dinner was part of the apology for the delay to board the ship. We found staff are very cheerful as they do their jobs, and most say hello when they meet you in the hallway. There seemed to be a lot of staff who have been with HAL a long time on various ships. Food menu selections were better than some seen on our other cruises and both the dining room and the buffet has good selection. 10 stops in 22 days meant lots of excursions and some in ports that do not see a lot of cruise ships-we did not have a bad excursion, just some better than others, and we booked all of ours through HAL as most of these ports were our first time visit. We had two pet peeves, one was the Vista Lounge/show theatre-the posts for supporting the balcony seem to be larger than required. It resulted in a large number of seats being unusable if you wanted to see the shows. As well, smoking is allowed on all outside decks, and in all of the casino, it meant that at any point a smoker could sit down next to you, and I found myself having to move from my chair quite often. Noticed that the ship is due for a re-fit as it is getting a little tired and worn in some spots-carpeting and upholstery but nothing that took away the glitz and glory. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
Island Princess - Ft. Lauderdale - Vancouver Departing April 29, 2011First, allow me to mention Continental Airlines which we used to fly from Vancouver, BC Canada to Ft. Lauderdale via Houston. It was awful! I think sardines in a can ... Read More
Island Princess - Ft. Lauderdale - Vancouver Departing April 29, 2011First, allow me to mention Continental Airlines which we used to fly from Vancouver, BC Canada to Ft. Lauderdale via Houston. It was awful! I think sardines in a can have more shoulder room than people on a Continental flight. We left close to on time from Vancouver which was good. Vancouver must be a prime spot for the airline as we had all senior cabin staff. Not a one under 55 so they must have to bid on the run and senior staff get it. Grouchy seniors should not be staffing a morning flight. Maybe they missed morning coffee. The airlines have to re-think the charges for baggage - checked bags cost $25 and carry-on is free so everybody has the maximum size and weight carry-on and with a grouchy crew it takes forever to get everybody settled in - some with their carry-on five rows back. This makes for interesting times to collect it when we landed. Maybe they should allow free checked bags (one each) and charge $25 for each carry-on. That would stop all that cabin confusion.What's with the free half hour of seat back TV? Then you have to pay to watch even the news - so unlike other airlines. So we sat and looked at the passing clouds for 3 hours while being careful not to breath too deeply as that would force the seat companion out into the aisle.Houston gate changes were another annoyance. Come on guys - decide which gate for which flight and stick to it. Not rocket science.On approach to Ft. Lauderdale we were a few hundred feet above the runway when our pilot hit the pedal to the metal and off we went for another go-around. No explanation, no announcement, just flew once around the circuit again and tried another landing (bounced a few times but we walked away from it so it was a good landing). The whole experience turned me off flying in the US so I will stick to Canadian carriers who have a bit more leg room and have free TV onboard. Also they announce what, if anything, is going on.Now, on to the cruise. Cab to the Port and a $2 per bag charge to load it from the cab to the cage destined to be loaded onboard. Couldn't I have done that? Just another form of customer rip off. Embarkation at Ft. Lauderdale was a bit confusing with long lineups for check in and then it took much longer than was necessary as we had to line up before getting on the escalators because they were backed up due to picture taking at the top of the stairs. Then line up again for security photos as we board. Then line up for elevators. Getting the drift? After we found our stateroom (D707 Mini-suite), parked our carry-on, off we went to the Horizon Court for the lunch lineup. Of course all the staff made sales pitches to sell us wine, beer, coffee cards, soda cards, and anything else that wasn't nailed down. We just kept repeating "No Thank You" which became our refrain for most of the trip.The lunch was not bad - good variety and quality on embarkation day. You could go for a salad or a sandwich and soup, or a full course hot meal. We opted for the soup and sandwich to get into the eating groove. With free lemonade.About an hour later we headed back to D707 and there was our luggage outside our door. Took a half hour to sani-wipe the whole cabin and then it was time to unpack and hang everything up. Our box of wine made it through as did our plastic bottle of Canadian Whiskey. Gonna enjoy those happy hours on the balcony. The stateroom could use a retrofit - it had threadbare carpeting, a couch that looked like it came from a junk pile and bits of cabin fittings were loose and rattling as the engines revved up. Also had an annoying Halogen spotlight facing a print - the light kept flickering all trip - our steward said it is the way halogens work- they shut off when get overheated. Yeah right. Actually, the whole ship could use a little TLC as it looks like an old boat from the far east getting ready to become a ferry. Had it been our first cruise - I would have been very disappointed. It was NOT luxury.Started in on the scavenger hunt to get all the spots stamped for the draws later that afternoon. The sail-away party was held in the Universe Lounge as we had some rain coming down on us outside. And yes, later that afternoon Dear Wife won a free martini at Crooners Bar as a result of all MY running around. Ah, two days at sea before we get to Aruba. Relax time? - not quite as there was lots going on and I got hit with the Trivia Bug. We set up a pretty good team as we won most of the trivia contests over the next 19 days. Got more lanyards, key chains, fridge magnets, flashlights, etc than I could possibly use. Won a bottle of Italian sparkling wine (they call it Champagne) as well.Next morning off to breakfast in the Bordeaux DR. Nice but sure took long to eat - we decided to take all the next breakfasts in the Horizon Court to cut down on the time taken to eat (an hour for breakfast?). After all, we had things to do all day long. A daily walk on the Promenade deck, taking in the talks by Ken Williams on our destinations, learning about geology from Dr. Ray, and movies, and of course the Trivia every day (twice a day) were on our agenda. Every evening we took in the big production shows that included the Princess dancers and singers. Loved those! We loved their version of Motown and "Do you Wanna Dance?" Only saw three comedians: Tom Brisco (was very good) ; some unfunny fat guy (was very crude and obnoxious - we walked out) ; and Carlos Oscar (also was very good). Plus,we took in a few Movies Under the Stars, until we found out they showed the same movie on the local TV the next day - it was too hard to half-lay back and watch on the lido deck so we took to watching in our stateroom. We did not miss the dry stale popcorn served on the deck.Early morning arrival in Aruba - 7AM - long before anything opens. We had to be back on board at noon - why bother stopping? What a disappointment. We walked off, walked through the downtown shopping core, walked on a beach and a park and had to be back for lunch at the Horizon Court (one of the lunches on a sea day took over an hour in the main DR). Getting off and back on was really very simple - nobody wanted to see our passports - just the cruise card. That evening we decided to take advantage of our voucher for a free bottle of wine (as a returning Princess customer) with our dinner in the Bordeaux (we were on anytime dining) . We asked for a table for two and got it - right next to one of the work stations - not nice. They should put some of the larger table next to the stations - not a romantic table for two. But they must have figured a table for two would be interested in the workings of a dining room rather than have a conversation for two, and we suffered for it. We had a dinner but it was far from romantic. Waste of a bottle of wine. After dinner we went to Crooners to have that free Martini for her and pay for one for me. At $7 per drink we did not stay very long, but it was nice while we were there. But I asked for a Rusty Screw and got a Rusty Nail instead - oh well (and that is after telling the waiter how to make a Rusty Screw). At least we had that stash in our stateroom that we knew how to serve up.Cartagena next morning. This one was 9 AM until 2:30PM so we took a cab into the old town and walked around seeing quite a bit - loved the Gold Museum. Lots of little nooks and crannies that were interesting and fun. Picked up some Colombian coffee and back on board again with no hassles other than showing the cruise card. Finally, the next morning - the Panama Canal. Got up early only to be advised we were going to go through a bit late. Could have used the extra hour to catch a few Z's but when you are up - you're up. Took our time over breakfast in the Horizon Court with a nice view of the approach from our table. Then we had running commentary from Ken Williams throughout the ship - so we could move about from the front to the back to our cabin and not miss anything. We were busy all day and with the Statendam right beside us made for interesting sights - you could see what was happening to them as we were too close to the trees to see ourselves. This day made the trip worthwhile. We probably shot over 100 photos that day alone. Later that evening we got the info on Panama City from Ken so we were ready for the tender trip in the morning.Puerto Amador is a jut of land that was three islands until fill was added and a causeway was built connecting it to the mainland. Nice, clean, modern with a few tourist shops and duty free shopping. We opted for a 2 hour cab ride around town. Saw lots but had to put up with being stuck in traffic for a half hour. Felt a little ripped off, but enjoyed what we did see.This was followed by a day at sea until we got to Puntarenas which was a pleasant stop. They had the requisite tourist stalls set up at the end of the pier for those needing "whatcha bring me? " stuff. The ground tours were full up and everybody got to see a little wild life. Made for great stories around the bar later that evening.A couple of days at sea got us to Cabo San Lucas - same stuff going on as other days at sea. Sure wish they could be a little more innovative with the daytime activities. It was trivia, line dancing, zumba or the reverse each day.Cabo was very interesting but much too short a stop when you have to factor in the tender use. I fail to see why we had such a short time (9AM - 4 PM). If we had more time we could have taken a longer shore excursion and saw a bit more of Baja California. As it is, we had to squeeze a lot into a short time frame. While on the subject of ports - why not include a stop between Costa Rica and Cabo? Could have made it Hualtulco or Acapulco or Puerto Vallarta or even Zihuatanejo. Instead we got days at sea. Princess could have made this trip a heck of a lot more interesting.A couple of more sea days later we arrived in San Francisco. This is when we needed our passports, customs forms, and cruise cards that were replaced for the second part of our trip. Princess treats the SFO to Vancouver as a separate trip and the Ft. Lauderdale to SFO as a separate trip. So we were really on two back to backs. And the folks carrying on to Alaska - they do a back to back to back! Silly process. Everybody had to clear US customs and immigration - even those not getting off - I guess because of our next stop - Astoria in Oregon. Anyway it was a bit of a mix up as some folks just do not read instructions and ended up in the wrong clearing room. others were too important" to stand in line and they would clear immigration on their own time later. Only thing is - nobody gets off until EVERYBODY clears. So we were delayed in getting off and again, just a short stop in SFO. No reason to have it that short - other than just to be miserable. Could have used at least a few more hours. All we had was from 10 AM to 3 PM - much too short for such a vibrant city.At Astoria (after a few more days at sea) we at least had from 8 AM until 5 PM which was sufficient. Astoria did a good job of lining up craft booths at the end of the dock. Picked up some real quality souvenirs.We got off in Victoria the next morning to head home. At first Princess said we (the 100 or so that were getting off) had to slug our own luggage off and through Canadian customs. Some of us complained to the passenger services folks and later in the evening (as we left Astoria) we got notice with luggage tags attached that they found someone to look after getting our luggage off the ship. We just left it out before 8 AM and it was collected and waiting for us at customs.In all, we had one breakfast, one lunch, two dinners at the Bordeaux; one dinner at the Bayou; and all the rest of the meals at the Horizon Court. Service in the dining room was super slow, and not very good so we avoided it. We did not bring clothes for any formal nights as we decided to be comfortable instead - and for the most part - that turned out good.The Island Princess could use an update as it is getting long in the tooth. The public areas could use a full cleaning (including carpet cleaning), while the chairs in the bars need a little repair. Our cabin was old and looked tired, which it probably was due to the vibration and rumble when the engines were running.If we cruise again, we will try RCL or HAL - but, that will not be for a while as we have to save our money again (takes us 4 years). Maybe a refurbished Princess ship - but likely not. Cruising used to be fun - now it is too rushed, too expensive, and all the waiting staff must be on commission. In the meantime we will revert to all inclusive charter flight vacations to either Mexico or Dominican Republic or Cuba - they are much cheaper and a lot more fun. And the charter flights are roomier than Continental with no connections required. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
Well, I did this once and CC sent it back as it was one big paragraph. Let's try again as I really have something to say. I have read reviews on this cruise that were negative coming from the San Diego group that got on for 4 days for ... Read More
Well, I did this once and CC sent it back as it was one big paragraph. Let's try again as I really have something to say. I have read reviews on this cruise that were negative coming from the San Diego group that got on for 4 days for $199 ...... well, we were on this ship for the entire duration and you'll our reviews are 5 stars. First of all, embarkation in Ft. Lauderdale was so organized and quick I was quite impressed. I was also quite shocked that when I went to check in I had been upgraded to a room with a view (window seat) vs the tiny inside cabin I booked so thanks to you HAL for such a nice surprise. Unfortunately my luggage, drink cards, goodies from my Travel Agency went to the old cabin. Despite numerous calls from the 2 lovely ladies in my old cabin to the front desk and multiple trips to the front desk by me; I finally got my going away champagne present from Jimmy and Alex in Grand Cayman and found other purchased items by just simply calling these ladies in the old cabin ... so to the two wonderful bridge ladies in 7049; thank you from the bottom of my heart for my coffee card!!! I learned a lesson; just call your old room and go get your own stuff; the staff was overwhelmed it seemed like for 3 or 4 days??? So this said, I did not have my purple hat for sail away so other CC people could find me nor did I have my doorsign identifying me as I had no luggage. What I did have was a wonderful red fruity drink on the aft deck and got a gorgeous picture taken by the ship photographer that showed me sitting in the sun, hat-less, sunscreen-less in a long skirt having a fantastic sail away without new friends or champagne. However, I had my cell phone so called dear travel agent to let him know that Yes, I am ON THE BOAT!!!!! The cabin was large, spacious and well cleaned. I had a mini bar which I didn't expect and which I used to store pig puffs for my new friends from CC. I had no phone list for a couple days but we found each other at the welcome meet and greet and MsFancy was in her red/white Canadian tie. I want to thank HAL and Gene Young for arranging the wonderful events for our group and to thank MsFancy (Gladys Marie) for her work in putting together such fun events. Everything was well organized and planned out and I think the whole group had a lovely time; so lovely we are already discussing going again possibly in 2012 to Hawaii. Who knows, we'll meet up again. I had no complaints re the ship, staff. To rebuke what the 4 dayers have stated, the ship did NOT get the N1H1 virus until after Costa Rica so it came on somehow. Wasn't us necessarily. And the plastic wrap etc. was to protect us, the passengers. I didn't mind. And if the staff seemed aloof, come on folks, they were TIRED. And it was the children brought on in San Diego puking in the elevators and hallways the first day out of San Diego when the seas were so rough that caused the weird small ...... that smell wasn't there the previous 14 days. I realize the staff were working up to 16 hours a day to keep the ship clean AND doing their regular jobs, so no, they didn't get any time off. I will agree with the head of the Lido, he was way too serious for a cruise ship; this was not the Dutch military ..... it is OK to smile when smiled at; we were a happy, easy going group. We did feel a "change" in the atmosphere of the boat after San Diego. We were in relax mode and the newbies were in party mode. No one minded the children except a couple were really rude. Two little girls tried to beat out the glass in one of the glass elevators; don't know where they thought they were going, could have been into the sea; alas, they didn't suceed, but I noticed the elevator was out of service after that. And one little boy about 8 or so was licking his way down the stair railing (and we were in code RED .........) oops, bet that little fellow was sick when he got home; the staff were using various chemicals to kill germs on the railings. My only comment is parents should keep a little closer watch over their little ones as they can get hurt when not watched. We aren't all old and anti-child; we just appreciate the ambience HAL provides. Overall, I'll go with HAL again, why not, I bought the advance deposit. I do want to try one of the new ships. I enjoyed the cooking demonstrations and classes with Chef John who had an amazing amount of patience, and the speciality dinner with all that remarkable food we got to watch the chefs prepare and how much wine did we drink with that dinner? Elizabeth? I lost count....... So thanks again HAL; well done. You provided me with a most memorable vacation and the canal transit was absolute the bestest experience of my life. I bought the videos; only complain, you have it in fast forward and the people are running around like little ants. I am not going to do all the ports. Enough said already regarding them. I will say to those who didn't zipline, including me, let's do that next trip. I agree with people who went off alone. I think I have cruised enough now to just go my own way; the shore excursions, however nice, are very expensive. I want to say please join Cruise Critic to my new friends Jan and Patti Jean and thank my DTA (Darling Travel Agent) for introducing me to this site a couple years ago. I actually read all the reviews and either choose or not choose a ship based on previous postings. This ship was 5 and would have been 5+ but I was a little disappointed in the shore excursions. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
Overall it was a good cruise. Below are both Pros and Cons to this experience. This is our 9th cruise; the first one on Holland America Others: Royal Caribbean; Princess; Celebrity and Costa. Pros Excellent food Excellent Entertainment ... Read More
Overall it was a good cruise. Below are both Pros and Cons to this experience. This is our 9th cruise; the first one on Holland America Others: Royal Caribbean; Princess; Celebrity and Costa. Pros Excellent food Excellent Entertainment Wide variety of shore excursions Appropriately priced excursions Verandah on deck 7: tub -- giving a generous shower area Hair dryer provided in the stateroom Verandah furniture: 2 chairs; one generous ottoman VERY COMFORTABLE BED There is a movable drape to provide a darkened room and eliminate hallway lights from seeping throught the peep hole or the area surrounding the door. Low-key onboard sales. There was not the constant push to buy, buy, buy. We appreciated that. Low-key onboard photos as well. Onboard technology training -- nicely done! Hydrotherapy Pool -- Pay an extra fee and you have access to this wonderful pool (mineral water -- no chlorine) -- also private access to steam, sauna and heated recliners. This is worth it! We chose this over an excursion on Half-moon Cay. Very wise choice for us. Cons Room steward: did not provide standard fruit bowl until requested by us. The ship was somewhat rocky -- one of the first times I needed meds for motion sickness. This was actually the smallest ship we have sailed on the Caribbean. Open seating for dinner: the staff did not seem prepared; long wait the first 2 or 3 nights Seems like the level of staff/service was reduced/compromised Unable to adjust the height of the "cocktail" table in the stateroom; steward promised to have it repaired. Never repaired during our cruise; nor did we believe it would be Needed to request Breakfast in-room dining cards from steward after we returned from late dining. It should be in the room. This was a holiday cruise -- very little was done for the actual holiday. Yes, there were decorations. Very nice. There was a "tree lighting" in the atrium -- rather small tree, but adequate. What was missing: something special. We have been spoiled by Royal Caribbean that offerred midnight buffets, singing (we did have singing in the Atrium on the Zuiderdam); on RC we had received a full set of RC luggage -- rolling carryon and a snack pack -- on HAL we received a canvas tote; it lacked pageantry. This is the what people seek on holiday cruises. They are charged a premium and should receive a premium. This ship seemed very understaffed, but the staff was polite and generally patient. Inadequate communication: there was a fabulous dessert buffet -- no one knew about it! Therefore it was poorly attended. Finally: Many of the permanent furniture and fixtures are showing wear. HAL needs to consider updating -- SOON. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
"A stunning improvement" is what I can best say to sum up my recent voyage on Regent's Seven Seas Mariner. My previous experience on this ship three years ago (see review on that ill-fated Asia cruise below) was nothing ... Read More
