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Island Princess Inaugural Cruise Review July 12-19, 2003 Let me preface this review with a little history of how we ended up on this cruise. We sailed on Disney Magic-April 2001 and RCL Voyager-April 2003. Right before we left on our ... Read More
Island Princess Inaugural Cruise Review July 12-19, 2003 Let me preface this review with a little history of how we ended up on this cruise. We sailed on Disney Magic-April 2001 and RCL Voyager-April 2003. Right before we left on our Voyager Cruise we found out that we could go on an Alaskan Cruise for FREE on The Builders Club Grand Destination Trip. The Builders Club is like a frequent flyer program for home builders and remodelers that rewards them with Club Points for doing business with an exclusive group of suppliers. My husband is a Homebuilder and we had accumulated enough points for the 4 of us. Myself, Husband, Daughter (age:18) and Son (age:16) to not only go on the cruise for free, but get two cabins. Needless to say, it didn't take much for us to decide that we were cruising once again! Day 1 We left Ohio a day early so we could spend sometime in Vancouver. We arrived in Vancouver at 10:30 am PST. I reserved 2 rooms through Priceline.com at the Westin Bayshore Hotel for $75.00 USD each. The rooms normally run around $250. We chose to take a limo from the airport to the hotel because we had so much luggage. I think the pre-set cost was $42 Canadian. Our driver was excellent. He gave us a mini tour and history of Vancouver and drove us through some of the old neighborhoods. It is a beautiful city. Our rooms weren't ready when we arrived so we checked our luggage and set out to explore. It's a great walking city. The architecture is amazing, lots of great shopping, ate lunch at a place called O'Douls (excellent), and then headed back to the hotel to get our rooms. The beds at the Westin were unbelievable. They call them "Heavenly Beds" and they're not kidding. We forced ourselves to get off the beds and headed back out. We rented bikes around the corner and headed to Stanley Park. We stopped at the Aquarium for about an hour and them road around the park for another hour. It's hard to believe your in the middle of a big city when your in the park. After the bike ride, we headed over to Canada Place for our first look at the Island Princess. My family is still teasing me over my excitement at seeing her. She was beautiful. Stylish, polished, sleek and classy! We checked out the boarding area and found out that Immigration opened at Noon and that Princess reps would probably be there at 11:30am. We walked back through the Harbor area to our hotel and hit the Heavenly Beds. Day 2 We headed for Canada Place about 10:45am. I think it's about a $5 USD cab ride. The cabs drive right into the parking garage and the Princess employees take your luggage right from there. We then proceeded into the waiting area (we were one of the first ones there) and met some of the other people from Builders Club. At around 11:30am they opened the gate and we took off for the check in. Check-in is divided up by deck name and deck name with express check-in. We went to the Dolphin Express Check-in booth and had to change our VISA card (my other one was lost about a month ago). We had a trainee at our booth but she did a good job, gave us our cards and got us finished up fast. We then moved onto to another area with chairs in a winding line up. At about 12:10pm Immigration opened up. We waited probably 5 minutes in line and off we went to board the ship. We actually sign up for pedicures on our way onto the ship. Then, they stopped us for the customary family boarding photo. We stepped off the gangway and we were directed to the Welcoming Area. This is where they take your photo for their security. (They check your picture everytime you swipe your card to return to the ship.) The embarkation went very smoothly. There were Princess personnel directing us all along the way. We went right to our rooms, D227 and D229, on Deck 9, forward and starboard side. We had two rooms next to each other and the other 24 people from our Ohio Builder's Club group were also on our deck. There were also 240 Builder's Club members from Minnesota on our cruise. There are name tags on the cabin "mailbox" next to the door. The rooms are nice. You enter into a hall. One side is a full length mirror and the other side is a large closet area with a storage cabinet and safe and the bathroom is off of that area. The bathroom is typical cruise size. You can shave your legs while sitting on the toilet seat and brush your teeth at the same time. The shower controls are tricky. You need to push on the side piece to make it go past the trickle stage and same thing for the hot water. I wish I could explain it better. Once you master the knobs, it's a very powerful shower. I thought I was going through the wall the first time I turned it to full power. The sleeping area is adequate. The bed is by the wall with a small aisle for walking, there is a desk area, two nightstands, a refrig. cabinet, two chairs and a small table. I always overpack and there was plenty of storage and hangers for everything to be unpacked. The luggage fit under the bed. The balcony has two chairs and a table. We had the steward remove the panel between our balconies and it made it feel even bigger. If we weren't in our room sleeping, we spent most of the time on our balcony. Our steward was Victor and he did an excellent job. He had a great personality. Our whole group really liked him. After checking out the room we headed out to explore the ship. We found it pretty easy to find our way around. They have maps and signs posted in every hall where you get off the elevators/stairs. We found all of the lounges, the kids area, the pools, basketball, shuffle board, the golf simulator and putt-putt (we even played a quick game of putt-putt), the restaurants (we checked out our table in the Provence dining room), the spa and exercise areas, the library, internet and card rooms, bought 2 drink cards for my husband and son and then hit the Horizon Court buffet. Needless to say, everything looks new! I'm not sure how to describe the dEcor. It mirrored the outside of the ship, classy, stylish and comfortable. We went back to our rooms and our luggage had arrived so we unpacked and got ready for the Muster Drill. After that we went for our pedicures and had a great view of the sail away. We went around in circles for about an hour and they performed some calibration tests on the ship and then we headed out to sea. Builder's Club hosted a cocktail party for us before our second seating dinner. We were given name tags to wear the whole cruise so that we could recognize others in our large group. It made for a fun time because it opened up a lot of conversations with other people on board. Dinner was scheduled for 8:00pm but we usually didn't get in until 8:15pm. Some people got impatient waiting to get in, but it didn't bother us. Food The dinners were all excellent, with a wide variety of dishes to choose from on the menu. If you didn't like what they were offering on the specials, you could always get chicken, strip steak, ceasar salad, fettucini alfredo, etc. Our waiter was Sylvia from Hungary and our Asst. Waiter was Josepi from Italy. Sylvia was very professional and personable. We think she was training Josepi because he didn't make a move unless she told him too. He was shy and quiet but did a good job. Sylvia never steered us wrong with her suggestions and did a great job of keeping the teenagers happy with their selections. I thought that this was the best food I've had on a cruise, my kids didn't agree. This food was a little too fancy for them but they tried some dishes they normally wouldn't have because Sylvia assured them she would bring them something else if they didn't like it. Although my son was thrilled because they had crab legs on Wed. and lobster on Thursday. The appetizers and soups (especially the cold soups) were so good, the salads and dressing selections were great and the entrees were excellent. Desserts were unbelievable. I had soufflE 3 nights, crème brulee one night and assorted other goodies. I had 2 desserts on the nights I couldn't decide. It's okay, because I rarely used the elevator. (At least that what I tell myself as I'm eating the 2nd dessert). We didn't try any of the other restaurants because we like to eat dinner with our kids every night. Plus we had all of our Ohio group sitting in the same area, which made for a lot of fun. We ate breakfast in the Horizon Court everyday. They could use a little improvement here. They need a bigger selection. They did not offer any specialties, like omelets made to order or waffles. Other ships we've been on have had these items on their buffet. They might offer them in the dining room. They did have excellent french toast. My husband's only complaint on the whole cruise was that it was extremely hard to get juice. There was no place for us to get it ourselves and they had one cart going around the entire dining room serving juice. There were many stewards clearing tables but they couldn't get your juice. Oh well. The pool areas offered pizza and burgers, grilled chicken sandwiches, hot dogs and french fries. The fries were really good. Sometimes we'd just stop and grab a plate of them. Some people in our group liked the pizza and some didn't. There is an extra charge for the ice cream, even the soft serve. We did have ice cream bars one time, but that was it. There was a seafood buffet (A Taste of Alaska) the day we went through Glacier Bay. It was up by the pool. I don't eat seafood but everyone else thought it was unbelievable. Entertainment There were a ton of things to do at night. Besides the casino, there were the variety shows, the comedians, the lounge acts, karaoke, dancing, the not so newlywed, name that tune, etc. We had a hard time deciding what to attend. The Variety Shows The regular entertainers need a little more practice. They lip sync because they are dancing and it was very obvious. The shows did not "Wow" us. They were just okay. It hard to beat Disney when it comes to production numbers. The Comedians We saw Steven Scott, Jim MacDonald (very original and funny) and Sarge. They were all very good. The best show on board was Alexander. He's billed as America's Funniest Hypnotist. What a great show. We were in tears from laughing so hard. My son took part the first night. My husband and I tried the next night. It didn't effect my husband at all, I went out for a little bit but I woke up from the trance and couldn't go back to sleep. I'm glad I got to go back to the audience because it was hilarious. Definitely go to this show. My daughter and I spent a lot of time in the Crooner's Lounge listening to Eric Stone. We really enjoyed his Frank Sinatra and Broadway Show tunes. He also does a Name that Tune game that was a lot of fun. The Karaoke in the Explorer lounge was also fun. We had a few karaoke performers in our group, including my daughter so we hung out there quite a bit. We also took part in most of the Team Trivia games that went on everyday. We had a competition going with another group. We rec'd key chains, back packs and travel mugs for our winnings. It's a nice way to get to know other people. We also spent time in the card room, which got quite crowded. We won a shuffleboard tournament. We played putt-putt and played 9-holes on the golf simulator. The casino was a big hit for some of our group. We had a few winners and a few losers. I played the slots twice but lost my $20. My husband and his cohorts were into playing a game called 3-card. My husband won big one night and came out $100 ahead for the entire cruise. Another friend hit $1000 on the slots. My son went to "Off-Limits" the teen club. They seem to have quite a few activities going on every night. He enjoyed it, and he says it was better than RCL's program. My daughter hung out with us most of the time. There were only 22 other 18-20 year olds on board and they must have all been with their parents because we never noticed any groups going by. She was allowed in the lounges and dances with us (just no drinking) so it wasn't a problem. We also spent some time in the Pottery Studio being creative. We had a really good time together. It was nice because she's leaving for college in one month and I enjoyed spending some time with her. Ports I booked all of our excursions independently. I like the smaller groups and personalized service you receive. I rely heavily on Cruise Critic's message boards for help in choosing which excursions and operators to use. Since the cruise was free, I probably spent more than I normally would on excursions. I booked most of our excursions for afternoon so we wouldn't have to rush in the mornings. We like to stay out late and enjoy the entertainment. Ketchikan We chose to go fishing with Captain Ken. I booked at the end of April. There were 6 of us on board with him. We met him right off the gangway at 7:15am and his boat is a very short walk to a very steep gangway down to the dock. It was low tide so the floating dock was very far down. We really enjoyed this trip and our fishing experience. He's extremely knowledgeable about the area and about fishing. We caught and released about 30 salmon: King, Coho, Pink and the other kind that's not Sockeye. We were out until 1:15pm. We did a quick walk through town and bought my husband a pair of Levis (he forgot to pack his jeans, he lives in jeans and he forgot them, it was pretty funny!) Back onboard by 2:00pm for sail away at 2:30pm. Juneau We spent the morning exploring the town. DO NOT take the trolley tour. It is a rip off. They told us they had a historian on board so we thought why not? Wrong. For $12.50 apiece, besides the all day use pass, I expected to learn something that I hadn't read in the Princess Patter. The tour lasted maybe 15 minutes. We walked back to the ship to drop off our bags. When we went to use the trolley again, we sat for 10-15 minutes while the driver talked to friend. We finally got off and walked back into town. It was frustrating. I did find a local artist that makes jewelry from fossilized walrus ivory and embeds Alaskan Jade in it. I bought a pendant and some earrings. A lot of the stores have the same merchandise, so I like to find the local artists whenever we travel. We also visited the Harley store here so everyone could get their T-shirts. My husband and son went on a fly-in fly fishing trip with Butch from Alaska Fly'n Fish Charters. They said it was amazing. My son wanted to just keep flying and forget the fishing. But they did catch 150 trout and salmon. They said the minute your line hit the water you had a fish. They saw two brown bear from the air, and lots of eagles. They said it was one of their top ten adventures. My daughter and I went helicopter/glacier trekking with North Star. This is the most professional tour company that I have ever dealt with, from the moment they pick you up until they drop you off. The staff is very well trained, friendly and knowledgeable. We were picked up outside the Red Dog Saloon. Which by the way has a great bar-b-que beef sandwich! They were kind enough to drop my husband and son off at the airport on the way to their offices. We got there and signed in and got dressed (they supply everything) and had a lesson in helicopter safety. Then off we went into the wild blue yonder. The blue I'm referring to is in the glaciers. I'm not sure if breathtaking is a good enough adjective for the sights we saw, but it will have to do. After a brief tour of the area we landed on the glacier. We were met by our guide, Jimmy, who then prepared us for our trek. It felt like we were on another world. We got lucky because we were the only two on the tour. Jimmy took us for a quick lesson in going up, down and sideways on the ice. We were wearing crampons, they are spikes that fit around your boots. We felt pretty confident we started to hike. We went up, down, through an ice cave, we repelled down a wall, and we drank glacier water. We explored all over the glacier. We did get to do a lot more because it was just the two of us. We got back to base and waited for the helicopter to take us back for another exciting ride. I really don't have any words to describe this experience. If you have a chance to do this excursion, it's a must! Skagway- We really liked Skagway. It's a neat town. This is where we found the Alaska t-shirts and sweatshirts that we liked. The store is called "T-shirts to Go" and they had a nice variety. We decided to go on another helicopter tour of the glaciers here so that my husband and son could get a good look at the glaciers. We chose to go with Temsco and the Pilot's choice excursion. We landed on two glacier areas and got out and walked around about 15-20 minutes at each stop. We also flew for about 1 hour touring the glaciers from the area. Our pilot was excellent. He taught us so much about the area, the glaciers, the mountains...we were hoping for a trivia game on the cruise about glaciers because we know we would have won! Once again, a great excursion with a great guide. Glacier Bay and College Fiord These are not just lazy days on board. The sightseeing is fascinating. This is why you want balcony and why you need to pack binoculars. We saw whales, porpoises, seals, baby harbor seals, and otters. So bundle up(cuz it gets chilly)and be ready to be amazed! There are blankets available by the outside deck chairs. This was some of the most unbelievable scenery I have ever seen. Glacier Bay was a little foggy in the morning but it lifted and our day in College Fiord was sunny and cool. Order a hot chocolate (remember it's European style so you'll want to add cream and sugar to it) and sit on your balcony and enjoy. Or head to the outside decks ( I think it was deck 7 forward that was kind of protected and had heat blowing out ) and be ready to run from one side to the other when you hear that someone spotted a whale. This is nature at its best! Disembarkation We were given our Red 5 tags and put our bags out before heading down to dinner at 8pm. According to the Patter, Red 5 meant we would be called around 7:45am for our bus to Anchorage. We went to breakfast at 7am and then headed down to the Explorer lounge to wait. They called Red 5 at about 7:50am. Make sure you wait in a public area. There are no announcements in the room. One of the single males in our group stayed in his room waiting to be called and ended up missing our bus. He did catch up with us later. We walked off the ship and onto the bus. The drive to Anchorage is like another tour. We had an informative bus driver who even stopped for a quick break and wildflower hike. We got to Anchorage by 11:00am. We were taken right to the Egan Center and our luggage went directly to the airport (our flight was at 7:25pm). We stored our carry-ons at the Egan Center and went in search of lunch. We ended up at a local bar/restaurant called "Humpy's". They had great burgers and great service. Then we walked around for awhile. Some of us decided to kill time by going to the movies. We went to see Pirates of the Caribbean. The fact that none of us fell asleep should attest to the excitement and entertainment of the movie. The others in our group went to a local farm market that had crafters, too. They said it was really nice. We got back to Egan Center and took the 4:30pm bus to the airport. We got to the airport and someone from Princess got on board and told us where to find our luggage. We found our luggage and then waited forever to check in at Northwest. This was a very disorganized ticket counter. Also, watch your baggage weight. Their limit is 50 lbs. and they did charge some of us $25 per bag for being overweight. Now one person in our group had a 65lb and a 70 lb bag and they were not charged by their ticket agent. My bag was 62 lbs and I was charged. In my defense, we flew out Air Canada and their limit was 70 lbs per bag. I forgot to check on Northwest before we left. Overall The Island Princess is beautiful. It was easy to get around the ship. The staircase down to dinner is perfect for pictures. There are windows everywhere so you always have a great view of the sights. She was very smooth riding. I only needed to take Bonine on our last night out. In fact, I was passing out Bonine to everyone. I heard many people remarking about the friendliness, politeness and professionalism of the entire Crew and Staff. They were outstanding! We had to keep reminding ourselves that we were on an Inaugural Cruise because everything ran so smoothly. Well, I think that just about covers it. This is my first ever review so let me know if I missed anything. I'm still working on how to get copies of the patter scanned and downloaded. I'll be glad to answer any questions for you. bbyost@alltel.netAugust 2003 Read Less
Our Cruise Background My wife and I are in our mid 30's/early 40's. This was our 8th cruise and our 4th cruise on Princess. We've also sailed twice on Royal Caribbean and twice on Celebrity. This 10-day sailing marked the ... Read More
Our Cruise Background My wife and I are in our mid 30's/early 40's. This was our 8th cruise and our 4th cruise on Princess. We've also sailed twice on Royal Caribbean and twice on Celebrity. This 10-day sailing marked the 1st time that we sailed for longer than 7 nights. All of our previous cruises have been on various Caribbean itineraries. Embarkation Process We flew down the night before the trip (booked our own air) and stayed at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport Hilton. This is the hotel we always stay at when we cruise out of Port Everglades. It's a nice hotel and it's very convenient...just 5 minutes from the Airport and 10 minutes from the Port. We took a shuttle to the port the morning of the cruise at about 11:30. Since we are Captain's Circle Gold members, we went into the Gold Club line but since the line next to us was moving faster we were directed to the faster line. The terminal was obviously very crowded but considering how many people are boarding the ship, the Embarkation process went smoothly for the most part and we were on the ship by 12:30 or so. Our Cabin We booked a category AB mini-suite (D505). This was a roomy cabin, with an uncovered balcony. Some folks don't like the idea of an uncovered balcony, which can be viewed from the cabins above but we enjoy it. Since there is no cover, you have a clear view of the sky and the stars at night. The cabin itself was nice but nothing fancy. It had light blue carpet with bleached wood furnishings. There was plenty of closet and drawer space. Amenities included two TV's (not sure why you need two TV's), a fridge, a vanity, a safe and a good size bathroom with a tub/shower combo. The tub/shower was nice because it had more room than a standard cruise ship shower. If you are over 6 feet tall, showering might be a bit awkward because showerhead is only about 5 feet off of the tub floor and the ceiling itself was no more than 6' high in the shower. The only issue we had with this cabin is that it was located directly across from one of the ship's service elevators and this area was sometimes noisy. The service elevator's location is not shown in the diagram of the ship so we had no idea this was the case when we booked the cabin. The noise was not really anything to complain about, but we were awakened briefly on a few mornings due to the noise made when the staff worked there. Overall Impression of the Ship The ship is beautiful. All of the lounges and public areas are nicely decorated and unique from one another. The atrium is much larger than the atriums on the Grand Class ships and we liked this. Because the ship is only four months old there was no wear and tear to be seen. Public areas are clean and shiny. We usually learn our way around a ship pretty quickly but the layout of this one confused us a bit. We never seemed to be going in the right direction. That was our problem though! Lounges/Theater Venues There are so many lounges to choose from. Our favorite lounge was Crooners Martini Bar, which is located in the atrium on deck 7. Here they serve dozens of different types of martinis as well as any other type of beverage you can think of. If that's not your style there is a coffee bar a few levels down, a lounge in the front section of the Bayou Cafe, the Wheelhouse (which has a rich nautical theme) as well as many others. The large Princess Theater is used for the Broadway type shows as well as for some of the comedians and other performances. The Universe Lounge is a beautiful, multi-purpose venue that was used for demonstrations and a number of performances and lectures. Food Experience Of course food is very subjective to everyone's own opinion. Please keep that in mind when you read the information to follow. As I mentioned earlier, this was our 4th Princess cruise. We opted for traditional dining, second seating. Our overall impression of the food in the dining room on this ship was that it was not nearly as tasty as the food we have experienced in the past with Princess. Nothing was ever bad, but nothing was ever outstanding either. Only one or two of our entrees stood out as being very good. There was always plenty to choose from and the meals were always hot. