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345 Princess Island Princess Cruise Reviews

Husband and I had taken this trip 5 years ago, and thought it was time to do again with friends. We live in the Northeast, so come to Ft. Lauderdale a day before embarkation. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express-Convention Center, as we ... Read More
Husband and I had taken this trip 5 years ago, and thought it was time to do again with friends. We live in the Northeast, so come to Ft. Lauderdale a day before embarkation. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express-Convention Center, as we did last year. There's a great restaurant across the street (Giorgio's) and breakfast buffet at the hotel, so very convenient. There is a shuttle to the cruiseport, $8/person, which we signed up for, but there was a mix-up, and we had to take a cab instead. So $16 (including tip) for the 4 of us, instead of $32 for the shuttle van. We booked a balcony cabin on Caribe Deck, #317. We like this level, because we hear no noise from the Lido deck, and the balcony could fit 4 deck chairs, with room to spare. We had booked this cruise for the Panama Canal, and for complete relaxation. In years past, we've booked Caribbean cruises for the various ports, but this time, the canal was the main focus. To prepare going into the canal, we spent time onboard going to some lectures by Dr. Tom Ryan, and would recommend to anyone taking this cruise. It was fascinating to learn about the history of the canal. We viewed going into the canal from Deck 10-there are 2 unmarked doors at the front of the ship, leading to a deck, where we stood, watching the locks at work. We were on the deck at 5 AM, and still did not get front-row views, so earlier would be even better. Dining: we had traditional seating at 5:30, at a table for 6. In years past, we found that tables bigger than 6 people were impossible for conversation, so we stick with 6 people. 5:30 is too early for us, so maybe we'll try anytime dining next time. Don't be afraid to ask for what you want- 2 of us wanted escargot every night for appetizers, spoke to the maitre d the first evening, and escargot was served every night, although it was never on the menu. Husband wanted blueberries for breakfast, and got them each morning, although they were not at the buffet table. If you are a coffee drinker, invest $30 and get the coffee card. We got fresh brewed coffee in La Patisserie on deck 5, and cappuccino at dinner. We find the regular coffee the ship serves intolerable, so the coffee card was money well-spent. We went to both specialty restaurants: Bayou Cafe was a waste of our money. It's advertised as Cajun and Creole, but there was no spice at all. Sabatini's was a good choice, and all 4 of us enjoyed our meals. On the last night, we had a bottle of wine left in our room, so brought it to dinner. Although we had purchased almost 20 bottles throughout the cruise, our waiter said she'd have to charge us a $15 corkage fee for the one bottle we had brought with us. Tacky! Entertainment: there is a new stage show "On the Bayou", which was very good. We also saw "Piano Man", which was good also. Princess has great live music on the ship, from classical to pop combos in the bars, so something for everyone. We usually see at least one Movie Under The Stars, but this year, nothing appealed to us. Disembarkation was a breeze. Princess charges $14/person for a bus to the airport, so again we took a cab, which was $16 including tip. The cruise was just what we expected: attentive staff, interesting passengers, a fascinating tour of the Panama Canal, and plenty of sun and relaxation. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
Having just come off of the Island Princess 10 day cruise, out of FLL to Panama etc. here is feedback from a retired Cruise & Vacation Specialist on my 5th Princess Cruise, and my 17th cruise overall. Before I begin with problems ... Read More
Having just come off of the Island Princess 10 day cruise, out of FLL to Panama etc. here is feedback from a retired Cruise & Vacation Specialist on my 5th Princess Cruise, and my 17th cruise overall. Before I begin with problems encountered on this cruise I must share that the staff on the Island Princess are all FABULOUS!!! Also we have never traveled with a friendlier group of fellow passengers. Most people were more than ready and willing with a friendly smile and took an interest in each other on the ship. That in itself made this cruise experience quite special and memorable. Also we thoroughly enjoyed the new show On The Bayou by the ships Performers and it is indeed EXCELLENT. We had seen Piano Man show before and it is quite good too. Up until now I'd have to say Princess cruise line was my favorite cruise line to date having cruised on Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Celebrity and MSC in the past. I just loved the itinerary on this cruise, along with the layout of the ship. I have sailed on it's sister ship the Coral Princess in the past too. However it is necessary to share that the Island Princess has areas that need attention. Particularly the cabins.. It is not a huge deal on an individual cabin basis but to outfit the whole ship with new beds(we are talking hard beds on the Island Princess when Royal Caribbean & Carnival all have such comfy beds). Sorry to share that the sheet on the bed we had actually had a hole in it. The comforter was threadbare in spots which is rather appalling...we were on a Princess cruise after all.. The lack of top sheet on the bed and just the hot comforter was not nice either. Our Cabin Steward Benedict is so pleasant and very good at his job, and took care of us fabulously well!!! We were in Central America for most of the cruise and the temperature was hot with 100% humidity which was indeed expected, however our cabin was so warm and other people complained of their cabin being very warm too. The ACC just couldn't seem to keep up at night, which made for uncomfortable sleeping on that hard bed which didn't help either. The food although the first night was not up to what we had remembered on other Princess trips the fact that the food overall was very good and presentation as usual was good we have no problems with that. The anytime dining room was pleasant as were the servers always friendly and helpful too. We had anytime dining in the Bordeaux Dining room but booked a table for 2 number #24 with Nicholai every nite, as it is a lovely part of the dining room in a quiet corner beside a window where the table next is close enough to meet other guests each nite and (as we shared it was such a friendly cruise) it was a nice place to get to know fellow passengers too. We have to wonder why?? Since Carnival owns Princess too why aren't the beds on this Princess Ship at least as comfortable as the beds on Carnival Ships?? We were just on the Carnival Miracle in Nov. and the bed, bedding and cabin were all superior to the cabin on Island Princess and on the Carnival we were in an Ocean View because that is all they had available when we booked.. Also we wonder why when the "signature desert" on the Carnival Ships is the Molten Lava Cake why they don't have it on the Princess Ships. (they could just change the name) The Molten Lava Cake is so poplar on the Carnival ship and the desert I ordered was similar but didn't come anywhere near to that 'special desert" on carnival. Some of the Princess cruisers would never deem to go on a Carnival ship but some of their features are indeed superior to what Princess offer and I'd never had thought even 5 years ago that I'd ever feel this way. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
We boarded in Ft.Lauderdale a bit later than anticipated. This was due to the U.S. Coast Guard boarding the ship and conducting a safety drill. Our ship was the only ship in port this day. Once they were cleared to allow passangers, we ... Read More
We boarded in Ft.Lauderdale a bit later than anticipated. This was due to the U.S. Coast Guard boarding the ship and conducting a safety drill. Our ship was the only ship in port this day. Once they were cleared to allow passangers, we were in Group 1 and went through the line and on the ship in under 15 minutes. Our room was ready, and our room steward was waiting to introduce himself. We immediately started to walk the ship and get a feel for things. We started with the Lotus Spa since it was closest to our room. We were the first ones to arrive and were given a tour right on the spot. They stamped my scavenger hunt card and we were on to the next. The Bordeaux dining room was supposed to be open, but the staff did not seem to want to allow customers. I later found that some pushed the matter and were seated. I was not that lucky. The Horizon Court was packed, so I opted for pizza. It was great. I can tell you that the Bordeaux issue was brought to the attention of one of the officers, and I believe it was dealt with. We attended the sail away party where we won a bottle of champagne! Day two our M&G met up and were delighted to have many of the ships officers attend as well. They stayed quite a while answering our questions and posing for photos. Lotus Spa was nice. I enjoyed the seaweed wrap, but found the technician to be quite pushy to make another appointment. Almost felt trapped by her not wanting me to leave. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
For the most part it was a nice, relaxing cruise. Our cabin steward, Norman, was very good and very friendly. We were not happy with our cabin on the Aloha deck---the balconies all have a low metal overhang above them which amplified ... Read More
For the most part it was a nice, relaxing cruise. Our cabin steward, Norman, was very good and very friendly. We were not happy with our cabin on the Aloha deck---the balconies all have a low metal overhang above them which amplified sounds on other balconies. Also, sitting on the balcony was not very pleasant due to the loud band on the Lido deck above us. I had requested a wheelchair for embarkation due to limited mobility. There were none available when we arrived outside the terminal, nor were there any inside. When we decided to go ahead and board the ship, no one gave us directions to our cabin, and one person we asked seemed to not speak English and just smiled at us. My biggest disappointment was "Anytime Dining". Having sailed on Princess twice before, we usually waited no more than 10 minutes for a table. This time, on formal night our wait was 90 minutes, totally unacceptable. We found that if you did not arrive before 5:30 and stand in line or make a reservation, you were not going to get seated before 7:30 or longer. I don't know how you can call this "Anytime Dining". If I wanted to stick to a timed seating, I would have signed up for traditional dining, where I understand the tables were not full. They could have sent some of us over there for seating. And, the hostess who was handing out the pagers couldn't give you any estimate of the wait, and was actually rude when we inquired. We got in the habit of going to the early shows, then eating a late dinner. Might as well have done traditional dining, because the shows are arranged around those times anyway. We only took one Princess excursion, the Atlantis Submarine in Aruba. Otherwise, we went on private tours arranged thru folks met on the boards on Cruise Critic. They were much more personalized and less expensive. Some people won't take private tours because they're afraid they'll miss the ship. However, these folks are dependent on cruise ships and they had us back to the ship in plenty of time. We asked for twin bed configuration, but when we arrived it was in the queen configuration. We just let it go that way because it simply wasn't that big a deal. We celebrated our wedding anniversary on the cruise, and our steward hung balloons in our cabin and wished us happy anniversary. We also had a special dessert for dinner, which we shared with our table mates. We always asked to share a table, and dined with some very fascinating people. We took advantage of their new program of taking your luggage from your cabin and we didn't see it again until we arrived home. It was well worth the $20 we paid for the service. We took the Princess transfer to the airport which was a mistake. The bus let us off approximately 1-2 city blocks from our terminal. Again, with my limited mobility this made it difficult. Fortunately, we didn't have to wrestle with the luggage. However, next time we will take a taxi to the airport!! We were very disappointed to find that the photographer who was on land while we went thru the canal seems to have taken NO pictures of those of us on the Aloha deck balconies. You can tell the Aloha deck balconies from others due to the low overhang over the balconies. We were looking forward to showing that picture to our grandchildren. The pictures taken were placed in several boxes and one must search thru hundreds of pictures just to find that there were no pictures of several of us on the Aloha deck balconies. Another Princess snafu?? Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
This was my first cruise with Princess. Overall, a fantastic experience! The ship and crew are both top notch. Despite being nearly a decade old ship, it is well kept by its friendly staff. Embarkation was a breeze, luggage arrived ... Read More
This was my first cruise with Princess. Overall, a fantastic experience! The ship and crew are both top notch. Despite being nearly a decade old ship, it is well kept by its friendly staff. Embarkation was a breeze, luggage arrived nearly the same time as we located our stateroom. Our cabin steward was friendly and helpful. This ship is the perfect size. Plenty of places to go and things to do without seeming like you are forever wandering around a labyrinth of a ship. Panama Canal day was the highlight. Worth it to wake up early & enjoy the Panamanian sunrise while entering the locks. (There's a secret buried in another review on this site about the Island Princess. It will make your early morning rise all the more special if you find it.) I have to agree with the other reviews, food was just ok. Although a blessing in disguise as I did not gain any lbs during this 10 day cruise, it was a disappointment to not have warm rolls or flavorful fish in the main dining room. We did not venture into the "upscale" restaurants. The all you can eat pizza was mostly overcooked (dare I say, burnt) and the grille above it was again, just ok. Stateroom was a mini-suite with a balcony. Good space and the 2 TV's were a nice feature. No built in DVD player (included) was a disappointment, but not a deal breaker. Bathroom was surprisingly spacious and well designed with lots of shelves and places to hang things. Main bed was comfortable and cozy. Pillows... not so much. Might want to bring your own if you can. Fold away bed was uncomfortable and mattress was very thin. Anyone who weighs more than 60 lbs will not like it.Kid Stuff: Not many kids on this cruise (10 total), but the kids club was friendly and well stocked. Lots of crafts and other fun stuff you will not have room to pack. Again, the warm, friendly staff thru-out the ship knew my child by name about day 3, so that was a nice, welcoming feel. Tipping: This was my first experience with auto-tipping, ($12 per day per person). At first, I didn't think I would like it, but for me, it was more comfortable overall just tipping those persons that truly went that extra mile for you, knowing that others are still getting something extra. Dining in the formal dining room: This was very pleasant. Although the food could have been better, it was a nice, (relatively) quiet meal. We were never interrupted with some kind of "show" by the wait staff or a blatant plug for money (see Tipping above) by the maitre d'. The staff were warm and friendly & attentive without being "in your face". Dining in the buffet: It could be tough to find a table if you go a peak times. Staff are quick to try to find you a table and to carry your plate for you (especially if the seas are rough). The buffet is on the bow of the ship, so if you are prone to sea sickness, as some in my party were, I recommend taking your food out to the pool area for a more stable meal. There were plenty of tables and areas to eat at outside in the fresh air. Other things: Pictures: Yes, there will be pictures taken & sometimes the photographers are in your way. Smile and move on... You are on vacation! (You don't have to buy them, so relax.) Work out area: Free to use all equipment which was modern and well kept. Lotus Spa: Very nice offerings, but not the best prices. (Surprised?) As with most cruises, check back frequently as specials arise daily. Read Less
Sail Date November 2011
We have cruised Alaska and the Eastern Mediterranean, but neither my wife nor I had ever visited the Carribean and we decided to book an October voyage immediately after it became clear our favorite baseball team was not going to ... Read More
We have cruised Alaska and the Eastern Mediterranean, but neither my wife nor I had ever visited the Carribean and we decided to book an October voyage immediately after it became clear our favorite baseball team was not going to participate in postseason play. Both of our parents decided to go as well, and we booked three PS suites on the Island Princess thru Costco Travel. Travel started late Sunday night with the group boarding a non-stop "red eye" flight on Alaska Air from Seattle to Miami. While none of the travelers slept well, the uneventful flight brought the group and luggage to Miami where a van took them to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale. The Island Princess ship was ready for boarding shortly before noon in a very smooth and organized process. The PS suite was very nice & spacious - not opulent like our NCL "Haven" suite for our Eastern Med Cruise. The double sized balcony was the key feature of the PS suite affording room for loungers with partial overhead cover from the sun. Climate control was excellent in the suite. Overall, the bath, sitting area, and bedroom were all up the the level you would expect in a fine hotel. The minibar was stocked and room service was more than willing to trade liquor / soda for whatever we wanted instead. We never cared to order room service or have dining room meals served in our cabin. I felt the best features of Princess suites were the free laundry and free internet. The internet service was a feature both my wife and I used extensively between our laptop, 2 iphones and two ipads. While not fast, the service was more than adequate for our extensive needs (and thankfully, free!). The first few days (Monday night thru Thursday morning) were spent at sea. The weather was a bit muggy (temperature in the mid 80s with high humidity) but the seas were very calm. The Island Princess has a fairly well equipped gym with the typical shortage of cardio equipment between 8 and 10 am. The promenade deck actually was a fairly good place to run early in the morning, although I did not like running in the tropical heat. The Island Princess buffet seemed a bit small -â€" both the seating areas as well as the food stations were crowded during peak times. Princess does a good job with a wide variety of food aiming to please a wide audience. The fruits & vegetables were very fresh, and pizza from the no-cost pizza shop was excellent! A separate no fee shop provided burgers and hot dogs to the passengers. Our group of six had dinner in the Bordeaux dining room nightly, having selected "anytime" dining to accommodate a flexible schedule. The dining experience was quite good, with excellent waiters and an attempt by Princess to give the group the same table and staff despite our inconsistent dining schedule. Having studied Princess postings on cruisecritic.com, we mostly agreed with previous travelers' positive reviews regarding the dining experience. Princess' chefs prepared a themed menu nightly with 6 or so special entrees along with appetizers and desserts in addition to a regular menu of standards. As with most cruise ships, travelers can order multiple entrees, appetizers, salads, soups, and desserts as well as make many substitutions. I found many dishes quite tasty including fettuccine alfredo, prime rib, fried chicken, and lobster. My favorite menu was the "Landfall" finale which included a delicious New York