"A stunning improvement" is what I can best say to sum up my recent voyage on Regent's Seven Seas Mariner. My previous experience on this ship three years ago (see review on that ill-fated Asia cruise below) was nothing compared to this cruise. While this is still not as "perfect" a ship as Regent would like for it be, it finally comes pretty darn close. We sailed for 26 days (2 cruises B2B) from Ft.Lauderdale to Vancouver. While I had been to all of the ports we visited before, this was a trial run to see if Regent had improved its game since being rebranded. For those not in the loop, Regent was previously known as Radisson until the Spring of 2006. And while I'm not a complete Regent convert, one more cruise this good might just make me a brand loyalist. Accommodations: The Seven Seas Mariner was the cruising world's first all-suite, all-balcony ship. And, 6 years after its inaugural cruise, the suites are still the finest at sea. Plus, I was lucky enough to board just weeks after the Mariner's drydock, so the rooms were extra plush. The carpets and soft goods in the rooms were redone, while the line's new bedding is the best I've experienced anywhere. In fact, the rooms are so comfortable, I was unable to wake up early several days and would retire to my suite for afternoon naps (and I don't take naps). The bathroom products are Aveda accompanied with plush linens. And each room has a terry cloth robe and slippers. I am a long time "Crystalized" Crystal Cruises loyalists, but even I have to admit that Regent's Accommodations blow Crystal right out of the water. ENTERTAINMENT: The Mariner has two main entertainment venues. The primary one is the bi-level Constellation Theatre which is home to the main production shows, as well as various entertainers and regular movie showings. It is a comfortable room with good sightlines, as long as you are on the first level. It is impossible to sit on the second level without the railing blocking your view of the stage. The other room is the Horizon Lounge, located at the stern. This is a much more intimate room in which trivia, Bingo, teatime and varying cabaret acts take place. There is also a dancefloor there, but I rarely saw it used. The Mariner is not a ship to sail on if you're looking for round-the-clock entertainment. The crowd is unusually low-key and the ship turns into a ghost town once the clock strikes 10pm. The production shows are alright - for a smaller luxury ship that is. The Peter Grey Terhune Singers & Dancers do three shows - "Thoroughly Modern Broadway" (the usual schtick showcasing numbers from Broadway musicals that is a prerequisite on every cruise ship), "Here, There and Everywhere" (the Beatles-themed show) and "Beyond Imagination" (a disastrous assault on the unsuspecting guests that makes little to no sense). The other nights were filled with lounge singers, ventriloquists and comedians. Compared to Crystal where entertainment fills much more time with late night Liar's Club, Name-That-Tune, buffets, 50's night and lavish shows, Regent is quiet to boring. For night owls like myself, the only real place to hangout is the casino or the Internet cafe. The most exciting night onboard was a Rock 'N Roll night that took place late and drew a crowd of, oh, about 8 people (3 or 4 of which were asleep in their seats and drooling on themselves). But Dionne, the Assistant Cruise Director, and Louise, the Social Hostess, did a great job of trying to draw enthusiasm out of the dreary crowd. SERVICE: Perhaps the most improved aspect of the Mariner since my last trip is the service. During our last cruise, the service was poor most days. Servers in the dining room would ignore guests and stand around talking to each other. Other staffers were grumpy or downright rude. That was back in the Radisson days. Now as Regent, there is perhaps not a better staff at sea. Sure, there were some weak links - the sour Travel Concierge Desk staff or the Reception Staff whose only talent is to look confused and say "no" - but, overall, the employees on this ship could not do enough for us. Servers were friendly without being unprofessional, attentive without being obtrusive and genuinely cared about the happiness of all the guests. In fact, the best staff at any hotel or on any ship is the dinner staff at Latitudes (the alternative Asian-fusion restaurant). I can't describe in words how warm, welcoming and wonderful they are. It just has to be experienced. And you can't walk past a stewardess without her giving a smile and a hello. And, unlike last time, the officers are a prominent part of the scene and make great efforts to get to know the guests. Perhaps our funny and friendly Captain had set an example for the rest of the ship. Regent finally has a strong grasp on customer service and is almost to the level of Crystal. If Regent can train it's staff to embrace Crystal's "never say no" policy, this will be the best, most polished group of people at sea. Also of note is the ship's Guest Service Manager, Berniece. As a Guest Service Manager in the hotel industry myself, I respected her ownership of all guest issues and resolve to correct anything not up to par. As a nice touch, Berniece sent me a thank you note after I filled out a mid-cruise evaluation in which I pointed out a couple of areas that were not up to expectations. And besides the note, she made sure to correct the issues immediately. FOOD: Another major improvement this time around centered on the food. The Mariner has a main dining room (Compass Rose), the aforementioned alternative venue Latitudes and a Cordin Bleu alternate restaurant (Signatures). In addition, La Veranda is a casual alternative in the evenings. The food could not have been better. Everything was cooked to order and menus were inventive and appealing. It seemed as if each meal was better than the last. I'm already getting misty-eyed thinking about the duck springs rolls in Latitudes and the vegetable burritos from Compass Rose. I miss them! In addition, the line offers burgers, sandwiches and other casual food on the menus in case you need a break from the endless list of upscale dining options, which we did on occasion. PORTS: Our ports-of-call were Gatun Yacht Club, Panama; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; Huatulco, Mexico; Acapulco, Mexico; Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Los Angeles, CA; Port Hueneme, CA; San Francisco, CA; Astoria, OR; Seattle, WA; Prince Rupert, British Colombia; Skagway, AK; Juneau, AK; Sitka, AK. The ports were mostly fine - even the reviled Port Hueneme wasn't as bad as I had heard. At that port, Regent offered a very interesting shore excursion to the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, which was a highlight. The main misses for me were Sitka and Juneau. Yes, fabulous shore excursions are offered in those ports. But the main towns are crowded, claustrophobic tourist traps. Long gone are the quaint storefronts and pubs. Now the sidewalks are full of long racks overflowing with Alaska t-shirts and row upon row of trinkets and other assorted crap in the store windows. Much like the Caribbean, Alaska is becoming overrun by ships, tourists and money-hungry locals. Ports such as Astoria and Prince Rupert were refreshing as they are enough off-the-beaten-path that you can enjoy the quiet uniqueness of the towns. And you can never go wrong with Seattle or San Francisco, both fantastic metropolitan havens. Our day in Seattle was especially wonderful. Port times on this cruise were shortened, unfortunately, due to one of the disabled pods on the ship. And, in some ports, times were shortened even further due to rough seas that slowed us down (we only had 5 hours in Seattle and 4 hours in Sitka!!) OVERALL: Regent is finally worthy of the "luxury" title. I was consistently impressed and many surprises were around every corner. Service (for the most part) is sincere and consistent, the food is amazing (the best at sea) and the suites are the like floating palaces. Plus, the intimate size of the ship allows you to get to know the staff as well as your fellow passengers. And now that everything is all-inclusive, Regent has become one of the best bargains going. I did experience service issues (such as the butler telling me I had to buy my own lint brush when I asked him for one, or the ship's photographer losing three of the four formal photos he had taken of me and my family with no apology, or the server in Signatures telling me that I could not order a plain green salad because it was not on the menu) which do stand out in my mind. Coming from Crystal where every request is a possibility, I was surprised by some of the discrepancies. But, overall, this was a fantastic trip. And I would not hesitate to sail with Regent again (in between Crystal cruises, of course!) Read Less
Sail Date April 2007
Overall, this was an excellent experience. Never in a million years did we expect to be cruising again so soon after our recent (January 2004) cruise to Tahiti. It seems impossible to believe that the experience on RSSC Paul Gauguin was ... Read More
Overall, this was an excellent experience. Never in a million years did we expect to be cruising again so soon after our recent (January 2004) cruise to Tahiti. It seems impossible to believe that the experience on RSSC Paul Gauguin was surpassed by this one on the RSSC Mariner. We were very fortunate to have made life long friends aboard the Paul Gauguin last year and planned this cruise to the Panama Canal with those new friends. When they called us only months after returning from Tahiti to tell us about the "2 for 1" deal to Panama, we just couldn't say no. Given this most recent experience, we're dedicated cruisers (specifically, on RSSC) for life! In fact, we already began the process of booking our next cruise while on board the Mariner (more on that below). While the differences from our Tahiti cruise were many (location, length of time, size of ship, traveling companions, etc.), the similarities fell in the most important areas: Service, Service, Service!! We had an ongoing "contest" while on board the Mariner to see if there was anything the staff and/or crew would say "no" to. We found it, but only on the very last night (more below). The cabins were perfect in size and location (center/rear of the 7th deck on the Port side). Housekeeping missed a few steps, but were easily forgiven as they routinely took the time to "design" my PJ's into fun shapes every evening during turn down. The spacious bathroom, walk-in closet, balcony and "living area" were the perfect home away from home. More than once, we had all 6 of us in each of the cabins for drinks (brought our own blender and mixers!) and it was cozy, but comfortable. The most anticipated part of many cruises is probably the food. In this regard, we were not disappointed. In fact we found a Bread & Butter Pudding dessert to die for and figured out a way to make a standing order for it every night. The dining staff were among the warmest and most accommodating of any on the ship. They made it a point to get to know us and treated us with affection throughout our voyage. I'd skip the "fancy" restaurant (Signatures) next time only because it seemed a bit pretentious and wasn't the best food on board. However, we made it a point to visit each of the other restaurants regularly (including the Pool Bar & Grill). One of the few areas that fell clearly below the quality of that on the Paul Gauguin (IMHO) was the entertainment. There were a variety of entertainers, but none that held a candle to Sally on the PG. Fortunately, we spent most of our later evenings eating, drinking, gambling and sleeping! And, while the "formal" entertainment wasn't my favorite part of the cruise, we did enjoy several rounds of "Tea Time Trivia" in the Horizon Lounge. We were fortunate to have outstanding weather throughout our trip and enjoyed several exciting adventures while visiting various ports. Part of our group braved the "zip line" experience in Costa Rica and couldn't say enough good things about it. We all got dusty and dirty (in the most fun possible way) while riding ATV's in Huatulco, Mexico (lovely little town). The group discovered a new low in personal hygiene while riding the "Shot Over" boat in Acapulco. Even with the nasty smell, it was an experience not to be missed. And, best of all, was the ultimate experience of transiting through the Panama Canal. I'm not a "techie" or a history buff (my husband is both); however, this was an amazing experience. We were up at 4AM (not a common practice for us!) to begin the process of entering the Canal and stayed up far past dark to experience the passage through the Pacific locks. By far, this was the best part of the cruise experience. We became very fond of the sea days as they allowed us to take advantage of many "miscellaneous" amenities. For example, the ship has a wonderful little library containing a wide variety of books, video tapes, games and several computers with access to the internet (very slow and very expensive - but, it was nice to have access). There were also several guest speakers throughout the trip. One, in particular, (a cultural anthropologist) spoke at length on the history and current workings of the Canal. It was the perfect accompaniment to the transit experience. There were also (somewhat current) movies available in the cabins every day as well as a Bridge Tour and Galley Tour. While we are eager to sail again with RSSC, there was one small challenge in making this happen. When sailing on the Paul Gauguin, we were offered a "Pre-booking Discount Offer" whereby, for a small fixed amount per person ($200, I believe), we were able to lock in a 5% discount on a future RSSC cruise (to be used within 18 months). Unfortunately, this same offer was no longer available to us during our cruise on the Mariner. Apparently, it's necessary to "fake" book a cruise and later transfer the deposit onto the cruise you really want to take once you figure out what that is. As a business person, I see this as a ridiculous waste of time and resources. As a traveler, it is no less frustrating. The Cruise Consultant encouraged us to voice our concerns to the CEO (mconroy@rssc.com) and, of course, we will. One last tidbit covering an item mentioned above in regards to finding the "breaking point" of the staff/crew: On our last night in San Diego, the group decided to stay up late (we weren't scheduled to sail until 11PM) and hang out in the hot tub. As we hadn't used this facility until then, it came as a surprise to us that it "closed" at 10:00PM. While we were (very politely) asked to wrap it up, the gentlemen responsible for staying up to perform clean up duties was kind enough to grant us a 15 minute reprieve. The follow-on experience to this one was dragging our wet and robed (RSSC robes!) bodies up to the Observation Lounge where we attempted to order drinks (technically, only my husband was gutsy/foolish enough to enter in this state!). He was (again, very politely) escorted back out on to the deck where the bartender did, indeed, take our drink orders and deliver them back to us where we enjoyed them while sailing out of the San Diego harbor. I think that any one would agree we thoroughly stretched the reasonable bounds of excellent service! Read Less
Sail Date March 2005
First of all, let me say this was our ninth cruise and first with Celebrity. If traveling from Ft. Lauderdale, try the La Quinta hotel. Great place, not run down as some others have complained about hotels in the pier area. Your stay ... Read More
First of all, let me say this was our ninth cruise and first with Celebrity. If traveling from Ft. Lauderdale, try the La Quinta hotel. Great place, not run down as some others have complained about hotels in the pier area. Your stay includes transportation to the pier which was great. The embarkation procedure was fantastic. No lines and everything was ready for us to walk up, get our room card and board. As we went to our rooms the room steward greeted us and asked us a list of questions about how we wanted our room set up and any special requests we had in relation to his service. All through the trip we were totally happy with his service. The food was plentiful and tasted great. During lunch many people were unaware that there was a made to order pasta bar and sandwich bar at the rear of the ship. These same people were not aware of the waffle bar for breakfast. You cannot skip these. They are almost a dessert they were so good. If you don't want to eat dinner in the dining room you can go to alternative dining, which requires a reservation but it allows a less formal dining area with complete waitservice and only two menus. The menus are alternated each night so not a huge selection but very good. My one complaint is that if you choose not to have a "sit down" dinner, there is no dinner buffet which would allow you to just grab a quick bite then go off to the casino or hang out on the decks. It was a little annoying to me since I don't always want to spend two hours eating dinner. Celebrity is a little different. No animal towels on your bed and none of those activity announcements every half hour to disturb your naps. They had a noon update and that was it. The entertainment was great with an a cappella men's singing group, Lighthouse, which was the the best shipboard entertainment I have ever enjoyed. As for shore excursions, we did the 4x4 thing on Aruba which was okay, but there were four of us and we would have done better renting a jeep and touring ourselves. In Costa Rica we did the Aerial tram which was also just okay. The sale is that you are in a rain forest, which you are. But it was cut years ago and is still 30 years or so from being back to where it should be. In Acapulco we did our own cab thing and got to enjoy all there is to see. For souvenirs, avoid the government area flea market (overpriced) and just walk the shops around the pier. Plenty of them and never pay what they want. Bargain and the prices drop 50 to 60 percent. Cabo San Lucas of course was beautiful and we fended for ourselves. Paid 10 dollars per person for a 1 1/2 water taxi tour of the bay which we thought was a good deal. They will even drop you at lover's beach and come back for you later. We found the guy at the end of the pier and english was not a problem for him. All in all, great trip. Celebrity is a great cruise line and would not hesitate to travel with them again. Read Less
Sail Date April 2004
Embarkation process: Very smooth. Cannot be any better. We had pre-registered on the Internet and all we had to do was to go to the counter and pick up our cruise cards. It took all of about 10 minutes! Cabin: We had a balcony cabin on the ... Read More
Embarkation process: Very smooth. Cannot be any better. We had pre-registered on the Internet and all we had to do was to go to the counter and pick up our cruise cards. It took all of about 10 minutes! Cabin: We had a balcony cabin on the port side on Aloha deck. fairly good size cabin with queen bed, desk, full length mirror, open closet space with plenty of hanger space, a double-door cabinet with shelves that included a password protected safe. Many before us have commented on the extremely small size of the shower stall. We agree. Not a bad stall if your waist size is 28! Overall excellent, comfortable, spacious, and quite cabin. Food: Breakfast buffet is excellent. The omelette station is just wonderful. Plenty of fruits, breads, cereals and meats are available. In juices only orange juice is offered. We found it a bit on the watery side. Great coffee. Lunch and dinner buffets are OK but nothing to brag about. Plenty of choices for both events. We enjoyed the grill and the pizza place for most of our lunches. Great burgers and pizza. One annoying thing - both places, grill and pizza close at 6 pm! Folks with kids were not too happy about that. We had 8 pm sitting in the Provence Dining room for the dinner. We had asked for a table for two when we bought the vacation, bit we were mildly skeptical about getting it. Well, we did! That was a pleasant surprise. Excellent service from the wait staff and every evening, excellent food with a good variety in the changing menus. We dined at the Bayou Restaurant, one with the New Orleans theme. We enjoyed it, at a $10/pp cover charge. Food and service were very good. Great live jazz music too! We did not try the Italian restaurant. Public areas: This is where the ship really shines! Entire 7th deck is for open public areas. That includes a good size casino, Wheelhouse Lounge, Princess Theater at the front end and the Universe Lounge at the back end. All 7th deck facilities are excellent. The atrium rises from the 5th deck to 8th deck and is a beautiful site to watch and relax. Bars are everywhere. A few CruiseCritic reporters have mentioned the pushy bar waiters pushing the "medium" size drinks. True. However, all of the bar waiters were very polite and did not mention the larger drinks once we said no. Bar drinks are fairly priced, sizes are reasonable and presented very nicely. Entertainment: One word describes it well - Excellent. Great comic shows, and excellent production shows. We attended two cooking demos and both were good. One word of caution - Most of the upper level seats in the Universe Lounge have at least partially obscured view. If you really wish to enjoy the show, get there a few minutes early and find seats on the lower level. Exercise, Pools and Jacuzzis: Excellent, first rate exercise facility with 11 tread mills, several ski machines and full implement of other equipment. One trainer was also available. Pools, two of them, are also very good. There are almost 8 jacuzzis. We enjoyed those too. Massage and other personal services were available but we did not take advantage of them. Ports of call and excursions: We skipped excursions at Cozumel and Grand Cayman. We had been there before. At Puerto Limon we took the half-day jungle cruise. It was OK. There is nothing interesting at the port itself. Very modest shops, ALL SELLING THE SAME STUFF at the same price! Panama Canal experience was awesome! We took the train excursion. We enjoyed it very much. One tip for the photo and movie enthusiasts - Go the 14th deck, front of the ship early, say at 7 am if you wish to see everything and photograph it during the Gatun Locks passage. It gets crowded and very few friendly souls yield to accommodate late intruders! At Ocho Rios, we took the half-day highlights tour. It was enjoyable. We had approx. 45 minutes to shop at the Taj Mahal shopping place. That was OK too. Nothing exceptional. Disembarkation: As smooth as the embarkation process. Princess has got this business right! Read Less
Sail Date April 2004
We are a family of three, we traveled with our 4 year old. Previously we have only sailed Celebrity and we are looking forward to many future Princess cruises. Embarkation was easy and quick- just find out where the ship will be docked ... Read More
