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1,184 Princess Island Princess Cruise Reviews

Getting on the ship was one of the quickest and simplest we have ever experienced. Gave embarkation a 10. The embarkation staff was very friendly and quickly moved everyone thru. Of course what would an embarkation be w/o a few pictures. ... Read More
Getting on the ship was one of the quickest and simplest we have ever experienced. Gave embarkation a 10. The embarkation staff was very friendly and quickly moved everyone thru. Of course what would an embarkation be w/o a few pictures. The ship was very clean inside and out and nicely decorated.. We had a great balcony room on the Caribe Deck. Balcony was very large compared to other ships we have sailed on though gets our vote for the smallest shower. Disappointed we didn't have one towel animal. We opted for Anytime Dining which turned out to be a success after we met Mario. We tried to make a reservation for a party of 10 for around 6:30 and the hostess told us we could only do that for 5:45 or 7:45 and we explained that we had wanted to dine anytime not at the 1st or 2nd seating and she said that was not possible so we requested to speak to the Head Maitre D. Our waiter (Misha) and Assistant (Homer) were the best. They made our dinner every night a very enjoyable experience. The food was good, presentation excellent. Buffet was ok. Cruise Director - Did we have one on the ship??? I have to say in all of our cruises - this is the 1st time we never saw the cruise director during the day - He only came out at night. Would give you a quick hello and move along - Never saw him speaking to passengers to see if they were having a good time or if there was anything that he or his staff could do. Very disappointed in that. Entertainment was good - they tend to repeat shows over 2 days to allow those that do free style dining to see them. I was disappointed that there was not more entertainment at poolside. The string quartet at the afternoon tea was excellent.. There was a lot of live music throughout the ship in various lounges. Not much for the 20-30 age group to do at night in the way of dancing. There is an area of the ship called the Sanctuary where it was quiet, with a small fresh water pool, oversize thick padded deck lounges and chairs and cabana's. This area can be rented by passengers for $10 1/2 day or $20 all day. A little pricey but if you really want peace and quiet this is the area to go. Aruba: The stop at this great port is too short. Since we have been to this great island many times we just opted to walk around town. Unfortunately we docked at 7am, stores opened at 10 and we had to be back on the ship by 11:30 - certainly not a lot of time.. Cartagena: We did the Mud Volcano Bath - A fun experience. Those that toured the city/fortress were bombarded by vendors. Panama: We stayed on our balcony for the 1st trip thru the locks which was very enjoyable. Having heard horror stories from those that took excursions we opted to just chill out on Gatun Lake which as a very wise decision. On the return transit we had a great view from the front of the ship. Costa Rica: My husband and daughter did the zip line tour which they enjoyed and I did the Canopy Rain Forest tour with lunch - a very long day but well worth it. Ocho Rios: Shaw Gardens, Beach and Dunns River Falls - The gardens were spectacular, and our human chain link walk up the Falls was an adventure I will never forget. There was little time for shopping when you are on these excursions. Disembarkation was just as easy as getting on the ship. 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
After three Canal cruises aboard the Coral Princess, we decided the Island Princess was our choice for spring of 2009. Previously, Cartagena, Colombia had been removed from the itinerary for security reasons. We were anxious to see if we ... Read More
After three Canal cruises aboard the Coral Princess, we decided the Island Princess was our choice for spring of 2009. Previously, Cartagena, Colombia had been removed from the itinerary for security reasons. We were anxious to see if we would indeed finally reach South America aboard the Island. Any fears we had were reduced after reading a recent Chicago Sunday Tribune travel article on Cartagena. The historic city was once again welcoming cruise ships! As we routinely fly from Minneapolis the day before embarkation, we arrived in Fort Lauderdale mid-afternoon. The free shuttle bus to the Holiday Inn Express on State Rt. 84 arrived a few minutes after we announced our arrival at the airport. The desk staff offers take out menus for nearby restaurants and our Italian pasta arrived within a reasonable time. We ate in the breakfast area and then sat at poolside until we got chilly! Embarkation day was busy at the Holiday Inn. Shuttle service to the pier is again free (during the oil crisis, a $7 surcharge had been added but now removed - Hurrah!) and the crowd of people anxious to board one of the eight ships in port caused us to sit patiently in the breakfast area until the lobby thinned out. We were able to board the shuttle at 12:30 pm and minutes later went through security and received our cruise cards and boarded the Island Princess a little after one o'clock. We had booked a balcony cabin, Baja 404. Our 20 year old son accompanied us on the cruise and he was destined to sleep in the drop down berth above our bed. It took awhile for our luggage to catch up to us and so we went up to the Horizon Court for a light lunch buffet to tide us over until dinnertime. We met our steward, who didn't impress us much. He did possess a command of English but he seemed to be preoccupied. A request for ice in the icebucket gave us icewater in the refrigerator. When I asked for a replacement shower curtain, one was ordered and hung within that day. The length of the original curtain was so short that the water from the shower was all over the floor of the bathroom. I was pleased we received a decent replacement in such a short time. Once we returned to our room and began paging through the Princess Patter, a knock was heard and our son opened the cabin door. "Surprise!" Our friends from the Toronto area (whom we had met on the Sun Princess in March of 2007, and sailed with us on the Emerald Princess in March of 2008) had booked passage aboard the Island without telling us. We couldn't have been more pleased to see them as we enjoy each other's company immensely. This was going to be a great cruise!! We always select "Anytime Dining" and made our way to the dining room around 6 o'clock. We recognized a head waiter (Marius) who had sailed on our last Coral Princess cruise to Alaska in August of 2006. We renewed acquaintances with him and he immediately stepped up to be sure we were satisfied with both our waiter and the menu. Chalee of Thailand was our waiter throughout the cruise. He was friendly, knowledgeable and most of all, efficient and eager to please us. Marius stated we could have the same table if we would like to arrive around 5:45 each evening. Although this defeats the purpose of "Anytime Dining", most people were making reservations to assure the same table and wait staff. We heartily agreed. The first thing we noticed as we people-watched that evening was the average age of the cruiser. The ship seemed to draw a more mature crowd, mostly senior citizens and very few children. We figured the pool would not be a noisy place to visit and we made plans to do just that on our first sea day. We always enjoy the meals offered in the dining room, not just dinner but also breakfast and lunch. A simple soup and salad is elegantly served at lunchtime. We're long past the buffet and only eat there when we have an early port excursion. We did notice the dining room portions are smaller, but the waiter has no problem with bringing you another entree (or another dessert) if you have enough room to enjoy it! We were lazy on the first two days at sea, playing morning and afternoon trivia, napping and relaxing. A visit to the ship's casino discouraged us from long-term playing, as the machines were quite tight. We both enjoy slot machines but the antiquity and lack of variety of machines made our visit short. We did choose the Bayou Cafe for dinner one evening. We've never gone to the Bayou before, as the "cajun" food has always scared us away. The Bayou is also the ship's steakhouse and we enjoyed a well-prepared meal served by a very friendly Colombian. He answered lots of questions we had concerning Cartagena. We were definitely ready to visit this port. Our first port was Aruba. We had no plans for excursions, since we've visited this port previously. Our stay was short, from 7 am til 2 pm, so we disembarked and walked around a bit. We stopped at the close-by Crystal Palace casino to try our luck. We stopped for a cool drink at one of the local bars and headed back to the ship long before we left for Cartagena. We were excited when we woke the next morning and arrived in Cartagena. We chose to visit the La Popa monastery, which included a short city tour and stops at a couple of shops. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable on Colombian history and made our tour very enjoyable. We were unable to spend a lot of time at the monastery, as many tour buses were coming and going. Marcos, our guide, was constantly checking our group to be sure we were staying together. Riding through the old part of Cartagena was also very interesting. Homeowners must promise to keep the homes as they looked many years ago no remodeling allowed on the outside! Our tour was much too short. We were warned about not drawing attention to ourselves while touring. Jewelry and watches were to be left safely on the ship. The street vendors tended to be aggressive (anxious to get that tourist dollar, I guess) but a firm "no thank you" usually did the trick. Our son is a Spanish major in college and his knowledge was extremely helpful in all the Spanish speaking ports we visited. We felt quite safe in Cartagena, especially since we saw so many military police scattered on the streets, armed and ready, if necessary! We'd love to return and extend our visit in the future. Going through the locks of the Canal calls for an early wake-up call the next morning. Rail space is at a premium and you don't get the full impact of what the Canal is all about if you can't see the gates swing open and the water rushing in to raise the ship. We went through a partial transit, which meant 3 of the locks. We then cruised in Gatun Lake and were able to see other ships going through the locks. After a few hours, we went back through the locks and docked at Cristobal, where we met up with those people who had gone on excursions that morning. There is a huge outdoor market, with many crafts available for purchase. The Embara Indians also had items for sale. Traditionally, the female members of the tribe are topless, which is usually mentioned by cruise staff to guests so they won't be shocked. Only two women were topless; every other female wore a bra-type top. It's always fun to shop this market and barter for the best deal. Since we've done this route previously, we did not book any other excursions. Docking in Limon, Costa Rica offered us the opportunity to shop their outdoor market. I was able to purchase more than 4 pounds of coffee beans for $24. I was quite pleased! We know to shop the market in the early morning because the temperature and humidity can cause a lot of discomfort if you wait til the afternoon. Our final port was Ocho Rios, Jamaica. My husband and son disembarked to peruse the local liquor store but I opted to stay aboard and catch up on my reading. We have cruised only Princess and do not go to many of the evening shows because we have seen them already. We did see the Motown review, which was good, but the songs selected are the usual Motown hits, which have been overdone through the years. We did not go to see the comedian, as we've seen him several times before (Billy Vader) and altho we were encouraged by the by-line, "New Material", we opted not to see him. I usually try to see the movies offered on the ship and was pleased to have the opportunity to see "Changeling". We went to the Universe Lounge one evening to see "Slumdog Millionaire" but had to walk out after a few minutes. The brutality and violence toward the children made it unbearable to watch. Several other older ladies walked out as well, sharing our feelings. There were more movies shown, but not at convenient times. I know you don't board a cruise ship to watch movies, but I feel the selection should be available at more convenient times. The only downer was the arrival of the Norwalk virus in the middle of our cruise. It is unfortunate that some passengers are thoughtless enough to board the ship sick. We heard the buffet was no longer self-service. Areas were wrapped in saran wrap and a worker was placed at each food station to spoon out the desired food. In the dining room, the tables were bare no salt/pepper, rolls or butter, cream or sugar. Waiters poured the cream, handed you one package of sweetener, etc. This slowed down their efficiency at serving each meal. We heard people had been sick right outside the dining room one afternoon. The captain appealed to those sick passengers to contact the ship's doctor for a free exam. We wonder how many people took advantage of that offer! Our ten days flew by. The new disembarkation procedure works well. By the time we arrived at the Wheelhouse Bar, which is the location for Platinum and Elite members to remain until time to disembark, the Captain's Circle hostess had already called our number so our stay was all too brief. Our ride to the airport was speedy. We did redistribute the items in our suitcases and each bag weighed in under 50 lbs. The midwest was experiencing severe rain storms and our flight left a little late that afternoon. We arrived in Minneapolis a few minutes later than scheduled but all in all, we had a great time on the Island Princess and would heartily recommend that ship and that itinerary to everyone!! We booked two additional cruises one in August to Canada/New England on the Caribbean Princess and our first as Elite members, in March of 2010 on the Ruby Princess. Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
Getting on the ship was fast and easy. Right away I noticed the staff was friendly, helpful, courteous and remained such the entire cruise. The ship was very clean inside and out. Our balcony cabin was about the right size with lots of ... Read More