peppercorn steak followed by a dessert of baked Alaska. My wife's favorite dishes included cornish Game Hen, crawfish pot pie, and roast turkey. On several occasions, I ordered the volcano dessert off the children's menu -â€" basically a big banana split. I purchased the Ultimate Kids Drink Package so strawberry smoothies became a nightly beverage. My wife bought a regular drink sticker for her card, so she stuck to Diet Cokes and club soda. Princess also had a separate ice cream stand which served complementary vanilla and chocolate soft ice cream. We did not avail themselves of the premium 'pay' dinner restaurants -â€" Sabatini's (Italian) and Bayou Cafe (Cajun Steakhouse) but did enjoy breakfasts at Sabatini's as suite guests. I considered the main dining room dinners and pizza shop the standouts of the food service. Entertainment on the Island Princess was variable -â€" One singer, Jacqui Michaels gave an amazing show focusing on songs of legendary female performers including Carole King, Tina Turner, and Ella Fitzgerald. I thought she was the best singer I ever heard on a cruise ship and later learned that Barbara Streisand agreed since Jacqui was a backup singer on Streisand's farewell tour. Other shows weren't as remarkable, and in general, the Island Princess entertainment did not meet the very high expectations set by our Norwegian Cruise to the Eastern Mediterranean. Some evening productions were performed twice on one night and repeated the next day which was a good idea since seats were completely full for some shows. Headline shows included an introductory show with comedian Billy Vader, Island Princess musical productions of Motown, "Piano Men" (Billy Joel/Elton John, Neil Sedaka, etc), Music of the 30s/40s/50s, a ventriloquist, and magician Lorenzo Clark. The Island Princess had an excellent band backing up musical productions but some of the singing was not quite up to par. Princess does a good job showing current movies to entertain travelers during quiet times. One cool feature that all cruise boats will probably copy is placing a large video screen above the pool deck so cruisers could watch movies and sporting events -â€" this made the pool area very popular at night. The Island Princess was very fortunate to have Ken Williams, a very well traveled lecturer, give the introductions to the various ports as well as a great presentation on the Panama Canal. Both of us had been reading David McCullough's great book "The Path Between the Seas" and found Ken's talk quite helpful by putting pictures to the history. The Island Princess crew does an excellent job at maintaining a clean and comfortable ship. It has the usual amenities found on a 2,000 passenger ship -â€" Basketball court, theater for production shows, separate auditorium for concerts, several bars with different themes, spa, and casino. The two main swimming pools are on deck 14, and have multiple hot tubs attached. For whatever reason, both pools are quite deep with the shallow end being 5'3" making them not very kid friendly. The middle pool area is climate controlled with a glass cover making it quite comfortable during the steamy Caribbean days. Although I feared hot and humid conditions along with periods of heavy rain (October is part of the Caribbean's rainy season), the weather turned out to be near ideal during the voyage. Most importantly, no tropical storms/hurricanes entered the Caribbean. Other than some periods of quite heavy rain in their first stop, Aruba, conditions were dry and temperatures were in the high 80s. Cloud cover made the Caribbean stops more comfortable -â€" until Jamaica where it was 94 and sunny. The seas were very calm, similar to the our experiences in the Eastern Mediterranean. At the first stop, a five hour stay in Aruba, we wandered around the capital city Oranjestad. While they did not avail themselves of the incredible snorkeling which Aruba was famous for, the short stay and intermittent heavy rain made many of the tours miserable. We did visit a small beach a short distance away from the cruise dock, and watched an Aruban bird snatch lunch from the sea. Later, they intermittently hid from heavy rains by ducking into the many tourist shops located by the port. The next day (cruise day 5), Island Princess passengers visited Cartagena, Columbia. This was our first visit to South America, and proved to be a quite illuminating experience. They boarded a Princess tour bus, and visited the largest fort built during Spain's colonial days in the new world -â€" Fort of San Felipe de Barajas. Following the fort visit, the tour continued in Cartagena's old city including the former prison dungeons (now made into 23 tourist shops), the Inquisition Palace, and the San Pedro Claver Church.Perhaps the most educational part of the tour, was the impression left by their excellent guide Wil that the Hollywood inspired vision of Columbia (refer to Johnny Depp's movie, Blow) was far from reality. Cartagena is a beautiful city with great architecture and culture in a country which is making progress against its outlaw reputation. Day 6 (Saturday) was Panama Canal Day. On our cruise, the Island Princess entered the Gatun Locks, was elevated in 3 steps to 84 feet and then anchored in Lake Gatun for a few hours. Afterwards, the ship returned to the same water elevator and re-entered the Caribbean -â€" the so-called partial transit itinerary. It is very hard to appreciate the incredible feat of engineering in a most hostile environment 100 years ago before the advent of equipment and technology we now take for granted. After leaving the Gatun locks, the Island Princess docked in Panama at Colon where passengers visited the many small shops selling Panamanian trinkets mostly manufactured in China. On Sunday (day 7), the cruise ship arrived at lovely Limon, Costa Rica. We boarded a tour bus for Veragua Rainforest, an hour long drive including some bumpy unpaved roads ending in a nature preserve popular with tourists. At Veragua, we wandered around the park which included captive snakes, frogs and butterflies with the assistance of their excellent group leader, Kitty. After the zoo exhibits, they rode an aerial tram (i.e. a modified ski lift) down into a valley with a waterfall. Some wildlife could be seen in their natural habitat such as sloths and frogs. Remarkably, no rain fell during our visit during Costa Rica's rainy season. While tourists expecting a safari experience would be disappointed, Veragua provides a comfortable and educational sampling of rain forest ecology. After the return trip to the ship, we visited the ubiquitous tourist shopping village set up near the port. Following a sea day, the Island Princess made its last port call at Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Unlike the previous ports, clouds did not filter the sunshine and travelers faced mid-nineties tropical heat. We decided against any shore excursions but we did walk around the shops around the port and found quite inexpensive prices for T shirts. They passed a beach that charged $3 for admission as well as many taxi drivers offering their services (at least one way) for remarkably low prices-$2 for a trip "downtown" where their cousin or friend had a much better shop than the ones around the port. Our voyage ended back in Fort Lauderdale, with a refreshing temperature of 66 degrees upon arrival. Their 3400 mile journey was completed in amazingly smooth waters, and the weather actually cooperated with only significant rain during part of the Aruba visit. Cloud cover actually made visits to Columbia, Panama and Costa Rica much more comfortable. Princess provided a most relaxing and interesting introduction to the Carribean region. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
A Princess land tour sept 2011 Sept 5-Independently booked flight to Anchorage, and after renting a car spent the night at the Microtel Motel. This is a budget type facility but very clean and comfortable. Good for short stay but not ... Read More
A Princess land tour sept 2011 Sept 5-Independently booked flight to Anchorage, and after renting a car spent the night at the Microtel Motel. This is a budget type facility but very clean and comfortable. Good for short stay but not for long term. Daniel, the very pleasant desk clerk, sent us to Gwennie's Restaurant for supper but we got lost and ate at the Longbranch Saloon instead. September 6 - We did find Gwennie's the next day for breakfast, and Bob had steak and eggs, and I had spectacular crab benedict. We then headed down to Kenai Princess. Nice room with sitting area, wood stove, but needed to drive for everything we needed, including getting a cup of tea, which was only available at the lodge. \September 7 - drive down to Homer for a little tour and lunch at the Boardwalk fish and chips. Very nice. Then a drive around town, and up to the skyline for the great view, and back to Cooper Landing. September 8 - back to Anchorage to turn in the rental and meet the Princess group. Why did no one in the reservation process, including us and our TA, not notice that we didn't purchase transfers? BTW, are those folks deliberately obtuse, or actually as dense as they appear? Oh, well, taxi to Captain Cook hotel and saved a couple of bucks. As far as the Captain Cook Hotel, a room is a room, and we had a delightful view of the building that blocked our view of the bay. We took a walk and found Resolution Memorial, with statue of Captain Cook himself, then a walk around the area. Found a snack at the F street station, a nice local bar with good folks. Had dinner at Fletcher's in the hotel. Overpriced like everything else, but adequate. At least we could make a cup of tea while preparing for the super early baggage call. Early morning out for cattle call to the rail. September 9 - rail to Talkeetna, with overpriced, but adequate breakfast and drinks. Alcohol was frequently encouraged by the incessantly chattering guide, who may be the queen of bad jokes, and proud of that. Not much scenery on this leg. We did get a good view of Mt McKinley. Motor coach to McKinley Princess, and rooms out in the boondocks. Likely, none of the accommodations is intended to have a view here, so that the captives are in the lodge as much as possible, hopefully spending. Room reminiscent of Super 8 : cheap plastic furniture, poorly decorated, no amenities, bad sound insulation. Remember this description for further stops. Prepare for frequent long walks or wait for the shuttle every time you need something. Also, with regard to the shuttle drivers, they are uniformly polite and accommodating. The weather was damp and cloudy. September 10 - early up for early luggage call, then figure out what to do with your homeless self while waiting for the 2:30 motor coach. The management is most accommodating as long as one wishes to avail oneself of the opportunities to eat, drink and shop, which are available in the restaurant and lodge buildings. Restaurant 20320, the separate freestanding restaurant, had abominable service last year, but they appear to have rectified that this year. The bus ride to the Denali Princess was mercefully short. Upon arrival we were immediately deposited in Siberia, also known as buildings 10 and 11. Super 8 once again, although they had enough sympathy for those of us in the Twilight Zone to provide a satellite snack and bar location in the lobby. Also, we were treated to an unsurpassable view of the highway. Please note that this is the one location that has shopping, restaurants, a liquor store and a grocery off-site. Pizzas, subs, fish dinners, hamburgers, etc. are right across the highway at somewhat better prices. September 11 - the Tundra Wilderness Tour. Take it! Enough said!! Special note about Nicole, trolley driver, who consistently displayed exceptional service, especially to several guests with mobility impairments. September 12 - early luggage call, but the ride was scheduled to depart within two hours, so we had just enough time for breakfast, then on the road for a long day. The driver's incessant chatter tended to distract our attention from the great scenery. There were several photo opportunity stops but no facilities. Lunch stop offered chili that strongly resembled spaghetti sauce with beans and thin,but tasty beef noodle soup, or a very limited selection of sandwiches to order,with incredibly high prices, but the bread was tasty. There was no where else to go. Mid afternoon arrival at Copper River Lodge, with still another super 8 room, poor noise abatement, and another opportunity to be a captive client. We had a lovely view of the driveway. Bob's frustration with the accomodations was only increased by the rude treatment at the check-in counter. Bar and restaurant service did help to reduce some of the disappointment with the low end room. September 13. Spent a quiet day catching up on our reading, taking a little walk, and napping. Very pleasant. There is a ride to the town of Copper River available, at an extra cost, but except for a couple of bar/restaurants there wasn't much there we were told. Some folks took the raft ride on the river and enjoyed it. September 14. Off we go on another long bus ride to Whittier. Again, the scenery was great, and the driver a chatterbox. There was a nice stop at a good view of a glacier. There are "long drop" toilet facilities available here. After a couple more hours of riding with the scenery becoming less interesting, we made a lunch stop in Anchorage. We were dropped off outside the Captain Cook Hotel and told we were on our own for lunch. It would have been nice to have stopped at some other location to see some other part of the city. After lunch it was back on the bus for a ride along Turnagain Bay, very scenic, to the ship. In conclusion for the land tour portion of this review, I would say that the Alaskan scenery is great; Denali National Park especially beautiful; the service people we met, mostly college age summer help, friendly and efficient. The overriding problem for us was Princess's seeming disregard for the client. The "luxurious lodges" were anything but. As noted above, the rooms were spartan, the funishing cheap, and the ammenities non-existant. Would we do this again?? Simply, the answer is no. Would we recommend this type of tour? Only to the most hesitant or inexperienced traveler. If you have the slightest sense of adventure do your homework and do it yourself. And now for the better part of the cruise tour; September 14, evening. Upon arrival in Whittier on the bus, we were deposited directly in front of the door to embarcation. Because all our paperwork was pre-done on the computer, time for check-in was minimal. We were on the ship and in our cabin within thirty minutes. There were no guides, but there were plenty of helpful agents to direct us to the correct elevator. We found our cabin, C719, with no problem and were delighted to find our luggage waiting for us. Our steward, Andree, was right behind us. After introductions and a description of services he delivered two glasses of champagne. That was a nice touch. After a quick trip to the Lido deck for lunch we unpacked and settled in. Since we had sailed on this ship proviously, there was no need to make an orientation tour. The ship was apparently in good shape. Carpets, painted surfaces, windows, etc all in good condition. The emergency drill was delayed due to the late arrival of a train. This exercise which used to be such a pain is accomplished now in a much more relaxed and efficient manner. It took no more than twenty minutes. Sail away was on time. Some general comments about the food and service in the traditional dining room and the buffet. The quality of the food was not great, but not bad either. The menu in the sit-down dining room was not as varied as it was several years ago, but still there was something for most tastes. Service seemed to be spotty. Some tables seemed to like their servers, ours were only competent. The specialty rooms were very good with great service and better food. Both were worth the extra cost. Sabitini's no longer overwhelms the diner with appetizers. This is a great improvement since one's appetite tended to be satisfied before the entree was served. There have been some improvements in the buffet. The traffic pattern has been slightly revised so there is less backtracking and doubling back. The selection of food is somewhat larger I think. The greatest improvement is in the service. There are now staff to assist diners to tables and to provide delivery of drinks, hot and cold. We did eat several breakfasts and lunches in the buffet and enjoyed it each time. September 15 and 16. These days were spent cruising to Hubbard Glacier and in Glacier Bay National Park. Park rangers and ship personnel provide plenty of information on what you are seeing. The weather was not great these days but still the viewing was impressive. Cabin balconies are great places to watch the scenery go by. It does not matter which side of the ship you are on since the ship comes out the same way it went in. If a balcony is not available, there are plenty of places on deck to provide shelter while taking a load of great photos. September 17, Skagway, the gateway to the goldfields of the Yukon. Any one of the railroad/bus trips up through the trail of the Klondike is worthwhile. The scenery is great and the history impressive. Since we had done that before, we opted for a helicopter ride to Mead Glacier. We puchased independently in town from Temsco. The price is the same as through Princess. A little expensive, but certainly worthwhile. We were fortunate to have good weather and clear skies so the photography was memorable. For those not queasy about flying this is an excursion of a lifetime. Shopping in Skagway was pretty good because it was so late in the season and stores were preparing to shut down for the winter. There were a lot of "bargains" for those willing to work for them. Lunch at the Skagway Brewing Co. was good, albeit the service a bit slow. September 18. Juneau. We chose to again go whale watching with Captain Larry of Orca Enterprises. This was ur third trip with this company and again, the captain found the whales. Unfortunately, they were a bit far off so it was difficult to get good pictures, but the ride on the purple boat was worth it. We ate at Traci's Crab Shack, an open air, no frills serve yourself restaurant. No matter, the crab legs were huge and tasty as were the crab cakes and halibut. If high style isn't your thing, give this place a try. Again, shopping was very good. The tourist oriented stores are convenient to the docks and season end prices discounted. September 19. Kitchikan. We again chose to take zip line tour. This time we went on the Bear Creek Zip Line Adventure. This features a fifty foot rappel and 250 foot slide to complete the day. This company provides excellent equipment, training, and exposures. The guides are competent and fun. If you have no fear of heights give it a try. (even if you do, do it anyway). Again, there appeared to be abundant shopping arount the pier. As we cleared the Kitchikan area the captain warned that we would encounter some heavy storms and high seas. He wasn't kidding. By the middle of the night the ship was rocking and rolling pretty good. This is fairly normal at this time of year as the ship crosses open water prior to entering the protected inland waterway. By morning there were plenty of queasy folks looking for some sort of relief. The store was doing a great business in Dramamine. (yours truly included, for the first time in twenty five cruises). Once into protected waters things settled down to a pleasant ride. Arrival at Vancouver was on time. Disembarcation was well organized and competently run. Those of us taking a transfer to Seattle were off the boat and on a bus quickly. Disembarcation was by specific designation. We were Gold 2. The entire Gold Two group was carefully kept together throughout this exercise. We would be collected, lined up and then moved forward. During this we passed Canadien customs without incident. There was no need to collect our luggage since it had already been loaded onto the bus. When all were on board, the bus was sealed by customs and we were on our way. Very impressive. Because of all above, passing US customs was quick and easy. We left the bus, showed our passports and returned to our seats in less than ten minutes. In Seattle, we chose to spend a night at the Crestbrook Resort. This facilty is a five minute shuttle ride from the airport. The facilty is self describe as a hidden gem. It was a great way to finish our vacation. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