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd have to give the dining room entrees a rating of a 6. As always, if you don't like something, the waiters are happy to replace your meal with another choice. Bread, appetizers, deserts and the like were almost always better than the entrees themselves. Also, some of the little "special touches" Princess used to provide are now missing. Not a big deal, but two examples of this are that the waiters no longer put the dressing on your salad for you. Your salad comes with the dressing of choice already on it unless you request it to be on the side. Also, none of the deserts or meals get prepared tableside as they have been in the past. Some of the pastas and deserts used to be made before your eyes. Not any more. We just missed these special touches that enhanced the dining experience. The bottom line though is this...as passengers, we're not doing any cooking, cleaning or shopping for food so how can anyone really complain about the meals?? The Horizon Court Buffet food was at about the same level as we had experienced in the past. Taste ranged from OK to very good, depending on what you selected. We encountered a few instances of stale bread and cereal. Other Food items such as pizza, burgers and hot dogs by the pool were excellent. The ship offers two alternative restaurants...Sabatini's, which serves Italian food and the Bayou Cafe, which serves New Orleans-style dishes. These two venues have nominal cover charges. The Bayou Cafe's cover charge used to include a drink with your meal but it no longer does. Since we had experienced Sabitini's on our last trip, we opted not to try it again. Our meal in the Bayou cafe was excellent. The only issue here is that there is TOO MUCH wonderful food served! The Bayou's food was by far the best meal we had all week. The atmosphere in this restaurant is great and included jazz musicians and piano music to enjoy while you dine. We highly recommend this meal option. I should also point out that on no occasion did we ever see that either Sabatini's or the Bayou Cafe were fully booked. There were always empty tables (sometimes quite a few) when we glanced in at mealtime. Not sure why this was the case. Staff Without a doubt, the current staff on this ship is about as friendly as we have ever experienced on a ship. This applies to the bartenders, the room stewards and everyone on the cruise staff throughout the ship. The Cruise Director is Alistair Greener. By coincidence, Alistair has been the cruise director on all four of our Princess cruises. He is hysterical and goes out of his way to keep you happy and busy. Hopefully we'll have him as our CD for a 5th time at some point in the future! Shows/Entertainment We are personally not big fans of the Broadway style shows so we did not attend any of these and therefore cannot comment on them. The comedians ranged from merely OK, to very good, depending on your tastes. By far the most enjoyable show was the "Pub Night" show that was presented by the staff on the next to last night of the voyage. Lounge entertainment ranged from Excellent in the Bayou Cafe to good/fairly good in the other lounges. Itinerary The itinerary was made up of four sea days and the following ports of call detailed below. These are our opinions of the islands themselves, not of any shore excursions offered. For the most part the residents of these islands were very friendly. - Ocho Rios, Jamaica: Typical Caribbean Island...In our opinion, nothing too fancy here if you don't take a shore excursion. Good for souvenir shopping. - Panama Canal: An AWSOME experience. If you have the chance to see this engineering marvel, take the opportunity. It is absolutely amazing. The ship docks in Colon after the canal transit and when our tour bus drove through the downtown area after our excursion, the city didn't look very safe to us. The machine gun yielding police officers in the streets were a bit intimidating. - Limon, Costa Rica: In our opinion, this was a wasted stop. Good day to stay on the ship. - Grand Cayman: By far, one of the nicest Caribbean Islands. Very well maintained, very clean and very nice shopping. You do not get hounded here like you do in many of the other Caribbean ports of call. Fellow Passengers Being that this was a 10-night voyage, we fully expected a slightly older crowd on this sailing compared to our previous 7-night cruises. We were shocked at just how sharply the average passenger age jumped though. I'd say that approximately 10% of the passengers were under the age of 45. Perhaps another 20% of the passengers were in the 45 to 65 age bracket. The vast majority of the passengers on this voyage were into their 60's 70's and 80's. This is not a bad thing....we have fun with almost everyone, but we are just a bit more accustomed to having more people on a cruise in our age bracket. Hopefully when we are older, we will still be able to have just as much fun as these folks were on this trip. Overall Positives - A great staff that will go out of their way to make your vacation special - A beautiful ship - Well organized shore excursions - Never busy laundry rooms (which we utilized for the 10-day trip to minimize some packing space) Some Negatives (not complaints, but little annoyances....just because nothing can be perfect!) - Upper level seating in the Universe Lounge is awkward due to a glass barrier that surrounds the upper deck right at eye level. This makes seating in this area awkward and annoying because the glass interferes with your view of the stage below. It bothered us to the point that we made an effort not sit up there. - The Lotus Pool area has a retractable glass roof. When closed the area is nicely air-conditioned and enjoyable if you want to escape the heat of the lido pool area. But, every day shortly after lunch the roof was opened up and the area became just as warm as the lido pool. I would have been nice for the roof to have been kept closed so that at least one of the pool areas was kept cool. - A pad to keep our mattresses together was not available and the queen setup we requested magically separated into two twins during the night several times as we slept. This got a bit annoying. Overall this was a great trip on a great ship with excellent tablemates. Please feel free to e-mail us if you have any questions or want more detailed info. We love to share our cruise experiences. Our e-mail address is sascol@att.net Read Less
Sail Date October 2003
This was our first cruise with Princess and we were not disappointed. We had an air, hotel, transfer and cruise package from Vancouver. The Marriot in Ft Lauderdale was a beautiful hotel and the transfer to the ship seamless. Embarkation ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Princess and we were not disappointed. We had an air, hotel, transfer and cruise package from Vancouver. The Marriot in Ft Lauderdale was a beautiful hotel and the transfer to the ship seamless. Embarkation probably took no more that 15 minutes even though 5 busses of us arrived from the Marriot. Our balcony room was midships on the bumpout, on the twelfth deck near the elevators. It was a beautiful, bright and spotlessly clean cabin. Of course, the Island is only 6 months old. Our favourite occupation was breakfast from room service on our balcony. We soon learned that if you ordered room service between 8:30 and 9 that you got it at 8:25 and that you could write whatever you liked on the menu and it was brought to you. We had open seating and usually ate between 6 and 7. We never waited for a table even when we went with a group of 6 and wanted to be seated together. The food was mixed from great to mediocre but the service was usually very good. We did not eat in the alternate restaurants but did use the buffet on formal nights which we did not participate in. The buffet was fine - a good place to go for a late night dessert! We enjoyed the shows although disliked the magician who was on our cruise. I participated in basketball shootouts and we played shuffleboard and I won trivia twice. There was a very dedicated group of trivia players on board. If you have a disability this appears to be a great ship. There were many disabled on board. Some nights outside the dining room there was a parking lot of scooters. Several passengers told us that Princess accommodates disabled passengers very well. This was an older group of passengers - the majority were 65+. We are in our early 50's. Costa Rica and Panama were very enjoyable as was Grand Cayman. I could have lived without Freeport. Ochos Rios was fine but unexciting. We had four days of Tropical Storm Isidore on this sailing. Because we are not prone to seasickness and our cabin was midships, this did not bother us but for people who like lying around the pool and sunning it would have put a damper on their cruise. A word about smoking. This was not at all a problem. Either there were few smokers on the ship or because it is such a new ship it is not yet saturated with smoke. Our cabin was fresh smelling and we rarely came across smoking on the ship - a plus for me who has a low smoke tolerance. Embarkation was not quite as quick as desembarkation but was still not too bad. There was some confusion about what terminals busses were stopping at at the airport and some were close to missing their flights. All in all a great cruise on a great ship. I would repeat it in a minute. Read Less
Sail Date November 2003
My husband and I are in our late 40's. We have two sons, 18 and 15. We have cruised 3 times with two separate cabins. First was Carnival "Victory", eastern Caribbean (March break 2002), then RC "Voyager of the ... Read More
My husband and I are in our late 40's. We have two sons, 18 and 15. We have cruised 3 times with two separate cabins. First was Carnival "Victory", eastern Caribbean (March break 2002), then RC "Voyager of the Seas", western Caribbean (March break 2003). This last cruise over the Christmas Holidays was to be our first 10-day cruise with balconies side by side. Embarkation: Driving from Ottawa, Canada to Ft Lauderdale in two days went well alternating between 3 drivers. (took 3 days on the way back) The weather cooperated and there was no weekend road construction. We had a full day to rest and go shopping at "Sawgrass Mills" outlet mall before boarding on Tuesday. The hotel we stayed at offered FREE parking while cruising. The cost of taking a shuttle to and back from the port was still half the price of parking at the port itself. We arrived at the Princess terminal around 11:15, joined the line, when who should come up right behind us? The one person I corresponded with from the Cruise Critic's postings! We had arranged to get the 2 families together to benefit from a group discount for an excursion in Mexico. We were on the ship within 45 minutes. This was the fastest we had ever boarded. We went to our rooms, then to the front desk to have new keys made and finally to the Maitre D' desk asking to be changed to an early sitting in the dining room (were 27th on the waiting list). Cabins: First thing we did was check out the rooms and drop off the carry-on luggage. We were in D-216 and D-218. Cruise lines always put one person under 21 with an adult per room. Our cabin steward, Andy, greeted us and directed the boys to the room with the beds already separated and us parents to the one with the beds placed together. He also opened the balcony panel between the two rooms. It makes quite a difference. We left the patio doors unlocked to access each other's rooms until the keys (shipboard credit cards) were re-issued accordingly. These were the biggest and nicest rooms we have had cruising. The layout is the most functional. There was no love seat where you tend to pile up things. The closet and shelving unit, plus the drawers could easily accommodate 4. The washroom was your typical excruciatingly tight quarters with the smallest shower we ever had on any line. I am 5'8'', 136lbs and kept on bumping my elbows on the grab bar. We did spend more time in our cabins to relax because of the nice view and natural light. From now on I will always check the price of balconies first, with a window second, and will resort to an inside cabin only if I have to. Food: Always ate breakfast at the Horizon Court. By day 10, we had enough of seeing the same old selection. When you are planning a day in port, you do end up having to eat the same substantial meal of eggs, French toast, bacon, sausage, hash brown over and over. At sea, I was always looking forward to the buffet lunch in the Horizon. The selection varied enough to keep me going back for seconds. The fruits and salads are plentiful. For our dinner we were assigned the second seating in the traditional dining room. With two teenagers, it was impossible to have them survive till 8pm. We just went to the Bordeaux dining room at 5:45 and asked to sit at any table available. We had a very nice dinner with two retired couples. We usually prefer being just the 4 of us since that is about the only time we get to spend with our boys to talk about the days events and plan our excursions for the following days or when to meet up for certain shows. Fortunately that evening, we received a note at our door saying we were re-assigned to the Provence dining room at 6pm and had our own table. The food was good but rarely exceptional. (Carnival has the best). We returned 2 soups and one main course. In any case, since I am the only cook in this household...I greatly appreciated NOT having to cook and clean up! My advice to anyone is to ask for suggestions from your waiter/waitress. They are in a good position to know what is best. They have served the menu before and remember the reactions and comments of passengers. After asking for suggestions, my appreciation for the food went from acceptable to good and sometimes very good. On two occasions we had lunch or a snack at The Grill. Sometimes it does feel good to have a juicy hamburger or hot dog. There were wieners and sauerkraut with good fries. Had to purchase pop cards since there were no juices available at lunch or dinner (without an extra fee). The ice cream bar isn't worth it the additional price. Pools: Wow! 4 pools! And plenty of hot tubs. I prefer this set-up with 2 descent-sized pools, one exterior and one covered. The Lotus pool being in the prettiest setting I have seen. There is plenty of quiet space to lounge in the sun at different levels also. The small pool aft, was always empty. Was it because it was next to the kid's zone? The setting is absolutely gorgeous. Parents felt secure taking their youngest one to the splash pool on deck 16 and having plenty of room to lounge while keeping an eye out on the little ones. Entertainment: We participated and enjoyed the Scholar Ships @ Sea program. Complementary courses and lectures are given in different lounges and theaters. Some come at additional cost and are limited in enrollment. Check the list and register at the pursers' desk on day one. I attended culinary, graphology, digital photography courses. My husband went for computer & self-enhancement sessions. My older son took part in two Web design courses. Stage shows are geared towards an older clientele. Comedian Willy Tyler with Lester was good to see because I used to watch him on the Ed Sullivan show with my parents as a child. Kevin Hughes reached out to all ages in the audience. He was the best. We looked forward to going to all his shows; the teens would get together and go see him too. By the reaction of the crowd, he was the most entertaining on board. Production and cabaret shows were also good. The crowd always sets the mood for a successful karaoke. On this cruise it didn't work out. Very few participated and sometimes just one person sang. I didn't give any donations to the casino but my husband tried his luck...and lost. He is an avid golfer and participated in most of the golf challenges. He won the longest drive contest! We enjoyed the Island night deck party and watched pool games. My men caught Terminator 3 and S.W.A.T on the big screen. Neil is the cruise director. He is pleasant and a good MC but did not contribute much entertainment material. For kids: I warned my kids that this cruise was geared more to people from middle age to seniors...they still wanted to come. I was hoping other parents had the same idea as us to pull their teens out of school one week early. This is exactly what happened and we met a very nice family from Toronto with two boys the same ages as ours. There were perhaps 50 children on board with about 20 in the 15-17 age group. There were very few around the 18-21 bracket. Staff told us we were a much younger crowd on board because it covered X-mas compared to the previous weeks and that they were expecting 300 kids in the following week for the New Year day cruise. My youngest hung out at the"Off Limits" center. There are separate rooms dedicated to different age groups. He played free video games to his hearts content. As he stated if you participate you will have fun. Councilors supervise game areas and fun activities. He won a karaoke prize. Won a medal in the golf simulator. Went to the disco every night. Attended a teen dinner at reserved tables in the main dining room. My eldest played ping-pong, cards in the card room, attended shows with us or with some friends, viewed movies in the theater or on TV in his room. Gym: The smallest facilities we have seen on a ship but had all the expected equipment. It was my first time not using the gym. My husband went 4 times. Holiday specials: The atrium is full of garlands where some of the Staff sung carols. Xmas trees are by the elevators at each level and set up for portraits on formal nights. Holiday music is played throughout the ship, all the time. Some people decorate their cabin doors. Staff wears Santa hats. There is a special Xmas menu. We attended midnight mass in the Princess Theater. There are catholic, protestant and Chanukah services. Old Nick visits the children in person on the morning of the 25th. Each child received a Teddy Bear with a "Princess" scarf from Santa or from a councilor in the kid's zone. Ports: Be aware that the ship sets its clock according to the local time zones. Take that into consideration when booking your own excursions. We took all of our tours independently. Jamaica: Second visit. Booked thru Peat Taylor again (oneiltay@cwjamaica.com). My youngest was sea sick when we arrived in Ocho Rios and stayed on board all day. Peat was very accommodating; he accepted to change our itinerary and discounted the fare accordingly. First we visited Prospect Plantation. We returned to the ship for lunch on our balconies and to check in on our son. When Peat picked us up at 1:30 we went shopping instead of river tubing. Panama Canal: Stayed on board for the transit in and out of the lake. Got up at 5:30am. We were one of the first ships to enter the locks at 6am while it was still dark. The sun rose as we were going thru Gatun locks. Once on the lake we went for breakfast and returned to bed. Woke the boys up for an early lunch and headed outside to view the locks at noon. Moved around the ship to get different perspectives. Not many people knew of or ventured to the front balconies of the ship on levels 10-11. We were on 10 to enter the gates. On the way out we shifted from the sides of the Promenade deck (the aft is closed off because the cables are in use to guide the ship thru the locks) to the back balconies on level 8 (more on 9-10-11) to get a real close-up view of the canal gates, walls, towing mules and the container ship behind us. In Colon, we stayed at the pier and shopped for souvenirs. Limon: (Central time) Had no plans. Walked to the tour tent at the end of the pier as suggested by "Cruise critic" message boards and negotiated an excursion. It was raining quite hard at times (our ponchos came in handy). We headed out at 10am and returned at 4:30pm. For $45/person our cab driver took us to the entrance of a resort to view the bay and see an iguana in a tree; a villa's botanical garden where he pointed out the local vegetation and gave me a pretty flower that lasted the trip in my cabin; arranged a jungle river boat cruise; brought us to the "Chiquita" banana plantation and explained the whole process; then off to Cahuita National Park where we purchased something to drink, watched the locals surf and then walked part of the path lining the ocean in the jungle; on the way back he stopped by the road. Once to point out a group of black monkeys at the top of the trees, then to cut down a cocoa pod and cut it open with a machete to see the seeds inside, another time to have a baby monkey prance on our shoulders. Lastly, we stopped at a restaurant at the highest point in town just to take in the view from its terrace. Grand Cayman: The waters were very turbulent. It took longer than usual to board the tender. Once on land we walked a few blocks and took a collective mini-van. We asked to be dropped off at Governor's beach along the 7-mile beach. Then went back to town to shop a bit. There were 8 ships in port and that created a massive traffic jam. You must be on board by 2:30. Taxis can refuse to take you to the beach if it is after noon because of the congestion on the way back to the docks. Reserve early excursions on your own or thru the ship if you want to go later in the morning. Playa del Carmen: Met with our friends from the Cruise Critics' board and took the same tender. Took a collectivo taxi (passenger van) $2.50/person+10%tip to Hidden Worlds (www.HiddenWorlds.com) 35 minutes south of Playa del Carmen for and incredible journey snorkeling or diving in "cenotes" (underground caves and rivers). The tour was $35/person for snorkelers. That was the highlight and most memorable excursion of our trip. Then caught another collectivo back to Playa and shopped in town before boarding at 5pm. In need of improvement: *Netting over the basketball court should be higher to allow better ball arc. *Most ship photographers need to be more attentive to details. *It would be nice to have an on/off switch to hear public announcements in our cabins instead of running out into the hallways to know what's going on. *It took 3 days before we had our key issue straighten out. The first 2 people I spoke to at the purser's desk refused to issue extra keys for security reasons. They didn't care that I couldn't get into my children's room. On the 3rd morning I approached a different person to report I had security issues of my own and insisted it was time to make up extra keys. Within 1 minute, I had them. *It was rude of comedian/juggler Rick Novell to say: "ok, I see I'm not on a Carnival cruise" when the audience didn't respond with laughter or applause...he wasn't that good or funny anyway. *It feels cramped in the main dining room because of very low lighting combined with low ceilings. *Need more personnel in the dining rooms to allow for a more relaxed and personalized service. Overall: Cruise Critic's reviews always helped me so much in choosing ships ands itineraries. This was no exception. We were truly satisfied with this beautiful brand new ship with its luxurious dEcor. We are happy to record the Panama Canal in our travel logs. Our cabin steward was outstanding. He ran to make ginger tea for Stefan when he was sea sick. Told us about the great view from the front balconies. He was attentive to all our cabin needs and even got my kids out of bed when they slept in much too late!!!! Back home you can still hear me calling...Andy, where are you? We also met great people on board and will exchange photos through emails. We have only been back for two weeks...and are already looking forward to go cruising again as soon as possible. Truly hooked on cruising. CDNcruisers Glenn, Louise, Yvan & Stefan Read Less
Sail Date December 2003
Just completed the January 15th 2004 - 10-day Panama Canal cruise on the Island Princess. Just brief note about me. I am in my mid-30's and have been fortunate to have taken 18 cruises (this is my 3rd on Princess) thus far on most of ... Read More