Getting on the ship was fast and easy. Right away I noticed the staff was friendly, helpful, courteous and remained such the entire cruise. The ship was very clean inside and out. Our balcony cabin was about the right size with lots of storage space for the suitcases. Small shower but adequate. The cabin stewardess was the best we ever had. Our cabin D310 was located on Deck 9 on the end of the regular balconies and the beginning of the Mini-suit balcony row. This was the first time we did open seating dining. The waiters were good but we noticed we did not get the personal attention we are used to. On future cruises, regardless of line, we will go back to the main seating whenever possible. It is sad to say but the quality of the food is down on this price class of ships, RCCL, Princess, Costa, etc. The food was good, presentation excellent, but not what you used to get on these price class lines but that's todays cruising world. Now if you want a great eating experience go to Sabatini's specialty restaurant. For $20 you'll get a real treat. Bayou is also great. Buffet was good, we had one dinner meal there, breaded pork chops was the main entree, very good. We used room service a lot, probably more than all our other cruises combined. Excellent service, the longest we waited was ten minutes after calling. If you ordered breakfast for 7-7:30am it was there at 7:00 sharp. I am not a show fan, my wife is but I went to most of the shows and they were very good and the better shows were repeated the next night. It is hard to get into the 8:00 first show. There was a lot of live music throughout the ship in various lounges. A string quintet played every night during the dinner hours. The show band was excellent. The average age of passengers on this cruise was early 60's, very few young children or teens. The main pool filled slowly on the four sea days but by 10:00am it was pretty full and you could always fine two lounge chairs together vacant (surprising to me). On three decks of the stern there was a area called the Sanctuary where it was quiet, with a small fresh water pool, oversize thick padded deck lounges and chairs and cabana's. This area can be rented by passengers for $10 1/2 day or $20 all day. Very relaxing and two days we used it is was less the half full. There were plenty of activities on board during the day and a number of lounges open day and night. As for the proverbial smoking debate this ship had a couple lounges with small smoking areas tucked away into a corner. Outside they allowed smoking on one side of the decks and it was allowed in rooms and balconies. The only place I noticed it was in some hallways outside of cabins where people probably were smoking. I did not notice any smoke smell in the lounges or inside or out or on my balcony of the ship other than I described. There was a cigar lounge, Churchill's, which was not manned (waiters from the Martini bar across the way came in from time to time) but open twenty-four hours. I went in a couple times in the evening for a cigar and noticed it was more of a 5 minute cigarette stop than a cigar bar. I guess it served the purpose of giving smokers an inside place to go day and night. The trip in the Panama Canal was great and a must for every cruiser to see at least once. Educational and interesting. Getting off the ship in Port Lauderdale was faster than getting on. All in all we enjoyed the cruise and the ship and the weather (All ten days sunny) which Princess doesn't control. Of our ten previous cruises I would rate this as better than average and would go on Princess again although we are currently playing the field. Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
We have been cruising for the past five years, usually aboard Carnival. Up until this trip, which was on the Island Princess, we always had nothing but great things to say about the crew and activities. This shop lacked both. The crew ... Read More
We have been cruising for the past five years, usually aboard Carnival. Up until this trip, which was on the Island Princess, we always had nothing but great things to say about the crew and activities. This shop lacked both. The crew was non-attentive and sometimes rude. They were very good at saying "yes" to your requests, but more times than not they did not give us what we asked for, or just ignored our request completely. We had anytime dining (which I would not recommend)this had to be the slowest dining ever, and confused wait staff. Typically, we went to dinner by 6:30 and did not get out of the dining room until 8:30 or later. When we asked to have a table for two, we were handed a pager and told it would be about 15 minutes. Well, 15 minutes always turned into at least a half hour or more and one time they even scratched off our names without seating us. This entire crew seemed to lack attention to detail and organizational skills. The food was average nothing spectacular stands out to report about. They didn't even serve lobster & filet mignon on formal night. We had an obstructed oceanview room (life boats blocked part of the view). All I can say is unless you enjoy listening to things banging up against the wall at your headboard never accept one of these rooms. While the sleeping area and clothing storage area was accommodating, the bathroom was less than desirable. The shower was sooo small you could barely turn around in it and my husband and I are both average size people. The water was very hot (even when using the temperature adjustment on the lever) there was barely any cold at all, so you jumped in and out as quickly as possible. The activities were geared towards the seniors (many of which were complaining there was nothing to do). Our society is living longer and much more actives lives than years ago. Bingo, shuffleboard, bridge, pottery and crafts, trivia and rated PG comedians just don't cut it anymore. There were NO nightclubs for dancing (well, not at least that played music for those aboard from the 70's and 80's). The best night was island night on the Lido deck it was wonderful to have upbeat music and to see those of all age groups having a good time together. However, the band, TREASURE which was featured throughout the cruise seemed to only know so many songs. The repetition also goes for the piano players and string quartet. While we made the best of it, it made for an extremely long 10 days (especially those 4 days at sea). PS: If you are gluten free; like I am lets just say it was slim pickens and not a great deal of accommodation. Read Less
Sail Date March 2009
This was our fourth cruise and our third with Princess.  We cruised RCCL in May to Bermuda.  We are 53 and 62 and believe that vacations are for relaxing, learning about other cultures, and meeting other people.  We are not connoisseurs ... Read More
This was our fourth cruise and our third with Princess.  We cruised RCCL in May to Bermuda.  We are 53 and 62 and believe that vacations are for relaxing, learning about other cultures, and meeting other people.  We are not connoisseurs but just enjoy being served and not having to cook the food that we are eating.  Overall, this was a marvelous cruise with a few glitches that bothered us but certainly didn't ruin our trip for us.  The best part of our cruise:  the wonderful people we met from Cruise Critic!We left the day before and stayed overnight at the Hampton Inn in Plantation. Very nice hotel with a free shuttle from the airport and also to the Port Everglades. The hotel allowed us to check in early and were happy to assist us in any and all requests for information about the area. There is a mall across the street and a Target about a 10 minute walk away. Quite a few restaurants are within a 10-15 minute walk including Red Lobster, Applebees, Olive Garden and other local spots. There is a Crown Liquor store about 1 mile from the hotel and is a welcome walk after a big dinner. The pool area is small but lovely, surrounded by palm trees and other tropical plants. We were able to sign up for their first shuttle which is at 11 AM and it took about 20 minutes to get to the cruiseport. We made stops to drop off others before we got to the Island Princess but each stop took less than 5 minutes. EMBARKATION Princess truly excels in embarkation. We arrived at the terminal at about 11:30 am and we were in our room by 11:50! The longest we had to wait was in the security line when we entered the terminal. After dropping off our carry-on's, we spent some time exploring the ship. We've been on the Grand and Caribbean Princess and the dEcor on the Island was very similar. To our untrained eye, the Island looked to be in very good condition. Next we headed to the Horizon buffet for lunch. Designed by a blind man seems to be the only way to describe the buffet area. The area seems to be much smaller than on the Grand or Caribbean and the placement of food islands in the middle just makes for confusion and and jam-ups in the flow of people through the area. The food was OK, but certainly not as good as what we had on our welcome buffet on RCCL. By the time we finished lunch and returned to our room our luggage was outside our door. We were unpacked and ready to start our cruise by 2 PM! This was the quickest we had ever received our luggage. Our Cruise Critic group had set up a meet & greet with Princess, and they reserved a section of Deck 15 for our get together including tables and chairs and our own servers. This was a nice effort on Princess's part especially during sailaway when they are so busy. DINING We utilize Anytime Dining as we hate to be tied to a particular time and table. We did notice that there were times when there were lines of people waiting for tables. As we tended to eat around 8 PM most nights with individuals we met on CC, we never had to wait very long for a table for 6, 8 or even 10. Only one night, when we wanted to eat around 7:15 did we have to wait over 40 minutes for a table. The food was good, not great, but again, if I don't have to shop for it, prepare it and serve it, it works for me! The service, however, seemed to be lacking in the dining room. Most servers just seemed to be going through the motions without any pride or joy in their job and were less than personable. And forget about after a small breakout of Norovirus and having to wait to be served rolls, butter and all those things that are usually on the table. One morning our coffee and eggs got cold waiting to have milk poured, sugar delivered and our eggs salted and peppered. It was annoying to have to continually remind both waiters and assistant waiters that we need more rolls/butter or remind them to bring syrup when you order pancakes. Geez, even IHOP knows how to do that. The buffet was better for breakfast than for lunch, but once the Norovirus broke out and no one could serve themselves, it become a logjam with all the waiters trying to serve everyone. We found that the best bet for lunch was at the grill - very good burgers, hot dogs and bratwurst - or the pizza on Deck 14. Great pizza with a nice crispy crust...delicious! The Bayou Cafe was excellent with well-prepared filet mignons and delicious lobster. It was worth the extra cost of $15. Several of our group did Sabatini's and while they said it was good with lots of food, it was remarked that better Italian food can be found elsewhere. ENTERTAINMENT The entertainment on the ship was varied and good. We enjoyed the productions of Piano Man and Tribute and heard that the crew talent show was outstanding. The magician/comic, Scott Alexander was good and the comedy of Fred Klett had everyone roaring; Billy Vader, the other comic, wasn't good or funny, forgetting his act right in the middle. Some in our group took advantage of ballroom dancing lessons, line dancing, trivia and special presentations. Everyone was happy with the quality of these activities. We made our normal deposit in the casino and here again there were issues with service as my husband complained that no one ever came around to ask if you wanted something to drink. He had to search out a server while playing. PORTS: ARUBA: Since we had only a short window of time here, a group of 12 of us took two vans to Eagle Beach across from the Amsterdam Manor. The charge was $3 per person one way. The beach was beautiful and empty (especially at 8 AM). The water was much cooler than we expected but refreshing. Very little wave activity. Lounges were available for $6 each and we were all able to secure palapas to sit under if we wanted some shade. There were restrooms available for use at the Amsterdam Manor and had we been there longer, we could have taken advantage of the bar and grill right on the beach which opens at 11 AM. We took the local bus back to the ship at a cost of only $1.30. Shopping area was quite crowded with a mix of high-end shops and locals selling their wares. CARTAGENA: For goodness sakes, get off the ship and see this beautiful city. Our group of 20 arranged a tour with Lee Miles. We had Doris as our guide and she was wonderful, sharing with us her love and knowledge of Cartagena. A large mini-bus was big enough to accommodate our group of 20. We were the first group at La Popa Monastery and had time to take pictures in its beautiful courtyard before it became over run with others from the cruise excursions. We then rode through the city to the San Felipe Fortress and climbed all the way to the top where Doris explained the rich history of the Fort and shared many secrets about its construction. After that we visited Las Bovedas for some souvenirs and headed to the old city to begin a one hour walk through the beautiful streets. We toured the Palace of the Inquisition and walked through Bolivar Square. Did we encounter locals trying to sell us stuff? Yes, everywhere, but a firm 'No Thank you' worked every time. At no time did we ever feel unsafe. We ended our tour at Pierino Gallo Center where Lee Miles has his emerald store. While you pay for your tour there, there is no expectation or pressure to buy any jewelry at all. There is a great little store there, "Coffee And..." where you can buy some good Colombian coffee and other souvenirs. Doris allowed more than enough time at each venue and we never felt rushed. PANAMA CANAL: The reason for our trip. The trip from the Caribbean Sea through the Gatun locks was amazing. When they say get up early to see it