CHECK- IN - We checked in at the Anchorage Downtown location and it was easy. They took our suitcases at that time, "coat checked" our carry-on if we were going to wander around the city before our bus left. FYI - On the bus sit ... Read More
CHECK- IN - We checked in at the Anchorage Downtown location and it was easy. They took our suitcases at that time, "coat checked" our carry-on if we were going to wander around the city before our bus left. FYI - On the bus sit on the passenger side not driver as you will have a better views going to Whittier. Once in Whittier it was quick and easy if you have completely filed out their online cruise personalizer. This is also where they hand you the coupon book for the ports. Total time 10 mins. CABIN - Was nice sized and at the end of the hall, so no one but crew coming threw and they were always quiet. Our room attendant remember our names and always greeted us with it. FYI shower very small, but expected it. Did have to turn off shower to shave my legs. If you can afford it I would recommend it even though it didn't have a balcony which would have been too cold you use. Only noise was entering and exiting port and only for about 30 minutes. FOOD - 1st night open seating which was great met lots of new people. 2nd night traditional seating - which we had to change tables as the couple we were seated next to Mrs was nice, but Mr was not - rude and kept correcting her. Maitre D changed us per our request and worked out great. Food was good for the most part - However Pepper Pot soup was bad, and most of the regular deserts were bland (except the Creme brulee - A MUST!! And if you can find them the peanut butter cookies) and the sugar-free deserts very dry and no flavor(except the chocolate mousse on wafer and trifle which were good). Also if you like your steak a little pink tell them rare. Breakfast - do NOT do the egg muffin from room service as it was downright nasty. 1 sit down and rest of buffet in Horizon Court which was fine. Lunch was same thing. Late night snack in Horizon Court was good and always lots to pick from(spicy shrimp the last night was yummy). ENTERTAINMENT - Lecture at Glacier Bay - Local Ranger was BAD more on her life in the everglades then what was going on in the area, Lecture by Libby Riddles on Dog Sledding was great, All 3 comedians were enjoyable (however 2 were Adult only type), 2 Dance shows were okay but if you are a dancer you will see every flaw in the steps. SPA - Which was the reason we chose Princess was okay. Really liked the Thermal Spa which we paid for entire week. Hated the way the masseuse tried to sell me $400 in product saying, I was in endangering my health and that I needed these products to be healthier. Really ticked me off. Finally told her that she needed to shut up or no tip. I recommend when you go in if they start asking question not having to do with the massage to tell them you are not going to purchase anything and you are not going to answer question not directly related to the massage. FYI robes are small and waiting area is in the middle of everything so anyone can see. DISEMBARK - If you are doing Alaskan Cruise have to bus from Ship in Vancouver to Seattle you MUST bring yourself a bottle of water. Its basically 6 hrs without if you don't. Make sure it is sealed and in your carry-on and hopefully customs wont take it. I image its the same reversed. Again make sure ALL of the cruise personaliser is completed including flight information or you will run into problems with your assigned time. This happened to people at our table and they had to do a "walk off" which means they had to carry all of the luggage, carry-on, etc off the ship and through customs without help or luggage carts. Onboard you can not arrange transportation off the ship to airport. It has to be done 2 weeks in advance. You can set-up shore excursion which will include transportation; however if you have an early flight or they are full you end up with taxi costs. Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
Day One: Embarkation from Vancouver. Captain's announcement made it all sad and teary. Horizon Court food awesome. Ever changing dining options. Day Two: At sea. Children liked Kids Program, scavenger hunts... Not so many chair ... Read More
Day One: Embarkation from Vancouver. Captain's announcement made it all sad and teary. Horizon Court food awesome. Ever changing dining options. Day Two: At sea. Children liked Kids Program, scavenger hunts... Not so many chair hoggers, for it was chilly. Pool was heated to good temp. Day Three: Ketchikan. Highly suggest the ziplining excursions. Pricey, but worth it. So much fun. Day Four: Juneau. Sleepy Town, but lots of scenery. Day Five: Skagway. Very sleepy town, but friendly people. Lots of stores downtown to shop for souvenirs at cheap prices. Day Six: At sea. Same as always. However, children (crazy children) were in the pool, both. All day long. Day Seven: Last Day. Crew made embarkation very sad, though isn't that the way it is suppose to be? General: Really swift embarkation and disembarkation. Friendly crew from Indonesia and the Phillipines ( 99% of them). Except for the guy who served ice cream at the ice cream bar. Always seems irritated. Staterooms were very large with flat screen Tvs. Thanks for the chocolate! Helpful tips: Photos, worth their price. Promenade Deck large sweeping views Take advantage of Park Rangers on Alaskan Cruises Read Less
Sail Date August 2011
My wife and I took the Island Princess south from Anchorage on July 6, 2011. This was our 6th cruise but first on Princess. We found this ship to have many of the same features of ships on RCI,Celebrity and Norwegian. If you like those ... Read More
My wife and I took the Island Princess south from Anchorage on July 6, 2011. This was our 6th cruise but first on Princess. We found this ship to have many of the same features of ships on RCI,Celebrity and Norwegian. If you like those cruise lines' ships of 2 to 3 thousand passengers you will feel at home on the Island Princess. This ship is a little smaller though, but we didn't think that hurt our enjoyment. We had a balcony cabin on deck 11. It was fine except its shower was probably smaller than any of our previous cabins. We are average size people and had not an inch to spare. The cabin also had no couch, just a basic chair instead. The bed was comfortable,hot water was quick,hanging space more than adequate and we heard no noise from other cabins. Food was usually good (some excellent) and service mostly good. We ate in the main dining rooms every night. Breakfast on a ship is a favorite part of any cruise for me especially in the main dining room and this did not let me down. We did not eat in either of the two specially restaurants but heard grumbling about the length of the three hour dinners in the Italian room. A definite strength of this cruise was the entertainment. The singers and dancers and the comedian in the main showroom were probably the best we have had on a cruise. The comedian's routines were a little on the adult side because his overall topic was adult relationships, but it wasn't filthy. In general this ship seemed to have more entertainment choices than others we have been on. My wife had one of the Spa's combination treatments for a reduced price which was offered one day. She says it was worth the lower price, but full price? Few reviews mention the casino on any ship. We played in this one almost every night and some days at sea. A few of the video poker machines have good pay tables. The penny slots were fun and profitable enough so we felt we got our money's worth. I played live poker at the one electronic poker table. They offered some tournaments as well as live games which usually started about 9 p.m. and went until about midnight. The players were a blend of casual players (some who were new to poker) and a few experienced, better players. Players were all friendly. This ship had almost no announcements on the intercom and that left some people not aware of info that was found in the written sheets. The ports all offer interesting excursions but we just took one...the train ride in Skagway to the top of the pass. We enjoyed the scenery and the narration. Getting off in Vancouver worked well. They even ran ahead of schedule! The cab to the airport was $33 American plus tip. In summary, we won't hesitate to take this ship again. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
Our cruise on the Island Princess was very nice and we had fantastic sunny weather all the way until the last full day. Princess had a naturalist on board, who spotted animals and did mini lectures, which was nice. Our room was always ... Read More
Our cruise on the Island Princess was very nice and we had fantastic sunny weather all the way until the last full day. Princess had a naturalist on board, who spotted animals and did mini lectures, which was nice. Our room was always clean, new towels, cookies at night, candy on pillows. Some of the things we didn't like: the laundry rooms were in disrepair; SMOKING!!; commercialization of the ports was ridiculous and the onboard shopping thing was just nuts. We felt like Princess had it's hand in our pockets all the time! Let's face it, unless you have the bucks, this byline they go by 'escape completely' is unattainable. More ping pong tables would be an asset as all the teens tie them up all day long. We also felt like we were very uninformed about how things went. We eventually figured it out, but maybe a little flyer 'new cruiser tips' would be good. Food. Supper in the anytime dining 'Bordeaux' was great. We didn't want to go formal, so two nights we had to eat elsewhere. Sabatinis and the Bayou Cafe were not an option as $20 times 4 when you have two little kids who won't eat much is a waste. Forget dinner in the Horizon cafe. YUK. Pizza is excellent. Coffee is awful. We never got the complete scoop on the drink cards. My kids have never had soda, so that didn't seem like a good idea. Coffee card for that yukky coffee? no thanks. But then when I went to get one of those (free) midget ice cream cones, there were a lot of other items, not for free. !? no prices listed though. We did not book any port activities with Princess, but I did a lot of research and we did great things at lesser prices. All our port activities were SUPER! All in all, a great time, but I wouldn't be adverse to checking out another cruise line next time. Oh, and disembarkation. We had an 11:30 flight, so Princess had all of us early flights gather in the Bayou at 6:30 AM. They pick up your baggage the night before. All the people moving part went fabulously, but then we waited an hour at the airport for the truck to deliver the bags. Not so good at the baggage moving part. Read Less
Sail Date July 2011
Our holiday began badly as our Air Canada flight turned back after an hour out of Heathrow because someone was taken ill, which meant our time on board was almost 13 hours. However we arrived in Vancouver and were taken to the Four Seasons ... Read More
Our holiday began badly as our Air Canada flight turned back after an hour out of Heathrow because someone was taken ill, which meant our time on board was almost 13 hours. However we arrived in Vancouver and were taken to the Four Seasons hotel which is a very smart hotel. Our room was opposite another hotel so the hotel reviews which said how good the views were clearly had been written some time ago The embarkation was very smooth and efficient. All the way through the holiday the transfers and arrangements were very well organised and effected. We had not travelled with Princess before and found the ship pleasant and easy to navigate our way around. Our stateroom was clean and well appointed though the bathroom looked tired and in need of a refit. This time we opted for anytime dining which was ok but we would prefer set dining times because we like the service by the same waiters. With this 'anytime' dining sometimes the service was slow and some of the waiters very disinterested. On the whole the food was good , varied and plentiful. When we ate in the self-service restaurant the choices were much more limited than we have found on other cruises, but perfectly adequate. At breakfast we liked the fact that the waiters would happily fetch drinks or help you carry plates. The ports of call were KetchiKan, Juneau and Skagway. Our visits to Glacier bay and College Fjord were spectacular and words cannot do them justice. I imagine in poor weather we would not have felt so enthusiastic. We were most disappointed in the theatre shows on Island Princess which were poor. There was a comedian and a magician who were entertaining, but nothing else you could recommend. We were also surprised that there were no classical musical offerings on the cruise.Disembarkation was well organised and swift contrary to other reviews we had read. We had opted for a four night land cruise so when we disembarked at Whittier we boarded he train for Denali. We had the best seats in a glass- domed carriage and enjoyed the trip for about the first four hours but after that it was rather tedious and not relieved by the freshly cooked lunch in the dining car. So we were very weary when we reached the Princess Denali Lodge. We were very disappointed with our room which had a musty smell as if it hadn't been used for weeks and had a very badly stained carpet.The lodges are in a very beautiful spot but most of the lodges have no view other than another lodge. We had booked a trip into the park before we left and this was the next morning, really we were too tired to appreciate having to be up at 7.00 and on a school bus crammed full for eight hours. That night Dinner with Theatre was very good. The actors, young and enthusiastic, told the story of the first people to climb Mount McKinley and the whole evening was entertaining and lively The next day we left for the Mount McKinley Lodges in yet another coach. These lodges are newer and our room had a wonderful view. the room was spacious and clean and the whole complex seemed much more up-market than the Denali Lodges. Unfortunately our suitcase had been damage in the transit between lodges which we reported to reception who promised to send the porter. We were not able to access any of the available tours from the lodge (as we were there such a short time) except the carriage ride and gold-panning which was fun but not exceptional. The dinner here was much nicer than the Denali offerings. As we only had the next morning we opted to go into Talkeetna . It was raining and takes an hour to reach and was frankly not worth it. Just a collection of tourist shops but one nice cafe for home-made cakes. The porter finally arrived just as we were getting on the coach for Anchorage so we filled in the complaint form and left(as yet we have had no word from Princess and it has been seventeen days) The Captain Cook hotel in Anchorage was excellent; lovely room. delicious dinner on the 20th floor; then transport to the airport and the holiday was over. We were disappointed to find that we had to pay 40 dollars for our luggage as we had thought all transfers and luggage was included in the holiday price. All in all we cannot extol the pleasures of Alaska enough. It is so different to anything we had experienced before and we would gladly repeat the experience. I think we would probably give the land tour a miss and hire a car and do our own exploring next time. Though Princess meal vouchers and arrangements were good , it was too hectic a schedule for us. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
First let me tell you a little about our group. There were 3 of us me, my husband and my mom. My husband and I our in our late 20's and this was my 7th cruise, this being my 4th with Princess, and my husband's 8th cruise. My ... Read More
First let me tell you a little about our group. There were 3 of us me, my husband and my mom. My husband and I our in our late 20's and this was my 7th cruise, this being my 4th with Princess, and my husband's 8th cruise. My mother is in her 50's and this is her 2nd cruise first with Princess. We left hot sunny Florida and flew to cool rainy Vancouver the day before we left. Vancouver really is a beautiful city, expensive, but beautiful. We stayed at Coast Coal Hotel about 5 min walk from port, a very nice hotel would definitely stay there again. The next day we headed to the port at about 11:00, there was hardly anyone there so we breezed past security, the health questionnaire and check-in. We had to wait about half an hour and we were able to board the ship. All in all a typical smooth embarkation with Princess. The ship is the smallest we have ever been on, but it was still well laid out and nice for its size, considering we just got off Oasis of the Seas in Sept. The Island Princess could use some work she is starting to show her age, and at times had some musty smells. We had a mini suite balcony, the first time we have had a balcony and now we are spoiled. There was a good about of room for three people, lots of storage. Just a heads up if you get a mini suite balcony on Dolphin deck ust know there is no cover over your balcony so when it rains no protection from the rain and when its nice expect people to look down on you. The food...well for those of you who think because you are on a cruise ship you are going to get 5 star quality food, you are wrong, at least on Princess. The food is by far much better then Applebee's but not quite as good as Emeril's, but we still enjoyed it as usual. We had anytime dining and only had to wait on a table once for about 20 minutes, otherwise we tried to make reservations in the morning to avoid that wait. The service in the dining room was just ok, normally Princess has better. However, the food and service in the specialty restaurants were awesome, as usual, well worth the extra money! The Horizon court was much smaller on this ship therefore not as much variety as on their bigger ships, but still good food. The biggest disappointment food wise was that after 11:00 pm there is no food!! The only thing available is room service, big surprise after we left one of the late shows and went looking for a snack. The entertainment...one of the best comics we have ever had on a ship, he was hilarious. The ventriloquist was pretty entertaining, the magician was interesting and the one production show we saw was ok. The cruise staff was ok. We took my mom to see the traditional newlywed game because it is usually really funny...not on this ship it was horrible, and after all the talking up we did, we were all really disappointed. Most of the things the cruise staff hosted were pretty dull. The ports...The first stop was Ketchikan, we woke up went out to the balcony and the first thing we experienced was cold and rain, and it lasted all day. We took the duck tour, it was entertaining and informative. That lasted about 2 hours then we took the free shuttle to downtown and spent the rest of the day walking around town shopping and being typical tourist. The second port was Juneau, this port had on and off rain showers and stayed partly cloudy most of the day. Here we went to Mendenhall Glacier....WOW!! That was breathtaking, we only had an hour there so my husband and I walked to the waterfall and a closer look at the glacier. The walk was easy, but beautiful, and the view at the end of the trail was breathtaking! My mom did the visitor center and said it was really nice. Our tour then took us to a cooking school, we had a salmon pasta that was delicious and a reindeer sausage salad that was awesome as well. Next we went back downtown for beer tasting, I don't normally like amber beer but Alaska has some awesome amber beer a must try. After our tour we took the sky tram, rather expensive, but the view was amazing. They have some good hiking trails at the top and an injured bald eagle they are taking care of, very beautiful bird. Our final port was Skagway, that was our first sunny day and we enjoyed it, the temperature was still cool but very welcomed. Here we went to the Red Onion Saloon for breakfast and a tour of the brothel museum. We then went to the Yukon summit, another breathtaking site, and continued onto the suspension bridge