Just completed the January 15th 2004 - 10-day Panama Canal cruise on the Island Princess. Just brief note about me. I am in my mid-30's and have been fortunate to have taken 18 cruises (this is my 3rd on Princess) thus far on most of the major lines (I try to take 2 per year). I love to cruise because I think it is the most relaxing type of vacation you can find. You can do as much or as little as you want. Overall Impressions: An excellent trip and Princess continues to be a solid choice for the mass market cruise lines. I would think that Princess should appeal to most people unless you are looking for a very active nightlife (more about that later). Embarkation: Very smooth. I always book my airfare separately. Arrived in Ft. Lauderdale around 10:30 and was at the Pier at 11:15. A line had formed outside the terminal building of early arrivers, but they started processing people about 20 minutes later. As I pre-registered on the Internet, it took just a few minutes to check in and I was on the ship Ship: Overall, I liked the Island very much. I was on the Golden last year and the Island seems similar only a bit smaller. I thought the lobby/atrium was one of the nicer ones I have seen recently. Other public rooms were nice and seemed functional. I don't really concern myself with these things too much so I won't spend much time on it here. Passengers: Not that it really matters to me, but the average age of the passengers on this sailing was likely in the 70's and probably the oldest crowd on any cruise I have been on. It could be a combination of the fact that it was a 10-day trip and that it was mid-January, not a popular vacation time for families. I make note of this only since there was not much activity around the ship past 10 or 11pm. So if your looking for a lot of nightlife, this is probably not the exact itinerary and timing for you. Cabin: I was in category BA on Caribe Deck. It is a standard outside balcony but had an "extended" balcony. The cabin was pretty standard and functional. Same goes for the bathroom. I will note that I had read the comments on the small size of the shower and I must say it is all true. They do seem smaller than usual. I had trouble figuring out how some people I saw on board fit in there. However, it did have awesome water pressure if you turned it all the way up. Having the larger balcony was a plus. It had two reclining chairs and a pretty good size square table. This balcony offered some privacy from above, but not total privacy. Service: I was very happy with the service. Our cabin steward was excellent and very friendly. He did a good job of always being available and efficient, but never being intrusive. Most of the other staff I had contact with were mostly friendly but I am not a high maintenance passenger. Food: As many people have appropriately said on these reviews, food is a subjective thing so I will only give you my opinions. After 18 cruises, I realize that when you are cooking for 2,000+ people, the likelihood that you will have a "gourmet" experience is remote. So here it goes...overall, it is my opinion that Princess has some of the better food of the large cruise lines. Dinner in the dining room was good to very good. I think that the beef dishes were typically not the best I have had (somewhat tough) but the chicken dishes, seafood and pasta's were generally very good. I tend to think that Princess does excellent pasta (a lot of cream sauces). I would typically order the pasta entrEe as a starter in a small portion. This is a way to try the pasta entrEe without having to have it as a main dish. Of course, if your hungry, just order both as an entrEe. As with all cruises I have been on, the waiters are very eager to bring you whatever you want and however much you want. Appetizers and soups were also mostly good but I thought the salads were typically uninspired. As a comparison, dining room food was just a notch below what I had on Celebrity Constellation in May and hands down far superior to the dining room food I had on Explorer of the Sears in November of 2002. Horizon Court: This is where I think Princess is much better than the other large cruise lines including Celebrity. I ate most of my breakfasts and lunches in the Horizon Court. Despite being poorly designed for traffic flow, the Horizon Court has pretty good food for a buffet. There is a nice selection and it doesn't seem like it has been sitting around for a long time as it can sometimes on other lines. Also, the food is always hot. For breakfast, you can go with the standard items but there was also a fresh egg & omelet area where you could pretty much order what you wanted. I am a big milk drinker and one thing I didn't like was that milk was only available at breakfast and at the dinner buffet. I have been on the Grand and Golden and I recall that there were milk dispenser's available 24hrs in the Horizon. Anyway, I took a bunch of milk cartons and stored them in my cabin refrigerator. Room service: Pretty standard here too. Ordered room service for breakfast twice and it was delivered on time and was usually hot. If you don't know...you can pretty much write down whatever you want and they will bring it. It does not need to be listed on the door menu card. A note of caution, be very explicit in what you want.... if you order pancakes, you must specify syrup, or else they won't bring it. Also you can write down whatever time you want. I asked for breakfast 1 hour earlier then was listed as available on the card and the food was delivered at the time I requested. Entertainment: I saw most of the production shows and they were pretty good. While the production shows tend to be similar content across the various cruise lines, the Island Princess singers and dancers were very talented and I enjoyed the shows very much. They also have a long term comedian onboard who does three shows through out the cruise and he was also very enjoyable. Lots of other bands and music on board all of which seemed to be good. Shore Excursions: Cozumel - Took a taxi over to the Chankanaab National Park for some snorkeling / sun. If you're looking for a lazy beach day, this is a good place to go. They have a variety of water sports if that is of interest. It is $10 cab fare each way and $10 entrance fee to the park. Snorkel gear was $6 per person if you head farther down the beach ($10 near the entrance). The snorkeling is ok, but not great. Grand Cayman - Booked the Stingray City and Snorkel tour though an independent operator Native Way, who was recommended on the boards. Native Way didn't show up at the pier as promised. Medical emergency was later cited as the reason. Don't know if I would trust them again. We just did the same trip with people advertising the same trip at the pier. I would recommend going to Stingray City if you have never done it before.... it is a unique experience. Panama Canal - Nice experience if you have not been through it before. We had booked the Ocean-to-Ocean tour, which was going to be the highlight of the trip (you get to go through the canal and locks on the Pacific side in a smaller boat). Unfortunately, this tour got cancelled about a half-hour before it was supposed to depart. This is where Princess really dropped the ball. As they insisted it was beyond there control, they still did not handle the situation very well. There were about 250 very unhappy people who were scheduled to go on this tour and they were none too happy to hear that not only was the tour cancelled, but there were no other options to join another tour. Therefore, we were all stuck on the ship until late in the day when the ship went back through the locks and docked in Colon. To add to our frustration, the tour desk supervisor didn't handle the angry passengers very well. In fact, he became downright hostile as many of the passengers affected were voicing their displeasure to him. Princess obviously refunded everyone the cost of the tour and then a few days later (bowing to persistent complaints and angry passengers) decided to give everyone scheduled on the tour a $100 ship credit. Limon, Costa Rica - Went on the Jungle River Eco-Cruise. 2-3 hour cruise in the rain forest. It was interesting and the guides were excellent. Ocho-Rios - Was booked on the Yacht sailing trip to Dunns River Falls. This tour was cancelled early on in the cruise (no reason given). Decided just to cab over to Dunns, which was just as well ($11 cab each way and $10 per person to enter the falls). Other Comments: Cutbacks continue to be noticed on all the ships as cruise prices continue to be very reasonable. I have been cruising many years and prices are lower now than they were several years ago. That being said, I am of the opinion that I would rather pay an extra $50 or $100 for the cruise then be nickel-and-dimed for things that used to be included in the cost of the cruise. Some things I noticed on the Island were that juices are only available at breakfast time. If you want any type of juice at any time other than breakfast, it will cost you. Same thing goes for hot chocolate. I sometimes like hot chocolate after dinner but there is now a $1.50 charge. This seems pretty petty, but it did really bother me. All the cruise lines are doing this extra charging, but it varies on what items they have decided to start charging for. Any way you cut it, it's not a good trend. I never had any problem getting lounge chairs. I don't know if it was due to the age of the passengers or that there seemed to be lounge chairs everywhere. I pretty much had my pick of chairs anywhere on the ship. Overall, Princess continues to be a great choice in the large cruise line segment. They have good food, nice ships and friendly staff. The Island Princess is comfortable and I have no problem recommending this ship or line. If I can answer any other questions let me know at drew7096@aol.com. Read Less
Sail Date January 2004
Just completed the January 15th 2004 - 10-day Panama Canal cruise on the Island Princess. Just brief note about me. I am in my mid-30's and have been fortunate to have taken 18 cruises (this is my 3rd on Princess) thus far on most of ... Read More
Just completed the January 15th 2004 - 10-day Panama Canal cruise on the Island Princess. Just brief note about me. I am in my mid-30's and have been fortunate to have taken 18 cruises (this is my 3rd on Princess) thus far on most of the major lines (I try to take 2 per year). I love to cruise because I think it is the most relaxing type of vacation you can find. You can do as much or as little as you want. Overall Impressions: An excellent trip and Princess continues to be a solid choice for the mass market cruise lines. I would think that Princess should appeal to most people unless you are looking for a very active nightlife (more about that later). Embarkation: Very smooth. I always book my airfare separately. Arrived in Ft. Lauderdale around 10:30 and was at the Pier at 11:15. A line had formed outside the terminal building of early arrivers, but they started processing people about 20 minutes later. As I pre-registered on the Internet, it took just a few minutes to check in and I was on the ship Ship: Overall, I liked the Island very much. I was on the Golden last year and the Island seems similar only a bit smaller. I thought the lobby/atrium was one of the nicer ones I have seen recently. Other public rooms were nice and seemed functional. I don't really concern myself with these things too much so I won't spend much time on it here. Passengers: Not that it really matters to me, but the average age of the passengers on this sailing was likely in the 70's and probably the oldest crowd on any cruise I have been on. It could be a combination of the fact that it was a 10-day trip and that it was mid-January, not a popular vacation time for families. I make note of this only since there was not much activity around the ship past 10 or 11pm. So if your looking for a lot of nightlife, this is probably not the exact itinerary and timing for you. Cabin: I was in category BA on Caribe Deck. It is a standard outside balcony but had an "extended" balcony. The cabin was pretty standard and functional. Same goes for the bathroom. I will note that I had read the comments on the small size of the shower and I must say it is all true. They do seem smaller than usual. I had trouble figuring out how some people I saw on board fit in there. However, it did have awesome water pressure if you turned it all the way up. Having the larger balcony was a plus. It had two reclining chairs and a pretty good size square table. This balcony offered some privacy from above, but not total privacy. Service: I was very happy with the service. Our cabin steward was excellent and very friendly. He did a good job of always being available and efficient, but never being intrusive. Most of the other staff I had contact with were mostly friendly but I am not a high maintenance passenger. Food: As many people have appropriately said on these reviews, food is a subjective thing so I will only give you my opinions. After 18 cruises, I realize that when you are cooking for 2,000+ people, the likelihood that you will have a "gourmet" experience is remote. So here it goes...overall, it is my opinion that Princess has some of the better food of the large cruise lines. Dinner in the dining room was good to very good. I think that the beef dishes were typically not the best I have had (somewhat tough) but the chicken dishes, seafood and pasta's were generally very good. I tend to think that Princess does excellent pasta (a lot of cream sauces). I would typically order the pasta entrEe as a starter in a small portion. This is a way to try the pasta entrEe without having to have it as a main dish. Of course, if your hungry, just order both as an entrEe. As with all cruises I have been on, the waiters are very eager to bring you whatever you want and however much you want. Appetizers and soups were also mostly good but I thought the salads were typically uninspired. As a comparison, dining room food was just a notch below what I had on Celebrity Constellation in May and hands down far superior to the dining room food I had on Explorer of the Sears in November of 2002. Horizon Court: This is where I think Princess is much better than the other large cruise lines including Celebrity. I ate most of my breakfasts and lunches in the Horizon Court. Despite being poorly designed for traffic flow, the Horizon Court has pretty good food for a buffet. There is a nice selection and it doesn't seem like it has been sitting around for a long time as it can sometimes on other lines. Also, the food is always hot. For breakfast, you can go with the standard items but there was also a fresh egg & omelet area where you could pretty much order what you wanted. I am a big milk drinker and one thing I didn't like was that milk was only available at breakfast and at the dinner buffet. I have been on the Grand and Golden and I recall that there were milk dispenser's available 24hrs in the Horizon. Anyway, I took a bunch of milk cartons and stored them in my cabin refrigerator. Room service: Pretty standard here too. Ordered room service for breakfast twice and it was delivered on time and was usually hot. If you don't know...you can pretty much write down whatever you want and they will bring it. It does not need to be listed on the door menu card. A note of caution, be very explicit in what you want.... if you order pancakes, you must specify syrup, or else they wont bring it. Also you can write down whatever time you want. I asked for breakfast 1 hour earlier then was listed as available on the card and the food was delivered at the time I requested. Entertainment: I saw most of the production shows and they were pretty good. While the production shows tend to be similar content across the various cruise lines, the Island Princess singers and dancers were very talented and I enjoyed the shows very much. They also have a long term comedian onboard who does three shows through out the cruise and he was also very enjoyable. Lots of other bands and music on board all of which seemed to be good. Shore Excursions: Cozumel - Took a taxi over to the Chankanaab National Park for some snorkeling / sun. If you're looking for a lazy beach day, this is a good place to go. They have a variety of water sports if that is of interest. It is $10 cab fare each way and $10 entrance fee to the park. Snorkel gear was $6 per person if you head farther down the beach ($10 near the entrance). The snorkeling is ok, but not great. Grand Cayman - Booked the Stingray City and Snorkel tour though an independent operator Native Way, who was recommended on the boards. Native Way didn't show up at the pier as promised. Medical emergency was later cited as the reason. Don't know if I would trust them again. We just did the same trip with people advertising the same trip at the pier. I would recommend going to Stingray City if you have never done it before.... it is a unique experience. Panama Canal - Nice experience if you have not been through it before. We had booked the Ocean-to-Ocean tour, which was going to be the highlight of the trip (you get to go through the canal and locks on the Pacific side in a smaller boat). Unfortunately, this tour got cancelled about a half-hour before it was supposed to depart. This is where Princess really dropped the ball. As they insisted it was beyond there control, they still did not handle the situation very well. There were about 250 very unhappy people who were scheduled to go on this tour and they were none too happy to hear that not only was the tour cancelled, but there were no other options to join another tour. Therefore, we were all stuck on the ship until late in the day when the ship went back through the locks and docked in Colon. To add to our frustration, the tour desk supervisor didn't handle the angry passengers very well. In fact, he became downright hostile as many of the passengers affected were voicing their displeasure to him. Princess obviously refunded everyone the cost of the tour and then a few days later (bowing to persistent complaints and angry passengers) decided to give everyone scheduled on the tour a $100 ship credit. Limon, Costa Rica - Went on the Jungle River Eco-Cruise. 2-3 hour cruise in the rain forest. It was interesting and the guides were excellent. Ocho-Rios - Was booked on the Yacht sailing trip to Dunns River Falls. This tour was cancelled early on in the cruise (no reason given). Decided just to cab over to Dunns, which was just as well ($11 cab each way and $10 per person to enter the falls). Other Comments: Cutbacks continue to be noticed on all the ships as cruise prices continue to be very reasonable. I have been cruising many years and prices are lower now than they were several years ago. That being said, I am of the opinion that I would rather pay an extra $50 or $100 for the cruise then be nickel-and-dimed for things that used to be included in the cost of the cruise. Some things I noticed on the Island were that juices are only available at breakfast time. If you want any type of juice at any time other than breakfast, it will cost you. Same thing goes for hot chocolate. I sometimes like hot chocolate after dinner but there is now a $1.50 charge. This seems pretty petty, but it did really bother me. All the cruise lines are doing this extra charging, but it varies on what items they have decided to start charging for. Any way you cut it, it's not a good trend. I never had any problem getting lounge chairs. I don't know if it was due to the age of the passengers or that there seemed to be lounge chairs everywhere. I pretty much had my pick of chairs anywhere on the ship. Overall, Princess continues to be a great choice in the large cruise line segment. They have good food, nice ships and friendly staff. The Island Princess is comfortable and I have no problem recommending this ship or line. If I can answer any other questions let me know at drew7096@aol.com. Read Less
Sail Date January 2004
10 Day Panama Canal Itinerary Island Princess D608 Traditional Dining Late Seating 1/25/04 to 2/4/04 Nassau, Panama, Costa Rica, Grand Cayman, Cozumel Charles and Judy Crain - 46 and 48, engineer and homemaker, respectively. Mexican ... Read More
10 Day Panama Canal Itinerary Island Princess D608 Traditional Dining Late Seating 1/25/04 to 2/4/04 Nassau, Panama, Costa Rica, Grand Cayman, Cozumel Charles and Judy Crain - 46 and 48, engineer and homemaker, respectively. Mexican Riviera (Sea Princess) - 1/2002 Alaska (Ocean Princess) - 6/2001 Summary: Best cruise to date, but the first to Alaska will always be special. Food, fun, excursions, activities, and itinerary were all great. We picked this cruise because of the length (10 days), seeing the Panama Canal, trying a Caribbean cruise for the first time and the price. The price was the major driver for picking this cruise, the personnel will keep us coming back. In summary, highly recommended. If you can get onto the Island Princess before she goes to Alaska, try this itinerary. Top 10 Best List: 1: Princess Personnel (The Good) - Like our Alaska cruise, this one was filled with notable Princess personnel that made the cruise exceptional. Of note was Jessy, our cabin steward who was almost perfect (no one is perfect), friendly, helpful, cheery and always there when we needed him. He kept the cabin immaculate and did such a good job we tipped him in addition to the normal tips. Rick, the shore and shopping advisor, checked on and kept tabs on all the people shopping on shore to ensure everything was going all right. Our table mates from Colorado were amazed that he kept checking in on them during their shopping. His shopping tips, especially the puzzle boxes in Costa Rica, were right on. Last, but certainly not least, was Samantha, one of the ass't cruise directors. She was one cute, bubbly ball of energy and our line dance instructor. Please, do not feed her any caffeine, she has enough energy to power the ship in an emergency. Constantly smiling, friendly, outgoing, helpful, she represents the best of Princess's most important resource, the personnel. Now, its important to note that all of the other people we ran into, our wait staff, Susan, Trevor and Josh, the other asst cruise staff, the buffet cooks, TK in the Explorer Lounge, were wonderful as well. But we had more contact with Rick, Sam and Jessy and were able to notice their above and beyond contribution to a wonderful cruise. All cruise lines have to realize that without great personnel, you can never have a great cruise and with lousy personnel you will have a lousy cruise. Everything, we liked on this cruise is directly attributable to a specific person or persons doing an outstanding job. Without those people, you just have a motel that moves with a Denny's out front. 2: Cruise Price/Value - For the price paid, this cruise was incredible. 10 day, mini-suite, beautiful ship, great food, the overall value or "bang for the buck" was sensational. None of the "worst" list detracted from the experience. We spoke to many other veteran cruisers and their unanimous opinion was that this was one of the best cruises. One couple was on their 27th cruise spread out among all of the major cruise lines and this was in the top five. 3: Food - As near to perfect as you can expect on a cruise ship. Consistently good quality with some surprise exceptional taste treats sprinkled in -lobster at dinner, kiwi tartett in the lunch buffet, eggplant appetizer on Italian night, incredible prime rib and a lot of others. Based on our previous two cruises we expected differences between the buffet, the dining room, the grill and the alternatives, but in this case the quality was well above average everywhere. 4: Mini-suite Layout - We are now spoiled. The mini-suite with its extra length and couch was just the right size. All of the "stuff" that ends up on the bed and just migrates to the desk, table and chair in a regular room now has a place on the couch. Full bathtub, huge closet and a larger balcony -however, our balcony was not covered which caused some issues (see negatives). But all in all, well worth the extra money on a 10 day trip. 5: Activities and Entertainment - From Kevin Huges (comic) to the shows (Panama [Pub] Night) to the production shows and activities (Cowboy night), there was too much to do it all. We missed a lot of stuff going on and were never bored. 6: Ship Cleanliness - The Island Princess was in immaculate condition. Every restroom, every public area was spotless. Dining rooms were exceptionally clean. (The only exception was the Lotus Pool which had rust spots where the coating was not applied properly.) 7: Ship Layout - The Island Princess layout reminded us of an upgraded Sun class. The separate Lotus Pool area with its swim current and 2 meter depth made it the exercise pool of choice. Three main ship's elevator wells plus the normal atrium elevators made navigation easy. It almost appears that they added an additional deck by lowering slightly the ceiling of all of the other decks. The designers also used mirrors a lot to add a sense of openness to spaces. The gym was full of modern workout equipment including Precor ellipticals and a full set of circuit training weight machines. 8: Sabbatini's - An experience all in itself. You choose your soup and your main course. Everything else on the menu is provided to you to taste. Don't even try and eat it all. Skip lunch for this one. Well worth the $20 extra per person. Service is exquisite. The wait staff love to talk to you. Let them explain the history of the dishes and the wines. 9: Discover SCUBA Cozumel: In Alaska it was glacier trekking, in the Caribbean its SCUBA. No certification required. A 20 minute orientation, checkout in shallow water and then 30 minutes down to 25 feet examining fish, coral, rays, eels and other divers. We might just get certified now. 10: Stingray Sandbar Catamaran Grand Caymen: An un-crowded (22 of us) trip on a catamaran out to the Stingray Sandbar to dance with, touch and feed the stingrays. One stingray is over 30 years old and is blind in both eyes due to cataracts, but she sure can dance and find the squid ok. Princess really does a good job of finding great companies for their excursions. This was no exception. The personnel were friendly, knowledgeable and really cared about the rays. The trip out and back aboard the catamaran was a real treat as well. For value added the crew does a video of the excursion, in and out of the water. You can buy the DVD for $60 and it will be mailed to your house. The VHS is cheaper. Great for those who don't want to take their $600 digital video camera into the salt water. Top 7 Worst List (Just Could Not Come Up With Ten and some of these are real nits): 1: Sell/Sell/Sell - All of the cruise lines are reducing prices to attract guests. To make up the difference they are selling everything in sight during the cruise. During the cooking demonstration, they will push a cookbook, during lunch in the horizon court, they will walk by with the same cookbook for sale. The photographers are everywhere taking pictures. 5x7 photos are overlaid with stock maps or information on an 8x10 format and sold as an 8x10. 8x10's are up to $20 each. Some of this is not bad - the personalized trip specific video is a great idea, but they need more than one video camera. Unobtrusive photographers on special occasions are welcomed, but some of them get pushed out of shape when you refuse a picture. The Lotus Spa's prices on products are outrageous. No you don't have to buy and we recommend you don't - at all. Pocket the money, call the Mary Kay lady and save a literal fortune. For example, the minimum for Judy's skin care products that she "must" have, was over $300 for three items. That's just insane. 2: Bar Staff Tips - Sales vs. Service; This is a corollary to #1 above. Princess adds 15% to each drink tab that the server him or herself gets directly. This creates a feeding frenzy of drink waiters and waitresses that put sales above service. People who want water will only get bottled water. People who want coffee, or coke (with the coke sticker) or tea that are free with no tip will be ignored or lied to as in, " we don't have any coffee or tea" or " we're not allowed to do that". There were a few waiters that did put service above sales and brought water or coke promptly. I truly believe that if a drink waiter would walk around with a tray of free water glasses, he or she just might even score more drink orders with the good will generated. Princess needs to do something about this situation. I would even suggest going as far as paying the wait staff to deliver the free drinks by accounting for them and giving them $0.25 for each glass given out. 3: Princess Personnel (The Bad): The sell/sell/sell probably contributed to this as well, but on one occasion we actually saw a waitress leave a restroom without washing her hands, and went right on serving drinks - touching napkins, glasses, straws. Not good. Room service was bad as well. Out of 5 different room services orders, all were screwed up somehow. Three were delivered to the wrong room, one had a canned coke instead of a "free" glass of coke (sell/sell/sell again?) and one was incomplete. 4: Deck Washing/Balcony Cover - As regular as clockwork between 0200 and 0300, the upper deck would be hosed off, right onto our balcony table and chairs, 4 stories below. The dolphin centerline balconies protrude out and anything washed off the top deck would land on our balcony. We liked to sleep with the door open and the first few nights we though it was rain. Found out later it wasn't. This was a bad design choice. The uncovered balcony removes some privacy and does not provide any shade or rain cover. Things from the top deck that are dropped or blow/roll off inevitably end up on the Dolphin deck balconies. The Sun class balconies are covered and we did prefer that. 5: Coffee Outside the Horizon Court - On the Sun class ships there is coffee service on both sides of the grill on deck 15. In the Coral class, there is not. This means that for a cup of coffee you have to fight the lines in the Horizon Court. They did add coffee service at the entrance to the buffet line, but when its busy, it's a challenge to reach it. 6: Bayou Cafe - A big disappointment. The food was good, the service was good, but it wasn't Cajun. In fact when I asked for recommendations, none of the recommendations were the "New Orleans" style courses. The recommended dished were normal, typical Nuevo French or European cuisine. After Sabbatini's this was a downer. We did go against the recommendations and order the "New Orleans" style - the best of which was the gator ribs, but everything else, while good, was not as good as what we were getting in the dining room. 7: Universal Lounge Layout - Unlike the Sun class, the Universal Lounge is not tiered, but sloped. This sloping is inadequate and frequently allows taller people in the front to completely block the view of people behind them. In the upper deck, a great design idea and makes for a spectacular view from above, the second row of seats has their view almost totally blocked. Read Less