all, they mean it. We didn't wake until 6:30 AM and missed entering the first lock! Be sure to view the trip through from both sides and the front and back of the ship, totally different perspectives give you a much better understanding of what is happening. It took over 2.5 hours to get through the locks and into Gatun Lake. Here is where we ran into one of our glitches. We were scheduled for the Panama by Boat excursion which would take us all the way through the canal to the Pacific Ocean by ferry and then back to the ship by bus. This was the first of 20 excursions to tender off the ship and was cancelled 10 minutes before we were to leave. Princess's explanation was that there was too much traffic throughout the canal and we would arrive back in Cristobal too late. We accepted that and asked to be put on another excursion. We were told by a member of the shore excursion staff that we were stuck on the ship; they could not accommodate us on any other excursion. When pressed about trying to do something for us, we were rudely told to get out of the way. While we understood the traffic explanation we were very upset being treated the way we were and not being able to see what we had traveled so far for. Our outrage took us to passenger services where they did what they could and offered us the opportunity to put in writing our complaints. These were addressed by the tour office and onboard credit was issued to all who had booked the excursion. I am sure this tour has been cancelled in the past and believe that Princess should have some type of alternative plan as one cannot just walk off the ship and grab a taxi to learn about the local culture. So, we stayed on the ship for 6 hours as it went back through the locks and got off to shop at the market on the pier in Cristobal. LIMON, COSTA RICA. Here we had prebooked an excursion with J.J. He met us at the pier exactly as he had said with a large luxury passenger bus for 18 of us. He has a vast knowledge of Costa Rica and you can tell he loves his country. Our first stop was a local fruit stand on the side of the road where we sampled locally grown organic bananas, star apples, oranges, and the sweetest, juiciest pineapple any of us every tasted. We then headed off to a DelMonte Banana Plantation where J.J. gave us a full explanation of the growing, harvesting and packaging of the bananas. Who knew so much was involved in the production of this tasty produce! It was then off for a one hour tour of the Torteguero Canal by boat. We didn't see a lot of wildlife, some herons and other birds and some sloths up in the trees but it was beautiful. J.J. stopped and picked some flowers for us to see up close and also stopped at a friend's to show off his pet...a small crocodile that we had an opportunity to touch. J.J. then took us to Playa Bonita for a swim (beautiful warm water with some great waves) and an authentic Costa Rican lunch (casada with chicken) with good local beer. We finished with a visit to a local supermarket where we picked some good Costa Rican coffee at a great price as well as vanilla and banana vinegar. (J.J. has some great recipes that he shared with us!) Again, we were never rushed and what was originally thought to be a 4-hour tour lasted 6 hours. OCHO RIOS, JAMAICA. We had originally scheduled a private catamaran to the Falls and then snorkeling. It was scheduled for 9 AM. However, in checking my email on the ship it was discovered that the time was switched to 12:30 PM and as we had to be back on the ship at 3:30 PM, we knew we would be too rushed and cancelled. So that left us with a last-minute decision as to what to do. Along with another couple we chose the Chukka River Tubing excursion through the ship, and we were happy we did. It was a somewhat cool, overcast day as we left for our trip up into the mountains of Jamaica. As we glimpsed the river and its rapids through the trees on the way up, we knew we were in for some good tubing and the trip down did not disappoint. The rain, which began as we started our trip down the river, just added to the ambiance and beauty of the White River Valley. And those rapids were so much fun. The three guides on the river were extremely helpful and friendly. THE SHIP. The Island Princess is a beautiful ship that, other than the buffet, is beautifully thought out. It never, ever felt crowded. And while the average age on the ship was older, probably mid-sixties, there were a few young couples and children and teens. We never had a problem finding a lounge chair in the shade or the sun and were blessed with beautiful weather everyday except in Ocho Rios. DISEMBARKATION. As with embarkation, it was a breeze. We were off the ship by 9 AM and at the airport via taxi by 9:45 AM. This was a wonderful trip shared with some amazing people who we are now fortunate enough to call our friends. Given the opportunity we would definitely sail this itinerary again but would most likely choose to go all the way through the canal on the ship. We will also sail on Princess again, but after speaking with others, we will probably try Celebrity to experience a better quality of service. Read Less
Sail Date March 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
We embarked from Acapulco. We arrived in Acapulco two weeks prior our cruise departure and stayed at a small boutique hotel called the Villa Vera. This is second time that we stayed there and thoroughly enjoy it. The rooms are as nice as ... Read More
We embarked from Acapulco. We arrived in Acapulco two weeks prior our cruise departure and stayed at a small boutique hotel called the Villa Vera. This is second time that we stayed there and thoroughly enjoy it. The rooms are as nice as any place that we have stayed in Mexico and the service is very good. We waited until 4 o'clock to board the ship (boarding began at 1'oclock) and embarkation was a breeze. We virtually walked on. We dropped our carryon luggage in our stateroom and headed up to the top decks for a drink and to look around. Our stateroom was right at the front of the ship on Dolphin deck. It had no balcony but had some extra space because of this. We were very pleased with everything in it. The bathroom was a little small but this is a ship, not a hotel. The Island Princess is a beautiful ship, lots of wood and brass and glass. It took a couple of days to learn how to get around but it is set up pretty well to get to the main areas, the buffet and the dining rooms. We spent most of our time while on board sitting around the pools. We had no trouble getting deck chairs and it didn't seem that there was any problem with people trying to reserve chairs. There was lots of space around the pools so it seemed very comfortable. Our dining experiences were mostly positive. We sat at a table of eight, with another couple that we were travelling with and two couples from Britian that were travelling together. At our original table there was a draft from the air conditioning which made it unbearably cold and the dining room staff was very accommodating and was able to relocate us all together. Other than a couple of beef entrees the food in the dining room was very good. The breakfast fare in the Horizon Court (buffet) was good but not special. We did not partake in any of the ship activities instead stayed on deck and enjoyed the spectacular weather.We had no children along so did not use any of the children's programs. The service and staff to a person was very very good. We had no problem with any staff member and a couple were outstanding. Our room steward, Ruel, was fantastic. He worked around our schedule and everything was done without bothering us and done to perfection. Entertainment on the cruise was good with the highlight being the night that the crew talent performed. The head waiter, Hector and the cruise director, Billy were very good. We booked a number of shore excursions through Princess and they were all very good. We felt safe and quality of transportation and food was fine. The price versus the value seemed to be in line with what you should expect. Disembarkation went very smoothly and quickly. We chose to look after our own luggage and we were off the ship very fast and into a taxi within 15 minutes. All in all it was a very nice holiday and we thought a very good value for the money once the ticket prices and onboard tab were included. We would definitely cruise Princess again. Read Less
Sail Date February 2009
Island Princess Feb 22, 09 My husband and I (both in our 50's) just returned from our first cruise to the Panama Canal. This was a 10 day round trip from Ft. Lauderdale on the beautiful Island Princess. We have previously ... Read More
Island Princess Feb 22, 09 My husband and I (both in our 50's) just returned from our first cruise to the Panama Canal. This was a 10 day round trip from Ft. Lauderdale on the beautiful Island Princess. We have previously enjoyed cruises on the Grand, Star, Dawn and Emerald, but the Island by far has been our favorite. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale a day early and stayed at the Hampton Inn on Stirling Road. This hotel was about $20 more than the Comfort Inn next door that we stayed at in 2008 and was well worth the additional amount. The room was bright and cheery with plush bedding and a large bathroom. We used the hotels complimentary airport pick up service and also their free shuttle to the port the next morning. In the afternoon we walked about ½ mile to Kmart to purchase some last minute items for the cruise. That evening we walked to Michael's Pub at the Comfort Inn for a barbecued burger and draft beer. The next morning the shuttle transported us to Pier 29 before noon. The check-in process was unbelievably fast. By 12:30 we had dropped off our carry-on in the room and were enjoying our first lunch in the Horizon Court. It was pretty busy at that time and shortly thereafter we found the outdoor grill was open but no one knew. Next year we will head directly to the Grill for our 1st on board meal. Here is my commentary on our cruise, arranged by subject: Ship: For us, the Island is just the right size. There are plenty of entertainment and dining options, but it is easier to navigate than the other ships we have vacationed on. The promenade on deck 7 is the same elevation, unlike the larger ships that had stairs where you least expected them. The pools, spa, gym and horizon court were all easy to access from deck 14. The space/passenger ratio is higher than on other ships and this made everything more enjoyable. Whether you wanted a treadmill at the gym, a spot in the hot tub, a lounge chair at the pool or a seat in the theatre, it was available. The only "standing room only" performance I saw in the Princess Theatre was the culinary demonstration on the last day at sea. As a side note, not once did I see anyone at the newly added Sanctuary. Staff: The room and dining staff offered us the same high level of service we have come to expect from Princess. We thought CD Billy Hygate and his staff were great. Their upbeat attitudes made everything more fun. Room: We had a mid-ship balcony, B524. This was a very quiet location as there were only rooms on one side of the hallway. Each morning we had breakfast delivered to our room to enjoy the peace and solitude. Several days we headed to the large open deck at the aft of Baja deck. This was a great spot for reading and sunbathing. Food: As on previous trips, we definitely enjoyed the plentiful food offerings. Dinner in the dining room takes a little too long for us, so we often ate our evening meal at the Horizon Court and had our dining room experience at lunch. Dinner at the buffet always features a fresh carved meat and the catch of the day. I loved the stuffed suckling pig and prime rib and also enjoyed the cooked to order mahi mahi and tilapia. Daytime: I jump started several mornings by going to the free aerobics class at 8:00 a.m. It was ½ hour long and a good workout. The line dancing and ballroom dancing lessons were crowded, but still lots of fun. My DH attended several of the destination lectures given by Rusty Wilson. He raved about what an interesting speaker Rusty was, so I attended his lecture about his 5 month stay in Iraq. It was riveting. We also went to a few Wii challenges including bowling and baseball. I will be practicing up so next time I can win one of those fabulous "gold" medals. Evening Entertainment: The DH and I favor comedians over production shows. We saw a number of good comedy, juggling and magician acts. Our favorite was Billy Vader. We're not big classical fans, but we loved the classical concert by the Paradise String Quartet. In between shows, we usually participated in the nightly trivia challenges. We won tote bags at the "Majority Rules Gameshow", a fun twist on trivia. Ports: Aruba: The stop at this great port is too short. We went on the ships "Snorkel and Sail". The snorkeling was very good and the rum punch afterward wasn't too bad either. Cartagena: We choose to stay aboard this day. Fellow passengers that went on tours all commented on the aggressive vendors and begging children that affected their tours. So sad. Panama: We had a great view of the transit from the aft Baja deck. We disembarked and went on the Chagres River Cruise and Walk. The tour guide was wonderful and we saw many monkeys, sloth, birds and more. Costa Rica: Our tour to spend a ½ day at the Hotel Playa Westfalia was canceled due to lack of participation. There wasn't too much left to pick from, so we did the Countryside train and eco-cruise. It was a nice tour and included a visit to a banana plantation. It rained, which I now know it does each day in Limon, but it was only during the cruise on the covered boat. Ocho Rios: We walked less than 1 mile from the James Bond Pier to Island Village shopping center. We browsed through many nice stores and then made our way to Margarita Ville where the beer is ice cold and the nachos are piled high. My DH had to try the swim up bar and I have a photo to prove it. Summary: Last year we found the Emerald Princess much too crowded for our taste. The Island Princess is perfect to us. We are hoping to go on the Island in 2010 for the Ft. Lauderdale to Acapulco Panama Adventurer. Read Less
Sail Date February 2009
We began our cruise, 7th. overall and 4th with Princess, with a two day precruise stay in Acapulco. We chose this cruise as we had heard it was one of the great cruises to take, ala the Med, Baltic Sea and Tahiti, just to name a few. Our ... Read More