up in Canada. All in all a very nice tour, with a great tour guide. The rest of the day was spent wondering around the city enjoying the sun. The glaciers....The only word to describe them is WOW!!!! Marjorie glacier was so surreal, the noises, the falling ice and snow and the calving was just so unreal.The captain did a great job with the 360 spinning so all sides could enjoy the view form their balcony. We got to see otters, seals and whales the last two days, the balcony was well worth the money once the rain stopped so we could enjoy the glaciers and wildlife. College fjord was another amazing area, if you haven't seen them PLEASE DO!!! Disembarkation is usually sad but this time it was not as we had a cruise tour. We met in the dining room and then were escorted off the ship and to the train, a very very easy process. We boarded our car and found our table, the table seats 4 so with just the 3 of us we had the table to our self with that little extra space. The train ride was 8 hours but was fantastic. We saw moose, Dall sheep and Mt. McKinley, they say only 30% of people who go to Alaska see Mt. McKinley and we got to see it full glory about noon, what a site looks almost like a cloud. Our guide on the train was very informative and we had a lot of fun. Princess Lodge...We got to the lodge about 6:00 found our room and then went exploring. The lodge was very nice, our part of the lodge had a huge patio that overlooked the river below and the mountains, very relaxing. We ended up spending the rest of the evening across the street at the little shops and ate at the Salmon bake, it looks a little iffy but the food was very good a lot of people made there way over to. A little cheaper then what the lodge offers. Across the street from the lodge are of course gift shops, liquor store, convenient store and other little restaurants. The next day by husband and I went to the park and went hiking, very beautiful and relaxing. We saw squirrel, and birds, but other people kept saying they saw moose which I really wanted to see but never did. We met my mom later for lunch she had a massage and said it was very good and not to expensive. We ended up eating at the lodge it was good food but a little pricey. That afternoon we took the history tour that is part of the package, it was another beautiful and informative tour, and we even got to see two Caribou, huge amazing animals. That night we order pizza from the pizza place at the lodge and ate it out on the patio, I looked down at my watch and noticed it was 9 pm, here you never know what time it is with the sun not "setting" till 11 and even then its not even twilight. The next morning we boarded the motor coach to head to Mt. Mckinley lodge. Mt. McKinley Lodge.... Another beautiful lodge with a great view, FYI they do not have air conditioning here and that day it was little warm, they do give you a ceiling fan and floor fan. We took the shuttle to Talkeetna and explored this cute little town. FYI to those who like the show Man vs Food, there was a challenge done here, Adam won and my husband lost :) This little town is so cute and friendly make sure to walk to the end of downtown and check out the river, some good history there. That night we ate at the lodge another good but pricey dinner. The next morning my husband and I walked their nature trails, again no moose, but there has been a mother and her twins spotted there frequently the last few weeks. We ate lunch at the 20,320 cafe before boarding the motor coach for a 4 hour ride to Anchorage. The ride was quite as many people were wore out from a great vacation. Anchorage...We arrived at Captain Cook Hotel around 5, what a huge hotel!! We finally found the business center printed our boarding passes and made our way to the room, another room without ac, but gave you fans. We cleaned up a little then my mom went shopping and my husband and I went to explore the city. Man vs Food did a challenge here too at Humpy's, we went and saw the place but my husband was challenged out. We ended up eating dinner at the Brewhouse, highly recommended, the King Crabs were the best crabs I have ever eaten!! We walked the city till about 9 then went to the hotel, repacked our suitcases, as you can only bring one piece a person on the cruise tour. We then got our taxi at 11 and headed to the airport. We flew back home at 1:45 am. This was probably one of our favorite vacations ever! Alaska is sooo beautiful we would love to go back it was worth every penny! Princess did a really good job, except with loading up motor coaches, I guess people thought they weren't going to get on the bus even though that was your assigned bus. Other than that a must do trip all around land and sea. And we had no problems doing cruise first then land tour, just matters on your preference I guess. Sorry so lengthy but hopefully helpful. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
Background: My husband and I (very active 50s) took his parents (not very active 80s) on the cruise and land tour, their "dream vacation." I used our regular travel agent for the cruise and booked all other arrangements ... Read More
Background: My husband and I (very active 50s) took his parents (not very active 80s) on the cruise and land tour, their "dream vacation." I used our regular travel agent for the cruise and booked all other arrangements independently. We've cruised Princess 7 times previously, Caribbean and Panama Canal, on Island/Coral, Ruby and Emerald. My in-laws have done the PanCanal on Coral twice. We decided on this cruise based on itinerary, and the fact that my in-laws were already familiar and comfortable with the ship. Big Picture - we LOVED this cruise. This review covers all aspects of the cruise and in some respects, we were disappointed in Princess based on expectations set by past experience. But in other respects we were blown away, and the net result was a great experience. Pre-cruise - flew into Vancouver 2 days prior to embarkation. Stayed at the Blue Horizon Hotel and were very happy with it. Spacious, comfortable and spotlessly clean rooms, 2 blocks from waterfront (Coal Harbour) with many restaurants, shops, banks within a block or two. Vancouver Trolley and free shuttles to Grouse Mountain and Capilano Suspension Bridge stop outside the lobby. Vancouver is a lovely, friendly, interesting city and I'd love to go back for a week or more. We had nice meals at Moxie's, Earl's and Milestones, chosen because my MIL is as picky as a toddler about food and their menus seemed to work. All 3 restaurants were busy and "high energy" (aka loud) with pop music which my classical musician husband and 80s in-laws found annoying, but the food was very good considering they're chain places, and the service was excellent. We had excellent plank-grilled salmon at Earl's, good steaks at Milestones, great fish and chips and salads at Moxies. Embarkation - arrived at Canada Place around 11:30AM. Very well organized check-in even though they were processing people from 3 ships. We breezed through and by 11:45 were sitting in the "platinum/elite lounge," which was really just a group of chairs separated from the main area by office partitions. Water and juice were available to all waiting passengers. We waited only about 20 minutes and were on the ship very quickly, with cabins being available immediately. Cabins - we had E705, a cat BE veranda at the starboard aft end of Emerald deck. In-laws had D721, a mini-suite at the starboard aft end of Dolphin. Both were chosen specifically for the fully covered verandas and we were happy to have them on rainy days. Cabin attendants were both excellent, keeping the cabins very clean and delivering anything we asked for promptly. We asked for an egg crate mattress pad on boarding and had it prior to the ship leaving Vancouver. Food - this was one area where we were disappointed in Princess. The presentation, selection and taste of both the buffet and main dining room food were all noticeably less appealing than we've been accustomed to on Princess. We've never been enthusiastic about the food at Horizon Court (buffet) but on this cruise it was worse than ever; areas had a lot of empty space whereas they've been full before, and the overall quality was more like hospital cafeteria than cruise ship. There was still certainly enough choice to enjoy a decent lunch, but after our March cruise on Celebrity Eclipse with its knock-out buffet, Horizon Court was a cruel joke. We did not eat there for dinner, but at night they dressed up the tables and several times offered theme dinners. If I could have talked my husband into a buffet dinner (not gonna happen) I would have tried the Octoberfest buffet... ah well. Maybe my next husband will go with me. I heard people say they enjoyed that particular theme buffet. Food in the main dining room was also a step below what we've experienced; our primary concern was the way all meat arrived overdone by a good bit (things ordered rare came out medium consistently.) And if you've cruise on Princess in the last 5 years, you'll probably know the menus by heart - we really wish they'd offer new menus at least every couple of years. Presentation was okay, again not up to Celebrity standard but attractive. Pastas were always well prepared (al dente) and served with a decent amount of sauce (not drowned) and can be ordered as an entrEe or side; we usually split an order as a side because they're really good, especially the veal ravioli. We did not eat breakfast or lunch in the MDR, nor did we try the afternoon tea. The itinerary was too intense - too much to see and do off the ship. Pizza is available by the Lido pool and was usually pretty good; they always offer both cheese and pepperoni, with one "pizza du jour." The pizza was better if it had just come out of the oven; sitting under a heat lamp for a while doesn't do it justice. The lido grill offered hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, bratwurst, hot dogs, fries and on Glacier Bay day, chili. Hamburgers and chicken were pre-cooked and flashed on the grill when ordered, which I'm sure is much safer and faster, but... yuck. Bratwurst were juicy and the buns were a bit better than expected, less like typical American air buns and more like a real roll. The old Haagen-Daz fee-based ice cream counter by the Lotus pool has been replaced by the same soft-serve ice cream available on the Crown class; vanilla, chocolate or swirl is available free in a cone or cup, with malted milk shakes available in various flavors for 1.99. As it's hard to screw up soft-serve ice cream, we enjoyed a small cone pretty often - especially when the 4 or 5 options in Horizon didn't appeal to us. Princess also serves warm cookies and milk on carts by the Lido and Lotus pools mid-afternoon, which is a nice touch and the cookies are soft, gooey and good. DH wished they'd had them at Horizon at lunch, but they appeared only once. We skipped Sabatinis as we've dined there before, but went to Bayou the first night to avoid the usual first night Anytime Dining free-for-all. Both specialty restaurants were seriously under-utilized and getting a table as a walk-in was no problem. In another change from previous cruises, steaks can now be ordered at Bayou several ways - plain grilled or with various sauces or rubs. That's a good change, as we've always enjoyed the baseball-sized filet of beef but felt it was pretty salty. Beef quality was excellent (the filet - I've had mixed luck with the Porterhouse.) None of the "Cajun" selections are spicy with the exception of the sausage grillade & grits starter; all sides and some of the mains can also be served as side dishes so you can try a number of things. Bourbon bread pudding is more of a custard than typical home-style bread pudding but was creamy and delicious; likewise the peach pie is more of a peach turnover but again, was delicious. The size and quality of the filet far exceeds that found in the main dining room and to us was worth the $20 surcharge. Service - cabin staff were efficient, rapidly cleaning the cabins while we were eating breakfast and dinner, kept everything spotless and were friendly and unfailingly polite. Our cabin attendant must have vacuumed 5 times a day with the amount of hiking-related sand and dirt we kept tracking in. Service in the Bordeaux (Anytime) MDR was perhaps a little less efficient and friendly than usual; again, this could be due to the port-intensive itinerary, with many people often eating on land. Or maybe the crew is just tired. Most servers, as well as the hostesses and assistant maitre d's, appeared to be going through the motions. Polite, but with no spark. Bar servers were largely the same. At Horizon Court the service ranged from attentive to indifferent. It was a very different experience - nobody was outright rude and in most cases service was good, but we're used to great, not good. The whole crew was lacking the usual warmth and it was surprising. Itinerary - Northbound inside route is sea day, Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, College Fjord. Sea day was very rough; this is the largest expanse of open water on the route. Plenty of activities were offered, but a pretty large percentage of people were feeling green and the ship was very quiet. Seasick bags appeared throughout the ship, tucked into railings in every stairway and discreetly stacked on counters. I've never seen that before, but I applaud the concept. Seas during the rest of the cruise were minimal to smooth as glass. Ketchikan - was an interesting town; lots of typical tourist shops along the cruise ship docks but Creek Street was quirky and fun. We walked Creek Street to Married Man's Trail, then up the road to the Totem Heritage Center and Salmon Hatchery (about a ten minute walk from Creek Street.) Each can be seen separately or in a combination ticket. We paid $12 pp to see just the small hatchery, which also has 2 resident bald eagles and an owl, all injured birds brought in and restored to health but not fit for release. The salmon had not yet started running July 1st but the 15 minute tour was interesting, and proceeds go into the hatchery's conservation efforts so the admission didn't seem unreasonable. We walked back downtown, then continued past the docks to the "eagle viewing area" marked on the downtown walking map ( from experienceketchikan.com.) This is a very steep walk via Water St, or 100+ stairs via Tongass Ave. We did see eagles in the trees; they fish just offshore in this area and then fly to the trees with their catch. It poured most of the day but I was happy in several layers of clothes with a waterproof raincoat and rain pants. A number of people from Norwegian Pearl wearing shorts and trash bags with head and arm holes did not look so happy. Juneau - showers on and off most of the day, 55-60 degrees. Tried the Mt Roberts trail from 6th ave as described on the Alaska board, but the trail itself was impossible to follow. After trying a number of different routes that went nowhere, we decided to backtrack and walked to the main trailhead, where we saw that the trail was under reconstruction. To be safe, we crossed the road and hiked the Flume Trail instead, which is boardwalk most of the way and a better choice for casual hikers (Mt Roberts Trail is somewhat technical and very steep - don't try it if you're not experienced.) Lots of beautiful waterfalls along the Flume Trail. Walked back into town and saw the State Capitol and State Office Building. There were a number of very "colorful," very inebriated street people on Front Street at 9AM- we didn't feel unsafe, but one of them kept shouting "WELCOME TO JUNEAU!" at people which clearly unnerved some folks. We took a shuttle bus to Mendenhall Glacier after lunch; by then, the cruise ship dock area was pretty quiet and some of the shuttle bus company kiosks had closed, but there were still 4 or 5 selling tickets. It's $8 pp each way no matter where you buy your ticket. The weather had started to clear by 1pm and the glacier was just spectacular. From the parking lot where the shuttle drops you, take the walking trail to the left (facing the glacier) and take photos of it looking across the lake - just beautiful. The visitors center is small but interesting and has great views, clean restrooms, small gift shop and helpful staff - $2 pp. The walk from the visitors center to the waterfall is 1.5 miles each way; we didn't have time as the last shuttle left at 4pm but it's a flat walk and the enormous waterfall would have been worth a close-up. Quick stop at the Alaska Brewery store to buy stuff - they give a free tour/tasting every hour starting at 10:40 through 4:40. No time for that, either -sigh. Skagway - overcast, drizzly, foggy morning. Did the 3.5 hour bus/train excursion with Chilkoot Charters and I have 3 words for it - best excursion ever. DH, in-laws and I were the only passengers on the bus portion so we had a personal tour with a knowledgeable, friendly guide who stopped anywhere we wanted to. He took great care with my elderly in-laws, making sure they were safe and comfortable on and off the bus. At the train depot in Fraser he found out what train car we were assigned to and handled the tickets; all we had to do was hop onboard. Chilkoot had its own car and we had a total of 8 people on a car seating 40+. The sun broke through and the train ride down to Skagway was unbelievable. The trip is narrated by enthusiastic young people; my in-laws complained that both girls talked too fast to be understood, and yeah, that's pretty accurate. But even without the narration, it's just amazing. Each car has a restroom, stove (it was pretty chilly at the beginning), bench seating and a water cooler with cups. You must stay in your assigned car, but you can stand outside for an unfettered view and some fresh air. The train stops at the depot "downtown", not at the docks, so there's a fairly substantial (half mile?) walk back to the ship. An all day shuttle is available for I think $2. Worth it if you're not used to a lot of walking, or already tired from the previous 2 ports. After lunch we decided to walk to the Gold Rush cemetery and Reid Falls. This walk is published at lengths ranging from 1.5 to 2 miles one way, and I'd say it's 2+ when you factor in the walk from the ship to downtown. It's a long and not very interesting walk, and the cemetery has a lot of clearly modern "headstones" made of wood scattered around a wooded area. But Reid falls is lovely and was the main reason we walked there. There's an outhouse-style restroom (chemical toilets) at the cemetery, and benches for resting. A large modern sign describes the inhabitants of the cemetery and how they came to end up there. Downtown Skagway is more Diamonds International than Gold Rush, but some of the buildings are interesting. Check out the rotary snow plow in front of the train depot; they used it last May to clear the tracks, and great video is available on You Tube. Every guy on the ship gathered around it, wishing they had one. I wish we had one, too. Glacier Bay - from the quiet approach early morning, in mist and fog, to watching a dozen whales feed in Icy Straight on our way back out, this was a totally amazing day. The mountains, bays and glaciers are just indescribably beautiful. Park Rangers boarded early and provided narration from time to time, but did not talk constantly. After arriving in front of the Grand Pacific and Margerie Glaciers, the Captain very slowly rotated the ship around over about an hour so no matter where you were, you'd see everything. Margerie Glacier slides toward the bay feet a day and so provides a good show; it creaks, groans, snaps and at least half a dozen times cracked chunks of ice into the bay. After that, we slowly made our way up another arm of the bay for a glimpse at the John Hopkins Glacier - the area was closed as sea lions use it as a nursery - and we spent time close to the Lamplugh Glacier. A special buffet lunch was set up by the Lido pool so people could maximize their time outside (it happened to by July 4th, so it was burgers, dogs, ribs, reindeer chili etc.) and regardless of the 40 degree temps, we definitely wanted to be outside. They sold a special Glacier Bay day pass for the Sanctuary but it didn't seem popular. Everywhere on the ship had a great view. On the way out of the bay the shipboard naturalist took over, spotting humpback whales, otters and seals. We enjoyed every minute of it. College