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Island Princess Cruise Review
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
1,190 Reviews

Panama Canal Cruise Exceeded Expectations (19 days roundtrip from LA)

Island Princess Cruise Review by Hennepin

5 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: Apr 2018
  • Destination: the Panama Canal & Central America
  • Cabin Type: Mini-Suite with Balcony

Overall fantastic experience. During sea days we enjoyed Zumba by the outdoor pool, ping pong in the Lotus courtyard, laps around the Promenade and upper decks (can make a full circuit on Promenade via brief indoor corridor), reading books from the ship's library, gym, games during Teen Center open house hours, and some organized events. We saw dolphins and sea turtles from the ship. For most of the trip the weather was excellent and the seas were calm.

Attended one evening show, Encore - well done! The musicians in the main atrium and lounges were entertaining and talented. The only negative was Movies Under the Starts turning out to be Movies Under the Sun too. The blaring screen made it unappealing to sit by the outside pool if you wanted to read or chat. We did find quieter places in the sun to compensate although those lacked bar service.

Food in the Horizon Court was tasty with healthful options and very good service including when eating outdoors. The Main Dining Room (MDR) provided delicious multi-course meals. The food was better than when we last sailed Island Princess 10 years ago - fresher and less heavy with sauces. The service in the MDR was less friendly and attentive than a decade ago. You can make reservations for MDR even if on 'anytime dining' but not until 8am of the same day (reservations fill up quickly.) The three formal nights were the 3rd, 9th and 18th day of the cruise counting the embarkation day.

Ports of Call were fun. Our first stop, Huatulco was lovely. We discovered a gorgeous deserted beach, Playa Violin, accessible via a bit of a scramble, watched tropical birds in the square by the cruise dock, and followed the paved trail to the town of La Crucecita. For our second stop, Puerto Chiapas, we took the shuttle into Tapachula ($10/person round trip with map provided) and explored the town on market day. Since we speak some Spanish, it was a comfortable experience and we ended up having a great time. We took a Princess excursion for the third stop, Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala. This was an interesting hike to Pacaya Volcano.

The scenic cruising the Panama Canal was wonderful! We watched a documentary the day prior and then listened to an ongoing live narrative as we entered the canal, passed through a double lock within sight of the new locks, cruised by the Continental Divide, and then entered another lock before ending up in Gatun Lake. Wow, such a huge lake dotted with islands (former hilltops) - very peaceful despite the heavy ship traffic. We cruised within sight of the final locks leading to the Atlantic and cast anchor for the night. It was like a campground for large ships. The next morning we turned around and made our leisurely way back to the Pacific Ocean with plenty of opportunity to observe the locks in action and enjoy the views. That evening we anchored near the Canal - cool to observe the fuel barge and garbage scow in action.

On our return leg, we first stopped in Puntarenas, Costa Rica. We spent the morning on a Princess excursion - river boat ride and Macaw refuge. The written description was misleading (an hour-long+ bus ride replaced the 'short but enjoyable transfer through the pretty sugarcane fields') so much less pleasant than anticipated. We then spent the afternoon wandering around town. A number of passengers swam at the beach near the dock. The second stop, San Juan del Sur in Nicaragua, was cancelled due to post-election violence. We cruised on to our next scheduled stop, Manzanillo. where we walked to an iguana refuge (a bit Juarasic Park!) and strolled along the beachfront to Playa San Pedrito, a clean, charming local beach. Manzanillo is upgrading their malecon so we had to navigate a construction zone to reach the beach. Our final port was Ensenade which was a replacement for the cancelled Nicaragua stop. We walked to Playa Hermosa and relished the long, wide sand beach. After returning to town, we climbed a nearby hill for a great view of the city and the ship.

It has been over three weeks since the cruise ended and I still feel a positive glow from all our adventures and the quality service provided by the folks on the Island Princess.

Hennepin's Full Rating Summary
Onboard Experience
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
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Shore Excursions
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Cabin Review

Mini-Suite with Balcony

Surprisingly roomy with large bathroom, comfortable bed & sitting area and nice deck, Plenty of electrical outlets and closet space. Outstanding service from steward, Leonardo. Quiet location, deck 9, port side, mid-aft

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

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