We began our cruise, 7th. overall and 4th with Princess, with a two day precruise stay in Acapulco. We chose this cruise as we had heard it was one of the great cruises to take, ala the Med, Baltic Sea and Tahiti, just to name a few. Our hotel was the former Hyatt Regency which as of Jan. 1 2009 became the Grand Hotel and Convention center Aca. We had stayed here in 1986 and loved it, the price was good so we chose to stay here again. Overall for a precruise hotel it was fine but sadly she needs some work. Tiles in the lobby were full of blisters, a new coat of paint here and there would go a long way and the AC barely worked. If we kept it running constantly at full blast and kept the curtains closed then it was just OK in the room and we did have it looked at BTW. Otherwise it was clean and the service was good as was the only meals we had here, the full breakfast. To use the fitness center expect a $5.00 per day fee. Acapulco is great for the variety of restaurants and we tried two of them. The first night was El Ovido which overlooks the ocean and as it was a nice night we dined outside. Overall we were quite pleased and would go again w/o hesitation. The next night we had a reservation for Baikal which has even better reviews. We arrived at 1845 for a 1900 reservation made by the concierge to find the door padlocked. I knocked on the door, made alot of noise but no one answered so we went to another place and again had a nice meal but was disappointed that we could not sample Baikal. Well we went past it on the way back and it was open! Go figure. Princess tells you to be there at 1300 for embarkation. Well actually you can begin at 1145. We arrived around 1100 and after first being denied entry we persisted and found a Princess ground rep who let us wait in an AC building with shops and restaurants so I had a Modelo Especial cerveza (aah!)and cooled off. At 1145 hordes of guys with baggage carts came in and we were on the ship about 15 mins later. Thats about as easy as it gets. Later we saw tons of folks in long lines, many of whom had taken a Princess excursion preboarding and it was pretty warm outside too. Gee, the AC in the cabin is great. Turn it down. LOL! Lets go over the ship now. First of all the public areas are very clean. The overall appearance is quite good really. Our cabin. A404, balcony was OK. The AC was very good but as we had three in the room space seemed a bit cramped. The shower was tiny and people of large size would find it difficulty to fit in I think. Our steward, Emmanuel from the Philippines was outstanding. He was efficient, always very polite, personable and willing to go the extra mile to please us. The overall service was outstanding. Princess seems to get this message across very well to its employees IMHO. Although I must say if you are nice to them then it comes back to you and we always try to be nice to them as we know how hard they work. Their shifts are long and they are away from home for a long time. We had fixed first seating in the the Provence dining room and three in out part of five had requested Indian food and here again Princess delivers. We had that every night and were pleased with the overall quality and variety. I give them high marks for their efforts to meet this special request. Our regular menu selections were very good and I give high marks to our head waiter Ana Maria from Romania and her asst. Roland from Hungary. She is a lively, lovely gal who you just take to right away. Pietro, the restaurant manager from Italy was great as well. These three made our dining experience that much more pleasing. We had lunch in the horizon ct. usually and it was good, not great. I do think the variety was an improvement over the AOS which we took last May though overall the AOS is a nicer ship IMHO. Princess pizza is very good. The performing group on this ship was one of the best, most talented group I have ever seen on any ship. However for the 1st time I saw that shows were being repeated on back to back nights thus eliminating the need for other "headlining" performers and thus cutting costs. Well you have to do something in todays economic world I suppose. As usual one can as busy or as quiet as you want. That is there are plenty of activities to keep you busy throughout the day. My one criticism is the timing for the 1st seating. It began and 1730 and the shows started 2015. I think the seating should begin at 1800 to lessen the gap as one had about 1hr. 15 min. or more to wait for the show after dinner. Disembarkation was a little weird but OK. That is we purchased the Princess transfers to FLL. We had to be on the Provence at 0745 and arrived there only to see a seemingly endless line of people leaving. This was our group! We literally were the last ones in line and had to wait about 10-15 for everyone else to file out. So much for being on time but I suppose I should have learned that In Acapulco. Anyway we were on the bus in about 45 mins. only to wait another 20 mins. or so for other buses to get to the airport and let them matriculate so we could avoid congestion. We had plenty of time anyway and had our boarding passes in hand around 15 mins. after arrival. Overall we liked this cruise for the canal itself. Its an amazing feat on engineering and I suggest to listen the the lecture on board before going through it. You will be astounded. The ports on the Pac. side are OK but don't expect the So. Caribbean. They just don't have that infrastructure. For example Guatemala in the only port I've ever seem where private excursions are more than what the ship offers. A ride to Antigua privately was literally double the hips cost. Also there is not any bar that has a TV so for our 27 yr. old son, well its not the So. Caribbean. Anyway his bar bill was about half. LOL! Also don't expect a younger crowd. Most people seemed to be retirees. Thats fine. I hope to be one in a few yrs. but then again know what to expect. Read Less
Sail Date February 2009
Who goes on a cruise to have a 5:30 AM wake-up call every morning? What we got on the Island Princess was tantamount to that. We were in A507 right next to the service elevators. Between 5:30 and 6:00 AM every morning the doors would ... Read More
Who goes on a cruise to have a 5:30 AM wake-up call every morning? What we got on the Island Princess was tantamount to that. We were in A507 right next to the service elevators. Between 5:30 and 6:00 AM every morning the doors would open to the elevators and we could hear the trolleys with fresh linens and other supplies rumbling across a ribbed floor (bumps to keep the trolleys from rolling about in the room.) The first morning it was so loud that I thought we had sailed into a thunderstorm. Then, the trolleys would be slammed against the wall and secured. There would be several of these delivered every 15 to 30 minutes. We complained to the front desk, but alas, there was nothing anyone could do except talk to the supervisor. It was a little quieter the next morning, but after that it was the same again. This was our sixth cruise, the previous being on Royal Caribbean Cruise Line and Holland America. We had been delighted with HAL, but we wanted a change of pace; maybe something between the party atmosphere of RCCL and the somewhat too quiet atmosphere of HAL. We were so disappointed at nearly every turn. The room seemed considerable smaller than the HAL room of about the same square footage. HAL used every inch for storage and gave us a nice living room type setup. It had a nice relaxing chair and love seat to sit and read, etc. The IP room wasted a lot of area. The only seat was one chair at the vanity. If you wanted to read or just relax, you had to do it on the bed. My wife and I are rather small. The shower was so small we could hardly turn around. One of the comedians said that to use them you rubbed soap on the walls and rotated. He was more right than wrong on that one. One would think that a ship built in 2003 would have taken into account that most people are much larger now than 1950. We are used to cruise ships finding creative ways milk every penny from us, but the Island Princess took it to absurd levels. As we entered the ship someone was trying to sell us a plastic cup for unlimited soda refills for $46.00. As soon as you were seated in any dining room, someone was trying to sell us a bottle of water. The ship's water was excellent and the bottled stuff could have never equaled it. Then the wine waiter came by. On RCCL and HAL, you could get ice cream on the desert bar in the buffet. On IP, it was an extra charge and a small Sundae was about $3.50 to 5.00 depending on how you dressed it. There were the usual art auctions, gambling, cocktails, and so on. But, one thing that really staggered everyone I talked with was the $150 for a tour of the ship. As we were exploring the ship, we were surprised that you had to pay $15-25 just to visit the aft deck. IP had created a nice lounge area with upgraded deck chairs, which was fine, but you could not walk through the area to get to the other side without paying. On all our previous cruises the suggested gratuity was $7.00-$7.50 per day per person. We were a little surprised to see that it was $10.50 on the IP. With the spotty service, I inquired about reducing it and was handed a long form to fill in. I inquired if we could specify that certain of the staff could receive more of the amount and were told that it could not be divided out. The food on the Lido deck buffet was very disappointing. We had breakfast there a few times and the bacon was as thin as a newspaper and dripping with grease. The food selection was very poor with very little fresh fruit, except melons and pineapple. On HAL, we enjoyed the different ethnic foods for lunch around the pool. On IP, you could get a slice of pizza (very good pizza at that) and that was it. On the other two lines, we could get a free lemonade at most of the bars. However on the IP, it was a battle to get a glass of lemonade. They only served it in the Lido buffet and you had to take a seat and get a waiter to get it for you. The time varied from 10 to 20 minutes to get the waiter's attention and the lemonade delivered. The service in the two main dining rooms was very uneven. One night it took us almost three hours to get our complete meals. Usually it was 30 minutes between courses. However, we did find a couple of very good waiters and when we started asking for their tables, things went much better. (Thank you Miska and Barbara.) I was very disappointed with the entrees. There was little difference in the selections of salads and soups from night to night. I was so happy to see steak on the list the last night. However, I was very disappointed in the preparation. I'm not sure how it was cooked, but it was covered with tasteless gravy. I found out why when I cut into it. It was tough and dry. Our cabin steward was very nice and called us by name the first time he saw us. His service was good and he anticipated our needs. I had a couple of requests of him and was served in less than five minutes. But, most of the rest of the staff members were cool, indifferent, or downright rude. The manager of the photography department was the rudest of all. I went to his free presentation on how to use your camera. The first thing he did was offer to clean everyone's lens. He had a microfiber cloth and he proceeded to take his thumb and rub ever camera lens vigorously to clean the lens. As an advanced photographer, I was tempted to yell out, don't let him ruin you lens with all that crud on that cloth. If any camera had grit on the lens, he proceeded to grind it into every lens he cleaned after that. I went to the photo booth where he was working and tried to ask him a question. He was very rude and just blew me off telling me that he was busy tallying the receipts from the previous night at the time. We were disappointed that one of the excursions that we booked about a month in advance was sold out. We went on the standby list, but were not able to go. That meant that by the time we found out, it was too late to book anything else that interested us. But, that is pretty normal on all cruises. Since it was a simple bus and walking tour to a downtown area, I would have thought they could have added a bus or two before we got there. The excursion office had very limited hours, so it was difficult to talk to anyone. One night, when I found it open, there was a very long line waiting to book excursions. Finally, one of elements I enjoy most on a cruise is the music. It was practically non-existent on the ship. I like the poolside live music on the RCCL ships and the lounge music on the HAL ships. But, there was little music and most of it was not all that good. By the pool, they played recorded music during the day. I enjoy country music, but I think others probably got pretty sick of the steady diet as that was what was playing most of the time. The theater productions were excellent. However, the theater only seated about 800 people and there were about 2,000 on board. They repeated each show three times, but two of those three shows began at 10:30 PM. Getting a seat for the 8:30 show meant going about 7:30. By 8:00, it was totally full. Since dinner went about 2 ½ hours, it was difficult to get there by 8 PM. Because they repeated the shows on two nights, we only got three or four different productions. The other nights featured a pretty good standup comic. There was a second theatre that had a juggler and some other one-man shows. One night they featured some big band sounds from a small combo, which was OK, but not great. On the plus side, the ship was immaculately clean. There was no wear anywhere and the dEcor and appointments were as nice as I've seen anywhere on land or sea. All the public areas were well lighted and comfortable. The service at the purser's desk was excellent. The person always listened to me and tried to meet my needs. This ship had the best embarkation and disembarkation of any I've ever been on. Usually they had two gangways working at every port and did and exception job of getting people on and off. I think our longest wait was maybe five minutes to get back on. The security personnel were especially friendly and helpful. I always felt safe walking around alone at night on the decks. There were security cameras every few feet around the decks, especially in the more remote parts of the ship. I would have to rate the whole experience 6.5 out of ten. Read Less