Fjord - we were surprised by how much we enjoyed this; thought it would be a letdown after Glacier Bay but in fact, seeing so many glaciers so close together, and at close range, was equally amazing. We also saw dozens of sea otters lounging on ice in the sunshine, which the naturalist said was rare and special. This day was largely a "sea" day, with glacier viewing 5:30-8:30, but aside from having to delay dinner a bit, was really enjoyable. (It did make for a chaotic atmosphere in the Bordeaux between 8:30 and 9.) Disembarkation - we were surprised to not see an option for express disembarkation, but this is because there are few, if any, people staying in Whittier - everyone has to have made plans to go somewhere else, and you tell Princess via form early in the cruise what you're doing. They also have no trouble offloading baggage because the ship actually arrived in Whittier just after midnight. We made independent plans to overnight in Anchorage before taking the train to Denali, and received a 7:15AM meeting time to disembark. People with Princess land tours disembarked before 7, so leaving the ship for the rest of us was orderly, relaxed and wait-free. We met our shuttle, Alaska Tours and Travel, inside the small terminal and had no trouble finding our bags, as most peoples' luggage had long since been transferred to trucks for transport to the Princess Denali hotels. Captains Club - one note about Captains Club events: for the first time ever, we didn't attend any of them. We're Platinum members and usually use the evening lounge at least a few times and attend all the parties. Because the port days are so long, however, events were scheduled at odd times and with Anytime Dining and traveling companions, it simply didn't work. We did go to the Platinum/Elite lounge on the first sea day evening; it was held in Explorers near the windows and the guacamole and margaritas were great, but aside from us there were only 4 other people there. I suspect other CC members faced the same dilemma. Medical Center - for the first time ever, we needed to use the med center when my mother-in-law became ill on Glacier Bay day and wasn't bouncing back. The staff was very professional and caring, and the facilities equal to any shore-based clinic or small hospital. Gym - unlike Caribbean trips, did not use it much due to all the hiking off ship. It always seemed busy. Fairly modern equipment but not much open space for mat work. Never once saw the two fitness instructors. Miscellaneous - Photographers were the most obnoxious people ever. It took repeated firm NOs to dissuade them, which was most annoying on Glacier Bay day. We were accosted numerous times on deck. Public areas seemed to be in good shape and were kept very clean. Only saw one show, a comedian who was very funny and G-rated/family safe. No really excellent musicians onboard but with a port-intensive cruise, we just didn't need a lot of ship-board activity. We were too tired to do much after dinner. Never saw the cruise director, and didn't attend any workshops or other activities. This cruise was all about Alaska, not the ship. Just sitting on the veranda watching the mountains was our preferred pastime. The onboard naturalist was not a dynamic speaker, but she did point out a lot of wildlife. We attended her first talk which was more of a plug for the guidebook sold onboard than anything else, but it was mildly interesting. Read Less
Sail Date June 2011
We embarked from Vancouver which we found to be an absolutely beautiful city. Canada Place is an excellent facility and the embarkation process was relatively painless considering we were technically foreign nationals. Princess's ... Read More
We embarked from Vancouver which we found to be an absolutely beautiful city. Canada Place is an excellent facility and the embarkation process was relatively painless considering we were technically foreign nationals. Princess's transportation to the terminal from the airport was fine. We actually came into Vancouver the day before and did a bit of sight seeing - recommend the train pass if you have limited time. We thoroughly enjoyed Vancouver and returned to the airport for transport to Canada Place. On board we acclimated ourselves with a scavenger hunt (designed by Princess to encourage added spending - as did many of their activities - one of the things I dislike about cruising in general and Princess specifically) and quickly got a good feel for the layout. My wife actually won a certificate to one of the shops form the scavenger hunt so we got off to a good start. Lunch in the Horizon buffet area was good and we settled in to watch the water and mountains. We opted for the traditional dining, late seating and, as experienced on other cruises, met some very pleasant people with whom to share meals during the cruise. Our servers were adequate, but not spectacular. The same could be said of the food. Some meals were quite good; some so-so. None was fantastic. We did not try the optional restaurants because nothing on their menus appeared to be worth the added cost. We enjoyed the two formal nights (except for the excessive and expensive photo offerings. The comedian, Kevin Hughes, was a true joy - we laughed until tears ran down our cheeks. The musical revue was cheesy, not accurate in its genre and the singers were a weak. We enjoyed the staff talent show - especially Hector, the singing head waiter much more than the paid talent. We chose to avoid the "headliner" based on past experience. Our steward, German (pronounced Jermaine), was great and totally unobtrusive. Having reps from the national Park Service on board was a great touch. the hired naturalist tried (but I thought too hard) and was not easily understood while we were out on deck. Overall, I believe Princess did an excellent job, we enjoyed our cabin, food was adequate and acceptable. The scenery was breathtaking and the trip was incredibly enjoyable. I would highly recommend this itinerary. The ship does a reverse routing as well; however, I think going north makes it a bit more spectacular as the mountains and glaciers grow and become more impressive. Glacier bay is a do not miss - College Fjord is nice, but not as overwhelming as Glacier Bay. Be sure and take warm clothes - we had great weather, but there are places where you are surrounded by ice and moving across the water is a chilly proposition. I highly recommend you choose a routing that includes Glacier Bay and the addition of national Park Service staff added immensely to our enjoyment of this spectacular site. Seeing icebergs calve is amazing. Read Less
Sail Date May 2011
This was my 16th cruise and 5th on Princess. The Panama Canal had been on my bucket list for several years and I was glad I had the opportunity to see it in person. The canal is everything you expect, a marvel of engineering and LOTS to ... Read More
This was my 16th cruise and 5th on Princess. The Panama Canal had been on my bucket list for several years and I was glad I had the opportunity to see it in person. The canal is everything you expect, a marvel of engineering and LOTS to see. We arrived (my wife and I) at LAX and were met as usual by the smiling Princess Rep. She said I Remember you, which is quite possible since we cruise out of L.A. Fairly often. We retrieved our luggage and boarded our bus for the ship. Oh wait, we wound up at a Sheraton Hotel. Since we were early the ship was not ready yet so they took our bus to join at least one more bus load in a hospitality room, this was both good and bad. Princess had set out coffee and danish for all and they were doing the check in for the ship, that was the good. Once we got to the ship we merely need to pick up our on board cards. The bad was that we were there for close to 2 hours before being transported to the ship. In these days of airline uncertainty I try to get the earliest flight from my home city which of course means arriving ahead of boarding time if all goes well.I had never been on the Island Princess before, but we had done an Alaskan cruise on the Coral, its sister "Panamax" ship. The ship appeared to be in good condition clean etc. As usual we opted for an "obstructed view" stateroom, quite a savings over regular oceanview or balcony cabins. The room was comfortable, (the beds were a bit hard) and plenty of storage space. Our Room Steward, Ricardo, was EXCEPTIONAL always a big smile and greeting and never did my ice bucket go dry! He told me he had been on the ship since 2003 and it was obvious he loved his job and dealt well with passengers.I do like the Island Princess layout, it is easy to navigate and the elevators were pretty fast. On the ship most everyone was friendly and I think that the activities staff, Nikki, Aries, and Dave were probably the best I have encountered. I had met Nikki before on The Golden Princess so it was good to see a familiar face, Dave had been on the ship for a little over 20 days and Aries had just joined the ship, their enthusiasm was great and they all did a SUPER job! I also joined in the Princess Pop Choir, we had a total of 5 rehersals and then a performance on the second to last sea day in the Atrium. The Atrium on the Princess ships, and several otehr cruise lines, have gained new life with performances bars and eating areas making use of what was formally a desserted territory. Joe Sackenheim from the Princess singers and dancers was our leader, he was a lot of fun to wrok with and I think we sounded pretty good! Well we got a big round of applause when we were through, not sure if it was BECAUSE we were done or that we sounded good. Anyway I enjoyed it! We had anytime dining scheduled for this trip and actually opted out of the dining room several nights as we both felt the menu was not as diverse as it had been on previous Princess Cruises. I actually made the comment that the Horizon Court Buffet food was better and a wide selection than other Princess Cruises we had taken, In general the service in the dining room was OK, but we never did find an exceptional server there. In general the service, filling water glasses and taking away empty plates was very good in the Horizon Court.While I do like the layout of the Island quite well, there are a couple of things I think Princess needs to address. One is the air conditioning system. For a ship that operates in a hot humid climate the air conditioning system seemed TOTALLY INADEQUATE! This was especially noticeable on port days when doors were open and the hot humid air would come rolling in the Atrium and the mid ship elevators. I suggested that thye may want to consider an air curtain, like you often see at the mall stores to help keep the heat out of the ship, but even on sea days the central of the ship was at times quite uncomfortable. Our stateroom A/C was barely adequate even after I had maintenance there twice to increase the airflow. The only way to keep it comfortable was to keep the drapes closed all day. Glad I didn't pay for an UN-obstructed oceanview cabin. The other area was the Internet Cafe, while the facility layout is pretty decent, 2 different areas, the computer system was SLOW SLOW SLOW and many times the computers would lock up after you signed on eating up your precious minutes. I filed two complaints and each time after I did it seems that they must have reset the server as the system did work a bit better. The Internet Cafe Manager was LESS than helpful and gave some lame lip service the one time I verbally complained.We only scheduled one shore excursion that being the train in Panama City. This is a WASTE of money as the train really doesn't allow much of a view of the Canal, in-spite of what is written in the description, and the windows of the train were filthy no way could you see well let alone take good pictures. The highlight of the excursion was a visit to the Gatun Locks. I got a lot of great pictures and it gave me the opportunity to see in advance what to look for the next day when the Island went through the canal. The return trip to the ship was by bus, 1-1/2 hours (no restroom) and at best was boring and rough as the Panama roads are for the most part pretty bad even the limited access highways. I really think they pre build the bumps in. Back at the ship where the bus stopped left an approximately 2 foot step to the ground, this was hard on me and the other over 60 passengers. The least they could have done was furnished a small step on the ground. BTW, this is a tender port and the dock can be very unsteady and steep, this really needs to be improved.Once in Ft Lauderdale the dis-embarkation was quick and easy, we took advantage of the Princess Bag Check Program that sent our bags right to the airport with the next time we saw them in Phoenix, WELL WORTH the $20.00 per bag fee. The instructions from Princess were a bit vague regarding the boarding passes so I went ahead and printed ours none the less. I had taken advantage of Southwest Airlines early boarding that guarantees an early boarding number (think A group) so it worked out well since we were guaranteed a boarding number without having to worry about trying to check in 24 hours in advance.All in all it was a pretty good cruise, I would not recommend it for someone who can not take exposure to high heat and humidity. As far as the Island Princess is concerned; I liked the crew, the food was OK, but the ships HVAC system and computers need improvement. We will be cruising Holland America next month so we will have a pretty close comparrison on quality and service. Read Less
Sail Date April 2011
This cruise was as advertised with a stop in Aruba from 7 am to 12:30. The sun wasn't up when we could go onshore. Such a beautiful island to not spend more time. Cartagena was a beautiful city where we booked a private tour with Lee ... Read More
This cruise was as advertised with a stop in Aruba from 7 am to 12:30. The sun wasn't up when we could go onshore. Such a beautiful island to not spend more time. Cartagena was a beautiful city where we booked a private tour with Lee Miles. He has various selections of places he suggests you visit and he was most accommodating in the changes I wanted. The food at La Olla Cartagenera was excellent. Thankfully Elkin was our translator as no one at the restaurant spoke English. We had a van for 4 and our tour guide, Elkin, who spoke perfect English, sat facing us so we were able to converse like old friends. Highly recommended. Lee Miles website is: http://www.destinationcartagena.com/privatetours The most disappointing part of the trip was our "cruising" Lake Gatun. We went through the first set of locks and parked among the freighters. Everyone wanted to know about the "cruising" around Lake Gatun. Having been through the canal numerous times we missed a great opportunity by just being anchored. Princess also took the stop at Cristobal off the itinerary that was originally planned. The Horizon Court Buffet food was forgettable. The area is small and congested. It got to the point I was not looking forward to lunch. Finally we went to the dining room for lunch and was very satisfied. Dining room food offerings were not as exotic as previous Princess cruises. Overall we were very satisfied with the cruise. The ship is well kept except for the furniture on our deck which was corroding and the wood on the railings needed some attention. Read Less
Sail Date February 2011
This review is a little late but getting ready for my next cruise and looking for reviews and can't seem to find them I felt compelled to write something for others looking for info. There were six family members on our cruise for the ... Read More
This review is a little late but getting ready for my next cruise and looking for reviews and can't seem to find them I felt compelled to write something for others looking for info. There were six family members on our cruise for the partial transit through the Panama Canal. We all had different staterooms. My husband and I (both 50 years old) had a mini suite which was wonderful. We were in D312 on Island Princess. The room is spacious enough and much bigger than the regular balcony room but much smaller than my sister's full suite. The cruise to the Panama Canal is awesome; you will love it. First tip, I think Princess is more geared for the elderly, maybe more expensive than other ships but I don't really have anything else to compare it to although there were many people in wheelchairs or walkers but that was okay with me. I didn't want 20 somethings drunk partying all night or all day at the pool. I drink too but don't want loud obnoxious people in the common areas. Second tip, if you want to book the Sanctuary, as soon as you get on the ship, get to the Sanctuary as soon as you can and book the number of days you want and pick out your chairs especially if you want it during the transit through the canal. The service there is outstanding. You feel like a celebrity. No children allowed and you are at the back of the ship with outstanding views. No one else can sit in your lounge chair and they wait on you constantly. It is a little pricey but worth it. As far as the entertainment, we went to a few shows and most were just okay but still fun. The best part was the fantastic dinners in the dining room. I know some complain about the food but I don't understand that when we had the best filet mignon and salmon and goat cheese souflee, etc. It was scrumptious and the waiters are wonderful (of course they want a tip at the end). We never had a problem at the Horizon buffet. I am somewhat picky about food but found all kinds of great things to eat and any time you want. The ports were great too. The best was Jamaica and go on the gondola to the shopping and top of the mountain. The worst I thought was Aruba. Way over rated. Just a rock in the middle of nowhere . The beach was beautiful and we did take a tour to an aloe factory/store (boring) and to "little/baby bridge" but also kind of boring. We are from California; seen that, done that. An ocean view. The best part of the cruise of course is the crossing and that was awesome. Get up early and claim you seat in the Horizon Court and you won't be disappointed. Columbia was very fun and interesting. We had armed guards with us the whole time and took the horse carriage ride which I highly recommend. It is kind of expensive but was worth it. We didn't get to stop in Panama because of some sort of sickness on shore or maybe on the ship? Not sure. All in all, this was a fantastic trip and Princess was great. We are booked again but this time to Central America, Honduras, Belize, Cozumel. I hope I can find some reviews on that cruise. It is on the Caribbean Princess but I can't seem to find updated reviews. What's up with that? Happy sailing y'all. Read Less
Sail Date February 2011
I recently took the Island Princess for 10 days on their Panama Canal trip. This was a trip with my 83 year old mother who until recently has traveled the world extensively. We wanted something to do together that neither of us had done. ... Read More