We are a family of three, we traveled with our 4 year old. Previously we have only sailed Celebrity and we are looking forward to many future Princess cruises. Embarkation was easy and quick- just find out where the ship will be docked when you return as we parked our car at one pier and returned to another. Getting back to our car on arrival day was a nightmare and fortunately the only bad thing about the trip. The Island Princess still has that "new car smell" and our cabin, C202 (a mini suite- totally worth the extra $ for a 10 day sailing), while it had no balcony, was right next to the "crew Only " door that led out to the front of the ship where we had a great view of entering the Panama Canal. The service was fine- Celebrity has friendlier service, but one thing I can say- Princess waiters were quick! We chose the "anytime dining" option and it worked really well for us as we chose to dine every night at 7:30. We aren't big "table lingerers" and we were usually done by 9-9:15. The children's program was outstanding. They really spend money on supplies, prizes and toys for the kids. My daughter was up every morning begging to go to the "Fun Zone"! The girls who worked with the kids were wonderful. The food was very good. We found that Celebrity excels in French cuisine and bread, Princess in Italian cuisine. The pizza was fantastic- and that's coming from me- an Italian who grew up on pizza! I AM glad that I brought my own travel coffee pot, as I love my coffee and the only decent coffee was the restaurant espresso that you had to pay for. The rest of it was pretty vile. I am also glad I packed an extension cord because I wouldn't have been able to plug in my blow dryer without it. The ports of call were very nice- we could have done without the short Nassau stop. We didn't even bother getting off the ship. We left Nassau by noon. In Costa Rica we did a tour with Oscar Brown who we found through the Cruise Critic boards. The tour was perfect for us- though there was some confusion regarding who was on it. We thought we were alone, so we invited a few friends, but when we found Oscar, he had already booked another family of 7 and a couple. It worked out OK- but be clear about who is going before departing. Entering and exiting the Panama Canal is something I'll always remember. Cayman and Cozumel were lazy beach days for us. Some things I'd like to see change: I don't think its necessary for the cruise director to have to announce the activities of the day over the PA system when they are printed in the daily Princess Patter. It was a bit annoying. I would like to see a central area for the pool towels. They should be easier to pick up, exchange, and get rid of. Right now you have to do this through your room steward and I found that to be an inconvenience. I loved the fact that you never had to worry about finding an open lounge chair. There are several pools to choose from so you never really felt too crowded. Other than that I have to say I will definitely sail with Princess again. Any questions- feel free to e mail me! Suzanne Read Less
Sail Date April 2004
Well I am Benjamin. I'm 24 from Montreal, Canada. Its was my first cruise with Princess but did three others with Carnival, the differences are pretty big. The Coral Princess his a awesome ship really nice and new with a lot of pool ... Read More
Well I am Benjamin. I'm 24 from Montreal, Canada. Its was my first cruise with Princess but did three others with Carnival, the differences are pretty big. The Coral Princess his a awesome ship really nice and new with a lot of pool and hot tubs to relax and they are open 24 hours. That's amazing and you can dive in those pools cause they are more than 7 feet depth for 2 of them. For the kids center really nice but there was no kids to play in cause this cruise, this we have to say more mature old people but nice and really enjoying for lot of them but if you want to go party at night that's not the boat to go on 10 days cruise cause longer so its people who have time to travel compared to 7 days cruise. People were up until 1:30am. There wasn't any activity after, just the casino, if you like to play, actually the casino was really nice the nicest a sea so far and I didn't lose this time. For morning persons excellent there his all those morning activities free and paying ones and of course always every day at see those seminars about different stuff you can learn about, its really cool and funny most of time. For those who love good food you're on the right boat. Yes was amazing and you can choose the time you want to go diner between certain hours, and different country specialities every day. The tours and all the stops especially when you pass in Panama Canal it's really impressive those big gates. Limon, Costa Rica this a amazing stop, people are really nice like Cozumel friendly. If you want to shop Limon and Cozumel really nice and Panama Canal Colon is really nice to shop when open.  Now I have to talk about the crew and staff. I have to say they are amazing everyone seem to love what there doing and they really have a good relationship between each other that seems to reflect on their work the best crew I saw. Ok ladies especially if you have to go fixed your hair or a cut the best hair stylist in the world his on that ship his name Nathan Woodley -- that guy knows what is doing and done it for a long time is gonna make you laugh so bad, if you can have a appointment cause hes really busy all the time. And don't forget all the ladies working in the spa amazing too, you will really feel comfortable. For the show and entertainment they are really in to it and make all people dance and have a good time. I remember Sarah really entertaining. The passenger desk service was amazing really fast and serviable. So i really have to say that was an amazing time i had with the crew and passenger even with the big age differences but I totally recommend that cruise to anyone. Have a good cruise. Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
We are Platinum members with princess and have sailed a total of 25+ cruises. Being British, my wife and I flew from London HRW via British Airways on a Princess package arriving in Miami a day before the cruise departure. The flight was ... Read More
We are Platinum members with princess and have sailed a total of 25+ cruises. Being British, my wife and I flew from London HRW via British Airways on a Princess package arriving in Miami a day before the cruise departure. The flight was uneventful and unmemorable being completely full. We were met by a Princess rep and our luggage taken care of. After a lengthy wait for a coach, together with another 40 people we were transported to the Intercontinental hotel. We were very pleased with the accommodation here although we did consider the price of food to be expensive. There are very few facilities at this hotel and very little else to do here. For breakfast the following morning we visited the adjacent McDonalds. At noon on 15th March, around 150 British guests boarded the coaches for the 70 minute journey to Fort Lauderdale. We arrived around 1.30pm, and the booking in procedure was very simple, and after the obligatory 'Welcome aboard photo' we were settled into our stateroom on Aloha Deck 608. This was a balcony cabin just aft of midships. We found the cabin to be quite satisfactory with ample storage space. The bed was configured to a queen and was quite comfortable. It is indeed a fact that the shower cubicle is 'comfortable' - and if you do drop the soap you will have to squat to pick it up rather than bending over! The room steward was excellent is all respects. After the 4.15 Muster held in the public rooms we were on our way just after 6pm for the sailaway. We had booked 'anytime dining' but when we boarded we decided we would like to change it to 2nd sitting - however in the event the traditional dining room (Provence) was full for both sittings. The time for 1st sitting was 5.45pm and second sitting was 8pm. Following the advice gained from Cruise Critic we then spoke with the Maitre D and arranged a regular 8.15 time slot for a table for 2 in the Bordeaux dining Room. Also let it be said that we never had any trouble requesting a table for 2 for any meal in this restaurant. We found the food to be good (Prime Ribs excellent) and the service from the waiters in the main to be excellent. We didn't dine in the Bayou or Sabitinis. There were no reports of Norwalk virus. We thought the Photographers did a good job - however the price of the pictures (10x8=$19.95 and 8x6=$9.95) was expensive. Although the borders and details superimposed made some of them excellent souvenirs. In the Panama Canal the photographers go ashore and take photos of the guests on their Balconies. We had one flat calm sea day and the others were mostly quite windy and sunny. The swimming pools can be quite wild at times. There was never any problem with seat hogging, and you were always able to get a sunbed virtually anywhere. I suppose the age group overall averaged around 55/60 and there were only around 25 small children and a handful of teenagers. There never caused any disturbance in the pools or Jacuzzis. A lot has been said about the ports of call, and I will not go into great detail here, only to say that a couple of pointers. A seemingly little known fact is that passengers are able to stand at the front of the ship on Decks 10 & 11 by exiting out of the for'd doors. This is an excellent position for transiting the canal and there were very few others there. We did the Ocean to Ocean tour - it was a 9 hour tour - and there was a packed lunch. Although a good tour, a lot of time is wasted waiting around in the locks, and the coach journey too and from is very long (2hrs). While the ship was in Cristobel the QM2 was there. The ship couldn't enter Limon due apparently to a high swell, however we did dock at a container port (Port Moin) approx 2 miles North. Princess did provide a transfer to Limon but charged $6pp each way!! We did the Eco tour and found this to be extremely interesting seeing crocodiles, iguanas, sloths and howling monkeys. Debarkation was very smooth and organised. All in all Princess exceeded our expectations. Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
Island Princess Panama Canal March 5-15 Ft. Lauderdale: As we wanted to make own flight arrangements through a travel agent, we flew down on March 4. We always go the day before in case of weather and flight delays. Arrived in Ft. ... Read More
Island Princess Panama Canal March 5-15 Ft. Lauderdale: As we wanted to make own flight arrangements through a travel agent, we flew down on March 4. We always go the day before in case of weather and flight delays. Arrived in Ft. Lauderdale by noon, called the Embassy Suite shuttle and checked into the hotel. Our room was not ready, so walked around enjoying the shopping areas and ate lunch at the South Port Raw Bar on the patio overlooking a marina. It was very close to the Embassy Suites. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a liquor store and purchased a couple bottles of wine and a bottle of champagne to take on board. We got into our room around 3 PM. Requested a high room facing the pier, as many of you suggested. You could at least see the top half of the ships that were in Port Everglades. Then walked to the River Marriott to pick up the Water Bus....again....thanks for the recommendations all you CC. It is a bit of a walk, but less than a mile. We took the Water Bus ($5 for all day) to Las Olas Boulevard where there are a bunch of restaurants, bars, and shopping. We loved the ride, enjoying the million dollar homes. We ate dinner at a delicious Mexican dinner at the Ole Ole and then took the water bus back. March 5: Could see the Island Princess from our room. The Embassy Suites provides a full breakfast. At about 11:15 we asked the bell man to call us a cab, as we had heard the ES no longer provides transportation to the pier. However, they were just loading 2 vans and put us on one of those. When we got to the pier it looked like a huge line. However once they opened the doors, all went well and we were checked in and in our room by 12:30. Sat by the pool and explored the ship until muster at 4:15. Luggage arrived about 6 PM. We do late traditional dining. We don't want to bother with reservations, deciding where and when to eat and enjoy having one waiter for the entire cruise. We had a table for 8. One couple never showed up after the first night so must have changed dining arrangements. Enjoyed exchanging stories of our day with the other two couples each evening. Went to the 10:15 show. It was an introduction of cruise staff, dancers and comedian, Kevin Hughes. He was great so went to both of his other shows. March 6: At sea. Champagne Art Auction: fun to go to at least one even if you aren't interested in buying. They tell about the artists and the Princess Art program. You can stay as long or short of time as you desire. First Formal night. We did formal pictures around 6 PM and found no lines. Captain's Welcome at 7:30 PM. Free cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. If you like chocolate try the Hazelnut Chocolate SoufflE for dessert! Wen to the show Let's Rock! Very good for ship entertainment. Not sure how they dance with the ship rocking so! March 7: Ocho Rios . Ordered breakfast in room. Used the menu left on bed every night. Yes, you can add items not on there, but be very specific. Delivered promptly during the half hour time slot we requested. Personally can take or leave Ocho Rios. Walked to Margaritaville and laid on the beach. Can use the beach there if you buy a drink. You can rent chairs or umbrellas once you are on the beach. Small beach, but nobody pushing you to buy things. Margaritaville was really hopping by the time we went back to the ship mid-afternoon. Shopped briefly at Island Village. Many afternoons we would go to Horizon Court for cheeses, crackers, cold meat, etc. to have on our balcony with a drink while the ship left port. Drink at Wheelhouse Bar. Not much action here, but a few people dancing to a combo. After dinner we went to the 50's Rock N' Roll Party. Lots of fun!!! The singers and dancers performed in a casual atmosphere. There was dancing and a few contests. March 8: At Sea I sat in the sun. There weren't many chair hogs. You could always find a place at the front of the ship a deck above the pool. There were a lot of decks with chair available if you didn't have a need to be by the pool. Most sea days I got food from Horizon Court and ate by the pool. My husband enjoyed the pizza and hamburgers at the pool grill. He spent some time in the library, which is very quiet. You can listen to music, read, and watch the water. Went to the Wine Tasting for $7.50 each. It was okay, but don't feel a need to go to another. Before dinner had cocktails at Crooner's Martini Bar. It was my favorite because there were windows so you could see the ocean or you could people watch as it is right on the atrium. If you like chocolate martinis you must have the Milky Way martini!! Dinner was French night, so Escargot was a must!! March 9: Panama Canal Up at 5:45 as we didn't want to miss any of the Panama Canal transit. You cannot do the pre-order breakfast (where you hang it on your door the night before) until 7 AM, so we called room service. You can order most things they have available on a daily basis. Delivery was prompt. We watched the transit through the Gatun Locks from our balcony. Left our balcony door open and the Princess Station on our TV turned up loud enough to hear the commentary as we entered the locks. At 9:30 AM they begin to tender those with excursions to the Gatun Yacht Club. If you don't have an excursion scheduled you stay on the ship and anchor in Gatun Lake until the ship is given a time to go back out the same three locks you entered through. We had chosen the Ocean to Ocean. It was an hour and a half bus ride to Gamboa, where we boarded a boat that probably held 200. We sat on the top deck in the front as wanted a clear view. It was a very hot day and it took us a long time to get through the 3 locks into the Pacific. They put two ships or boats in the locks if possible to save water. We had a huge cargo vessel going with us and it took quite a while for it to catch up with us and get into the locks behind us. We are not bothered by the sun or the heat so enjoyed our seats. There were benches in the shade and inside where it was air-conditioned for those that don't do well in the heat. Yes, it was a long day, but we loved every minute of it. Apparently some did not enjoy the excursion as much as we did. We docked on the Pacific side at Flamenco Island and were bused back to the port of Cristobal where we met the Island Princess. Due to the time it took to got through the locks, we were the last group on board before the ship pulled out. Being a ship sponsored tour, being late was not an issue. We loved going through the locks in a smaller boat so you could see more of the locks, travel through the Culebra Cut, and hear more about the Panama Canal. If you are doing this excursion, though consider the time and temperature factors. March 10: Limon We did the Costa Rican Adventure which was an aerial tram through the rain forest, lunch and a boat through the Tortuguero Canal. It left at 6:45 AM and returned to the ship at 6 PM. Again, we enjoyed it and would recommend it. If that is too long for you just do the canal part which can be booked by itself. Enjoyed the tram through the rain forest, but saw no animals and is something you probably only need to do once. Lunch was at an open sided roofed building. It was Costa Rican food...rice and beans, chicken, steak, pantian, veggies, salad and a coconut dessert. It was excellent. The boat trip is definitely a "to do". Saw a lot of monkeys, 3-toed sloths, snake birds, hurons, bats, and crocodiles. March 11: At sea Entered the slot tournament; a first. You just pay $20 and get so many credits or pulls. The 6 that have the most credits after the pulls have a play-off and the high credits from that wins $500. Went to the ventriloquist, who was entertaining. Dinner was called International Night. It was Island Night and there was a big party around the Lido pool, but it was extremely windy all day and evening, so not a lot of fun on deck! March 12: Grand Cayman Left on early tender (7:30 AM) to do the Catamaran and Snorkel Stingray excursion. Get to Grand Cayman and Princess excursion person announces "due to wind and current that excursion was cancelled at 7:20 AM). There is a snorkel trip to two places at 8:30 AM they will put us on or credit us with the original excursion. We decide to do the 8:30 AM excursion. Then about half an hour later we are the only ones interested so can't do that either. The excursion guy, Kevin says we can go on the same one with a group from Royal Caribbean at 10 AM. Meet at the same spot. Kevin leaves and at 9:30 we see RCI people at a different tender spot. I ask the excursion guru who replaces Kevin and he says "all Princess excursions meet here" and he doesn't know anything about our substituted excursion. He is very short with us and no help! (Not good!) On our own we go to where the RCI people are boarding a snorkeling boat and join them. The man, Kevin originally told us to go with us welcomes us, takes our Princess excursion ticket and we had a great snorkeling excursion with RCI people to the Cheeseburger reef and a shipwreck not far from the tender pier. Thank heavens my husband was aggressive enough to go to the RCI excursion area and find the guy in charge of that particular trip. Ended up to be a GREAT snorkeling adventure, but I feel Princess let us down! Found out later that people who booked independent trips went and it was windy, but just fine! Should have taken the advice of all you CC's who said "book the stingrays on your own". Next time, eh? Shopped a little, then ate lunch at Breezes...overlooking the water and all the ships anchored.....on their outside balcony! Had a wonderful Conch salad! Back to the ship for pool time. Second formal night, reception for returning passengers, pictures and another great meal!! Our waiter brought us a platter of fabulous cookies besides desserts! March 13: Cozumel Room Service for breakfast on our balcony again! Princess Catamaran Excursion to Palancaar and Columbia Reef. Great catamaran ride to excellent snorkeling spots. Super crew. They snorkeled with us and searched out the best fish and turtle sightings for us. They were very safety conscious and made sure everyone had a good excursion. Back to the ship to clean up and back to Cozumel to shop and have a snack at Panchos (overlooking the water and pier). Back for my daily fix at the casino, but actually came out ahead! March 14: Thought I would not dread my last day on board after a 10 day cruise....WRONG! Not ready for a glorious vacation to come to an end. Another very windy day, so no breakfast on balcony. Pool day and time to pack! One last martini at Crooners and time to purchase last minute pictures. One more trip to casino and some time listening to Karaoke. March 15: Routine disembarkation. Thanks CC's for the advice to use a porter. No line. They take you promptly to a taxi. A word of warning.......the Ft. Lauderdale airport is a zoo.....even on Monday! You have to be off the boat so nothing else to do but go to the airport. If you have an afternoon flight with Northwest, you cannot check in until after 12 noon, even if you are first class. However the check-in machines let you check in, so it is a bit confusing when a Northwest agent yells at you, pounds a sign and says he is tearing up your luggage tags. Then you try to check in after noon and the machine you have to use to check in tells you that you have already registered 2 pieces of luggage per person so will be charged $80 for the only 2 you are really trying to check. Of course, heaven forbid if a real person can help you with this matter! It looked like only Northwest had this policy and other airlines were handling the large numbers quickly and with courtesy. The worst part is there is nowhere to store your luggage, so you have to keep it in tow. You are then stuck in the check in area where there are very few seats, no restaurants, no snackbars, no news stands, etc. Ft. Lauderdale airport and most of all Northwest need to deal with this problem. However, we refused to let such trivial matters ruin a fabulous vacation that we would repeat in a heartbeat!!! Once we got checked in, flights went well and we returned to SNOW! General comments: • Room B431: Our first mini-suite....loved the bigger bath and extra space. We were first on the middle bump-out, facing the front of the ship. That balcony is a little smaller than the normal Baja bump-outs. If you have seen pictures of the first balcony on bump-outs, you have awesome views, but if there is any wind you are not protected at all. This made it hard to have night balcony time or balcony time when on the move. Next time I would probably pass on that balcony situation as I like to spend late nights on the balcony, as well as snapshots of us on it before going out! Perfect location though....midship, close to elevators and stairs. • Too much pushing of shots and double drinks • DJ needs to start at 10:30 PM, not midnight • Need less $20 pictures. Either lower the price so you sell more and make more 5 X 7's for $10 • Heard lots complaints on this board about the food. I thought it just fine and ever bit as good as our first 2 Princess cruises. Can't compare to any other lines. Sorry this got so long! Yes we would do this cruise again and no we were not disappointed in Princess! Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
We sailed the Millennium on 3/28/2004 from Ft. Lauderdale to San Diego through the Panama Canal. Originally the cruise was slated on the Infinity, but she suffered mechanical problems that required a drydock visit and Celebrity substituted ... Read More