Sail Date January 2004
I stayed at the Holiday Inn Ft. Laud Beach. The area is not as nice as the main hotel area where the Sheratons are, but it was good for the price. We walked to the Sheraton in about 15 minutes. Love taking the water taxi to see Millionaire ... Read More
I stayed at the Holiday Inn Ft. Laud Beach. The area is not as nice as the main hotel area where the Sheratons are, but it was good for the price. We walked to the Sheraton in about 15 minutes. Love taking the water taxi to see Millionaire Mile (saw the yacht owned by the owner of Princess) and going to the restaurants. I took bonine the first day, but it made me drowsy, I did fine the rest of the cruise with my sea bands. It was really rough the night before the Panama Canal and the night after, a woman on deck 11 called down in the middle of the night to see if there was something wrong with the ship and the captain made an announcement the next night to advise of rough seas, but I didn't feel a thing on my room on Plaza deck, in the middle, room 602 - outside. The upgrade fairy upgraded me 8 levels. I booked my cruise with Cruises Only, much lower than booking with Princess, plus I got a $50 shipboard credit - you have to ask for it and we received coupon books during the cruise. My friend had booked with Princess, she asked customer service for the coupon books and was told the travel agents were running a promotion, so they would not give her any. I had read that the Coral Princess the week before had the norwalk virus so I was expecting to see the staff wiping down areas etc. but did not notice anything. The Star had hand sanitizers outside of the horizon court restrooms, but not the Island. Watch out when ordering the drinks/mocktails of the day, they will not give you the price advertised unless you demand it, they always try to push the larger size drinks, some of the waiters are pretty pushy, but the service was great. There were plenty of deck chairs everywhere, no need to try to chair hog. Some of the nights you could get to a show at the last minute and get seats other nights be there 15 minutes early, especially the first couple of nights. I didn't think the production shows were as good as the Star, but still worth seeing. The comedians were just ok. The newlywed game was terrible - don't bother. We enjoyed the horse races and the casino. In Ocho Rios we did the catamaran snorkeling trip on the cool jazz through Princess, this is the worse snorkeling I have ever done, hardly any fish and not much for coral, they only go a few yards away from the ship, we really enjoyed sailing though, sat out on the net, had huge waves. Did the Nativeway tour in Grand Cayman to the sandbar. I was really looking forward to getting in with the stingrays and was really scared when I did, they are huge and surround you, I'm glad I did it, but I wouldn't do it again, one man at our table was bitten/hurt by one, had a mark on his arm, but he was fine otherwise. Some of my table mates did the glass dome train excursion at the canal, but didn't like it. Going through the canal, I went to the horizon court at 6:15 and was able to get a good table, one row back. During the voyage go to deck 7 - promenade to be eye level with the locomotives, the best place was in the back, I was on the lido deck, you can see other ships behind you and beside you, it was great. I stayed on the ship and enjoyed the ride back through the locks. I don't get massages, can't see paying hundreds of dollars, but if you want to save some money, they always go on sale the last 3 days, the hot rocks was reduced from $158 to $85 and they had daily specials, so why book the minute you get on. I had looked forward to going to the disco with my friends, but they would not start it till after midnight - so that no one was there, when the show in the Explorers lounge ended, there were still about 30 people there, I asked the dj to play a song, he said he doesn't start till midnight, 10 minutes later the lounge was empty. I went back at 12:30 and there were 2 people sitting at a table. I don't know why Princess doesn't start the disco after the shows when they have people there. It's like Princess is against the partying atmosphere. So if you like to dance, forget it. I loved the cruise though, it's a beautiful ship, but I am 50 and can't wait to try Carnival again, I love the Carnival pool parties and bands (there is no band poolside on Princess, only 1 person singing to recorded music). The mood on Princess is quiet, really quiet and refined, Carnival is for those who want to stay up past 10 and like to dance. Read Less
Sail Date February 2004
We are Platinum members with princess and have sailed a total of 25+ cruises. Being British, my wife and I flew from London HRW via British Airways on a Princess package arriving in Miami a day before the cruise departure. The flight was ... Read More
We are Platinum members with princess and have sailed a total of 25+ cruises. Being British, my wife and I flew from London HRW via British Airways on a Princess package arriving in Miami a day before the cruise departure. The flight was uneventful and unmemorable being completely full. We were met by a Princess rep and our luggage taken care of. After a lengthy wait for a coach, together with another 40 people we were transported to the Intercontinental hotel. We were very pleased with the accommodation here although we did consider the price of food to be expensive. There are very few facilities at this hotel and very little else to do here. For breakfast the following morning we visited the adjacent McDonalds. At noon on 15th March, around 150 British guests boarded the coaches for the 70 minute journey to Fort Lauderdale. We arrived around 1.30pm, and the booking in procedure was very simple, and after the obligatory 'Welcome aboard photo' we were settled into our stateroom on Aloha Deck 608. This was a balcony cabin just aft of midships. We found the cabin to be quite satisfactory with ample storage space. The bed was configured to a queen and was quite comfortable. It is indeed a fact that the shower cubicle is 'comfortable' - and if you do drop the soap you will have to squat to pick it up rather than bending over! The room steward was excellent is all respects. After the 4.15 Muster held in the public rooms we were on our way just after 6pm for the sailaway. We had booked 'anytime dining' but when we boarded we decided we would like to change it to 2nd sitting - however in the event the traditional dining room (Provence) was full for both sittings. The time for 1st sitting was 5.45pm and second sitting was 8pm. Following the advice gained from Cruise Critic we then spoke with the Maitre D and arranged a regular 8.15 time slot for a table for 2 in the Bordeaux dining Room. Also let it be said that we never had any trouble requesting a table for 2 for any meal in this restaurant. We found the food to be good (Prime Ribs excellent) and the service from the waiters in the main to be excellent. We didn't dine in the Bayou or Sabitinis. There were no reports of Norwalk virus. We thought the Photographers did a good job - however the price of the pictures (10x8=$19.95 and 8x6=$9.95) was expensive. Although the borders and details superimposed made some of them excellent souvenirs. In the Panama Canal the photographers go ashore and take photos of the guests on their Balconies. We had one flat calm sea day and the others were mostly quite windy and sunny. The swimming pools can be quite wild at times. There was never any problem with seat hogging, and you were always able to get a sunbed virtually anywhere. I suppose the age group overall averaged around 55/60 and there were only around 25 small children and a handful of teenagers. There never caused any disturbance in the pools or Jacuzzis. A lot has been said about the ports of call, and I will not go into great detail here, only to say that a couple of pointers. A seemingly little known fact is that passengers are able to stand at the front of the ship on Decks 10 & 11 by exiting out of the for'd doors. This is an excellent position for transiting the canal and there were very few others there. We did the Ocean to Ocean tour - it was a 9 hour tour - and there was a packed lunch. Although a good tour, a lot of time is wasted waiting around in the locks, and the coach journey too and from is very long (2hrs). While the ship was in Cristobel the QM2 was there. The ship couldn't enter Limon due apparently to a high swell, however we did dock at a container port (Port Moin) approx 2 miles North. Princess did provide a transfer to Limon but charged $6pp each way!! We did the Eco tour and found this to be extremely interesting seeing crocodiles, iguanas, sloths and howling monkeys. Debarkation was very smooth and organised. All in all Princess exceeded our expectations. Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
Island Princess Panama Canal March 5-15 Ft. Lauderdale: As we wanted to make own flight arrangements through a travel agent, we flew down on March 4. We always go the day before in case of weather and flight delays. Arrived in Ft. ... Read More
Island Princess Panama Canal March 5-15 Ft. Lauderdale: As we wanted to make own flight arrangements through a travel agent, we flew down on March 4. We always go the day before in case of weather and flight delays. Arrived in Ft. Lauderdale by noon, called the Embassy Suite shuttle and checked into the hotel. Our room was not ready, so walked around enjoying the shopping areas and ate lunch at the South Port Raw Bar on the patio overlooking a marina. It was very close to the Embassy Suites. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a liquor store and purchased a couple bottles of wine and a bottle of champagne to take on board. We got into our room around 3 PM. Requested a high room facing the pier, as many of you suggested. You could at least see the top half of the ships that were in Port Everglades. Then walked to the River Marriott to pick up the Water Bus....again....thanks for the recommendations all you CC. It is a bit of a walk, but less than a mile. We took the Water Bus ($5 for all day) to Las Olas Boulevard where there are a bunch of restaurants, bars, and shopping. We loved the ride, enjoying the million dollar homes. We ate dinner at a delicious Mexican dinner at the Ole Ole and then took the water bus back. March 5: Could see the Island Princess from our room. The Embassy Suites provides a full breakfast. At about 11:15 we asked the bell man to call us a cab, as we had heard the ES no longer provides transportation to the pier. However, they were just loading 2 vans and put us on one of those. When we got to the pier it looked like a huge line. However once they opened the doors, all went well and we were checked in and in our room by 12:30. Sat by the pool and explored the ship until muster at 4:15. Luggage arrived about 6 PM. We do late traditional dining. We don't want to bother with reservations, deciding where and when to eat and enjoy having one waiter for the entire cruise. We had a table for 8. One couple never showed up after the first night so must have changed dining arrangements. Enjoyed exchanging stories of our day with the other two couples each evening. Went to the 10:15 show. It was an introduction of cruise staff, dancers and comedian, Kevin Hughes. He was great so went to both of his other shows. March 6: At sea. Champagne Art Auction: fun to go to at least one even if you aren't interested in buying. They tell about the artists and the Princess Art program. You can stay as long or short of time as you desire. First Formal night. We did formal pictures around 6 PM and found no lines. Captain's Welcome at 7:30 PM. Free cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. If you like chocolate try the Hazelnut Chocolate SoufflE for dessert! Wen to the show Let's Rock! Very good for ship entertainment. Not sure how they dance with the ship rocking so! March 7: Ocho Rios . Ordered breakfast in room. Used the menu left on bed every night. Yes, you can add items not on there, but be very specific. Delivered promptly during the half hour time slot we requested. Personally can take or leave Ocho Rios. Walked to Margaritaville and laid on the beach. Can use the beach there if you buy a drink. You can rent chairs or umbrellas once you are on the beach. Small beach, but nobody pushing you to buy things. Margaritaville was really hopping by the time we went back to the ship mid-afternoon. Shopped briefly at Island Village. Many afternoons we would go to Horizon Court for cheeses, crackers, cold meat, etc. to have on our balcony with a drink while the ship left port. Drink at Wheelhouse Bar. Not much action here, but a few people dancing to a combo. After dinner we went to the 50's Rock N' Roll Party. Lots of fun!!! The singers and dancers performed in a casual atmosphere. There was dancing and a few contests. March 8: At Sea I sat in the sun. There weren't many chair hogs. You could always find a place at the front of the ship a deck above the pool. There were a lot of decks with chair available if you didn't have a need to be by the pool. Most sea days I got food from Horizon Court and ate by the pool. My husband enjoyed the pizza and hamburgers at the pool grill. He spent some time in the library, which is very quiet. You can listen to music, read, and watch the water. Went to the Wine Tasting for $7.50 each. It was okay, but don't feel a need to go to another. Before dinner had cocktails at Crooner's Martini Bar. It was my favorite because there were windows so you could see the ocean or you could people watch as it is right on the atrium. If you like chocolate martinis you must have the Milky Way martini!! Dinner was French night, so Escargot was a must!! March 9: Panama Canal Up at 5:45 as we didn't want to miss any of the Panama Canal transit. You cannot do the pre-order breakfast (where you hang it on your door the night before) until 7 AM, so we called room service. You can order most things they have available on a daily basis. Delivery was prompt. We watched the transit through the Gatun Locks from our balcony. Left our balcony door open and the Princess Station on our TV turned up loud enough to hear the commentary as we entered the locks. At 9:30 AM they begin to tender those with excursions to the Gatun Yacht Club. If you don't have an excursion scheduled you stay on the ship and anchor in Gatun Lake until the ship is given a time to go back out the same three locks you entered through. We had chosen the Ocean to Ocean. It was an hour and a half bus ride to Gamboa, where we boarded a boat that probably held 200. We sat on the top deck in the front as wanted a clear view. It was a very hot day and it took us a long time to get through the 3 locks into the Pacific. They put two ships or boats in the locks if possible to save water. We had a huge cargo vessel going with us and it took quite a while for it to catch up with us and get into the locks behind us. We are not bothered by the sun or the heat so enjoyed our seats. There were benches in the shade and inside where it was air-conditioned for those that don't do well in the heat. Yes, it was a long day, but we loved every minute of it. Apparently some did not enjoy the excursion as much as we did. We docked on the Pacific side at Flamenco Island and were bused back to the port of Cristobal where we met the Island Princess. Due to the time it took to got through the locks, we were the last group on board before the ship pulled out. Being a ship sponsored tour, being late was not an issue. We loved going through the locks in a smaller boat so you could see more of the locks, travel through the Culebra Cut, and hear more about the Panama Canal. If you are doing this excursion, though consider the time and temperature factors. March 10: Limon We did the Costa Rican Adventure which was an aerial tram through the rain forest, lunch and a boat through the Tortuguero Canal. It left at 6:45 AM and returned to the ship at 6 PM. Again, we enjoyed it and would recommend it. If that is too long for you just do the canal part which can be booked by itself. Enjoyed the tram through the rain forest, but saw no animals and is something you probably only need to do once. Lunch was at an open sided roofed building. It was Costa Rican food...rice and beans, chicken, steak, pantian, veggies, salad and a coconut dessert. It was excellent. The boat trip is definitely a "to do". Saw a lot of monkeys, 3-toed sloths, snake birds, hurons, bats, and crocodiles. March 11: At sea Entered the slot tournament; a first. You just pay $20 and get so many credits or pulls. The 6 that have the most credits after the pulls have a play-off and the high credits from that wins $500. Went to the ventriloquist, who was entertaining. Dinner was called International Night. It was Island Night and there was a big party around the Lido pool, but it was extremely windy all day and evening, so not a lot of fun on deck! March 12: Grand Cayman Left on early tender (7:30 AM) to do the Catamaran and Snorkel Stingray excursion. Get to Grand Cayman and Princess excursion person announces "due to wind and current that excursion was cancelled at 7:20 AM). There is a snorkel trip to two places at 8:30 AM they will put us on or credit us with the original excursion. We decide to do the 8:30 AM excursion. Then about half an hour later we are the only ones interested so can't do that either. The excursion guy, Kevin says we can go on the same one with a group from Royal Caribbean at 10 AM. Meet at the same spot. Kevin leaves and at 9:30 we see RCI people at a different tender spot. I ask the excursion guru who replaces Kevin and he says "all Princess excursions meet here" and he doesn't know anything about our substituted excursion. He is very short with us and no help! (Not good!) On our own we go to where the RCI people are boarding a snorkeling boat and join them. The man, Kevin originally told us to go with us welcomes us, takes our Princess excursion ticket and we had a great snorkeling excursion with RCI people to the Cheeseburger reef and a shipwreck not far from the tender pier. Thank heavens my husband was aggressive enough to go to the RCI excursion area and find the guy in charge of that particular trip. Ended up to be a GREAT snorkeling adventure, but I feel Princess let us down! Found out later that people who booked independent trips went and it was windy, but just fine! Should have taken the advice of all you CC's who said "book the stingrays on your own". Next time, eh? Shopped a little, then ate lunch at Breezes...overlooking the water and all the ships anchored.....on their outside balcony! Had a wonderful Conch salad! Back to the ship for pool time. Second formal night, reception for returning passengers, pictures and another great meal!! Our waiter brought us a platter of fabulous cookies besides desserts! March 13: Cozumel Room Service for breakfast on our balcony again! Princess Catamaran Excursion to Palancaar and Columbia Reef. Great catamaran ride to excellent snorkeling spots. Super crew. They snorkeled with us and searched out the best fish and turtle sightings for us. They were very safety conscious and made sure everyone had a good excursion. Back to the ship to clean up and back to Cozumel to shop and have a snack at Panchos (overlooking the water and pier). Back for my daily fix at the casino, but actually came out ahead! March 14: Thought I would not dread my last day on board after a 10 day cruise....WRONG! Not ready for a glorious vacation to come to an end. Another very windy day, so no breakfast on balcony. Pool day and time to pack! One last martini at Crooners and time to purchase last minute pictures. One more trip to casino and some time listening to Karaoke. March 15: Routine disembarkation. Thanks CC's for the advice to use a porter. No line. They take you promptly to a taxi. A word of warning.......the Ft. Lauderdale airport is a zoo.....even on Monday! You have to be off the boat so nothing else to do but go to the airport. If you have an afternoon flight with Northwest, you cannot check in until after 12 noon, even if you are first class. However the check-in machines let you check in, so it is a bit confusing when a Northwest agent yells at you, pounds a sign and says he is tearing up your luggage tags. Then you try to check in after noon and the machine you have to use to check in tells you that you have already registered 2 pieces of luggage per person so will be charged $80 for the only 2 you are really trying to check. Of course, heaven forbid if a real person can help you with this matter! It looked like only Northwest had this policy and other airlines were handling the large numbers quickly and with courtesy. The worst part is there is nowhere to store your luggage, so you have to keep it in tow. You are then stuck in the check in area where there are very few seats, no restaurants, no snackbars, no news stands, etc. Ft. Lauderdale airport and most of all Northwest need to deal with this problem. However, we refused to let such trivial matters ruin a fabulous vacation that we would repeat in a heartbeat!!! Once we got checked in, flights went well and we returned to SNOW! General comments: • Room B431: Our first mini-suite....loved the bigger bath and extra space. We were first on the middle bump-out, facing the front of the ship. That balcony is a little smaller than the normal Baja bump-outs. If you have seen pictures of the first balcony on bump-outs, you have awesome views, but if there is any wind you are not protected at all. This made it hard to have night balcony time or balcony time when on the move. Next time I would probably pass on that balcony situation as I like to spend late nights on the balcony, as well as snapshots of us on it before going out! Perfect location though....midship, close to elevators and stairs. • Too much pushing of shots and double drinks • DJ needs to start at 10:30 PM, not midnight • Need less $20 pictures. Either lower the price so you sell more and make more 5 X 7's for $10 • Heard lots complaints on this board about the food. I thought it just fine and ever bit as good as our first 2 Princess cruises. Can't compare to any other lines. Sorry this got so long! Yes we would do this cruise again and no we were not disappointed in Princess! Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
This was our first 10 day cruise and we wanted to experience some days at sea. We were not disappointed in the days at sea and the balance of the cruise either. It was nice to say that after our first week at sea, we STILL had 3 days! The ... Read More
This was our first 10 day cruise and we wanted to experience some days at sea. We were not disappointed in the days at sea and the balance of the cruise either. It was nice to say that after our first week at sea, we STILL had 3 days! The panama canal was a great day also. Going through the locks was neat. We stayed on board to go back through the locks,this time dropping to a lower level. The food was divine. We 'pigged' out on lobster night. I had 9 lobsters and two of our table mates had 13 and 15. We also had the pleasure of a couple celebrating their 62nd anniversary. Both were sharp as tacks, with a zest for life. I can honestly say that our fixed seating and our dinner mates were a great part of our enjoyment. The wait staff, was superb. We had Carlos and Gabriella and if you can get them you will not be disappointed. If you do, say hello from Sam. We relaxed, and explored the ship each day on board. We have sailed before, so a couple of excursions were of the 1/2 day version so we could get back on the ship. The nightlife was also excellent. Depending on what you were looking for. We were a little disappointed in that we had hoped for some 'big band' music. The WheelHouse bar provided some, but it was not the best. The two bands used some background music also. We were on the RCL Adventure of the Sea in Nov of 2003 and the bands there were great. There was a band called STORM. They played in the Explorer Lounge and played a lot of good rock music. We got involved with a lot of the audience participation. We won 3 bottles of champagne which we felt obligated to drink before we got off ship. Island Princess also has self-service laundry facilities, which I thought was great. We had sailed on Coral Princess earlier in 2003 and knew that on a 10 day trip we would use the laundry facilities. Overall, I think Princess is a great value. We had an easy embarkation and disembarkation. I do not recall one staff person not being friendly and helpful, including those working off the ship. I we go back to the Panama Canal or Alaska, we will consider cruising with Princess. Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