Sail Date February 2009
We flew from Toronto to FLL one day before sailing, and stayed at the Hyatt Place Ft. Lauderdale Airport. It was a good hotel and great location, with shuttles to/from airport and Port Everglades. Our only problem was a long wait at the ... Read More
We flew from Toronto to FLL one day before sailing, and stayed at the Hyatt Place Ft. Lauderdale Airport. It was a good hotel and great location, with shuttles to/from airport and Port Everglades. Our only problem was a long wait at the airport upon our arrival, for the shuttle to pick us up. If you choose to stay there try to avoid flying in at the time they are shuttling to Port Everglades (i.e. mid day), or else take a cab. We took the shuttle the next morning to Port Everglades arriving at about 11:30 a.m. We were, and I do not exaggerate, in our cabin by noon! They have the embarkation down to a science, and the fact that you can go to your cabin right away is wonderful. We had a cabin (balcony) on the Baja deck, midships. Great location and the cabin was as roomy as one could hope for...we had plenty of room for all of our clothes and even my shoes! This was the smallest Princess ship we have been on and truthfully we preferred the larger ones' layouts, for 2 reasons: we missed the running track (so we ran on the Promenade Deck instead, which was fine), and we didn't like the fact that the Horizon Court does not open up onto an open deck with seating. We found it quite claustrophobic in the Horizon Court and for that reason often took our breakfast/lunch food outside to eat, usually by the pool. But aside from those smallish issues we loved the ship, the cruise, the Ports, and the food. We had Anytime dining and chose to eat usually between 8 and 8:30 p.m. We ended up with the same table for 2 eight out of 10 nights....after a few nights it seems as though they held that table for us after 8 p.m., which was great. The food in the dining room was wonderful and even my somewhat picky eater husband always found something to choose, and always enjoyed it. We only ate in the dining room for 1 breakfast and 1 lunch...too slow and formal for me during the day. We enjoyed the Horizon Court food and for lunch I mostly would have a salad and a little something else. Almost always enjoyed a slice of Princess Pizza sometime in the afternoon to tide me over until dinner! Entertainment was mostly very good. One thing I did not like was the entertainment by the pool. Usually there is a caribbean style band playing during the day by the pool. On this sailing there was a single guy who I didn't enjoy. I took a couple of exercise classes (the free ones) but they were pretty lame. I did not use the Spa. I did buy a coffee card and enjoyed great coffee (brewed and specialty) throughout the cruise. Our first stop was Aruba. We don't normally book excursions through the cruise line but did here because we had such a short stop (morning only) we wanted to make the best of our time. So we booked a snorkeling excursion to the north shore, the only part of Aruba we haven't been to. Unfortunately the bus never arrived and the excursion was cancelled. So we really didn't do anything in Aruba, and it ended up raining most of the time we were there (our only rain for the cruise, really). Next stop was Columbia. Based upon readings I'd done here on CC, we just hired a taxi for a few hours...he took us to the usual spots and waiting for us at each, so it was not a tour. I think if I went there again I would like a more formal tour. But the walled city was very nice, although you are constantly bombarded with people wanting to sell you stuff (actually, junk). Just have to keep saying "no thankyou" and they go away. It's just annoying. Next day was Panama. Everyone was up early to watch the ship go through the locks (since this was a turnaround sailing we were only going through the Gatun locks). We got a great view from the front our our deck (Baja)...I think only 2 decks offer an unobstructed view, while most people chose to watch from the pool deck or higher, but on those decks you've got the windows blocking the clear view. They had a narrator on board from the Locks explaining what was happening and it was very interesting. We chose to take an excursion which combined a Gatun Lake cruise, and hike, and then a stop at the Locks to view the process from land. It was a great excursion..not many people choose this one but we loved it. We had a great Guide and saw interesting wildlife (monkeys, sloths, birds) as well as the usual flora/fauna. Spending time at the Locks was interesting as well. It was a great excursion and not as long as many of the others. The next day was Costa Rica. We booked privately for a tour that day and had a wonderful overview of the area from Okeydokey tours. We toured a banana plantation, saw monkeys in the wild, among other things. It was a wonderful day with a wonderful guide. Final stop was Jamaica. Again, we booked privately with Marva Shaw. And again, we had a wonderful day. We first went to Dunn's Falls and were one of the first there for the day. As a result we got a "private" tour up the Falls which means the guide at the Falls took the 2 of us alone without waiting for others. It was fabulous. Then we went river rafting - a blast! And finally spent an hour at a beach. All along we got great narration/information from our guide. Another terrific day. Another sea day before arriving back in Fort Lauderdale. Great to relax one last day. Disembarkation was a piece of cake and we were off to get our rental car for the day, before flying home that evening. All in all, a wonderful trip and we will be back on Princess hopefully before long. Read Less
Sail Date January 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
EMBARKATION: Near perfect. We followed the cruise lines advise and arrived after the main rush. Friendly porters were waiting at the street to take our luggage, 20 minutes later we were checked in and walking aboard the ship. Our initial ... Read More
EMBARKATION: Near perfect. We followed the cruise lines advise and arrived after the main rush. Friendly porters were waiting at the street to take our luggage, 20 minutes later we were checked in and walking aboard the ship. Our initial experience aboard the ship was only marred by the jammed central elevators. Had there been someone there to direct folks to also use the fore and aft elevators, this jam could have been greatly minimized. CABIN/STEWARD: We were very happy with both our stateroom and our steward. Our room was plenty large enough for the two of us, and our balcony exceeded our expectations, being big enough to easily accommodate 4 chairs and a small table. We had plenty of storage room. The bathroom and particularly the shower were somewhat cramped, but functional. Our steward had been with the Princess line for ten years, and was perfect. DINING: We were initially disappointed to find that we had been frozen out of the main dining room, and were instead assigned to "anytime" dining. We soon found that to be a blessing. The secret was to call the "dine line" early every day and make reservations for a shared table in the "anytime" dining room. We avoided the lines and ended up with the same experience as the folks with assigned tables, but we always got our choice of eating times and we always got to sit with a new mix of companions and meet new people. Meals were a leisurely affair. Supper took an average of 90 minutes. Portions were modest in size, but I found the several courses with the pleasant conversation between to be very satisfying. Service was occasionally uneven, but generally very good. We ended up ignoring the upstairs buffet and eating all three meals in that dining room. After two weeks of this pampering, we were very pleased to find that the damage to our waistlines was very minimal. There are two premium restaurants on board. The charge was $30.00 per couple, and worth it for one or two "special" evenings. If you are a coffee hound, this is not a great ship. Between mealtimes, the only free coffee we ever found was at the 14th floor buffet. It was quite a hike from our stateroom! You can also buy coffee at at least one of the ship's bars for $1.00 per cup. If you really like coffee, consider bringing your own pot, or bring a thermos and fill it at the buffet. ENTERTAINMENT: On a scale of one to ten, I would give it a "6", Princess is to be excused a bit in this regard because this is only a medium-sized ship. We only bothered to go to the evening show about half the time. Some shows were repeated over two days. All of the stage shows amounted to the same (very good) dancers singing and dancing to medleys of popular music. The only thing that really changed was the scenery and the mix of music. There was also a very good string quartet aboard, and two standup comedy acts that were very well received. TV/COMMUNICATIONS/INTERNET: The ship had several channels of TV, some delivered by satellite, and some originated on the ship. The main wart here was the CNN channel, which was apparently a middle east feed. It had a strange mix of news, and gave no weather reports for north America or northern Europe. As a result, when it came time to disembark, the great majority of passengers had no idea what weather to expect on their trips home. The ship does not have a cell phone system. Call/faxes aboard are possible, but would be very expensive. I was initially happy to find that we had WIFI coverage inside our stateroom, so e-mail would have been possible, but then I discovered that the ship charges 75 cents a minute for Internet connectivity. This is absolutely exorbitant! It is time for Princess to understand that the Internet has become as central to our lives as television. Television service is supplied in our room and is included in the price of the cruise; eventually Internet service should receive the same treatment if the cruise lines wish to remain relevant. DISEMBARKATION: The ship's disembarkation experience left us with a sour taste in our mouth. First, we felt "pushed" off the ship, having been assigned a 7:30 AM time for departure. We left without breakfast. Passengers were assigned to various lounges to await their call. The promised coffee never arrived, and more importantly, neither did any crew. There was no host/hostess in our lounge or the one adjacent lounge that we could see. The result was mass confusion. Once ashore, the process was more orderly and matched our experiences with other cruise lines. I want to close by repeating that we had a very good cruise the Island Princess and were overall very satisfied with our experience. 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
Pre Cruise - We flew on Delta to FLL and were picked up by friends at the airport who were taking the cruise with us. We stayed at the Embassy Suites the night before our cruise. This proved to be a great choice for comfort, services, and ... Read More
Pre Cruise - We flew on Delta to FLL and were picked up by friends at the airport who were taking the cruise with us. We stayed at the Embassy Suites the night before our cruise. This proved to be a great choice for comfort, services, and location. We had a short drive to Port Everglades the next morning to unload and park. We were the first to arrive at the terminal, and went straight to processing and boarding the ship. This was the fastest and easiest embarkation ever! We were in our room shortly after 11:00 A.M. Cabin - We had a midship mini-suite on the Dolphin deck. We have had this each time we have cruised with Princess and find it most comfortable. Our steward kept our room clean and well stocked throughout our cruise. Our friends had the room next door, and we were both delighted with the comfortable beds. We had experienced the new mattresses on the Star in June, and were expecting cement again. We were pleasantly surprised! We now know that all the beds are NOT the same. This could account for all the differences in opinions on the new mattresses. The only disappointment was discovering we did not have a connecting door to our friends' balcony next door. We usually cruise together and have found this quite convenient for getting together. All the balconies on the Island do not have connecting doors. Some do. We had never experienced this before on the larger ships. Dining - We ate breakfast and lunch each day in the buffet, Horizon Court. We enjoyed our meals here and never had a problem finding a table. My husband even managed to find grits each morning. He did have to ask for them, but they always had them. We had Anytime Dining each evening. We only had to wait a couple of minutes one evening to be seated. We had excellent service and enjoyed most of the selections. After having cruised with Princess numerous times, we are familiar with the choices, and know what we prefer. We did get lunch at the grill one day and enjoyed the hamburgers and hot dogs. Entertainment - We went to all the performances by the Island Princess Dancers and Singers. We had seen the same shows three times on other ships, but found the Island Princess performers to be the greatest by far. We also attended all the concerts by the Paradise String Quartet. We found these to be excellent and quite enjoyable. We were not impressed with the comedians on this cruise. I didn't find them funny - maybe I just don't enjoy this type of entertainment. We enjoyed a couple of the afternoon movies in the Princess Theater. We attended one Port Information Lecture which was supposed to be about the Panama Canal. It turned out to be about shopping in Aruba, so we didn't try others. We heard that some of the other lectures were quite interesting, however. Ports: Aruba - We walked around town and did some shopping. Most of the shops were closed because it was Sunday. Many jewelry shops opened just for our ship. We were the only ship in port that day. We saw shop owners closing and leaving as we were getting ready to sail away. Cartegena, Colombia - We took the Scenes of Cartegena tour. This included a visit to La Popa Monastery, San Pedro Claver Church, the Navy Museum, and a shopping stop. We had a difficult time seeing everything due to being pestered by vendors. I also had difficulty understanding our tour guide. She used enough English for me to catch a word now and then. I would have enjoyed it more had I been able to understand what she was trying to tell us. This tour involved walking a good distance in hot, humid