This was our fourth cruise overall and the second with Princess. The full Canal Transit was our main reason for going, which left few options in our choice of ship. Complaints have been made here about the Island Princess, but on the whole ... Read More
This was our fourth cruise overall and the second with Princess. The full Canal Transit was our main reason for going, which left few options in our choice of ship. Complaints have been made here about the Island Princess, but on the whole we found her quite enjoyable. She is a bit aged, that´s true, but still elegant and comfortable.
The Island is considerably smaller than Sapphire Princess, which we used on the Grand Asia Tour of 2015. This made it easier to find our way around but also created a crowded feeling from time to time. This must have two main reasons: 1. The addition of cabins/passengers and the closing of public areas made in the last overhaul. 2. The faulty system of Anytime dining ("Sometime dining…?").
The Atrium, the Theatre and the whole aft part of the ship suffered most from this crowdedness. In the canal transit, the lack of good viewpoints from the aft was particularly evident as almost all open decks there have been replaced by private balconies. The closing of the International Café in the Atrium is also regrettable. The replacement bar/café down there, ”La Patisserie”, enabled use of our coffee cards, but offered only occasional sandwiches and no gluten free choices (despite several requests; we had to go up in the Horizon to get any pastries at all with our coffee).
I agree with previous posters that something has to be done in the Anytime dining room, "Bordeaux". For our part, we simply adjusted to the matters of fact and rarely went near the place before 7.30 pm. If we wanted to eat earlier, we could bypass the long lines in the Atrium by making a reservation on the phone. This was quite easy to do, but in my opinion contradicts the whole idea of Anytime dining.
That said, we enjoyed the main advantage with the Anytime system, which is the opportunity to meet new people allt the time. Usually we gladly accepted to share a table, which both shortened our waiting time and involved us in nice chats over the meals.
The food in the dining room was generally of good quality and variation. One of us has celiac disease, and got adequate daily guidance from the head waiter, Vincente, showing and explaining tomorrow’s menue. The need of gluten free food was the main reason for our having almost all dinners in the dining room. For breakfasts and lunches, we generally used the buffet in Horizon court. The quality there was almost as good, but we did notice some sloppy food handling by other passengers at the buffet. However, breakfasts and lunches in the dining room were simply too slow for us.
Our embarkation in Port Everglades and debarkation in Vancouver (including airport transfer) were flawless. Logistics also seemed to work fine in ports with smooth transfers to excursions. The service on board was excellent and the production shows we saw in the Theatre were very good, with an extra mark for "On the Bayou".
The itinerary could have been better. Some of the port calls were simply too short, particularly the half day rush in Aruba. Generally, the ship should arrive early in the morning and not leave before 8 or 9 pm. We also had four consecutive sea days between Mexico (Puerto Chiapas) and Los Angeles, which was at least one too many. (Things didn´t improve when the captain, due to a heavy storm outside San Francisco, had to cancel the planned stop in Astoria, Oregon.)
We purchased this cruise as a trip from Ft Lauderdale to Vancouver and were really surprised to find out that we actually were taking two cruises, the first one ending in Los Angeles. The transit was smooth enough – both cruise cards and account were continued on the next leg – but we talked to some other passengers who would have enjoyed continuing up to Canada and, eventually, Alaska but had not got the opportunity to do so.
We used the very short time to take a Princess tour around the island, ending on Eagle beach. Really not very much to see here apart from the lovely beaches.
Princess tour ”Highlights of Cartagena, Fortress & Las Bovedas”: Steaming hot and interesting, at least if you haven´t seen any town in South America before.
The weather was excellent and this part of our cruise met all expectations. Very good commentaries all day in public areas and on stateroom TV from port expert Humberto.
Puerto Amador (Panama City)
Honestly there wasn´t much to see here, so this stop is dispensable. Probably a night tour after the Canal transit would be enough. Furthermore, our full day Princess tour, ”Colonial Panama & Miraflores Locks Observation Center”, was completely ruined by a miserable guide. You could hardly hear what he said and if you did, you couldn´t understand his accent.
Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Princess tour ”Scenic Train Ride & River Cruise”. The train ride was so and so with the best views of the countryside on the train’s left side. The river cruise was much bette with several crocodiles and many different birds to see. Good refreshment stop with fruit and drinks.
Puerto Chiapas, Mexico
Princess tour ”Banana Farm & Community Exploration” was a highlight of our cruise. A good and knowledgeable guide took us to a small town where we visited a local school, met and talked to many of the children in their classrooms (they hade come voluntarily on a Saturday) and finally enjoyed a fine dance performance. The banana farm was also very interesting. Read Less