We sailed the Millennium on 3/28/2004 from Ft. Lauderdale to San Diego through the Panama Canal. Originally the cruise was slated on the Infinity, but she suffered mechanical problems that required a drydock visit and Celebrity substituted the Millennium. This is one beautiful ship. Really perfect. Celebrity is simply wonderful. Their dedication to excellent, service is tops. Celebrity seemed to be having some problems the day we arrived because about 70 passengers were waiting a long time at the airport for our bus transfer to the cruise terminal. But once we got to the terminal embarkation was a breeze. A little bit about the ship. We booked the cheapest fare available and were placed in a terrible stateroom, 2192 on the Continental Deck. There was an intermittent mechanical noise of extreme vibration that was awful. We tried to adapt, but after two nights of little sleep we went to Guest Relations to ask for relief. They instantly moved us to a lovely stateroom on the Plaza Deck (same category). Blessed silence! And they could not have been nicer about the whole thing. • There are lounge chairs on Deck 4 that are almost always shaded. • If you have Main Seating for dining, and want to go to the show after dinner, get there early, as the seats fill up awfully fast. We missed a couple of shows because of this. • The Aqua Spa on Deck 10 is really nice. Indoor heated pool with incredible jet areas. I think they're called bubble benches. You have to back up to the area, lift your butt up onto the pipes and slowly ease yourself back to the seating area. Tricky the first time, but well worth it! If no one else is there, you can really spread out sideways and have a ball (or bubble). • The Aqua Spa has a lovely cafe area that serves "healthy" offerings. We enjoyed lunch there often. • At the very aft of the Deck 10 buffet area there should be a sandwich/salad bar area. If you like tuna fish salad, you can get a great sandwich built there. That was a nice change of pace for lunch one day. • Right outside that aft area of the buffet is a nice outside seating area with umbrella tables and an awning. Great place to have a glass of wine with that tuna sandwich. Nice place for an afternoon drink as well. • If you like pizza, we thought the pizza was excellent for a nice change of pace. • If you're interested, the gym area is great. I didn't take any of the classes, but I visited often to use the rowing machine, bike, treadmill, and to do some private yoga. • The pools on deck 10 have two different depths. One is about 4' and the other is 5'6" if I remember correctly. • I love a good martini, but I never did make it to the Martini Bar on deck 5. Tablemates said it was wonderful. • On the at-sea mornings there is a Battle of the Sexes trivia contest in the Rendez-Vous Lounge that is great fun. That may have been the best entertainment on the ship! • There are many things going on: educational lectures, computer classes. I attended a "Sugar Demonstration" by the head pastry chef that was wonderful. • Save the Celebrity Today! that you'll find in your stateroom when you arrive. It has an itinerary for the full 14 days including the dinner dress code, along with the arrival and departure times for each port. • Take along a highlighter for each day's shipboard guide. • Take along a nite-lite. You can plug it into the hair dryer unit in the bathroom. • Pack a swimsuit, shorts, t-shirt and flip-flops in your carry-on bag so that you can make a quick change as soon as you get on the ship and head up to Deck 10. The ports: • Aruba: if you've never been there before I recommend the ship excursion Town and Countryside Drive. It gives you a nice overview of the island, beaches, resorts, casinos, shopping, botanical garden, aloe factory and the Natural Bridge. Very nice tour for the price. If it's offered in the morning, then you can have the afternoon to go off on your own to a beach or shopping. • Panama Canal: the best viewing is probably from the topmost deck way in the front of the ship. It's where the topless sunbathing area is offered. You can get to deck 11 on elevators and then one flight of stairs takes you to the top deck. That's a really good place to watch the approach to the locks and going through the locks. I was in the gym area when we went through the "cut" and had a very good view. They provide a really nice Panama Canal brochure in your stateroom. • Panama (Fuerte Amador): I didn't talk with anyone who enjoyed any excursion to this area. The ship doesn't anchor until 6PM. So whatever was done was done pretty much after dark. Everyone was disappointed. I think that even if it weren't dark they still would not have been impressed with the excursions. The only people who had anything positive to say were those who just took a tender and did a little exploring on foot and shopping. • Puntarenas, Costa Rica: Wow! What a fascinating country. We opted for a non-ship tour. We joined 20 other people from Cruise Critic and booked with JD Watersports for a River Cruise. They met us on the pier and we journeyed on an air-conditioned bus to a restaurant that was terrific. We had a leisurely lunch there and then traveled on to the river. Boarded a nicely canopied boat for a terrific river cruise. Be prepared. It may be very warm and humid. But I just loved the whole trip. You cannot imagine how many creatures, crawling and flying, you will see. Other people went on ship's excursions that they just raved about. Those I particularly remember people praising were the Flavors of Costa Rica coffee plantation, the La Paz Waterfalls, and the Sarchi shopping trip. And some of those were really long days, but the people said they were just wonderful. Our day was about 6 hours, and we had the bus ride, lunch, river cruise and ride back for $59. We opted to not do the botanical garden walk. • Acapulco: beautiful place. Again very warm and humid. We arranged for a private vehicle again with Cruise Critic friends. There were six of us in a Suburban. The driver was exceptional. I must admit that I got ill during the voyage and had to return to the ship before seeing the cliff divers. But the tour I had was lovely. And the others told me that the rest of the journey was just as wonderful and the cliff divers were extraordinary of course. Acapulco is a very large, heavily populated area. Lots of traffic. But breathtaking scenery. Ended up costing each couple who finished the whole tour $75. • Cabo San Lucas: I can't talk about anything ashore because we did not go ashore that day. I was surprised at how many people stayed on the ship that day. The weather was absolutely fabulous. This is a tender port that is the shortest stay in port. I'd be a little leery of taking any private trip on Cabo. By the way I was very lucky that afternoon because I was sitting in the buffet area having a cup of tea and happened to see a couple of whales cavorting off the port side of the ship. They weren't close, but I could definitely tell what they were. They kept "blowing", slapping their tales and breaching. Wow, what a show they put on! Altogether this was a wonderful cruise experience. Traversing the canal is extraordinary. But what made this trip most memorable for us was not the ship, not the itinerary, but the people we met. We were seated at a table for twelve and what a fabulous group we turned out to be. From NH, southern California, Michigan, Ohio and Texas. We love the dining room experience anyway and Celebrity does it very well. But we especially looked forward to joining out tablemates each evening because we just had such fun being together. It was very hard to say good-bye. Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
This was our first 10 day cruise and we wanted to experience some days at sea. We were not disappointed in the days at sea and the balance of the cruise either. It was nice to say that after our first week at sea, we STILL had 3 days! The ... Read More
This was our first 10 day cruise and we wanted to experience some days at sea. We were not disappointed in the days at sea and the balance of the cruise either. It was nice to say that after our first week at sea, we STILL had 3 days! The panama canal was a great day also. Going through the locks was neat. We stayed on board to go back through the locks,this time dropping to a lower level. The food was divine. We 'pigged' out on lobster night. I had 9 lobsters and two of our table mates had 13 and 15. We also had the pleasure of a couple celebrating their 62nd anniversary. Both were sharp as tacks, with a zest for life. I can honestly say that our fixed seating and our dinner mates were a great part of our enjoyment. The wait staff, was superb. We had Carlos and Gabriella and if you can get them you will not be disappointed. If you do, say hello from Sam. We relaxed, and explored the ship each day on board. We have sailed before, so a couple of excursions were of the 1/2 day version so we could get back on the ship. The nightlife was also excellent. Depending on what you were looking for. We were a little disappointed in that we had hoped for some 'big band' music. The WheelHouse bar provided some, but it was not the best. The two bands used some background music also. We were on the RCL Adventure of the Sea in Nov of 2003 and the bands there were great. There was a band called STORM. They played in the Explorer Lounge and played a lot of good rock music. We got involved with a lot of the audience participation. We won 3 bottles of champagne which we felt obligated to drink before we got off ship. Island Princess also has self-service laundry facilities, which I thought was great. We had sailed on Coral Princess earlier in 2003 and knew that on a 10 day trip we would use the laundry facilities. Overall, I think Princess is a great value. We had an easy embarkation and disembarkation. I do not recall one staff person not being friendly and helpful, including those working off the ship. I we go back to the Panama Canal or Alaska, we will consider cruising with Princess. Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
 We traveled in a group of 5 couples in their 40's and 50's who enjoyed balconies on a variety of floors. One couple on the Aloha deck reported noise from the pool area during early morning staff preparations. Rooms were small, ... Read More
 We traveled in a group of 5 couples in their 40's and 50's who enjoyed balconies on a variety of floors. One couple on the Aloha deck reported noise from the pool area during early morning staff preparations. Rooms were small, but comfortable--some balconies are open above--bathrooms, especially the showers are tiny. The cruise staff were extremely friendly and competent--great service especially in the food areas. Ask and you shall receive--extra entrees, special desserts, mix and match dinners--very accomadating. We experienced "anytime dining" and shopped for a waiter we liked and then settled in and made reservations for the same table each night at a variety of times to suit our schedule. The food was above average, the salads were uninspired, but the seafood and beef were excellent. Sabatini's served a sampler of every item on the menu which ended up being too much food--we noticed that this restaurant seemed empty the second half of the cruise. Worth trying, but be hungary when you go. This ship is clean! Our best excursions were the eco-tour in Limon, Dunn's Falls in Jamaica (take a taxi for $10 and pay the entrance fee of $10--3 miles--and save $100 per couple), the Sail and Snorkel in Cozumel and the 7 mile beach in Grand Cayman (taxi to the beach for $20). The entertainment included 3 different comedy performers, a juggler, magician and 3 evenings of the cruise singers and dancers. All performances were enjoyable--the singers were above average but not expectional voices. Only one of the comedy acts were laugh out loud funny--Kevin Hughes. The pool areas were fantastic. Plenty of loungers--quiet sections and louder sections. The on-board activites were plentiful and interesting. The golf simulator was spectacular. Impossible to be bored. If you like cruising, and many do since many people we met were multiple time cruisers, this ship is an excellent choice Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
Island Princess Panama Canal March 5-15 Ft. Lauderdale: As we wanted to make own flight arrangements through a travel agent, we flew down on March 4. We always go the day before in case of weather and flight delays. Arrived in Ft. ... Read More
Island Princess Panama Canal March 5-15 Ft. Lauderdale: As we wanted to make own flight arrangements through a travel agent, we flew down on March 4. We always go the day before in case of weather and flight delays. Arrived in Ft. Lauderdale by noon, called the Embassy Suite shuttle and checked into the hotel. Our room was not ready, so walked around enjoying the shopping areas and ate lunch at the South Port Raw Bar on the patio overlooking a marina. It was very close to the Embassy Suites. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a liquor store and purchased a couple bottles of wine and a bottle of champagne to take on board. We got into our room around 3 PM. Requested a high room facing the pier, as many of you suggested. You could at least see the top half of the ships that were in Port Everglades. Then walked to the River Marriott to pick up the Water Bus....again....thanks for the recommendations all you CC. It is a bit of a walk, but less than a mile. We to the Water Bus ($5 for all day) to Las Olas Boulevard where all there are a bunch of restraints, bars, and shopping. We loved the ride, enjoying the million dollar homes. We ate dinner at a delicious Mexican dinner at the Ole Ole and then took the water bus back. March 5: Could see the Island Princess from our room. The Embassy Suites provides a full breakfast. At about 11:15 we asked the bell man to call us a cab, as we had heard the ES no longer provides transportation to the pier. However they were just loading 2 vans and put us on one of those. When we got to the pier it looked like a huge line. However once they opened the doors, all went well and we were checked in and in our room by 12:30. Sat by the pool and explored the ship until muster at 4:15. Luggage arrive about 6 PM. We do late traditional dining. We don't want to bother with reservations, deciding where and when to eat and enjoy having one waiter for the entire cruise. We had a table for 8. One couple never showed up after the first night so must have changed dining arrangements. Enjoyed exchanging stories of our day with the other two couples each evening. Went to the 10:15 show. It was an introduction of cruise staff, dancers and comedian, Kevin Hughes. He was great so went to both of his other shows. March 6: At sea. Champagne Art Auction: fun to go to at least one even if you aren't interested in buying. They tell about the artists and the Princess Art program. You can stay as long or short of time as you desire. First Formal night. We did formal pictures around 6 PM and found no lines. Captains Welcome at 7:30 PM. Free cocktails and hors' douvres. If you like chocolate try the Hazelnut Chocolate SoufflE for dessert! Wen to the show Let's Rock! Very good for ship entertainment. Not sure how they dance with the ship rocking so! March 7: Ocho Rios. Ordered breakfast in room. Used the menu left on bed every night. Yes, you can add items not on there, but be very specific. Delivered promptly during the half hour time slot we requested. Personally can take or leave Ocho Rios. Walked to Margaritaville and layed on the beach. Can use the beach there if you buy a drink. You can rent chairs or umbrellas once you are on the beach. Small beach, but nobody pushing you to buy things. Margarittaville was really hopping by the time we went back to the ship mid-afternoon. Shopped briefly at Island Village. Many afternoons we would go to Horizon Court for cheeses, crackers, cold meat, etc. to have on our balcony with a drink while the ship left port. Drink at Wheelhouse Bar. Not much action here, but a few people dancing to a combo. After dinner we went to the 50's Rock N' Roll Party. Lots of fun!!! The singers and dancers performed in a casual atmosphere. There was dancing and a few contests. March 8: At Sea I sat in the sun. There weren't many chair hogs. You could always find a place at the front of the ship a deck above the pool. There were a lot of decks with chair available if you didn't have a need to be by the pool. Most sea days I got food from Horizon Court and ate by the pool. My husband enjoyed the pizza and hamburgers at the pool grill. He spend some time in the library, which is very quiet. You can listen to music, read, and watch the water. Went to the Wine Tasting for $7.50 each. It was okay, but don't feel a need to go to another. Before dinner had cocktails at Crooner's Martini Bar. It was my favorite because there were windows so you could see the ocean or you could people watch as it is right on the atrium. If you like chocolate martinis you must have the Milky Way martini!! Dinner was French night, so Escargot was a must!! March 9: Panama Canal Up at 5:45 as we didn't want to miss any of the Panama Canal transit. You cannot do the pre-order breakfast (where you hang it on your door the night before) until 7 AM, so we called room service. You can order most things they have available on a daily basis. Delivery was prompt. We watch the transit through the Gatun Locks from our balcony. Left our balcony door open and the Princess Station on our TV turned up loud enough to hear the commentary as we entered the locks. At 9:30 AM they begin to tender those with excursions to the Gatun Yacht Club. If you don't have an excursion scheduled you stay on the ship and anchor in Gatun Lake until the ship is given a time to go back out the same three locks you entered through. We had chosen the Ocean to Ocean. It was an hour and a half bus ride to Gamboa, where we boarded a boat that probably held 200. We sat on the top deck in the front as wanted a clear view. It was a very hot day and it took us a long time to get through the 3 locks into the Pacific. They put two ships or boats in the locks if possible to save water. We had a huge cargo vessel going with us and it took quite a while for it to catch up with us and get into the locks behind us. We are not bothered by the sun or the heat so enjoyed our seats. There were benches in the shade and inside where it was air-conditioned for those that don't do well in the heat. Yes, it was a long day, but we loved every minute of it. Apparently some did not enjoy the excursion as much as we did. We docked on the Pacific side at Flamenco Island and were bused back to the port of Cristobal where we met the Island Princess. Due to the time it took to got through the locks, we were the last group on board before the ship pulled out. Being a ship sponsored tour, being late was not an issue. We loved going through the locks in a smaller boat so you could see more of the locks, travel through the Culebra Cut, and hear more about the Panama Canal. If you are doing this excursion, though consider the time and temperature factors. March 10: Limon We did the Costa Rican Adventure which was an aerial tram through the rain forest, lunch and a boat through the Tortuguero Canal. It left at 6:45 AM and returned to the ship at 6 PM. Again, we enjoyed it and would recommend it. If that is too long for you just do the canal part which can be booked by itself. Enjoyed the tram through the rain forest, but saw no animals and is something you probably only need to do once. Lunch was at an open sided roofed building. It was Costa Rican food...rice and beans, chicken, steak, pantian, veggies, salad and a coconut dessert. It was excellent. The boat trip is definitely a "to do". Saw a lot of monkeys, 3-toed sloths, snake birds, hurons, bats, and crocodiles. March 11: At sea Entered the slot tournament; a first. You just pay $20 and get so many credits or pulls. The 6 that have the most credits after the pulls have a play-off and the high credits from that wins $500. Went to the ventriloquist, who was entertaining. Dinner was called International Night. It was Island Night and there was a big party around the Lido pool, but it was extremely windy all day and evening, so not a lot of fun on deck! March 12: Grand Cayman Leave on early tender (7:30 AM)to do the Catamaran and Snorkel Stingray excursion. Get to Grand Cayman and Princess excursion person announces "due to wind and current that excursion was cancelled at 7:20 AM). There is a snorkel trip to two places at 8:30 AM they will put us on or credit us with the original excursion. We decide to do the 8:30 AM excursion. Then about half an hour later we are the only ones interested so can't do that either. The excursion guy, Kevin says we can go on the same one with a group from Royal Caribbean at 10 AM. Meet at the same spot. Kevin leaves and at 9:30 we see RCI people at a different tender spot. I ask the excursion guru who replaces Kevin and he says "all Princess excursions meet here" and he doesn't know anything about our substituted excursion. He is very short with us and no help! (Not good!) On our own we go to where the RCI people are boarding a snorkeling boat and join them. The man, Kevin originally told us to go with us welcomes us, takes our Princess excursion ticket and we had a great snorkeling excursion with RCI people to the Cheeseburger reef and a shipwreck not far from the tender pier. Thank heavens my husband was aggressive enough to go to the RCI excursion area and find the guy in charge of that particular trip. Ended up to be a GREAT snorkeling adventure, but I feel Princess let us down! Found out later that people who booked independent trips went and it was windy, but just fine! Should have taken the advice of all you CC's who said "book the stingrays on your own". Next time, eh? Shopped a little, then ate lunch at Breezes...overlooking the water and all the ships anchored.....on their outside balcony! Had a wonderful Conch salad! Back to the ship for pool time. Second formal night, reception for returning passengers, pictures and another great meal!! Our waiter brought us a platter of fabulous cookies besides desserts! March 13: Cozumel Room Service for breakfast on our balcony again! Princess Catamaran Excursion to Palancaar and Columbia Reef. Great catamaran ride to excellent snorkeling spots. Super crew. They snorkeled with us and searched out the best fish and turtle sightings for us. They were very safety conscious and made sure everyone had a good excursion. Back to the ship to clean up and back to Cozumel to shop and have a snack at Panchos (overlooking the water and pier). Back for my daily fix at the casino, but actually came out ahead! March 14: Thought I would not dread my last day on board after a 10 day cruise....WRONG! Not ready for a glorious vacation to come to an end. Another very windy day, so no breakfast on balcony. Pool day and time to pack! One last martini at Crooners and time to purchase last minute pictures. One more trip to casino and some time listening to Karaoke. March 15: Routine disembarkation. Thanks CC's for the advice to use a porter. No line. They take you promptly to a taxi. A word of warning.......the Ft. Lauderdale airport is a zoo.....even on Monday! You have to be off the boat so nothing else to do but go to the airport. If you have an afternoon flight with Northwest, you cannot check in until after 12 noon, even if you are first class. However the check-in machines let you check in, so it is a bit confusing when a Northwest agent yells at you, pounds a sign and says he is tearing up your luggage tags. Then you try to check in after noon and the machine you have to use to check in tells you that you have already registered 2 pieces of luggage per person so will be charged $80 for the only 2 you are really trying to check. Of course, heaven forbid if a real person can help you with this matter! It looked like only Northwest had this policy and other airlines were handling the large numbers quickly and with courtesy. The worst part is there is nowhere to store your luggage, so you have to keep it in tow. You are then stuck in the check in area where there are very few seats, no restaurants, no snackbars, no news stands, etc. Ft. Lauderdale airport and most of all Northwest need to deal with this problem. However, we refused to let such trivial matters ruin a fabulous vacation that we would repeat in a heartbeat!!! Once we got checked in, flights went well and we returned to SNOW! General comments: • Room B431: Our first mini-suite....loved the bigger bath and extra space. We were first on the middle bump-out, facing the front of the ship. That balcony is a little smaller than the normal Baja bump-outs. If you have seen pictures of the first balcony on bump-outs, you have awesome views, but if there is any wind you are not protected at all. This made it hard to have night balcony time or balcony time when on the move. Next time I would probably pass on that balcony situation as I like to spend late nights on the balcony, as well as snapshots of us on it before going out! Perfect location though....midship, close to elevators and stairs. • Too much pushing of shots and double drinks • DJ needs to start at 10:30 PM, not midnight • Need less $20 pictures. Either lower the price so you sell more and make more 5 X 7's for $10 • Heard lots complaints on this board about the food. I thought it just fine and ever bit as good as our first 2 Princess cruises. Can't compare to any other lines. Sorry this got so long! Yes we would do this cruise again and no we were not disappointed in Princess! Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