weather. I wouldn't recommend it for those who wouldn't find this pleasant. Panama - We didn't take any tours in Panama since this was our first visit to the Panama Canal. We wanted to enjoy the experience of going back through the locks. We had friends who took the Panama Canal Railway Journey and really enjoyed the day. This was their second trip. Cristobal - This is where those who took tours in Panama returned to the ship. We were able to get off the ship and shop at the port. This was the best shopping experience on the whole cruise. You didn't have to bargain with vendors. Prices were marked, and you paid that price. I prefer to know what things cost and make my own decision as to whether I am willing to pay that price. Limon, Costa Rica - We took the Old Banana Route Railway Journey. This was a very enjoyable day. We had an excellent tour guide who spoke very good English. We understood everything she told us. We were fortunate to have pleasant weather. It wasn't too hot or humid. We boarded a nice bus to get to the narrow gauge railroad which was built to haul bananas from the coastal plantations to Puerto Limon. We took the train trip along the coast and traveled through plantations and lowlands. We saw many sloths, monkeys, and other wildlife. We then returned to our bus and went to a working banana plantation. This was an excellent tour. Ocho Rios, Jamaica - We stayed near the ship. This was not our first trip to Jamaica. We didn't feel safe the first time we visited, so we decided to stay close to the ship on this visit. We heard many folks talking about the ship tours they took and they seemed to enjoy them. Disembarkation: We went to the location for Platinum Members. It was a quiet and relaxing wait for our color to be called. There were refreshments available for those who wanted them. Summary: We really enjoyed this cruise as we have all our Princess cruises. I would not, however, want to take this cruise again. I would, however, like to go on another Alaskan cruise for the fourth time. I prefer to go to places where I feel free to explore on my own. I don't want Tourist Police to have to accompany me every time I leave the ship. That's why our next cruise will be Canada/New England. The Island Princess is a beautiful ship. I would enjoy cruising on this ship again to another destination. This was a very educational experience. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Transportation Our cab came right on time and check in at the airport was easy as it was the first flight of the day. We each checked 1 bag and easily got through security lines prepared to remove just our shoes and jackets with nothing ... Read More
Transportation Our cab came right on time and check in at the airport was easy as it was the first flight of the day. We each checked 1 bag and easily got through security lines prepared to remove just our shoes and jackets with nothing strangling from our necks or lurking in our pockets that might trigger an alarm. Lines seem to be moving much more efficiently with each and every trip we take! Snacks, drinks and tv were provided on all four flight legs with Jet Blue although it seems they're fazing out the Pistachio Biscotti as it was only offered on 1 leg of the flight and no longer listed in the snack choices. The terra blue chips are no better but the breakfast cookies or Doritos variety pack continue to be good choices for the hungry traveler! Headsets now cost $1 so it's best to bring your own. Jet Blue never offered quality headsets anyway. If you do plan to buy them, bring a credit or debit card because no cash is accepted on board! The free Ramada airport/cruiseport shuttle came within 30 minutes of my call to the hotel even though I was on hold for nearly 10 minutes. I had the number loaded into my cellphone so that I could reach them when we arrived. Apparently it's possible to call from inside the airport as well on a free courtesy phone. The shuttle was clean and the driver was courteous. Ramada Cruiseport/Airport Hotel in Fort Lauderdale We pulled up to the hotel and the driver told me there was no restaurants within walking distance. He was right. It was miles down a busy highway with no sidewalk to the nearest shopping areas with fast food or diner choices on Rte 84. Big negative to this hotel. Many of the other hotels on Rte 84 are right next to fast food or dining options but this one is not. Be prepared. No grocery stores. No restaurants. No pharmacy. The lobby is quite nice as it has been recently renovated. The check in process is so slow. It took 20 minutes to get the 2 couples ahead of us checked in. I'd never seen such a process. This was repeated on checkout when it took 10-15 minutes for each person to be checked out the next day. The front desk staff at the hotel really needs to learn to expedite this process to handle check in and check out more efficiently. The lines and frustration that resulted for many people made for an unpleasant wait in line. The staff is trying to answer phones, greet incoming guests, answer current guests questions as they interrupt checkin, arrange shuttles... it's all just a giant mess. We took a room that was not what we requested just so we could check in an hour early. We'd been traveling for 8 hrs already that day and we just really wanted to take a shower and get something to eat. It was disheartening to take a different room but we really wanted to cleanup. When we got out of the lobby towards the rooms the hotel began to show its age. The maid pushed a shopping cart with cleaning supplies to prepare each room. The hotel locks on the door could be kicked in with NO PROBLEM. It's not very safe. There's an in room safe but we just kept everything on us and didn't use us. We had to request that the charge for the safe be taken off our bill the next day along with the associated state and local taxes. BE AWARE! The pool was clean enough to swim in but the lounge chairs were ragged and torn. Due to the lack of dining options we ate lunch at the bar. It was the only restaurant open there despite advertisements that there was an indoor pub and sitdown restaurant on the premises. The lunch was fine. We spent $10/per person for 2 large sandwiches with fries. There is a variety of pub food: salads, burgers, and hot subs (philly cheesesteak, meatballs, etc) and they are all roughly $7/plate. Appetizers are $5/plate and include things like nachos, wings, and whatnot. We did not have alcohol there. The free breakfast in the morning is provided indoors in a restaurant area with cafeteria type buffet and seating. There was a variety of eggs, bacon, hash, sausage, grits, pancakes, donuts in 6 flavors, cereal (6 types including frosted flakes, cheerios, honey nut cheerios, lucky charms, cocoa puffs and cornflakes). There were four types of juice, milk, skim milk and coffee. There was just 1 attendant. The room appeared comfortable but had an awful smell. I slept in my pajamas. The bathroom appeared clean and the water pressure was alright. The room had HBO and we watched some movies and then went to bed early as we were exhausted. Embarkation Plan to check your bags at the curb and tip the guys out there. They work in the sun all day and our bags were onboard without a problem 1 hour after we boarded with a $5 tip for the two bags to the porter out there. We saw one couple try to take their bags in themselves and they were told that they were too large to take thru security and would have to go via the porters. Be prepared! We were on board about 15 minutes after signing a sheet denying any existing norovirus symptoms and handing over our credit cards and passports! Passengers on Princess are identified by their cruise card color based on how many times they have cruised with Princess before and also by the welcome sign on the door which is color-coded based on your previous number of cruises. We went to the dining room at noon for lunch. Our waiter was very unpleasant and gave very poor service. He never came back (20 minutes after we had finished everything on our lunch plates) to take orders for dessert or coffee and only filled our water glasses once. We felt very unwelcome and awkward. The ravioli with spinach and ricotta and beef tenderloin with gravy tasted good but we went up to the buffet to see what that was like for dessert. The entrees were different from the dining room options. We took 7 desserts and didn't find 1 that we liked. It was loud and chaotic which is not our style. We went back to our room and unpacked before heading up to Crooner's bar to meet the cruise critic group. They were a great bunch and we enjoyed seeing them around the ship throughout the cruise. Cocktails averaged about $7/each. At muster we were seated in chairs and felt the safety instructions and discussion were much more thorough than on our previous cruise. There was no chatting with neighbors during the muster presentation as there was on NCL previously! Room It was our first inside stateroom. It was large enough for us. The shower had a large grip bar jutting out into the middle of it so you couldn't stand easily in the shower. Very awkward. The showers were very cold too- never warm enough. Lots of mirrors. After 3 nights we finally requested an egg crate because our backs were aching and we realized the bed was too hard for us. It was very quiet…until the last night when the halls clamored non stop for 4 hours as staff moved suitcases between 1 and 5 a.m. before disembarkation ? The shampoo and conditioner provided were fine (but we had to keep asking for them as the days went on as they were NEVER restocked) but the lotion was not good for my sensitive skin which is used to Aveeno at home. Library Much smaller than NCL Sun but we each found several books we liked. There are a few newer titles and many old classics. There was not a great reference selection about the areas we would be visiting or about the Caribbean in general which was surprising. Dining Let me start by saying that the dining areas were lovely. However, the lack of hand sanitizing made us very nervous. We were used to being sanitized anytime we ate on NCL but found it was only being done on the buffet for the first few days on Princess. Eventually staff offered hand sanitizer anytime we ate but it was not as strictly enforced as on NCL early on which was scary! Despite the signs, shorts are permitted in the dining room. Jeans are ok for dinner too. We didn't feel that way and didn't know what we could and couldn't wear. We felt obliged to dress up more on Princess than we did on NCL. Formal nights required suits, cocktail dresses or tuxedos. We wore khakis and sundresses most days and nights that we went there because we were never sure if we'd be refused to service due to the signs. We enjoyed our waiter and wanted to sit at a table for 2 for dinner. We saw early on that although Princess offers anytime dining it is not the same as NCL due to a lack of restaurant choices so we reserved our table for 5:30 pm each night and had the same waitress for the majority of our cruise. She was fantastic. She made great dining recommendations to us and understood our likes and dislikes quite a bit by the end of the cruise. However, we found breakfast and lunch staff to be lacking the service-minded attitude and many seemed unpleasant or annoyed to be there. Perhaps the more experienced staff members work up in traditional dining? The buffet staff were always friendly and gracious as well and worked hard to make sure the food was well stocked and that customers found what they needed each day. The Pizza Bar on Lido deck is free and open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The pizza was outstanding 5/6 times. They gave us large pieces that were cheesy and oily. They had a great variety. It was always piping hot and fresh (except that one time!) and there was rarely a line at all. It was a great afternoon snack. Fresh baked cookies were an afternoon snack we only found 1 day but they were great. They were served around Lido Deck at the main pool about 4 pm when we found them. They were warm and chocolaty! Afternoon tea was disappointing. It was rushed. Quickly, everyone in to a table. Quickly, everyone suck down a few cups of Lipton. No choice of teas. NONE. Everyone gets plain Lipton piping hot. Here's a scone. Choose one cookie from the plate. Ok, that's enough. Did you enjoy the music? Thanks for coming but it's time to leave because dinner needs to be setup. Afternoon tea was distressing. We only attended once because of that experience. From then on, we went upstairs and made our own tea at the buffet because we had a choice of flavors! I'd read such lovely reviews of white glove service but saw none of it exhibited onboard Island Princess. Favorite food items: Brazil cake, mussels in ginger sauce, any ice cream flavor (they are sooo good!), beef tenderloin, au gratin potatoes, paprika potatoes, coconut soup, chicken liver appetizer, pasta y fagioli soup, prosciutto and melon, veal scallopini, tiramisu, any fruit offered anywhere on board, veal osso bucco, tortellini with veal and ham, NY aged steak, shrimp cocktail, jalapeno poppers, fresh berries, beef ribs, farfalle and goat cheese, minestrone soup, spinach turnover with bechamel sauce, filet mignon, escargots, corn chowder, French onion soup, lamb dijonnaise, banana nut pancakes, vegetable curry, lobster tails, and sponge cake! The special sushi, late night Island buffet, and dessert buffets were very disappointing both in selection and quality of the foods offered. Ports Aruba- no lines to walk off at 0700. The roads appeared to be paved with loose emeralds at first glance but upon closer inspection it looked like the Dutch influence was much too powerful and we were actually walking over broken Heineken bottles. We visited lovely Wilhelmina Park and the Simon de Bolivar statue on a 20 min stroll to the right of the ship up the street. And, to the left 20 minutes we saw the free zone trading area and visited secluded Druif beach where we were alone to swim and lounge in the sun for hours with only a few ships passing by in the distance. Heaven! Shopped awhile, got offered marijuana, most of it was closed because it was Sunday a.m. Cartegena- short lines to meet on the dock at 0900 for our Scenes of Cartegena tour. Quickly realized there was NOTHING but a Juan Valdez coffee stand at the port and lots of drivers to take people into town. We found our bus and visited San Felipe Fortress, San Pedro Claver church, La