We chose this cruise for having an overall length of one week, including travel to and from our city. This is our first trip on the Island Princess. Other factors were being on a Princess ship and being reasonably priced. This was a week long getaway, not an annual family vacation. We booked our air travel with EZair, which also includes the transfers from airport to pier. All ticketing and customer service prior to the cruise was handled well and was easy to accomplish.
Embarkation and debarkation were both smooth, as were the transfers and airline accomidations in both directions. I'll note that EZair prices were nearly the same as the best I found online but included the transfers. I will use (or at least check) EZair again.
Boarding the ship we were of course greeted by the friendly staff, and we began exploring the areas of the ship. The ship is easy to navigate, and felt open and not too crowded. Our cabin was similar to other balcony cabins, smallish but not cramped. The standout positive of the cabin was that it was quiet. Not once did we hear our neighbors or cabins above or below us.
Dining on this ship could use some more variety, in the way of non-speciality restaurants. The buffet was tasty, but a bit small in the food selection. Seating is usually reasonably easy to find, and the views are great. The main dining rooms are nice; a good combination of well lit openness and classy. The menu selection was very good, and all of the dishes we ate were well prepared with quality ingredients. The problem is that those are really the only two choices that don't cost extra. The Grill was pretty much terrible. Equivalent to the grub you'd get at an amusement park or bowling alley. The pizza was decent, but again about the same as you'd expect for a quick lunch at the mall.
The fitness center being moved is good and bad, but mostly bad. It was too small, with limited options for cardio. The only positive is that you don't get the rocking motion and view of the ocean while running, that made it sometimes hard to run safely straight on the treadmill on the Ruby!
Our destinations on this cruise were supposed to be San Francisco, Astoria, and Victoria, but Astoria got cancelled. We live in the West, and have been to SF and Astoria for other weekend trips. We had fun in San Francisco, and were lucky enough to have GREAT weather- sunny and 70 or so. This is rare in the City, so we did a lot of walking and enjoyed the area. We had great fun at EscapeSF, where we successfully escaped the "Bank Heist" escape room. Search those up if you're not familiar! This was the best escape room we've done! The weather after SF deteriorated, actually causing us to miss Astoria. The Captain handled the ship and the situation well. Victoria was a beautiful city, and we enjoyed walking about, although ultimately we felt there wasn't a lot to do. We opted to not take the 40 minute+ ride to Butchart Gardens, and now kind of wish we had. We had High Tea at The Empress and learned that the reviews are right: It's good, but a bit touristy and way too expensive for what is basically lunch. The bug museum closed at 3 or 4, so we missed that completely. We had a beer at a good pub, and checked out a brewery for a few minutes.
The lounges on the Island Princess are lacking a bit. We found ourselves in the Explorers Lounge for most activities that we were interested in. The Wheelhouse Lounge is nice, also, but we never chose just to relax in there. The casino has some great slots, and was fun, other than we never took home any money!!
The cruise staff and entertainment staff were very good. We enjoyed trivia many times, as well as some of the other game shows and fun things. They really are what gave this cruise value. Otherwise the limited space and semi-cool weather would have made this cruise pretty plain.
Overall, the ship shows it's age. Even though many parts are freshly painted, you can easily notice that it's rusting away. The public restrooms all had paper towels (I prefer the classier washcloth towels), and I noticed several small damaged areas, for instance lights that were 1" falling out of the ceiling, doors that were missing trim plates, rust holes in the ceiling, etc... We didn't get to use the pools or hot tubs much, but for some reason they had the stairs from the hot tubs to the pools closed all the time (still the one stairway up from the deck to the hot tub- I just found it odd). There was adequate seating for our cooler cruise, but I bet it was crowded in Panama. The lack of varied things to do other than cruise staff directed activities made us feel like the ship was a bit small. We definitely enjoyed the Ruby more.
The cabin is well laid out, with enough storage for the two of us. The hairdryer is reportedly a bit on the weak side. There are not many outlets, but I brought a power strip (not surge suppressor) so this wasn't a problem. The shower is definitely small, but basically usable. The TV can be frustrating to try and switch channels, it's super slow and we never figured out how to directly go to a channel. As mentioned, this cabin was in a quiet location, and I think has better walls and door than other ships' cabins. We never got any towel animals, not sure if that's a thing anymore...