WE ENJOYED MOST OF OUR CRUISE BUT FOUND THE POOL AREA A LITTLE ANNOYING DURING THE DAY. THE PEOPLE WERE SAVING CHAIRS AT 6 O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING. THE MAJORITY OF THE CRUISE WAS GEARED FOR OLDER PEOPLE WHICH I THINK YOUR TRAVEL AGENT ... Read More
WE ENJOYED MOST OF OUR CRUISE BUT FOUND THE POOL AREA A LITTLE ANNOYING DURING THE DAY. THE PEOPLE WERE SAVING CHAIRS AT 6 O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING. THE MAJORITY OF THE CRUISE WAS GEARED FOR OLDER PEOPLE WHICH I THINK YOUR TRAVEL AGENT SHOULD KNOW MORE ABOUT THIS WHEN YOU BOOK. I THOUGHT THE NORMANDIE RESTAURANT WAS CHARMING AND THE FOOD WAS EXCELLENT. I TRULY LOVED ALL OUR PORTS OF CALL EXCEPT GRAND CAYMAN, WE DECIDED TO DO SOME SHOPPING AND TOOK A TENDER OVER TO THE AREA. UNLESS YOU'RE SHOPPING FOR JEWELRY IT'S JUST OK. I WISHED THAT WE WOULD HAVE BOOKED AN EXCURSION INSTEAD. OUR WAITERS, MARIO & SOO WERE DELIGHTFUL AND THE SERVICE WAS EXCELLENT. THE SAME FOR OUR CABIN STEWARD, JUAN, HE COULDN'T DO ENOUGH FOR US. THE CELEBRITY SINGERS AND DANCERS WERE WONDERFUL. WE FELT THE SHOWS WERE GREAT AND ENJOYED THEM IMMENSELY. THE REVELATIONS LOUNGE WAS FUN AND THE VOLTZ BAND WAS TERRIFIC. I HAD A BALL ON ISLAND NIGHT, DANCED A LOT. MY HUSBAND ENTERED THE KARAOKE CONTEST IN THE RENDEZVOUS LOUNGE AND DID WELL. HE FELT THAT THE SOME OF THE STAFF DIDN'T RUN THINGS CORRECTLY, THEY DIDN'T SEEM TO KNOW HOW TO GET PEOPLE INVOLVED OR MAKE THINGS FUN LIKE ON OTHER SHIPS WE WERE ON EXCEPT WHEN THE CRUISE DIRECTOR WAS RUNNING IT THEN IT SEEMED TO GO BETTER. WE WERE WITH EIGHT OTHER PEOPLE SO WE ALL HAD DIFFERENT OPINIONS. WE THOUGHT THE WATERFALL GRILL WAS GOOD AND HAD BREAKFAST AND LUNCH THERE MOST EVERYDAY. WE JUST WISHED THAT WE WOULD HAVE BEEN ON A CRUISE WITH MORE LIVELIER PEOPLE, NOTHING AGAINST OLDER PEOPLE BUT EVERYWHERE WE WENT PEOPLE WERE SLEEPING BY THE POOL THE COULD CARE LESS ABOUT THE WONDERFUL BAND THEY HAD PLAYING AND THEIR CHAIRS WERE ALL OVER THE DANCE AREA SO IT DIDN'T SEEM AS MUCH FUN AROUND THE POOL AREA AS OTHER CRUISES WE TOOK. ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU'RE AT SEA THE POOL AREA SHOULD BE EXTRA SPECIAL IN OUR OPINIONS AFTERALL YOUR ON VACATION.  THE SHIP WAS PRETTY NICE BASICALLY AND THE STAFF VERY CARING AND HOSPITABLE. Read Less
Sail Date February 2004
I stayed at the Holiday Inn Ft. Laud Beach. The area is not as nice as the main hotel area where the Sheratons are, but it was good for the price. We walked to the Sheraton in about 15 minutes. Love taking the water taxi to see Millionaire ... Read More
I stayed at the Holiday Inn Ft. Laud Beach. The area is not as nice as the main hotel area where the Sheratons are, but it was good for the price. We walked to the Sheraton in about 15 minutes. Love taking the water taxi to see Millionaire Mile (saw the yacht owned by the owner of Princess) and going to the restaurants. I took bonine the first day, but it made me drowsy, I did fine the rest of the cruise with my sea bands. It was really rough the night before the Panama Canal and the night after, a woman on deck 11 called down in the middle of the night to see if there was something wrong with the ship and the captain made an announcement the next night to advise of rough seas, but I didn't feel a thing on my room on Plaza deck, in the middle, room 602 - outside. The upgrade fairy upgraded me 8 levels. I booked my cruise with Cruises Only, much lower than booking with Princess, plus I got a $50 shipboard credit - you have to ask for it and we received coupon books during the cruise. My friend had booked with Princess, she asked customer service for the coupon books and was told the travel agents were running a promotion, so they would not give her any. I had read that the Coral Princess the week before had the norwalk virus so I was expecting to see the staff wiping down areas etc. but did not notice anything. The Star had hand sanitizers outside of the horizon court restrooms, but not the Island. Watch out when ordering the drinks/mocktails of the day, they will not give you the price advertised unless you demand it, they always try to push the larger size drinks, some of the waiters are pretty pushy, but the service was great. There were plenty of deck chairs everywhere, no need to try to chair hog. Some of the nights you could get to a show at the last minute and get seats other nights be there 15 minutes early, especially the first couple of nights. I didn't think the production shows were as good as the Star, but still worth seeing. The comedians were just ok. The newlywed game was terrible - don't bother. We enjoyed the horse races and the casino. In Ocho Rios we did the catamaran snorkeling trip on the cool jazz through Princess, this is the worse snorkeling I have ever done, hardly any fish and not much for coral, they only go a few yards away from the ship, we really enjoyed sailing though, sat out on the net, had huge waves. Did the Nativeway tour in Grand Cayman to the sandbar. I was really looking forward to getting in with the stingrays and was really scared when I did, they are huge and surround you, I'm glad I did it, but I wouldn't do it again, one man at our table was bitten/hurt by one, had a mark on his arm, but he was fine otherwise. Some of my table mates did the glass dome train excursion at the canal, but didn't like it. Going through the canal, I went to the horizon court at 6:15 and was able to get a good table, one row back. During the voyage go to deck 7 - promenade to be eye level with the locomotives, the best place was in the back, I was on the lido deck, you can see other ships behind you and beside you, it was great. I stayed on the ship and enjoyed the ride back through the locks. I don't get massages, can't see paying hundreds of dollars, but if you want to save some money, they always go on sale the last 3 days, the hot rocks was reduced from $158 to $85 and they had daily specials, so why book the minute you get on. I had looked forward to going to the disco with my friends, but they would not start it till after midnight - so that no one was there, when the show in the Explorers lounge ended, there were still about 30 people there, I asked the dj to play a song, he said he doesn't start till midnight, 10 minutes later the lounge was empty. I went back at 12:30 and there were 2 people sitting at a table. I don't know why Princess doesn't start the disco after the shows when they have people there. It's like Princess is against the partying atmosphere. So if you like to dance, forget it. I loved the cruise though, it's a beautiful ship, but I am 50 and can't wait to try Carnival again, I love the Carnival pool parties and bands (there is no band poolside on Princess, only 1 person singing to recorded music). The mood on Princess is quiet, really quiet and refined, Carnival is for those who want to stay up past 10 and like to dance. Read Less
Sail Date February 2004
First of all, let me apologize for being so slow posting this review. I know how difficult it is to wait for a review on a ship that you are about to sail...and I'm sorry for making you wait! This cruise was just the two of us...my ... Read More
First of all, let me apologize for being so slow posting this review. I know how difficult it is to wait for a review on a ship that you are about to sail...and I'm sorry for making you wait! This cruise was just the two of us...my husband and myself, both early 50's. We have cruised several times before, on Carnival and Royal Caribbean. Our first Holland America cruise was New Years, 2002 on the Zaandam. This was our first sailing on the Rotterdam. We flew into Ft. Lauderdale the day before our cruise and took a cab ($10. plus tip and very easy) to Marriot Marina where we had gotten our room for $52. via Priceline. I had requested a room with a view of the cruise terminal and that's what we got. It was great to go to sleep with the Queen Mary outside our window and wake up to the Rotterdam! A nice room, but we got no sleep...in part due to our anticipation level and also because of a noisy air conditioner. We took the hotel's shuttle to the pier. Easy and quick. We arrived at the pier about 11:25...just a few minutes before they opened the doors at 11:30 AM. Registration was quick and painless, and we were on the ship by noon. Since others have described the ship to great - and accurate - detail, I will forego that part of the review. The ship is lovely - the fresh flowers are amazing. The ship is a little older than some we have been on but the interior is in very good condition...clean and obviously well cared for. We found her to be a comfortable, relaxing and inviting ship. The exterior is showing more signs of wear - rust was in evidence - but again, the crew was painting while we sailed and she was definitely being cared for. Our first stop was the spa to make a hair appointment for the first formal night. Since it would be Valentine's Day, I thought there would be a rush for appointments, and there was. I was able to get the time I had hoped for, so was pleased. Our next stop was the lido deck for lunch. We are recent (14 months) converts to vegetarian eating, and this was our first cruise as vegetarians. We were a little concerned that we would have to subsist on lettuce and bread for the 10 day sailing....how wrong we were!! A wide variety was available to us for breakfast and lunch in the lido and dinner was wonderful! Over the 10-day cruise we never repeated a dinner entrEe, And the food was superb. Each evening in the dining room our head waiter "Jimmy" would bring us the vegetarian menu as well as the menu for the next night and let us choose the following night's dinner. Cruettes were waiting for us each evening when we arrived at our table for 2 (a wonderful choice!) and our waiter Marcus and his assistant Andres could not have been more accommodating. We were so pleased! We spent the rest of our first day exploring the ship and meeting new friends. What a wonderful group of people we met! One of the things we have been most impressed with on both of our Holland America cruises is the courteous passengers we sail with! Everyone is just so kind to one another --- holding elevators, sharing plans, offering to share cabs and rental cars. This really makes a difference in our enjoyment! During the sea days we took advantage of many of the ships activities. We went to each of the seminars about the Panama Canal and found them to be interesting and informative. We played bingo, participated in the football toss, the basketball shoot, the ping pong tournaments. We played board games, cards, trivia, scattergories and other games with other passengers. We went to cooking demonstrations and craft activities. We enjoyed the music and dancing and went to the theatre twice to see first run movies. We sat on the deck - especially the lower promenade - and read books, we went to the spa and ran on the treadmill. We always love sea days, and try to make the most of them. Neither of us are interested in long periods of laying in the sun, but for those of you who do, the decks were never crowded and there were always chairs and towels available. HIGHLIGHTS of THE PORTS: What can I say about HALF MOON CAY? What a wonderful day this was! We rented a cabana - got the green one. It will be difficult to go back to HMC any other way! This made our day truly memorable. We snorkeled, we floated on the rafts, we relaxed in our cabana. The cabana was $179. for the two of us, and that included delicious snacks - fruit, a veggie tray, and nachos with salsa and cheese dip - soft drinks, snorkel equipment, rafts. We had frequent visits from cruise staffs who stopped by to see if we needed anything. Fellow cruisers stopped by to look at the cabana and chat. We had a wonderful day. CURACAO was a nice port. We took a ship's excursion - the See and Sea - and it was OK. Our tour guide seemed to be really happy were were there, and did a nice job of telling us about the island. The highlight was the Atlantis semi-submersible. Something like this is offered at almost every island we have visited and we had never been before...which gives you an idea of our low interest and expectation. But our host was very good and the fish and coral we saw were amazing! Definitely worth the cost of the excursion! ARUBA was interesting. One side of the island is lovely beaches - the other is desert and very rocky. We had planned to rent a car and explore this island. However, because of their annual Carnival celebration, there were no cars to be had - not at the pier, not at the airport! We were standing at the pier deciding what to do when we were approached by someone with a tour company. After she explained what her tour would show us (which was everything we had wanted to see) we decided to take her tour. For $15.00 each we went on a new, air-conditioned full size bus with about 10 other passengers, and they took us everywhere! We agreed it was better than renting a car. Some of the roads in Aruba are so rough that we might not have thought they were actually roads had we not gone with a tour, and probably would have missed some highlights! THE PANAMA CANAL and PANAMA were fascinating. There is an expert who boards the ship as you enter the canal and gives a wonderful play-by-play of the action as you traverse the locks. We felt better prepared thanks to our seminar lecturer, and really enjoyed the locks. This is really an experience not to be missed. We took the Panama Railway and were so glad we did. Arthur, our guide, was fabulous and really made us understand what this country has gone through since the canal was turned over to them a few years ago. He was very proud of his country, and made this day an especially memorable one. COSTA RICA was our chance for the Tourtugena Canal excursion. Again, this is a tour which was VERY well done! We saw sloth, monkeys, birds, butterflies, crocodiles, turtles, iguanas and a wealth of other animals in their natural habitats. We were on the first trip - which was the one I would recommend. They told us the animals get slow and stay deeper in the jungle - out of vision - once the day begins to warm. Debarkation was a breeze! Staying in your cabin is so convenient. We went to the Lido for breakfast, then went back to our cabin until they called our number. The first group of passengers were allowed to disembark at 8:55 AM. We were in the fourth group called, and were off the ship and in a cab on the way to the airport by 9:30. Fantastic!! On the way home, we talked about the cruise and the inevitable question came up....what would you have changed to make this a better cruise. The only answer is this: When I walked off the ship, to turn around and get right back on again! That is the ONLY thing either of us could come up with. We have had some great trips, and other great cruises....this is easily our best one to date! Read Less
Sail Date February 2004
Just came back from sailing on the Rotterdam, 10 cruise to Panama Canal, 2/22 to 3/3/04. To describe this cruise in one line: the perfect cruise, paradise at sea! This is our 9th cruise, after being a Celebrity Cruises x 4 never expected ... Read More
Just came back from sailing on the Rotterdam, 10 cruise to Panama Canal, 2/22 to 3/3/04. To describe this cruise in one line: the perfect cruise, paradise at sea! This is our 9th cruise, after being a Celebrity Cruises x 4 never expected to like any other cruise line better until now, HAL has earned my business with quality service near perfection. We live in Miami, therefore we just drove to Ft Lauderdale ourselves, it takes about 45 minutes from home; we chose not to arrive to early embarkation because of wheelchairs, medicines we carry etc, but we arrived at 1230pm and by 105pm we were in our cabins; HAL provided assistance immediately with wheelchairs. Our luggage arrived in our cabins before the emergency drill. We were in Cabin 3429 which is Cat D, Aft Lower Promenade, wheelchair accessible cabin, (I travel with my mother (70s), who must have a walk-in shower and shower chair/bench to sit while in the shower due to severe arthritis and heart disease). Also traveled with my friend who is a Cerebral Palsy adult woman, totally wheelchair bound, and her parents (60s), they were in Cat C, #6104, excellent cabin, very spacious, accommodates 3 adults comfortably. The ship is beautiful, the art work is magnificent, you find paintings, sculptures, etc. everywhere you look, even the ceilings and floors have art work. Don't miss the ceiling at the Tropic Bar or the inlay floor at the Explorer's Lounge. The Queens Lounge is beautiful, comfortable chairs and high back half moon sofas, the only drawback is that the theater feels like an icebox, so make sure to bring a sweater/jacket/shawl. The Sports Bar has a nice large TV, watched some of the Oscars there and had a lot of fun. The Atrium is very elegant, the Atrium Clock Tower is awesome, I loved Atlas holding the World on top. You will find beautiful fresh flower arrangements everywhere, and I mean everywhere, the entire cruise! We took one afternoon after lunch (to sort of walk off the calories) and walked the entire ship, sort of a "treasure hunt", and it was well worth it because we found such beautiful art work we felt we had spent the afternoon at a museum! A very important detail: HAL has on board a Catholic priest on all ships, therefore, Catholic Mass is celebrated daily for passengers during the day and for staff during the night. Also has Nondenominational services several times during the cruise. This sailing included Ash Wednesday and both Catholic and Nondenominational services were given including imposition of ashes. This is the first time I travel on any line that offers daily mass, for me, this was the icing on the cake of the perfect cruise being able to rest, have fun, feed my body and most definitely, feed my spirit with daily prayer. Thank you HAL! Found the best music at the Explorer's Lounge and the Ocean Bar, only went to Crows Nest on Latin Music Night but it was a bit disappointing. The shows were good and the Rotterdam Cast is actually very good, choreography is very alive and well done considering the limited space, of course, is not Broadway or Vegas, but is very good for cruise line shows, the best I've seen; the last formal evening show called "Underseas Follies" was really good, beautiful stage design and costumes, and the music delightful. We skipped the shows on first and last evenings, chose to unpack and pack instead without being rushed. Other evenings shows included pianist Tommy Bond (magnificent!), juggler Bob Cates and magician Russ Stevens (didn't go to the shows, I don't like these type of shows but my friends said they were very good), singer Jeff Harnar was magnificent too, great voice! Don't miss the Indonesian Crew Show, it is really beautiful, and you can tell how hard they have worked and how much they enjoy it, something not to miss, I loved it! The Tropical Deck Party while in Curacao was a lot of fun and the fireworks leaving Curacao were wonderful, have never had so much fun leaving a port at night as we did in Curacao except for leaving San Juan at midnight with Celebrity's Caribbean Pool Party (they are tied for first place in my book). The onboard shops are average for a cruise ship, nothing spectacular, limited selection of perfumes, none of the good quality ones, such as Boucheron or 24K by Jivago. The Shore Excursions we chose were low activity due to my mother's health but I feel they were good and had a great time: in Curacao we did the Williamstead Trolley which is fair in quality and found it expensive for only one hour of tour (they say 1-3/4 but is not true), afterwards did some good shopping: good leather bags, beautiful cotton embroidered women's clothing, good priced perfumes and jewelry (must know your prices in the US beforehand, be smart shopper). In Aruba we took the Aruba Town and Country Tour which was very nice, visited Eagle Beach (gorgeous), Lighthouse, Aloe Farm and Plant, Casibari Rocks, and of course Natural Bridge which is very beautiful, nice gift shop at this last stop. The shopping in Aruba is also very good but a bit more expensive. For T-shirts the best prices were in Costa Rica (they sell them for $5 at the pier market). The Panama Canal was an unforgettable experience, we were lucky to go into the Canal at sunrise and leave during sunset, you can just picture the scenery! We took the Gatun Landing, too expensive, some people chose to swim in the Lake but I thought it looked a bit too cloudy for my safety, and chose just to browse at the crafts and watch the entertainment which was fair but interesting; they had a group of Panamanian teens dressed with their typical Panamanian costumes and dance folkloric dances which were quite beautiful, also included a couple of dances by the Cuna Indians and a couple of dances by the Embera Indians (I feel this last group bring their teen girls topless just for show and money, because I found that the older women were not topless, so the line that this is their way of life did not convinced me, also I speak Spanish and was able to talk to them and found that this is not how they "dress" typically except at home). The crafts they bring are beautiful and some very good quality, not expensive at all. In Costa Rica we took the Limon Sightseeing and truly enjoyed, our driver Miguel was terrific, he would get off the bus with his machete and bring us different fruits, flowers, leaves, etc for us to hold, smell, and taste, if desired. We were able to hold water apples, the banana flower with tiny banana buds inside, cocoa fruit with cocoa butter and beans inside (they taste good), and a fruit that looks like strawberry with pine needles but the needles have a spice similar to paprika to flavor and color food, also saw the Ylang-Ylang flower and able to enjoy its fragrance. Our tour guide, Zelma, was great and informative on Costa Rica's lifestyle, economy, history, etc. They took us to the Dole Plantation (had a souvenir shop, expensive except for good flavored liquor such as Macademia Liquor: to die for!) and also stopped at a resort called Colon Beach Resort which was a beautiful place, with hammocks, typical Costa Rican music and food, and some upscale souvenirs, nice handmade macrame bags and good quality khaki and cotton clothing. However, the best souvenir shopping is right at the pier market, they have the best prices, T-shirts for $5, leather hand-painted bookmarks for $1 and beautiful lacquered wood hand-painted magnets for $1-2, beautiful leather bags with engraving for $20-35 but you better bargain because they will give you a much higher price and you can bring them down as much as $20, (all these prices are USD). The private island of Half Moon Cay is absolutely gorgeous, I have never seen a more beautiful private island (have been to Princess Cay, Coco Cay, and Labadee), the beach is out of this world and this is coming from a Cuban born American who remembers as a child going to Varadero in Cuba: the beach at HMC is exactly the same: white, fine powdery sand (like confectioner's sugar), and perfect warm, crystal clear turquoise water, we had the best time here; HAL has beautiful facilities, walkways are concrete tiles, therefore, allowing for steady walking and wheelchairs, restrooms are clean and well stocked of supplies, plenty of beach lounge chairs (there were two ships at HMC: Rotterdam and