Popa Monastery and a folklore show with free "Aguila" beer all for $50! This was certainly the prettiest tour of our trip and the best value. We were not bothered by too many vendors. Best not to explain why you don't want the purchase- just "no thank you" and keep moving. They're salesmen and ended up arguing with many visitors who engaged them with any other response. ANYBODY you photograph costs money- the guy with the sloth, the girl with the burro, the lady with the fruit basket on her head. Be careful taking photos! Nov 11 is the region's independence day and we enjoyed seeing them decorated for the next day's festivities. WARNING: There was a 10 block walk so for anyone who cannot tolerate being in the sun for nearly an hour walking (it takes a long time to progress through the vendors and narrow streets) please reconsider this tour! At the shopping center Pierino Gallo I bought a coffee bean emerald at Joyeria Casa for $10 instead of the $30 requested by Mr. Emerald's shop for the same size. Mine is gold plated instead of solid goal. This area has extremely aggressive vendors. Panama Canal- my advice is to stay on the ship. You can get off later that evening and see folklore dancers, buy crafts from Embera Indians, taste Panamanian coffee, drink Panamanian beer and even take a cab into the city if you choose for up to 4 hours. We enjoyed this port very much but did not pay for a tour. At the end of the day you can get off for 4 hours at this port and find the best deals you will find anywhere of the trip. So many beautiful crafts are here. Everyone takes dollars. Nobody is aggressive. It was really our favorite shopping stop! As for the canal itself, we set our alarms early and were up sipping coffee on the deck at 0500. We utilized public balconies on deck 10 forward (and lots of raingear) for the morning as we watched the guide ships bring us up to the locks. Just as we were about to enter the first lock the rain cleared up and a rainbow appeared! It was so beautiful. The locks were so fascinating and fun to navigate. It really was a tight squeeze for this ship with bumper boats available for safety! After we had taken photos on Gatun Lake we enjoyed lunch in the dining room while tours left the boat. It was quiet and peaceful. We ate dessert while transiting BACK THROUGH the first set of locks so we got to see the window of the 5th floor change from sunny blue skies to a mass of concrete as the boat sunk deeper and deeper. Then we went to deck 15 aft and deck 7 on the side to enjoy a different view of the locks waving to the guys on the mules and taking even more pictures. On deck 10 aft we got to watch as we sunk down into each lock and got even closer to them than those who paid for the observatory tours (but not closer than those who ferry to the Pacific and touched the walls!) It was an incredible day and no tour was required! If we ever go back we will do a tour with the Embera Indians. We watched "End of the Spear" before we left on dvd and would like to get to know the culture more deeply next time we visit Panama. The canal is being widened and the project should be finished by 2014 according to authorities (just in time for the 100 year anniversary!). Costa Rica- The Rainforest Aerial Tram with lunch tour met at Princess Theater with easily labeled sections for tour groups to sit together. Intolerable bus ride for 2 hours each way. I don't do bus tours well I guess. The tour cost nearly $130/pp and consisted of 30 min of bathroom breaks/videos of rainforest, 30 min rainforest aerial tram ride, an hour of traditional buffet lunch of chicken, beans, rice, fruit, juice and coffee, and a 30 minute hike in the forest with a guide. Photos are $10 and prices are non-negotiable on goods/photos here. Expensive gift shop with 30 minutes to shop. We did see pineapple and banana plantations and learned about farming practices there, the country, and the wildlife (we saw toucans, sloths, and many butterflies and birds among the trees and flowers). We also sampled fresh cacao fruit on the bus. Our tour guide Jaesen was very good. Jamaica- Dunns River Waterfalls and Walkerswood Tour. Our guide and driver were ok. Fern Gully was lovely and we drove through it for a few miles on the way to the Jerk Chicken tour. We had tasty Appleton rum punch when we arrived. We walked around the estate and learned about Jamaican culture, spices, and the foods offered there (we sampled VERY SMALL bites of jerk chicken and some crackers with chutney). We had an obligatory stop to watch pottery be made at Wasai Pottery Place. The whole place is very hypersexual with lewd books and naked pictures of women all around the group of boys in their late teens and early 20s making pottery which they sell for $100/piece roughly. We drove to Dunns River falls and saw ackey growing in orange balls from the trees in the wild. At the falls we stepped out of the bus and men (who appeared to be our tour guides) approached us asking our names and welcoming us to Jamaica. People were being offered "free" bottled water and "free" welcome souvenirs which they were later asked to pay for. Once we realized they were not our tour guides we proceeded into the enclosed gate area. Our guide was not very helpful at this point. The falls tour guides were big Jamaican guys with BLUE AND YELLOW TSHIRTS identifying themselves. We took 1 foto on the observation deck before we started. I wish I'd taken more with the underwater camera we had brought because there was little time to photograph ourselves actually in the falls because the guides were very aggressive verbally and physically prodding tourists along to climb quickly and not stop. It was a very fast paced tour. It was physically challenging and not recommended for young children or older persons who are not in excellent physical shape. It took an hour from the time we entered to the time we were back at the top. Professional photos started at $8 for one and videos were $60+. Videos were purchased by crew members for $40 so we later learned they can be negotiated that low. At the gate we ate a beef patty ($2) and drank a red stripe ($3). The craftspeople after were very aggressive but we just kept walking and said "no" until we cleared the endless area of salesmen. Fort Lauderdale- We took the Everglades airboat tour because we had 8 hours to kill before our plane took off. The guide Larry should be avoided if possible. He was long winded and depressing. He kept discussing crime, graffiti and his own life… it was depressing for an end to the cruise. The airboat ride was 30 minutes and very nice for those who haven't visited before. We also saw a really great alligator show which turned out to be the highlight of the day as the man stuck his head inside the gator's mouth and wrestled them around to show how gentle they are. We learned a lot on this tour! Entertainment The island princess singers and dancers were excellent. Their shows were fantastic (except for the end of "Tribute" when the 70s women's lib comes out and the theme and song choices become unbearably awful). Our favorite shows were Piano Man with music from Billy Joel, Elton John and Neil Sedaka and Motor City which featured Motown classics! We didn't appreciate the grammy nominee Joni Butler but we did love both comedians Lorenzo Clark (who is an incredible magician!) and Billy Vader who has a natural ability to make the crowd laugh. We also caught several concerts by the talented Paradise string quartet. They were charming and talented and should not be missed if you're looking for evening entertainment! Activities The gym was completely full by 0700 the first full day of our cruise so we never went back to workout again. We did spend several early mornings in the pool and Jacuzzi when there seemed to be nobody awake (between 6 and 9 am) and we had them to ourselves. By noon everyday they were completely crowded for 4-6 hours until the dinner rush began. Several of the sea day lectures were not informative. The "gems" session and "port information lecture" were very disappointing- basically just shopping sessions with little useful information. The chocolate demo was equally disappointing as only the front row of 10 or so people got samples (and they fought for them) with no teaching done- just a chance to watch an executive chef dip berries into pre melted chocolate and another pastry chef piped pre-made frosting onto a pre-made cake. The cooking demo on the final day was a bit more informative (but no recipes were given for the actual meals cooked which seemed odd) and the galley tour was at least interesting even though the only info given there was on a written paper handed to each guest at the entrance. The Costa Rican coffee lecture by cruise Director Billy Hygate was memorable, informative and tasty as everyone got a sample! The Panama Canal lecture by the Webers was also informative and interesting. Overall, the "Scholarship at Sea" program could use some work. The only activities consistently offered that appeared free were origami and bridge. Activities such as pottery and scrapbooking were offered for a fee. Any other activity offered (cooking demo, informative lecture, big screen movie) was always mobbed by hordes of people as it seemed to be the only thing left to do onboard on sea days besides lounging by the pool or reading. We enjoyed the time to read, nap and lounge and used our sea days for rest. More active couples would likely be disappointed. Fellow Passengers We met some really lovely people and really enjoyed visiting with several older couples who had been married for many years. There were very few singles or couples under the age of 50 onboard but we enjoyed everyone's company quite a bit regardless of age. There were a surprising number of cranky passengers who complained and were very rude to staff. We met almost all US citizens and about a half dozen Canadians. The crew was almost entirely from outside U.S./Canada and their English abilities were excellent! Read Less
Sail Date November 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
Background Information: I was travelling with my husband and his parents. My husband and I have been on 5 cruises in the last 5 years - RCCL (1), Carnival (1), and Princess (3). Inlaws were with us on our last Princess and one other ... Read More
Background Information: I was travelling with my husband and his parents. My husband and I have been on 5 cruises in the last 5 years - RCCL (1), Carnival (1), and Princess (3). Inlaws were with us on our last Princess and one other previous Celebrity cruise. DH and I are in our late 30's, inlaws are in their late 60's. Ship Info: At first we really liked the smallness of IP. We had been on Golden and Grand Princess prior. As the days went on there were several things we did not like about this ship. We wished that there had been laundry aft/bow on alternating floors. it was really quite a walk from the very front of the ship to the very back of the ship with 4 people's laundry. Activities: We spent most of our time in the spa or pools! I don't recall every going on a tour of the spa area on the first day - so that was a new experience for me. We purchased a couples (for me and mil) pass for the thermal suite which was AMAZING. I snuck my hubby in one night to figure out how to make me a heated ceramic recliner!! We also thoroughly enjoyed working out with David and had a great experience with him. I hope the products we bought from him weren't a scam :) I really really enjoyed the pools and jacuzzis. we liked to go up when nobody else was around - and we could always find somewhere that a billion other people weren't there. Service: This is one area where this cruise really lacked compared to cruises in the past for us. The passenger services desk was horrible. They could never help you. Our safe somehow stopped excepting our code part way through the trip - and I had to call 2 times to get someone to finally come. I called to report it. And they said that someone would come. So we waited (changed our dinner plans). waited and waited. 45 minutes later I called again. THey said - oh are you in the cabin now? I said - yes - I am waiting. They finally came 30 minutes later. Meanwhile my husband is convinced everything was stolen out of our safe :) This is petty - but when I would call the services desk - I would sometimes give my inlaws cabin number when they would ask...what is your cabin number. So I would say; E202 (their number) and the dude would say - you mean E204. WELL IF YOU KNOW WHAT CABIN I AM IN WHY ARE YOU ASKING ME? Our other service issue: My hubby made a purchase at a ship recommended store and part of the purchase was left out of the box. so we went to the shopping desk - during their hours (after I was told I couldn't leave him a voicemail?) we waited 30 minutes. I went to the desk (right next to his desk) and said - do you know when he is expected? His hours were to start at 7:30 (it is now 8). The girl - who had already verified his hours with me....verified them again. she said well he is supposed to be here. so she tried calling him and paging him. We waited some more...nothing. Finally she said she would get him a message to call me. We waited a day - nothing. So I went again - and happened to get the same girl. I said that we had never heard from him, she said "like i told you he is sick" I said you never told me that....you said you were trying to reach him and that you would have him call me. I am sorry the man was sick - but I am sure there was a way that he could have let someone know before his set hours that he wouldn't be there. The issue is supposed to be resolved with our purchase - though it hasn't been as of yet. Shore Excursions: we only had one organized excursion and i was in Jamaica. DH and I had been to Jamaica a few times before - and had no desire to be there again. INlaws had never been so they booked a "best of" type tour for all of us. We very much enjoyed it! Cartegena: We actually enjoyed this port - and wished we had done some type of tour/excursion after watching them on the tv. We basically bought coffee and chocolate here :) Costa rica: We did not feel safe here. Again - had we participated in an excursion I am sure it would have been better... alas. We did buy some coffee here. But we went to the market recommended by the ship - and did not see a single other passenger....so we left. Aruba: I wish we had been here longer and not on a Sunday :) That is all. Panama Canal: We really