I recently took the Island Princess for 10 days on their Panama Canal trip. This was a trip with my 83 year old mother who until recently has traveled the world extensively. We wanted something to do together that neither of us had done. I'm not new to cruising; this is my second Princess trip and I've been on NCL twice. Our trip to Alaska was on the Coral Princess, sister to this boat.  We ended up with the mini suite for the same price as a balcony (D311), first night dinner with a bottle of wine or champagne in Sabbatini's (extra cost dining choice at 20 pp) and $20 toward a bottle of wine any other night. We were coming from cold weather places so went down the day before. If this applies to you, DON'T wait to book your hotel. By the time I did, all the better affordable ones were gone; we stayed at the Hyatt North for $259 which was a lot of money for a pretty mediocre hotel. The only good thing was a shopping center was a 4 minute walk for last minute items and there was a free shuttle from the Ft. Lauderdale airport and same to the ship the next day. I was concerned as my mother has good mobility but can't stand for long periods of time. Checking in couldn't have been smoother; there were virtually no lines and then we were in our room by 1:30pm. The ship was a bit tired; I noticed things here and there but the crew was always cleaning, painting, etc. the whole trip. Our cabin was closer to the front and near a bank of elevators. We were on the starboard side of the boat and WOULD NOT DO THIS LOCATION FOR THIS TRIP, BE ON THE PORT SIDE! All the cool things were always on the other side.. I did bring my cosmo mix aboard in a "rum runner"; enough for 10 nights and enjoyed a drink on the balcony nightly before dinner. We were at the 5:45 seating in the Provance dining room and enjoyed our tablemates very much. Twice we ended up in the anytime dining in Bordeaux dining room. Once was great with new friends to meet and the other was just the worst service; it was as we were invisible to our server. In total contrast, service in Provance was superb. No problem finding seats at the lunch or breakfast buffets. All the staff throughout the boat were very good though some did not seem too happy but in general, from out cabin steward to the dining staff... all were pleasant. The food, while very good, was not exceptional. I don't eat meat and there were always other choices but my food on the last NCL cruise from Boston to Bermuda was superior (as was the evening entertainment). The spa was great.. best hot stone massage I've ever had and the facial was superb as well. The pools.... Always crowded and tough to find a sun bed and supposedly Princess won't let anyone "save" them but they seemed to have a towel and book on them with no one around. The few times I sat at the pool, I did manage to snag one. The "adults only" pool near the spa was beautiful, serene and never crowded but with a glass roof and beautiful weather.. no wonder it was not crowded. The speakers who talked about the ports were very very good though often they pointed out the benefits of the Princess tours ($$$) but better to be safe than sorry I suppose. We did only wander in downtown Aruba, did the Cartagena City Tour along with 1000 others in lots of buses, not too much time to shop but those who went to Mr. Emerald came away happy, did the railroad tour in Panama (not so great), hired our own guide in Limon, Costa Rica (Ricky Ricardo tours) which worked out very well and took a sightseeing cab in Ocho Rios. The ship has a "personal shopping assistant" and it sure seemed that it was assumed everyone wanted to shop mightily at each port. I hate the cruise industry's "buy buy buy" push from the first photo to the last souvenir. I think after you cruise a few times, you are more able to ignore the easy ways to spend money. The programs and lectures were all just superb, especially the ones on the history of the canal. Be prepared to be up that morning by 5:45 and get a spot staked out. The back of deck 7 is off limits but you can get the back of 8, 9 and maybe 10 for a rear view. The best ones are up front, off the Horizon court but get there early... all the spots were taken by 7:30 am. The scholarship at sea program was just great; I took as many photoshop classes as I could squeeze in. Make up of the passengers.. it took me a while as many seemed to be in their 70's + but I did find younger people on board. I have to hand it to those who went around in their "scooters" and this is a good venue for those who are differently abled. When it was time to disembark, I did take the wheelchair option for my mother that I had marked when we did our cruise documents. Glad I had done so as the lines were very long in every aspect. We were whisked away to claim our bags and then a porter took them through security and right out to a cab. It was a great trip and I would not hesitate to recommend it to someone. There are 4 days at sea which I really enjoyed but some people may find it too much. Read Less
Sail Date January 2011
Cruise: 17 day Ft Lauderdale to Vancouver,Island Princess Nationality: Aussies(about 23 or so on board) Our Outlook: Make the most of life. We have cruised with Princess a few times. Expectations This Cruise: High and pleasantly met. ... Read More
Cruise: 17 day Ft Lauderdale to Vancouver,Island Princess Nationality: Aussies(about 23 or so on board) Our Outlook: Make the most of life. We have cruised with Princess a few times. Expectations This Cruise: High and pleasantly met. Overall we enjoyed this cruise and loved most of the Ports. We have one regret only.The last 2 days from Los Angeles to Vancouver had a "party feel" as the new guests were making the most of their 2 days on board. We quickly lost that original feeling of being on a relaxing voyage. If we had the choice again,we would have disembarked in Los Angeles. Embarkation: Check in was quick and a breeze. The cruise lines are certainly winning in this area as we do all the work online ahead of time! We had enough time to write emails home before boarding.Fort Lauderdale has free Wi Fi in the terminal if you have your own notebook. Ship: The cruise was sold out however this ship had plenty of hideaways,bars,dining options and recreational areas to help with the crowded sea days. It certainly does not have a smaller ship "feel" and we found areas we could relax in away from the cabin. Cabin: B304, Balcony, Forward Our thoughts before getting on board, was "smaller ship" means "smaller cabin". Not the case here. Our immediate impression was one of "space." Loads of storage with an open ward robe, several drawers with safe, bedside drawers, table, one chair, one single lounge seat and refrigerator. Our rather big bags went very nicely under the queen bed. Bit tight to move from the end of the bed to either the balcony side or to the cabin door so it was one person at a time. The balcony was a good size with the usual table and chairs.Really took advantage of this during the Canal transit in the heat of the day. OK, nice cabin but... One doesn't live in the shower but if you dropped the soap or anything else then forget picking it up as there is NO bending down without pushing the curtain out.We had a very wet floor a number of times!! Dining: The Horizon Court was our venue of choice the whole trip and we did not visit the "Anytime Dining" room at all. Tried the pub lunches,Sabatini's for a 50th Birthday celebration and pizza on deck. The Horizon came in handy on port days but the rest of the ship felt that way too. However,we met some very interesting people from all over of the globe and it was never hard to find seating.Dinner was always a table for two and never crowded.We had great service and we were always made welcome. Food: The food was varied and non repetitious except at breakfast time.Often we would skip breakfast and head straight for lunch that kicked off at 1130am. Our only negative has been the same on all Princess cruises. The desserts were usually creamy,looked artistic but sadly very little difference in flavour.There was always a range of fresh fruit available though. I did however,love some of the hot desserts served every lunch and dinner. We had to wait for Formal Nights to have ice cream here that promptly disappeared at 900pm.So if you were late by one minute...you missed out. We made up for it with the free ice cream until 700pm at the inside pool. On Sabatini'.... the food was very good,however we thought you could order from the menu.That was the case with the mains and dessert,however ALL the appetizers were brought out round after round.!!! Way too much food and in the end it became too much. Ports: We didn't feel crowded when getting on or off in port days. Usually the tours went out early and the rest got off as they pleased. Aruba: The arrival was Sunday. Nothing opens except the diamond and souvenirs shops. Princess had not let that one slip to guests not doing tours. We did some walking.There is no beach area near the ship but the blue of the water was beautiful. The town had a deserted feel but we did find a lovely church open. The supermarket was closed as was all the regular stores. Aloe Vera is grown here and we bought some sunburn cream at the port shops. The Princess schedule couldn't have been worse if you didn't do a tour here. The local bus did run to the white sandy beaches further into the tourist zone. Cartagena: This port was a real eye opener for our first time in South America. The city is amazing and it is very old colonial and colourful. We did a walking tour off the ship. Got the feeling we were not given too much time on our own.The people seemed happy to us and we felt welcome. The tour leader gave a great narration of city life and gave us hints on the local people selling goods in the streets. It's not to discourage from buying but to be selective with prices and quality of goods. There were certainly a lot of them selling the same things. Cigars and silver (if genuine) were the main items.If you politely said no thank you,they would move on to the next person.It's just the way it is here. The town was a maze of old buildings and an old wall surrounding the city. We tried Columbian coffee in the main plaza and watched the life coming and going.It was great! We didn't feel unsafe at all. Still it is best to be aware at all times. Panama Canal: In a word....Outstanding. A perfect day and the highlight of our cruise. We got up at 500am and went straight to Deck 11 forward without eating first. A few people there until the first of the locks and then became fuller as the day went on. This is a great viewing area to hear the narration by the guest speaker from the bridge and to see both sides of the canal at once. We came and went as the day went on.The sun was hot and we did get very sunburned even with sun cream, hats and fuller T-shirts etc. There was some time spent anchored in Gatun Lake and we went eat then. It was hard to tear ourselves away in case we missed something.Headed back to our balcony for a different perspective. The day went so quickly but we made the most of it. Fuertes Amador: We anchored off Panama City overnight here. Our tour next day to the old, colonial and modern parts of Panama City was extremely hot and made it hard to walk any great distance. However, the tour guide was very knowledgeable about her city and made the tour so interesting we almost forgot the heat.... almost!!. It was just enough time to see the main sights. Contrary to belief it is a very wealthy country. New high rises are going up everywhere. The colonial buildings are being restored to their former elegance and costing a fortune. There is a large Duty free store and shops after tendering to the port and a couple of restaurants if not taking a tour or a taxi tour. We don't think we would have attempted the same tour on our own first time. Puntarenas: Costa Rica Went to the Poas Volcano and Sarchi on tour. It was 8 hours with a lovely lunch in the mountains. They had traditional food and their famous strawberry juice. The guide was fantastic and told us all about Costa Rica. He had the time,as it was 3 hours each way. We had some comfort stops in a souvenir store with free,hot local coffee to help keep us awake. The weather was kind to look at the crater then promptly rained. We were very lucky.It was also very cold up there. There were still a few hours to see the port town when we got back. Huetulco: Mexico. Port beach is small but nice,the beach town OK,good bars and shops but our time ran out in the port while we did our tour. Took a bus tour off the ship to a town that is a mile away. The bus took 3 hours to see basically a couple of scenic lookouts, a souvenir shop selling craft from all over Mexico and a VERY quick authentic meal. The bus was old and the air con had trouble with the heat at 40C. Saw a beautiful old church in the town and then wandered round the town square that took five minutes. The rest of the time we were trying to stay cool. On the way back we were told to take just 10 mins to eat a traditional meal as the next buses were lining up behind us. There was also to be a demonstration of making bread that didn't happen....no time? Couldn't wait to get back to the ship. This port is trying to open up to tourists but didn't get it right with this tour. Princess should be more on top of quality offered for the money. We complained to Princess and cancelled our next tour in Cabo because of our experience and would have been much better off in port. They gave us back 20 percent of the tour the day after letting them know. Acapulco: We really enjoyed it here. The views along the bay were outstanding It is a tourist trap everywhere but that didn't take away from our enjoyment. We caught an expensive limo taxi to the other end of the bay from the port and walked the length of the bay back. Very hot and tiring but worth the effort. There are cute VW beetle taxies that ply the area and they would be much cheaper if you know where to go and how much. There are loads of tourist shops, a Wal-Mart, hotels and bars. The beaches are fantastic with lovely blue water. Not a cultural thing in sight except the Cathedral and the old fort. This is a hotel, beach and shopping city. Cabo San Lucas: Lands End is beautiful and we saw it while the ship was at anchor most of the time here.It's a tender port and it has lots of souvenir shops and bars. Did not do a tour but wandered the town. Unless you do something that is water related it's pretty much the shops or the bars. We also found it more expensive here than other Mexican ports. The beaches are much further along into the tourist zone. Overall it was enough time in port to do all the above. It would have been something to be there at night. Disembarkation: Vancouver Overall Customs here were quicker over Los Angeles. Even though we were transit passengers in LA we needed to clear Customs and it took nearly 2 hours for a 400pm departure.So in the end we cancelled our rental car and went to a Farmers Market in San Pedro. The fresh strawberries were the best ever! We had an early "non Princess" bus transfer in Vancouver. The transfers sold by Princess had preference off the ship. At the time we booked we were told that no Princess bus service would run from Vancouver to Seattle so we booked an alternative,non-refundable ticket. We found out on the ship that Princess did run this service. Passengers on Princess transfers ANYWHERE got the early ship departure times. Due to Custom's number limitations, independent times were hard to get. Once you nominate your time,make any changes as early as possible the day before. They had not given us our initially nominated time. We only just made our bus after we changed to the earliest independent time left. Princess is not as effective here. Perhaps its time to do this procedure online as part of the booking process. As in other cruise lines they are so attentive when you first get on board but dismissive once the bill is finalised and paid. Other than that we had the best time on board Princess. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
We are an active couple in our mid-50's, interested in Central and South America, who booked this cruise as a belated 25th anniversary gift to ourselves. We have been on 3 previous cruises, but have never cruised on Princess. The ... Read More
We are an active couple in our mid-50's, interested in Central and South America, who booked this cruise as a belated 25th anniversary gift to ourselves. We have been on 3 previous cruises, but have never cruised on Princess. The Ship's Review by Ellen Uzelac was very comprehensive and covered a lot of the same things that I intended on mentioning. (Her review was of an Alaskan cruise and ours was the Panama Canal cruise.) Therefore, I will just mention a few of the highs and the lows that we encountered on this cruise. Highs 1. Embarkation/Disembarkation: This was the best experience we have ever had boarding and unboarding a ship. There were no huge crowds of people or long lines at either time. The disembarkation was especially easy. From the time we got in line to leave the ship to the time we walked away from Customs/Immigration to get a taxi was no more than 10 minutes! 2. Cabin: We had a mini-suite on the Dolphin deck and it was great! The size of the room was more spacious than we expected. We especially liked having a full bathtub in the bathroom and it was the largest bathroom we have ever experienced on a cruise ship, even in a balcony room. The bed was extremely comfortable (and we heard that same comment from other passengers as well). 3. Lotus Pool: This is where we spent most of our relaxation time on the ship. The Lotus Pool area is enclosed and air conditioned, which is a big plus in April on a Panama Canal cruise. There are lots of wooden lounge chairs with thick cushions, so you never have a problem finding a free space. The decor is based on Thai designs and quiet, calm music plays during the day. There are two spa tubs and a nice-sized deep pool which has a current option so that you can swim against a current for exercise. There never were many people in this area and usually after 5pm, we had the entire space to ourselves. We never could figure out why people were hanging around in the heat and humidity at the noisy outdoor pool when the Lotus Pool was just next-door. 4. Activities--There was a ton of activities everyday, offering something for everyone. We enjoyed playing the numerous games. There were usually two typical trivia games each day (one in the morning and one in the afternoon), but there were also games based on popular TV game shows like "Are You Smarter than a Fifth-Grader" and "Jeopardy". We also enjoyed the line dancing classes. (There were also ballroom dancing classes). There was also a destination "expert" on board who gave talks about the various countries we visited. We attended his lecture on the Panama Canal, which was excellent and he provided commentary over the loudspeakers as we traversed the canal. 5. Pub Lunches--On three of the sea days, a British pub lunch was offered in the Bayou Cafe (no extra charge). The menu was limited, but the food was excellent. We went on all three days the pub lunch was offered and ate fish and chips, fried shrimp and chips and scotch eggs. The shrimp and chips were mediocre, but the other two entrees were excellent. Since only a few dishes were offered, the service was quick and the food was hot, hot, hot. Lows 1. The Food—-We tried all of the various food outlets except for The Bayou Cafe and Sabatini's, which required a surcharge. I found the food at every meal to be less than inspiring and it was often just mediocre. Although there was a wide variety of main courses—chicken, fish, beef, pork and lamb, I found all of them to be on the bland side. The desserts were a real letdown and I didn't eat any of them that I couldn't have made better myself. The Horizon Court was poorly designed making it difficult to move around there easily and it was difficult, if not impossible, to find seating at breakfast and lunch. I was especially disappointed with the pizza, which tasted like cardboard. I had been on a Carnival cruise a year earlier and the food there was much, much better than the food on the Island Princess. 2. Waitstaff in the Bordeaux Restaurant—-We opted for Anytime Dining which worked well for us because we don't like to eat early or late. Except for the last night, we never had to wait more than 15 minutes for a table. However, once we were seated, the service was less than stellar. On more than one occasion, we were seated at a table that had not yet been set. So we had to sit and wait for someone to bring silverware, glasses, bread, butter, etc. The assistant waiters were not good in keeping the water glasses full. The waiters often kept us waiting a long time for the next course. We tried to be sociable and eat with others, but dinner would take around 2 hours for a table of 8. We don't like wasting that much time at the dinner table, so we started just sitting by ourselves so that we could get out of there in a reasonable amount of time. 3. Tissues—Unfortunately, I was fighting a cold for some of the cruise, so I used a lot of tissues. The tissues in our stateroom and in the common area restrooms were rougher and cheaper than any you would find in a budget hotel. This might seem like a minor point, but it just indicates how "pennypinching" Princess is about little things. For the amount of money you spend on a Princess cruise, you should expect to find real Kleenex tissues and plush towels (another thing they pinched pennies on) in your room. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
I must start by saying This was our fourth Princess Cruise and largely it still lived up to our previous experiences. Although i have an issue with the change in the method they issue luggage tickets etc. in that you have to print them ... Read More