 We traveled in a group of 5 couples in their 40's and 50's who enjoyed balconies on a variety of floors. One couple on the Aloha deck reported noise from the pool area during early morning staff preparations. Rooms were small, ... Read More
 We traveled in a group of 5 couples in their 40's and 50's who enjoyed balconies on a variety of floors. One couple on the Aloha deck reported noise from the pool area during early morning staff preparations. Rooms were small, but comfortable--some balconies are open above--bathrooms, especially the showers are tiny. The cruise staff were extremely friendly and competent--great service especially in the food areas. Ask and you shall receive--extra entrees, special desserts, mix and match dinners--very accomadating. We experienced "anytime dining" and shopped for a waiter we liked and then settled in and made reservations for the same table each night at a variety of times to suit our schedule. The food was above average, the salads were uninspired, but the seafood and beef were excellent. Sabatini's served a sampler of every item on the menu which ended up being too much food--we noticed that this restaurant seemed empty the second half of the cruise. Worth trying, but be hungary when you go. This ship is clean! Our best excursions were the eco-tour in Limon, Dunn's Falls in Jamaica (take a taxi for $10 and pay the entrance fee of $10--3 miles--and save $100 per couple), the Sail and Snorkel in Cozumel and the 7 mile beach in Grand Cayman (taxi to the beach for $20). The entertainment included 3 different comedy performers, a juggler, magician and 3 evenings of the cruise singers and dancers. All performances were enjoyable--the singers were above average but not expectional voices. Only one of the comedy acts were laugh out loud funny--Kevin Hughes. The pool areas were fantastic. Plenty of loungers--quiet sections and louder sections. The on-board activites were plentiful and interesting. The golf simulator was spectacular. Impossible to be bored. If you like cruising, and many do since many people we met were multiple time cruisers, this ship is an excellent choice Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
About Us We are in our 30s. This is our third cruise with Princess. We have done the Eastern (2003) and Western Caribbean (2002). We book with the same agency each time--prices/booking available online, but I book over the phone. ... Read More
About Us We are in our 30s. This is our third cruise with Princess. We have done the Eastern (2003) and Western Caribbean (2002). We book with the same agency each time--prices/booking available online, but I book over the phone. Embarkation We took a flight to get into FLL at 10:30 in the morning. Got our bags and hopped in a cab for Port Everglades. We did the Princess transfer once and realized that it took way too long. We were in line and waiting to get in the building shortly after 11:00. We waited for about 20 minutes when the doors opened. The express check in line was long so we got into the Caribe deck line-we were second. We signed the paperwork and headed to security expecting to wait in the holding area for a while. To our delight, they were already boarding. We were standing on our balcony by 11:30. This was the fastest process yet. The Ship We had loved the Grand Princess and were a bit concerned that this ship might not "WOW" us or that it might feel too small. What we found was just the opposite. We loved the decor, the furniture and the art around the ship. The pools were great too. We didn't miss having a true night club too much. There was enough to keep us busy at night. The expanded Wheelhouse Bar was a great change. Much more comfortable and welcoming. The corridor outside Sabatini's and the Bayou Cafe made you feel like you were walking on a side street in a city. The glass work around the ship was interesting too. Our Cabin We booked an AB--Balcony cabin on Caribe. We usually have a mini, so we were concerned about feeling cramped. The bed/desk/chair/tv area was fine. The closet and cabinet space was similar to the mini. I did miss the storage area in the living space and found that we ran out of space each time I went shopping in a port. I was prepared for the small bathroom. But after a few days of peeling the shower curtain off my backside I was dreaming of the minisuite bathroom. I did bring an over the door shoe holder. Without it I would have gone nuts in the bathroom. The only outlet in the room was on the wall next to the balcony door. I brought a small power strip, but no extension cord. Bring an extension cord. The balcony was huge. I asked our room steward, Dino, to bring me a pool lounge chair. It fit nicely with the table and two chairs. Having that chair was a great way to relax on the balcony Food We did anytime dining. We tried tables for 2, 6 and 10. We had a mix of good and bad service. Luckily, we found a waiter and a table that we loved so we started to call in the morning to reserve the table. Try to get table 94 (it's by a window) with Matt and Noel. His section also had a table for 4 and one for 12. There were times when he was slammed but he handled everything with a smile. Matt is very attentive and quite funny. He made our dining experience even better. We found the food in the dining room to be similar to what we had on the Grand, but the portions seemed to be smaller. Matt even told us which meals were small so we would order something extra to share. We loved all of the cold soups. The beef meals that I had were better than what I've had before on cruises. We ate breakfast and lunch in the Horizon Court each day. The food was good, but there was less of a variety than what we saw on past cruises. We did order the champagne breakfast for the Panama Canal. It was well worth the $25. Most of the items could have been picked up in the HC, but the presentation of the food and drinking champagne just after sunrise going through the canal was an experience that I won't forget. Entertainment This was the first time that we enjoyed the production shows. There is great use of the rotating stages in the Universe Lounge and the tv's and video screens were a nice addition. It kept things interesting. The dancing was a notch above what we've seen before. Better costumes and great choreography. We liked the two male singers (Scott and Patrick)and one the of the female singers (Tracy). we found Jenn to be a boring singer with one style and no range. The comic, Kevin Hughes, was fantastic. We went to all three of his shows (and we bought his CD!). We had a nice surprise in that Willie Tyler and Lester were part of the entertainment. We had been fans as long as we can remember, so it was a bonus to see him live. He was also very approachable around the ship. The other entertainers (juggler, comic and magician) were ok. But nothing that you hadn't seen or heard before. Avoid Jack Wilkes--we stayed for the entire show, but should have followed our fellow passengers out the door. David Moore, the piano player in Crooners, is fantastic. Make sure to grab a martini and sit and listen to him at least once. We didn't listen to the bands that much. Most of it didn't fit us, or wasn't that great...My husband enjoyed all of the pool games and silliness involved. We ended up with some prizes and champagne too. The game shows and trivia were fun too. A good way to pass some time between losing money in the casino. Ports/Shore Excursions We did a private tour with Peat Taylor in Jamaica. A group of Cruise Critics booked a tour together. It was a great half day. Peat was very knowledgeable and funny. He's got a decent singing voice too. We went to Dunn's River Falls, through Fern Gully and around Jamaica. We enjoyed the falls, but it was a bit much for me so I stopped about 3/4 of the way up. Fern Gully was beautiful. If you are going to Jamaica, save your money and book a tour with Peat ($30pp) and you get a great tour....Panama Canal Ocean to Ocean tour: We enjoyed the tour. It was very long and the weather danced between hot and rain, but we loved it anyway. I think you have to enjoy the history and engineering behind the canal to really like this tour. We missed our initial lock time, so we were delayed about 1.5 hours in getting back to the ship. We didn't have time to shop in the market at the port, but I was worn out by then and didn't care that much. I did see one man get sick at the front of the boat. His family just kind of ignored what happened and I promptly moved to the back of the ship to avoid any future incidents...Costa Rica: Sloth Sanctuary and Canoe Tour. This was a fantastic excursion. Our tour guide, Gloriana was the best guide we have ever had. She even made the bus ride fun. She knew so much about Costa Rica and her live for her country was great. The canoe ride was pleasant. There were four people in each canoe with a guide. We got to see many birds and there were monkeys swinging in the trees. Then we were introduced to the Sloths. They are incredible creatures. I fell in love with them. I even adopted one, along with another cruise critic member. I am proud to be one of Sid Wiggy's moms. We had a chance to enjoys a fruit buffet and a drink before heading out on a nature walk, where we learned even more about the wildlife and plants. I'd recommend this tour to anyone that loved animals and wants to learn a lot about Costa Rica...We did the Island Highlights in Grand Cayman. We enjoyed seeing Hell and doing the postcard thing. We were a little troubled by the Turtle Farm. It is a mix of conservation and meat supply. We could have skipped that and been happy. We ate lunch at Breezes. Excellent conch fritters...In Cozumel we did the Dolphin Swim and Snorkel. The swim part was great. You got a kiss from the dolphin, danced with it and then you got pulled by the Dolphin. I squealed the entire time. The snorkel part was ok. We were in a large circle and the dolphin just swam under us around the circle. Since the water was very cloudy there were times when I didn't know the dolphin was coming until it was right next to me. We were going to buy the video, but they wanted $35 for it. It wasn't worth that to us. But then a cool thing happened: my husband was picked to help train a baby dolphin. He got spend about 30 minutes in the water working with the dolphin and a trainer. It was a once in a life time experience. After that we spent some time in Chakanaab walking around. We ate lunch in the park--which was fantastic. Then is was back to the ship and on to shopping. Scholarship at Sea The only thing that we did was pottery. We took the throwing class with Barbara Kates and had a lot of fun. Barbara is a great teacher with a lot of patience! We both made bowls that we were able to glaze and bring home. We also painted plates to bring home too. We loved this program and look forward to adding to our pottery on future cruises. Pictures The switch to digital photography made things interesting. We had a lot more opportunities to get our pictures taken, and there multiple versions of each picture available. But the prices have gone up again so we ended up buying fewer photos. Funny thing is that if the process were cheaper, we would have bought more photos and would have given the ship more money in the long run. Passengers We expected an older crowd and we got one. There were many walkers and wheelchairs, but it wasn't a problem. For the most part, we found the older crowd to be pleasant and chatty. I even had a few grandmothers that claimed me as one of their own. I did see more 40s and 50s doing the complaining and I had expected it from the 70-80 crowd. Staff We had a great time getting to know the cruise staff. Kelly Neal, Deputy Cruise Director, was a riot. He always entertained us and made up for Trevor Bradford and his canned jokes. The other staff members, Josh, Tyrone, Kent, Erin, Sam and Robyn were so much fun. I look forward to seeing them on future cruises. All in all it was a great cruise, made even better by the people we met from this board. I feel like we made some lifelong friends that we hope to see again someday. Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
Island Princess Panama Canal March 5-15 Ft. Lauderdale: As we wanted to make own flight arrangements through a travel agent, we flew down on March 4. We always go the day before in case of weather and flight delays. Arrived in Ft. ... Read More
Island Princess Panama Canal March 5-15 Ft. Lauderdale: As we wanted to make own flight arrangements through a travel agent, we flew down on March 4. We always go the day before in case of weather and flight delays. Arrived in Ft. Lauderdale by noon, called the Embassy Suite shuttle and checked into the hotel. Our room was not ready, so walked around enjoying the shopping areas and ate lunch at the South Port Raw Bar on the patio overlooking a marina. It was very close to the Embassy Suites. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a liquor store and purchased a couple bottles of wine and a bottle of champagne to take on board. We got into our room around 3 PM. Requested a high room facing the pier, as many of you suggested. You could at least see the top half of the ships that were in Port Everglades. Then walked to the River Marriott to pick up the Water Bus....again....thanks for the recommendations all you CC. It is a bit of a walk, but less than a mile. We to the Water Bus ($5 for all day) to Las Olas Boulevard where all there are a bunch of restraints, bars, and shopping. We loved the ride, enjoying the million dollar homes. We ate dinner at a delicious Mexican dinner at the Ole Ole and then took the water bus back. March 5: Could see the Island Princess from our room. The Embassy Suites provides a full breakfast. At about 11:15 we asked the bell man to call us a cab, as we had heard the ES no longer provides transportation to the pier. However they were just loading 2 vans and put us on one of those. When we got to the pier it looked like a huge line. However once they opened the doors, all went well and we were checked in and in our room by 12:30. Sat by the pool and explored the ship until muster at 4:15. Luggage arrive about 6 PM. We do late traditional dining. We don't want to bother with reservations, deciding where and when to eat and enjoy having one waiter for the entire cruise. We had a table for 8. One couple never showed up after the first night so must have changed dining arrangements. Enjoyed exchanging stories of our day with the other two couples each evening. Went to the 10:15 show. It was an introduction of cruise staff, dancers and comedian, Kevin Hughes. He was great so went to both of his other shows. March 6: At sea. Champagne Art Auction: fun to go to at least one even if you aren't interested in buying. They tell about the artists and the Princess Art program. You can stay as long or short of time as you desire. First Formal night. We did formal pictures around 6 PM and found no lines. Captains Welcome at 7:30 PM. Free cocktails and hors' douvres. If you like chocolate try the Hazelnut Chocolate SoufflE for dessert! Wen to the show Let's Rock! Very good for ship entertainment. Not sure how they dance with the ship rocking so! March 7: Ocho Rios. Ordered breakfast in room. Used the menu left on bed every night. Yes, you can add items not on there, but be very specific. Delivered promptly during the half hour time slot we requested. Personally can take or leave Ocho Rios. Walked to Margaritaville and layed on the beach. Can use the beach there if you buy a drink. You can rent chairs or umbrellas once you are on the beach. Small beach, but nobody pushing you to buy things. Margarittaville was really hopping by the time we went back to the ship mid-afternoon. Shopped briefly at Island Village. Many afternoons we would go to Horizon Court for cheeses, crackers, cold meat, etc. to have on our balcony with a drink while the ship left port. Drink at Wheelhouse Bar. Not much action here, but a few people dancing to a combo. After dinner we went to the 50's Rock N' Roll Party. Lots of fun!!! The singers and dancers performed in a casual atmosphere. There was dancing and a few contests. March 8: At Sea I sat in the sun. There weren't many chair hogs. You could always find a place at the front of the ship a deck above the pool. There were a lot of decks with chair available if you didn't have a need to be by the pool. Most sea days I got food from Horizon Court and ate by the pool. My husband enjoyed the pizza and hamburgers at the pool grill. He spend some time in the library, which is very quiet. You can listen to music, read, and watch the water. Went to the Wine Tasting for $7.50 each. It was okay, but don't feel a need to go to another. Before dinner had cocktails at Crooner's Martini Bar. It was my favorite because there were windows so you could see the ocean or you could people watch as it is right on the atrium. If you like chocolate martinis you must have the Milky Way martini!! Dinner was French night, so Escargot was a must!! March 9: Panama Canal Up at 5:45 as we didn't want to miss any of the Panama Canal transit. You cannot do the pre-order breakfast (where you hang it on your door the night before) until 7 AM, so we called room service. You can order most things they have available on a daily basis. Delivery was prompt. We watch the transit through the Gatun Locks from our balcony. Left our balcony door open and the Princess Station on our TV turned up loud enough to hear the commentary as we entered the locks. At 9:30 AM they begin to tender those with excursions to the Gatun Yacht Club. If you don't have an excursion scheduled you stay on the ship and anchor in Gatun Lake until the ship is given a time to go back out the same three locks you entered through. We had chosen the Ocean to Ocean. It was an hour and a half bus ride to Gamboa, where we boarded a boat that probably held 200. We sat on the top deck in the front as wanted a clear view. It was a very hot day and it took us a long time to get through the 3 locks into the Pacific. They put two ships or boats in the locks if possible to save water. We had a huge cargo vessel going with us and it took quite a while for it to catch up with us and get into the locks behind us. We are not bothered by the sun or the heat so enjoyed our seats. There were benches in the shade and inside where it was air-conditioned for those that don't do well in the heat. Yes, it was a long day, but we loved every minute of it. Apparently some did not enjoy the excursion as much as we did. We docked on the Pacific side at Flamenco Island and were bused back to the port of Cristobal where we met the Island Princess. Due to the time it took to got through the locks, we were the last group on board before the ship pulled out. Being a ship sponsored tour, being late was not an issue. We loved going through the locks in a smaller boat so you could see more of the locks, travel through the Culebra Cut, and hear more about the Panama Canal. If you are doing this excursion, though consider the time and temperature factors. March 10: Limon We did the Costa Rican Adventure which was an aerial tram through the rain forest, lunch and a boat through the Tortuguero Canal. It left at 6:45 AM and returned to the ship at 6 PM. Again, we enjoyed it and would recommend it. If that is too long for you just do the canal part which can be booked by itself. Enjoyed the tram through the rain forest, but saw no animals and is something you probably only need to do once. Lunch was at an open sided roofed building. It was Costa Rican food...rice and beans, chicken, steak, pantian, veggies, salad and a coconut dessert. It was excellent. The boat trip is definitely a "to do". Saw a lot of monkeys, 3-toed sloths, snake birds, hurons, bats, and crocodiles. March 11: At sea Entered the slot tournament; a first. You just pay $20 and get so many credits or pulls. The 6 that have the most credits after the pulls have a play-off and the high credits from that wins $500. Went to the ventriloquist, who was entertaining. Dinner was called International Night. It was Island Night and there was a big party around the Lido pool, but it was extremely windy all day and evening, so not a lot of fun on deck! March 12: Grand Cayman Leave on early tender (7:30 AM)to do the Catamaran and Snorkel Stingray excursion. Get to Grand Cayman and Princess excursion person announces "due to wind and current that excursion was cancelled at 7:20 AM). There is a snorkel trip to two places at 8:30 AM they will put us on or credit us with the original excursion. We decide to do the 8:30 AM excursion. Then about half an hour later we are the only ones interested so can't do that either. The excursion guy, Kevin says we can go on the same one with a group from Royal Caribbean at 10 AM. Meet at the same spot. Kevin leaves and at 9:30 we see RCI people at a different tender spot. I ask the excursion guru who replaces Kevin and he says "all Princess excursions meet here" and he doesn't know anything about our substituted excursion. He is very short with us and no help! (Not good!) On our own we go to where the RCI people are boarding a snorkeling boat and join them. The man, Kevin originally told us to go with us welcomes us, takes our Princess excursion ticket and we had a great snorkeling excursion with RCI people to the Cheeseburger reef and a shipwreck not far from the tender pier. Thank heavens my husband was aggressive enough to go to the RCI excursion area and find the guy in charge of that particular trip. Ended up to be a GREAT snorkeling adventure, but I feel Princess let us down! Found out later that people who booked independent trips went and it was windy, but just fine! Should have taken the advice of all you CC's who said "book the stingrays on your own". Next time, eh? Shopped a little, then ate lunch at Breezes...overlooking the water and all the ships anchored.....on their outside balcony! Had a wonderful Conch salad! Back to the ship for pool time. Second formal night, reception for returning passengers, pictures and another great meal!! Our waiter brought us a platter of fabulous cookies besides desserts! March 13: Cozumel Room Service for breakfast on our balcony again! Princess Catamaran Excursion to Palancaar and Columbia Reef. Great catamaran ride to excellent snorkeling spots. Super crew. They snorkeled with us and searched out the best fish and turtle sightings for us. They were very safety conscious and made sure everyone had a good excursion. Back to the ship to clean up and back to Cozumel to shop and have a snack at Panchos (overlooking the water and pier). Back for my daily fix at the casino, but actually came out ahead! March 14: Thought I would not dread my last day on board after a 10 day cruise....WRONG! Not ready for a glorious vacation to come to an end. Another very windy day, so no breakfast on balcony. Pool day and time to pack! One last martini at Crooners and time to purchase last minute pictures. One more trip to casino and some time listening to Karaoke. March 15: Routine disembarkation. Thanks CC's for the advice to use a porter. No line. They take you promptly to a taxi. A word of warning.......the Ft. Lauderdale airport is a zoo.....even on Monday! You have to be off the boat so nothing else to do but go to the airport. If you have an afternoon flight with Northwest, you cannot check in until after 12 noon, even if you are first class. However the check-in machines let you check in, so it is a bit confusing when a Northwest agent yells at you, pounds a sign and says he is tearing up your luggage tags. Then you try to check in after noon and the machine you have to use to check in tells you that you have already registered 2 pieces of luggage per person so will be charged $80 for the only 2 you are really trying to check. Of course, heaven forbid if a real person can help you with this matter! It looked like only Northwest had this policy and other airlines were handling the large numbers quickly and with courtesy. The worst part is there is nowhere to store your luggage, so you have to keep it in tow. You are then stuck in the check in area where there are very few seats, no restaurants, no snackbars, no news stands, etc. Ft. Lauderdale airport and most of all Northwest need to deal with this problem. However, we refused to let such trivial matters ruin a fabulous vacation that we would repeat in a heartbeat!!! Once we got checked in, flights went well and we returned to SNOW! General comments: • Room B431: Our first mini-suite....loved the bigger bath and extra space. We were first on the middle bump-out, facing the front of the ship. That balcony is a little smaller than the normal Baja bump-outs. If you have seen pictures of the first balcony on bump-outs, you have awesome views, but if there is any wind you are not protected at all. This made it hard to have night balcony time or balcony time when on the move. Next time I would probably pass on that balcony situation as I like to spend late nights on the balcony, as well as snapshots of us on it before going out! Perfect location though....midship, close to elevators and stairs. • Too much pushing of shots and double drinks • DJ needs to start at 10:30 PM, not midnight • Need less $20 pictures. Either lower the price so you sell more and make more 5 X 7's for $10 • Heard lots complaints on this board about the food. I thought it just fine and ever bit as good as our first 2 Princess cruises. Can't compare to any other lines. Sorry this got so long! Yes we would do this cruise again and no we were not disappointed in Princess! Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
