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We had successfully sailed with Princess three times before and when I found that Princess had a cruise from Fort Lauderdale through the Panama Canal around my preferred date, we booked it without really checking alternative cruise lines. Well the cruise was not a disaster by any means, it was at times a frustrating experience and no way near the quality experience we enjoyed on previous cruises with Princess. The irritation started with the embarkation experience when our small bus could not get near the unloading area and continued with the slow, long line to actually board the ship once we checked in at the port desk. The next frustration was the confusion and mob scene at the Bordeaux restaurant (anytime dining). After 3 nights, I finally asked dining staff to explain their procedures. There is a new club class that gets priority with its own line, and a line for passengers who have reserved and then a third line for walk-ins (us). We mostly chose to arrive about 7:40 pm after the 7:30 reservations were seated. Waits were never long, but the confusion was constant. There were always several empty tables which we assume were reserved for the non-existent club class passengers. I have a hearing problem and after sharing a table for 8 a couple of times, started asking for a table of 6, 4 or 2. Most nights that request seemed hard to accommodate as they were currently sitting tables for 8. Due to the addition of an extra 220 beds in a 2015 renovation with no additional public space, public spaces were often overcrowded, The large Princess Theater could not accommodate everyone in 2 shows, so most nights there were 3 shows with the popular 7:30 time being filled by 7:05. For some reason, the late show at 9:45 was not offered on a few occasions requiring us to miss the sunset at 5:45 or sit in the theater for 40 minutes before the 7:30 show. The additional cabins have resulted in the promenade deck being blocked off at the aft of the ship, making it necessary to cut through the ship (2 sets of heavy doors) to complete a lap. We feel that there was a morale problem on the Island Princess. While there were many exceptions, there was generally a lack of smiles from staff and little effort to go any extra distance. Deck staff in particular seemed to be worn down. This while there were daily walk abouts by supervisors in white coats and clipboards. Near the end of the voyage, we witnessed an agitated dining room manager chew out two staff for 20 minutes in the public dining room while other staff attempted to avert their eyes. We got really tired of all the onboard sales promotions and the so called "Enrichment Articles" on watches, diamonds, art, etc. The photographers were aggressive and one gentleman generally would not take my "no thank you" as a clue to move on. Of course he never recognized us as passengers who did not want to be photographed. On the morning we were in port at Cartagena, the buffet was really crowded. We were offered $2.00 bottled water twice and one aggressive sales pitch for a $25 champagne tasting, before we could find staff to bring juice and coffee. We did find the food to be good to excellent. The nightly entertainment was top notch. Our room steward was great - efficient and friendly. Our cabin was spacious and well laid out. (We were at the bow with no balcony so the balcony area added an extra sitting area within the cabin.) This cruise brought us up to platinum level in the Princess loyalty program but I doubt if we will take another Princess cruise after this disappointment.

A Disappointing Experience

Island Princess Cruise Review by cdnexplorer

13 people found this helpful
Trip Details
We had successfully sailed with Princess three times before and when I found that Princess had a cruise from Fort Lauderdale through the Panama Canal around my preferred date, we booked it without really checking alternative cruise lines. Well the cruise was not a disaster by any means, it was at times a frustrating experience and no way near the quality experience we enjoyed on previous cruises with Princess.

The irritation started with the embarkation experience when our small bus could not get near the unloading area and continued with the slow, long line to actually board the ship once we checked in at the port desk. The next frustration was the confusion and mob scene at the Bordeaux restaurant (anytime dining). After 3 nights, I finally asked dining staff to explain their procedures. There is a new club class that gets priority with its own line, and a line for passengers who have reserved and then a third line for walk-ins (us). We mostly chose to arrive about 7:40 pm after the 7:30 reservations were seated. Waits were never long, but the confusion was constant. There were always several empty tables which we assume were reserved for the non-existent club class passengers. I have a hearing problem and after sharing a table for 8 a couple of times, started asking for a table of 6, 4 or 2. Most nights that request seemed hard to accommodate as they were currently sitting tables for 8.

Due to the addition of an extra 220 beds in a 2015 renovation with no additional public space, public spaces were often overcrowded, The large Princess Theater could not accommodate everyone in 2 shows, so most nights there were 3 shows with the popular 7:30 time being filled by 7:05. For some reason, the late show at 9:45 was not offered on a few occasions requiring us to miss the sunset at 5:45 or sit in the theater for 40 minutes before the 7:30 show.

The additional cabins have resulted in the promenade deck being blocked off at the aft of the ship, making it necessary to cut through the ship (2 sets of heavy doors) to complete a lap.

We feel that there was a morale problem on the Island Princess. While there were many exceptions, there was generally a lack of smiles from staff and little effort to go any extra distance. Deck staff in particular seemed to be worn down. This while there were daily walk abouts by supervisors in white coats and clipboards. Near the end of the voyage, we witnessed an agitated dining room manager chew out two staff for 20 minutes in the public dining room while other staff attempted to avert their eyes.

We got really tired of all the onboard sales promotions and the so called "Enrichment Articles" on watches, diamonds, art, etc. The photographers were aggressive and one gentleman generally would not take my "no thank you" as a clue to move on. Of course he never recognized us as passengers who did not want to be photographed. On the morning we were in port at Cartagena, the buffet was really crowded. We were offered $2.00 bottled water twice and one aggressive sales pitch for a $25 champagne tasting, before we could find staff to bring juice and coffee.

We did find the food to be good to excellent. The nightly entertainment was top notch. Our room steward was great - efficient and friendly. Our cabin was spacious and well laid out. (We were at the bow with no balcony so the balcony area added an extra sitting area within the cabin.)

This cruise brought us up to platinum level in the Princess loyalty program but I doubt if we will take another Princess cruise after this disappointment.
cdnexplorer’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
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