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346 Princess Island Princess Cruise Reviews

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
Just arrived home after the 10 day Panama Canal trip on 01st October 2009 on the Island Princess. This is the first time traveling with Princess, our first with Royal Caribbean. I have to say that the trip was great, we went with another ... Read More
Just arrived home after the 10 day Panama Canal trip on 01st October 2009 on the Island Princess. This is the first time traveling with Princess, our first with Royal Caribbean. I have to say that the trip was great, we went with another couple and found that it had everything we needed to keep us entertained. The ship was really well kept and felt spacious wherever you went. This is one thing I noticed over RC, the boat really is a great smaller cruising ship. The pools were never too busy, the hot tubs always available and the food amazing. The cruise staff were great fun and really made the effort to ensure that you had the best time possible. The same however couldn't be said with the dining staff, I do feel we missed out on that as at times other tables seemed to have better waiters. For the 10 days there was no real engagement without a lot of hard work on our part. Even when asking questions about the menu it was either made up or answered when walking/looking away. There were small touches that I think never cost anything that could also have been improved - serve ladies first, wait until everyone has finished before clearing the table, not have your next course sat waiting for you to finish the one you are eating. (RC excelled in this) The other last niggle with the trip was the incessant sales drive of additional items. I totally understand that any extra money is much needed at the moment but the brute force and tenacity was amazing. You could be sat having something to eat and staff would come selling items such as water, overpriced wine packages, photo's and spaces at the other restaurants. The term "nominal fee" became a running joke for us as everywhere you looked a fee of some sort could be found. So much to say as the call the back page of the Princess Patter their "revenue" page. Just be a bit more subtle about it, if we wanted something we'd do it. As for the trips, these we all really well organized especially the one for the Panama Canal, getting everyone off the boat with the emergency vessels and in to coaches took around 30 mins! I would however say where possible look to arrange independent tours as these are similar and usually a fraction of the price. In Aruba we just left it until we got of the ship and pad $15 each for an island tour of all the essential spots plus time for the beach. Princess had this for over $40. In Costa Rica we booked in advance on the net with Okey Dokey tours as recommended previous on Cruise Critic. This is a must, not only cheaper but a lot more personal with the tour tailored to what you want to do. The guys were brilliant an with free beer/coke who can complain. Overall the boat was really nice, entertainment good and food excellent. Service poor and "nominal fees" a favorite. What made the cruise was the ports we stopped at and this is what you'll enjoy. Read Less
Sail Date October 2009
The Excellent: The Ship The Cruise Director and Staff The Crew Show Wait Staff in Dining Rooms The Naturalist Program Photographers (check out the album by Panvision) The Good: Balcony Cabin was very good although small. I ... Read More
The Excellent: The Ship The Cruise Director and Staff The Crew Show Wait Staff in Dining Rooms The Naturalist Program Photographers (check out the album by Panvision) The Good: Balcony Cabin was very good although small. I would call it excellent except for the very small bath with shower. Pizza and Burgers on Deck and Fish 'N Chips (my favorite) in Bayou Cafe Adrian Zmed Show Production Shows, Bingo, Trivia, Newlywed Game (our favorite),Princess Pop Star, Cooking Show with Executive Chef and Dining Room Staff The Okay: Food in Dining Rooms and Horizon Court (although plentiful) Our Cabin Steward Comedians Skip It: Fruit and Vegetable Carving Tour of the Galley The Ugly: The constant sales pitch and some nickel and diming. However, to be fair, given the price of this cruise, they need to charge you for some things that are free on the QM2 and sell you extras to make a profit. Transportation and Hotel: Take Princess Transfers- DO NOT TAKE THE QUICK BUS FROM SEATTLE TO VANCOUVER or transportation other than Princess from Whittier to Airport or Hospitality Center in Anchorage Stay at Marriott Pinnacle (we did) or other hotel walking distance from ship in Vancouver Also, There is a trolley tour of Anchorage near the Princess Hospitality Center in Anchorage for $15. DO NOT TAKE IT! IT IS THE WORST TOUR WE HAVE EVER BEEN ON. Read Less
Sail Date September 2009
We really enjoyed this cruise. Having heard so much about the cold and rain in Alaska we were prepared but ended up with beautiful warm sunny weather for almost all of the cruise. The ship was lovely. There were certainly spots that ... Read More
We really enjoyed this cruise. Having heard so much about the cold and rain in Alaska we were prepared but ended up with beautiful warm sunny weather for almost all of the cruise. The ship was lovely. There were certainly spots that were showing its age (i.e. rust near the windows in the dining room, stains on the grout in the bathroom of our mini suite, rust on our balcony that they actually fixed while we were there) but nothing that detracted from the cruise. With a passenger capacity of approx. 2,300 - it never felt crowded (except when leaving the Princess Theatre after a show since there are only 2 aisles in the whole theatre!) and we seemed to make several friends who we saw repeatedly everywhere we went. The staff was lovely - you would be hard pressed to find a staff member on this ship who was not friendly. Walking in Juneau we saw one of the shopping experts (Jay) and he chatted with us as we walked to town as though we had been friends for years. We loved our room steward Erwin. The room was always perfect and he always greeted us by name and with a smile. Whenever we asked for anything from him - it was there in a flash. We had anytime dining and in the past we found a waiter we liked and then requested him every night. It was different this time - we felt like they were not as attentive as they had been in the past. Some nights it seemed like they didn't care - just wanted to get the food out on the table and then get you out of the dining room. No big deal. The food was good and we certainly ate plenty of it. We never had to wait for a table but it seemed like everytime we were leaving dinner there was a huge crowd waiting to be seated. Since we were early eaters (no later than 6:30) - it would seem that going early is the key to not having to wait. One of my favorite moments of the cruise happened in the dining room...on our sea day on the way to Vancouver, we were sitting by the window and saw loads of orca. It was incredible. The best was when one came up right outside the window - so close I felt like I could have touched it. Entertainment - We were disappointed that they do the same shows as they do on other Princess ships. We saw the production show "Do You Wanna Dance" on the Caribbean Princess and it was the same exact show here just with different performers. Sort of boring the second time around. We saw both of the comics, Scott Wyler and Cary Long - both were good. We also loved the "Cooking" show done by several members of the dining room staff - very cute! We participated in the various trivia games, Jeopardy games, watched the Not So Newlywed Game, etc. - plenty of options for entertainment. Disembarkation was a little slow but not terrible. Our assigned time to go off was 8:30 am and our group was called at 8:50 am. After that gathering our luggage and going through customs was a breeze. It was a wonderful trip and Princess does a nice job. I am already planning our next trip! Read Less
Sail Date July 2009
We are just off the Island Princess to Alaska and found her to be gracious, but with a few kinks... Our group of seven included two 70'somethings, four 50'somethings, and our 23 year old daughter. My DH and I are one of the ... Read More
We are just off the Island Princess to Alaska and found her to be gracious, but with a few kinks... Our group of seven included two 70'somethings, four 50'somethings, and our 23 year old daughter. My DH and I are one of the 50'somethings and this cruise was a birthday celebration for us both. We have sailed 15 times previously and this cruise was our 4th with Princess. Embarkation couldn't have been easier from the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver as we strolled out of our beautiful hotel room, headed down the elevator to check in, and walked onto the ship. This was the easiest embarkation we have ever had! On first appearance, the Island Princess is lovely and in very good condition. We saw very few instances of wear and tear in the public areas throughout the ship. The staff was warm and welcoming and our cabin steward was pleasant and extremely helpful. The seas were gently rolling out of Vancouver and into the Inside Passage the first day, but after that we felt very little movement aboard this ship. Glacier Bay was terrific and the commentary was perfect. We took on a couple of park service rangers who were wonderful and all week enjoyed the onboard naturalist and his commentary. Pick up the accompanying book if you can as it has many details about Alaska and the area you are cruising. Food was an interesting mix of hits and misses. We found many tasty treats at the buffet and also in the main dining room. However... many of the desserts were dry and uninspiring. All of our meals at dinner were taken in the Main Dining Room and we felt our waiter to be very efficient, yet without a great deal of exuberance. Unfortunately, the ship was in the College Fjords during the Baked Alaska parade of the last evening and though passengers all around us were enjoying Baked Alaska, we were told we could not have any unless we stayed for the parade. We felt there may have been a small language issue there but can't be sure. There were two different lunch buffets on the last two sea days. One was the "Taste of Alaska" with several varieties of salmon and delicious sushi and shrimp. The other buffet was a "Chili-Chowder" buffet with good food and wonderful desserts. You have to head to the very back of the buffet area to find the good stuff! We also enjoyed the free Pub Lunch held two separate days in one of the alternative restaurants, The Bayou Cafe. Yum! Of course with all this eating we had to work out and we truly enjoyed the stretch class and the abs classes every morning. We also spent an hour each day walking the promenade. It's a great one that goes all the way around the ship - very nice. We spent our evenings in Crooners with an extremely delightful group of servers and felt their service to be exemplary. The piano music was provided by Tom Franek and was highly entertaining. The casino has gone to a completely $$$-free system and you use only your cruise card. Some may enjoy this ... others may not. Bingo is a "back-to-basics" style and I very much appreciated the ease of playing with either a Bingo Bopper or pencil rather than other lines computer-style sets. Didn't win any money here but had a very fun time. The evening entertainment in the Princess Theatre consists of "Piano Man" and "Motor City" singing and dancing shows, along with two comedians. We felt that passengers onboard this sailing were a bit sedate as the public areas were not crowded at all and several of the servers commented that people "just weren't buying anything" this week. That could be the luck of the draw, or possibly an early sailing and some people just not ready for their summer getaway. Oddly enough, with all the running around we did we never saw the Cruise Director or the Captain in any of the public areas or at any of the events. Interesting.... We would definitely cruise Princess again but have a RCCL cruise planned in one month and are looking forward to making some comparisons.  Happy Cruising Everybody!! Read Less
Sail Date May 2009
We spent our 14th cruise on Island Princess, cruising from Ft. Lauderdale to LA. This was a repositioning cruise that would continue on to Vancouver and then start the summer cruises of Alaska. This was our second cruise with Princess. ... Read More
We spent our 14th cruise on Island Princess, cruising from Ft. Lauderdale to LA. This was a repositioning cruise that would continue on to Vancouver and then start the summer cruises of Alaska. This was our second cruise with Princess. We've cruise on RCL, HAL, Celebrity, Carnival and on a now defunct cruise line. I've added this comment so that you will know I am not a cheerleader, nor have I left any of these lines because we were unhappy. We book for itinerary, price and date. That has given us a lot more flexibility to get the best cruise for the best price. Overall, we were happy with this cruise. We always fly down a day early. For this cruise, we debated it back and forth. There are tons of flights from NJ to FL and it was April 23rd. I didn't think the weather in April would be a factor. However, DH prevailed. He wanted to start the vacation a day early, relaxed. I got a tip from the Cruise Critics FL departure boards and I booked the Hyatt Pier 66 resort for $109 a night. No bidding. This was a special on one of the travel websites that constantly sends me email. They did not have a shuttle, but DH does not like the group shuttles anyway. So with a $20 taxi from the airport and another $10 to the port, we figured we did pretty well. We arrived at the hotel at about 3 and after taking our luggage to the room, we took a long walk around the facilities. If we had gotten there earlier there is a hop on hop off ferry that stops at the hotel. However, it was a one day pass, not a 24 hour pass and since it was already late, we decided not to take the boat transportation. There were several restaurants on the property, but there were limited choices and nothing to our liking. So after a few hours of sitting in comfortable loungers and reading by the beautiful pool we took off for a 1 mile walk over the bridge to the restaurant we had chosen by looking at the concergier's restaurant menu book. We were able to find a suitable, reasonably priced Italian restaurant. It was a lovely walk. We made a few stops on the way back, including a gas station/convenience store across from the hotel where we picked up a few bottles of water. The next morning we had a problem for breakfast. No ala carte, only an expensive buffet, which I am sure was excellent, but I was not about to splurge when it was only a few hours until our 14 day cruise. The concergier recommended a little cafe type restaurant where DH could get OJ and cereal and I could get coffee and an English muffin. Off we walked over the bridge and we were very happy with our little breakfast that cost less then $10 for the both of us. On the way back we stopped at a Walgreens for a last minute item. As we crossed the bridge we were delighted to see the beautiful Island Princess debarking passengers. We were ready. No other sightseeing activities were of more interest to us than boarding the ship. We sat outside at the pool for a while and then we took a taxi to the ship. I am guessing it was about 10:30 or 11:00. The cabin was a typical mainstream cruise ship cabin. We always find enough room for our clothes and toiletries. Our luggage was delivered before the muster drill. We spent many enjoyable hours on the padded lounge chairs at the indoor and/or outdoor pool. We had no problem with chair hogs. We've been pretty lucky on these longer spring and autumn cruises. Without the children, people seem to be less likely to hog chairs for the entire day. FOOD- We were pleased with the food. We ate breakfast every day (with the exception of several early excursion days) in the dining room. We had early traditional dining. While we were not thrilled with the 5:30 time, we would have preferred a little later, we adjusted. We all sat down at 5:45 and were usually finished at 7:00. As it turned out, this early time allowed us to see 2 different shows on several nights. We are just earlybirds and we rarely stay up for any activities that start after 10:00. We were able to find food to our liking every night. My DH had both dietary restrictions and a tooth problem where he needed to avoid anything that required biting into with his front tooth. He requested a bran muffin every night, and it was there for him every night. DH ordered fish almost every night and it was delicious. When I was not sure of my selection I added a baked potato. Several times we ordered the vegetarian or pasta entrEe to share for the table. This worked out very nicely for us. One night I ordered a lamb stew. When it arrived it did not look appetizing. The waiter saw the look on my face and the lamb stew never hit the table. Instead the menu reappeared. We were seated with 2 lovely couples from California. We had many enjoyable conversations and shared our experiences. We hope to see them again. ACTIVITIES- The ship had the typical daytime activities. This cruise had a wonderful bridge director who gave lectures in the morning and directed a game in the afternoon. We got a lot out of the lectures and every afternoon there was a very popular bridge game with over 10 tables. This is one of the reasons we took this long cruise on Princess. We no longer take long cruises on cruise lines (hint:Celebrity) that do not have a bridge director. We kept busy from morning to night. When there were no ship sponsored activities such as trivia or a history lecture or bridge, there was always a walk around the promenade deck or a book to read or a nap on a comfortable lounge chair, or a dip in the hot tub and pool. ENTERTAINMENT: We always enjoy the production shows and we were not disappointed. There were 5 production shows on this cruise. At first we were disappointed when we found out they repeated some of the shows. But we saw there was an alternate venue, the Universal lounge, that also had shows in a more comfortable, intimate atmosphere. Because the theatre was not large, we arrived early, but that is not really a problem for us. We never save seats or have seats saved. We arrive early, move to the middle and read, talk, or do a puzzle. We saw that the theatre was often filled up by 5 minutes before the show started. Once we found the Universal lounge, there were several nights that we went to 2 different shows, or in several cases a repeat of the show we had loved the previous night. We are not into drinking and dancing, so we were happy to have a full night with a show and a movie, or a show and classical music. The comedians and ventriloquist were pretty average, but we got a few laughs. I also liked the fact that they used the theatre to show fairly recent movies. I rarely go to the movies at home, so it was fun to do this in a theatre on a big screen. On other cruise ships I've complained about how they repeat the movies after a week. In this case, I wish they had repeated some of the movies. PORTS: ARUBA - We arrived at Aruba early and were due to leave at 12. We had been to Aruba before, so we skipped the excursions. Our original plan was to go to the beach, but we changed our mind the night before. I can't remember whether it was the weather or if we just didn't think 8:30 to 10:30 in the morning at the beach would work for us. We did what we like best, and spent a few hours walking around town, right off the ship. I remembered a park so we packed our books and headed in that direction. It was very quiet so early on a Sunday morning and most stores were closed. We walked so far that we found a beach where we sat on the wall, took some pictures, and relaxed. Partway back, DH left me to return to the ship and I did some shopping. We met on the ship to enjoy sailaway from an upper deck. CARTEGENA - I had made plans with a taxi driver named Douglas Batista to give us a walking tour of the old town. We met Douglas outside the terminal building at about 9:30. We were joined by a few other couples who had not prearranged a tour, but came out looking for a taxi. Good for us, because the price went down to $15 a person and we still had a group of less then 10. Douglas spoke excellent English. We drove to the fort for some pictures. We did not want to visit because we heard it was very steep. We spent hours walking around the old town. Douglas pointed out all the buildings of interest and told us their history. He told us when to buy and what prices to pay. There were tons of vendors, but I felt comfortable in our small group. Douglas told us the same thing we had heard from several previous tour guides - just do not engage in conversation and do not make eye contact. We stopped at Hard Rock Cafe for free beer, and at several jewelry stores. Time just flew. Before we knew it we had to ask Douglas to take us back to the ship because we were due back at 2:30, and most of us wanted to be back by 2. If I had to do it again, I might have limited the shopping. We made 3 - 20/30 minute jewelry stops. I had no plans to buy jewelry and even though the stops were short, they took precious time. PANAMA CANAL - This was the day we had waited for - the passage through the canal. We awoke early and went to the buffet for coffee. There were many people already there sitting by the front windows. We had no trouble getting a seat on a forward table on the elevated level. We had not been planning to watch the passage in the buffet area, but we had a good view from our seats. I had planned to grab coffee, but since we had a good view, we ate a light breakfast while we watched the ship pass through the first lock. After that we went up to the 10th or 11th deck where we watched the ship pass through the next 2 Gatlan locks. This was an amazing experience. I was very surprised at how few people there were at the forward upper deck viewing points. I know the ship has a lot of balcony cabins so I guess everyone spent the day on their balcony, or they were on the deck above the buffet which had green glass obstructing the view and making pictures difficult. Thank you Cruise Critic friends for telling us about those forward viewing areas that are not obvious if you don't know about them ahead of time. We spent the hours on Gatlan lake on a lounge chairs at the indoor pool. We were happy to get out of the hot sun. Once again we were surprised by how easy it was to find lounge chairs. Later, as we traversed the Pacific locks, we found different viewing points around the ship. This was equally interesting from the back of the ship. This was our second trip through the Panama Canal. Our first Canal crossing was a partial transit from Ft. Lauderdale. On that trip we were the first ship into the canal. On this trip we were the third ship in and it was interesting to have a Japanese car carrier and a cargo ship next to us as well as a large ship in front of us, all who were bigger than the Island Princess. We enjoyed the Atlantic side more than the Pacific side because the locks are closer together. It is really neat to have the other ships right next to you and in front and back of you. When we passed through the Pacific locks the ships were more spread out, and we did not get that same overwhelming feeling. It was interesting to go under the bridges on the Pacific side. We enjoyed the Atlantic side more because of the closeness of the ships. If you are debating before a partial and full transit I will add that the partial experience is equally exciting and interesting. On our transit, the ship did not stop in Gatlan Lake to let people off for excursions. On our partial transit it was great to have so many people get off and have the transit back to ourselves. But the Island Princess never felt crowded. As mentioned before we had no problem finding viewing spots or lounge chairs by the rails. COSTA RICO - We generally do not take ships excursions, but there did not seem to be much to do near the port. We took an excursion that included a train ride, a stop for a fruit and drink, and then a boat ride. The roads in Costa Rica were very bumpy. The guide called it the free back massage. The train also was a bumpy ride, but very interesting. Although old, the inside was nice and clean and wooden paneled. There was no glass blocking the view. We passed many small shacks and it was sad to see the poverty. I wished I had coins to toss to the children who ran out to watch the train and wave. At one point the train stopped for us to get out. There were trees filled with howler monkeys and we watched them go from one tree to another. The snack and bathroom stop was as much food as I wanted because I hate to eat off the ship. We then headed down to take a nature boat ride. We did see a crocodile and a Macaw as well as some small birds, but as with our last boat ride on the Atlantic side of Costa Rico, the wildlife was limited. Both the crocodile and Macaw were pretty far away. The nicer part of this boat ride, as compared to Puerto Limon was that there was less development on the side of the canal/river. When we got back to port after a bumpy bus ride, there was lots of outdoor shopping. The town looked poor and uninviting. We are usually the first to walk around these towns but there was nothing of interest. So we spent some time shopping and then headed back to the ship. NICARAGUA - We docked at San Juan del Sur. We chose to do