Island Princess Review

4.0 / 5.0
1,227 reviews

Lifetime Adventure -- a Good (not Great) Cruise

Review for the Panama Canal & Central America Cruise on Island Princess
kenny654
10+ Cruises • Age 60s

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Sail Date: Apr 2023

With so many older and smaller ships falling victim to the swinging axe during and after the pandemic, I wanted to fulfil a lifetime wish to see the original Panama Canal before the cruise ships all got too big to fit. This was the opportunity.

It was actually the final leg of the annual Round-the-World cruise, and so the ship was only about half full (if that). I could see that many of the public spaces could get crowded and cramped if the ship had been filled to capacity.

Plus Points:

Cabin Review

Enjoyable balcony stateroom. The usual terribly cramped bathroom, but otherwise all was well. The balcony door was incredibly stiff to haul open and closed, and I didn't use it much (partly because of the oppressive tropical heat and humidity). Bed was extremely comfortable, and lights, outlets, etc., all worked well. A little surprised that Princess hasn't taken advantage of a refit to put in a couple of USB charging ports, and I think this is true of all their older ships.

Port Reviews

Cartagena (Colombia)

Interesting walking tour of the old town, and a dazzling folkloric dance show. The guide did a good job of working out an alternate plan when we got hit by a tropical monsoon deluge of rain. Then we had to visit an Emerald Museum (really a pathetic little diorama display followed by 40 minutes in a jewellery store). We were trapped inside by the weather, but most of us were ready to leave after 15 minutes or less.

Panama Canal

The entire transit of the historic locks took place in daylight, and at reasonable hours of the day. An expected schedule was posted in the Princess Patter, and while we didn't run quite at the times expected it was still helpful. The onboard commentary (outer decks only) was detailed, informative, and helpful. This transit fully lived up to my expectations even though there was no port call in Panama.

Puntarenas (Puerto Caldera)

The rainforest aerial tram and the crocodile/birdwatching tour on the Tarcoles River made for a great day focused on the natural environment. Only glitch was the tedious and patronizing patter line of the local tour guide who took the group around a short nature walk after the tram ride. The guide who spent the entire day with the tour was excellent: knowledgeable, easy to follow, and gave plenty of information throughout the day.

Huatulco

The boat tour along the rocky coastal bays west of the port was superb. Word to the wise: get a seat on the starboard (right-hand) side of the tour boat for the best views. The bus tour of local highlights before the boat trip included two good scenic viewpoints and an incredibly boring and repetitive talk from the guide on the bus.

Puerto Vallarta

This "scenic highlights" tour was just too long! The good part was visiting the waterfront walkway, the Malecon, in the heart of the city. The sculpture collection was definitely fascinating. The inevitable gift shop visit was as boring as ever, and took far too long. The scenic coastal drive was all right, although views were few and far between. Back in town, we were taken to a restaurant for a "snack" which turned out to be an a la carte menu of lunch dishes. Right here is where the tour ended up taking about an hour longer than scheduled, as there was only one server (!) and he was running ragged trying to get orders and deliver them for forty-plus people. I had a tiny little free drink and then walked out for the rest of the 100-minute stop. This tour, overall, was a dud.

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