We took this cruise because it had a full transit of the Panama Canal. This was the last cruise with this itinerary for the season. A Panama Canal transit had been on our bucket list for a long time, but it has taken many years for a cruise with a schedule that made it doable considering our work schedules. We have cruised with many lines and this was our first (and only) cruise with Princess. This was our third cruise since the pandemic shutdown. The previous two cruises were with Viking Ocean, chosen mainly because of their COVID protocols (e.g., daily testing, temperature monitoring, and mandatory masking on ship).
Here is a summary of our experience:
Embarkation day - There was no screening whatsoever on embarkation. Passengers were not checked for fever and proof of vaccination was not requested. Numerous passengers checking in were observed to be coughing. My wife and I were one of maybe five couples masked up inside a room filled with hundreds of people. We get on the ship, drop our stuff off at the stateroom, and go to the buffet to grab some lunch. The buffet was PACKED and there were no open tables to sit at. Eventually, we got a place to sit and eat after another passenger left. Most tables had stacks of dirty dishes that had accumulated in the middle of tables with seating for six. This would surely be a health department violation if this happened in a restaurant on shore. We returned to our room on the Lido deck after lunch and noticed that the only way to get from our room to the rest of the Lido deck was to walk through the spa. Really? Imagine going to the spa for some relaxation and having to deal with fellow passengers using it as a thoroughfare to get between their staterooms and the rest of the ship? We made it back to the room and rested for a few hours, did the required safety drills, and watched the sailaway from our balcony. During spillway, I saw that our fellow passengers in the adjoining room were very sick and were coughing non-stop. A pre-boarding screen would have kept them off the ship, and they were sick the entire cruise. Dinner time approached and the checked in bags had yet to be delivered. At the very least, deliver the bags to the rooms with enough time for passengers to dress for dinner. We tried to make reservations for the restaurant a few weeks before sailing and the earliest time available was 8:40 PM. Our regular bed time is 9 PM, so this won't work. We went to the dining room to see if we can be seated and there was a very long line of passengers waiting to be seated. We gave up and decided to take our chance at the buffet "Hunger Games."