the excursion to Rivas. This was pretty much a waste. We got what was advertised, but there is not much to do or see in Rivas. We chose this excursion because the distance was about 45 minutes driving from the ship. We were planning on a tour the next day to Antigua Guatemala that was 1.5 hours from the ship, so we chose based on distance. On the drive to Rivas the guide pointed out his brothers house, his cousins house and his fathers house - all very sad. There is one church in Rivas. The tour guide did not go in with us. The guides from the other buses went into the church, so the others probably got a little information. Our guide then took us for a short walk of about 20 minutes. We did not stop or go into any buildings. We then drove to a hotel that was on the shore of Lake Nicaragua where we were given a bowl of fresh cut fruit and coke. We could see the 2 volcanoes rising out of the lake. We spent about a half hour here, there was plenty of seating. Since the volcanoes were in the distance it was a nice photo opportunity. All in all a very hot trip. San Juan del Sur was nicer looking than Rivas. There were many nicer buildings in San Juan del Sur then Rivas and we would have been happier walking around here ourselves. There is also a beach within walking distance from the ship. On the day we were docked there were many locals at the beach because it was a workers holiday (May 1). I do not know if any ship passengers went to the beach or the safely of the water. Looked more like a Pacific beach with dirt rather than a Caribbean beach with sand. If I had to do it again I would either take the Granada excursion without lunch (despite the distance) or just walk around San Jan del Sur. Maybe I would take a taxi tour to see the volcanoes. I did not stop to see if there were any taxi drivers who spoke English. GUATEMALA - We took the Antigua on your own tour of Guatemala. We were concerned about 5 hours on our own since we did not know if there would be enough to do. We were not thrilled with the 1.5 hour bus drive each way, but the roads were in pretty good condition until we got closer to Antigua. A lot of the drive was done on the Pan American Highway. The day in Antigua turned out to be the highlight of our trip. When we got off the bus we were approached by tour guides costing $10 a person and we signed on. The first tour guide did not seem to speak good English, so we just told him we did not understand him and asked for someone who spoke better English. No problem, 2 minutes later we were handed over to another guide. Our group had about 10 people. The tour was excellent. The guide was very informative and there was a lot to see. Parts of Antigua are ruins because of earthquakes. This was very interesting. There was one large church which we toured which reminded me of Pompeii. The guide took us into a few hotel courtyards and to a shop where we watched weaving. These are the type of places we would not have entered on our own. The guide ended the tour back at the Jade factory where we had started. We got another bottle of free water and a tour of the Jade factory. They also give a short lecture and a tour of the store. After a bathroom stop we went back to the town square on our own and visited one of the museums. We did some window shopping on the way back. Others in our room went to eat. I definitely recommend visiting Antigua. One of the other couples at our dinner table did the escorted Antigua tour and they had a great time. They seemed to have visited more places then us. I think some of these other stops were outside Antigua. The next day was supposed to be a stop in Hutulca Mexico. Because of the swine flu we skipped this port and had another sea day. The captain had kept us informed for the past 5 days that there was a flu epidemic and we might miss this stop. Princess had a full day of activities for us at sea. We also found out on this day that there was some illness of board. They treated it like Noro virus. In the next 2 days we heard that all the people who were ill had eaten out on the same excursion. Just another reason why we never eat off the ship. So we spent the next 4 days, going to lectures, playing bridge, watching a few movies, reading, enjoying the hot tub, pool, gym, walking the promenade deck and going to lots of shows. We arrived in LA as scheduled. Because of the 1 hour time change, the 7:30 disembarkation felt more like 8:30. We were able to enjoy breakfast in the dining room, before returning to our cabin for our luggage. We had self debarkation. When we got to the assigned waiting area we were told to just leave the ship. We breezed through immigration, there was no line, and we got right into a taxi. It was a Thursday morning and there was some traffic, but nothing like we expected. The taxi is able to drive in the carpool lane so it was not too bad. The meter was exactly as advertised at the taxi stand. I believe it cost us in the low $60s, including tip. We were dropped off right outside the Virgin America check in desk, and we were there hours before our 12:00 flight. I know people say that the LA airport is confusing, but when you get dropped off right in front of your airline desk it is very easy. Then just went through security and followed the signs to the gate. I am glad we did not pay more just to fly out of Long Beach at a more inconvenient time. All in all, this was another wonderful cruise. I hope you get a few ideas for your trip. Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
From April 3rd to April 13th 2009, I completed a 10 day cruise roundtrip Panama Canal cruise departing from Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale Florida) aboard the Island Princess. This was the fourth ship in the Princess cruise line that I ... Read More
From April 3rd to April 13th 2009, I completed a 10 day cruise roundtrip Panama Canal cruise departing from Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale Florida) aboard the Island Princess. This was the fourth ship in the Princess cruise line that I had sailed on to date—the others being the Sapphire Princess, the Golden Princess and the Diamond Princess. I shared an inside stateroom with a Captain's Circle Platinum member. Two other family members in our party shared a second inside stateroom just down the hallway from us. Embarkation: We decided to make independent arrangements for transfers to the ship in port from the airport. Upon retrieving our luggage at Ft Lauderdale / Hollywood International Airport we were met by a uniformed chauffeur who offered to taxi us in his oversized town car to the port for a fixed fee of $40... a bargain. Curbside at the port building we were met by porters who immediately took custody of our luggage (tagged with our stateroom numbers). We tipped them the customary $1 per bag. Thereafter we proceeded to the terminal check-in counter. There were no line-ups or wait time. Upon filling in our medical questionnaires we were immediately attended to by a CSR at the Platinum Captain Circle check in section, who took our signed sail passes (we had completed pre check in on line) our credit cards, passports and then immediately issued our dual purpose cruise cards (magnetic stripe used as an electronic stateroom entry key and for gangway access control) and also used to accumulate on board account charges (no cash required on board). Layout of the ship: Although the Island Princess (built 2003) is smaller (at a gross tonnage of 91,627 and a net tonnage of 53,394) than the other Princess ships I have traveled on, it is similarly appointed and feels much roomier than it is. It carries a maximum of 2,368 passengers and 810 crew. Since it was specifically designed to be narrow enough to fit through the Panama Canal, it is a very slender 106 feet wide by 964 feet long. Our stateroom (P501) was located on the Plaza deck (level 5) toward midships right behind the Patisserie coffee bar, just off the central atrium lounge area (which stretches 4 floors up to deck 8). The tour desk, guest services and future cruise bookings desk were all located on our level. There is also a gangplank position on the 5th level as well as one below on deck 4. The two main dining rooms (Bordeaux and Provence) are located on decks 5 and 6 respectively (under each other). Shops are located on level 6, as is the casino, the Explorers lounge and the lower (main) level of the Universe show lounge. Level 7 is the promenade deck and features the two specialty restaurants (Sabatinis and (Canjun themed) The Bayou Cafe and Steakhouse). The latter doubles as a jazz club venue after dinner hours. Entry to the Princess theatre is also on level 7 as is the balcony of the Universe lounge, the Wheelhouse bar and the Crooners martini and piano bar. The card room, library and internet cafes are located off the atrium on level 8. Hidden Gem: In my view the hidden gem on this ship is The Sanctuary an exclusive outdoor lounge area located aft on two levels the Lido and Sun deck levels 14 and 15. For an admission price of $10 per half day (there is a morning and afternoon session) you get access to an oversized chaise lounge chair with super-padded mattress. The dedicated attendants will reserve your seat with a special extra large beach towel and also retrieve refreshment items for you (for a $3 gratuity charge). The area offers a selection of both shaded and sun exposed loungers, depending on your preference. You also get exclusive access to the Pelican Pool (4'11" deep) at the very rear of the ship, which offers a great place to take a relaxing cool dip and a scenic wakeview. It is a much more civilized place to spend a half day in the sun than on the crowded and noisy general pool deck. Compared to rates for cabanas in Vegas or decks chairs in the sand on South Beach, it represents great value. It also offers a better valued alternative to upgrading your room to a balcony unit, since most terraces don't come with lounges or attendants. Entertainment and activities: Our cruise director Billy Hygate was a very experienced Princess veteran. We attended our first two shows on Sunday and Monday night. The first production revue in the Princess theatre featured the Princess singers and dancers in a performance of "Piano Man" (a tribute to artists like Billy Joel, Elton John, Barry Manilow, Neil Sedaka and Liberace). Meanwhile, the first performance in the Universe show lounge featured a performance by comic magician Scott Alexander. We also attended two evening gameshows "Majority Rules" and "The Newlywed, Not so Newlywed Game" hosted by the assistant cruise director Mark Turner in the Explorer's lounge. Our trivia team triumphed in the Majority Rule gameshow (proudly claiming Princess logo beach bags as prizes). The first edition of Newlywed Game was a big disappointment. Although twenty plus pairs signed up for the three available spots on the stage, the couples (supposedly) randomly selected were poor picks and the show wound up more painful than amusing to watch. The replay later in the cruise represented an appreciable improvement. On Tuesday night we attended a performance by actor-performer Adrian Zmed in the Universe lounge. Some may recall Adrian from his co-starring roles in the TV series TJ Hooker, the big-screen movie Grease 2 and as host of the dance competition show "Dance Fever". The show charts Adrian's personal journey to fame from child of an immigrant in Chicago, to performing as Danny Zucko in Grease on Broadway, to his television and movie success in LA and finally to his most recent career as Vegas strip headliner. The Princess orchestra and singer/dancers are also featured prominently. The show is full of hokey schmaltz, the best example of which is a video montage of segments from a guest starring role Zmed acted on The Love Boat unspooling on side video screens while a trio of Princess singers sing the theme song, with Adrian back stage Following the Zmed variety show, we attended the Jeopardy game show in the Explorers Lounge and managed to place second out of more than 20 teams, helped no doubt by the fact that we, as Canadians, knew the answer to one of the daily doubles (what Olympic host country has never won a gold medal) and to the final jeopardy question (what country has the longest coastline) were "Canada". In the end our knowledge of astronomy proved to be our margin of defeat. Wednesday night we attended a performance by the comedian Elliot Maxx in the Universe Lounge. This Phil Donahue look-alike used tired material poking fun at the size of cruise-room staterooms / showers and the advanced age of passengers but had a pleasing stage persona and impeccable timing that transcended the routine. On Thursday night we were in attendance at the International talent show in the Princess theatre. The house was sold out. The show featured crews performers, including a Filipino who did a great Michael Jackson impersonation and cruise director Billy Hygate's spot-on impersonation of Topo in the "If I were a Rich Man" scene from Fiddler on the Roof! The closing scene, featuring the cruise director's staff performing a song in the round, was a real crowd pleaser! On Friday we attended a performance by comic Billy Vader another cruiseship veteran headliner. This show was virtually identical to a previous performance of his I had attended on an earlier cruise, right down to the sight gags and his interactions with the cruise director at the conclusion of the show On Saturday night we attended a performance of the musical revue Motor City, performed by the Princess singers and dancers. The highlight of the show is a segment performed with fluorescent masks and costumes under blacklight. For some reason the show featured a performance of Tina Turner's "Rollin' on the River" even tho she wasn't a Motown recording artist! On Saturday night we monitored "comic juggler' Steve Carle's show in the Universe show lounge. The show was more amusing than technically impressive, but did feature some great audience interaction moments. It nicely captured the spontaneity and immediacy of a street busker performance. Following Carle's performance we attended the Princess Pop Star finals at the same venue. Princess Pop Star is the ships' version of American Idol, featuring karaoke performances by the ships' passengers. Carle, comic Elliot Maxx and the lead female vocalist from Treasure (the Explorer lounge's resident band) served as the celebrity judges. The all male cast of 6 contestants selected by audience ballots in three earlier "heats" held in the Explorer's Lounge included a Dino Martino style crooner (who sang "Amore"), a Chinese American channeling Elvis in his version of "Its Now or Never", a Hispanic who sang "You Raise Me Up" (most appropriate selection on an Easter Sunday), a manic white soul singer fond of performing Van Morrison and Michael MacDonald covers and a pastor (who resembled Robert Goulet) from Florida who sang Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline". The eventual winner was Will Smith (no, not that Will Smith) who excelled at singing the falsetto vocal lines in covers of 60s Philly Soul songs like those made famous by the Delfonics. With the exception of the Treasure vocalist, who acted as straight woman, Carle and Maxx used the judge's bench as a platform to launch more comic salvos. Food and Drink: The food on board was of good quality. We had a table for four in the Provence dining room. We selected Traditional Fixed Dining (early seating). We were waited on by head waiter Fior and his (new) assistant Ignatio. Although service was somewhat disappointing at times, the food quality was consistently good. I focused on the seafood entrees and have enjoyed flounder, rock fish, Alaskan salmon and sea bass. One night (Tuesday) I was faced with a difficult choice between Barramundi and Sole. I went with the latter and it was delicious. Wednesday night I had surf and turf which featured grilled shrimps partnered with a filet mignon which was passable. Friday was the second formal night and featured lobster on the dining room menu. The highlight of our Saturday dining experience was the Cherries Jubilee dessert flamed table side by the maitre d. Two diners at our table also ordered the napoleon dessert pastry, which both enjoyed. The chef offered us a special "one time only" Easter menu on Sunday. I sampled gnocchi, grilled prawns and Tilapia from the menu and found the latter most satisfying. Dessert wise, two of my table mates are disappointed that the original Princess cheesecake has been replaced by a new lighter (less dense) variation on the recipe and complained about this to the "tasting chef" when he made his rounds. They did offer a number of interesting ice cream flavors on the dessert menu, including rhubarb and latte mocha. In addition to the dinners we ate in the Provence dining room, we also enjoyed an excellent (Italian themed) multi-course dinner in Sabatinis and attended a wine sampling and afternoon tea in the Bordeaux dining room. I enjoyed the latter more than the former. The classical quartet performs in the restaurant during the afternoon tea. On Thursday night we sampled The Bijou (Cajun themed) specialty dining room and came away disappointed. Our table service (provided by a Romanian waiter) was slow and sloppy. Also some of the dishes (for example the spare ribs and grilled prawns) were less flavorful than expected (although the accompanying spiced fries were delicious). There were three steak choices (including a porterhouse and NY strip) available on the menu. I selected the NY strip blackened at a medium temperature and was disappointed. The cut of meat was fatty and chewy. Accompanying vegetables (served on the side in share platters for two) included fried green tomatoes and succotash. Dessert items sampled at our table included bread pudding, a chocolate-pecan fudge torte and a fried yellow peach pie—all received high marks. We returned to the Bijou on Friday afternoon for the special pub lunch, featuring a choice of Brit favorites Fish n Chips, Ploughman's lunch or Cottage Pie In terms of casual dining options, the Horizon Court cafe (forward on the Lido pool deck) offers a reasonable selection of entrees at meal times and some snack selections between meals, until the wee hours of the mornings. We did not sample their fare at dinner time but have eaten there for breakfast and lunch twice and also went there for a late nights snack one evening. The larger round tables at the very front of the Horizon Court offer exceptional vistas off the front deck. We also sampled the pizza and burgers from the pool grille and both are quite tasty. Daily food court specials included a sushi, Mexican food and dessert bars. My travel-mates also ordered specialty ice cream cups from the sundae bar and professed it quite delicious. Ports of call: Oranjestad, Aruba: We were only in Port in Oranjestad, Aruba for a morning and did not book an excursion. Aruba is one of three islands that comprise the Netherlands Antilles, located about 20 miles off the northern coast of Venezuela. Breezy Oranjestad has a population of about 30,000 and is quite prosperous as Caribbean islands rank. Aside from tourism, it is also known for the production of aloe. We spent our morning wandering through the portlands garden spaces and shops (most owned and maintained by the Renaissance hotel). We also spied a very impressive collection of iguanas on the rocks by the sea edge. Thereafter, we paused for refreshments (rapidly consuming a pint of Heineken beer) at a shoreline eatery. The one drawback was that the lineup to reboard the ship was quite long and slow at the end of the morning. After re-boarding, we immediately headed to the Sanctuary to escape the crowds and enjoy the sailaway. Cartagena, Columbia: We booked an excursion (# 100 "Best of Cartagena & Fortress") in this port. This excursion seemed to be one of the more popular, based on the crowed seating section in the Princess theatre awaiting the call to board the buses. The local buses were on the small side and were quite cramped. Although they were air conditioned, between the cramped quarters and the hot Columbian sun, the bus felt more like a sauna by the end of the afternoon. However, we were assigned a very capable local guide—Fernando Lopez—who kept us on time and well informed throughout the tour. We visited several sites on this tour—La Popa monastery (at the highest point in the city) the Fortress of Dan Felipe de Barajas, the "dungeons" in old walled city, a stroll thru the old city streets and town square and into the Church of San Pedro Claver and the Navy Museum (where we received complimentary refreshments and watched a local folklore show). 20 minutes was also allocated for shopping in a modern local shopping centre. With the exception of the fortress, which required walking up a steep incline, the main challenge on the excursion was staying in the shade out of the sun and evading the numerous strolling local merchants peddling everything from t-shirts and panama hats to cigars, costume jewelry and coffee beans. Overall, I found the city to be a study in contrasts. It is extremely poverty stricken, with over 40% of the population living below the poverty line. Some of the areas built on the hills (for example on the ascent by windy road up to La Popa) that are susceptible to mudslides in the rainy season resemble shanty towns. Meanwhile there are beautiful palatial period homes located on what used to be the outskirts of the old city and modern residential towers in the new city. Aside from the agricultural products (like coffee and tropical fruit) for which it is well known, the country also has a petrochemical industry and is the world's leading producer of emeralds. Half transit of the Panama Canal: Our itinerary called for us to complete a passage thru the Gatun Locks from the Caribbean / Atlantic end of the isthmus of the canal in the early post-dawn hours. We awoke before 6 AM and were out on deck by about 7 AM. We went to a (cruise critic website recommended) viewing area on a public balcony at the front of Deck 11 forward to observe our progress. Fortunately it appeared most passengers were still asleep so we were able to take up a prime viewing / camera position at the rail. The Island Princess is one of the largest passenger ships (by volume) capable of passing thru the locks (the record is held by NCL's Norwegian Pearl, which pays in excess of a $100K toll—the toll is calculated based on net tonnage volume). Passing thru the Gatun locks, your ship rises thru three separate chambers up a vertical distance of 85 feet from sea level to Gatun Lake (one of the largest man-made lakes in the world). The ship has to be hooked up to two locomotive "mules" (one on each side) to be guided thru the locks (under its own power). There are actually two "lanes" of locks located side by side that two ships can pass through simultaneously and independently and the directions of the lanes are reversible. We left our viewing position after we entered into the third chamber and went down to a lower deck to observe how close the ship's sides are to the concrete walls—there really isn't much room for comfort! Once we reached Gatun Lake, we anchored and the ship's tenders began to ferry passengers on excursions ashore to meet their tour groups. Around 12:30 those who remained on board began the return trip back thru the Gatun locks downward toward the sea. Prime viewing positions at the front of the vessel were much more crowded on the return trip than they were in the earlier AM. After the return trip through the locks the ship ported at the Cristobal Pier near Colon. Limon, Costa Rica We went on an excursion to the Veragua Rainforest Research & Adventure Park. This is a new facility only opened under 8 months. Our excursion included a box lunch (featuring tasty ham and cheese sandwiches) served at the facility. Other attractions included an aerial tram ride (used for a descent down into the rainforest to view large ancient trees and a waterfall), a butterfly garden and reptile / snake exhibits. The bus ride to the facility was long over narrow windy rough roads but we were at least provided with a modern comfortable motor-coach with washroom facilities to make the trek. Our bus guide Erik was both informative and humorous / entertaining. Our park guide Marco has proved quite knowledgeable and helpful. Ocho Rios, Jamaica: This was our last port of call. Here, the excursion tour groups actually met in a tent on shore portside instead of in the Princess theatre. We had selected a dual excursion featuring a climb at Dunns River Falls and a chair lift trip up Mystic Mountain rainforest to ride down in a "Jamaican bobsled". The tour operator had organized a series of small passenger vans to shuttle tour takers back and forth between the ship and the tour venues on a flexible schedule basis. We went to Dunns River Falls first and our driver stopped at a roadside "sticky feet" water shoe vending outlet for people (like yours truly) who hadn't brought along their own suitable rubber soled footwear from home. The going rate for the watershoes was US $17 so you are better advised to pack your own pair to bring with you. Once at the park we were met by two female tour guides who escorted us first past another sticky feet vending stand (insisting that everyone must wear water shoes in order to "climb") and then to a storage locker rental facility where we were forced to pay another $8 ($3 which was a deposit refundable) in order to stow goods that we didn't want to get wet. We found another pair to share our locker with and split the cost (since they were quite large) Thereafter we met our male falls tour guide who