Crossing the Panama Canal was one of our "must see" destinations. While many cruise lines offer this as an option, few offer this in depth voyage from ocean to ocean. We selected this Island Princess cruise because it was nicely priced and featured several ports that we wanted to visit. By the time we disembarked in San Francisco we were satisfied with our choice.
We have done various cruise lines and itineraries over the last few years and one thing is certain, no one is perfect. Some have great food. Some have great amenities. Some have great loyalty programs. This being our second cruise on Princess we were definitely driven by the itinerary but found several other things that were pleasant surprises.
Overall, our experience with the crew of this ship was very good. The Cruise director and his staff were very accessible, friendly and best of all service oriented. The entertainment on the ship was also very good. The production shows and the cast were some of the best we've seen on an ocean liner. In between we had some featured guest entertainers performing music, comedy and yes magic for various age groups. Some were better than others but overall they were entertaining and that is what they are there to do. In addition there were many activities and "parties" for the guest to participate in. Enough to keep everyone engaged and busy.
As with most cruise ships, the food options on this ship were plentiful and abundant. From self service buffet at the Horizon Court, to fine dining at Sabatini's Italian bistro, to typical main dining room options, to surprise Pub Lunch options, the food was what you would expect. Most everyone could find something to satisfy their cravings.
We selected the "Anytime Dining" option because we wanted the flexibility to eat whenever we wanted. We have selected this option on four different cruise lines and on various ships. We have learned that some do better than others at managing this option. While the Island Princess did a respectable job at managing the guest flow, they were lacking in consistent service delivery. Inherently the "anytime dining" option negates one of the true joys of cruising, offering a dining room staff that gets to know and understand your preferences. When you eat with different servers for every meal, you never quite connect with anyone that knows what you like. The opportunity to be surprised and delighted in your dining experience is eliminated. So much so, that in this cruise we never even got over the stage where you are recognized by the host and maitre'd as that guest that prefers to dine alone and not share a table with eight other people. I found this to be the most awkward part of my dining experience when each evening I spoke to the same maitre'd and requested a table for two and no, I do not want a table to share. After making my wishes known, I was then politely seated at a table for two in the most awkward crevices of the dining room, next to servers workstations, or next to another equally unsocial guest at a table for two that was just eight inches away from ours. It would have been nice to get a table for two by the window one evening. The only time that happened was when we reserved a table at Sabatini's, the specialty Italian restaurant. Fortunately, that was the worst part. in every other aspect dining was a fun part of our experience. On sea days, we even participated in afternoon tea with yummy finger sandwiches and raisin scones.
Having gone through a recent drydock in 2017 the amenities on the Island Princess have been updated and spruced up. The common areas have nice carpeting and furniture. Technology and equipment has been upgraded in the theatre and in most lounges and bars enhancing our appreciation of the entertainment that was offered in these. The fitness center featured all new easy to use equipment as well as ample workout studio. It was conveniently located on deck six (Fiesta Deck) but was not attached to the spa area. I found this to be a plus but others might disagree.
On a service level, we have nothing but accolades for the crew of this ship. Most every encounter we had with a crew member was pleasant and laser focused on providing great guest service. The embarkation in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and subsequent debarkation in San Francisco, California were about as effortless as one could make them. At each port of call we were well informed and escorted to the appropriate tender boat or gangway to venture off on our excursions. On board, we enjoyed pleasant and informative presentations by the shopping expert, the future cruise consultant, and the destination expert. All of these crew members delivered unique perspectives on the cruise experience.
We definitely will entertain a future cruise on the Island Princess.
Our cabin (stateroom) on the Island Princess was nice but could have been better. We really enjoyed the oversized balcony and put it to good use as we crossed the Panama Canal. While clean and well maintained the furniture was tired and in need of replacement. Our bed was set up as a queen size option. In cruise vernacular that is two twin beds set together with a joining pad in between. This would be perfectly acceptable had the condition of our mattress been better. Unfortunately both of the mattresses in this stateroom were noticeably worn and uneven. While Princess features some of the best linens I have experienced on a cruiseliner, the poor condition of the beds negatively impacted our bedtime/sleeping experience. One additional thing that needs updating on this ship is the bathroom and shower amenities. These are way to small and impractical to really enjoy.
Great place to begin a cruise. Excellent beaches and places to eat.
The Hop on Hop Off bus is a great way to get introduced to this beauty in the Caribbean.
After crossing the Canal, this is a great place to get a more in depth look at the history and impact of this man made project on the world.
The Starbucks hacienda tour was very nice. A great way for a coffee enthusiast to spend the day.View All 38 Coffee Plantation Reviews
The beauty and hospitality of this port were very much a surprise. Once that will make it on to my must repeat destinations.
Cabo San Lucas is a beautiful modern tourist destination that has a little something for everyone. Great vistas. Great food. Great music. Great fun.
Part of the Catamaran cruise. Wondrous vistas.View All 37 The Arch (El Arco) & Lover's Beach Reviews
Beautiful idyllic Mexican pueblo.View All undefined undefined Reviews