Island Princess Cruise Review by RuthJH
- Sail Date: January 2009
- Destination: Panama Canal & Central America
- Cabin Type: Balcony
We took the shuttle the next morning to Port Everglades arriving at about 11:30 a.m. We were, and I do not exaggerate, in our cabin by noon! They have the embarkation down to a science, and the fact that you can go to your cabin right away is wonderful. We had a cabin (balcony) on the Baja deck, midships. Great location and the cabin was as roomy as one could hope for...we had plenty of room for all of our clothes and even my shoes!
This was the smallest Princess ship we have been on and truthfully we preferred the larger ones' layouts, for 2 reasons: we missed the running track (so we ran on the Promenade Deck instead, which was fine), and we didn't like the fact that the Horizon Court does not open up onto an open deck with seating. We found it quite claustrophobic in the Horizon Court and for that reason often took our breakfast/lunch food outside to eat, usually by the pool.
But aside from those smallish issues we loved the ship, the cruise, the Ports, and the food. We had Anytime dining and chose to eat usually between 8 and 8:30 p.m. We ended up with the same table for 2 eight out of 10 nights....after a few nights it seems as though they held that table for us after 8 p.m., which was great. The food in the dining room was wonderful and even my somewhat picky eater husband always found something to choose, and always enjoyed it. We only ate in the dining room for 1 breakfast and 1 lunch...too slow and formal for me during the day. We enjoyed the Horizon Court food and for lunch I mostly would have a salad and a little something else. Almost always enjoyed a slice of Princess Pizza sometime in the afternoon to tide me over until dinner!
Entertainment was mostly very good. One thing I did not like was the entertainment by the pool. Usually there is a caribbean style band playing during the day by the pool. On this sailing there was a single guy who I didn't enjoy. I took a couple of exercise classes (the free ones) but they were pretty lame. I did not use the Spa. I did buy a coffee card and enjoyed great coffee (brewed and specialty) throughout the cruise.
Our first stop was Aruba. We don't normally book excursions through the cruise line but did here because we had such a short stop (morning only) we wanted to make the best of our time. So we booked a snorkeling excursion to the north shore, the only part of Aruba we haven't been to. Unfortunately the bus never arrived and the excursion was cancelled. So we really didn't do anything in Aruba, and it ended up raining most of the time we were there (our only rain for the cruise, really).
Next stop was Columbia. Based upon readings I'd done here on CC, we just hired a taxi for a few hours...he took us to the usual spots and waiting for us at each, so it was not a tour. I think if I went there again I would like a more formal tour. But the walled city was very nice, although you are constantly bombarded with people wanting to sell you stuff (actually, junk). Just have to keep saying "no thankyou" and they go away. It's just annoying.
Next day was Panama. Everyone was up early to watch the ship go through the locks (since this was a turnaround sailing we were only going through the Gatun locks). We got a great view from the front our our deck (Baja)...I think only 2 decks offer an unobstructed view, while most people chose to watch from the pool deck or higher, but on those decks you've got the windows blocking the clear view. They had a narrator on board from the Locks explaining what was happening and it was very interesting. We chose to take an excursion which combined a Gatun Lake cruise, and hike, and then a stop at the Locks to view the process from land. It was a great excursion..not many people choose this one but we loved it. We had a great Guide and saw interesting wildlife (monkeys, sloths, birds) as well as the usual flora/fauna. Spending time at the Locks was interesting as well. It was a great excursion and not as long as many of the others.
The next day was Costa Rica. We booked privately for a tour that day and had a wonderful overview of the area from Okeydokey tours. We toured a banana plantation, saw monkeys in the wild, among other things. It was a wonderful day with a wonderful guide.
Final stop was Jamaica. Again, we booked privately with Marva Shaw. And again, we had a wonderful day. We first went to Dunn's Falls and were one of the first there for the day. As a result we got a "private" tour up the Falls which means the guide at the Falls took the 2 of us alone without waiting for others. It was fabulous. Then we went river rafting - a blast! And finally spent an hour at a beach. All along we got great narration/information from our guide. Another terrific day.
Another sea day before arriving back in Fort Lauderdale. Great to relax one last day. Disembarkation was a piece of cake and we were off to get our rental car for the day, before flying home that evening. All in all, a wonderful trip and we will be back on Princess hopefully before long.
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