conveniently neglected to remind "climbers" to store their digital cameras in the locker. Instead he later confiscated them up into a bag that he carried along and returned them (for a ransom "tip") after we reached the top! We had the foresight to bring along our own waterproof camera but others were forced to purchase still and video tickets from other hustlers who tagged along with our tour group! Climbing up the falls can actually be quite dangerous, although the water was clear when we went up, because the moisture leaves slippery moss on the rocks and there are many underwater crevices to twist an ankle in. Apparently there is a nursing station somewhere in the park, but fortunately everyone in our group appeared to make in up without any cuts, bumps or broken bones! There are natural waterslides, falls and pools to plunge into along the way and the guides milk all of them to the max to generate multiple photo ops! The exit from the park can be tough to negotiate with all the cash in your wallet intact since you are guided along an exit path dotted with numerous vending stalls. The hard sell tactics of the local vendors hawking their wares can become quite annoying to tolerate. After making our escape from Dunns River Falls we were dropped at Mystic Mountain. This is a brand new facility opened less than a year. Our driver claimed it was co-owned by a transplanted "American Jew" with the help of a grant from the Jamaican tourism board and Carnival cruiseship line investment dollars. Basically you board a chair lift at the base of the mountain and then travel up a very long vertical distance to a station at the top. The ride up is quite scenic and pleasant. The station at the summit contains a shop, washroom facilities and the loading point for the Jamaican bobsled run. The bobsled run is inspired by the John Candy Disney comedy "Cool Runnings" which told the story of the Jamaican entry in the Olympic bobsled competition. Its basically a roller coaster ride, however for the upper section of the track, the only force controlling your descent (in one person cars) is gravity and a braking lever on the side. Once you get to the bottom, your car is hauled back up the hill using a mechanical pulley system, similar to a traditional roller coaster. The run in total takes 5 minutes to complete. After completing your run, you can purchase photos taken by automated cameras for a cost of $10 a piece. Following the bobsled run, you have the option of going zip lining or returning back down the mountain on the chair lift. We passed on the former. Instead we rode right down and caught another passenger van back to the dock (Jamaicans drive, like the Brits, on the left side of the road) and re-boarded the ship Disembarkation: We were unable to use the self-disembarkation option (where you haul off all your own luggage) since we had a senior with a walker in our party. We were originally assigned a late departing color group (having failed to return our disembarkation questionnaires that were due back in on Thursday) but were able to switch to an earlier departing color group (since we had an 11:20 AM flight to catch back at the airport) without hassle when we went to the passenger service desk. We were instructed to put our luggage out for collection ideally before dinner and, otherwise, before retiring. We did so. The following morning we reported to the Wheelhouse lounge (the designated spot for Platinum Captains Circle members to wait) at our appointed time and were called to disembark shortly thereafter. It took us about 5 minutes to exit to the gangplank after joining the line snaking thru the central atrium on Level 5. Upon entering the terminal we were directed to collect the luggage that we had put out for collection the preceding evening in a area designated for our aqua color group. While we found most of our luggage pieces there quickly, my garment bag was conspicuously absent. After searching through all the other color groups, we eventually located the missing piece about a half an hour later- inexplicably grouped over with the pink color group! Not sure how that happened. In any case it was smooth sailing thru customs to the airport after that. We took a private passenger van there for $17 pp, which is apparently cheaper than the transfer fee Princess charges for their airport shuttle coach. Our Air Canada flight (we had a celebrity passenger former PM Brian Mulroney aboard) was on time pulling out of the gate but got delayed sitting on the tarmac awaiting runway clearance. Later, we managed to make up lost time in the air and arrived back in Toronto in good time. We had no hassles in Customs and our Sykpark van driver was already waiting to take us to the lot where we left our parked cars when we arrived at the designated pick up point! Another cruise was in the history books! Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
Our cruise to the Panama Canal on the Island Princess. From Ft. Lauderdale to LA, CA This was our 26th cruise and 10th on the Princess line. I am in my 70's a retired College Professor. We booked 15 months in advanced and were told ... Read More
Our cruise to the Panama Canal on the Island Princess. From Ft. Lauderdale to LA, CA This was our 26th cruise and 10th on the Princess line. I am in my 70's a retired College Professor. We booked 15 months in advanced and were told the ship had very few staterooms available both by our travel agent and by Princess main office. I talked a total of 14 people to go along with the understanding Princess would upgrade us but they never did. I choose and inside cabin because I feel we are only in our rooms to shower, change and sleep. The ship has MANY places to sit and view the outside better than the best suite. During the 15 months I called Princess many times to check on this or that so I was always in contact with them and up on what was going on. I choose to have Princess arrange my flight to Ft Lauderdale from LA, CA. I feel if there is trouble with the flight (arrival late of canceled) that Princess will wait or make arrangements for the sailing when they make the arrangements. I could have found a better price and time but choose to have Princess do it. As the Country's economy slumped more staterooms and better prices came available I am not sure Princess passed on the better prices to us. Princess booked us on the red eye American Airlines from LA to Miami. We left home at 7 pm for the 10:30 pm flight. An hour trip to the airport and the two hour early arrival the airlines/airport requires. We arrived in Miami at 6:30Am. A Princess Blue Coat Representative met us in the baggage area and escorted us to an area to wait for the bus (the transit package Princess offers), miles away from anything. No food and few chairs were available. We waited there 5 hours until the bus arrived. This was not acceptable. Princess really dropped the ball here. This made for a small group of grouchy old people. We have never been treated so poorly. I think a better plan would be to go a day early and have less frustrations. Princess no longer gives you a book of vouchers that includes every ticket you need. You have to go on line and print them out or have the travel agent do it for you. What I received from Princess 45 days before we were to leave was: Cruise Answer Book, Passage Contract, Pre-Cruise Check List, Travel Care Book ( I would recommend using Travel X insurance) and a Shore Excursions sheet. That's it. Not even an Airline ticket!!! I recommend taking along your "Booking Confirmation" sheet just in case or What if!!!!!!!! I had printed out a Boarding Pass and the Embarkation went very fast, maybe 30 min. We went to the Horizon Court for eats. Then to our room to change. Our room was on the Carb deck. Here is information that is helpful to all. On the stern there is a outside balcony with cover and lounge chairs the width of the ship, a great place to relax and see where you been. This deck if you go all the way forward has a outside balcony or should I call it a viewing platform on the front of the ship. My wife couldn't find it as there is a fire door (that will open easily) in front of the outside door. Here are some things you might take, Ele. Power Strip like for your computer, LCD clock, all kinds of Batt. Charger. Our ride was very smooth but we didn't have any bad sea days. No need for sea sick pills. I think the condition (paint, carpet, and general use areas) of the ship is very good. The mattress need replacing, I ask for a egg crate rubber mattress and was very comfortable. Places that show cutting back by Princess.  Room Stewart now has 18 to 20 rooms they care for without an assistant. (Less service), Dinning Room waiters have 5 tables to serve, our table had ten people,  All dishes with beef now use choice meat cuts instead of Prim cuts and smaller helpings.  A positive move in dinning is that the presentation of each dish is more artful. They have fewer production shows for evening theater entertainment (lots of repeats shows) The Horizon Court on all ships are hectic, unorganized. The Island is no different.  Early dinning makes it easy to find a seat in the Princess Theater for the after dinner show. The Chapel is no longer a chapel but a computer lab. I listened in on a couple of classes but was not impressed. Golf: The pro sounded like he knew what was going on. I went to the virtual golf course and talked a while with him but I didn't take a golf excursion. Another small complaint was that Princess has converted the rear pool into "Sanctuary" a place you can go for peace and quiet the cost $ 20 all day. They will Nickel you to death. There are several Laundromats and the cost is a dollar to wash, a dollar to dry, dollar for soap.  The outside, main, pool was very busy when the weather was good, The inside pool always had chairs available. Ice Cream. Now here is something I want to talk about. All Princess ship have a ice cream bar now and each scoop cost. In the Horizon Court at 3:30 pm they give ice cram away for an hour. Plus fresh made cookies. Our first stop was Aruba. We walked around town for a couple of hours then decided to hire a van for a tour of the country side. Ships cost $50 our cost of doing it on your own $ 5 each. We got together with 4 others. Next day we were in Cartagena. We took the ship's tour #325 as it was a mile or two for the free lance tour operators location (too far to walk). All day the next day we traveled through the Panama Canal locks. View it from Carb Deck forward. It started at 7:00 am until 4:30pm. A tripod might be a must? I saw the first group of locks on the bow and the last from the stern. Our next port was Costa Rica. I gathered a group of 8 that wanted to do ashore tour on our own. I bunched three adventures together and walked to the independent tour operators and bargained a price $ 20 each. We saw Macaw, Panoramic scenic drive, Reserva Biologica Carara, Wild Monkeys, and the  Mangrove boat trip. The boat was another $35 each. Our total cost was $55, the ship's cost over $250 per person The next day we were in Nicaragua and we did a self tour of Granada and Lake Nicaragua and on the way back to the ship we stopped at the center of the town of Rivas all for $25 each. It was great. At this port one of the crew got off the ship and played soccer with other crew at the local park. He had a heart attack and died. A sad moment! Some passengers returned to the ship with the Novo virus from eating and drinking at local spots in town and it spread through out the ship fast. The Island Princess took prompt action to stop it but the precaution was the reat of the cruise. The next day we were in Guatemala. This was our favorite country. We again did a self tour to Antigua, the jade factory, the Mayan textile weaving and the Auto Safari. This cost us $30. there was a entrance fee of a couple of dollars. All of our self tour lasted the full time the ship was in port. I told all the drivers we wanted to be back to the dock one hour before sailing time. These self tours needs someone that speaks Spanish to go along. It is cheaper if you do the translations and don't need the translator. Our next day was to be at Huatulco, Mex but because of the global swain flue scare the captain did not stop any where in Mexico. The temps were in the 90s and 100s with 100 per cent humidity to this point. As we sailed north it became steadily cool. The last day there was no one around the pools. In LA in was in the high 60s. Princess takes out tips for the crew day by day automatically $ 10.50. I think I would like to do my own and yes I could but it takes extra effort to set that up. The disembarkation went smooth. Princess does have getting on and getting off down pat. If I were to complain it would be with the home office as everything on the ship went smooth.   Read Less
Sail Date April 2009
This is our second opportunity to sail on the I.P. this time with our kids, it should be quite a vacation. We took our local shuttle into Vegas and caught the red eye to Ft. Lauderdale via Houston. Both our flights were uneventful, and on ... Read More
This is our second opportunity to sail on the I.P. this time with our kids, it should be quite a vacation. We took our local shuttle into Vegas and caught the red eye to Ft. Lauderdale via Houston. Both our flights were uneventful, and on time, we're off to a great start so far. Family picked us up at FLL, and we were at the port by noon, and easily aboard by 12:30. The I.P. looked great, no worse for wear, since our Hawaii cruise in May of 07. We were very pleased to here that our first CD and his assistant were still onboard. Billy Hygate, and Mark Turner, this was great news, as we are fond of both of them ! We knew once we caught up with them, and mentioned we were the "flat Stanley" gang, they would definitely remember us, and they did! We had a nice room on Baja deck 11, #404, midship. Mark mentioned this was their roughest trip this year, sea wise, but after 4 cruises with Princess in the last four years it didn't bother us much. Great sailaway party with Craig heading up the conga lines, and teaching everyone the electric slide .We brought our 17 year old daughter along for her first cruise, and her brother, and his new wife of 6 months, their first as well, (belayed honeymoon)I was kind of concerned the older crowd 65+, Princess usually attracts, might be a real turn off to them, but that was not the case, at all. We enjoyed most of the fun activities, shows & games Princess offers and had a lot of fun participating in most, especially the Princess Pop Star competition. The new I.P. dancers & singers were quite good as usual,very attractive, and talented, and we truly enjoyed all 3 main shows, especially "Motortown" ! Both comics were very entertaining especially "Billy Vader", what a nut ! Don't miss him if your ever on a Princess ship. The I.P. employee talent show was hysterical, especially with Mark as a ballerina, and Billy doing his Topel impersonation with "if I were a rich man" and "Tom Jones" medley. "Treasure" the house band was very good, and could play just about anything. Food was usually well received although not as good as our 2007 cruise, the meat was a bit lacking in taste, and portion size, but everything else quite good. The service in the Bordeau dining room was "excellent" every nite, thanks to Raynan, Sylvestre, and Adriann. They were not only great waiters, but very funny, and came over to sing to us 3 different occasions, birthday, honeymoon, and the last nite. We had the same great table everynite, (anytime) dining, and never had to wait with our pre-reserved set time. Thanks guys for the great service, smiles, and song ! Horizon Court was it's usually decent fare, but so busy in the mornings, sometimes hard to find a table, but lot's of variety, and usually a good breakfast. The pizza, burgers, hot dogs & fries are always a treat out by the pool. I'm surprised more folks don't have lunch out there ? The chaise lounge hogs were at there best again, still holding down lounges, but they were nowhere in sight. I guess it's time for lounge chair police out by the pool, just not enough availability for everyone ? Shore excursions, on the helmet dive in Aruba, they wouldn't let my wife take her camera, and then the excursion companies camera broke, so no memories there, and no sympathy or discount from Princess. Once they have your $, they have got you! Princess needs to spend more time in Aruba, 5 hours isn't enough.You may be better off hiring your own excursions,it's definitely a lot cheaper, just don't be late, or they will leave you flat !Cartagena, and Panama City our beautiful cities but have an awful lot of crime and sad living conditions, be careful and stay together there, we did enjoy the old Panama City tour, but the lunch was awful ! Limon, Costa Rica, the Reventazon river rapids with Rios Tropicales, was another big hit with us.We had a great adventure, and guide Diego keeping a close eye on our safety. The traditional Costa Rican lunch was fantastic too in a beautiful indoor patio setting. I highly recommend this shore excursion. Ocho Rios, we have done the falls, so tried the sail n snorkel at a close by coral reef. We saw lot's of small colorful fish but it looked as though much of the coral was dying due to wear and tear by we tourists, too bad ! We then sailed down towards the Dunn's falls where they flow into the sea, beautiful. On the way back lot;s of rum punch, and caribbean music, and dancing, under the sun. A fun excursion despite the coral situation. Of course a little shopping near Margaritaville, and then a swim, splash, and bounce off the lagoon trampoline, and pool water slide, before a tasty lunch, and margarita, ahh ! We got some great deals on souvenirs, coffee and such, and saw some breathtaking scenery throughout Central America! Non- stop fun on the Island Princess, with so many things to do, and so little time. Stay out of the casino, man those machines are tight. Disembarking was a breeze, except for landing in a different terminal # 21, stay out of there if you can it's a zoo ! The entire crew of the I.P. came through again for us, and I highly recommend this ship to the Panama Canal, Alaska, and anywhere else it sails. We miss the crew & ship already, so don't you miss the Panama Canal, it truly is the 8th wonder of the world ! Bon Voyage all ... Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
My wife and I are mid-50's and have cruised 9 times the last three with Princess. We had an early flight on Air Tran and arrived in FLL around 9:45 AM on the embarkation date 1/13/08. We took a taxi to the port which was somewhat ... Read More
My wife and I are mid-50's and have cruised 9 times the last three with Princess. We had an early flight on Air Tran and arrived in FLL around 9:45 AM on the embarkation date 1/13/08. We took a taxi to the port which was somewhat disorganized because disembarking pax were still getting on buses. Our driver had a little trouble getting us in position, but we were standing at the door at 10:30. There was no line and we were through security and sitting in the waiting area with our No. 1 card within short order. They told us the ship wouldn't board until noon, but we were called up around 11:30 and into our cabin B726 and eating at the Horizon court by noon. We did a quick walk through of the ship and then left the ship to go to the local Publix store for Pepsi and Asti. It was about a 15-min. walk to the store along with many of the crew. The Island was at Pier 2 which is right next to the 17th street security gate which made for a short walk. We were back on board by 2PM (Princess is right when they say that's the best time to arrive) and there was no line at security. We started to walk around the ship some more to get the feel of it. A very nice ship indeed, very clean and well maintained. There was some noticeable wear in some high traffic areas, but overall a very nice ship. They could use some wastebaskets in some of the public areas. Many times I wanted to throw something out and couldn't find one. Most people just put it on a table or counter, but I just don't feel right about doing that. We saw our steward who gave us the usual introduction and explanations. We asked him for an egg crate because we noticed right away that the mattresses were very lumpy and sagging. While we were waiting during embarkation, we had met a couple that we talked with during the wait and were interested in signing up for some of the excursions we were taking. We exchanged cabin numbers. Well at dinner that night we had a large table for 10 and guess who showed up at our table? It was like we were meant to be together. There was only one other couple at the table that night. We had done the Anytime dining on the other two cruises and decided to try the Traditional this time around and it turned out great. By the formal night all 5 couples were there, but the one couple never showed up again nor would even say hi to us the rest of the cruise. I guess they didn't care for the rest of us which was their loss since we all got along great and thoroughly enjoyed each other's company which made for fun evenings. The first two days were sea days, very relaxing. The pool side entertainment was Roberto Miranda who was a very good guitarist. Because the Island is not as wide as the Grand Class ships there are not as many deck chairs around the Lido or Lotus pools. We really didn't have a lot of problem getting chairs because it was very windy which made it somewhat cool the first couple days. The Jacuzzis in the Lido pool area were not as warm as the ones in the Lotus pool (it could be that was just an impression because of the wind). The food in the Horizon Court was similar to what was available on our other Princess cruises, better than your average buffet food. As with our other Princess cruises, the desserts looked great, but didn't taste like much. I just about gave up even trying them because they seem to lack sugar to me. My wife said the same thing. I guess that was for the best anyway, it helps to keep the weight down. The dining room food was some of the best I've had on a Princess cruise. With the exception of a couple nights where I just had the steak, there was at least one thing on the menu that appealed to me. I'm not much for seafood, but my wife likes it and enjoyed what she ordered. On the formal night they had crawfish on the menu so of course my wife ordered it as did some others at our table. When it arrived the rest of us who ordered something else (I had the prime rib) were laughing. They served one crawfish on a big scoop of rice with a shrimp sauce. I know times are tough for the cruise industry, but that is a little much. One thing that Princess does well is their bread. Some of the best rolls we've ever had have been on Princess ships. The second formal night they served lobster with tiger prawns. I ordered that because there wasn't anything else on the menu that appealed to me and I wasn't really hungry because I ate too many cookies at 3:30. As I said before the food was pretty good this time around, but stay away from the pork entrees and stick with the lamb. In fact I found that asking the waiter for his pick worked out the best unless he picks something that you know you wouldn't like. Our waiter and assistant were very attentive and quickly picked up on everyone's preferences. That's one thing you don't get with Anytime. The desserts in the dining room were similar to that in the buffet, great presentation, but lacking in flavor. On the other Princess cruises I would usually get the cheesecake if something else didn't appeal to me. This time around though even the cheesecake wasn't that great, so, mostly I just stuck with ice cream. The last night they had the baked Alaska parade which is also something missing from anytime. It was fun and the Alaska was good. The first port was Aruba. We booked the snorkel and beach excursion. I wouldn't recommend it. They said that the water temp. was 80, but it felt more like mid 70's, a little cold for my wife and me. We only got 45min to snorkel including the time to get the gear on. Not much time at all and it wasn't much of a reef either. Mostly sand which got all stirred up making visibility poor. I was pretty disappointed since I had bought a DiCaPac water proof bag for my digital camera so that I could take underwater pictures. All we saw was a school of tiny fish in murky water. No sooner did we get in the water and it was time to leave to get to the beach. We were at the beach for 1-1/2 hrs and then it was time to get back to the ship. This was an extremely short port time 5 hrs. Next was Cartegena, Colombia. We found out a little too late that one of our table mates had lived there for a couple years and offered to take everyone on a tour. Unfortunately, we had booked the walking tour and it was too late to cancel. I wouldn't recommend the walking tour. It was nice to walk around in the city to see the local architecture, but our guide spent most of our time taking us to local shops, the first of which was his family's shop, then to his cousin's shop. It was mostly a shopping excursion more than a sightseeing one. Cartegena is much bigger that I had imagined with hotels all along the bay. The old city architecture reminded us of the French Quarter in New Orleans. There were street vendors everywhere, but don't be alarmed because there was also a heavy police presence. The vendors will approach you, but won't touch you or jostle you. If you ignore them, they won't bother with you. Next was the Panama Canal. I got up early to get a spot at the front of the ship, because there are no unobstructed observation