Maasdam) and plenty of chairs for everyone, we did not go for water sports, I just love to swim and enjoy the clear waters but I heard that snorkeling was perfect, we did take walks around the island and it is beautiful; the shops are nothing to write home about unless you want your hair braided or want some Bahamian straw items; the food at HMC: terrific BBQ, the ribs were really good, lots of fruits and ice cold beverages, service the best as always. The food on the Rotterdam is excellent, beautiful presentation, did not find anything I did not like, the service in the La Fontaine Restaurant was very good, both waiter (Budy) and his assistant (Gusty) remembered our names and preferences immediately, never had to remind them again of anything, always attentive to our needs; the Lido staff is great, always ready to help my mother with her tray (she uses a cane), the food was well prepared and the variety at Lunch was good, we even went to the Lido one night (chose to be outside while crossing the Panama Canal at night and missed dinner at the restaurant)and dinner at the Lido was just as good as the restaurant; we also went to the Pinnacle Grill at Odyssey on the first evening (it was half price) and it was the best dining experience I've had in a long time, excellent gourmet five course dining with magnificent service and good wine selection, had the famous Grand Marnier Chocolate Volcano which is to die for. On Dutch Night we wore the Dutch hats, that was different, felt a bit silly at first, but then joined the crowd and even had my picture taken, the food was awesome, had Dutch Pea Soup and Dover Sole which were great, and dessert was the most beautiful and delicious Hard Chocolate Tulip (sort of like a chocolate cup shaped as a tulip) filled with Belgian Chocolate Mousse, do I need to say more? Every night the menu was very good, with many dishes to choose from, sometimes it was hard to make a decision, I enjoyed them all, had some kind of prawns, shrimp, lobster or crab legs every night whether as appetizer or main course; on the last formal night we had caviar as appetizer (first time I have caviar on a cruise without having to pay extra). The Lido Breakfast and Lunch choices were good. The cleanliness of this ship considering its age is very good, yes the ship needs some painting on the outside but otherwise is holding up beautifully. The restrooms are very clean, I was impressed to find real cotton towels in the restrooms, I must admit I've never seen this before anywhere! We found that the restroom next to the Queens Lounge on Deck 5 has very large windows with beautiful ocean views while you are sitting down doing your hair and makeup, awesome! Photographic services needs a bit of improvement but this is a personal opinion, I am tall and some of the photographers are about 5 ft tall, therefore, most of my photos don't look good from a lower view and always had the flash reflected on my glasses, tried without glasses but they were not much better either, next time I will look for the taller photographers! The Filipino and Indonesian staff is great, always with smile, they remember your name all the time, even the staff from the Front Office, I was truly impressed. The Wajang Theater is very comfortable, watched a couple of movies, and enjoyed the "free" popcorn. The Java Cafe is great, being able to have my espressos and cappuccinos anytime, without extra cost, was definitely a plus on this cruise, I hope HAL never changes this because it is definitely a quality service we all enjoyed. I must be fair in my review, therefore, I will now give you my opinion on the only drawback of the entire cruise for us which is something that HAL needs to work on: disabled services; the cabins are spacious, the restrooms comfortable, safety bars are well placed and can be reached easily but services to the wheelchair bound person is not that good. For example: there are quite a few viewing decks which are not accessible by electric wheelchairs due to a high door frame on the floor of about 3 inches such as those found on the doors to the viewing decks on Aft Deck 8 and Aft Deck 6; also the front of the ship viewing deck on Aft Deck 3 can only be reached through several stairs, therefore, not even accessible if you have limited mobility like my mother who must avoid stairs; some the doorways have a large metal bar which can cause anyone to either trip over it or an electric wheelchair or scooter to loose balance; HAL says they have a lift on the Rotterdam but when we ask to have my friend lifted to the tender at HMC they said it must be "requested 24 hrs in advance" which is totally senseless since we got on board on Sunday afternoon and reached HMC on Monday morning! Then at Panama Canal we didn't even try because since we didn't know if the lift would be appropriate for her electric wheelchair, why pay $39 excursion in advance required to get off the ship in the Canal? As to the process of using tenders HAL can learn from Royal Caribbean: RCI has these large tenders in both Coco Cay and Labadee where no lift is required since the tender is like a small ferry-boat where you do not need to use stairs since there is a ramp to get on and off the tender, we have used it at both RCI private islands easily and safely with my friend's wheelchair, and in both places she had the opportunity to enjoy a day at the beach, even go swimming with our help and a large lifesaver. I will be writing to HAL to recommend that they contact RCI regarding these tenders because considering the average age of the HAL pax and the numerous scooters, wheelchairs, and walkers I saw on the Rotterdam, the larger tenders are much safer for everyone. The days at sea were very relaxing or very active, depending on your choice, a lot of different activities were offered as active as exercises and dancing classes and as relaxing as Bingo, it was fun to watch a group playing golf at the pool; the pools and whirlpools are very clean and easily accessible if you are able to walk and can manage 4-6 small steps, lots of lounge chairs by the pool and at several sun decks, having a covered pool proved to be very handy on a couple of days at sea which were extremely windy, even the pools had "waves". The wrap-around deck on Lower Promenade Deck 3 is wonderful, great place to walk off the calories, and great teak cushioned lounge chairs perfect for that afternoon nap or reading (my mother napped and I read); walking around this deck on the Rotterdam x 3.5 is equal one mile, we did two miles in the morning and two miles in the afternoon which does not take long and is relaxed cool walking with the ocean breeze, we enjoyed immensely and it helped to burn off some of the desserts calories! Last morning went very easy, LIdo breakfast available early, we had breakfast at about 630am without any lines; we were instructed to go to the Explorer's Lounge to wait to be called, it was nice and comfortable, and we were off the ship by 930am; Ft Lauderdale is great for debarkation, I find it easier than Miami, luggage is easy to find and porters are readily available to assist you. Besides the tender issue, every thing else was just perfect. I hope I didn't forget to include anything, but I can most definitely summarize this trip as my best cruise thus far, and will be returning to HAL again and again, and most definitely will be back on the Rotterdam again, what a true class ship, a lady at sea! Read Less
Sail Date February 2004
Photos http://community.webshots.com/album/104034426eQjXll Our Background: We are a married couple, ages 32 and 30. We consider ourselves pretty experienced travelers having vacationed throughout Mexico (Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta ... Read More
Photos http://community.webshots.com/album/104034426eQjXll Our Background: We are a married couple, ages 32 and 30. We consider ourselves pretty experienced travelers having vacationed throughout Mexico (Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and Playa del Carmen), Europe (Paris and London) and throughout the U.S. in our 3+ years of marriage. Our only other cruise experience was an Eastern Caribbean itinerary on the Golden Princess in February 2003. We were pretty devoted land-based vacationers until we were introduced to cruising and especially Princess' version of cruising! Some of the things we love about cruising include visiting new ports of call, the convenience and options tied to dining and being treated very, very well by all members of the ship's company. Itinerary: Saturday, February 21: Fort Lauderdale, Florida Sunday, February 22: Sea Day Monday, February 23: Montego Bay, Jamaica Tuesday, February 24: Sea Day Wednesday, February 25: Panama Canal Thursday, February 26: Limon, Costa Rica Friday, February 27: Sea Day Saturday, February 28: Grand Cayman Sunday, February 29: Cozumel, Mexico Monday, March 1: Sea Day Tuesday, March 2: Fort Lauderdale, Florida Embarkation - Ft. Lauderdale We booked the Renaissance on 17th Street in Ft. Lauderdale through Priceline. I probably bid a little too early to secure a room but did get what I thought was a good price ($95) for one night. We flew into Ft. Lauderdale and arrived to the hotel after midnight on Saturday, February 21. On our previous trips into Ft. Lauderdale (this was our third time) the time it took to get our luggage seemed excessive. This time, our luggage came out quickly. The cab ride was inexpensive ($10). The Renaissance was fantastic! We had previously stayed at the Pier 66 (Lanai rooms) and at the Embassy Suites on 17th Street. Although nothing can top the Pier 66 (and we paid rack rate there), the Renaissance was just a bit classier than the Embassy. It was bright and clean and the desk staff was exceptionally friendly, especially considering the hour! We were given a room with two queen beds, which was fine considering we were only going to be there for about 10 hours. The room was comfortable and had a view looking east. When we woke the next morning we could see the Grand Princess at her berth (Pier 2). We grabbed breakfast in the touristy part of Ft. Lauderdale. We ate at a great restaurant called The Deck right along Seabreeze Boulevard (A1A). We had an outdoor table that overlooked the Boulevard and the beach. We arrived at the pier at about 12:30 PM and were fairly quickly through the check-in procedures and security screening. We could tell pretty quickly that the average passenger age aboard this particular cruise was going to be older. We spotted more than a few wheelchairs and walkers in the cruise terminal. We were in our stateroom no later than 1:00 PM. Our bags were quickly delivered on this cruise - we had both our checked bags before 3:00 PM. We did put some of our embarkation essentials (swimsuits, shorts, toiletries, etc.) in our carry on bags so we could have them immediately upon arriving to our stateroom. Stateroom We had booked a mini-suite on the Dolphin Deck (Deck 9). We were given D512 (category AB) and found it to be wonderful. We had previously sailed on the Golden Princess in a mini-suite and had an exact duplicate of our stateroom, except reversed! We knew what to expect and were pleased with the size of the closet and shelf space, the size of the bathroom and the additional seating area (with sleeper sofa) by the balcony door. Our beds were pushed together in a queen configuration. The beds were hard, which was fine. However, what I missed most during the cruise were my natural feather pillows. The pillows we had simply did not "mush". They certainly didn't spoil our cruise, however. A couple of things we brought that made our stateroom even more comfortable were: -An inexpensive shoe organizer that hangs over a door; kept the limited counter space in the bathroom neat and free from clutter -A power strip for additional outlets. After reviewing Cruise Critic, I could not determine whether one needed a 3-prong adapter or not (a device that turns a 3-prong plug into a 2-prong plug). I brought one along but was pleased to find that the outlets in the stateroom were standard U.S. 3-prong types. The power strip offered additional outlets for such things as a laptop computer and battery charger used for my digital camera. -A corkscrew -Our own supply of wine and beer. I know the issue of "smuggling" booze aboard a Princess ship is a topic of heated debate on the message boards. Here's my take: I'm simply not going to order a glass of wine or a bottle of beer from room service to enjoy on my balcony. It's simply not going to happen. However, when I am in the public areas of the ship, I order from the bars. We averaged 2 to 3 drinks per person per person from the ships' bars during the entire cruise so I don't feel Princess lost any significant revenue because we had our own stash in the stateroom. And, we did not bring or try to bring hard liquor aboard, either in Ft. Lauderdale or from any port. Our stateroom steward, Sonny, was exceptionally polite and efficient. Our room was always tidy when we came back to it and Sonny made sure that we had clean wine glasses each evening (we had to initially ask for the glasses at the beginning of the cruise). Sonny did a great job for us and earned an additional tip from us at the end of the cruise. We do enjoy spending time in our stateroom, sometimes to simply watch a movie that we may have missed. The television selection aboard was limited: CNN, CNNfn during the week and CNN Headline News on weekends shared the same channel, TNT, ESPN (the international version) and the usual Princess television channels. The movies shown during our cruise on TV included: "Bruce Almighty", "School of Rock", "Whale Rider", "Lost in Translation", "S.W.A.T.", "In America" and many more. Because we were at sea on Sunday night (Academy Awards night), they did lock onto the satellite feed and showed the event on the channel reserved for TNT. The feed was not 100% however and portions of the show were missed during "blips". They also had movies throughout the cruise in one of the public lounges. Some of those titles included: "Seabiscuit", "Master and Commander" and "Radio". Our balcony was fully exposed to those above us but this did not bother us. We rarely saw others on their balconies except for the Panama Canal transit and upon entering or leaving a particular port. We had two plastic (heavy duty) chairs on our balcony and a good-sized round table. We felt the Coral handled very well, even in rough seas. The roughest seas we had on our 10-day cruise were classified as "Rough" (7.5 - 12 feet) with near gale winds. We never felt the Coral pitching or rolling. There were times either in the Princess Theater (far forward) or the Universe Lounge (far aft) where we felt swaying, but nothing too dramatic. If anything, I would say we felt the Coral shudder under heavy seas and nothing too severe. Yes, there is some creaking, popping and groaning in the stateroom during active seas but it's only enough to let you know you're sailing! The Coral's Public Spaces -Princess Theater: A nice venue on Deck 7 forward. There are only two entrances/exits to the theater at the top and back. This was a change from what we had on the Golden with exits at the back on a higher deck and exits at the front on a lower deck. The reason this was significant is because due to the advanced age of many of the cruisers, it wasn't necessarily fun to be seated at the front of the theater. Exiting seemed to take just a little longer getting everyone up the steps and out of the exits on Deck 7. A word of advice: most people appeared to use the starboard entrance to the theater, as the port entrance was less open due to the Wheelhouse Bar. Therefore, it appeared throughout the cruise that seats on the left side of the theater were more plentiful as people were not using that entrance. The left aisle was also clearer of passengers. -Universe Lounge: A very nice venue on Decks 6 & 7 aft. On the Golden, this would have been the Vista Lounge, a pretty standard lounge. However, on the Island class vessels, the Universe Lounge has two tiers and plenty of good sight lines. The theatrical technology in the Universe Lounge allowed for some pretty spectacular shows throughout the cruise, including a singing and dance revue called "Tribute". The Universe Lounge used intimate sofas and chairs that made up the seating area. -Explorer's Lounge: Deck 6. We only used this lounge for the art auctions that were held primarily on sea days. Apparently they used the lounge for a disco at night although we were never there to witness it. -Wheelhouse Bar: Deck 7 forward. This was one of the spaces on the Coral that really surprised me. I was expected the Golden version of the Wheelhouse, which was an intimate space but certainly not grand. However, the Coral's Wheelhouse was large and very clubby. It was paneled in darker woods and held a variety of nautical memorabilia, especially from the P&O line. Even the hallways leading to the Wheelhouse were memorable in that they carried out the theme. If you are a cruise fanatic and enjoy history, stop into the bar and review the display cases and walls. There is a somewhat hidden niche just off to the side from the Atrium entrance where vintage cruise posters, postcards and even menus from past cruisers can be reviewed. The Wheelhouse Bar was also a good place to look for drink specials throughout the cruise. There were frequent 2-for-1's on margaritas, daiquiris, etc. -Princess Casino: Deck 6. We're not gamblers but even we enjoyed people watching in the casino. The casino has a London-theme and faithfully carries out the theme in using the Queen's Guards to watch the starboard entrance, a colorful carpet with London themes throughout and phone booths and double-decker busses to house slot machines. The casino was much more open feeling than the one on the Golden and was far less smoky than what we experienced on the other ship. -Crooner's Bar: Deck 7. The bar wrapped around the atrium and was styled with Rat Pack images and themes. It was a very nice bar to congregate in before a dinner or during the evening for live piano music. Crooner's also had frequent drink specials during the cruise, including $3 martinis from their "Bond Collection". This was a menu of traditional and more contemporary martinis that were delicious. Service was excellent at Crooners. -Princess Fine Arts Gallery: Deck 7 aft. We really enjoyed the art experience aboard the Coral. The Art Gallery itself is an intimate space with works from all eras and artists. The collection did change from day to day although major pieces remained in place. We enjoyed talking with Michael, the Coral's Art Director, and picking up bits of knowledge about the pieces aboard. We would frequently attend the art auctions (mainly held on sea days) and would definitely recommend previewing the art beforehand (approximately 1 hour before an auction a wide selection of art was displayed in the Explorer's Lounge and made available to be requested for auction). We ended up purchasing two pieces of art during the cruise (Jean Vollet's "Soleil Sur La Seine" Zamy Steynovitz's "Musical Bouquet in Paris"). Both were signed lithographs that we felt were quality pieces and a good value. The art auctions were also a great way to drink on Princess! A champagne auction was held during the 1st sea day as well during the last auction on the 4th sea day. -Bordeaux Dining Room (Personal Choice Dining Room): Deck 5 forward. We had selected Personal Choice Dining during our cruise and were not disappointed. Although we had wait staff that were wonderful and whom we'd like to have gotten to know better, our dining times varied extensively throughout the cruise. For us, it just didn't pay to have a reserved time or table. We got the sense during the cruise that people were eating earlier. We would often catch one of the earlier shows and then eat later. We were always immediately shown to a table and never had to use the pagers. The dining room itself reminded us a lot of what we saw on the Golden. One of the changes, however, was how tables for two were arranged. On the Golden, the tables for two were completely separated from other tables. A lot of tables for two on the Coral were actually placed in close proximity to other tables for two. We actually liked this a lot. There was enough space between the tables to suggest intimacy but they were close enough that conversation with neighbors was natural. We met some great couples dining this way throughout the week. Just a recap of some of the menu items we had during the week: -Appetizers: Spring rolls, shrimp cocktail, crab quiche, smoked supreme of duck, escargot, prosciutto with melon, baked eggplant parmigiana, Turkish lamb and eggplant turnover, baked clams casino, asparagus with puff pastry, avocado boat with mixed seafood salad, Vol-au-Vent (creamed chicken and sweetbreads in puff pastry) -Soups: Pina Colada splashed with rum (chilled), lentil soup, yogurt and tamarind (chilled), fish gumbo, pumpkin and turnip puree, vichyssoise choid (chilled leek and potato), papaya and kiwi (chilled), capon broth with vegetables, pasta and fagioli red bean soup, Won Ton, tropical fresh fruit cream (chilled), lentil puree with garlic, apricot (chilled), lobster bisque, asparagus puree, pumpkin puree (chilled) -Entrees: SautEed filet of Zander (white fish), prime rib, medallion of beef tenderloin, salmon filet with dill sauce, scallops and shitaki mushrooms, pasta with salmon strips, roast duckling with orange and curacao sauce, glaze, roast center cut of pork loin, sea bass, shrimp flambEed in brandy and served with a spicy tomato sauce, veal chop with sautEed mushrooms, Thai snapper fillet, filet mignon and grilled jumbo shrimp, twin lobster tails, Beef Wellington, lamb chops, linguine with poached clams, Mediterranean sea scallops -Deserts: Profiteroles with mixed berries, Mohr im Hemd (baked chocolate pudding with glaze), apple tart, chocolate hazelnut soufflE, croquembouche, almond soufflE stuffed in baked peaches, Austrian chocolate cake with apricot layers, Princess Love Boat Dream, chocolate gateau with cherries, New York style cheesecake and a variety of ice creams in unique and complementary flavors (cinnamon, strawberry daiquiri, champagne, etc.). We simply don't have a specific review for each and every dish we had aboard the Coral. In short, everything we ate was fabulous! Perhaps it's because we were not shopping, preparing, serving and cleaning up what we ate but everything was marvelous. In the days since we've returned we've come to the conclusion that the individual dishes that may not have tasted absolutely superb to us had less to do with the preparation and more to do with our own taste buds! "Special Nights": Formal Night 1 (sea day 1), French Night (sea day 2), Italian Night (Costa Rica), International Night (sea day 3), and Formal Night 2 (Grand Cayman) -Horizon Court: Deck 14 forward. We liked having the Horizon Court at the front of the Coral instead of at the back as we had on the Golden. This was truly a different dining experience. There are slanted windows in the Court at the very front of the ship allowing one to see forward from up high. This was especially popular during the Panama Canal transit. The Horizon Court also had a dedicated bar with bar stools and a stage for performances by a pianist or guitarist during different times of the day. We ate many of our breakfasts and lunches at the Horizon Court. Sometimes the offerings were better than at other times. There were lunches when the pickings were very slim and we resorted to using the Grill or Princess Pizza for the main part of our meal. However, some standards that always worked for us were the selection of fresh fruits and cookies! Breakfasts were always good: enormous steam trays full of bacon and sausage daily, fresh egg selections (including Eggs Benedict and Eggs Florentine regularly) and plenty of breads. I was actually