enjoyed this whole experience. We did not have an excursion booked..so we stayed on the ship and went through the locks a second time. We ended up being in the dining room while we were lowered into a lock - and that was quite eerie! Cristobal: Thoroughly enjoyed this!! We bought lots of goodies here! Stateroom: Category C Oceanview. We typically have inside cabins (other than one time with a balcony). The window was a nice treat. My only complaint in the rooms - is the damn shower :) YOu had to stand cattywompous to not bang yourself on the handicapped bar. and the shower curtain is VERY friendly :) Once my hubby figured out how to get the water hot - it was must more enjoyable!. The bed was not the best. We had a really bad night the first night - so i requested an eggcrate. it got a bit better. Dining: This was another one of our unhappy areas. We had selected anytime dining. The first night our cards were checked to see if we were in the right place. The second night I believe they were too. After that they weren't checked. I did read another review of our exact cruise - and they mentioned not have sanitizer available in the dinging rooms. We had an entirely different experience Joanna (whom we actually called sanitizer girl) was there everytime we went in the dining room and squirted us...the same was true up in the buffet. Anyway - for some reason I never got the info that we should request the same dinging service crews - I wish we had. We had great service and HORRIBLE service. Unfortunately we had more of the latter. We basically dined at the same time every night...some nights we had no trouble getting in. Others we were asked to go upstairs to the fixed dining room. THe first time this happened - we were like - whatever - should be the same. WELL IT was awful. By the time we would be seated upstairs in whichever section - the other tables would be well into their courses. So we would sit and sit and sit. Waiting 20+minutes even for WAter! We happened to be up there for lobster night - and it was awful. The tables all around us were well into their courses and we were ordering. My husband politely asked for 2 lobster tails. You would think he had asked for the waiter to give birth to the entire state of TEXAS. Maybe we have just been lucky- but nobody has ever batted an eye if we asked for seconds of anything - especially LOBSTER! On our first cruise (RCCL) our waiter brought both of us 2 lobster tails and even had 2 more ready for my hubby - as we had told him it was his favorite. We are used to 2+ pounds lobsters from Maine....not a tiny tail. ANYWAY. My other issue - was in all of our past cruises every meal - we have had a hard time picking just one thing to order - it seemed on this cruise - we had a hard time picking one thing that we wanted to order. ODD. We did eat in Bayou one night - we enjoyed it. it was worth the extra fee. The sausage was YUMMY, filets were good, I remember not liking the corn muffins. Pickled turnip was interesting! We didn't like the alligator either. The buffet got really old. It really seemed to be the same stuff day in and out. We enjoyed the pizza, and hot dog/hamburger bars. FIL and DH used the ice cream bar at least once...i took advantage of the ice cream on the buffet a few too many times! we really enjoyed breakfast and lunch in the dining room. Entertainment: We didn't go to any of the shows :) We didn't use the Casino (our wallets thank us - Princess I am sure wishes that I had given into my addiction to Black Jack!) We did watch a lot of the movies in our cabins that played back to back all day long :) Disembarkation: This was a big part of our bad experience on this cruise. MIL purchased 4 ship transfers in which she stated our flight departed at 11:15 AM. We received 2 tickets and they received two tickets...our cabins were right next to each other. The night before we were to disembark - inlaws got the right tags - Red 3...and we got the wrong tags - Gold 5 or something. Allowing us to be off the ship between 10 and noon - well that won't work. We look at the breakdown on the sheet and it shows that Red 3 is for people with flights departing after 11 am...and before some other time. Gold 5 was for the entire Emerald deck with no special flight constraints. We call down and the Passenger Services deck (yet again) proved to be less than helpful and not knowledgeable. We finally went down in person with our transfer tickets....and flight info - and the service person said that it couldn't be changed. MIL said we could just use her tags (red 3) and we winged it. Thankfully it worked. But it might not have - and we got lucky! The transfer we paid for was a RIP OFF. We had to be smushed into a big bus with a million people for $15/person and then were dropped off at an inconvenient location where we (my fil has congestive heart failure) had to walk forever with our luggage to get to Jetblue. RIPOFF. And to think we were disappointed that we didn't get a transfer to the ship! Overall we enjoyed the itinerary. We will not be doing another Princess cruise before we go back to another line. I hope we can do Royal again. Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
This was our thirteenth cruise and our third on Princess. We are in our sixties and added our recently widowed sister-in-law at the last minute. We chose Princess because of the itinerary, relatively short 11-day cruise and the comments on ... Read More
This was our thirteenth cruise and our third on Princess. We are in our sixties and added our recently widowed sister-in-law at the last minute. We chose Princess because of the itinerary, relatively short 11-day cruise and the comments on Cruise Critic. Although this cruise was early in the season, the weather was good and we only had one day of partial rain. Island Princess is a great ship: clean and well-maintained. Navigation around the ship is simple. Our biggest complaint involves the narrow aisles in the Princess Theater which severely limits exiting after the shows. Horizon Court is poorly designed and creates a considerable logjam selecting food items. The ship rode quietly on the ocean with minimal movement. Our mini-suite was aft and provided ample room. Initially we required changes to the cabin since it was missing a dividing curtain and had a lumpy bed. Our cabin steward Leonardo promptly resolved everything. A minor complaint was the warm water that came out of the cold water faucet. We chose traditional dining, which included great service from Silva and Yvette. They also took our wine orders which is unlike most other ships. Nonetheless, service was prompt and courteous. The food was awful the first two nights (overcooked chicken, dry beef that was hard to cut, nondescript soup etc) but then we experienced a major change and enjoyed very nice culinary choices for the rest of the voyage. We took most of our other meals in the dining room where we sat at large tables and had the opportunity to meet other travelers in a quiet atmosphere without the hassle at Horizon Court. The pizza and hamburgers on the upper deck were excellent. There was no desire to try the specialty restaurants since the dining room was very good. We noticed those restaurants were seldom full. Entertainment was excellent. We particularly liked the string quartet that played frequently in the atrium and the Broadway like shows in the theater. The dancers and singers were very talented. Joni Butler had an excellent voice, but her song choices were not the best. The two comedians were usually very good. Ports of Call: Aruba was great, but four hours on a Sunday reflects poor scheduling. Cartegena was good, but very crowded if you didn't take a tour. We selected the La Popa, Dungeon tour with a shopping stop that was excellent. The guide was a multilingual teacher who provided us with the history of the area. The Panama Canal was the main attraction and well worth the experience. We elected to remain on the ship (as suggested by many Cruise Critic reviews) and enjoyed going through the locks in both directions. The history provided by the husband/wife lecture was excellent. There was plenty of time and shopping selections at the Cristobal Pier. We had been to Ocho Rios several times, but wanted to climb the Dunns River Falls with our sister-in-law. We avoided all of the vendor hassles by taking the boat excursion which included climbing the falls. Highly recommended. Although embarkation was quick and painless, disembarkation was disorganized. We waited for 1.5 hours in the Princess Theater with few status announcements. Locating bags was a nightmare. Bags were organized by color group only, not by sub group (#1,2..5). The bus trip to the airport was well coordinated, but due to airline baggage charges the cruise line no longer offers one-stop baggage handling with airline check-in. Summary: The Island Princess is a great ship which provides excellent service and generally good dining experiences. The Panama Canal should be on everyone's bucket list. 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
Please enter your review. I am in my early 50's and love to cruise. My husband and myself are both platinum members in the Captain's Circle, Diamond members in Royal Caribbean and concierge level on Carnival. We had been ... Read More
Please enter your review. I am in my early 50's and love to cruise. My husband and myself are both platinum members in the Captain's Circle, Diamond members in Royal Caribbean and concierge level on Carnival. We had been looking forward to this cruise and it was a 30th anniversary present from my mother. We had a suite as we usually do when we cruise. However, we were disappointed as we had a guarantee and Princess has always placed us in suite that was midship. However, this time we were 3 rooms from the end which was extremely far from the elevators. We thought we were off to a great start as we arrived at the port at ll:30 and were one of the first ones on the ship. The nicest thing about Princess is that you always get to go right to your room and don't have to wait until after lunch. We did have a very nice room steward and an excellent waiter. But, I do have to say that's where the quality of service ended. The purser's desk was extremely unknowledgeable. At one point, all 3 employees told me they were new. The food on this ship was very disappointing compared to our previous Princess cruises. It seemed all of the buffets seemed to be the same old same old. Some nights it was hard to even pick one thing from the dinner menu and after the first few days, we read the menu earlier in the day and ended up going to the buffet or having room service. As we have cruised so much, we normally do not go to the shows onboard. I do enjoy the casino. However, I encountered one of the rudest dealers I have ever come across in 40 cruises. When seated at her table, she said hello and I responded with hello, how are you. She then proceeded to tell me she didn't ask me to say anything else. The whole table looked at each other. There was never a thank you when tipped so the table stopped tipping her. That was s shame because the dealers pool their tips and this rude woman got to ride on the tails of the friendly dealers. I did say something to the manager who told me she has been spoken to numerous times and to please fill out a comment card in hopes of getting rid of her. We had rain most of the time but we had been to all of these ports before so we made the best of it. Although, I could not believe the way we were treated when we were in Costa Rica. We had to wait a half hour in the pouring rain to get back on board. The only one with an umbrella was the security guard. There were 2 people in wheelchairs with no cover. What I couldn't understand was that there were two gangways but they were only using one to let people back on board. The other gangway was to let passengers off but there was no one getting off. Of course, when people went to complain to the purser's desk, no one cared. By the end of the ship, my husband was extremely ill and had to go to the infirmary. I was very suspicious as being an experienced cruiser , I had never seen a notice EVERY night in the Pitter Patter about washing hands and towards the end of the ship, there were notices NOT to use public facilities to go to your own stateroom. Also, the bathroom doors were always open. I also heard people saying they had been in their room for days. I knew this meant there was something going around on board that was no publicized. By the time, we got off the ship, my husband was extremely sick. I was very disgusted with the whole disembarkation process. Big deal, you get to wait in a special lounge being Platinum or Elite. On other ships, one of the perks is that you are in a special lounge and the hostess then escorts the whole room off the ship. Here you still had to wait for a color and I might add ours was 7:30 and we were called at 9:00. People that had tags after us were called before us. When we finally got off, we were on a long line that stopped at immigration. Then Princess proceeded to put disabled passengers in our line for about 20 minutes. There again, other cruise lines take off wheelchairs FIRST. After this went on for 20 minutes, people in our line started complaining. By this point, I was getting very sick. When we finally got outside once again we were literally kicked to the curb by Princess. We had this same awful experience last year. Our car was at a different parking lot as we did not dock in the same place that we left from. We then had to wait and take a shuttle bus to our car. You are then dumped to the curb with NO porters to help you get your luggage to your car. People were sitting there in wheelchairs with no one to help them. Boy, they sure are quick to help you when you arrive at the port. When we finally got home, both of us were sick. I might add, our daughter had to take both of us to the hospital the next day as we were that sick. We were told we came in contact with some kind of parasite. As we are experienced cruisers, we never eat or drink while on shore. It has taken us almost 3 weeks to recover. This was the cruise that kept on giving and not in a good way. Again, if this was my first cruise it would have been my last. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
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 3.6
Family 4.0 3.6
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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