areas on this ship. All are enclosed with the blue glass. If you want a clear picture approaching the canal you have to shoot between the panes, so people in the back were passing their camera to the front for pictures. I was somewhat disappointed with this portion of the trip. The brochure says cruising Gatun lake. All we did was sit anchored in the lake for 3 hours. It was interesting going through the locks and the narration added to the experience. After finishing with the canal we stopped at the Christobol pier. I'm not much for shopping so this was pretty much a waste of time for me. My wife did a little shopping and then we went right back to the ship. In Limon we had booked the Canopy tour. This consisted of a 45-min drive to the cloud forest after which you don your equipment and after a quick demonstration you're off to the zip lines. This was a lot of fun even for someone like me who has some height issues. They say in the brochure that you have to be in excellent shape for this, but there was one guy with a cane in our group. There were also some very overweight people who were incapable of taking instructions and had a lot of trouble. The guides tell you when to brake yourself and when to just glide. If you don't listen and brake too early you don't make it to the platform. If you don't make the platform you have to pull yourself the rest of the way. The one woman came up about 40 short of the platform and couldn't pull herself the last 20'. The poor guide had to go to her and wrap his legs around her and pull her up. This was a big woman and this guide was really struggling to get her to the platform. She was consistently short of the platforms and by the end she looked like she was ready to pass out. We didn't get to see much wildlife. You can hear them all over, but the jungle is so dense you couldn't see them. Some of the people who came after us said that they saw toucans. I'm sorry we missed that. After arriving back at the ship we went to the dining room for lunch. We met a couple from Britain who had just gotten back from walking through town. We had intended to walk around, but after talking to them we were concerned. They told us that the streets and sidewalks are in terrible shape and you have to be very careful where you walk. After lunch we went to the market area near the ship and I walked out of the secure area to get a look at the town. After looking up and down the street I decided that I didn't want to venture any further. The roads are so bad there that the cab drivers block the streets causing traffic jams in protest. On the way back from our excursion there was a jam almost 2 miles long. The guide said that this happens all the time. Either the cab drivers or the trash collectors protest. Last stop Jamaica. Although we had been to Jamaica two other times, this was the first time to Ocho Rios. On a previous call in Montego Bay, I booked an excursion through A-Z Jamaica Planners, so I did the same for this trip. Our guide Mellovan met us at the port at 8:30 and we were the first ones at Dunn's Falls. We and our friends that we met climbed the falls which was really a lot of fun except for having to continually stop for pictures. I had my camera and DiCaPac waterproof case and took many pictures and video. They tell you to hold hands while climbing, but after having a very large man almost fall on me, I just went on my own. It took a while to get used to the water (I don't like water temps below 80), but it was a blast. After the falls we toured the area a little and went to the pottery factory. Then we went to the White River for tubing. This was also a lot of fun. There are some mild rapids in which you get bounced around, but it is fun. The thing I didn't like about both the falls and tubing are the obligatory stops for pictures and the vendors. At the falls as you leave the sidewalk winds you through a gaggle of very aggressive vendors that try to engage you any way they can. I ignored them and they didn't bother me, but my wife and friends had problems. They would say hi to them or answer questions and say no thank you. Well, no thanks is an invitation to bargain, so if you don't want to be hassled, just walk by like they don't exist. At the tubing, the picture stop was very irritating. I had caught a good current and was going down the second part when one of the guides grabbed me and said that I had to get out. When I looked back everyone was getting out and they were stacking the tubes so I thought that was the end. When I got there a photographer gathered us up for pictures. Then we had to wait 20 min. so that you could look at the pictures and buy them. By the time we got back to tubing you had dried off and had to get used to the water again. These kinds of things bother me. The DiCaPac case worked great, I got some excellent pictures climbing the falls and while tubing. The pictures I took in Aruba came out well but the underwater shots were not as good because of the murkiness of the water. After the tubing, Mellovan took us to the shopping areas until it was time to go back to the ship. A-Z took care of us, it was nice to be able to keep you stuff locked up while you did whatever and Mellovan was there the whole day with us. All for the price of one excursion through Princess. For the main entertainment the headliner was Lovena Fox from Canada. She has a very powerful voice and puts out a great effort, but I didn't care for the music selection. As for the other entertainment, I found it to be the typical Princess fare. The comedians were mildly amusing and the revues were interesting. If you want a seat you had better get there early though. Some of the staff appeared a little weary. Sometimes some of them looked as if they were going through the motions. I overheard a couple staff talking about their tours being extended another month and some were nearing the end of their tours and were probably anxious to get home. I think that some were on the verge of losing it. One time in the theater one of the staff started singing to herself and was getting a little loud for a public place. My favorite though was one of the dining staff members ( I don't want to say which one because I know that Princess reads these) started what can only be described as a mini-decathalon. We were leaving the dining room and he started pretending to throw a shot put, javelin and hammer throw. The other staff member was obviously getting embarrassed at the beginning, but I thought it was hilarious. After the shot put I thought that would be the end, but he just kept going, so I started to rate his performance which I think encouraged him. I thought that it was so funny because it was so out of character for someone of that high a position. But, I have no complaints about the service at all. The service staff provided good service all through the cruise. One thing that I've noticed on Princess ships is that they seem very unsteady in the wind. I sailed on Star and Caribbean which were unsteady and the Island was no exception. They all have what I would describe as a "shimmy". It is almost like an unbalanced side to side motion as if the props aren't balanced. Being aft really accentuated this motion. Even the days when the seas were calm the ship had this shimmy. I've never noticed this type of motion on any other line. All in all a great cruise on a great ship. It seems like this ship has the right number of pax for the size. They say 1900, but the key card they give you on the ship says 2300. Whichever it is it's works. One of the best features of this ship in my opinion is the aft decks on Aloha, Baha, and Caribe. They are partially covered and it takes people a while to realize they are there so for knowledgeable cruisers you can have a quiet relaxing time out there except for the sound of rushing water from the props. Since our cabin was the farthest aft of the insides the deck got quite a lot of use by us. Very enjoyable and you don't have to pay $14 to use it (like the sanctuary). Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
We had a great time on this cruise. The ship was just the right size, which meant no waiting for a seat in the dinning room, or any of the other issues that plague the larger ships. We were on the Dolphin Deck Port side, Aft. The ship has ... Read More
We had a great time on this cruise. The ship was just the right size, which meant no waiting for a seat in the dinning room, or any of the other issues that plague the larger ships. We were on the Dolphin Deck Port side, Aft. The ship has terrific stabilizers! We were in a mini suite, and it seemed bigger than the mini suite that we had on the Emerald, last year. The only downside to the ship were the beds. They were so uncomfortable. There were dips in the bed from where others had slept, and my son was on a couch bed, which clearly needed to be replaced. He was very uncomfortable. Our cabin steward brought him in another mattresses (a piece of foam), and an egg crate to try to get it to be more comfortable. Sometimes, these items should be replaced. Our cabin steward was very kind, and efficient. We started off in Ft. Lauderdale, and embarkation was very simple. We arrived at the cruise terminal at 1:00, and walked right on to the ship. Our first port was Aruba, and we were only there for 5 hours not enough time to really do anything. Second port that we went to was Cartegena, Columbia. It was a very poor area, and the only highlights were some of the older sites, a fort, gold museum, inquisition museum. There were a lot of beggars, selling everything from sunglasses to their grandmothers! We were on a private tour by Lee Miles, and it was very good. Our third port was the Panama Canal. That was truly amazing! We hung out on our balcony for the trip through the Gatun locks. Then we shopped at the Christobal Pier for a few hours. Some of the items in the pier shops were neat, some were junk. Our fourth port was Limon, Costa Rica. Wow! We went on a ship tour to the rainforest, and to a banana plantation. It was a very good tour, and the tour guide was excellent. Our fifth port was Ocho Rios, Jamaica. We've been to Montego Bay, and Ocho Rios was more of the same. We took a cab to the shopping area, and then around the town. I was put out when a vendor approached my fifteen year old to buy drugs. My son spent time at the teen center. He hung out with some of the kids, and then made friends with other kids on the Lido deck. Every night, he was supposed to come back to our room at 1:00 when the teen center closed, and one night when it was 1:30, and he still wasn't back, i got very scared, and I sent my husband to find him. He couldn't find him, so I called passenger services to see if there was anyone up in the teen center, and was told "no." I then told him that our 15 year old wasn't back in our cabin, and I need to say, the person I spoke with asked the right questions....What was he wearing, when was the last time we saw him, and what kind of mood was he in. He told me to stay in our cabin, and about five minutes later my son walked in. He said that he had lost track of time, and was on Deck 15. When I called passenger service to let them know that he was back, he told me that they located my son, on deck 15, talking with other kids. I was impressed by their concern, and the fact that they located him so quickly, and took this issue so seriously. My husband was coming back to our room, and a Princess employee stopped him to tell him that they located our son, and not to worry. The food was good, and there were massive amounts of it. We ate in the dinning room every night but two of the nights, and we did anytime dinning, which I really like because it offers the flexibility I enjoy on vacation. Finally, getting off the ship was very easy, and organized. When we disembarked from the Emerald last year, it was chaotic, so this was a nice change. If Princess changes out the beds, and updates the ship a bit, perhaps replacing some of the carpets, it has a winner with the Island Princes. The size is perfect. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
The Island Princess is a good ship. However, it is time for some cosmetic renovations to be done. Things like worn carpet, faded tiles in the indoor pool, warped wood rails in contact with the water at the indoor pool...ect. The ports were ... Read More
The Island Princess is a good ship. However, it is time for some cosmetic renovations to be done. Things like worn carpet, faded tiles in the indoor pool, warped wood rails in contact with the water at the indoor pool...ect. The ports were unusual and all but two of them were in remote areas. Hopefully, Princess will tweak this itinerary to maximize the experience in the future. EMBARKATION: Standard cruise line embarkation procedure. Walk in get a form and number, sit and wait, number called, stand in line and wait, then run the gauntlet of photographers as you get on the ship. SHIP/CABIN: Again, the ship is a competent ship. The flow is good and you can access most levels at each bank of elevators sans the ones in the Atrium. Our cabin was a mini-suite without the balcony. This was a personal choice since we only use the balcony in cooler areas of the world. The up side is that the sq footage of the balcony is included in the room so you get a few extra inches...:) of space. Our window was a over sized picture window that provided beautiful views of the scenery. We had a full bath/shower though you could probably use a step stool to get into the thing. I kept hitting my knee as I tried to get in the tub the first few days and earned a nice purple bruise as a result. Considering I am 6'3" should give you an idea of how tall the sides are. ENTERTAINMENT: This ship had two large entertainment venues. The Princess Theatre at the bow and the Universe Lounge at the aft. The cruise director tried to maximize the use of both venues for nightly shows. Usually an evening would provide the usual ship based musical shows and if you have seen them once recently on other Princess ships they are the same ones again. There is only so many times one can watch Piano Man. While the other space had a comedy act, or special musical guest. One of the top acts on this cruise was the very funny comedy of Billy Vader. The most unusual act I have ever seen is Peter Mezoian who can play just about any type of music on his banjo. He has a website you can do a search for because I can not adequately describe the show in words! Though you are given a wide selection of an evenings entertainment it becomes a confusing juggling act to make sure you get to see all the shows. If you get a comedian who was a dud (and there were a few on this cruise) you are left wishing you caught the musical production happening at the same time on the other end of the ship. FOOD/DRINKS: What can I say that most of you don't already know. The food was adequate but not overwhelming. Dinner in the dining room was mechanical. Finish one dish the next is on the table in a snap. No time to relax in between to engage in casual conversation because you feel you are being rushed in and out. The Horizon Court is your standard buffet selection. The meat here was usually tough and small in portion. That means that some slices were so thin that you could almost see through them. The most disappointing was the sweets. They were fabulous in presentation but underwhelming in taste. The tarts had a crust that was made of a heavy dough where it should be light and crisp in texture. Bar service was just weird. Usually on most ships you have to fend these people off with a stick as they try to sell you a drink. However, when waiting for a show if you found a server at all it was one order and then they disappeared. Don't want to sound like a lush but I like to have two drinks. One before the show as I wait and second for the show. The upside is that my wallet and my liver got a reprieve on this cruise! SEA DAYS: We had three wonderful sea days before our first stop. I was totally looking forward to the time to unwind and I was not disappointed. Reading and sunning on deck and a afternoon nap was just what the doctor ordered. The sea was like glass and there was virtually no motion to the ship. PORTS: Hualtulco, Mexico- This is an area that Mexico is trying to turn into a resort like Cancun. There are multiple bays and a small resort area at one the bays. The port however is a small area of just a few small blocks of streets. A few stores and few shopping barns with some beach side cafes. There is a small beach area just feet from the ship that you can relax or ride a jet ski. The biggest shore excursion is a boat ride to the bays to snorkel or swim. However, we didn't feel like getting off a boat and jumping on another one. So we shopped around for a bit, had some coffee on the beach and within two hours we got back on the ship. Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala- This was a small remote port with a newer visitor center at the end of the pier. The people were extremely excited that you were there and had information videos of the country playing in the center. You could get a tour if you had not reserved an excursion on the ship, get your passport stamped, and mail postcards. Beyond that point was some shopping stalls and that is it. If you are on an excursion plan on spending over an hour to get to your destination. Most excursions were to Antigua. However we choose a Sugar Mill tour and a stop at a artifact museum in a small village. The Sugar Mill was as industrial as they come but we did get to taste test the country's Rum in a visitor center. The most unexpected and moving experience was the visit to the village. It is extremely small with a few dozen homes, church and artifact museum. You were allowed to take all the pictures or videos you wanted in the museum, which is very small, but the quality of the artifacts is stunning so you are richly rewarded in the pictures you take. The problem with this port is that most of the major archeological sites are in the northern part of the country and unreachable in the amount of time you spend at the port. Puerto Corinto, Nicaragua- Another remote port that is part of an industrial area. Same issue here in that most sites are over an hours drive away. We did a tour of the ruins of Leon and a visit of the current site of Leon. The ruins are only partially excavated and you are left with using your imagination most of the time to visualize what this place might have looked like. Leon is a small city where we ate lunch at a renovated hotel and proceed to tour the Cathedral in the city. It is a beautiful cathedral and you are allowed on the roof area which allows you panoramic views of the city and beyond. Truly breathtaking. Puntarenas, Costa Rica- Ahhhh....one of the highlights of the cruise. Costa Rica is a beautiful country. It is truly a tropical paradise that I would love to visit again. We took an independent tour through Okey Dokey Tours by Charlie Soto. We discovered him through the Cruise Critic Boards and we were not disappointed. He has a small van that holds up to 11 people, We had seven. Charlie provided us with cold drinks through out the day. Our tour started with feeding monkeys, then to a skybridge walk through the jungle, lunch at a wonderful restaurant, then viewing crocodiles in a river. There was never a rush from one point to the next and Charlie was a superb host. Top quality tour from start to finish. One note though. We found out quickly that the police target these independent operators immediately out of the port gates. They are stopped and have all there licenses, permits, and insurance inspected. Charlie had everything in order. However, the tour van behind us was not so fortunate and the police take the tags off the vans and won't return them until everything is verified and a fine paid. Needless to say those people probably had their day ruined because of a careless or less than honest operator so beware! The port has a large open air bazaar and several open air food courts that take american dollars and credit cards. Here is a side note. Though the ports in Guatemala and Nicaragua are unique they are extremely primitive and in very, very poor countries. Though I think it is admirable that Princess is trying to further there tourism economy by bringing passengers here I ultimately believe that one of these should be dropped in favor of an overnight stay in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is a wealthier country that has so many sites and places to explore that even though we had twelve hours it was simply not enough. It is a beautiful peaceful country (they have no military) and I would have loved a second day to drive into San Jose and explore the city. I wish Princess would take this into advisement since I have seen such comments listed in other reviews of this cruise. After leaving Costa Rica we had a day at sea and then transited the Panama Canal. What can I say? The Canal defies description! The locks are a world marvel and the lush jungle scenery is beautiful. We entered the Miraflores locks and after several hours of slow cruising began to make our way out of the locks at Gatun. We got to the last lock and readied to head to Cartegena and suddenly water begins to boil up through manholes on each side of the locks and the power goes out. Great. We wait several hours while the power is restored and they lower the water in our lock to sea level, bells sound for the gates to open and....the power goes out again. After another hour or so they finally restore partial power and open the gate and we head out to sea. Worried we will miss Colombia the Captain announces we will still make it but will be an hour late. So with the diesel turbines RPM's maxed, 7 foot seas and nearly 30 mph winds we begin to pay the price for the calmest seas I have ever experienced in a cruise. It was truly a site to behold. I had to hold onto the steel bars in the tub as I took a shower simply because if I fell out, and it was highly likely, it would be a long fall to the floor. About twice I almost fell out of bed as I slept. Any person with a problem with sea sickness I took pity on because they were surely suffering this evening. However, as promised the next morning we make our way to the berth in Cartegena...one hour late. Thank you should also be expressed to the Captain for extending our stay an hour later so all excursions could be taken.  DISEMBARKATION: This was truly an awful experience as there ever was one. Everyone involved once you got off the ship and into the terminal was extremely rude. This includes both Princess employees and Port Everglades employees. Lord help you if you did not do as you were instructed. Passengers were be yelled out right and left. Luggage was not set out in an orderly fashion and you had to search forever for each piece. We had four bags that were strewn from one end of the terminal to the next. It took forever to find it. After we cleared customs we had purchased a transfer from Princess to the airport. Walking down the ramp towards the buses I realized I had stuck my tickets in my backpack. As I stopped to get them out a lady employed by Princess came up to me and yelled in literally the loudest voice possible that there was no stopping along the walkway. I yelled right back at her and she backed down. This was totally unacceptable and I plan to complain to Princess directly about it. Overall, it was a unique trip that will be remembered forever. Island Princess did an adequate job in servicing us and the ship was a competent vessel. The ports were exotic and again should be fined tuned. My ultimate belief is that one of the Nicaragua/Guatemala ports needs to be sacrificed for a longer stay in Costa Rica. Otherwise a great trip. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
We booked our Panama Canal cruise with Princess Cruises direct. My husband and I sailed on the Grand Princess to the Caribbean out of Galveston in 2006 and the Diamond Princess to Hawaii out of San Pedro (LA) in 2007. We arranged our own ... Read More