Embarkation process: Very smooth. Cannot be any better. We had pre-registered on the Internet and all we had to do was to go to the counter and pick up our cruise cards. It took all of about 10 minutes! Cabin: We had a balcony cabin on the ... Read More
Embarkation process: Very smooth. Cannot be any better. We had pre-registered on the Internet and all we had to do was to go to the counter and pick up our cruise cards. It took all of about 10 minutes! Cabin: We had a balcony cabin on the port side on Aloha deck. fairly good size cabin with queen bed, desk, full length mirror, open closet space with plenty of hanger space, a double-door cabinet with shelves that included a password protected safe. Many before us have commented on the extremely small size of the shower stall. We agree. Not a bad stall if your waist size is 28! Overall excellent, comfortable, spacious, and quite cabin. Food: Breakfast buffet is excellent. The omelette station is just wonderful. Plenty of fruits, breads, cereals and meats are available. In juices only orange juice is offered. We found it a bit on the watery side. Great coffee. Lunch and dinner buffets are OK but nothing to brag about. Plenty of choices for both events. We enjoyed the grill and the pizza place for most of our lunches. Great burgers and pizza. One annoying thing - both places, grill and pizza close at 6 pm! Folks with kids were not too happy about that. We had 8 pm sitting in the Provence Dining room for the dinner. We had asked for a table for two when we bought the vacation, bit we were mildly skeptical about getting it. Well, we did! That was a pleasant surprise. Excellent service from the wait staff and every evening, excellent food with a good variety in the changing menus. We dined at the Bayou Restaurant, one with the New Orleans theme. We enjoyed it, at a $10/pp cover charge. Food and service were very good. Great live jazz music too! We did not try the Italian restaurant. Public areas: This is where the ship really shines! Entire 7th deck is for open public areas. That includes a good size casino, Wheelhouse Lounge, Princess Theater at the front end and the Universe Lounge at the back end. All 7th deck facilities are excellent. The atrium rises from the 5th deck to 8th deck and is a beautiful site to watch and relax. Bars are everywhere. A few CruiseCritic reporters have mentioned the pushy bar waiters pushing the "medium" size drinks. True. However, all of the bar waiters were very polite and did not mention the larger drinks once we said no. Bar drinks are fairly priced, sizes are reasonable and presented very nicely. Entertainment: One word describes it well - Excellent. Great comic shows, and excellent production shows. We attended two cooking demos and both were good. One word of caution - Most of the upper level seats in the Universe Lounge have at least partially obscured view. If you really wish to enjoy the show, get there a few minutes early and find seats on the lower level. Exercise, Pools and Jacuzzis: Excellent, first rate exercise facility with 11 tread mills, several ski machines and full implement of other equipment. One trainer was also available. Pools, two of them, are also very good. There are almost 8 jacuzzis. We enjoyed those too. Massage and other personal services were available but we did not take advantage of them. Ports of call and excursions: We skipped excursions at Cozumel and Grand Cayman. We had been there before. At Puerto Limon we took the half-day jungle cruise. It was OK. There is nothing interesting at the port itself. Very modest shops, ALL SELLING THE SAME STUFF at the same price! Panama Canal experience was awesome! We took the train excursion. We enjoyed it very much. One tip for the photo and movie enthusiasts - Go the 14th deck, front of the ship early, say at 7 am if you wish to see everything and photograph it during the Gatun Locks passage. It gets crowded and very few friendly souls yield to accommodate late intruders! At Ocho Rios, we took the half-day highlights tour. It was enjoyable. We had approx. 45 minutes to shop at the Taj Mahal shopping place. That was OK too. Nothing exceptional. Disembarkation: As smooth as the embarkation process. Princess has got this business right! Read Less
Sail Date April 2004
We are a family of three, we traveled with our 4 year old. Previously we have only sailed Celebrity and we are looking forward to many future Princess cruises. Embarkation was easy and quick- just find out where the ship will be docked ... Read More
We are a family of three, we traveled with our 4 year old. Previously we have only sailed Celebrity and we are looking forward to many future Princess cruises. Embarkation was easy and quick- just find out where the ship will be docked when you return as we parked our car at one pier and returned to another. Getting back to our car on arrival day was a nightmare and fortunately the only bad thing about the trip. The Island Princess still has that "new car smell" and our cabin, C202 (a mini suite- totally worth the extra $ for a 10 day sailing), while it had no balcony, was right next to the "crew Only " door that led out to the front of the ship where we had a great view of entering the Panama Canal. The service was fine- Celebrity has friendlier service, but one thing I can say- Princess waiters were quick! We chose the "anytime dining" option and it worked really well for us as we chose to dine every night at 7:30. We aren't big "table lingerers" and we were usually done by 9-9:15. The children's program was outstanding. They really spend money on supplies, prizes and toys for the kids. My daughter was up every morning begging to go to the "Fun Zone"! The girls who worked with the kids were wonderful. The food was very good. We found that Celebrity excels in French cuisine and bread, Princess in Italian cuisine. The pizza was fantastic- and that's coming from me- an Italian who grew up on pizza! I AM glad that I brought my own travel coffee pot, as I love my coffee and the only decent coffee was the restaurant espresso that you had to pay for. The rest of it was pretty vile. I am also glad I packed an extension cord because I wouldn't have been able to plug in my blow dryer without it. The ports of call were very nice- we could have done without the short Nassau stop. We didn't even bother getting off the ship. We left Nassau by noon. In Costa Rica we did a tour with Oscar Brown who we found through the Cruise Critic boards. The tour was perfect for us- though there was some confusion regarding who was on it. We thought we were alone, so we invited a few friends, but when we found Oscar, he had already booked another family of 7 and a couple. It worked out OK- but be clear about who is going before departing. Entering and exiting the Panama Canal is something I'll always remember. Cayman and Cozumel were lazy beach days for us. Some things I'd like to see change: I don't think its necessary for the cruise director to have to announce the activities of the day over the PA system when they are printed in the daily Princess Patter. It was a bit annoying. I would like to see a central area for the pool towels. They should be easier to pick up, exchange, and get rid of. Right now you have to do this through your room steward and I found that to be an inconvenience. I loved the fact that you never had to worry about finding an open lounge chair. There are several pools to choose from so you never really felt too crowded. Other than that I have to say I will definitely sail with Princess again. Any questions- feel free to e mail me! Suzanne Read Less
Sail Date April 2004
The Island Princess is an absolutely amazing ship. It is beautiful and clean and very charming. We found the trip to Whittier from the Anchorage airport to be slightly painful. The Princess representatives @the airport were clueless. We ... Read More
The Island Princess is an absolutely amazing ship. It is beautiful and clean and very charming. We found the trip to Whittier from the Anchorage airport to be slightly painful. The Princess representatives @the airport were clueless. We got multiple answers to our questions. Basically - they hold you either at the airport or at the convention center in downtown Anchorage till around noon or 12:30. So no one is able to leave for the ship earlier than this. We were misled to believe that if you arrived at the airport earlier in the day-they would send a bus as soon as it fills up. This is not the case and we ended up waiting at the airport for about 2 hours. Then we were told that we would make the 2:30 tunnel into Whittier. This was a mess. There were about 10 Princess cruise buses in that 2:30 tunnel time lined up. Therefore, we waited-waited-waited and finally went thru the tunnel and then waited-waited-waited to be dropped off at the port. Then we were in a line about 75 people deep. The entire process took over 2.5 hours. It was very frustrating. Our cabin C230 on Deck 10 Caribe was fantastic. It was forward and quiet. I strongly recommend going for a balcony mini-suite. The bathroom is huge compared to the regular rooms. If you have 3 or 4 people in your party- it would be a perfect size. I am highly disappointed in Princess for this sail. I do not agree with the automatic gratuity being added to your account. My husband and I did the open seating and found the staff to be unhelpful and merely efficient. The normal atmosphere that you expect from a waitstaff was not there. It is my belief that since they knew they would be tipped- their incentive to provide exceptional service was not there. As it was - we adjusted the tips on the last night. We gave to those that we felt appeared to give more service and did not allow the automatic gratuity to hit the account. I hope Princess revisits this in the future- we voiced our opinions as did multiple persons around us. The food sometimes read like an episode of Fear Factor. Frog legs, venison, rabbit. They were big on the presentation- but not so big on the taste. I found the food to be less tasty as Royal Caribbean or Disney. This cruise had very little to offer for entertainment for anyone under the age of 55. The programming appeared to be geared towards a more "retired" age and my husband and I (in 30's) found ourselves watching movies in our room because we were not interested in tea, bridge or watching a classical pianist. It was very hard to sail for 7 days and find that there was so little to do in plans of the programming. Disembarkation was a complete catastrophe. We had a transfer from Vancouver to Seattle. We were advised to be read by 730 for that transfer. We were not able to disembark until 915 am. Then we found out that we were on the wrong gangway (had been standing there for over an hour waiting for our "color" to be called) and had to take our stuff and carryon to another deck. We had asked several princess employees where we needed to be - and never once were we advised the correct information. Overall this cruise would appeal to someone who was looking to Alaska only for the sights and not the usual fanfare and excitement of shows and programming that you would expect on other lines. The ship itself was beautiful. With the exception of the waitstaff in the dining room - we felt that the room steward and the general upkeep of the ship was very good. We would recommend this ship for older adults without children or with older children. On this sail we saw very few children or teenagers- and the ones we did see always appeared quite bored. But with theater movies like Calendar girls and Welcome to Mooseport and a Barry Manilow singer- it is no wonder they may have been a bit bored. Read Less
Sail Date May 2004
Our group of 24 had a great week on the Island Princess. The ship was beautiful and very clean. This was the first cruise for most of us and we all are ready to go again! We used the Princess transportation and we met the representative at ... Read More
Our group of 24 had a great week on the Island Princess. The ship was beautiful and very clean. This was the first cruise for most of us and we all are ready to go again! We used the Princess transportation and we met the representative at the baggage claim and they directed us to the bus to Whittier. We quickly boarded and were on our way. Some of our group had done their own land tour before the cruise and it took them quite awhile on the bus to get down to Whittier. We visited the Wildlife Park and saw moose, eagles, etc. Our bus driver was great and was very informative. We got to Whittier around 5 pm and made it thru check-in quite quickly and then boarded the ship. We found our cabins and did a little exploration of the ship. Then we headed to dinner as we had the first seating. (We highly recommend the first seating as the second seating was always waiting to get in and the personal choice dining seemed a little hectic.) Only in Skagway do you stay in port during the dinner time and we did get a dinner reservation for that night that was later. Our room steward was Merlyn and she was fabulous. She knew all of us by name and would always let me know when my son was in his cabin or if she had seen him lately. She even took a pair of his shorts that had ripped and sewed them. We had numerous tables at dinner near each other as we had such a large group. Both sets of wait staff were very good. They always were helpful on menu selection and kept bringing the food that we enjoyed. There was a 10 month old baby in the group and they would bring the jars of baby food on a silver plate for the parents to select. The crab leg night was awesome, they came ready to eat and we enjoyed the lobster night as well. We did eat one night in Sabatini's and had an excellent meal. Almost too much food. Be sure to let Princess know ahead of time if you have a birthday or anniversary in the group. The chocolate dessert you receive is excellent. We went to every show at night, usually 2 a night as we had the 1st seating. Only one time did we get turned away due to lack of seating and we were able to come back to a later show. The comedians were okay. We think one got all of his jokes from Readers Digest. The dancers were excellent and they put on 3 different shows during the week. Not top notch entertainment, but it was good. The naturalist on board was great and we learned a lot from her talks and listening to her on the television. The park rangers were great during our time in Glacier Bay. The workout facilities were nice and there are about 10 different weight machines, treadmills and elliptical trainers. Our teenage son did try to use the golf simulator during a longest drive competition, but they would not let him participate because a parent was not there with him. Nowhere did they ever tell you that. There were about 80 teens on the cruise. We did sign our kids up to use the teen room, but they hung out with their older cousins instead. They did participate in the scavenger hunts that every could enter. We were expecting cold and rainy weather and it was hot! Everybody kept saying how unusual the weather was - we were glad that we brought along shorts and short sleeve tops. We returned the ponchos to the store after we got home. We did get bit by bugs when we went on our sled dog excursion. We had put on Avon sunscreen with bug spray. Everyone in our group did some sort of helicopter tour and we all agreed that was the best. We highly recommend the glacier walk or trek in Juneau. We booked thru Princess, but you could save about $50 per person doing it on your own. We went fishing with Captain Ken in Ketchikan (booked on our own (and we caught 1 king, 1 silver and 2 chum salmon). The lumberjack show in Ketchikan is kind of corny, but we did like watching the competitions. Some in our group went whale watching. others did the Dyea bicycle ride. Everyone was pleased with their excursions. Several in our group did experience the spa and liked it. I personally had the Cleopatra special and enjoyed the experience. It is an exfoliation, lotion wrap followed by reflexology and a massage. The Vancouver airport is a real mess. We had stayed on for 4 days to see the sights in Vancouver and Victoria and left on a Wed. There was only 1 cruise ship that day, but it still took us 2 hours to get thru the check-in line and all the security. They really could use an efficiency expert there! Be careful that your bags weigh less than 50 lbs each or you might be paying for the extra weight. Read Less
Sail Date June 2004
Six months before sailing on the I.P. we sailed on RCL's Serenade of the Seas (7 night Southern Caribbean from San Juan). I think the ships are 95% identical in terms of size, amenities, condition, etc. Boarding in Whittier was a ... Read More
Six months before sailing on the I.P. we sailed on RCL's Serenade of the Seas (7 night Southern Caribbean from San Juan). I think the ships are 95% identical in terms of size, amenities, condition, etc. Boarding in Whittier was a bit painful since it was a delayed boarding and they had to process so many passengers at once. The upside of this, however, was that our bags were already in our staterooms by the time we got there. I would think twice before doing the Personal Choice dining option again. All too often this meant standing in line (10 mins. average) to obtain a dinner table in the Bordeaux dining room. Sometimes they even sent us away with a beeper to notify us when a table was ready. By the end of the cruise I felt this inconvenience was more onerous than the inconvenience of the other option, which is having to arrive at the dining room at a set time. The naturalist on board was excellent -- I think her name was Rachel. She seemed to have a lot of field experience and it showed in the narration she gave on the p.a. system as well as in the talk she gave in the theatre. I found the the metal chairs (with pads) in the Horizon Court buffet were uncomfortable. There is another area with upholstered chairs that are more comfortable, but these are not near the windows. All four of us thought Serenade's Windjammer buffet had the I.P.'s Horizon Court buffet beat on both the physical layout and the food selection/presentation. The library books are in locked cabinets (glass fronts) and must be checked out with the staff at set hours. But the selection looked really good. On the Serenade, the books were issued from open cabinets on the honor system, and the supply was therefore quickly diminished. The library chairs on the I.P. were a great place to read and see the ocean go by. Bring your headphones and you can plug into a CD player (loaner CDs) wired into the leather chair. Traveling with kids, I liked the $2 "Mocktail of the Day" which seemed like a good price. I could not find any real-time access to my account on my TV. On Serenade I could check all my charges in real time, but on I.P. I could not tell what I spent until I got the bill on the last night. On I.P. there is no access to the bow -- restricted area. I went out anyway thru the crew doors. The gunwale is about 6 feet high so most people would not be able to see overboard from there anyway. There is a nice forward observation area on Deck 10 (also behind a "crew only" door) at the front of the starboard passageway. My cruise was affected by norovirus and a member of my family got it. I will not dwell on that other than to say that the crew obviously put a lot of extra effort into sanitation/disinfection procedures. Overall you will find this is a really fun ship to cruise on. It is still young and fresh and contemporary. Overall I would give my preference to Serenade, but that may be because Serenade was my first cruise in 20 years and therefore made a big impression on me. Read Less
Sail Date June 2004
Since I had not done a cruise in years, this ship was a real surprise. Very clean lines and spotless and elegant interiors. Near the glaciers they can spin the ship on its axis to allow all cabins to view the glacier from their balconies, ... Read More
Since I had not done a cruise in years, this ship was a real surprise. Very clean lines and spotless and elegant interiors. Near the glaciers they can spin the ship on its axis to allow all cabins to view the glacier from their balconies, which most cabins have. Very spacious cabins, particularly for the mini-suites. Layout is nice throughout with good access to almost everything. Having ongoing naturalist and ship particular channels on closed-circuit is wonderful when cruising near the shorelines. However, the downside was the dining. With the norwalk virus ever on the prowl, they were draconian in their hygiene, requiring everyone entering any dining facility to wash with an alcohol wash. I didn't mind this as I'm a bit of a hygiene fuss myself, but then they went the extra step of not allowing anyone to even get their own food in the buffet. This brought buffet service to a crawl and made getting something as simple as a cup of coffee a painful endeavor. The food itself was generally not bad, but not exactly four star either. I guess feeding a zillion people at a time and still getting food that is properly prepared and served is not easy, but other lines seem to do this a bit better. Simple suggestion here would be to move all beverage service away from the rest of the buffet and allow better access. No one is going to stick their hand in a 198 degree pot of coffee or tea and contaminate it. To add insult to injury I had to pay for soda ($22 for 7 days worth). Service, both in-cabin and dining, was spotty. Some staff were courteous, friendly, and helpful. Others were snooty and churlish day-in day-out. I think they have some training issues they need to deal with. Their standard you-pay-unless-you-demand-otherwise method of doing tips contributes to this as well. Most staff know they are going to get about the same whether they are nice or not. Since they have a passenger identification card for every passenger I don't understand why they couldn't just set up some kiosks around that allow passengers to insert their card, punch up the staff-person's name they wish to tip, and enter the amount. Bingo, on-demand tipping! Overall, not a bad cruise to take. Beware the ninja soda-card salesman though! He has a future in the insurance industry. Read Less
Sail Date June 2004
ISLAND PRINCESS Alaskan Cruise and Land Tour July 10-22, 2004 By Mary & Vincent Finelli We Floridians like to escape the summer heat, so when Vincent saw a July Alaskan Sea/Land Cruise advertised, "North to Alaska" sounded ... Read More