I must start by saying This was our fourth Princess Cruise and largely it still lived up to our previous experiences. Although i have an issue with the change in the method they issue luggage tickets etc. in that you have to print them at home yourself... clever... moving all the cost to the passenger and, taking in 17 ships with lets say an average of 2000 passenger's per ship. Boy... is Princess saving some $$$ and £££ TOO !!! and we are paying for the privilege... but don't take too much notice of me.. i am just an old Git who believes in being taken care off Oh and maybe i am little cynical as well However about the ship, We had Cabin B204 which is a mini suite at the bow of the ship.. clean and comfortable and well maintained As was all public areas The Ship was very well stabilized and the staff very friendly ,as indeed were the passengers. who were a mixed bunch of 1,000 USA Citizens 750 Canadians and a small contingent of 113 Brits. plus a few other nations of cause None the less there are a couple of negatives worth taking on board ( if you can forgive the pun) Do not use the ships laundry Service its hopeless.... it took three attempts to properly get our clothes clean... Not to mention the Ironing or... rather the lack of it! It even frustrated our Cabin Steward who was visibly embarrassed by the incompetents masquerading as laundry workers. We dined in the Bordeaux Dining room on an nay time basis , we were never kept waiting i guess because we are always happy to share. One issue Princess seem to have cut down on Dining room staff and there call be extended gaps between causes. However, the food was of good quality and special requests ( my Love of Smoke Salmon ) were always accommodated for. The Entertaining was typical North American and the comedians jokes would pass over my head.. well.. most of the time.. But the Variety Shows were very good and laid on by enthusiastic staff To sum up we will both travel with Princess again.. Read Less
Sail Date April 2010
Background I traveled with my partner Jimmi (jmcal123) and two friends that we met on our Freedom cruise. I am a lifelong cruiser, sailing on everything from Crystal to Carnival. While I am not loyal to any one line, this is my 17th ... Read More
Background I traveled with my partner Jimmi (jmcal123) and two friends that we met on our Freedom cruise. I am a lifelong cruiser, sailing on everything from Crystal to Carnival. While I am not loyal to any one line, this is my 17th cruise on Princess since 2003. We booked this cruise almost 18 months in advance, so we had plenty of time to research, plan, and study the Panama Canal. Well, the last is me. I am a history dork and the first time through the canal, it was booked last minute, so had no time to research. We chose the eastbound itinerary so that port intensive part of the cruise, 4 straight to start or end your cruise was at the beginning of our cruise and we could relax at the end. Overall, this cruise met and exceeded our expectations with new ports, new friends, plenty of sun, laughs, and relaxation. We liked it enough that we booked the Coral Princess for November on a partial Canal transit. Pre-Cruise Having traveled to Mexico many times, I have to say that the process at ACU was the easiest I have been through. Once landed, we went through immigration, got our luggage, and went through customs in 15 minutes. Pressing the button and waiting for red/green light to determine if your luggage is checked is like reading the list of lottery numbers with a much better chance at winning. I really like that you setup and pay for cab prior to getting into the cab and just present a ticket to the driver. It was a 45 minute drive to the hotel. Be warned that the cab drivers are crazy and have no problem going fast and/or on the shoulder of the road. We booked the Crown Plaza Acapulco for our pre-cruise and for $68 was a steal. The only negative was that it took more than 30 minutes to check into the hotel. This hotel is in the middle of the hotel zone. It is a great location near restaurants, grocery store and a pharmacy all overlooking Acapulco Bay. We had an ocean view facing west towards the cruise port. One of the things I really enjoyed about this hotel and Acapulco in general is that it does not cater to American tourist. Unlike PV, Cabo, or Cozumel, Acapulco is a busy destination for people that live in Mexico and especially from Mexico City. So announcements were in Spanish, menus were catered to the locals, and on a weekend, the hotel was busy. One of the more entertaining parts of our stay at the beach was a fight in the "non-roped" off part of the beach between two women. It was funny because no one seemed to stop it, no cops or security arrived, and no one was arrested. We found a Mega (I think) grocery store a few blocks away and went to stock up on water, vodka, and wine for the trip. Dinner that evening was setup by our cruise critic group that had arrived early and was conveniently right across the street at El Fogon. It was simple, inexpensive, and tasty. It was an extremely long day and we were asleep early. I woke up early while Jimmi slept and walked along the beach just after sunrise. It was nice to be the only one aside from a few vendors setting up shop on the beach. Embarkation & Cabin We arrived early and as it turned out too early. Upon arrival, we chose not to have someone cart out luggage in, and then were told to go to the wrong place. After we walked all over the place with all of our bags, we found that we have to wait in the little shop area (w/ bags) until noon. We met up with a good majority of the cruise critic group, all with the same idea, in this area. Once opened, you carry your bags to the next building, put them in the big bins that are lifted onto the ship and proceed to the line. We were probably in the first ten people to board the ship and wanted to call ahead for the Chef's Table so ran to our room, more on that later. We had E736. We had originally booked an outside cabin, but through several price drops, past passenger deals, and changes, we ended up with this cabin and we really liked this room. We picked this room because it was on the port side and it was fully covered. While there were some vibrations and movement (we both really enjoy this), we thoroughly enjoyed the cabin and would book it again. It was perfect for the sun and we spent the majority of our Panama Canal day on our balcony. The best part of this cabin is the balcony because it stretched slightly to the aft so you get a 270 degree view. There is the occasional person who pops around the corner though, so if you do not like the occasional voyeur, then this is not the room for you. ? Cruise Critic Get Together &Sail away Perhaps the best deal of this cruise was the "Meet & Mingle" that was setup by our travel agent (who was sailing with us) through Princess. For about $13/person you had an open bar. 2 drinks and you got your monies worth and the conversation became livelier. Our roll call was around 8 people for almost a year, but people started showing up in the end and we had a group of about 15. Our gathering was interrupted by the Muster drill at 7PM and sailing shortly afterward. It was dark and the alcohol had taken effect. Tara (friend)and Jimmi managed to be the stars of the video for the first night and that was how our day ended. Gym and Working Out I am a runner and was very happy to have the single level promenade to run around. I made a deal with myself that I can eat a piece of pizza for every mile I ran. (I really like Princess Pizza) I ran 27 miles and ate 23 pieces of pizza. What I did not anticipate was how good ice cream goes with pizza... and it seems like I was there almost every slice of pizza. With a great outdoor running option, I did not have to use the gym, so aside from walking though it and filling my water, I did not use it. Huatulco This is a repeat stop for me and we planned to do absolutely nothing. We succeeded in our plans and it was a great way to spend the day. We got off the ship right after 10 and stopped at the first restaurant with shade and sun. Beer, cerviche, and guacamole filled our time. We did walk around for a bit and bought a few Coke's (Sugar instead of HFCS = GOOD). I have all but given up carbonation at my daily life, but splurged on this trip. Our day was short here, 10-3, and it was formal night, so it was back onboard early and some sun time. Upon leaving and making our turn southeast, the wind picked up quite dramatically and then the waves. I looked on the Navigator's report and it had Force 11, severe storm, but it did not seem that bad. It was fun to watch the waves torn apart by the wind. Needless to say, we were rocked to bed that night. This is apparently normal for this area. Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala The wind and waves of the previous night broke and we awoke to still seas and hazy warmth. While doing my daily run, I noticed we were stopped just outside of the port along with many other boats. A member of our cruise critic part (MrSHY) had done a lot of research on our first three ports and we chose to do the two longer day excursions with him and our group. We had a trip to Antigua planned trough Turansa tours today, so we were ready by 9. Shortly after 9, the captain announced that we would be missing this port due to a transportation labor strike that caused blockage of the main roads in the country. So we ended up with a day at sea and an extended day in San Juan Del Sur. While I was disappointed to miss Guatemala, I was not upset to have a sea day to relax and that we did. This was the last time that Princess is scheduled to stop in Guatemala, so it may take a land vacation to get to this country. We spent several hours in the Lotus pool and on our balcony reading, drinking, laughing. This day also could have been called the dolphin and sea turtle day as we saw many. At one time I saw a bale of turtles easily numbering over 100. It was quite a sight and makes you think about cutting the plastic soda can holder. ? The downside to this day was that because our tour was a prepaid independent tour and we technically did not show up, we were going to be out the money we spent on it. Our organizer spoke with the tour operator about a refund and they said no refund as they were there waiting for us. They eventually refunded 50% of our tour price which means we were out $25/person. After thinking about this further, this is totally unacceptable. Regardless of whether they showed up or not, where exactly were they going to take us if the roads were blocked? Antigua is about 2 hrs from the port city. Based on this logic, I will not recommend Turansa tours. Anyway, we are filing a claim with our insurance for the remainder of the funds. San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua Due to the missed stop the previous day, we had a full day in Nicaragua and we were thankful for that. Our tour organizer had notified our tour company and they arranged to start earlier and add a lunch stop in our tour. We used our Elite status to just head onto the first tender and it is a 15 minute tender ride. It was windy and the tenders rocked. We bussed to Grenada for the day. It is about 1.5 hours each way, but it is scenic and there is plenty to learn about the country on the way. All but about 15 km were along Lake Nicaragua with the two volcanoes in sight. The city of Grenada is old (1500s) and really pretty. Flush with pastels, churches, and hotels, we were dropped off in town square and had some time to wonder around, photograph and check out some of the hotels. Jimmi and Tara were on a quest for coffee, so they had to sample some. Based on reviews of this city, I was expecting poverty and was ready for the constant quest for a dollar out of the tourist, but it was not like that at all. We did have one young boy follow us. I think he was more interested in the fact that I was playing his game than he was about selling me something. It was entertaining. Our lunch was at a grill and was one of the best meals of the entire trip. Upon returning to the pier, the tender line was very long. We tried to pass some of time in the market setup there, but it just did not seem to move. We waited almost an hour to board the tender and were back on board as the sun was setting. It was a long day, but a very nice experience. Apparently, the delay was due to the wind and a tender that broke down in the tendering process. I saw only 2 running and it was 15-20 between tender arrivals. I wish we had time to explore San Juan Del Sur, and if I should return to this quaint port that is how I would spend my day. There seems to be plenty of restaurants and beach area in town and I am sure there was a local beer with my name on it. Puntarenas, Costa Rica There are many, many options for tours in Costa Rica. Jimmi and I are planning a land vacation here in 2011, so we decided to take an easy route and after doing some research, chose Calypso Tours. This tour was not offered through the cruise line. Our agent negotiated a rate for us and it was a great option. The tour is a catamaran ride to Tortuga Island in the Gulf of Nicoya about an hour off the coast. It is actually in the Pacific and not in the bay. While on the ride there is a bar and fresh fruit was also served. Upon arrival to the island, you had the option for a complimentary snorkel trip or just the palms, sand, and water. We chose the latter. At around noon, lunch was served, the company did a fine job of creating an elegant dining area out of items that they brought of the boat. After lunch it was more beach, sun and water. It was HOT on this particular day... as hot as I remember any day while on vacation and the water was refreshing. There was a small gift shop on the island, a volley ball net, and banana boats rides were available in the afternoon. We had about 4 hours of beach time before the return trip. We had a great day and highly recommend this tour. Upon arrival back in Puntarenas, we scouted out the local market and shops, and Jimmi and Tara continued their search for their perfect cup of coffee. Panama Canal This was the reason that we booked this cruise and it certainly is the highlight. I am a big history dork and did a ton of research on the old and new canals before the cruise. I highly suggest reading The Path between The Seas. It can be a little wordy at times, but it is an amazing and interesting history. The book is for sale on board and the naturalist lectures sections from this book. If you are contemplating a Panama Canal cruise, I highly suggest a full transit. The "western" side, or Balboa, (which is actual further east than the "eastern entrance" or Gatun) is far more interesting and scenic than the Gatun locks. The Culebra Cut is the narrow 8 mile passage connecting Mira Flores Lake to Gatun Lake that cuts through the Continental Divide and was the most labor intensive part of the canal build. This was the part I was looking most forward to. We were up early this day, too early probably at 5 AM. We started out on Baja deck forward directly under the bridge and stayed there through the Mira Flores Locks. People did try to push their way in throughout, so you have to hold your ground. After this, we retired to our room to view the remainder of the day from our balcony. The extra cost of a balcony pays dividends on this day as we can lounge on the bed, head to the balcony to check on progress or read outside. Even though I had done the Canal before it was interesting enough to watch all six locks. In reality, these locks are no different than any other lock system, but the history, time frame, the lives lost, and the significance of joining two oceans makes them much grander. Once in Gatun Lake, we took a break to eat and meet up with our travel mates. On the Gatun (decent to the Atlantic), our balcony sunk below the Canal walls on the second and third lock. It was fun seeing all the hands reaching out to touch it. We also chose to walk the promenade for another perspective. My Second (but much more informed) Canal Experience was everything I hoped it would be. We watched our approach to Colon from our balcony looking back at the Gatun Entrance. The line to get off the Island at Christobal Pier was ridiculous, but moved. We quickly walked though the market and found some chairs under a palapa with a few beers. This is a great, relaxing way to end our long Panama Day. The lines returned for re-entry to the Island, so we walked around until everyone boarded and were one of the last groups to get onboard. Our day at sea following Panama made us realize the difference in the Atlantic and Pacific sides. The Pacific Ocean just does not compete with the Caribbean Blue of the Atlantic side. Ocho Rios, Jamaica Up until one week before we left this was going to be a "stay on the ship" day. I am not a fan of Jamaica and wished there was a different stop instead of this one on this itinerary. We booked Mystic Mountain with the Bobsled run through Princess. I have to say of the many tours I have done in Jamaica, this was my favorite. It is a short ride from the port to the entrance. Once there, you take a scenic, 15 minute tram ride to the top. It is so quiet and peaceful, quite the opposite of a normal Jamaican experience. You did not have people trying to sell you stuff you do not need, or drugs, and you did not hear "Hey Mon" or "No problem Mon". At the top of the lift there is an Olympic tribute area, a small and expensive gift shop and a restaurant. The view is fabulous overlooking Ocho Rios and the infinity pool and water slide can keep adults and children occupied for a few hours. The main draws though are the alpine rollercoaster and zipline. We chose to do the rollercoaster it was fun. You control the braking and can go alone or connected to someone else. I would have gone a second time, but it requires you to buy 2 rides for $20. A note here, the line for the alpine coaster got longer as the day went on. We had lunch at the restaurant (would not recommend it) and spent several hours in the pool. It was relaxing. We headed back down on the chairlift with enough time to stop and walk through the stores. Some of our group chose to have rum shots out of coconut. This was a much better day than I had thought possible and would recommend it to anyone who has done the norms in Jamaica. All that being said, it appears that Princess charged us a different price than others taking the same excursion so a little further investigation is needed. Dining Food is subjective, so here are some of my thoughts. I thought the fish selections, lobster, and wellington were very good. I mentioned above how much I enjoyed the pizza. The soufflEs are awesome as were the majority of the appetizers and the Alfredo when it was fresh. However, almost every shrimp order was undercooked. Also, the salad dressings were barely edible—bland with the only flavor coming from the items I added to it. It was like just adding oil or mayo to your salad. We did do Sabatini's one night and it was excellent. I think that I prefer Portofino on RCL for a similar experience, but we enjoyed our meal very much. For $20, it is a great value. Overall, it was what I expected and I certainly do not go hungry. Service and lack of it I usually do not comment on service as my expectations are usually met by just being professional and attentive. I have to call out two different occasions on the Island that the dining room staff was just completely unprofessional. The first experience our server did not seem interested in working. In the middle of taking our order, she yelled out, in her native tongue to a server at a different table. Our table mates all looked at each other in disbelief. When our order came out she literally threw parmesan cheese on our pasta dished... from about 3 feet above our dishes, getting it all over the table. The second experience was our last night, and our server was just slow. Not only did he forget items, but he brought them out in the wrong order. It seemed like he was a server in training. Chef's Table Wow. I was very excited about this opportunity and we planned our embarkation day around getting it. We missed out on this opportunity last time, so we planned for it this time. Upon boarding at noon, the DINE line was busy. After finding someone who could help us out in person, we were told to call back after 2PM. I got through at 1:30 and verified that I was on