We booked our Panama Canal cruise with Princess Cruises direct. My husband and I sailed on the Grand Princess to the Caribbean out of Galveston in 2006 and the Diamond Princess to Hawaii out of San Pedro (LA) in 2007. We arranged our own transportation to all 3 embarkation ports. It was our first time to sail from Ft. Lauderdale and to Florida's credit, the harbor is breathtaking, sparkling new and Huge! There were 4 cruise ships docked with the Island Princess and to a amateur photographer like myself, an adventure to get such close up photos from our mini-suite balcony. The mini-suite on Dolphin Deck (9) on the Island is an exact copy of the those we had on the Diamond and the Grand. It is spacious, with a queen size comfortable bed, a sitting area with a love seat sofa, small tea size table and single chair. We opted for a Continental breakfast there throughout the cruise. The bath is very small, not for the oversized occupant, but well equipped with a tub w/shower and curtain, tile floor and a medicine sized open cabinet for bath accessories, a wall to wall mirror and excellent lighting, but bring your own magnifying makeup mirror if one needs it. The hair dryer is located in the desk area between the sitting room and bedroom. There is a tiny refrigerator, all libations provided are extra; but space enough to accommodate the ice bucket and limited space for one's own beverages. Two CRT TVs and 2 remotes. Satellite programing of year old movies, some TV series, BBC and CNN international news as well as ship information is broadcast 24 hours. The balcony is crowded with 2 lounges, a small table and 2 chairs. It seems private with divider walls on both sides, but the balconies on the decks above are afforded an open view of the mini-suites below. The ship is well appointed, again similar to the Grand and the Diamond. Of the 3, we preferred the Diamond for its Italian kitchen and friendly, well-trained dining room service. The Island's seating map placed us at a table for 2 hard against a busy service station. After 3 nights, we requested a new table, but it wasn't easy to make an appointment with the head waiter to make the change. Second site was better, but placed us in an area where the waiter and his assistant served 3 tables; one 10 seat table and two others of 6, along with our table of 4. Service was adequate but erratic because of the volume these 2 service people had to accommodate. The entertainment was good what there was of it. One of the 3 'theatre' shows was cancelled and the other was staged in the "Universe" night club. Solo entertainers were being flown in and out for single performances. Why? Who knows? The Cruise Director was adequate about port and ship board activity information and funny at times. My husband liked him, I didn't. Wine prices are high, as is usual, and were plugged by the assistant wait staff. Onboard boutiques offered good selections, but shore shopping at the ports was very good, especially, the handcrafted offerings by Panamanians and Columbian emerald jewelry stores. We did not take any Princess shore excursions, but shared a taxi with a couple at Cartegena to take photos and shop. That was less than half the cost of the shore excursion offered by Princess. We did not use the Spa, or frequent the Casino, shipboard activities, or the specialty restaurants. As retirees, we have "been there, done that" so we use a cruise to return to places we have already seen, to visit other ports in a casual, lazy manner, enjoy cruising for cruising alone, the shopping and the luxury of being served at our request 24 hours every day. I would rate this cruise ship a bit less than I expected for Princess, the itinerary excellent for the Canal and very good for lazy cruisers, shoppers, retirees and stressed out working folk. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
A little bit of background info. Myself (Andrew) and my partner (Brad) have cruised once before with Princess last year on the Caribbean Princess. We are in our mid 20's and have traveled extensively throughout the US, Mexico, Canada ... Read More
A little bit of background info. Myself (Andrew) and my partner (Brad) have cruised once before with Princess last year on the Caribbean Princess. We are in our mid 20's and have traveled extensively throughout the US, Mexico, Canada and Europe. We both work in the service industry (myself in customer relations and Brad in restaurant management & events planning) so service is important to us. While neither one of us are critical or arrogant, we do expect a certain "effort" out of people but no more then we would expect out of ourselves. This covers a broad spectrum of areas. Pre Cruise: Just like last year, we dropped our doggie off at the Pet Hotel and headed to Fort Lauderdale the night before to stay at the Hyatt Pier 66 again. This time, however, was a completely different experience (read my CB review to see what I mean). We called ahead of time to the hotel and got a really nice girl who looked up our previous reservation and found our room number from our last room which offered a great view. She said that particular room was booked but she would hold a different room with the exact same view on another floor. Once we arrived around 2pm (2 hours before the listed check in time) we were given a key to our room right away and it was EXACTLY WHAT WE HAD THE LAST TIME making the start of our vacation off to a great one. There was no switching rooms 2 million times like the last trip. The view was fantastic and so was the weather. We put our stuff down and sat on the balcony for a half hour just watching the ships in port (Ruby Princess, Celebrity Solstice & Carnival Miracle) then changed and headed down to the pool. That night we watched the Carnival ship leave port and ordered very expensive (overpriced) room service while enjoying the balcony views and Fort Lauderdale breezes. Day 1 - Embarkation: We awoke to see RCI Enchantment OTS and the Island Princess in port. After enjoying coffee and breakfast on the balcony and reading the paper we headed over to Park n Fly to drop the car off. Everything went off without a hitch and the shuttle had us at Pier 21 right about 11:15. Unlike our last embarkation "experience" there was ZERO line and we went from being outside with the Porters to in our cabin in under 15 minutes. Yes, 15 minutes. We were in our cabins unloading our carry on by 11:30. This was a wonderful surprise compared to our last cruise. We had cabin E736 which was all the way aft. And while the IP doesn't have any true aft cabins this was as close as it comes with a semi wrap-around balcony to enjoy a partial wake view. It was also a much bigger balcony and was the only aft cabin that is covered (along with E737 on the starboard side). We then met Norman, our fantastic and amazing cabin steward. He knew our names after the 1st day and always made sure we had extra ice and even brought us clean wine glasses unlike our last cabin steward who told us she can't provide any and we would have to call room service and clean them ourselves. At 3pm we had our CC meet & greet at Crooners and about 25 people showed up which I'm told is a lot. We met many wonderful people and it was really nice seeing some familiar faces throughout the rest of the cruise. The rest of the day was spent exploring the ship I have to mention that our Captain was Roger Bilton and he was an absolutely class act. During our muster drill he made a wonderful speech over the PA system about being courteous to other passengers by being quite in the halls and keeping TV volumes down and not flushing down "objects" in the toilet. I found this to be a wonderful and classy touch and felt an honest concern for all passengers on board.. After the sun had set and we were on our journey, Brad and I changed into our swimsuits and headed to the Lotus Spa Pool to enjoy the hot tub all to ourselves. Around 8pm we decided we wanted dinner. I thought they had the seafood buffet on the IP but I was wrong. I guess that only consists on ships with the Cafe Caribe. So we showered and changed and headed to the anytime dinning room which had about a 15 minute wait. I found this a bit odd since it was so late but didn't mind waiting. We sat in the middle part of the Bordeaux Dining Room right under an air vent which made it a freezing experience. "Luckily" our service was extremely rushed so we were out of there in under an hour. We decided we were not going to ask to be seated with that team again. We headed back to our cabin and enjoyed cocktails and the wake from our balcony and went to sleep shortly after midnight. I'd like to add that we had a new mattress (I checked) and had an egg crate and while it was firm we slept better this trip then we did the last cruise. Movement was also considerably less in this cabin as opposed to our last cabin on the Lido Deck. Day 2 - Sea Day: We awoke to cloudy skies. The Hurricane (Paloma?) was headed towards Cuba and we were sailing along the coast of Cuba so it was mostly a miserable day. We spent the day exploring the ship and people watching. During the middle of the day I noticed that we had stopped moving. The Captain came on and announced that a generator had gone out but all would be fixed and fine. And it was. However being at a dead stop in the middle of the Caribbean Sea is quite an interesting experience. One observation was that I found this ship to be difficult to navigate unlike the CB. I always had trouble finding my way around and I felt a huge design flaw was that in order to get to the atrium from our cabin you either had to walk forward and cross through the card room or library or go up or down a flight in order to avoid those 2 rooms. I still can't figure out why it was designed in such a bizarre way. Also because were were so far aft it was a LONG walk to the buffet. I researched the deck plans and knew this was going to be the case but it was a whole other situation actually walking there twice a day (sometimes more). At least I burned off all the calories walking to and from. Tonight was a formal night so we dusted off the suits and headed to the Captains Welcome Party. We didn't like anything on the tray so we went to the coffee bar and ordered some Scotch expecting to pay and the bartender (who we saw every morning for coffee) told us it was on the Captain. Again, another very elegant and classy gesture. The Captain then gave a great speech about the weather and how we were avoiding the hurricane. We also noticed just how beautiful the atrium is on this ship. It really is a site not to be missed at night when all the multi colored light are lit up all over giving it a romantic appeal. The water feature under the stairs is a beautiful touch also. We then headed for the Bordeaux dining room. This time there was no wait and we were seated with a new team, Waiter Dennis from the Philippines and Assistant Waiter Jennifer from Peru that worked together very well. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and then headed to the show for the evening, "Piano man." We saw this on our last cruise and enjoyed it even more on this cruise. It is a tribute to Billy Joel, Elton John, Neil Sedaka, Barry Manilow and Liberace. Overall we felt the singing and dancing on this cruise to be far superior to our last cruise. Day 3 - Sea Day: Unlike the day before, it was beautiful weather today. Brad went to the gym and said it was better than the CB. We then headed out to the outdoor pool around 11am and it was cut throat to get 2 lounge chairs. We found this to be a big downfall on this cruise. The CB had plenty of pools to spread the people out and even more places that had lounge chairs set up. This was not the case on the IP and became a huge hassle. Obviously it's not possible but we felt the IP needed another pool to help absorb the masses. After searching and searching we found a pile of lounge chairs stacked up which we unstacked and set up a spot all while the deck attendants stood around and socialized with eachother. Again, another negative. As the day went on some of the elderly asked them for chairs at which point they caught a clue and put some more out so others could lay out. The highlight of the day came when a group of older single women were chain smoking and drinking near us. After one too many the ring leader stood up and announced to those sitting around us that she, "Doesn't need sex anymore and thanks God every morning." Classy! We had a dinner scheduled at the Bayou Steakhouse with 3 other people from Cruise Critic so we headed over there at 8pm. Our dinner can only be described as a show. The service went from bad to worse and then to mediocre and the restaurant wasn't even half full. We asked for wine and cocktails before we ordered dinner and from the time it took to order and for it to be delivered was, no exaggeration, 20 minutes. At one point we had 3 people waiting on us and each was from a different country (Romania, Thailand and Mexico) which made for a seriously hysterical lack of communication. After 3 hours had passed and an additional 30 minutes for us to get our receipt for our meal we left with the feeling that while everyone who waited on us had good intentions, the way the meal was executed and lack of communication was the downfall. We have no desire to ever eat there again and I think the others we dined with felt the same. Once back in the cabin "Sex and the City" was on so we watched most of that movie and fell asleep to the rockin' & rollin' of the seas. Day 4 - Aruba: I awoke around 6:30 to watch us pull into the Port of Aruba and enjoy the sunrise. We were off the ship around 8am and walked around. What we found turned out to be a surprise. I never thought I would enjoy an island so much. There were so many things to do and the shopping and the people was just wonderful. They are also building great lofts right next to the pier. I'd love to find out more information but I couldn't find any signs or websites about the lofts. We spent the late morning shopping and sightseeing in this picturesque town. I bought some cologne and Cuban Cigars and Brad bought some Fendi suitcase thingy and some aloe along with some stupid tourist stuff to bring home to friends and family. We were back on board around 11am to enjoy the beautiful sun and give ourselves even more of a sunburn. We went to the "Motor City" show in the Princess Theater at 7pm and, again, it was wonderful. It was a throwback to the Motown days and the singing and dancing were just wonderful. The highlight was the duet of "Endless Love" while 2 dancers did a beautiful interruptive dance. This was just breathless and this show (specifically this act) became our favorite of the cruise. The evening concluded with dinner in the Bordeaux dining room with another team of 2 right near Dennis and Jennifer. While this team was good, Dennis and Jennifer were the best so we asked Dennis if we could sit in his section for the rest of the cruise. He politely agreed so we made a standing reservation for 8:15 for the rest of the cruise for their section. We enjoyed a Cuban and some wine on the balcony and went to bed. Day 5 - Colombia: We have never been to Colombia before and don't know much about it so we were excited. However, the night before we found out that our tour we booked (Playa Blanca by Boat) was cancelled due to lack of participation. We were bummed but rebooked for the Spanish Galleon Cruise which was 49PP. What a great value!! When we arrived at the ship that had dancing and a band and an absolutely great and knowledgeable guide. It was about 2 hours long and it went all through around the coast of Cartegena. A nice bonus was that they also served chips and beer/soda/water if you wanted one. This was never mentioned by the tour desk or in the paperwork so it was a nice surprise. It was beautiful weather and the atmosphere onboard the ship was great so we definitely felt we got our moneys worth. At the end of the tour he was offering another bus tour of 15PP which would go to the Old City for 2 hours of site seeing. We didn't participate but we did stop back at the port shops to buy some alcohol, coffee and some souvenirs. This is obviously not a Princess problem but the workers at the Colombian tourist store were some of the rudest people I've ever met. And it was a shame since Colombia turned out to be such a beautiful place (with million dollar condos. Who knew?). We were back on board by 12:30 and spent the rest of the day mulling around and enjoying the pool since it finally wasn't crowded. I have to point out the band at sailaway. I don't remember their name but they had a distinct Caribbean Sound...............until they decided to sing some Michael Buble' songs. Lets just say you haven't heard his song "Home" until you've heard it sung with a Caribbean accent. Very interesting. We saw the 7:00pm show of "Adrian Zmed in Concert" with the IP singers and dancers. He's been in a couple of TV shows and "Grease 2." While we thought the show was good, it was a bit self-indulgent. Dinner was again wonderful with Dennis and Jennifer who renamed herself as the "plate girl" since she also works in the buffet handing out plates. A bit of a distraction was this elderly couple and the husband who insisted on wearing this tacky blue hat IN THE DINING ROOM almost every night of the cruise (including Formal Nights). I'll give him the benefit of the doubt thinking the hat is either for religious or medical reasons even though I saw him around the ship without it on. Also there was an elderly gentleman who used a motorized scooter but instead of politely saying excuse me or even using the built-in horn if someone was in his way he would shout, "BEEP BEEP BEEP." This was never funny and became more and more obnoxious as the cruise went on. Especially when he would do it for fun while leaving the dining room at night. Others would laugh, we just glared and shook our heads. Day 6 - Panama Canal: Yes! The highlight of our trip. We were up around 7am to enjoy the sights. The IP was told to go into the Right lane and we were on the Port side of the ship so we had a great view of the other locks and the ship going through it. There was also a narrator on board who offered quite a bit of good advice for newbee's like us. This was a wonderful experience of a lifetime and we'd love to do a full transit in the future. The sun was rising and shining in our balcony which made for a very hot transit so we kept alternation between the balcony and the cabin to watch it on TV. Once we anchored in Gatun Lake we stayed on the ship since we didn't have an excursion booked as we wanted to see us go back through the locks. There was some kind of "hold up" but we finally made our way back through the locks and I got some great pictures. There are 2 pics of Brad and I touching the Canal wall which was just an amazing feeling. After docking in Cristobal we got off the ship and walked around their little market area and bought a beautiful set of Espresso mugs made of solid, polished wood. Dinner was wonderful then we headed off to the Universe Lounge to see "Tribute" with the IP singers and dancers. It featured music from all different generations and had a great version of "Vogue" by Madonna too. Another observation was how under utilized this lounge was. Every night in the Wheelhouse Bar there wasn't a place to sit. It was just wall-to-wall packed. Maybe Princess would consider moving their functions from the Wheelhouse to Universal Lounge since it's much bigger. Day 7 - Costa Rica: Since no excursion was planned we slept in. Once off the ship we just walked around the little market area and bought a couple bags of coffee. Costa Rica was very tropical and humid but picturesque as well. Walking back to the ship a worker on the ship sprayed a few of us with a hose while cleaning the Promenade Deck. This was just an accident but still a bit of a nuisance since we now covered in water. I politely told passenger services of the problem just so they could let the worker know to be more careful. Since we were sick of the buffet (I'll get to that later) we went to the Dining room for lunch which turned out to be a pleasant surprise. We had never done this before and were surprised at the quality of the food and service that was provided. The rest of the day was spent sunning on deck and enjoying dinner. We didn't go to the show which was a comedy act. Day 8 - sea day: Another sea day....which we very much enjoy. I think we would be happy with a 10 day cruise with nothing by sea days. We spent it wandering the ship and tanning and reading at both the indoor and outdoor pools. Two books I read on the cruise that were exceptionally good was David Sedaris' new one, "When you are Engulfed in Flames" and John Robinson's (Brother of Augusten Burroughs), "Look me in the Eyes: My Life with Aspergers Syndrome." I highly recommend both! Brad didn't pack any so we went to the library to rent some. However, there is rarely anyone working in there to allow you to check out a book. We found that annoying. The lunch buffet today was "Italian Trattoria" from 11:30-2 which we were both very excited about. However this was a complete let down. The extent of Italian consisted of a Pasta Dish and veal dish everything else was standard buffet food (mashed potatoes, some beef thing, sauteed veggies, salad bar, etc. There was NO lasagna, NO meatballs, NO Chicken Parm, NO stuffed shells and NO Italian deserts. Standard Italian food. This was a huge disappointment as was the breakfast buffet. Every morning the breakfast buffet consisted of the EXACT SAME THING. The only difference was the scrambled eggs with [insert misc. food item here]. We saw eggs with shrimp, crab meat, asparagus, cheese and other assorted items. Everything else was the same every single morning. And one morning we arrived around 9:45 and there was no bacon. We asked one of the cooks and he said they were out! What?? Looking back we found this to be the biggest downfall of the cruise. The CB always had a great selection morning, noon and night and was constantly changing. Unfortunately, the IP lacked this. Tonight was another formal night which we enjoyed and then went to a show in the Theater called "Do You Wanna Dance." It basically had less singing and more dancing and was good but not great. It was nice to enjoy evening entertainment after a wonderful dinner though. The Champagne waterfall was this evening at 11:30 which we didn't attend. After the show let out around 11 we walked back to the atrium and watched them finish setting up but we were tired and sunburnt so we went back to the cabin. Day 9 - Jamaica: We had both been here before and don't particularly like it so we stayed on the ship and tanned and read. Another observation is that while the bartenders made great drinks on this ship (I sucked down enough Bloody Mary's) they NEVER said Thank you. Maybe it's a culture thing or they just don't care but everything Brad or myself would thank them they would just walk away and move on to another customer. We noted this on our comment card at the end of the cruise. We also went to pick up our pictures today and ended up spending 53 dollars on 3 4x6's. This is an absolutely absurd price but people are obviously willing to pay it so they charge what they want. There was 2 different charges for the 4x6 because one original print was a smaller size (5x8) and the other 2 were bigger (8x10). We were told that we are charged for the higher print cost regardless of the size we ordered. Again, What?? Overall we found the photographers to be nice on the cruise. The only exception was when we were going through the canal and they were on the ground screaming at the balconies, "You in the [insert color] shirt, give us a big smile!!!" That was a bit obnoxious. There wasn't any shows tonight so we enjoyed dinner and walking the promenade deck with our evening coffee and headed back to the cabin for wine on the balcony. Day 10 - Sea day: Since this was the last day we spent it packing up our cabin and enjoying the casino. We had already gotten a print out of our bill and reviewed it for accuracy the day before and we bought FCC's the 1st day of our cruise so we had a relatively stress-free day. We were sure to fill out the "You Made A Difference" cards for our steward, waiter, junior waiter and coffee bar friend and allocated extra tips accordingly. Another observation we found is that the ship is severely lacking trash cans. I can't remember the number of times we had our empty coffee cups to throw out and there wasn't a trash can in site. The only time we ever saw them was outside on the pool decks. We felt bad but we weren't going to wander around the ship looking for a trash can so if we would sometimes just leave them on an open table or at the bar and let someone else throw them out. Dinner was, as usual, exceptional and we said our goodbyes and headed to our cabin to enjoy the final hours on our balcony. Disembarkation: We chose the walk off option just like last time and reported to the Universe Lounge at 7:15 to "standing room only." Not a big deal. This disembarkation process went a lot smoother than the last one though. We were off the ship at 7:30 and through customs and back at the parking lot by 8am. There was no waiting in long, wrap-around lines in the lobby. Overall a good cruise. Not a great one like our last. They say your first cruise will always be the most memorable and now I know that's true. The overall ship design and little nuances here and there created a some problems that we never noticed/never had on our last cruise. Was it enough to ruin our cruise? Of course not. But it was enough to give us a bit of more-rounded view of Princess. Looking at the laundry I need to finish and the dishes that need to get put away I can't help but think that a vacation is a vacation. Right? We are already booked for a 10 day Southern Caribbean cruise on the Ruby next November and we can't wait. But from now on I think we'll just stick to the bigger ships which attract a bit of a younger crowd and more variety. ******* And there you have our review and our opinions. Here is the link to our pictures. http://flickr.com/photos/21511869@N0...7609238874335/ Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Panama Canal Cruise November 30 to December 14, 2008 Events listed for each day are not necessarily in the order they occurred. As a point of reference, this is our 10th cruise over the past 5 years. This was our third cruise on ... Read More
