Panama Canal - A Dream Come True: Island Princess Cruise Review by jeanne_lynn

Island Princess 5
Member Since 2009
8 Forum Posts

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Panama Canal - A Dream Come True

Sail Date: January 2013
Destination: Panama Canal & Central America
Embarkation: Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
This was a trip that I have dreamed about for over 47 years. I did a report on Panama in 5th grade and I have always wanted to visit. Since the prices have dropped considerably, my daughter and I decided this was the time. We arrived the day before in Ft Lauderdale and stayed at the Hampton Inn Airport on 12th Ave. This is an ideal spot since you are only 3 miles from the cruise port for embarkation, but you are right across the street from a shopping center for any last minute item you may have forgotten to pack.

We took the free shuttle from our hotel to the dock at 1PM and there weren't any lines at all. We pretty much walked on the ship. We had decided to bring our luggage with us and skipped the porters so that we could get unpacked and start enjoying our cruise.

Our room was a balcony stateroom and we had lots of room for all of our clothes and shoes. We had the twin bed configuration and we had plenty of room. We really enjoyed our balcony More too.

We hurried up to the Horizon Court for a quick bite (we had a wonderful breakfast at the Hampton Inn earlier) then it was time for the lifeboat drill. This was a lot longer than other drills I have sat thru. I guess they are trying to be safer since the Concordia incident last year. This drill lasted over 30 minutes and before we even had time to take life jackets back to our room the ship was setting sail.We had 2 days at sea before our first port of Aruba. The seas were horribly rough on the second day with swells over 12 feet. It was hard to walk anywhere on the ship and the water in the pools was a sight to behold. They actually closed the pools for the safety of the passengers. You couldn' have swum in them because the waves in the pools were as bad as the ocean. The water was splashing out of the pools and the decks were a mess with all the water.

Just a quick rundown on the ports:

Aruba- disappointed with only 5 hours in this port. Not enough time to really see and shop. Besides, it was raining most of the time.

Cartagena, Columbia- what a suprise this town was. This was the port I was the least interested in, and it ended up being my favorite behind the Panama Canal. The old city was beautiful and the old fort was facinating.

Panama Canal- I was so impressed with this wonder of the world. It was everything I was expecting and so much more. Just be sure to get up early if you want a spot up front when you first go thru Gatan Locks. Remember, you will get great pictures of the locks from the back of the ship when you go thru the last lock. The crowds thin out for the passage thru Pedro Miguel and Miraflores Locks. You won't have any problem getting up close to the rail on the last 2 locks.

Fuerte Amador- This is a port where the ship is anchored and you must take a tender to the dock. We just walked along the City Walk during the morning hours. We now wish we had taken a tour. Other passengers that came back from their tours had some great stories. We definitely missed out.

Puntarenas, Costa Rica- This was another surprise. We took the rain-forest tour in a gondola over the top of the rain forest. It was a lot of fun and we were very impressed with the beauty of this country. We saw toucans, iguanas and crocodiles.

The food on the cruise was very good. It was a 14day cruise so there was some repeats. We had anytime dining and ate in the dining room only 3 times. Most of our meals were in the Horizon Court Buffet or pizza at the Pizzeria. The pizza was excellent and was served from 11AM to 11PM When we did use Anytime dining, we only had about a 30 minute wait. The ice cream was wonderful too.All in all it was a wonderful trip and I would recommend it to any one. Our only complaint was the long 5 days at sea when headed back to Los Angeles. It did get boring. There is only so much the cruise staff can think of and I am glad I brought my books to read.

Another great thing that Princess does for its passengers on the full canal passage. They make a Video of your passage thru the canal and you can buy it for $39.00 at the end of the cruise. They take video of the ship and passengers waving at them during transit. To be sure you get on the video, make sure you go to the Panama Canal sign making class offered a couple of days before you transit the canal. The camera man will be looking for these and then you will be on the video. Less

Published 02/10/13
3 Helpful Votes

Cabin review: BEA-718 Balcony

Our room was great for 2 people. The balcony was ample and we were always checking sea conditions every morning. Large closet and more than enough storage for us. Now, the bathroom was clean and compact, but I am a big gal, and I could barely turn around in that shower without bumping into the handicap rail. The room was well located for noise. The only drawback was that being on deck 12 with no other balconies above us, there was never any shade on our balcony unless the sun was on the other side of the ship. I am sure this is fine when cruising Alaska, but during a canal cruise it got awfully hot out there.

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Port and Shore Excursions

We were really looking forward to visiting Aruba and were so disappointed that it rained and we only had 5 hours to visit. We decided to just go into town to get a feel for the country. The shopping was difficult since most of the stores didn't open until 9-10AM. The Island Princess is at port from 7:30 til 12:30. We had wanted to visit Eagle Beach and then do a little shopping but the rain nixed our plans. After shopping we headed back to the ship around 11:30 and the sun started to come out, so we did get to see some of the aqua blue water as we departed at 12:30.
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Cartagena's Cathedral

Pretty for an old church. Especially for how old it is.

Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas

My daughter and I were completely surprised about how much we loved Cartagena. This was the one port I really didn't care about. We decided to do the tour since a group from Cruise Critic on the message boards had a tour planned. It was such a good deal at $47.00 apiece for a complete tour of the town, that we decided "What the heck" let's just do it. Our tour guide was such a nice woman and was so knowledgeable that we felt like we really got a wonderful experience. I would recommend this tour to everyone. I loved the people of Columbia and the town of Cartagena is lovely.

City Tour

We loved walking the old city with it's cobblestone streets. Loved the old buildings and that some streets didn't' allow any cars on them. The old buildings are being restored to their original beauty.

La Popa Monastery

Wow!! What a view from up the top of this monastery. The courtyard was breathtaking and the building is in such great shape for how old it is. Don't miss this!!!!

Palacio de la Inquisicion

We just walked by this on our walking tour. It was across the street from the beautiful Bolivar park.

Rainforest Tour

We wanted to see a rain-forest and boy did we get one. My daughter and I couldn't believe how massive the forest was. The gondola ride was well worth the money. We saw toucans, crocodiles and iguanas. The bus driver guide and the rain-forest gondola guide were both extremely knowledgeable and had great personalities. We were served lunch and it was really good. There was also a gift shop that had lots of fun items and chocolate covered coffee beans and fruit jellies. Yummy!!!

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