Loved the Island, Loved Panama Canal: Island Princess Cruise Review by cardamom

Island Princess 4
Member Since 2011

Overall Member Rating

Loved the Island, Loved Panama Canal

Sail Date: January 2013
Destination: Panama Canal & Central America
Embarkation: Los Angeles
I went on my first cruise in 2007 and this is my 8th cruise, 5th on Princess. We've been on HA and Celebrity, but we like Princess the best because of the food and the cabins. We arrived at the LA cruise terminal at noon and literally walked right onto the ship. We had priority boarding because my husband was a platinum member, but it didn't matter because there was nobody waiting in line. Island is an older ship but Princess has done a decent job of keeping it up to date. Bit of wear and tear as well as some rusty bits, but this was expected given the age of the ship so we weren't disappointed. The Lotus Spa pool and pool area was fantastic and one of our favourite outdoor areas of the ship. Bigger than the Lotus pool on the newer ships, so there was room to swim around. The roof of the spa pool area was built so that it could be opened and we were disappointed that it was never once opened in the entire cruise. The atrium area of the ship is the nicest we've seen on any ship. Nice More couches, a great cafe, lots of good seating areas to people watch or just read a book.

The ship was full of seniors and we only saw one child on the entire ship. At 50, we were among the youngest people on board. Having been on a recent cruise where it was full of kids, we were very happy at the age demographic of this cruise. The average age was rumored to be 70. It meant that the anytime dining room was completely full at 5:45 pm. Waiting to be seated for dinner was the worst experience we had on the cruise, on any cruise actually, because we waited up to an hour and 15 minutes on some nights. We ended up calling for reservations and could only get one for 5:45 each day. That's not anytime dining.

We were in cabin Baja 215, category AA, a mini-suite on deck 11. It was right at the front of the ship and on the one really rough sea day, we barely slept at all because of the tossing about. But it was a great cabin for viewing the canal passage because we were close to the front viewing areas (decks 10 and 11). Plus our balcony had a clear view straight down which was great while going through the locks. It was a big room with a full 3 seater couch. The two flat screen TVs came in handy when I was asleep and my husband wanted to watch TV, he just sat in the 'living room'. Lots of room in the bathroom, big bathtub, and a big closet. We loved our room. Yes, it's an older ship so there's some rust in places and a bit of wear and tear, but the cabin steward did her best to keep everything clean.

We didn't find the entertainment on the ship appealing but take this with a grain of salt because we never enjoy the big dancing and singing shows. We always go for the comedians. This trip had a number of them and we saw three. Two of the three were not good at all. In fact one was clearly geared for the 70+ crowd because he hadn't updated his material since his heyday in the 1960s.

The dining experience was very good (other than the waiting to be seated issue), because the waiters were pleasant and the food was pretty good. Princess tends to default to using salty gravy a lot which I don't like, but most of the meals were good. It's a good opportunity to try things that you wouldn't normally eat. Many different types of fish, which they do well. One big problem with Princess ships is that they use instant coffee in the dining rooms. This stuff is the worst backwash that you will taste. If you want a real brewed cup of coffee you will need to buy a coffee card and go to the cafe. With the card you have unlimited regular coffees as long as you still have unpunched lattes/cappuccinos, etc on the card. Really worth it if you like coffee.

Since the ship was full of elderly people, the pool areas were often not full which is a rarity especially on sea days. It also meant that there were no loud heavy-drinking partiers. It meant that booking the Sanctuary was a waste of time because it was quiet and sparsely populated elsewhere. We did book the Sanctuary for an afternoon and ironically there were loud people there that ruined our experience.

I had three spa treatments. Pedicure, massage and a facial, all of which were professional and enjoyable. Not so great was the sales pitch at the end of each treatment to purchase products. But I understand that they're in the business of making money, so it was fine. Bit of comic relief actually, because at the end of the facial I was presented with a suggested face care program which entailed me buying products totalling $745. I laughed my way out of the spa that day. I used the gym a few times and it was completely fine. Everything you need for a good workout is there. Disappointing that I couldn't use a spinning bike on my own (safety reasons! Like the spinning bike is going to launch me through the window or something) but it didn't matter because I still got a great workout.

As usual the service on the ship was great. The cabin steward, waiters, bar tenders -- all were fantastic, helpful, attentive. They work very hard with very little time off.

We recommend this cruise and this ship. Less

Published 02/11/13

Cabin review: MEB215 Mini-Suite with Balcony

B215, deck 11, is a great location on the Panama Canal cruise because it's close to the front of the ship and there is nothing below the balcony so you can see straight down as you pass through the canal. Plus it's very close to the observation deck on Deck 11 which is where you'll want to be as you approach the canal. Mini suites are the way to go when you're on a 14 day cruise. Lots of space. Full bathtub (shaving your legs without having to do a complicated yoga posture, ladies, like you do in the standard shower stall). Beware: being at the front of the ship on rough sea days will have you staggering around your cabin like a drunken sailor.

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Port and Shore Excursions

Shop til you drop in Aruba. Our second time there and once again we took advantage of the great shopping. Note that 90% of the stores close on Sundays in Aruba and we were there on a Sunday this time around which meant we had access to limited stores. If you're going to arrive on a Sunday, better to book an excursion. Eagle Beach is the quieter of the two main tourist beaches (Palm Beach being the other), but populated enough that you don't feel completely alone.
Read 1289 Aruba Reviews

City Tour

We did the walking tour of the old city and it was fascinating. Our guide, JJ, knew his history and gave us a lively, interesting lecture at every opportunity. The streets of the old city are beautiful, lined with centuries old buildings, second story balconies had overflowing flower boxes covered in beautiful blooms. Poverty is everywhere, but people were friendly. JJ was attentive and very safety conscious. Never did we feel unsafe or feel like we would be left behind (like we did on the Panama City walking tour). This tour is worth the money, but take a bottle of water. A bottle was provided at the end of the tour but it wasn't enough for me because of the intense heat and humidity. Two thumbs up!

We did not take a shore excursion so this poor rating is for the town of Puntarenas only. There was no shopping available to speak of, except for tourist odds and ends. It was a dirty, poor town.

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