ISLAND PRINCESS Alaskan Cruise and Land Tour July 10-22, 2004 By Mary & Vincent Finelli We Floridians like to escape the summer heat, so when Vincent saw a July Alaskan Sea/Land Cruise advertised, "North to Alaska" sounded great ---- we just returned from this trip, and it was great. The Sea cruise included the following ports: Vancouver, Canada; then in Alaska: Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, College Fjord and Whittier. The Land tour included Anchorage, Fairbanks and the Midnight Sun rail tour through Denali National Park (Healy and Talkeetna). We now realize that the expectations that we had for the land tour were unrealistic in terms of wildlife. However, the interior of this largest state in the union is a fascinating geological lesson unfolding, due to the Pacific Plate's movement against the N. American Plate: the vista of the effects of subduction and mountain building is awesome. Geology Professors speak of fault lines and their consequences, but, sailing or railroading past rows on rows of mountains formed by tectonic plate movement is an incredible trip. We flew from Ft. Lauderdale, had a change over in Los Angeles and arrived in Vancouver on July 9th and embarked on the 10th. Having sailed on the Island Princess' sister ship, the Coral Princess, we will refer you to our review of the Coral Princess (Oct. 2003) for the description of shared characteristics. Suffice it to say that the Island Princess is also Panamax, 964 ft. long, 105 ft. in the beam, a gross tonnage of 91,627 and with a passenger capacity of 2,368 (on this cruise 2,100 passengers, 400 of which were repeaters). The most distinguishing feature of the sister ships is their polished steel gas turbine/diesel enviro engines perched high above decks, adjacent to the stack. This review will concentrate on the excellent service provided by Captain Andrea Poggi, always punctual in every port and cognizant of the passengers' curiosity regarding the glaciers, and the flora and fauna of the wonderful wilderness of Alaska. Passenger Service Director (PSD) Adam Gorst was very helpful and informative; and the Dining Room staff, under the direction of Maitre D' Giuseppe Gelmini, was just superb. Overall, Princess service was as usual tip top. EMBARKATION Boarding began punctually at 12 noon. Those passengers who had filed their data sheets on line received "priority boarding" status. Passengers in wheelchairs were assisted in boarding first and were accompanied to their cabins. PSD Gorst has a finely tuned crew; we were on board in less than twenty minutes, dropped off our carry on baggage, and were off to the Buffet. On Lido Deck 14, Vincent's old acquaintance from the Golden Princess, Pizzaiolo Carmelo Maesano, greeted us so warmly, that within five minutes of boarding, we felt personally welcomed and at home! THE SHIP The Island Princess was built at Chantiers De L'Atlantique, St. Nazaire, France, 2003. Princess provides a handy trifold pocket guide of the 15 decks (there is no Deck 13). Five decks are allotted to passenger staterooms and suites, and six decks are allotted to public venues (See the Coral Princess review for a deck by deck description, which is replicated on the Island Princess). Many of the public areas are thoughtfully arranged with passengers needs foremost. For example, in the Princess Theater, all seats have an excellent view of the stage, free from obstructions by columns or poles. The decor is simple but elegant in red and gold. In the beautifully decorated Universe Lounge, the seats on Deck 6 have an unobstructed view of the stage, while on Deck 7, there are seats with obstructed views from decorative railings and inadequate deck slopes, thus passengers continually play "Musical Chairs" seeking a better view. The Wheelhouse Bar is a huge room with nautical memorabilia (many ship portraits in oil, wonderful dark wooden tables with brass accents, etc.) This was the setting of terrific on board Lecture series like "World of Whales" and "History in the Making" (Iditarod dog sledding). Very appropriate for this cruise. Stairwells on the Island Princess are full of interesting, large art work, too numerous to describe here, but well worth checking out. Unlike most ships the Bordeaux and the Provence Dining Rooms are located forward. The center of activities is the four deck high atrium (Decks 5 to 8), where are located the Passenger Service Desks (Purser and Tour offices), in addition to the dining room entrances, and the Wheelhouse bar, the Internet Cafe, the Library, the Card room, shopping boutiques and various bars and sitting areas. All of them interconnected by four Panoramic elevators. Overall this ship is elegant and beautiful. Decks 14, 15 and 16, are also devoted to public areas such as the Gym, Lotus Spa, and the Lotus pool (a domed heated lap pool and two hot tubs) immersed in a South Sea Island atmosphere. Here is also located the Oxford Dipper to aid handicapped passengers in and out of the pool. Midship on 14 is the open area Lido Pool, and forward is the Horizon Court devoted to casual buffet dining. This ship with her traditional nautical motif and tasteful decorations has struck a perfect balance of style and comfort. FOOD & SERVICE Director Gorst has a staff with a "can do" policy. If you have a special need, just voice it and you shall be accommodated. When dining, we need a table near the entrance, so we won't disturb too many diners with the wheelchair. We spoke with Maitre D' Giuseppe Gelmini, the first afternoon on board, and he chose for us Table #20 near a window, where service was excellent and our waiter Vlad and his assistant took great care of us. First Purser Melania Parnisari, Food & Beverage Director, is the first woman on the Princess Cruise Line to hold this position. She told us that as a child she watched "Love Boat" on TV and dreamt of sailing on board, and now she is living a dream come true. She took us on a private tour of Executive Chef Gunter Deseske's galley. Here we saw the incredibly neat and organized food preparation areas (all stainless steel) and met Gunter's Sous Chef Saverio Brattoli and the Pastry Chef (Artist!) Vincenzo Frigulti who did all the classics: N.Y. Cheesecake, Swan puffs and pies which he augmented with sugar or fat free tasty alternatives. Over 9,000 meals are served daily, very delicious and beautifully plated. Across the Princess Lines the menus are standardized and thematic; the following are the highlights of the week: * The Sail Away Dinner with shrimp cocktail and Prime rib; * The Captain's Dinner offering Crab Quiche, Lobster and Pheasant; * The Princess Dinner featuring Endive salad and Roast Buffalo; * The French Dinner with Pate` de fois gras, escargot and Duck a l'Orange; * The Italian Dinner featuring Prosciutto and Pappardelle (pasta) with Rabbit; * The International Dinner had WonTon Soup, and Surf and Turf; and finally, * The Chef's Dinner with Asparagus, Lobster Bisque, King Crab Legs or Rack of lamb. These were all delicious dinners with many more choices, too many to list them here. If passengers want to snack, go to see Pizzaiolo Carmelo who makes crispy, gourmet pizzas at Princess Pizza on the Lido Deck during the day and at Sabatini's at night. He specially made one for us with porcini mushrooms: Semplicemente deliziosa (simply delicious). Thank you, Carmelo! There is 24 hour room service, which we used mostly for breakfast, and it was always punctual and excellent. The two alternative restaurants are well worth the nominal additional fees: At Sabatini's feast on eight appetizers, four specialty pizzas, two soups, mesclun salad, three pastas (spaghetti, gnocchi and cannelloni) and finally choose from several entrees (Shrimp, Lobster, Chicken, Scallops, Prawns and Veal). The final touch is Tiramisu, of course. All this under the watchful eyes of Manager Michele De Mario. We also ate at The Bayou; cajun cuisine was an experience for us: Mary loved the corn bread and the sampler plate of appetizers, but it was Vincent who ate all of his Alligator ribs. If you dine at these alternative venues, skip lunch or you may rue the fact that you can't taste it all! One afternoon there was a delicious Fish Barbecue served up on the open deck featuring crab cakes, fish filets, sea food kabobs and a tasty reindeer chili (all references to Rudolph aside) many passengers enjoyed the fare. Service on board is excellent and the dining room staff includes Head Waiters Ciro and Ennio who ensured that all staff were alert and on the job. The "Personal Choice Dining" offers both the traditional fixed seating and the Anytime Dining which gives passengers flexibility in dining hours and venues: many cruisers availed themselves of this new system. CABIN Stateroom #B620 on Baja Deck 11 with ocean view and balcony, is a spacious cabin and the exact replica of the one we had on the Coral Princess. It has a double wide door, triple armoire, personal safe, refrigerator, huge bath with shower and appropriately placed safety rails, king size bed, night stands, and end tables. Best of all was our wonderful steward Cristina, who anticipated our needs. There were sheer curtains and heavy drapes to block out the white nights. As previously noticed on the Coral, the shelves in the bathroom are much too small to hold the necessary toiletries. ENTERTAINMENT Cruise Director Richard Joseph was literally born to his job. Princess includes serious lectures on Alaska, a friendly staff, some of whom imparted interesting information we are seeking. For example, Tim Spicer knew specific details for planning a dream Tahiti cruise. He confirmed what others suggested: Air Tahiti Nui direct from L.A. is the best, and try the local bread fruit, mangos and other delicacies. Several shows were memorable, among which Greg Bonham, the trumpeter who could hit the high notes, and who could also sing in a voice with a huge range. Excellent in cabin TV (CNN, ESPN, BBC) and the movies both in cabin and on the big screen at the Princess Theater ("Calendar Girls," "Plot With a View," and "Mona Lisa Smile," plus many more). For sports enthusiasts, there are three decks 14, 15 and 16 with aerobics, gym, Center Court, Princess Links golf, Lido and Lotus pools, hot tubs and spas. Princess has it all covered. PORTS OF CALL This was our second Alaskan Cruise with the same itinerary doing the Inside Passage out of Vancouver. July 10th, Saturday: Vancouver Embark. 12:00pm Depart 5:30pm July 11th, Sunday: At Sea July 12th, Monday: Ketchikan Arrive 6:30am Depart 2:30pm Its name means Eagle River in the Tlingit native language, and this is the best place to see Bald Eagles. There are the following tours: 42A - Totem Pole and Town tour 2.5 hrs, $36. 48I - Great Alaska Lumberjack Show 1.5 hrs, $29. July 13th, Tuesday: Juneau Arrive 6:00am Depart 7:40pm Alaska's capital is named after the co-finder of three of the largest gold mines in the world. Among the available tours are these: 18A - Mendenhall Glacier and the Salmon Hatchery, 3 hrs, $39; 28P - Whale Watching, 4 hrs, $109. July 14th, Wednesday: Skagway Arrive 7:00am Depart 8:42pm The tour of choice for us: 67H - White Pass Scenic Railway, 3.5 hrs, $95. There are great number of tours for hiking, fishing, boating and flying. July 15th, Thursday: Glacier Bay Cruising through the bay from 6:00am to 3:00pm. If there is any one left who doesn't believe there is global warming occurring, well, from the ship's Bridge, Park Ranger Adam Gomez narrated this interesting fact about the bay: 200 years ago Glacier Bay was covered by 400 feet of ice. Captain Poggi, with immense respect for the area, slowly and reverently navigated this bay of still water with floating icebergs and views of magnificent glaciers. Some of the icebergs (growlers) make noises like bubbling seltzer water. There were Orca whales in the lower part of the bay, where they feed in shallow waters near the shores. July 16th, Friday: College Fjord Cruising in the fjord from 3:00pm to 6:00pm. Cruising by the famous glaciers named after some of the United States oldest and most famous Ivy League Colleges and Universities (Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Holyoke etc.). Enchanting sights! That evening we cruised across Prince William Sound on the way to Whittier. July 17th, Saturday: Whittier Arrive 1:00am Debarkation began as early as 7:00am for those passengers with early flights. DEBARKATION Exiting the ship was orderly and color coded. When our color was called, crew assisted us with the wheelchair off the ship and we collect our luggage. For those continuing on the Land Tour, there was the Alaskan Airlines check in desk located at the end of the baggage claim area. Be careful of heavy luggage. There is a charge for extra weight over the allotted amount (44 lbs per passenger? Check it with the airline!): The lady in front of us had to pay $50 additional for the extra weight. We were off the ship by 9:00am and on a bus to begin our Alaskan land tour. ALASKAN LAND TOUR This five day tour, starting in Whittier and ending in Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, includes an air transfer and three long train rides. July 17th, Saturday: Passengers were transferred by coach from Whittier to Anchorage (2 hrs.), then took an Alaska Airlines flight to Fairbanks (1 hr). From the air we saw some of the wild fires that have been plaguing Fairbanks this summer. The air on the ground had a distinct smoky scent. Many locals told us we were lucky to have missed the really bad days two weeks before, when everyone was wearing surgical masks. The temperature was 88 degrees (F) when we landed, so much for the cool northwest. We transferred from the airport to the Fairbanks Princess Lodge for a two night stay. We were given an envelope on the bus with our schedule and room key. This was neat, no lines to wait on, and our luggage was already in our rooms when we arrived. This was to be repeated at each city on the tour. Nice preparation on the part of Princess Tours. July 18th, Sunday: At 8:30am the "City of Gold" tour took us through an old gold mine, where panning is still done by tourists. This is a good place for souvenirs and the tour included complementary hot chocolate, coffee and freshly baked cookies for the weary gold miners. At 1:30pm we boarded a three deck paddlewheel for the "Riverboat Discovery Tour." There were several stops where natives shared and demonstrated their culture; we saw Iditarod Champions with their dog training farms, and samples of local huts and homes. This was a wilderness ride that Disney would have appreciated because of its authenticity. We even watched a native Eskimo (Inupiat) filet a salmon for preserving. July 19th, Monday: We placed our luggage outside by 5:30am, transferred to the railway depot at 7:15am and boarded the Midnight Sun Ultra Dome at 8:15am. If this sounds early, just remember most of us were easterners used to DST, so this was like 12:15pm to us. Up to this point Fairbanks had been flat land, now we started a 4.5 hrs train ride through miles and miles of tundra with scrub like trees (low willows, birch and alder, plus the miniature scrub black spruce). Then the train went into a river bed and through canyons, tunnels and over trestles and into the mountains. Always with delightful changing vistas. We arrived in Healy and were transferred by bus to the Denali Princess Lodge, with its Old Hickory Furniture (Shelby, Indiana) This lodge and its surroundings are extraordinarily beautiful: many gigantic begonias, dahlias and marigold grown so lushly by the long, long summer days. Look out for the giant cabbages. Monday afternoon we took a three hour "Natural History Tour" with guide Josh Becker through the taiga (forest) and the tundra and up into the mountains to Inspiration Point (also called Primrose Ridge). From this site one can see 360 degrees panorama of mountain peaks. Fantastic! This is where the very spiritual natives sit to communicate with their spirit friends. An Athabaskan native woman spoke of their matriarchal society and subsistence hunting. The roads are lined with fire weed a beautiful lavender spiked wild flower. Wild life is scarce here, but we did see the Alaskan State bird the ptarmigan, to be exact we saw the whole family: a hen, a rooster and several chicks. They look like bantam chickens small and brown with a more colorful rooster, who fiercely defends the family. We saw white Dall sheep with their curled horns and a caribou that walked across the scrub straight toward the bus. Josh stopped and warned the passengers to be quiet. This beautiful animal walked along side the bus and strode to the front of it and then turned and slowly walked back. All the while cameras were clicking. We were all amazed by the huge rack of antlers. Denali National Park, we were told is the size of Massachusetts, with more then 160 species of birds, 37 species of mammals and hundreds of species of plants. We found that looking for wildlife there is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Imagine seeking less than 350 grizzly bears or 100 wolves in six million acres. Both moose and caribou number less than 1,900 each. This harsh climate is not conducive to either flora or fauna. If you yearn for wildlife, then you should book special tours which bring the visitors to specific areas like Brooks River Lodge in Kanai National Park, where bears congregate to catch the salmon swimming upstream, as shown in National Geographic films. We never even saw the official Alaskan pollinator the mosquito (Skeeter), since this year there has been very little rain. July 20th, Tuesday: We transferred at noon to the Ultra Dome train again to ride from Denali to Talkeetna 4.5 hrs. The dining car had all glass sides. It was lined with booths and tables covered with cloths and decorated with blue iris in silver bud vases. The wall sconces added an elegant touch. Up the spiral steps is the glassed topped dome of the railroad car complete with bar. After winding through beautiful taiga forest, we arrived at Talkeetna, which is the starting point for all Mt. McKinley climbs (the local indigenous tribes call it Denali, the big one). This is a town that is little more than a widening in the road. If seeing wildlife in Denali Park was difficult, we were now about to learn just how difficult it is to see Mt. McKinley. We transferred by coach to Mt. McKinley Lodge and our bus driver, Joy Raby, answered our question about which direction to look by saying, "If it's out . . .". We now decided to rename Mt. McKinley "Peek-a-boo Mountain." Joy's mother Wilma told us about the rarity of photo opportunities, not only of the mountain, but also of wildlife (her collection of photographs are stunning, but the result of over thirteen years work!). It seems that the mountain is usually shrouded in clouds and many times it is difficult to discern what are snow covered mountain peaks from what are white clouds. We were told that during this period of the year the "Big Mountain" is only visible 30% of the time. July 21st, Wednesday: This morning we all gathered on the deck of the Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge and stayed until we had to board our coach at 3:15pm. We saw one or two minor peaks, but never the majestic range depicted on our post cards. Dejected, we boarded the Midnight Sun Ultra Dome for the last time and a 3.5 hour trip to Anchorage. We saw truly beautiful mountain ranges and rainbows. We arrived at the Hilton Hotel at 8:30pm and once again check in was simple; room keys, luggage transfers and tags were provided. July 22, Thursday: We shopped and walked near the visitors center in Anchorage. The main streets were lined with huge hanging baskets of midnight blue lobelia and golden giant marigolds. At noon we transferred to the airport. We were eager to go home but truly disappointed that Mt. Mckinley had eluded us. Then on our way to the boarding gate, we looked out the panoramic windows and low and behold there was a clear view of Mt. Mckinley and its range. We asked a local and the response we got was "Didn't anyone tell you that Anchorage usually has the best view of the mountain?" We feel that we had some unrealistic expectations regarding wildlife etc., but we had a terrific trip through the interior of Alaska and enjoyed it immensely. SUGGESTIONS 1. Many of the public areas on the ship are carpeted making it difficult for wheelchairs; Costa and Carnival lines have used marble and tile extensively and thus are more user friendly. 2. We suggest to passengers with limited mobility to view the deck plans when booking their cruise. In this ship, for example, the cabins closer to the midship elevators are the best to minimize the distance to places most frequently visited, such as the dining rooms, the theater, the various lounges and passenger service desks. Unfortunately for us there are no wheelchair accessible cabins in this area midship. 3. We had a beautiful and comfortable stateroom; however, there is a minor deficiency in the bathroom where the shelves for toiletries were too small to hold a few necessary items. 4. A young cruiser told us to be sure to remind cruisers to bring their bathing suits. Alaska does have a summer! CONCLUSIONS Overall this was another great cruise. A bit too much traveling for Vincent with his mobility problem, but it was worth the effort. This was our sixth cruise on Princess and it will not be our last, as matter of fact, we have booked two future cruises with destinations to be decided. Our next cruise, however, will be on the new RCI Jewel of the Seas, on her maiden transatlantic crossing in September. Until then, Happy Cruising! w. Read Less
Sail Date July 2004
The night we embarked was the final night of an international fireworks competition in Vancouver BC. Much to our delight, after pulling away from the pier the captain announced he would anchor the ship in the harbor, to enable the ... Read More
The night we embarked was the final night of an international fireworks competition in Vancouver BC. Much to our delight, after pulling away from the pier the captain announced he would anchor the ship in the harbor, to enable the passengers to view the winning display. It was a fantastic show, and our first hint that this way the way this captain commanded his ship- anything to please the passengers. At each port is Alaska the sights to see varied widely: in Ketchikan some of my family took the "Duck Tour", on a vehicle that toured the town and its places of interest by road, and then went down a ramp into the water to view the fisheries, fishing vessels and bald eagles from another perspective. We also checked out the Discovery Museum manned by Rangers, who gave us insight into the vastness of the state ecologically; others went out on a fishing boat and were successful in catching delicious salmon. In Juneau some went through the State House where we learned how small Alaska's population is, plus had a chance to sit in the chairs of its Senators and Representatives. After we went whale watching on a catamaran and had the thrill of seeing humpbacked whales, orcas, sea lions, otters and bald eagles, while others in our group helicoptered onto the Mendenhall glacier and had the thrilling experience of cramponing across ice fields and huge crevasses formed by the movement of the glacier; we were all delighted by Skagway and its false fronted stores, and we took the Whitehorse Railway that traversed unbelievably steep gorges and from which we saw magnificent forests, glaciers and mountains...Glacier Bay and College Fjord were beautiful beyond description. At one point in College Fjord we were able to look 180 degrees and see 7 glaciers abutting one another. The captain turned the ship around 360 degreed twice so everyone could see the icy magnificence without difficulty. The ship is only a year old so all its electronics is state of the art, and while there were icebergs in the waters around us, we were in no danger of becoming another Titanic! The amenities aboard ship were extremely luxurious, and the crew members were invariably cheerful and happy to serve. The food was amazingly good, and I was impressed by the disinfectant handwash at the entrance to the buffet, which every passenger utilized before handling plates or silverware. I took a tour of the galley, and the spotless stainless steel sinks and refrigerators and preparation areas gleamed...Between ports there were continuous activities aboard ship, from a naturalist on the loudspeaker describing how the amazing sights around us were formed, to horseracing, bingo, trivia competitions, classes at sea, movies, 3 swimming pools and hot tubs, a luxurious spa, a casino and art gallery, comedians, magicians, musicians, a Broadway review, arts and crafts classes, a well stocked library, and all kinds of programs for children and teenagers. What a trip! Read Less
Sail Date August 2004
Prior to this cruise, we took a pre-cruise Canadian Rockies tour through Princess. The review of that tour can be found on the Ports of Call/Canada Board. ISLAND PRINCESS - ALASKAN CRUISE 8-7 to 8-14-04 A quick synopsis: We loved the ... Read More
Prior to this cruise, we took a pre-cruise Canadian Rockies tour through Princess. The review of that tour can be found on the Ports of Call/Canada Board. ISLAND PRINCESS - ALASKAN CRUISE 8-7 to 8-14-04 A quick synopsis: We loved the ship, the itinerary was outstanding, the food was great, the room stewardess was just "so-so", but all-in-all it was a wonderful vacation and we would greatly recommend it. Here is the daily log from our trip. August 7 - Island Princess After our quick check in, we dropped off our carry-on bags and grabbed a snack in the Horizon Cafe. We then walked around the ship for a little while before the life-boat drill. The drill was held in the lounge (as is Princess' way) and we never did see a lifeboat. Every ship does this drill differently some more detailed than others. Princess' drill is the most casual that we have encountered. This is not to say that they do not take this seriously, they just make it easier on the passengers. Whether this is good or not, I really don't know. After the drill, we unpacked our bags. We had planned on dining with 2 other couples at 6:30pm. We were supposed to sail at 5:45, but they held off for awhile to await late arriving passengers and didn't actually sail until about 6:25pm. After dinner we went to the "Welcome Aboard" show where we were introduced to the Cruise Director and his staff. The Princess singers and dancers performed, along with a Comic/Juggler. After the show, we had an extra treat, as the city of Vancouver had a wonderful fireworks show which we were able to view from the ship, as the captain, after pulling away from the dock, anchored the ship and didn't really leave Vancouver until after the show. The view of the fireworks was from the port side and since our cabin is on the starboard side, we had to go out on the deck to see them. It was a great way to end our evening aboard this beautiful ship. August 8 - Sunday At Sea Today we finally were able to sleep in - no schedules to keep today. We had breakfast in the Horizon Court and then at 9:30am went to the Port and Shopping Talk which actually is just a shopping talk. At 11:30am we went to the naturalist's talk, entitled "Alaska: The Last Frontier". This was an interesting and informative talk. During his talk, he mentioned that some had recently seen whales in the waters that we were sailing in. On hearing this, we wanted to leave the theater and take a look, but decided to stay. We were rewarded for this, as when we got back to our cabin, we also saw several whales. We didn't see them breech but we did see the water spouts and heard them as they breathed. It was exciting. We had lunch in the dining room with our friends. We thought the four of us were going to be eating together but were directed to a large table and before we had a chance to say anything, they seated another couple with us. Although they were very nice people, we had hoped to catch up with what our friends were doing. Now we know that we have to state we want a table for four. After lunch we spend time in our cabin, looking out for whales, reading and resting. It was too chilly to spend too much time out on the balcony, so we would go out for a little while and then come back inside. I would guess that the temperature was in the high 50s/low 60's for the entire day. People out on the decks were using blankets. However, it was nice and sunny, for which we were most thankful. Tonight was a formal night and we had to wait about 30 minutes for a table at 7pm. It was worth the wait, as we were seated at a very nice table for 4 by the window. The waitress was an English girl named Kristel. She was delightful and gave us very good service. We hope to reserve her table for 6 tomorrow night when we dine with our friends and another couple that we met on our Canadian Rockies tour. We went to the late show. It was a musical production number called "Let's Rock". Although the singers and dancers did a fine job, I thought some of the numbers were a bit strange. But it was still quite entertaining. Tomorrow we will be in Ketchikan. August 9 - Monday Ketchikan We arrived in Ketchikan around 6:00am. I was up early and watched the ship glide past the shops of Front Street and into our berth. We were the first ship in, right in front of the large carved eagle. The other ships docked with us were the Norwegian Spirit and the Volendam. Carnival's Spirit was anchored out farther. After a quick breakfast up in the Horizon Court, we left the ship (Gangway was on Deck 6, Mid-ship) and walked over to the Visitor's Information Center where we were to be picked up by Island Wings for our Flightseeing trip. They picked us up right in front of the