the list. To point out my obsessive compulsive further, I had Jimmi call back at 2 to verify this. We did not hear anything back for 2 days. We ran into a two fellow cruise critic members who said they got their invitation. I was irritated as I was verified on day one. We did end up with an invitation for the second chef's table. What can I say, it was a great event. Jimmi particularly liked the grand spectacle of walking through the dining room with the chef coats on and of course the wine. For me, it was interesting to hear about the details of the kitchen and all about food. The appetizers were a caviar dish, tuna tartar, and an escargot phylo cup that was just incredible. The champagne was flowing freely as were the conversations. The wine pairings were fantastic. Our particular menu after appetizers was shrimp risotto, bloody mary sorbet with a greygoose shot, a large plate of protein (beef medallion, lobster tail, scallops, and lamb chop), a cheese course, and the beautiful custard dessert. We had a great night, with a good buzz, and fantastic meal. The $75 price is a great value. On top of the food and wine, we each received a cookbook and two pictures. Our crowd at the event heard of the chef's table through different avenues and most did not reserve immediately, which made me think that we probably would have missed out on this again, in spite of being told we were first on the list if enough people did not sign up to fill 2 tables. Entertainment (Copied from all my other reviews) For some reason on cruise ships, we always miss out on the provided entertainment. We did not see any of the production show (though I have slept through my fair share in the past). The live music, especially passion, was worth turning the headset up for. They need to take some vocal lessons. I also did not care for the live music in the Bayou (why wasn't there jazz?) or in the Martini bar. That being said, if I have sun, pool, ocean, and a good book, I am more than satisfied. This is why I like Princess... they do not seem to force activities down your throat. There is enough to occupy if you need help and not enough so that you are exhausted when you get home! Bottom line is that people need to know how to entertain themselves and we certainly did on this cruise. The Island Princess I have sailed on the Coral Princess on three separate occasions, so there were no big surprises. I love the open, one-level promenade, and our cabin was perfect. The upper levels have plenty of open deck space with plenty of chairs to accommodate. We occupied the Lotus pool area for long periods when we were not in our sun mood. Not that I ever stayed up late enough, but the lack of a nightclub on this class is disappointing and I still think the Sanctuary is a waste of space. It literally takes up all the good space of the aft. I understand the revenue stream, but it does not seem utilized enough to take up this much space. And at $70 for the Panama Canal day, I can understand why. The ship does need an exterior paint job... we saw the Panama Canal wear and tear firsthand. I am not sure how MUTS will fit in when she does into dry dock in October, but I have liked the option on other ships. I really do love the size and class of the ship. Final Opinion This Princess experience lived up to our expectations. New places, great weather, and good friends - both new and old -- made this trip memorable. This itinerary was the perfect combination of busy and relaxation. While there were some lapses in service and misses with food, there were also some very memorable - Sabatini's and the Chef Table being two. While I do not want to say I am loyal to one line, we have been really happy with our Princess experiences. Further, with our elite status and the OBC combinations offered, the alcohol setup and laundry make it hard to choose other cruise lines. We have the Oasis planned next fall and are really excited for it, but will most likely back on the Island class for the next two cruises. After trying to plan a land vacation with family members, I realize why I am addicted to cruising and the ocean. It is easy to travel and plan, you are away visiting many places in a short period of time, and it is relaxing in the sun and water. These are a few of my favorite things. Read Less
Sail Date March 2010
We recently completed a ten day cruise through the Panama Canal aboard the Island Princess. We chose this cruise specifically because of its itinerary and the ship's reputation. Our primary interest in cruising is to find ships and ... Read More
We recently completed a ten day cruise through the Panama Canal aboard the Island Princess. We chose this cruise specifically because of its itinerary and the ship's reputation. Our primary interest in cruising is to find ships and itineraries of interest to us that provide a maximum number of interesting ports within the short time constraints allowed. This cruise stopped in 7 different countries (including port of embarkation), an unusual combination within 10 days. Overall, this cruise did provide, for us, most all of what we had desired. We, as well as most everyone we met, rated it as very good, with little to be displeased about. Crew & Staff: Room service was excellent, acceding to our every desire and needs (of which there were not too many). Service at every restaurant we visited was impeccable. The wait staff was exceedingly polite, and willing to provide for numerous creative food options not available on the menu. Service was prompt, food presentation outstanding. We did find that the fish at dinner was frequently overcooked. In addition, we found the food, though fine in quality, to be a bit bland. Dining: Two types of dining are available in two different dining rooms, fixed time or any-time dining. We chose the anytime dining option since we normally have dinner between 7-7:30PM. We never had to wait too long to be seated, and specifically enjoyed being seated at tables with other passengers we had not previously known. (Seating for two is also available.) One of us has diabetic constraints, and as a consequence rarely indulges in dessert. Not here however. We have never tasted sugar free desserts of such high quality. We did appreciate the Princess policy of allowing passengers to bring their own wine. We brought a few bottles of our favorite wine, which we consumed during the cruise. We cannot rate either of the specialty restaurants or the casino, since we partook of neither of them. Trips: Shore excursions must be a Princess specialty. At each stop, there were numerous trips to choose from. (Of course, in addition at each port there were local guides capable of providing comparable tours at cheaper rates.) We did take a tour at each stop, and about half the time used the Princess-provided excursion. Unfortunately, most of the tours were a distance from the dock, requiring significant travel time. Overall, however, we were very satisfied with all our tours, learning much about each country we visited. We would have liked, however, to have had a talk, the day/night before, on each of the ports we were about to visit. (However, the series of talks on the Panama Canal were excellent. And the daily on-board newspaper did provide some minimal discussion of the next day's visit.) We would also have like a tour of behind the scenes operation of the ship. We did get to see the galley, but for any more, you need to pay $150 for the privilege. We think this (an intimate view of ship's operation) should be a free option offered to all passengers. Entertainment: Shows were excellent, though neither of us is too much into the glitz that seems to be popular on cruises. There were two shows involving comedians both of whom were very good. While at sea there was an excellent bridge instructor, who gave us numerous opportunities to enjoy the game with fellow passengers. Our ship could not dock at one of the ports of call (Huatalco) due to the Tsunami in Chile which occurred that morning. This was disappointing, but understandable. Overall, we were very pleased with this trip. Would we go on another Princess cruise ? Absolutely. In fact we left a deposit on the Island Princess for a future cruise of our choosing. Read Less
Sail Date February 2010
We are a family of four (my husband and I in our early forties and our two boys ages 13 and 10). This was our 7th cruise (all on Princess). GETTING TO ACAPULCO: We are from the Seattle area, and have learned to not travel the day of ... Read More
We are a family of four (my husband and I in our early forties and our two boys ages 13 and 10). This was our 7th cruise (all on Princess). GETTING TO ACAPULCO: We are from the Seattle area, and have learned to not travel the day of embarking on a cruise, for several reasons. 1. Giving us (and the airlines) a few extra days to get us "there" takes a ton of stress off. (We have learned this the hard way) and 2. Getting to our destination early allows us to unwind and get acclimated to the weather and time change (plus it lets us start our vacation a little bit early). So we flew Continental to Acapulco. We loved Acapulco. We stayed at the Grand Mayan resort for 3 nights, and it was incredible. The Grand Mayan was a 10 minute drive from the airport. It was an awesome resort, a family friendly place with a great lazy river, aqua park for kids, the longest pool we have ever seen, great public facilities, and our two bedroom room was spacious (we all loved the soaking pool on our balcony). There was a terrific beach right out front. We had a good pre-Christmas experience there. The only con to the resort is because it is in the "newer" part of Acapulco, it meant it was a 40 minute drive to the older Acapulco/cruise ship terminal area. We found ourselves taking taxis every day, but well worth it. While in Acapulco we saw the cliff divers, Fort San Diego, the artisans markets, the Flamingo hotel, Hardrock Cafe, etc. All in all we had a great time. EMBARKATION: The day of embarking went fairly smoothly. We got to the terminal early and had no delays, and were on the ship by 1:00pm. THINGS WE LOVED ON/ABOUT THE SHIP: The location of the Horizon Court is awesome (at the front of the ship with great views). We always like the burger bar and pizza. We liked that the gym was open 24 hours. We loved the way they decorated for Christmas. We thought they did a great job celebrating Christmas for the kids (crafts, cookies to decorate and a visit from Santa). Our boys liked the Ultimate Drink Card, and we used the coffee card daily. We thought most of the crew was upbeat (except for a few pushy servers pushing those drinks). We thought the entertainment was average (The piano man was incredible and very entertaining, we saw a few productions shows, a comedian, and a mentalist who was so so.) Room service was ok (sometimes it took a while and occasionally the order would be incomplete). We loved that the day we went through the canal they had an ongoing informational blurb over the intercom system spouting great and interesting facts about the history of the canal and the procedures to transit the canal. We loved that. We loved that there was always great and uncrowded views going thru the canal (check out the secret passages to the front of the ship on deck 10 and the secret passages on the back of the ships on decks 9 and 10). Tea time is always fun. WE absolutely loved the putt putt golf course on the top. THINGS WE DID NOT LIKE: We thought the Island was beginning to show wear and tear (for example: the carpets were stained, the fabric seats in the Horizon court were soiled, some rust on our balcony, the couch in the cigar lounged had been feebly repaired.). We missed Skywalkers, we missed MUTS, we missed the International Cafe. We thought the cigar lounge was a "smoker's closet" - gross, small and smelly. We thought the Cruise Director (Frank) was a bit phony. We thought the food had dropped significantly in quality and selection (for example: no escargot and no crab, instead alot of veal, lamb and meatloaf - yep, meatloaf on a cruise ship...hmmm). And late at night there was minimal variety and quantity in the Horizon Court. We had a difficult time deciphering Princess' rules (as to what rules were being enforced and which ones most people could and did ignore.)...for example: if babies/toddlers were NOT potty trained they were allowed in the splash pool only - that rule was never enforced by pool staff. Which was gross considering that children (of all ages - as well as us parents if we so chose to hang out with our kids were limited to using only one pool (I'll expand on that below). Not allowed to wear shorts in the dining room for dinner? - sure you were, we saw several people in shorts that were never turned away. Children were not allowed in the first three rows of the Princess Theater - every time we saw a show in the theater there would be several children in the first three rows and even when they were climbing over the seats and being a huge distraction, they were never asked to leave or move. In fact we never even saw Teen Security on the entire ship. So if Princess is going to state rules then why not enforce them. OK, here's my biggest complaint about this cruise. We booked a mini suite for 4 people, we got a mini suite meant for three people. It was a huge inconvenience. Picture this. We could go from our balcony to our front door without ever touching the ground. Our one son slept on a (less than twin size) pullout couch, our other son slept on a crummy, dirty, flimsy roll a way bed (that we had to roll out in the morning ourselves), that went cross-ways from the pull out bed to our bed. We complained the first night to two people at the Passenger Services Desk and their reply was "we are sailing at full capacity, and really how much time do you plan on spending in your cabin?" We were told they would get back with us the next day - they didn't. Four days later we complained, we were told someone would get a hold of us - no one did. I think Princess' attitude is: once on board we, the passengers are stuck so why make anything better for us. In this case we asked for our situation to be rectified (and we were shut down). I have since written a letter to Princess and am awaiting their reply. THIS PART APPLIES TO PARENTS TRAVELLING WITH CHILDREN: On the Christmas cruise there were 500 children on board. If you ask me I think Princess "corralled" the children. For example: The back pool is in the adult/pay Sanctuary (off limits to kids and non-paying adults), the Lotus spa/indoor pool was adult only, so besides the splash pool it left children (families) to use the outdoor pool, and during pool games the kids had no pool. That meant if you child had gotten a bit too much sun, oh well, they could not use the indoor pool (that by the way was filled at 1/4 capacity). The kids were scrutinized poolside and reprimanded if they dare jump (feet first) into the pool, definitely not allowed. Kids clubs: When our boys were younger I think Princess did a great job with that 4-7 y/o group. But...the 8-12 y/o are put on auto pilot in front of PS2's and WII's. And my 10 year old son did not have a good time making a grass skirt for tropical island night. My 13 y/o was in the 13 to 17 teen club, and I think there is a big difference between 13 and 17. That group primarily focuses in a social setting (chatting, hanging out, dancing). There were few if any organized activities. So our kids hung out with us most of the time (which was fine with us). What we tell our kids on cruises, is: They have the right to enjoy themselves just like everyone else, regardless of age, but that they do not have the right to negatively impact any other persons right to enjoy themselves. MISC: There was quite a wide range of age groups. So to any grumpy adults out there that might be reading this, it's not always a kid that pushes the wrong button on an elevator, sometimes it's an adult that changes their mind mid-destination or accidentally pushes the up button when they wanted to go down, so please don't always blame the kids. And to kids out there. Don't scare people by running up or down the stairs taking 4 at a time. Our reflexes are slower and you look like a freight train coming at us. If you asked an older couple they would probably say that the children were running a muck. But if you ask me (from a parent's stand point) I think kids were not appropriately entertained and that they were being punished for being a kid and that they were corralled. It was almost like the ship was too small for kids. TRICKS: It always surprises me to meet people on a cruise that stare cross eyed at me when I order a bowl of strawberries with a side of whip cream for dessert at dinner. They say "can you do that?". Well if you take nothing away from this review, please remember this. Ask away. You might not get everything, but you won't get much if you don't ask. For example: Being in a mini suite we get a glass of champagne upon arrival - we ask for the bottle (and get it), no matter what cabin your in - ask for robes, ask for egg crate on the bed, ask to have your sitting chair of coffee table removed if you need the room, ask for strawberries for dessert or lox for breakfast. I think we are cruising at a time when even the cruise lines are cutting back trying to save money, but it never hurts to ask. We booked this cruise to experience the Panama Canal and that was amazing, awesome and something I think our entire family will always remember. Oh, did I mention that from our balcony, we were all able to touch the canal wall! Those are our favorite pictures. We realize that with any vacation rarely does it go perfectly, so you do the best you can with what you got at the time and we try to make every vacation a wonderful experience. OK, moving on...DISEMBARKING: My husband walked off the ship early, shared a taxi to the airport, picked up a rental car and came back for the three of us and our luggage an hour later. It worked out perfectly. As for us three disembarking...that was quick and easy as well. From there we drove to Tampa and did Busch Gardens for 2 days, then drove to Orlando and did Universal Parks for 2 days. In Orlando, we stayed at a Universal Property, The Portofino Bay, which is an absolute wonderful and amazing property. The best part is that if you stay at a Universal property, your room card gets you head of the line privileges, which saved us hours of standing in lines waiting to go on rides. On Jan 3rd our flight was cancelled so Delta put us up at a hotel and we arrived home Jan 4th in the evening. They boys were up early and back to school the next day. Oh, it's such a harsh transition from vacation to reality! Happy travels to all. HUATULCO, Mexico: Huatulco is a small coastal Mexican town. We got off the ship, took a $4 taxi ride into town and just wandered around taking pictures and picking up some souvenirs (vanilla, ceramics, pottery, t shirts and coffee). It was a relaxing day for us. There is a nice beach right by the cruise dock, and there is also some shopping close by the dock. We did know people that went snorkeling close by and seemed to have a good time. PUERTO QUETZAL, Guatemala: In Puerto Questzel we did a Princess "Antigua on Your Own" tour. We usually do not do ship tours, however I had read that there could be some safety/security issues in this area and also it seemed like most prominent areas of interest involved a lengthy drive. So we boarded a bus to Antigua. We had around six hours on our own there. We had a great time. That is a very picturesque town when the drive there showed only 3rd world poverty. This was by far the best shopping. Items to buy were: jade (although I did not think was so cheap, but did a have quite a selection), textiles (I bought a beautiful leather with a woven fabric panel for $140 dollars, there were also table runners, place mats, pouches, purses, bags, cigars, coffee, wood carvings). We had a very nice day, and because we were high in elevation it was cool and comfortable. We were late leaving Antigua and it was 1 1/2 hour drive, but the ship did wait for us. A fun day, but long. Read Less
Sail Date December 2009
Island Princess Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 3.0 3.9
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 5.0 3.7
Family 4.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.9
Enrichment 3.0 3.8
Service 4.0 4.4
Value For Money 4.0 3.9
Rates 4.0 4.1

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