somewhat disappointed in some of the bread and rolls on the Coral. I know it's difficult to maintain freshness in a buffet setting, but often the bread was hard. Not stale by any means, but not fresh tasting or in texture, either. Because the average age of this cruise was higher, there were difficulties in navigating the buffet. I was always looking over my shoulder or to my side to make sure I wasn't running anybody down. We also noticed that the Horizon Court was exceptionally busy between about noon and 1:15 PM. There were times when we simply could not find a table to sit. However, the longer you waited to eat lunch, the better it got! Finally: the coffee. I will agree with others who have said the coffee is not all that great but I did not find it completely offensive either. It comes straight from a concentrate (in a bottle that looks a lot like a motor oil container!). However, the coffee had a mild taste to it and wasn't as acidic as a lot of fresh-brewed options are. -Fitness Center: Deck 14 aft. We like the Coral's gym! We managed to get up to the facility on 6 occasions during a 10-day cruise. I believe the Coral had more weight machines to work more parts of one's body than what we had on the Golden. They were also arranged much better so that there wasn't a traffic issue between the weights and the aerobic equipment. There were plenty of treadmills in addition to six low-impact aerobic machines and several more stationary bikes and stair-steppers. The gym never got entirely full or crowded. There were mornings when we spent more time on the weights waiting for an aerobic machine to open up but it wasn't excessive. Gym towels were available daily. -Lido Pool: Deck 15 midship. We like the pools aboard Princess ships! We enjoy the fact that they are freshwater and deep! The pools aboard the Coral were no different. The Lido Pool tended to be the center of activity on Deck 14 for such things as wacky pool games, ice carving demonstrations, music by steel drum band Sugar Cane on most days and the Island Night party. We found that we could always find a lounger in the sun and we did not really see evidence of chair hogging or saving. Drink service was always available but wasn't intrusive. The one thing we noticed on this cruise was that the pool water temperature was brisk at times. I'm guessing that due to rough seas at some points during the cruise, the staff may have emptied the pools during the evening and then refilled them during the mornings. -Lotus Pool: This was a very serene pool and also offering a place to be by the pool but remain out of the sun. We did notice the retractable roof in the closed position one evening and the pool deck nicely air conditioned, probably due to steamy conditions outside! -Pelican's Pool: We never swam or even lounged around the aft pool. It is a smaller pool and does not have a deck ringing the pool (you have to go up one level to get to loungers). The deck above also has the ping pong tables. -Alternative Restaurants: we never dined at Sabatini's or The Bayou Cafe. They appeared to be empty on most nights with plenty of tables available. We did like how each venue was distinctively decorated, however. -Internet Center: Deck 8, midship. The Internet Center wrapped around the Atrium on Deck 8. We used it twice while onboard. We found the connection to be extremely slow but this may have been due to the ship's position. -Library/Card Room: Deck 8, midship. Both of these venues were beautiful and cozy. Both had large windows for viewing the ship's progress at sea or during a port visit. The library had a pretty extensive collection and using the facilities was easy. Entertainment -"Dance"/"Da Beat"/"Up Curtain"/"Tribute". I don't mean to shortchange any of the full dance and singing shows by lumping them together, but in short, they were all fabulous! The shows (either performed in the Princess Theater or Universe Lounge) were unbelievable! The use of the theater technology aboard is simply impressive. Set refreshes and props were delivered in amazing ways, the lighting and audio were flawless and the feel was close to Broadway. The dancers and singers aboard this cruise were wonderful. They were exceptionally talented and energetic. We probably enjoyed "Dance" the best out of all the shows during our cruise but each one is simply not to be missed. -Billy Vader. Vader did a brief routine during the Welcome Aboard show but also did his own 1-hour act later in the week. He also MC'd the final show of the cruise. He is not to be missed. He is extremely funny and does a variety of stand up material, singing and impressions. He was a riot. -Duncan Tuck. Duncan performed only one evening in the Universe Lounge. He is a guitarist/vocalist who does what he calls 'singing comedy'. He was very talented. -Dan Horn. Dan is a ventriloquist who we had previously seen on the Golden. He used a variety of puppets. At times his routine seemed to stall but he more than made up for it when he brought up a passenger for a very funny scene. The Ports of Call -Montego Bay, Jamaica: After a full sea day we arrived to Montego Bay. We had nothing formally scheduled for the port so decided to take a shuttle bus ($3 per person each way) to the main shopping area. We were dropped off at some jewelry shops that did not appeal to us. I could see the city center just a few blocks away and headed in that direction. A local calling himself Steve approached us on the street. Steve would not leave our side for the next hour. He would point out some of the main sites in downtown Montego Bay and led us to an outdoor craft market that was big but off the beaten path. The market was made up of dozens of individual stalls, each selling the same thing! If you're looking for a wooden carving of Bob Marley's face (in a variety of sizes) this is your place! Each vendor would attempt to lure us into their stalls although they were very kind about it. Steve, of course, expected a tip at the end of about an hour and I gave him $5, although he was looking for more and suggested as much. We caught another shuttle bus from downtown back to the Coral. On the way back we let off some passengers at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville on Gloucester Avenue. It appeared to be a nice place and perhaps a better way to spend the day in Montego Bay! We were not all that impressed with what we saw in Montego Bay. Perhaps an organized excursion to Dunn's River Falls would have suited us better. -Panama Canal: after another full sea day, we arrived at the Panama Canal on the Wednesday of our cruise. I awoke at about 6:00 AM and found that we were already in the 7-mile channel that leads to the Gatun Locks. I caught the sunrise over a very surreal and primeval-looking plain. There was a haze covering the plain and I could hear the sounds of birds calling to each other. It was far-less industrial than I thought and very, very quiet as the Coral made slow speed toward the locks. As we approached the Gatun Locks, we began moving around the ship for better vantage points. The doors leading to bow observation decks were open on Decks 10 and 11. We were surprised at how few people were actually on these decks that morning! Do not be intimidated by the "authorized personnel only" signs on Panama Canal morning - boldly use the doors at the front of each deck for a great vantage point! We had great views forward of the lock operations and all the activity laid out below us. We actually went up to breakfast (Horizon Court) during the transit between lock chamber 1 and 2. The forward-looking windows in the Horizon Court were jammed with people but otherwise the crowds were tolerable. We had a guide on the bridge that was giving information over the ship's loudspeakers. We could just make out his narration while on our stateroom balcony but found that the audio was also being played on channel 35 in our stateroom. We simply cranked up the TV's volume and kept the balcony door open so we could listen to the narration. We were through the locks and anchored in Gatun Lake by about 9:30 AM. At that point, the excursions in Panama began to organize in the Princess Theater. That day's Princess Patter had listed approximate times for tours to meet at the Theater (based on actually Canal transit information relayed to the Coral the day before). The staff were making announcements for various tour groups to come into the Princess Theater so entire excursion groups could be tendered ashore together. We actually could not hear these announcements in our stateroom so loitered around the Princess Theater even though all prior notices had suggested not doing just that. Once our entire tour group was assembled, we were led down to the tender deck and took one of the survival craft to shore - it was a very short tender ride from ship to shore! We actually used the piers at the Gatun Yacht Club to disembark the tenders and to organize into the various tour busses. We booked the Panama Canal Railroad tour. I had pre-reserved the Deluxe Car (dome observation car - $156 pp) very early on using the Cruise Personalizer feature on the Princess website. I would highly recommend pre-reserving this tour sooner than later as we talked to many people who wanted the Deluxe car but got closed out. Once we got ashore, everyone with deluxe accommodations was bussed together, separated from those who had booked the Executive Car (standard) excursion. One of the nice perks in booking the Deluxe car was that we were given preferential boarding on and off the train. Our group was the first to board the train in the morning and when we returned to Colon later that afternoon, we were the first group allowed to exit the train and re-board our bus for the short trip back to Cristobal. Our tour guide Maria was extremely friendly and knowledgeable. As we bussed to the train depot at Colon, she made an effort to point out the biodiversity of Panama, even stopping the bus at one point to let us look at iguanas lounging on rocks in the sun. The dome car was beautiful! Nothing I had read prior to booking the excursion did the dome car justice. Upon entering, there was a lower lounge portion with a bar and club-style seating. A short flight of stairs led to the observation portion of the car. Seating was in booths along both sides. They were tight accommodations. Even though it was a bright and sunny day, the air conditioning did a good job keeping the car cool. However, it was always cooler in the lounge portion downstairs by the bar. We had 3 girls in the deluxe car serving as bar tenders and waitresses. We were offered complimentary coffee or could purchase sodas & juice ($1) or beer ($2). There were also snacks available for purchase. The local Panamanian beer was excellent (even at 11:00 AM)! The train tour along the canal took just about 50 minutes. Along the way, we paralleled Gatun Lake (and could see the Coral still at anchor), marshes (where you occasionally saw turtles resting on logs), rainforest and plains. The train moves away from the Canal at the Culebra Cut so you don't really see much of that portion of the Canal, which was unfortunate. However, we did get to see the Pedro Miguel locks in passing and did catch glimpses of several ships making the entire transit through the Canal during the train ride. Once we got to Panama City the tour took a slight turn for the worse. We were loaded into tour busses (fully air conditioned and comfortable) and taken to the Panama Canal administration building and the monument to Goethals (the chief engineer during the American effort). This was okay as was our next stop to view the Bridge of the Americas at a park on the Pacific side. However, we were next taken to a nice-looking but practically vacant shopping mall for 45-minutes. The only retail store in operation was a large duty-free store that was nice...except it had much of the same merchandise you could buy on the Coral for the same price!! 45-minutes was simply too long to be there. We got some nice pictures of Panama City, but otherwise this stop was a joke. Once we re-boarded our bus, we were next taken to a large craft market for another 45-minute stop. This was actually a little better than being dropped at a shopping mall but each vendor tended to have the same items. And, the market was un-air conditioned. At this point, many in our tour group decided to stay on the busses or find a spot in the shade near the market. You could sense that at this point in the day most on this excursion were either tired, hungry or both. Mercifully, the busses next took us back to the Panama City train depot where we were able to relax in the dome car. The depot actually has a nice selection of Panama Canal Rail Road merchandise, including high-quality t-shirts. In short, the highlight of the day was the train ride. However, the round-trip train ride made up only about 1 hour and 40 minutes of the 6+ hours we were away from the Coral. We felt the cost was excessive given that we were taken to shopping venues while ashore in Panama and did not get to see the Canal in operation up close as I had previously thought. I was glad that I had booked an excursion for Panama thus allowing me to step foot ashore. However, this particular excursion was a disappointment. I have since written a letter to Princess expressing my disappointment in this particular tour in the hopes that 1) it could be tweaked to have more focus on the Canal or 2) that the literature describing the tour is updated so folks are fully aware of what they're getting. Maybe one could simply lobby to stay aboard the train and ride it back and forth across Panama couple of times?!?! :) -Limon, Costa Rica. We woke up the following day to the smell of smoke in our stateroom. I had no idea what was going on until I went to the balcony. Apparently, small fires around the port were used to burn either garbage and/or vegetation. Mercifully, the winds shifted a short time later and the smoke was directed inland. We had no formal tours scheduled for Costa Rica so stayed close to the ship. There was a craft market set up at the end of the pier and we ventured there in the late morning. There was a nice selection of goods, including beautiful hand-carved bowls made from exotic woods. We picked up a salad bowl carved from rosewood for about $60. Otherwise, our general thought about Costa Rica: hot! We literally dripped just walking around the pier and craft market and enjoyed most of day by the Lotus Pool. We did hear from folks who took organized excursions into the heart of the country. More than one couple said the Rainforest Aerial Tram was one of the best things they ever did! I heard that the guides were phenomenal and the sights unbelievable! I now know a return trip to Costa Rica is in order to experience the rainforest! -Grand Cayman. We scheduled to anchor just offshore Georgetown but were diverted to Spott's Bay due to rough seas. I woke up that morning and tried to make the map of Georgetown I had received the night before match up with the view from my stateroom! It simply didn't work! Despite our detour, the tendering operations were extremely efficient. We were told that tender tickets were required for this port. Passengers were supposed to go down to Explorer's Lounge on that morning to get tender tickets. However, we were up and moving by 8:30 AM and were told there was no need for tickets to tender at that point. I believe as more and more people wanted to go ashore, the tender tickets were required. Even though we were diverted to an alternative anchorage, there were plenty of vehicles waiting for us ashore to take us into Georgetown. We got on a shuttle bus for $4/pp and took about a 20-minute ride into Georgetown. The seas at the Georgetown tender piers were unbelievably rough and we considered ourselves very fortunate to even be on the island! I had actually scheduled a Stingray City snorkel tour with Soto's Cruises (http://sotoscruises.com/index.shtml) prior to departure. I had contacted them via e-mail several months before our visit and reserved two spots. They had asked for a credit card to hold the reservation only used the card as a security deposit if you failed to show up or cancel the tour without enough advanced notice. We were given clear instructions on how to meet up with Soto's representatives once ashore Grand Cayman. We waited about 30 minutes at the appropriate spot (right in the downtown shopping area). We never did make contact with Soto's while on the island and wondered if perhaps all boating excursions were cancelled due to the rough seas. I e-mailed my contact at Soto's after returning and confirmed that my credit card was not going to be charged but I never did get an explanation of why I never made contact while ashore. We spent the rest of the day exploring the main shopping area in Georgetown. We found Georgetown to be very pleasant! It is apparent that there is money on Grand Cayman and I think it shows in how the public areas are kept up and how you are treated. We bought various souvenirs at several stores and even strolled into Kirk Jewelers to look around. According to my wife, Kirk Jewelers had an excellent selection of David Yurman jewelry (I wouldn't know David Yurman from David Schwimmer). We were on the way out the door when we spotted a good display of gemstone (Lapis) globes in the store's window. We have always loved globes and even considered buying them aboard the Princess Boutiques. The clerk assisting us could not have been nicer. We were actually dressed pretty scruffily (assuming that our day was going to be spent snorkeling) yet we never felt put down upon. We were made to feel important and walked away thinking that Kirk Jewelers was a class operation. We got what we considered a good deal and the clerk assisted us in safely packing our globes for transport home. We had a light meal while in Georgetown at Breezes by the Bay. This beautiful restaurant had a 2nd floor deck overlooking the port in Georgetown and main shopping district. We had delicious conch fritters along with a great mudslide and a rum punch! Prices at Breezes were a little high but we know part of what we were paying for was the view. We very much enjoyed our stay in Georgetown and on Grand Cayman. Our only regret was not snorkeling with the stingrays and having to weigh anchor so early (3:00 PM) for an arrival in Cozumel the next day. -Cozumel: We were securely berthed in Puerta Maya, Cozumel by 9:00 AM the next morning. We had previously been on Cozumel two years prior and were impressed with the changes to Puerta Maya. The port now boasts an entire shopping district and would satisfy most shoppers! We wanted to explore the main shopping district, just 3 miles (and $6 per taxi) away. As occurred two years ago, we simply were not that impressed with the main shopping venue. Even though it was a Sunday morning, vendors were already persistent in getting us into their stores to see their "almost free" wares. Plus, there was nothing unique in the main shopping district. We had already decided to take one of the ferry lines on Cozumel across the 12-mile stretch of water to Playa del Carmen on the Yucatan Peninsula. We had previously visited Playa two years earlier and fell in love with the town. We caught the 11:00 AM ferry from Cozumel to Playa. We used UltraMar, which boasts a sleek-looking and very modern ferry. We were completely enclosed and enjoyed the stability of a catamaran hull. The ferry ride was extremely short (25 to Playa and 30 minutes on our return). The ferry docks on the south end of Fifth Avenue in Playa. The area surrounding the ferry dock hosts a collection of pretty typical Mexican souvenir shops and vendors. However, as you walk further north along Fifth Avenue, the shopping and the restaurants get a little more upscale. We enjoyed window shopping along Fifth Avenue and killed some time before our main reason for being in Playa was fulfilled: lunch at La Parilla. La Parilla is an open-air restaurant on Fifth Avenue (kitty corner from a TGIFridays!). We grew to love the food and atmosphere two years ago and this year was no different. La Parilla has some potent margaritas and delicious food. We're especially drawn to their use of cactus in some of their dishes, which is delicious. On this particular day we had steak and cactus fajitas, fresh guacamole and plenty of refreshments! We enjoyed people watching on the streets of Playa and just soaking in the atmosphere. We took the ferry back to Cozumel and wandered the shopping area at Puerta Maya. We had more beers at the Crazy Pelican, an open-air bar set up right off the pier. Disembarkation - Ft. Lauderdale Disembarkation is always sad but Princess handles it as well as anyone. We were initially given rose-colored luggage tags, which were meant for passengers who had Princess transfers. We went down to the Passenger Services desk and switched our tags for the standard tags designed for Dolphin Deck passengers: Aqua. We were told our disembarkation would be around 9:10 AM and it actually happened at 9:25 AM. We had a 12:00 PM flight and were not terribly worried about making our flight as we knew the airport was very close to Port Everglades. We cleared immigration very quickly and then had to retrieve our bags. We had neon luggage straps put around our two checked bags but, unfortunately, one was missing when we went to look for our bags. The bag with the luggage strap was easy to spot. However, I really had to search the Dolphin section for the other bag. Once all bags were collected, then you had to be cleared through Customs. The line for Customs was unbelievably long! It snaked throughout the terminal building. However, at the Customs table itself I noticed that porters were passed right through. Therefore, I hailed a porter and had our bags loaded up on his dolly. We were out of the terminal building and to a taxi in no time! This was well worth the money! We definitely enjoyed this 10-day cruise. Our last cruise aboard the Golden was 5-days and simply felt too short. This was just the right length. Princess continues to impress us with her beautiful ships, warm and welcoming staff, fantastic entertainment and delicious food. While on board the Coral, we met with the Future Cruise Specialist, Jayne, and put down deposits for a future (yet named) cruise. We've decided that Princess is truly where we belong! Read Less
Sail Date February 2004
Just came back from sailing on the Rotterdam, 10 cruise to Panama Canal, 2/22 to 3/3/04. To describe this cruise in one line: the perfect cruise, paradise at sea! This is our 9th cruise, after being a Celebrity Cruises x 4 never expected ... Read More