Panama Canal Cruise November 30 to December 14, 2008 Events listed for each day are not necessarily in the order they occurred. As a point of reference, this is our 10th cruise over the past 5 years. This was our third cruise on Princess with our other cruises being on Carnival except for one NCL trip. We live in Florida and enjoy the warm weather. My wife and I are in our early 50s. Our room was C316 (Caribe Deck). Large balcony that had 4 chairs and a small table. There was actually room for 2 more chairs to give you some idea of the size. Other balconies I saw were smaller accommodating either just 2 chairs and a table or 4 chairs and a table. Nov. 30 A friend dropped us off at the San Pedro pier near Los Angeles. We had made arrangements for a rental car as we had arrived two days before but then our friend became available to provide transportation so we did not use the car. Operations at the pier were efficient. We got there at about 1:00 PM and there were some lines and waiting but not more than about 15 minutes. We boarded the Island Princess, went to our room to drop off our luggage (which we hand-carried on board) and then had lunch at the buffet. We prefer fixed time dining (any-time dining is available) and we eat late. After dinner we danced in the Wheelhouse Bar. There are two 3 person bands playing at the Wheelhouse at different times during the evening. Both are excellent for social ballroom dancing. (My wife and I started taking ballroom dance lessons in January, 2008, and enjoy our new hobby.) Dec. 1 First sea day I attended two classes on Adobe Photoshop Elements. I have been doing computer software work for over 30 years but wanted to get more familiarity with Photoshop. The classes are 45-60 minutes long with hands-on practice. Each class is limited to about 12 people. Priced at $25/class. Buy 3 and get the 4th class free. Basic level classes but very well prepared by the instructor. There are also some free, introductory classes available. My wife and I went to line dancing class and Merenge Dance Class. We watched a movie in the theatre ("Charlie Wilson's War") Lunch Buffet Dinner in the dining room Dancing after dinner. Dec. 2 Second Sea Day Jogging then breakfast buffet. Saw some dolphins from the dining room window. Attended another Adobe photoshop class. Group Dance Class-Salsa My wife attended an introductory Spanish class (free of charge). She is starting to learn the numbers and a few expressions. Formal night for dinner. Went dancing after dinner. There was a "lucky draw" for prizes and we won a bottle of wine. (This had nothing to do with the quality of our dancing.) Dec. 3 Third Sea Day Jog. I picked up breakfast for both of us at the buffet and brought it back to our room. It is a beautiful warm day (about 75 degrees). I attended one more Adobe Photoshop class. Group Cha-Cha dance class. Laundry. The self-serve laundry facilities on the Island Princess are on each floor. There are 4 washers and 4 dryers. Wash cycle is $1.00. Dry is also $1.00 but you probably need to use two dryers for one load of wash to get it all dry in one cycle. We had lunch in the buffet and saw some sea turtles and flying fish from the window while having lunch. We will probably have dinner at the buffet tonight and then do some dancing. We went to go to bed early tonight (Wednesday) because we wanted to get an early start on Thursday in Mexico. We dock at 7:00 AM and the ship leaves at 1:00 PM. We sat out on the balcony of our room this evening. Seas are calm and the weather is perfect (75 degrees with a nice breeze from the moving ship). December 4, 2008 Today was spent at Huatulco, Mexico. The ship docked at 7:00 AM and were off the ship by 7:15 AM. We explored the town and surroundings with some new friends, Ken and Dorothy. We walked to Crucecita (about 15 minutes from the dock). The town has a pretty church, lots of hotels and restaurants, internet cafes and craft shops. There are also several local markets where you can buy fruits, vegetables and meat. Internet access was US$1.00/hour. I hooked up my mini-notebook computer and everything worked well. There is some construction along the way to Crucecita but the walk is very pleasant. Wear sneakers to make the walk comfortable. There were some WIFI (wireless) hot spots available but the signals were weak and I could not log in. We then took a taxi for 1 hour for $20.00 for the taxi. The driver took us to see a beautiful beach and also a lighthouse. We also stopped at a viewing point to see the town and our ship. We were back on board by 12:30 PM. The ship set sail at 1:00 PM promptly as we were eating lunch in the buffet restaurant on deck 14. After lunch we took a line dancing class followed shortly by a ballroom dance class review of Merenge, salsa and Cha-Cha. We went back to our room to change clothes and went to one of the lounges to do some more dancing. Then we had dinner and prepared for bed. Tomorrow (Friday) we will be in Guatemala and we have a long day planned. December 5, 2008 Today we arrived at Puerta Quetzal, Guatemala at about 7:00 AM. We disembarked at 7:30 AM. We were with another couple (Ken and Aileen) and wanted to arrange our own transportation and tour. Unfortunately, the taxi area has controlled access by outside vehicles so we had limited choices for arranging our own tour. There are a number of tour operators working in the first building you come to as you disembark. If you proceed outside the building you will find more tour operators to talk to. I first got a quote from one of the tour operators inside the building and then went outside to see what they had to offer. While working on a tour arrangement we met Tedd and Jenny and a solo traveler, Maurice. That made 7 of us. There are mini-vans rated at 12 passengers. They would be pretty cramped with 12 people. We arranged for one of these for the 7 of us. 7 is a comfortable fit in the 12 passenger van. The asking price was $210 but we negotiated down to $190 for just the seven of us. They wanted to switch us to a group of 15 but we stuck with our group of 7. Our plan was to go to Antigua (about 90 minutes from the port) and see the sites there. We confirmed with the driver and translator in advance that we might want to stop along the way at places of our choosing. They agreed. I should point out that there is a driver and also a translator/tour guide for each vehicle. The translator/tour guide is normally a college student with pretty good command of English but he might not know too much about the sites. In our case he kept getting comments from the driver and would translate for us. This worked out fine. The driver was good and avoided most pot holes in the road. Actually, the road condition was reasonable for the better part of the drive but as we got into the city of Antigua the road was very bumpy because it was rough cobblestones. We passed a volcano that was intermittently spewing smoke. We also had a photo opportunity at an old Mayan temple at the top of a rock. The temple looked like a silhouette. Our driver took us first to the main church. Todd and Jenny wanted to stay at the church and related museum while the rest of us wanted to walk around the streets. We agreed to meet back in about 1 hour. Upon our return, the driver wanted to take us to a Jade museum/factory nearby. He pointed out that they had clean/free restrooms. We all agreed. The jade factory is actually interesting and they do have clean restrooms. After a few minutes there we decided to meet at a given time for the ride back to the ship. We were all on our own at that point. We walked around Antigua for several hours. There were many interesting buildings, facades, people, etc. We could easily have walked around for several more hours and still had plenty of places to visit. Upon return to our van, the driver suggested that we go to the top of a hill with a small park and cross that overlooked the town. Worth visiting to give you perspective of the area. We departed Antigua at about 2:00 PM and made a couple of stops on the way back. The stops were rather touristy but acceptable. If I did this trip again I would just go directly to Antigua (with stops of my choosing along the way for pictures) and spend as much time walking the streets as was available. The driver and translator encouraged us to go to a jade factory (free admission and clean bathrooms) and also a place where they weave fabric and make traditional outfits ($1.00/person and clean bathrooms). Each location was interested in selling us something. Again, if I came here again I would avoid these locations (except for the clean bathrooms) and spend the time on my own in town. I know that the tour guides benefit from these stops but one needs to control the limited time available. I would highly recommend arranging your own tour with a small group. This gives you much greater flexibility. We paid $30/person including tip which was somewhat less than the ship's tour to Antigua on your own at $49/person in a large bus. Back at the ship we had a snack at about 4:30 PM. Rested and then had dinner at 7:45 PM. No dancing as we were both tired. December 6, 2008 We are in Nicaragua. We decided to stay near the ship today rather than take a trip to the places of interest to tourists. The trip is about 2.5 hours each way and we have limited time in port. Also, we decided to take this as a rest day. Be aware that the port area is very poor. Some beggars including children. Keep you purse and wallet close at hand. No aggressive behavior from any of the beggars. I found an internet cafe about 2 blocks down the main street as you exit the port. You can bring your own computer or use theirs. They have about 8 available but they were all busy. Rate is $1.00/hour with good connection speed. If you have your own computer they have spare ethernet connections. No WIFI at the time we were there. One of our friends hired a taxi and went to Leon (old town) and had a great time. There were 4 persons and the total came to $70 plus a $10 tip. Our mistake for not going further from the pier. The place they went was only about 45 minutes from the dock. December 7, 2008 Today we were in Puntarenas, Costa Rica. We docked at 8:00 AM. PaoChen, Maurice and I rented a 4 wheel drive vehicle with driver and tour guide to take us to Monteverde Cloud Forest. The drive was about 2.5 hours from the port. The cloud forest was "OK" but not great. The best part of the trip was the drive to and from the destination. We saw some beautiful scenery, a few birds, a herd of cows coming down the street, rainbows, etc. We paid $150 for the three of us to have the car and driver and tour guide for the day. Again, this was much cheaper than a tour from the ship. (Princess has a tour for $129/person that includes lunch.) The driver wanted us to visit the Orchid Park. We advised him that if we had time on the way back we would do this. As it turned out, we did not have time and I'm not sorry about it. We had the driver make several stops along the way to and back from the Cloud Forest to allow us to take pictures of the scenery. This is not something you could do with a bus load of people on a tour. I found an Internet cafe about two blocks from the pier. Walk straight ahead when exiting the pier area for one block and then make a left turn. There is a bar on the corner. The internet cafe is on the right side of the street. No big sign (actually no sign at all) but just a door with an "OPEN" sign. $1.00/hour. December 8 Sea Day We had a late breakfast. Another couple we met had a private dance class (waltz) and we watched and then practiced. They were at a much more advanced level than us but it was fun to watch and learn. At 1:00 PM we met with some friends at the Horizon Court (buffet) to discuss plans for Columbia. We decided to get off the ship and go to the Monastery overlooking the city and then to the old town to walk around on our own. Taxi should be about $5.00. See notes below regarding our time in Columbia. We had a late lunch and then attended a talk on the Panama Canal. There was a group waltz class after which we went to the aerobics room to practice dancing. No music but a good, quiet venue for practice. December 9 Transit of the Panama Canal I was up at 5:15 AM to watch us travel under the Bridge of the Americas. We passed under the bridge at about 6:00 AM. We entered the Mira Flora locks at 7:15 AM. This was our first passage through the Panama Canal. I found it interesting to see how the system worked. I took several breaks from watching the transit but it was fun to go back to a good viewing point and continue watching. From deck 10 forward, there are doors that take you out to a large balcony area that has some great views. Highly recommended but be aware that the deck does become crowded. We arranged for a private dance lesson with one of the assistant cruise directors who was a professional dance instructor. This was really great. She did this on her own time and not through Princess. She had permission from her boss. She did not (and could not) charge us but we took care of her in the form of a tip at the end of the cruise. We really were lucky to find her and work out lessons with her. December 10 Cartegena, Columbia We had a late arrival due to the fact that the ship was late leaving the last lock in the Panama Canal and heavy seas at night. Once we got off the ship, we exited the pier area and looked for a 7 person van. They started off at $20/person but we finally got a van for $6.00/person to the Monastery and town and back. The driver and tour guide also took us to the Fort for pictures. We did not go into the Monastery but did get a couple of pictures from the hill it is on overlooking the town. When we got to the old city, the driver took us to a tourist souvenir area. He told us he needed the "points" for his bonus. We were adjacent to the area we wanted to walk through but he insisted on taking us to the other side of the old city so that he could park the van. He was worried that we would disappear and not take his van back to the ship (and not pay him) and also that we would go into a shop and buy something and he would not get the points. My suggestion: Get a taxi/van to take you one way to the old town. Ask the taxi to take you to La Merced Hotel (it is a 5 star hotel in the old town). From there you can walk and explore the area. It is very easy to get a taxi to take you back to the ship from the old town. I would also suggest that you get a map from the tourist information counter in the old town (some of the merchants also have the map) so you can find your way around. Walk towards Plaza de la Adriana. The Museo de Oro is a free museum with a very spectacular collection of gold ornaments and other artifacts. They also have a 6 minute movie that talks about the ancient people from this area. Clean restrooms. Open 10-1 and 3-7 so go there early when you arrive in the old town. The taxi cannot take you to the museum because it is on a mostly pedestrian walkway. After walking around you can find your way to one of the entrances to the old city and there are many taxis available. Alternatively, you can return to La Merced Hotel and catch a taxi from there. December 11 Aruba We arrived shortly after noon. We had a dance lesson scheduled for 1:45 so we did not go ashore immediately. We started our dance lesson early (12:45) and then had lunch and went ashore for a quick look/see. I found a reasonably priced internet cafe. Walk two blocks away from the dock and then about six blocks to the right. $3.00/hour. Clean with air conditioning. We found the area near the dock rather touristy with shops similar to other ports of call. There were options to go for snorkeling or other water sports. There are a number of local tour operators at the pier to make arrangements. Rental cars and scooters also available at the pier. December 12 Sea Day Lecture by Bruce Kaplan on the Titanic. Interesting speaker. Had lunch with him and his wife. Group Foxtrot lesson. Private Rumba lesson in the afternoon. My wife and I then went to the Jacuzzi for a relaxing hour. Dancing in the Wheelhouse Bar after dinner. December 13 Sea Day Jogging before breakfast. We picked up a breakfast selection from the buffet and brought it to our room. There was another lecture by Bruce Kaplan on the history of cruising and cruise ships. We fit in another private dance class to review Rumba, Foxtrot and Cha Cha. Dinner and dancing for our last night on the ship. December 14 Disembarkation at Fort Lauderdale. All went smoothly. We were not in a rush. We had arranged for a rental car to drive back to Daytona Beach. The rental van picked us up within about 30 minutes of the time we got off the ship. Summary: We enjoyed this cruise and the days at sea. It was almost like being in summer camp with all the activities available. There were no demerits if you did not attend an activity. We met many new friends and really enjoyed ourselves. The Princess staff were friendly and attentive. The food in the dining room was good to excellent. The food in the buffet area was good and sometimes excellent. I did not mention this before but on deck 15 they have a grill that makes hamburgers, hot dogs and grilled chicken breast sandwiches. The grilled chicken breast with some grilled onions was an excellent quick lunch item. You need to ask for the grilled onions but they are happy to prepare them. Also, I never found the grill very busy. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
I've never done this before, but I've been a member for three or four years. I most enjoy depend on Cruise Critic for information on tours and that's where I'm going to focus my comments to be helpful to future ... Read More
I've never done this before, but I've been a member for three or four years. I most enjoy depend on Cruise Critic for information on tours and that's where I'm going to focus my comments to be helpful to future readers. This is our 11th cruise and 5th with Princess. Embarkation: Was easy for us in San Pedro. We arrived at 11 a.m. The only real line was actually at the ship's photographer coming on. Ugh! Cabin: We selected the very last cabin at the stern of the ship on the Dolphin deck. I was disappointed by the size of the balcony at the back. We also did not have a cabin with a balcony over us, so that was a problem between the hot sun and rain at varying points—typically the same day in the tropics! You need to go up to Baja to do better. However, we enjoyed the size of our extended room. Food: Some complaints by other cruisers. My wife and I thought it was fine. I thought the fish was better than the other cruises we have been on. The cakes were disappointing, in particular. They do a great job with ice cream though. Itinerary: I thought I would go nuts sitting on the ship for 3 days. But it was great and really relaxing. It taught me that extended days at sea away from cell and email traffic were easier than I thought. I loved afternoon naps and reading a novel in the Lotus Pool—while watching the horizon and gulls flying right over the swells created by the ship—only to spot a fish and dive into the water. Great fun. If we do this type of itinerary again, I would go from east to west to pick up time along the way with the time changes. All the tours we took were offered through Princess. Be aware that Central America's rainy season is April/May through October. You will get wet! Sometimes that was a blessing though. Huatulco: It was very small and there was lots of construction. So, not much to see on the "city" tour. We did the "Huatulco River Float" and had a good time. The "rapids" were type 1 and 2. They load about 8 people in each raft. Be aware that you will get wet, and don't take your camera. It will get very wet too. The birds at the end of the tour were great. Puerto Quetzal: We had a fantastic time on the "Colonial Antigua with Lunch" tour. I would recommend it. Lunch was very good and Antigua is fab with its cobblestone streets. Guatemala is third world country, so not everything you see along the way is pleasant, but it was well worth the $$$ and time. There was plenty of shopping (being approached on the street frequently too), and the churches were great. I was fascinated by the tile roofs and the ferns, Composites (sunflower family) and Dudley's (small plants) growing and blooming right in rooftops. Really colorful. The bus was large, air conditioned, and comfortable. Puerto Corinto: Ugh. Nicaragua is not a pretty place. I feel so ethnocentric writing this, but it is really poor and we did not feel safe. We took the "Leon Viejo and Colonial Leon with Lunch" tour. The guide spent a bunch of time talking about the history of Nicaragua's politics! The left, the right, the Sandinistas, and how one of the dictators's bombed his own people. It gave my wife and me the creeps. We had some warning from previous reviewers but we went for it anyway. After all, how often do you get to Nicaragua? It took 2 ½ hours to drive to Leon Viejo. Princess doesn't really make that clear. The ruins are interesting, but there is a hiking through the area. And, did I tell you that it's really hot?!! The highlight was lunch at a hotel in Leon. We then had a tour of a gorgeous church on the town's downtown square. We had WAY too much time after that. Everybody wanted to leave right then. We got directed to the local market behind the church. So we went over and it was really gross and we felt very uncomfortable. So we headed quickly back to the square and hung out in the shade for over and hour before the bus left to go back to the port. One of the HUGE problems with the day was all the driving time and the lack of legroom on the bus. Everyone, of all heights, had no ability to take advantage of the legroom under the seat in front of them. It was tighter than any US airline, to be sure. I stuck my legs out in the aisle! Puntarenas: Dear Princess Cruises: Please drop Puerto Corinto and offer the extra day in Costa Rica. Please! There is so much to do and it's an incredible place. You know it the minute you turn into the port and there are hundreds of sea birds to watch. We spent the big bucks and went on the "Costa Rica's Favorites with Lunch" tour. It was fantastic. It started with the Pacific Aerial Tram (Pacific side, near Jaco). It was really fantastic. You travel on a sky tram for almost an hour through the treetops, over canyons and waterfalls. As a plant lover, I stuck my head over the side and took a million pictures. Lunch was served there and it was good. I enjoyed the mango punch. We then went back to the Tarcoles River, climbed on a boat, and motored through the mangrove swamp very close to the ocean. Our guide was a super naturalist who actually called yellow warblers close to the boat for reviewing. We saw a pair of scarlet macaws on the boat, many herons, egrets, and other birds. We also saw many crocodiles of all sizes. One came within 4 feet of the boat. It was a long day, but really great fun enjoying the flora and fauna of Costa Rica. We didn't get back to the boat until after dark. Panama Canal: Our transit started at 5:30 a.m. Ouch! Going from the Pacific to the Atlantic side of the canal. It is really fascinating. By making the full transit you get the experience of all three sets of locks. For the ships that turn around to San Juan or Florida, you only get the experience of one set. Princess brought a guide onto the ship, so we got running commentary all day long through the journey. We saw scorching sun, pounding rain, and tons of humidity off and on all day, but it didn't deter the fun. Cartegena: We took the "Best of Cartegena & Fortress" tour. There was an initial stop at a great monastery with wonderful views of Cartegena. It was hot and humid. And then it was incredibly hot climbing the Fortress in the morning heat. We then bussed over to the Old City and made a quick souvenir stop. There was a walking tour in the Old City...and that area of the city is really interesting and a terrific stop. I would go there again next time. Within five minutes of arriving it was POURING rain. Everybody got drenched....with or without an umbrella. If we return to Cartegena I'd like more time in the Old City because we spent the tour racing from spot to stop. Aruba: Wow do the folks in Aruba speak great English! There native language is Dutch. We took the "Aruba Sail & Snorkel" tour. There were 75 folks on the trip with us and the catamaran was of sufficient size. There was shade for those that wanted it. There were two snorkeling sites, and the second was much better than the first. It was an old shipwreck and some of the fish were quite large. This spot had the best shopping on the cruise. Read that Diamonds International! Disembarkation: Was smooth for us. We went on the very funky "Airboat and Flamingo Gardens" tour. It was OK, but we had LOTS of time to kill before our 5 pm flight. Fortunately, Ft Lauderdale airport is a comfortable hang-out. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
Embarkation: My sister and I took a wonderful landtour (saw Denali!!) before the cruise and thus arrived at whittier on the McKinley Express after a 5 hour ride from Talkeetna with a wonderful tour guide in our car. Check-in was on board ... Read More