Rain Gauge. (This is supposed to be the rainiest city and they have a "liquid sunshine" gauge that shows how much rain fell in the past year.) We were picked up along with a family of 4 from Pennsylvania and taken to the dock where we would be leaving from. Michelle was running a little late and we actually left about 45 minutes later than scheduled. The flight was wonderful. She took us over the Tongass National Forest and into the Fjords. We traveled over rock cliffs and rivers and it was awesome. The fact that it was a beautiful sunny day was really an added bonus. After flying for about 30 minutes, she landed the plane in a beautiful small lake along side a waterfall. We all got out there and walked around a little and took pictures. Michelle offered to take pictures of us with the plane and the mountains in the background. It was a wonderful experience and one that I would highly recommend. After our tour we walked around town a little bit, stopping at Diamond's International to pick up the free charm bracelet and the Ketchikan charm. We stopped at some other stores and picked up a few souvenirs and then bought some ice cream at the indoor mall across from the Lumberjack show. We were fortunate to beat the long line that developed with everyone trying to get back to the ship. Since we were only in port until 2:30pm, most people were trying to take advantage of the time allowed and didn't come back until close to the 2:00pm boarding time. This evening we had dinner with our friends (again at Kristel's table - this time, Table 19 - a table for 6). The food was excellent, the service was wonderful and the company was delightful. Afterward, we went to the show - a singer from Australia who was a "Tom Jones" type of singer. Since I don't care for Tom Jones, I really didn't care for him, but a lot of others really seemed to enjoy his act. We spent a little time in the casino, but it didn't take long to go through our allotted funds playing the slots. Tuesday - August 10 Juneau Today was another bright and sunny day. As a matter of fact, it turned quite warm. We had a leisurely breakfast and then went into town. They ran a shuttle to the Mt. Robson Tramway. The cost was $1.00 and you could use the pass as often as you liked all day. At 11:30am, we met our group at Orca Enterprises' office (across from the Tramway, on the second floor) and were escorted to a shuttle bus for the 15 minute ride to the boat where we went whale watching with the Captain. We had a wonderful time and saw several whales. In the beginning of our trip, we were beginning to wonder if we would see any whales as it took awhile before any surfaced. But it was well worth the wait. The one we saw at the end was really the "grand finale" as he came quite close to our boat. (I even had to retract my telephoto lens to take the picture!) Most of the other boats had already left the area so we felt that this was really an added bonus for us. After our excursion, we spent a little time in town and then went back to the ship. At a little before 5pm, we left for the Gold Creek Salmon Bake. We enjoyed this outdoor meal. (We had done this 10 years ago and were hoping that it was still as good.) The salmon was delicious. My friend, who doesn't really care much for salmon, even commented on how good it was. The honey glaze that they put on it is what really gives it the wonderful flavor. They also served chicken and ribs, plus baked beans, coleslaw, salads and corn bread. For dessert they had a blueberry cake and there were even marshmallows and a fire if you wanted to roast them. They had a singer who performed Alaskan folk songs which we enjoyed. After dinner, we walked down to the waterfall which is only about 50 yards from the dining area. We got on a bus to go back to the ship, however, we had to wait until they filled up the entire bus before they would leave. We got back to our ship with about 5 minutes to spare. The reason that we booked this through the ship is because we knew we would be cutting it close to the departure time. We thought that they would have a Princess bus that would take us and then return us back to the ship. On most trips, they know how many people are out on an excursion and wait for them to return. However, on this trip, they transportation was provided by the Salmon Bake and they picked up people for all the ships. I don't know how Princess would know if we all returned or not. This evening the entertainment was a show called "Tribute" which was a tribute to the Beatles, the Rat Pack and I think, Madonna (not up on all of her music). It was a great show. It was performed in the Universe Lounge - not the Princess Theater. We came in at the last minute and had to sit in the balcony. I would highly recommend that you sit downstairs as you have to look through a glass panel and a brass rail from every seat in the balcony. I am sure that we would have enjoyed this show more if we sat downstairs. Tonight we also watched a movie in our cabin. They showed "Mooseport" and it seemed an appropriate movie for being in Alaska. August 11 - Wednesday Skagway We didn't have anything planned for Skagway. We did the train trip the last time we were here. We had a reserved a rental car before we left home with plans to drive up to Emerald Lake, but cancelled it. We saw so many beautiful lakes during our trip through the Canadian Rockies, we didn't think it would be worth a 2 hour drive to see another. So, we just went into town, walked around and did a little shopping and then came back and enjoyed the ship. We felt that the town had changed since we were here last - we sure didn't remember so many jewelry stores. And what is it with Del Sol being in every Alaskan port? I don't know about you, but I think Del Sol belongs in the Caribbean. It is too bad that each of the Alaskan ports which use to be so distinctive, now just look like another Caribbean port. We felt the same way about Juneau. The tramway and many of the stores where not there when we were here before. We were glad that we had an opportunity to see it when it wasn't quite so commercialized. After walking through town a little and making a few minor purchases, we returned to the ship. We had lunch and then I went to the Princess Theater and saw the movie "Miracle". It was quite good. Bill said that he would rather spend time outdoors, but since the weather was around 60 degrees and windy, I didn't find that enjoyable. Before dinner, they had a fellow from Skagway, "Buckwheat" Donahue who told folk stories and recited poetry. This was held in The Explorer's Lounge. It was actually quite entertaining and seemed a good way to end this day. We had dinner again with the wonderful server, Kristel. Again at table 19 - a table for 6. However, one of the couples was not able to make it. I tried to then change our reservation to Table 20 which is a table for 4 near the window that we had the other night, but was told it was reserved for the entire cruise. I was surprised and said that I thought you had to reserve each day. I was told that only the Maitre' D could make this kind of reservation. After dinner, we reserved Table 19 for 8:15pm for the last 2 days of the cruise. Our sail-away was scheduled for 8:45pm. We enjoyed being out on deck and watching the Norwegian Star and the Serenade of the Seas sail out ahead of us. We all sailed away slowly, the Star and us heading for Glacier Bay and the Serenade of the Seas headed for Juneau. We did attend the show later in the evening (10:15pm) - it was a show of comedy and magic and the star was quite good. There are notices in the Princess Patter and in the theater that children under the age of 16 cannot sit in the first 3 rows. At the performance we went to, there were many young children sitting there. The comedian must have thought that was interesting as he came down from the stage and asked one of the young ladies to read what it said (about not sitting in the first 3 rows). She did - but told him that she asked a waiter and he told her it was OK. The comedian then tried to get the waiter to read the sign, but he wasn't joining in on this. The consensus was that the waiter probably couldn't read the sign. I am guessing that the reason for this ruling is that the performers often ask for volunteers and want adults. It is very hard to see beyond the first few rows from the stage. We skipped the casino tonight as we wanted to get some sleep and get up early tomorrow to enjoy the glaciers. August 12 - Thursday Glacier Bay I woke up early to a beautiful sunrise over the mountains as we were approaching the entrance to Glacier Bay. The day is partly cloudy, but with enough sun to make it beautiful. Before we went to breakfast, we saw quite a few whales off of our starboard cabin. Around 8:30am, the rangers started their commentary. (If you turned your TV to Channel 49, you could hear this in your cabin.) The first major glacier that we viewed was Lamplugh Glacier. It was a beautiful sight with the white, blue and black colors of the ice. There were some large pieces of ice nearby, but we didn't experience any calfing at this glacier. The captain was kind enough to turn the ship around so that each side could get a nice view. After a short while, we slowly sailed to the Grand Pacific and Margarie Glaciers. These are reported to be active "calving" glaciers, but we saw just a very little bit of ice calving. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful sight. Again, the captain turned the ship so that each side could get an equal view. There were many birds in the area. It was explained that the ice calving roils up the food in the water, which the birds love. It was rather cool on deck - I would guess about 50 degrees. With the wind, it sometimes was quite cold. I needed to come in occasionally and warm up. It was really wonderful to have the balcony so you could come in when it got uncomfortable. I was wearing a "running" suit, with a turtle neck and a sweatshirt. The best advice I can give anyone who is coming to Alaska is to dress in layers. If the winds subside and the sun comes out, you can always take a layer off. Up on Deck 14 - outside the pizza place - they were serving Caribou Chili and Seafood Chowder. It got great reviews. The trip out of Glacier Bay was very relaxing. The weather was pleasant, with hazy sunshine. Whales were quite evident during this part of the journey. You just had to be observant and patient. I selected this cruise because of the itinerary. The last time we came to Alaska, we did not go to Glacier Bay so I wanted to make sure that I got there this time. We were not disappointed. The group that we traveled with through the Canadian Rockies was having a "Farewell" get-together in the Wheelhouse Bar at 5:00pm, so we attended that. It was fun to catch up with everyone, finding out what they did in the various ports and how they like the cruise. Everyone agrees that this itinerary is wonderful and the Island Princess is a great ship. The Captain's Circle Party was held at 7:15pm in the Universe Lounge. It was the usual type of party, some hot snacks and pre-mixed cocktails. They honored the 3 people on the cruise that had sailed with Princess the most days. They were 150 days, 180 days and 321 days! After the party the captain offered to pose for pictures, so we took him up on the offer. We had dinner at 8:15, again at Kristel's table 19, with our traveling friends and our new friends from England. It was lobster night and the guys each had seconds. Dinner was wonderful, as has been the case throughout the trip. We attended the show- "Curtain Up - A Salute to Broadway" in the Princess Theater. It was very entertaining. We really enjoy these production shows and in particular, Broadway tunes. If you didn't care for that type of entertainment, there was also a comedian in the Universe Lounge at about the same time. Tonight was the Champagne Waterfall Party. We did not attend as we have been to these before, but if you have never seen this, it is quite fun. Tomorrow we will be at College Fjord for more glacier viewing. It is also our last day and we will have to pack - UGH! August 13 - Friday At Sea/College Fjord This morning after breakfast, we stopped in the Universe Lounge for the Disembarkation Talk. We were about 5 minutes late, and it was almost over! The talk will also be replayed on the TV later this afternoon, so we will check it to see if we missed anything. They stated that we needed to have our bags out by 8:00pm tonight. This is quite early, so after the talk, I asked them why this was necessary. They said that they will actually arrive in Whittier around midnight and because it is such a small port and doesn't have the equipment that the larger ports do, it will take quite a bit of time to sort out the luggage. They did say, however, that we could keep one bag to put out later, so we could change our clothes after dinner, etc. We entered College Fjord around 3pm and made our way very slowly to avoid hitting the large pieces of ice flowing by. The naturalist gave commentary along the way, telling us what glaciers we were passing and the interesting highlights of each. Around 5:30, we came to the highlight of the Fjord, Harvard Glacier. What a magnificent sight. The captain pulled up very close to the glacier, I think he said we were 200 ft. from the front of it. He turned the ship 360 degrees twice so that all could view it from whatever side of the ship you were on. We got to enjoy the view from our balcony. We did go to an aft deck when we first entered the Fjord as most of the viewing at that point was on the port side. However, we were able to view this side later from our cabin when we headed out. We only saw minor calving, which was somewhat of a disappointment. The other time we were here, which was 10 years ago, we saw quite a bit of thunderous calving at this same glacier. We left the glacier at the same careful, slow speed and were able to enjoy the view while we had dinner. We again dined with our 4 friends at Table 19 with our wonderful server Kristel. Tonight's dinner was excellent has been the pattern of this trip. We had no complaints about any of the food. I am a picky eater, so I especially liked the fact that they have a few items like chicken, salmon, steak, caeser salad and shrimp cocktail on the menu every night in case you didn't like what the featured items were. We enjoyed talking to our friends so much that we were some of the last to leave the dining room. We would have stayed longer but we still had one bag to put out. We put 3 of our 4 bags out before we went to dinner. They wanted us to put all of our bags out by 8pm, but we held on to one so that we could put our dinner clothes away in our checked bags. I thought I would spend a little time in the casino, but shortly after I arrived, they announced that the casino would be closing at 11pm and that anyone playing the slot machines should cash out. Also, the shows were at 7pm and 8:30pm so we missed them both. I went back to our cabin and finished my trip report and did some reading. Around midnight, we will be arriving in Whittier. August 14 - Saturday Whittier/Anchorage We had breakfast in the Horizon Court and then prepared to leave the ship. Our color was to be called at 8:15am, but was actually called 15 minutes early. (You have to go to a public lounge to hear these announcements as you can't hear them in your cabin.) We took the coach from Whittier to Anchorage which was a nice trip which took about 1 ½ hours. The one-way tunnel was a little weird if you really stop to think about it. We were told that the previous week there was a problem in the tunnel - some rocks came loose - so they had to close it for awhile and people were late getting to the ship. The coach took us to the Egan Center (convention center in downtown Anchorage) where our luggage had been taken separately. You could keep your luggage here until 6:00pm but since our plane was not leaving until 12:55am Sunday, this didn't work out for us. Princess also offered some tours for those who had time to spend before their planes left. We took a cab from the Egan Center to the Courtyard Marriott where we had reserved one room for the 4 of us to share. We just needed it to have a place to store our luggage, freshen up and rest. It worked out well for us. After we checked in at the hotel, we took their complimentary shuttle to the airport where we picked up our rental car. Originally we had booked an SUV because we thought that we would have to carry our luggage from the Egan Center to the hotel, but since we took the cab, we really didn't need that type of vehicle. We changed to a full-sized vehicle instead of the SUV and saved $60. After we picked up the car, we went to the Sourdough Mining Co. for lunch and then stopped at the Alaska Berry Co. which was directly across the street, mostly to see their chocolate waterfall! (Very touristy, but fun.) We then went back to downtown Anchorage, parked the car and walked around. We spent quite a bit of time at the Farmer's Market which is a combination of farmer's market, craft fair, and entertainment. After that we took a Horse and Carriage ride. The driver, a woman named Carla, told us about her experience racing in the Iditarod. She was very interesting. We then took in the Alaskan Experience movie (to see the wildlife and ice-calving that we missed on the cruise) and had dinner at a fun place called Humpy's. We then headed back to the airport to return the car and took the hotel's shuttle again back to the hotel. We had some time to change clothes and get ready for our trip home. At 10:30pm, we took the shuttle one last time back to the airport to check in for our flight. (We had reserved the space on the 10:30 shuttle earlier in the day as they get quite filled up.) We were glad that we arrived at the airport early as we checked in just ahead of a busload of Russian tourists who took quite a bit of time at the check-in desk. Our flight left at 12:55am as planned. We traveled to Minneapolis/St. Paul where we changed planes and arrived in Cleveland around 1:30pm. This was a very long and exhausting trip. Luckily, we were able to take one more day of vacation and spent Monday sleeping late, unpacking and doing laundry. It was a wonderful trip and we feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to experience it. If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me at marylouinohio@hmcltd.net Read Less
Sail Date August 2004
You'll find the support staff and supervisors more than adequate to fulfill your need for a special vacation on board a cruise ship. The personal service is delightful, courteous and friendly, and the crew well trained and ... Read More
You'll find the support staff and supervisors more than adequate to fulfill your need for a special vacation on board a cruise ship. The personal service is delightful, courteous and friendly, and the crew well trained and enthusiastic. The ship is immaculate, well designed and well maintained. Although we were forced into personal choice dining, it turned out o.k., but missed the regular experience with the same tablemates and waiter. The Horizon Cafe topside was great for breakfast, pizza and grille were good also. Dining room fish prep was unreliable at best but beef always on the money with veal excellent. Salads and soups were enjoyable. When any waiter was asked for a recommendation from the dinner menu he/she offered the non committal "I can bring you both dishes". The desserts were good but not memorable, however most people liked the souffles. The casino staff, Michelle, Irina, Gabi, Igor, Delia, and more were thoroughly professional albeit entertaining and playful while they lightened the load in my back pocket. Slot machines were actually paper shredders. They oughta turn them babies up. The photo staff -- Cat and Sara, and the guy with the spiked hair that says "c'mon , baby" all the time -- did a great job making the posing fun and entertaining. The photo gallery is my wife's "casino" so more than a few megapixels were used on us, and purchase decisions difficult. The ships dancers were above average and the shows' variety and content enjoyable. However, the comedians needed some new material. Well, it sure beat getting up for work that day, anyway. The cruise director, David Cole, needs a vacation. When I expressed my frustration at having a full blown variety show in the limited seating lounge (while I was sitting on a metal folding chair in the rear with a very limited view), he seemed to let his own frustration pour out like lava, and ultimately instructed me to write Princess a letter if I didn't like it. Evidently this is a recurring complaint on the cruise. Well, hey Dave, diffuse the situation with some basic customer service skills, or advise the passengers in the Pitter-Pattter (daily newsletter) of the limited seating. Or, better yet, let Martin, the very gracious and friendly assistant take over while they leave you in Hawaii for one rotation. Shake it up with a Hula girl, or hula boy if need be, pal. Lighten up, we're on vacation, remember. Embarkation was rough, and Customs insisted on clearing the entire ship before letting anyone disembark. Ok, we missed our morning flight with the other 500 early passengers, but the airlines were very accommodating, at least for us. I guess the cruise director told the customs guys to write Princess when they asked for a cup of coffee, so they dug in their heels. Actually, the Princess experience was very good, but the lack of training for customer service agents in the home office and the cruise director's misplaced basic skills left me with the impression that future Princess cruises for me would set sail with a puff of morning breath. This was my 6th cruise, and all have been enjoyable, but next time I go the selection will be as follows: 1. Celebrity 2. Royal Caribbean 3. Another line 4. Princess Still, overall a good experience. Read Less
Sail Date October 2004
Sorry, I can't remember our cabin numbers, but we were just a few doors from the wonderful glass elevators on deck 8, I think! Anyhow, if I were going to judge Princess from this one cruise I would NEVER again go ... Read More
Sorry, I can't remember our cabin numbers, but we were just a few doors from the wonderful glass elevators on deck 8, I think! Anyhow, if I were going to judge Princess from this one cruise I would NEVER again go Princess.............this cruise was SUCH a comedown from our HAL cruise in October we were shocked. We left port several hours late with NO explanation and NO announcement and NO sailaway excitement...........a very unexciting departure. Upon embarkation (we'd told our adult "children" there would be a great buffet to greet us) the buffet was HORRIBLE.........iceberg lettuce was the salad, deep fried calamari was cold, as was all "hot" food........tables were filthy and littered with food and dirty dishes so there was nowhere to sit, food was on the floor and the "workers" all stood around cleaning up nothing.......just talking. Unfortunately, their attitudes affected the cruise all 15 days. It seemed a revolt was about to happen among the food/drink servers. Their refusal to work caused the buffet area to be filthy ALL the time.....food on tables, floor, tables never wiped down, etc. Once I asked for ketchup and the gal said, "It's on the line." They were unwilling to do ANYthing to help people. We had holes consistently in our towels, sheets and pillowcases and toiletries in tiny cardboard containers????? Where's the quality? We LOVED Anytime Dining............the schedule was wonderful. We just always called in the morning to reserve a time and/or time and table and it all worked wonderfully. The food, however, was another area needing lots of help. Salads were consistently warm and runny with dressing; in fact I got food poisoning from a Caesar Salad. I kept my mouth shut regarding it, but had several people at the pool tell me they'd had food poisoning..........from the same thing! I tried to report it the night it happened but NO ONE wanted to hear about it at all! Others reported the same problem. We had a WONDERFUL cruise director who wanted to discuss problems but seemed unable to solve anything. There were sewage leaks (bad odor in the showroom and sewage sloshing overhead in our cabin so bad they had to move us). On HAL and NCL we could get herbal tea anytime. I finally learned it WAS available on this Princess ship, but one has to ask for it and a worker has to unlock a cabinet and give you ONE teabag. Want papaya on the buffet? You have to ask and SOMETIMES they will get you a couple of slices from the back room IF you wait long enough. In Lahina we stood in line almost four hours for tenders while the HAL passengers walked right past us and got onto their ship. We could have kept our rental car for hours longer and enjoyed the island. We thought they had a great system for tendering.........go to a lounge and get a ticket, then they call ticket numbers.....THEN, we learned past cruisers know they NEVER CHECK TICKETS, so they just walked into groups going down to tenders leaving some with tickets unable to board because they were farther back in the group!! I could go on and on, but it will be amazing if we ever again try Princess. Anytime Dining - great Food - poor Desserts - even worse Service in the buffet - non-existent. Cabin service - good. Public Restrooms - unclean. Linens - thought we were at GoodWill. Entertainment - excellent Cruise Director - excellent Horse Racing - wish all lines did this; it's a blast! Overall, the attitude/ feeling that one group of servers onboard was about to mutiny caused a serious pall over the cruise; it was the "talk of the ship"............along with the lousy buffet and a few other things!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2004
Island Princess Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.2
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 3.0 3.9
Public Rooms 4.0 4.2
Fitness Recreation 5.0 3.7
Family 4.0 3.7
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.9
Enrichment 3.0 3.8
Service 4.0 4.4
Value For Money 4.0 3.9
Rates 4.0 4.1

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