Just came back from sailing on the Rotterdam, 10 cruise to Panama Canal, 2/22 to 3/3/04. To describe this cruise in one line: the perfect cruise, paradise at sea! This is our 9th cruise, after being a Celebrity Cruises x 4 never expected to like any other cruise line better until now, HAL has earned my business with quality service near perfection. We were in Cabin 3429 which is Cat D, Aft Lower Promenade, wheelchair accessible cabin, (I travel with my mother (70s), who must have a walk-in shower and shower chair/bench to sit while in the shower due to severe arthritis and heart disease). Also traveled with my friend who is a Cerebral Palsy adult woman, totally wheelchair bound, and her parents (60s), they were in Cat C, #6104, excellent cabin, very spacious, accommodates 3 adults comfortably. The ship is beautiful, the art work is magnificent, you find paintings, sculptures, etc. everywhere you look, even the ceilings and floors have art work. Don't miss the ceiling at the Tropic Bar or the inlay floor at the Explorer's Lounge. The Queens Lounge is beautiful, comfortable chairs and high back half moon sofas, the only drawback is that the theater feels like an icebox, so make sure to bring a sweater/jacket/shawl. The Sports Bar has a nice large TV, watched some of the Oscars there and had a lot of fun. The Atrium is very elegant, the Atrium Clock Tower is awesome, I loved Atlas holding the World on top. You will find beautiful fresh flower arrangements everywhere, and I mean everywhere, the entire cruise! We took one afternoon after lunch (to sort of walk off the calories) and walked the entire ship, sort of a "treasure hunt", and it was well worth it because we found such beautiful art work we felt we had spent the afternoon at a museum! A very important detail: HAL has on board a Catholic priest on all ships, therefore, Catholic Mass is celebrated daily for passengers during the day and for staff during the night. Also has Nondenominational services several times during the cruise. This sailing included Ash Wednesday and both Catholic and Nondenominational services were given including imposition of ashes. This is the first time I travel on any line that offers daily mass, for me, this was the icing on the cake of the perfect cruise being able to rest, have fun, feed my body and most definitely, feed my spirit with daily prayer. Thank you HAL! Found the best music at the Explorer's Lounge and the Ocean Bar, only went to Crows Nest on Latin Music Night but it was a bit disappointing. The shows were good and the Rotterdam Cast is actually very good, choreography is very alive and well done considering the limited space, of course, is not Broadway or Vegas, but is very good for cruise line shows, the best I've seen; the last formal evening show called "Underseas Follies" was really good, beautiful stage design and costumes, and the music delightful. We skipped the shows on first and last evenings, chose to unpack and pack instead without being rushed. Other evenings shows included pianist Tommy Bond (magnificent!), juggler Bob Cates and magician Russ Stevens (didn't go to the shows, I don't like these type of shows but my friends said they were very good), singer Jeff Harnar was magnificent too, great voice! Don't miss the Indonesian Crew Show, it is really beautiful, and you can tell how hard they have worked and how much they enjoy it, something not to miss, I loved it! The Tropical Deck Party while in Curacao was a lot of fun and the fireworks leaving Curacao were wonderful, have never had so much fun leaving a port at night as we did in Curacao except for leaving San Juan at midnight with Celebrity's Caribbean Pool Party (they are tied for first place in my book). The onboard shops are average for a cruise ship, nothing spectacular, limited selection of perfumes, none of the good quality ones, such as Boucheron or 24K by Jivago. The Shore Excursions we chose were low activity due to my mother's health but I feel they were good and had a great time: in Curacao we did the Williamstead Trolley which is fair in quality and found it expensive for only one hour of tour (they say 1-3/4 but is not true), afterwards did some good shopping: good leather bags, beautiful cotton embroidered women's clothing, good priced perfumes and jewelry (must know your prices in the US beforehand, be smart shopper). In Aruba we took the Aruba Town and Country Tour which was very nice, visited Eagle Beach (gorgeous), Lighthouse, Aloe Farm and Plant, Casibari Rocks, and of course Natural Bridge which is very beautiful, nice gift shop at this last stop. The shopping in Aruba is also very good but a bit more expensive. For T-shirts the best prices were in Costa Rica (they sell them for $5 at the pier market). The Panama Canal was an unforgettable experience, we were lucky to go into the Canal at sunrise and leave during sunset, you can just picture the scenery! We took the Gatun Landing, too expensive, some people chose to swim in the Lake but I thought it looked a bit too cloudy for my safety, and chose just to browse at the crafts and watch the entertainment which was fair but interesting; they had a group of Panamanian teens dressed with their typical Panamanian costumes and dance folkloric dances which were quite beautiful, also included a couple of dances by the Cuna Indians and a couple of dances by the Embera Indians (I feel this last group bring their teen girls topless just for show and money, because I found that the older women were not topless, so the line that this is their way of life did not convinced me, also I speak Spanish and was able to talk to them and found that this is not how they "dress" typically except at home). The crafts they bring are beautiful and some very good quality, not expensive at all. In Costa Rica we took the Limon Sightseeing and truly enjoyed, our driver Miguel was terrific, he would get off the bus with his machete and bring us different fruits, flowers, leaves, etc for us to hold, smell, and taste, if desired. We were able to hold water apples, the banana flower with tiny banana buds inside, cocoa fruit with cocoa butter and beans inside (they taste good), and a fruit that looks like strawberry with pine needles but the needles have a spice similar to paprika to flavor and color food, also saw the Ylang-Ylang flower and able to enjoy its fragrance. Our tour guide, Zelma, was great and informative on Costa Rica's lifestyle, economy, history, etc. They took us to the Dole Plantation (had a souvenir shop, expensive except for good flavored liquor such as Macademia Liquor: to die for!) and also stopped at a resort called Colon Beach Resort which was a beautiful place, with hammocks, typical Costa Rican music and food, and some upscale souvenirs, nice handmade macrame bags and good quality khaki and cotton clothing. However, the best souvenir shopping is right at the pier market, they have the best prices, T-shirts for $5, leather hand-painted bookmarks for $1 and beautiful lacquered wood hand-painted magnets for $1-2, beautiful leather bags with engraving for $20-35 but you better bargain because they will give you a much higher price and you can bring them down as much as $20, (all these prices are USD). The private island of Half Moon Cay is absolutely gorgeous, I have never seen a more beautiful private island (have been to Princess Cay, Coco Cay, and Labadee), the beach is out of this world and this is coming from a Cuban born American who remembers as a child going to Varadero in Cuba: the beach at HMC is exactly the same: white, fine powdery sand (like confectioner's sugar), and perfect warm, crystal clear turquoise water, we had the best time here; HAL has beautiful facilities, walkways are concrete tiles, therefore, allowing for steady walking and wheelchairs, restrooms are clean and well stocked of supplies, plenty of beach lounge chairs (there were two ships at HMC: Rotterdam and Maasdam) and plenty of chairs for everyone, we did not go for water sports, I just love to swim and enjoy the clear waters but I heard that snorkeling was perfect, we did take walks around the island and it is beautiful; the shops are nothing to write home about unless you want your hair braided or want some Bahamian straw items; the food at HMC: terrific BBQ, the ribs were really good, lots of fruits and ice cold beverages, service the best as always. The food on the Rotterdam is excellent, beautiful presentation, did not find anything I did not like, the service in the La Fontaine Restaurant was very good, both waiter (Budy) and his assistant (Gusty) remembered our names and preferences immediately, never had to remind them again of anything, always attentive to our needs; the Lido staff is great, always ready to help my mother with her tray (she uses a cane), the food was well prepared and the variety at Lunch was good, we even went to the Lido one night (chose to be outside while crossing the Panama Canal at night and missed dinner at the restaurant)and dinner at the Lido was just as good as the restaurant; we also went to the Pinnacle Grill at Odyssey on the first evening (it was half price) and it was the best dining experience I've had in a long time, excellent gourmet five course dining with magnificent service and good wine selection, had the famous Grand Marnier Chocolate Volcano which is to die for. On Dutch Night we wore the Dutch hats, that was different, felt a bit silly at first, but then joined the crowd and even had my picture taken, the food was awesome, had Dutch Pea Soup and Dover Sole which were great, and dessert was the most beautiful and delicious Hard Chocolate Tulip (sort of like a chocolate cup shaped as a tulip) filled with Belgian Chocolate Mousse, do I need to say more? Every night the menu was very good, with many dishes to choose from, sometimes it was hard to make a decision, I enjoyed them all, had some kind of prawns, shrimp, lobster or crab legs every night whether as appetizer or main course; on the last formal night we had caviar as appetizer (first time I have caviar on a cruise without having to pay extra). The Lido Breakfast and Lunch choices were good. The cleanliness of this ship considering its age is very good, yes the ship needs some painting on the outside but otherwise is holding up beautifully. The restrooms are very clean, I was impressed to find real cotton towels in the restrooms, I must admit I've never seen this before anywhere! We found that the restroom next to the Queens Lounge on Deck 5 has very large windows with beautiful ocean views while you are sitting down doing your hair and makeup, awesome! Photographic services needs a bit of improvement but this is a personal opinion, I am tall and some of the photographers are about 5 ft tall, therefore, most of my photos don't look good from a lower view and always had the flash reflected on my glasses, tried without glasses but they were not much better either, next time I will look for the taller photographers! The Filipino and Indonesian staff is great, always with smile, they remember your name all the time, even the staff from the Front Office, I was truly impressed. The Wajang Theater is very comfortable, watched a couple of movies, and enjoyed the "free" popcorn. The Java Cafe is great, being able to have my espressos and cappuccinos anytime, without extra cost, was definitely a plus on this cruise, I hope HAL never changes this because it is definitely a quality service we all enjoyed. I must be fair in my review, therefore, I will now give you my opinion on the only drawback of the entire cruise for us which is something that HAL needs to work on: disabled services; the cabins are spacious, the restrooms comfortable, safety bars are well placed and can be reached easily but services to the wheelchair bound person is not that good; for example: there are quite a few viewing decks which are not accessible by electric wheelchairs due to a high door frame on the floor of about 3 inches such as those found on the doors to the viewing decks on Aft Deck 8 and Aft Deck 6; also the front of the ship viewing deck on Aft Deck 3 can only be reached through several stairs, therefore, not even accessible if you have limited mobility like my mother who must avoid stairs; some the doorways have a large metal bar which can cause anyone to either trip over it or an electric wheelchair or scooter to loose balance; HAL says they have a lift on the Rotterdam but when we ask to have my friend lifted to the tender at HMC they said it must be "requested 24 hrs in advance" which is totally senseless since we got on board on Sunday afternoon and reached HMC on Monday morning! Then at Panama Canal we didn't even try because since we didn't know if the lift would be appropriate for her electric wheelchair, why pay $39 excursion in advance required to get off the ship in the Canal? As to the process of using tenders HAL can learn from Royal Caribbean: RCI has these large tenders in both Coco Cay and Labadee where no lift is required since the tender is like a small ferry-boat where you do not need to use stairs since there is a ramp to get on and off the tender, we have used it at both RCI private islands easily and safely with my friend's wheelchair, and in both places she had the opportunity to enjoy a day at the beach, even go swimming with our help and a large lifesaver. I will be writing to HAL to recommend that they contact RCI regarding these tenders because considering the average age of the HAL pax and the numerous scooters, wheelchairs, and walkers I saw on the Rotterdam, the larger tenders are much safer for everyone. The days at sea were very relaxing or very active, depending on your choice, a lot of different activities were offered as active as exercises and dancing classes and as relaxing as Bingo, it was fun to watch a group playing golf at the pool; the pools and whirlpools are very clean and easily accessible if you are able to walk and can manage 4-6 smalls steps, lots of lounge chairs by the pool and at several sun decks, having a covered pool proved to be very handy on a couple of days at sea which were extremely windy, even the pools had "waves". The wrap-around deck on Lower Promenade Deck 3 is wonderful, great place to walk off the calories, and great teak cushioned lounge chairs perfect for that afternoon nap or reading (my mother napped and I read); walking around this deck on the Rotterdam x 3.5 is equal one mile, we did two miles in the morning and two miles in the afternoon which does not take long and is relaxed cool walking with the ocean breeze, we enjoyed immensely and it helped to burn off some of the desserts calories! Besides the tender issue, every thing else was just perfect. I hope I didn't forget to include anything, but I can most definitely summarize this trip as my best cruise thus far, and will be returning to HAL again and again, and most definitely will be back on the Rotterdam again, what a true class ship, a lady at sea! Read Less
Sail Date February 2004
Just completed the January 15th 2004 - 10-day Panama Canal cruise on the Island Princess. Just brief note about me. I am in my mid-30's and have been fortunate to have taken 18 cruises (this is my 3rd on Princess) thus far on most of ... Read More
Just completed the January 15th 2004 - 10-day Panama Canal cruise on the Island Princess. Just brief note about me. I am in my mid-30's and have been fortunate to have taken 18 cruises (this is my 3rd on Princess) thus far on most of the major lines (I try to take 2 per year). I love to cruise because I think it is the most relaxing type of vacation you can find. You can do as much or as little as you want. Overall Impressions: An excellent trip and Princess continues to be a solid choice for the mass market cruise lines. I would think that Princess should appeal to most people unless you are looking for a very active nightlife (more about that later). Embarkation: Very smooth. I always book my airfare separately. Arrived in Ft. Lauderdale around 10:30 and was at the Pier at 11:15. A line had formed outside the terminal building of early arrivers, but they started processing people about 20 minutes later. As I pre-registered on the Internet, it took just a few minutes to check in and I was on the ship Ship: Overall, I liked the Island very much. I was on the Golden last year and the Island seems similar only a bit smaller. I thought the lobby/atrium was one of the nicer ones I have seen recently. Other public rooms were nice and seemed functional. I don't really concern myself with these things too much so I won't spend much time on it here. Passengers: Not that it really matters to me, but the average age of the passengers on this sailing was likely in the 70's and probably the oldest crowd on any cruise I have been on. It could be a combination of the fact that it was a 10-day trip and that it was mid-January, not a popular vacation time for families. I make note of this only since there was not much activity around the ship past 10 or 11pm. So if your looking for a lot of nightlife, this is probably not the exact itinerary and timing for you. Cabin: I was in category BA on Caribe Deck. It is a standard outside balcony but had an "extended" balcony. The cabin was pretty standard and functional. Same goes for the bathroom. I will note that I had read the comments on the small size of the shower and I must say it is all true. They do seem smaller than usual. I had trouble figuring out how some people I saw on board fit in there. However, it did have awesome water pressure if you turned it all the way up. Having the larger balcony was a plus. It had two reclining chairs and a pretty good size square table. This balcony offered some privacy from above, but not total privacy. Service: I was very happy with the service. Our cabin steward was excellent and very friendly. He did a good job of always being available and efficient, but never being intrusive. Most of the other staff I had contact with were mostly friendly but I am not a high maintenance passenger. Food: As many people have appropriately said on these reviews, food is a subjective thing so I will only give you my opinions. After 18 cruises, I realize that when you are cooking for 2,000+ people, the likelihood that you will have a "gourmet" experience is remote. So here it goes...overall, it is my opinion that Princess has some of the better food of the large cruise lines. Dinner in the dining room was good to very good. I think that the beef dishes were typically not the best I have had (somewhat tough) but the chicken dishes, seafood and pasta's were generally very good. I tend to think that Princess does excellent pasta (a lot of cream sauces). I would typically order the pasta entrEe as a starter in a small portion. This is a way to try the pasta entrEe without having to have it as a main dish. Of course, if your hungry, just order both as an entrEe. As with all cruises I have been on, the waiters are very eager to bring you whatever you want and however much you want. Appetizers and soups were also mostly good but I thought the salads were typically uninspired. As a comparison, dining room food was just a notch below what I had on Celebrity Constellation in May and hands down far superior to the dining room food I had on Explorer of the Sears in November of 2002. Horizon Court: This is where I think Princess is much better than the other large cruise lines including Celebrity. I ate most of my breakfasts and lunches in the Horizon Court. Despite being poorly designed for traffic flow, the Horizon Court has pretty good food for a buffet. There is a nice selection and it doesn't seem like it has been sitting around for a long time as it can sometimes on other lines. Also, the food is always hot. For breakfast, you can go with the standard items but there was also a fresh egg & omelet area where you could pretty much order what you wanted. I am a big milk drinker and one thing I didn't like was that milk was only available at breakfast and at the dinner buffet. I have been on the Grand and Golden and I recall that there were milk dispenser's available 24hrs in the Horizon. Anyway, I took a bunch of milk cartons and stored them in my cabin refrigerator. Room service: Pretty standard here too. Ordered room service for breakfast twice and it was delivered on time and was usually hot. If you don't know...you can pretty much write down whatever you want and they will bring it. It does not need to be listed on the door menu card. A note of caution, be very explicit in what you want.... if you order pancakes, you must specify syrup, or else they won't bring it. Also you can write down whatever time you want. I asked for breakfast 1 hour earlier then was listed as available on the card and the food was delivered at the time I requested. Entertainment: I saw most of the production shows and they were pretty good. While the production shows tend to be similar content across the various cruise lines, the Island Princess singers and dancers were very talented and I enjoyed the shows very much. They also have a long term comedian onboard who does three shows through out the cruise and he was also very enjoyable. Lots of other bands and music on board all of which seemed to be good. Shore Excursions: Cozumel - Took a taxi over to the Chankanaab National Park for some snorkeling / sun. If you're looking for a lazy beach day, this is a good place to go. They have a variety of water sports if that is of interest. It is $10 cab fare each way and $10 entrance fee to the park. Snorkel gear was $6 per person if you head farther down the beach ($10 near the entrance). The snorkeling is ok, but not great. Grand Cayman - Booked the Stingray City and Snorkel tour though an independent operator Native Way, who was recommended on the boards. Native Way didn't show up at the pier as promised. Medical emergency was later cited as the reason. Don't know if I would trust them again. We just did the same trip with people advertising the same trip at the pier. I would recommend going to Stingray City if you have never done it before.... it is a unique experience. Panama Canal - Nice experience if you have not been through it before. We had booked the Ocean-to-Ocean tour, which was going to be the highlight of the trip (you get to go through the canal and locks on the Pacific side in a smaller boat). Unfortunately, this tour got cancelled about a half-hour before it was supposed to depart. This is where Princess really dropped the ball. As they insisted it was beyond there control, they still did not handle the situation very well. There were about 250 very unhappy people who were scheduled to go on this tour and they were none too happy to hear that not only was the tour cancelled, but there were no other options to join another tour. Therefore, we were all stuck on the ship until late in the day when the ship went back through the locks and docked in Colon. To add to our frustration, the tour desk supervisor didn't handle the angry passengers very well. In fact, he became downright hostile as many of the passengers affected were voicing their displeasure to him. Princess obviously refunded everyone the cost of the tour and then a few days later (bowing to persistent complaints and angry passengers) decided to give everyone scheduled on the tour a $100 ship credit. Limon, Costa Rica - Went on the Jungle River Eco-Cruise. 2-3 hour cruise in the rain forest. It was interesting and the guides were excellent. Ocho-Rios - Was booked on the Yacht sailing trip to Dunns River Falls. This tour was cancelled early on in the cruise (no reason given). Decided just to cab over to Dunns, which was just as well ($11 cab each way and $10 per person to enter the falls). Other Comments: Cutbacks continue to be noticed on all the ships as cruise prices continue to be very reasonable. I have been cruising many years and prices are lower now than they were several years ago. That being said, I am of the opinion that I would rather pay an extra $50 or $100 for the cruise then be nickel-and-dimed for things that used to be included in the cost of the cruise. Some things I noticed on the Island were that juices are only available at breakfast time. If you want any type of juice at any time other than breakfast, it will cost you. Same thing goes for hot chocolate. I sometimes like hot chocolate after dinner but there is now a $1.50 charge. This seems pretty petty, but it did really bother me. All the cruise lines are doing this extra charging, but it varies on what items they have decided to start charging for. Any way you cut it, it's not a good trend. I never had any problem getting lounge chairs. I don't know if it was due to the age of the passengers or that there seemed to be lounge chairs everywhere. I pretty much had my pick of chairs anywhere on the ship. Overall, Princess continues to be a great choice in the large cruise line segment. They have good food, nice ships and friendly staff. The Island Princess is comfortable and I have no problem recommending this ship or line. If I can answer any other questions let me know at drew7096@aol.com. Read Less
Sail Date January 2004

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