Embarkation: My sister and I took a wonderful landtour (saw Denali!!) before the cruise and thus arrived at whittier on the McKinley Express after a 5 hour ride from Talkeetna with a wonderful tour guide in our car. Check-in was on board and there were no delays or problems with embarkation. However, since we arrived at approximately 7 PM, there was no time to explore the ship that day. Stateroom; Our stateroom was very comfortable and spacious (obviously, excluding the bathroom) and loved having a balcony (our first). We worried about the location (next to children's Kid Zone) but did not really notice any noise until the last couple of days when there was a lot of running down the hall during the day. Our room steward (Nikki) was great. Ship: The public areas of the ship are very inviting - lots of places to sit and we never felt crowded. The library has a great selection of books and very comfortable chairs. The card room was also comfortable but people had a tendency to take the board games to their rooms instead of leaving them where others could enjoy them. We did not use the pool or hot tubs but had wonderful massages, facials, manicures and pedicures at the Lotus Spa. Entertainment: In general, we thought this was the area most lacking in quality and organization. We loved Vinnie Knight and the Jazz Riders! The show by Adrian Zmed was very good. The timing of the evening events was not geared for late dinners with many nights . On other cruiselines we were always able to see a show before dinner and either a different show or a movie after dinner (late seating). Activities: Lackluster for the most part with the exception of talks by the Park Rangers and naturalists. Dining: We are not gourmands by any means but overall, presentation was excellent and the food was generally good - some very dishes and some just so-so - but we have no complaints in that department. We had breakfast in the dining room every days except on the morning of disembarkation, mostly because we like sharing a table and meeting new people (people are less inclined to socialize at the buffet). We had lunch in the dining room most days; skipped lunch one day (!!!) and opted for a quick pizza on the Lido deck once due to time constraints. We were very surprised and ended up eating 2 slices each. Afternoon tea was always wonderful and presented another opportunity to socialize with a new group of fellow passengers. We opted for traditional late-seating dinner every night. Somehow we ended up with a table by the window (probably because it appears that most people choose anytime dining, including on formal nights). Our tablemates were great and we thoroughly enjoyed talking with them every night. The regular coffee is definitely very bad, so we each purchased the coffee cards ($25 + 15% gratuity) which allow for 15 expresso-based drinks. We only used 9 each, but were informed that the cards were valid for the next cruise. The expresso-based drinks were definitely better tasting! Service: Excellent service everywhere. Our head waitress(Ana) and her assistant Darko were wonderful. Ana's nightly recommendations were always especially helpful. Ports: Since we had done many of the major excursions on our first Alaskan cruise years ago, the only shore excursion we booked was for a helicopter ride/walk on Mendenhall glacier. Unfortunately, it was cancelled due to weather conditions. We still enjoyed exploring the ports on our own. It was cool and either very cloudy and/or raining most days, but the beauty and splendor of Alaska was still evident. We will definitely return to Alaska and will definitely consider Princess again. Disembarkation: We opted for the Onboard Check-in and were very happy we did so. For an additional $16 per person, we received our airline boarding passes, our luggage was checked though to out final destination, and we were quickly processed through Customs/Immigration (Canadian/US) and security at our arrival at the airport. We met in our assigned location on the ship at 7:15 AM and were at the airport and checked in by 9:45 AM. Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
My husband and I of 39 years sailed the beautiful Island Princess on July 21. This was his choice as a celebration retirement cruise. We have previously sailed with Celebrity, Azamara, Carnival, RCCL, and NCLA. We were anxious to try ... Read More
My husband and I of 39 years sailed the beautiful Island Princess on July 21. This was his choice as a celebration retirement cruise. We have previously sailed with Celebrity, Azamara, Carnival, RCCL, and NCLA. We were anxious to try Princess and were not disappointed in the least. We booked a guarantee cabin for the 1st time, and I must admit it was a bit nerve-racking for me not to know where on the ship we would be. We eventually found out our assignment 3 days before sailing. It was a 1 category upgrade from AD to AC mini-suite. We enjoyed the cabin and our room steward, Jessy. The food was good in the restaurants (anytime dining). There were always choices that were available on the left side of the menu....ex. shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, fett. Alfredo, etc. in addition to the always available entrees...steak, salmon, chicken, etc. One of our favorite meals was the crab legs. They were split and very easy to eat. Our waiter said he would bring a double order if we wanted. I couldn't even finish my first portion. The desserts, in my opinion, were lacking in variety and flavor. We are from NY so I was a bit disappointed in the texture of the cheesecake. The mousse was quite heavy, also. We did eat at Sabitini's. I thought the food was very good. Just taste a bit of each dish that is brought to you and you will be fine. I could be more specific if anyone would like, please email me. We did attend some of the entertainment on board. The Piano Man show was quite good. Also, Glen Smith on the piano was very good. The CD kept talking about the show with Adrian Zmed (he used to star on TJ Hooker). The show, in my opinion was awful. Some people left in the middle. To sum it up, it went something like this....Look at these clips of me I used to be really famous, REALLY, and you should remember me....and then he would sing...pretty sad. I must make a comment here about the CD. I think she was the weakest CD I have ever encountered. Her asst. had more personality and charisma than she could ever have. Service on the whole ship was fantastic. No problems at all. Now on to Alaska itself. We did a 5 day land tour before the cruise. We flew from JFK to MSP and then to ANC for an overnight at the Capt. Cook Hotel. It rained when we arrived in Anchorage. That should have been an omen of things to come. The hotel is very nice. It is centrally located and it is easy to walk to many places, IF it's not pouring. I had made reservations at Simon and Seafort's on line before leaving NY so we were really looking forward to their early special that was advertised on their website. We went to the ULU factory first and then took the trolley back and had to walk again in the rain to the restaurant. No problem... we were in Alaska and that happens, right? The restaurant is not in a separate building so it took some searching but finally we found it. Wet and hungry, we were excited to be having our first true Alaskan meal. When we were given the menu, I told the waitress that we were interested in the early special, but I didn't see the choices on the menu...you can see where this is going. She said that they didn't offer that special in the summer. Really? How would I have seen it on the website? Oh that must be a mistake. So we stay and have a great meal, but that is a bit of foreshadowing of the remainder of our trip. Next morning got the train to Talkeetna. The train ride was good, but saw no wild life. I really liked this little town. My husband did a jet boat safari and enjoyed it, but again no wildlife. I shopped a bit in the rain again. Also, no one told me that mosquitos could be biting in the rain! Live and learn. Took shuttle to McKinley Lodge. Mt. was not visible at all. We could barely see the lodge let alone the Mt. There were bugs in the bed that bit me so we had to change rooms. I kept trying to enjoy myself still. Next day Train to Denali. Scenery is great even though it's still raining. BTW Food on train is good and reasonable. Bus ride to Denali Lodge is short (10 min.) as compared to McKinley Lodge. Upon arrival we went to Outfitter's desk and got tickets to Music of Denali show and Whitewater rafting for next morning. Show was cute and food was ok. My husband enjoyed the rafting. Since I was so bitten by bugs I wasn't able to do much outside; couldn't even walk without being attacked...still trying to have a good time. The rooms at Denali are "interesting". As an example, the bathroom sink is in the bedroom. This didn't bother us but some people were very upset. I understand that the new rooms are different. We were supposed to go on the NHT but opted not to do it. Princess did not offer a refund although we asked. After my husband returned from the rafting and we had lunch at LYNX pizza (OK) we boarded a bus for Fairbanks. I was amazed that there were just 6 of us on a full size bus. It was a very pleasant 4 hour ride. We enjoyed the scenery and looked forward to spending 2 nights in 1 place. When we got in our room there was an awful smell as if someone had been smoking and they tried to cover it up with an air freshener. Both of us had difficulty breathing. It almost sounds comical now, but they said to open the window and they brought in a fan of about 4 inches in diameter. We just laughed and and said to find us another room...hopefully, on a ship. LOL Of course, the first response was that there was no room in the inn, but I told them that we were going to the salmon bake and when we returned we expected to be given a room change. It was a "miracle". When we returned there was a room available. BTW the salmon bake was good, but "buggy" again...at least no rain. Could our luck be changing? Next morning nope rain again... We went to the El Dorado Mine, stopped to see the pipeline, then back to the lodge for lunch and then a riverboat on the Chena River. A very full but fun day....except for the bugs and the rain. It seems like a theme here. We walked to Pike's Landing for dinner. It is right next door to the Riverside Lodge. The food was very good and the prices were what we expected to pay in NY. I know it seems like I'm complaining alot. All I did was try to have a good time. Trying is not what I want to do on a vacation. Even my husband who is the most positive person I know started to get discouraged. This really bothered me since the trip was one he wanted to do so badly. So the next day we flew to Anchorage from Fairbanks. Then a 2 hour bus ride to Whittier. I was never so happy to see a ship in my whole life. Embarkation was smooth but we got soaked as it was pouring and there was not complete cover. No problem we were on the ship and all would be well...at least for 1 day. We had a great dinner in the buffet that night, went to the casino, and to sleep. The next morning my husband woke up with bronchitis, went to the Dr., then I got the same thing, it rained every day, my favorite shore excursion was cancelled, etc. I know we can't blame our lack of a good time on the weather or getting sick, but I must admit I was disappointed in Alaska in general. As I stated we are from NY. The scenery here is also spectacular. Some would say how can you compare that to Alaska? We can compare it to the Alaska we experienced. I was almost afraid to write this review because there have been so many positive ones about Alaska that I'm sure I'll get some hate letters. Just remember different strokes. I have to mention again how much I enjoyed Princess. Their cruise/tour package was great. They really have their act together. I would definitely cruise on one of their ships again...just never to Alaska. In case anyone is interested I will email you a picture of myself with a yellow poncho on at the Mendenhall Glacier. My husband says it is priceless. I was not going to let the rain stop me from seeing that glacier. It was spectacular! Lorraine and Terry D tjld123@aol.com Read Less
Sail Date July 2008
We started our trip in Vancouver. We went over a day early on our own. In the morning, we decided to go over to the ship to drop our luggage off and to check in. When we got there we could not check in because there was no power at the ... Read More
We started our trip in Vancouver. We went over a day early on our own. In the morning, we decided to go over to the ship to drop our luggage off and to check in. When we got there we could not check in because there was no power at the terminal! Long story short, this went on ALL DAY! When we were finally let through, the process was slow. However, they were very well organized. The provided chairs to sit in and sandwiches and drinks. They also kept us up to date on the situation. Everything went smoothly, and really all things considered it wasn't that bad of a wait. We started off with the late seating, but decided that it was just too late. We tried to call to change several times, and went to the dinning room as well, but could never find the person we needed to speak too. On the second day we just went to the 1st seating and asked if there was space, which there was. However, we were not with any other people so it was just the four of us that were traveling together. One night we wanted to eat later, so we went for the "Anytime dinning". I was able to make a reservation without any problem. The last night however, our seating time was at the same time we were going to be going through the College Fords, so we wanted to switch. I called and was told that we could not, because we were already scheduled for a set time. When I went to make the reservation in person, they said that my time, 7:30 pm, already had a lot of reservations and I would be better off to come back. When we did go back, we had trouble again getting in because we already had the "set seating". Apparently, "anytime dinning" is only for those that had already chosen that! We were given a pager however, and were seated in only about 20 minutes. Overall the food was fine. Although nothing really stood out to us. The desserts were just okay in the dinning rooms. The afternoon tea was lovely. However, on the last day, I saw someone walk in with huge chocolate chip cookies. I asked someone about it, and it ends up that from 3:30-4:30 pm at the buffet every day that have WARM chocolate chip cookies! They also have all the things from the afternoon tea as well! It is nice to sit at the tea for at least once, but warm chocolate chip cookies would have kept me away the other days! Although, it is probably just as well I didn't, because then I would have gained more than my six pounds!! =) I was disappointed that the cabin stewards did not make the animals out of towels on this ship. However, my husband and I were celebrating our anniversary and we did get balloons outside of our room. I was not impressed by the Art Auctions - I like to go to these, not to buy anything, but because I find them interesting, and on all of the ships I have been on, they give the free 8x10 print. I like these and I take them home and put them in a nice frame. The art director introduced himself the first day and said he was nervous, because he had just found out that his first child was born a few weeks early. I later went to congratulate him, and he said, "Oh, I just made that up so people would remember me!" So, my thought was, "I am suppose to trust someone that lies??" This ship did NOT give out free art, except those that you could "win" (which that was of course $20 to ship). I asked the person that was helping about the free prints and she said she had never heard of that, and when I said I had gotten it 6 years ago on a Princess Cruise; she only replied, "A lot can change in 6 years." During one auction they showed a video about a young artist, then tried to sell a piece for $46,000! I showed up late for one, and they were taking a break when I got there, then they came back, showed two more pieces and were finished. It seemed silly to me to have taken a break! I took part in the Pottery at Sea. It was fun, but for the $35 at the wheel, I think it should have included at least one piece to keep, then pay for the extras. They did have some ceramics already made that you could paint and they would fire for you. I didn't realize that at the time, if I had, I think I would have skipped the pottery wheel and just done that. Overall the cruise was nice - although the weather was stinky! I did have to make a visit to the medical deck for a UTI. They came out with all sorts of medications, two of which I had never heard of before and I am a nurse! I decided just to take the anti-biotic! The rates were fair for a walk in clinic, and I should be able to get reimbursed from my insurance company. Read Less
Sail Date June 2008
We chose this cruise to celebrate our renewal of vows for our 25th anniversary. We arrived at the Embassy Suites 3 days prior to embarkation in Ft. Lauderdale. We had never been to Ft. Lauderdale. The hotel food was expensive and terrible. ... Read More
We chose this cruise to celebrate our renewal of vows for our 25th anniversary. We arrived at the Embassy Suites 3 days prior to embarkation in Ft. Lauderdale. We had never been to Ft. Lauderdale. The hotel food was expensive and terrible. Will stay at a hotel on the beach next time. There are many restaurants within walking distance from those hotels and found a great one with great food and Mojitos! The Duck Tour is a must. So FUN! Embarkation: a bus arrived to pick us up at 2:00 P.M. It took a while to get everyone on the bus and the suitcases. We were with the group of "over packed". Us included. So, that took a long to time to get going. Once at the port, getting on the ship was a breeze. Very organized, wonderful, easy process. Getting our luggage was not good. We got it very late. So we had to have dinner in the buffet that night. Very surprised the food was really good. Cabin: Our cabin was beautiful and wonderful. It was toward the back of the ship (aft)and you could feel some motion. However, it did not bother us. It has a double balcony which was wonderful. Our friends joined us to see the Panama Canal and we also got to see sea turtles, dolphins and grey whales. The bathroom has marble floors, jacuzzi tub, glass enclosed shower for 1. There is lots of storage, it was great. The best thing of all, I did not have to do or pay for laundry. We also got Lotus Spa shampoo, conditioner, soap, bath gel, facial mist, tons of stuff. One complementary mini-bar set-up. What a great perks! The best cabin stewart: Leo. Dinning: The food was great. We usually choose an alternative dinning schedule, but this time we changed to traditional 2nd seating to meet with friends. The service was "EXCELLENTE" as our head waiter Florian and waiter George would say. They were fantastic. The food was very good. I had read that it was mediocre. I guess they read the reviews, because all of the food on board was fantastic. The alternative dinning experience was equally as great. The service was impeccable. Even the buffet which usually has less than appealing food on other ships we have been on was great. And the service excellent. Entertainment: We found the casino to be fun. The slots were not too tight as we had heard. Actually, there were a couple of big winners. My husband actually won and we did break even. The shows were good, the cruise director and staff were funny, fun, and always had activities going on. The Wheelhouse Bar had great music, the Explorer's Lounge had fun Karaoke, Crooner's Martini Bar had great drinks. The SPA was a wonderful experience. Auro the Spa manager was wonderful as well as the staff. Dani in the salon cut and fixed my hair to perfection and my husband loved the facial and shave. We even talked our friends into trying out some of the services. We all agree they were great. The excursions were good for the most part. Just wish that there was more time as in some ports we really felt rushed. However, we saw the reviews of each port on TV on the ship's channel and pretty much knew what to expect. The Tour manager did a great job explaining the excursions and was very candid. I am glad I had booked them prior to going on the trip. We did not dock in Huatulco due to weather conditions so we missed that port. Better safe than sorry. Photos: I love the photo shop. The staff is very friendly and they do a great job. Not miracles, but a great job. The only 2 things we did not enjoy were some very rude people(passengers). We were really impressed with the staff on how patient and kind they always were under these very trying situations. You just cannot please some ignorant people. The other, our luggage was late on the first day so we missed seating with our friends for dinner. All in all I would do this cruise again and again. What a wonderful experience. So, "Escape Completely" and take this cruise. The Island Princess staff will do their very best to make your holiday a wonderful experience. Read Less
Sail Date February 2008
My husband and I are in our mid-50s and this was our second Princess Cruise. We made our cruise reservations and booked all our tours through Princess. We handled our air transportation and hotel reservation in Acapulco (for one night) ... Read More
My husband and I are in our mid-50s and this was our second Princess Cruise. We made our cruise reservations and booked all our tours through Princess. We handled our air transportation and hotel reservation in Acapulco (for one night) ourselves. Pre-cruise: Having read horror stories about the Mexico City airport (and hearing many more once we began the cruise), we flew Washington/Dulles to Dallas/FortWorth to Acapulco on American Airlines. Flights were on-time and we were the only plane in Acapulco so we were through immigration and customs within minutes. Even through we weren't using a Princess transfer to the hotel, I asked the Princess rep meeting other passengers how much a taxi should cost. He replied $30 and said to make sure we got an official taxi. We did - and you pay for the ride up front at the airport and then just tip the driver. We stayed at the Acapulco Hyatt for $159 - one of the hotels Princess uses but for a fraction of the cost booking it through Princess. In its prime it must have been something but now it is rather tired (moldy smell in halls and bathrooms common in the tropics), and incredibly crowded when a cruise is ending/beginning. There aren't enough elevators for a hotel that size so leaving/returning to your room was time-consuming. There was one bright spot - the hotel's outdoor restaurant on the beach (I think it is called Pescador), had a very nice buffet and cheap margaritas. We took a taxi to the dock at 1 pm for $13 including tip. In Acapulco and at all our other stops, everyone took dollars. Embarkation: Even though our paperwork suggested arriving after 2 pm to avoid the crowds, we walked right up to the check in! Apparently, all the Princess transfers from the hotels had already been processed. We were on board within 10 minutes - spending about 5 minutes in line for the embarkation picture and another 5 minutes for the security picture. Ship and Staff: We knew our way around the Island since our cruise last summer was on the Coral from Vancouver to Alaska. On that trip we were in mini-suite D-712; on this trip we were in mini-suite C-708. The only difference was that the balcony on D-712 was totally covered - a good thing for potentially rainy Alaska - while the balcony on C-708 was 2/3 covered and 1/3 not - a nice compromise for someone who doesn't want to sit in the sun all the time. We like the location because it is quiet and while some nights there was some swaying, it never bothered us. The ship is lovely with workmen constantly working on her. All the crew - from those workmen to room stewards to activities staff up to officers - were cordial and greeted you when you walked by. Passengers: Ages ranged from twenties to eighties, and from family groups to singles; the average age was probably in the 60s. There were very few children on board and the one time we noticed a group of 4 boys in the Lotus Pool area (prominently marked 'for adults only') they never made it into the pool. I don't know if passengers or staff stopped them, but they left and went to the other pool. Dining: We had traditional dining, second seating, at table 189 in the Provence Dining Room. I'm including the table number only because you want to avoid it - it was secluded (at the back of the dining room on the left side), and had a lovely waitress but the air conditioning didn't work/was non-existent in that corner (it shares a wall with the kitchen) and by the end of the meal you had to leave just to cool down. That was the downside; the upside was that we had wonderful dinner companions (just one other couple at a table for 6). I would rate the food as good to very good. The first night the Maitre D' made dinner reservations for us at Sabatini's and the Bayou Cafe - both of which we had enjoyed on our Alaska cruise. We had a less than stellar dinner in Sabatini's early in the cruise - while the appetizers were wonderful, out of the 3 pastas served one was cold (and shouldn't have been) and one was way over-salted plus some of the fish in our main courses were overcooked. When our waitress and the Maitre D' asked about it they said they would pass our comments on. In fact a couple of nights later our waitress told us that Princess had received a letter of complaint that had been shared with the staff that echoes some of our comments and that orders were made to straighten things out. She also insisted on giving my husband a side dish of the pasta on the menu every night - and they were all very good (that coming from a first generation Italian-American who lived in Italy for 5 years). We enjoyed our dinner in the Bayou Cafe and the entertainment - a jazz trio. Entertainment: Before the ship even sailed from Acapulco, there was a Mexican music and dance review - wonderful musicians, dancers and costumes. We enjoyed the production shows and took the 'backstage tour' given by members of the dance group and the technical staff on the last sea day. If you're interested in the theater I highly recommend it. On that last sea day we also attended the 'cooking show and galley tour' offered by the Chef and Maitre D' - they produced a four course meal while keeping everyone laughing with their own comedy routine and then we all trooped through the kitchen. This is also a very worthwhile offering. Having had a wonderful experience last year on the Coral with the naturalist, we expected the guest lecturer on this trip to also be first rate. We attended only the first lecture by the husband and wife team - it was so excruciating we didn't go to any others. My husband (a professor in a former life) characterized it as listening to your neighbors go through their vacation slides/photos. I (an editor in a former life), wanted to scream every time (and it was many times) one of them would repeat the exact same sentence the other had said less than 5 minutes earlier. Spa: I had a massage on the Coral which was almost ruined by the hard sell by the masseuse to buy expensive products. I booked another one on the Island and as soon as the masseuse started to talk about oils or gels, I politely told her not to waste her time. So she didn't! As a caution: I had booked the massage on line and had a quoted price - and luckily I brought that piece of paper with me - but the price they charged me was $10 more. I realized that a couple of days later when filing away the receipt. I went back up to the Spa and the receptionist said that I was charged the 'right' price. I showed her the on-line booking and she took down a message for the manager. My $10 was returned the next day. Ports of Call: As I said, we booked through Princess so all I can comment on is those particular tours. We also aren't big shoppers so I don't have much to say about the markets. Huatulco - we went on the Huatulco River Float. There is more rafting than floating involved but the nine rapids are small (the guide said class 1.5 to 2 but that must be in the rainy season). It was great fun and we saw lots of birds (which the guide described), locals on the banks fishing and doing laundry, etc. It ended when we reached the Pacific Ocean and beached the zodiacs. Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala - we went on the Best of Colonial Antigua with Lunch tour. It included a lovely drive through the countryside - we even saw smoke issuing from one of the active volcanoes. We wish more time was spent on the historical buildings in Antigua. Instead the bus would take us just a few blocks from one location to the next which was time-consuming and left little time for exploring. The highlight of the tour (and one of the highlights of the trip) was lunch at Casa Santa Domingo - a sightseeing stop in its own right since it is a convent founded in 1642 with beautiful ruins, gardens, a museum, etc. A 'typical', tasty (best guacamole ever tasted by anyone at our table), and elegant lunch buffet was held in one of the gardens. The last stop was at a jade factory and shop. The ship's departure was delayed because some Princess tours were late returning - they hold the ship in those cases. Puerto Corinto, Nicaragua - there were only a couple of tours offered so we decided to treat this as a sea day. The ship docks at an industrial port - and something was being spewed into the air all day. Our balcony (which overlooked the dock) was covered in a fine particulate. It was good to see the crew the next morning cleaning all the balconies. Puntarenas, Costa Rica - we went on the Costa Rica's Favorites with Lunch tour that included an aerial tram (think ski lift with open gondola that has a floor and roof), short hike (saw an anteater in a tree), lunch (good but not great like in Guatemala), then a 2 hour boat ride where we saw crocodiles and over 16 species of birds. The guides were top notch - all botany, environmental science graduates/grad students. Panama Canal Transit - this isn't a tour (you don't get off the ship) but it is the highlight of the cruise. If you're interested in history and/or engineering, read David McCullough's The Path Between the Seas before you get to the canal. Get up early - we went under the Bridge of the Americas around 7 am. As others have stated on the Princess Board, and in fact crew members announced on the Island, go through the 'crew only' doors at the bow of the Baja and Caribe decks for a great viewing position. It is a fascinating transit. We ordered the Panama Champagne Breakfast and Brunch for Two ($28 for half bottle of good champagne, basket of pastries, smoked salmon, fresh fruit, and Alaskan King Crab Quiche) for delivery between noon and 12:30 which worked out well - we were through the first two sets of locks and almost through the Gaillard Cut. We then returned to the bow of the Caribe deck for the transit through the Gatun Locks. Don't forget to go the aft of the ship when going through at least one set of locks to watch what happens to the ship behind you. Cartagena, Colombia - we went on the Best of Cartagena and Fortress tour. Get off the ship here - it is a lovely city. The Old City, which we walked through, is full of picturesque narrow streets with old (renovated), brightly painted 2 and 3 story houses with beautiful balconies and flowers. You also get a beautiful view of then entire city from the two other stops: a fortress and a convent. Aruba - we went on the See and Sea tour. The first half was a sightseeing tour of the island with a couple of stops, all interesting. The highlight was the second half of the tour. We took a boat from the main beach (where all the hotels are) to a 'semi-submarine' waiting for us near the site of a shipwreck. We sat 5 feet below the waterline as we went over and around the 440 long wreck of a German WWII freighter. Lots of fish plus the wreck itself were fascinating. One of our dinner companions did a dive tour of two sites, including this one, and raved about it too. Disembarkation: 50 minutes from leaving the Universe Lounge to sitting at the gate at the airport! We had a Princess transfer to the airport and chose to pay the $15 each to have our luggage checked all the way through and receive our boarding pass in advance. We were told to report to the Universe Lounge at 9:20 - we arrived about 10 minutes early and took a seat (there were seats for everyone in the two groups meeting there). We were called promptly at 9:20, walked off the ship; waited for 2 couples ahead of us to go through immigration; claimed our luggage - nicely separated by luggage tags; waited for a couple of folks ahead of us to go through customs; placed our baggage in the United express luggage line; got on the bus and was en route to the airport by 9:40. We were at the airport by 10 am: asked at information where our gate was (the flight didn't depart until 1:45 pm so it wasn't posted yet); and then walked right up to and through security. It couldn't have been easier or less stressful! Read Less
Sail Date January 2008
We are a couple with 4 older kids (17 - 25)and this was our 3rd family cruise, 8th cruise overall for us. This was our 3rd cruise with Princess. Flights We were extremely disappointed with Princess air having 1 tight connection flying to ... Read More
We are a couple with 4 older kids (17 - 25)and this was our 3rd family cruise, 8th cruise overall for us. This was our 3rd cruise with Princess. Flights We were extremely disappointed with Princess air having 1 tight connection flying to San Juan from Toronto and arriving without some luggage. Our flights home involved 2 connections and 17 hours of travel time. Ridiculous! We will never fly Princess air again. The Ship The Island Princess is a beautiful ship and well kept. Our Balcony cabin was smaller than some other lines but quite adequate. Our children shared 2 interior cabins across the hall. Cabin attendants were good. Food We found the food in the Horizon Buffet to be very mediocre. Hence we made every attempt to eat in the main dining rooms. The service and food here was very good. Shore Excursions Aruba - We walked ashore and found many offering tours as you left the port. We arranged for a 4 hour tour in a small minibus for all 6 or us for $20 each that was excellent. Cartagena, Columbia - We went on a City tour with Princess that was very good. Our initial concerns with regards to safety were in my opinion ill-founded. The Old City is beautiful. I wouldn't recommend going with the Princess tour though - too slow; too many people; poor value. Find a tour company online; Puntarenas, Costa Rica - I arranged for a tour with okeydokeytours. It was a fabulous day. We went to see monkeys, zip-lining, to see Crocodile Man and shopping. The tour guide was excellent and we all loved it. It was $89 each but included the admission prices. The zip lining company offered a 'beginners' experience and it was a little slow for me. Puerto Corinto, Nicaragua - We took a Princess tour of Granada and the Islets boat cruise. The poverty was an eye-opening experience for all of us and a great opportunity to discuss politics and economics with the children. Granada is nothing special. Guatemala - We unfortunately had to miss this port because of hurricane force winds and flooding. We had pre-booked with Turansa tours who insisted on charging us for the missed tour in spite of flooding conditions and downed electrical wires that would have made any tour unsafe. A lesson to us and a warning to you! Huatulco, Mexico - A beautiful port. We walked ashore and rented seadoo's on the beach right beside the port. Then in the afternoon we had arranged for a catamaran tour with Princess. It was a great day. Panama Canal - It was very interesting however after the first lock it became a bit boring. We kept coming back to it all day long but it was impossible to spend hour after hour watching the progress. Acapulco - We left the ship and found a tour guide at the pier to took all 6 of us on a 5 hour tour and to the airport for $30 each. The tour was great. The guide spoke perfect English; we went at our own pace, spending extra time in some spots but going quickly through others. Excellent! A couple of things really bugged me about this cruise. The attendants pushing the drinks were very much in your face. Many times your conversation would be interrupted as they ask you if you would like something. The explanation regarding the decision to bypass Guatemala was inadequate. The ship was in the port almost at the pier when it just took off. The captains explanation minutes later was difficult to understand and had many onboard very upset. All in all far from my favorite cruise but good in many respects. Read Less
Sail Date December 2007
Eleven days on The Island Princess, from San Juan to Acapulco, via the Panama Canal. It was a lovely cruise, with many interesting ports, as other reviewers will no doubt tell you. The Canal more than lived up to our expectations: it was ... Read More
Eleven days on The Island Princess, from San Juan to Acapulco, via the Panama Canal. It was a lovely cruise, with many interesting ports, as other reviewers will no doubt tell you. The Canal more than lived up to our expectations: it was an amazing highlight! Our obstructed-view cabin was comfortable, the food was good quality and well-prepared (if a little "dumbed down" flavour-wise), and the onboard service - all of it, without exception - was wonderful. The only flaw in Princess service was Princess Air's arrangements at Acapulco. We stood - yes, STOOD with our suitcases - in line waiting for Delta check in for three and a half hours. The very pleasant Delta rep informed us that the scheduled flight had to go first, and we were "only" a charter (yes, that was his word). It was hot. I felt even sorrier for the elderly people in line than I did for myself, with my two recently-replaced knees. Delta was checking three flights in that day with only four agents, and all checked luggage was being hand searched. Did someone say "zoo"? I place the blame squarely on Princess for contracting to a charter carrier that could not do the job. Princess would not accept bad food from a supplier, but somehow this treatment of Princess guests was acceptable. It must have been OK with Princess, because the word from people in the know at the airport (and we had plenty of time to chat 'em up) was that this is a common occurrence. A word of advice: do not cruise in and fly out of Acapulco. Flying in may be better, but this was by far the worst airline check in I have ever experienced in my many years of worldwide travel. And I blame Princess. A Cruise within a Cruise The rest of my review will be about what I am calling our "Cruise within a Cruise". On the second evening, both my husband and I suddenly came down with a gastrointestinal problem - most likely norovirus. According to CDC, incubation for norovirus is 24 to 48 hours, but can be as short as 12. So we may have got it on the ship, or we may have carried it on as a stowaway. It doesn't really matter, we had it. Put it this way: thank goodness the bathrooms on Island Princess are teensy - we could use the toilet and the sink at the same time. You don't want more details than that, trust me. A welcome letter asked us to report any such ailment immediately, and we complied. We were visited by staff nurse Kenny within minutes. He was supportive, kind and good humored, but also very firm. If we were seen out of our cabin, we'd be put off the ship. Not that we wanted to go anywhere, although at one point "overboard" sounded good to me! (What's that old saw? "For the first hour you're afraid you're going to die. After that, you're afraid you're not going to die.") Thank goodness nurse Kenny did his angel-of-mercy thing and drugged us with generous amounts of medications that stopped the symptoms, and also put us to sleep for almost 24 hours. There was no charge for any of this. Service during our quarantine was nothing short of amazing. I cannot say enough good things about the kindness and the efficiency of the staff assigned to us. The mess, and it was a dreadful mess, was cleaned up and sanitized by specially-trained cabin attendants in masks and full hazmat suits. OK, there is something funny about that, but we weren't in a mood to be amused. They came several times a day and wiped and sanitized and sprayed and cleaned and changed linens while we lay semi-conscious in our beds. And at the end of the day they left us with … yes, chocolates. Wouldn't have to do without those, would we? And the large amounts of hold-your-nose laundry? All taken away in special bags to a special laundry and returned clean and pressed. No charge for this either. The room service menu we received was specially designed for gastric victims such as the likes of us. I think it was called "Light and Healthy", but "Bland and Boring" would be a better moniker. But it was very suitable for the situation: broths, jello, poached fish and chicken, boiled vegetables, rice, crackers, tea. In this case, bland and boring was just what the doctor ordered. And the most amazing part of all was that it was delivered almost before I put the phone down. In a flash! I guess they don't want desperate sick people wandering off to the Horizon Court in search of saltines. By the end of the second day, we were feeling much better and we asked the medic whether it would be OK to walk on the wild side and order something off the regular room service menu. When I did, the person taking my order put up a bit of resistance until I assured him that the nurse had said we could give it a try. Still, pretty good that he was double-checking. It was not fun. Our "Cruise Within a Cruise" was a big disappointment because we missed two ports (and a good friend on one of the islands) that we had really wanted to visit. On the other hand, we were back in circulation and in fine form for Canal day, which had been the point of the trip in the first place. After we were sprung from quarantine, we were asked not to go to the buffet for a day or so. Banned from Horizon Court? No problem. The dining room service was so calm and lovely, we chose to eat there most of the time. When we did return, we noticed that the hand sanitizer squirt squad had been reinforced. One note to self: throughout the "adventure" we were wishing, oh how we were wishing, that we had coughed the cash up for a balcony. That would have made our time in jail much more pleasant. Our unfortunate experience showed Princess at its very caring and its very organized best. Too bad the same could not be said of the contractor they chose for us at Acapulco airport. Read Less
Sail Date December 2007
This was our first cruise with Princess. Our last cruise was was on a "high end" luxury cruise line so we were concerned that this cruise might be a disappointment. Happily, that did not turn out to be the case. With one ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Princess. Our last cruise was was on a "high end" luxury cruise line so we were concerned that this cruise might be a disappointment. Happily, that did not turn out to be the case. With one exception, discussed below, this cruise was a delight. Dining - I will start with a dining evaluation because my wife and I really enjoy dinning. We thought the food on Island Princess was great. We used both the buffet and the formal dinning room with most meals being taken in the formal dinning room. We thought the meals generally reflected the skills of the ships award winning Italian chef. When taken in context of the attractive overall price of the cruise, the food on the ship was an outstanding value. Food service was excellent from headwaiter to assistant. I think the dinning room service was actually better than I have experience on some "higher end" cruise lines. Public rooms - The Island Princess public rooms were nice in the modern flashy sense of the word. The passengers seemed to spend a lot of time in the public rooms so they must have been answering a need. The paintings throughout the ship were nice. Cabin - We deliberately booked one of the smallest cabins on the ship. It was more than adequate. The interior decor was well done and made the cabin seem larger than it actually was. The only complaint would be the extremely small shower - a comment I heard from several passengers. A big plus was the excellent cabin service that greatly enhanced the enjoyment of the cruise. Fitness and Recreation - I made frequent trips to the gym. I thought it was plenty large and well equipped. The views from the gym were nice. I never found it to be crowded on any visit. Shore Excursions - At most ports there were a wide range of excursions ranging from very active to simple shopping trips. For the most part, these excursions were reasonable well done. The tours in Nicaragua and Guatemala disappointed some of the passengers because both countries have developing economies. I enjoyed both countries - particularly the coffee plantation visit in Guatemala. On the first day, getting the crowds off the ship to the proper excursion was a bit of a problem. After the first day, things we better. Enrichment - Princess deserves an A plus for having a decent enrichment program. On board lecturers made several presentations that greatly enhanced the enjoyment of the cruise, particularly the trip through the Panama canal. The lecture program was not as good as on the late and much lamented Swan Hellenic line, but they were decent. Entertainment - This was a high point on Island Princess. The broadway musical style production shows were well done and very well attended by the passengers. It was really nice that, in addition to the big shows, the other entertainment was really good. The ship piano players were exceptionally good and we particularly enjoyed Brendan Jones who played in the Crooners Bar at night. Service - As previously stated the service was outstanding in both the dinning room and the cabin. Our cabin steward was great. I will add the bar service to the list of great service. From warm brandy sniffers to champagne opened with style, these guys did their job well. Embarkation - Getting on the ship was great. We went down a day early and stayed at the Fairmont Princess (a very nice experience). The Princess staff set up a pre-boarding procedure at the hotel the night before the cruise. It worked great. All we had to do the next day was ride the bus to the ship, pick up a few papers, and walk on board (in time for a great lunch). Disembarking was the one real problem with the cruise. It was a disaster. Communication from the staff on disembarkation procedures had been minimal. What was communicated showed an unexcutable process. In the end, crowds of people stood around for hours and became angry. This was an unfortunate ending for an otherwise great cruise. Princess needs to fix this problem. Unfortunately, I heard many passengers say that the experience getting off the ship had permanently soured them on Princess. Overall Value - Setting the disembarkation problem aside, I thought this was a great cruise - overall and in terms of value for the money. We would do Princess again. However, it would help to learn that they had fixed the problem with getting people off the ship. Read Less
Sail Date November 2007
This unique 19 day itinerary from LA to the Panama Canal and back was our best cruise so far with Princess. Thanks to the skill of Captain Andrea Poggi, it was the smoothest ride as he steered around the worst of the weather. There were ... Read More
This unique 19 day itinerary from LA to the Panama Canal and back was our best cruise so far with Princess. Thanks to the skill of Captain Andrea Poggi, it was the smoothest ride as he steered around the worst of the weather. There were several tropical storms in the area, but they did not impact our trip. Course changes were done by small amounts and we were not aware of directional changes at all. We flew into Long Beach, preferring the simplicity of this smaller airport over LAX. Our transfer to San Pedro was quick, and we were through the boarding process and in our cabin by noon. We had a lot to see the first day out as there were large groups of whales and dolphins around the ship. We had a good view of Los Arcos as we arrived in Cabo San Lucas, but took a boat ride for a closer view of the beaches and sea lions followed by a driving tour of the city to an overlook with a beautiful view of the bay. In Acapulco we chose to walk around the port rather than take an organized tour. Many who bought a cliff diver tour realized they were being shown the cliff, but the divers only performed at certain times. The pretty port of Huatulco was next, and there were dolphins and rays swimming around the ship in port. The nine bays were picturesque and we hope this port will remain unspoiled. We took a nature walk to a preserve, enjoying sights of many birds. Another day brought us to Puntarenas, Costa Rica. We toured the macaw sanctuary, enjoying flocks of free-flying birds and then a boat tour down the river to the ship. There was a large craft sale area along the black sand beach. Next was the Panama Canal, and we went through the locks all day enjoying the sights and the wildlife. Spending the night near the Pacific end of the canal, we moved to Fuerte Amador the next day and did some shopping. Most bought Panama hats (from Ecuador) as souvenirs. Puerto Corinto, Nicaragua was skipped, and the speculation was common as to why we did. We motored on to Puerto Quetzel, Guatemala, docking at a freight terminal with free shuttle buses to the created shopping area nearby. The stalls were filled with colorful weavings and handcrafts. Silver, jade jewelry, weavings and clothing were popular. Zihuatanejo was skipped by many due to a foul up by Princess. The short port call (10-3) with tenders was badly handled and delayed our departure until 4:30. This left a bad feeling with many, and may have led to the rare chocolate buffet at 10 PM the next night! Puerto Vallarta was my husband's chance to take a zip line tour, and he said it was wonderful fun and professionally handled. My city tour was not the shopping venue I wished for. Back in San Pedro we had a quick departure. During the cruise, our room steward became forgetful and did not replace dirty towels and glassware as she was heading home after this cruise. This was the first animal towel cruise. Swans made of Princess blue striped towels made a nice heart shape but would have been better in white towels. The other animals were just a nuisance that we had to deal with. Maybe the few kids on board liked them, but the average ship's age was over 65 with many in their 80s. Wheelchairs, scooters and walkers were plentiful. Island Princess has all balconies stepped out the same amount, with each one covered by the one above. Corridors jogged in and out to accommodate the different sizes of cabins, making for quieter cabin areas. Food was mediocre like other cruises. We ate all meals in Horizon Buffet preferring to choose our own portions and dine by a window. The carvery (beef, ham, turkey, pork, filet mignon, etc.) was great, but the go withs like gravy were hard to find. Odd spices were put into the potatoes, and the chicken kiev was cut in half, releasing the butter nugget into the pan. Something is lost in translation from French chef to Italian cook to Indonesian servers. To celebrate my husband's birthday we dined in Sabatini's, paying $20 per person gratuity. The entrees were good, but the appetizers were not what we would have liked, and the menu was fixed. However, my husband felt special with all the attention, and it made his day nicer. We give a 10 to the captain for this trip, a 3 to hotel for the mixed service, and a 0 to Cruise Director staff for openly making rude comments about passengers. Why they pay people to force the macarena and conga on passengers is beyond me. They want people to do stupid things for the video of the cruise that they sell. Again, the itinerary drew us, the safety and skill of the captain impressed us, but the hotel let us down so we give it a 4. Read Less
Sail Date September 2007

Top Island Princess Itineraries

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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