10 Day Panama Canal Cruise w/Good Friends : Island Princess Cruise Review by Stagger

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10 Day Panama Canal Cruise w/Good Friends

Sail Date: October 2011
Destination: Panama Canal & Central America
Embarkation: Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
Arriving the night before the cruise, we stayed at the Crown Plaza right out side the cruise terminal. Nice, new and convenient - you couldn't beat the location. Very close to some last minute shopping.

Our cruise started off with the easiest embarkation experience ever. From the time we arrived via cab to sliding our key in the door was no longer than 15 minutes. We met the two other couples we were traveling with and departed for some more last minute wine shopping. Before we left though we stopped off at the spa to register for the thermal suite (more on this later) Walked right off, into a cab and returned with no hassle.

We then checked out our cabin, unpacked and explored the ship. She's in excellent shape, clean throughout and the atrium is stunning. The crew was very friendly and our cabin steward Morvin from India was the best. It took a some time get seated at our first anytime dinning experience in the Bordeaux, but that took care of itself over time More and the food was always good. A little rainy and breezy upon departure, but otherwise a great day.

We stayed in a mini-suite Cat AA and felt we had one of the best rooms on the ship. Cabins on either side were occupied with our friends, so we opened the doors between the balconies creating a fairly large common area. Our outside chairs seemed a little dingy with significant paint droppings. We mentioned it to Morvin and he had them restrung with new webbing. This was a nice touch on Princesses part. The room didn't have that brand new feel we got on the Ruby, but I guess that was to be expected. Everything was as clean as possible.

We ate at both the Bayou and Sabatini's. By far the Bayou was the best meal and well worth the up-charge. After pursuing the wine list we asked to speak with the Sommelier Jan Krell who was only a short pager message a way. After discussing what we liked he had something a little special in the wine cellar for us. This personal experience made the meal. In fact, we met him for diner every night there after. Sabatini's was a great meal as well and we would go back to both. We had light breakfast of coffee, yogurt fruit delivered to the cabin every morning. My only negative comment here is the menu has become extremely limited over the years. Frankly, so has the room service menu as I remember receiving full dining room menus (for free) a few years back. Lunch most days at horizon court which was always well stocked and the pizza was out of this world. If you wanted something special all you needed to do is bring your own ingredients. The one disappointment was Irish Pub meal at the Bayou. On previous cruises with Princess this was quite the experience, here it seemed like an excuse to sell expensive pub beers. Pretty much that was all you could get to drink and the food fish and chips was humble. All in all I have no complaints about dining as every dinner was outstanding.
Almost every day my wife and I used the gym and after the second day the crowds thinned out. The equipment was in good shape and the place was always clean. As I mentioned earlier, one of our first stops was the Spa to reserve a spot for the thermal suite. On previous cruises we found this to be one of the best values on board. However, after this experience I may never use one again. The beds were often cold, the showers didn't work properly, and the staff seemed more interested in shutting them down than keeping them open. This was particularly disheartening after I called in advance to make sure they were open and to arrive and find everything turned off. It was annoying!

We spent a little time in the casino were the staff taught my wife to play roulette. She walked a way a winner and our group had free drinks, so all in all this was a good experience. We didn't seem to have a lot of time for other entertainment as some of the dinners went long and we were up early every day. We did happen to see Duncan a musician and comedian. He was really great and boy could he play the guitar.

Getting off was as easy as getting on. After a nice breakfast, we arrived at our disembarkation lounge five minutes early, sat down and cleared to leave within minutes. Less the 10 minutes later we were in a cab heading to the airport - arriving a few hours early.

I could probably go on for days about this trip, but in summary I'll just say it was a five out of five. The crew as nice as could be and everyone was helpful. The ship common area are in fantastic shape although the room was slightly worn. The dinning experiences across the board were very enjoyable. We already put down our deposit for our next Princess cruise. Less

Published 11/16/11

Cabin review: MEB207 Mini-Suite with Balcony

A great room location, the balcony is somewhat covered (not directly, but two floors above) and with the exception of the bridge it is very private. It is very close to a large area at the front of the ship that few know about. Walk through two doors and you get a great view from the front of the ship This is the best location to watch the canal transit. Good size room, although the couch is worn.

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Port and Shore Excursions

We were only in Aruba from 7:00am until 12:30 pm. There was really little time to do much other than a little shopping and trip to our favorite Caribbean wine store.
Read 1286 Aruba Reviews

We took a private excursion with Claudia Vidal. She met our group of six at the bottom of the gangway holding a sign with my name and a few short steps from our van for the day. Our first stop was a catholic mission located atop the highest point in the area. Her knowledge of the area, history and current affairs was incredible. From the mission we traveled to a large fort, inside the old town walls for a little shopping, walked some in the old town, visit a cathedral, visited the "new and modern area" and finally to a combination Emerald museum and shopping experience. I could have done without it, but it wasn't really bad. Overall this was a great tour and I would highly recommended it.

Prior to stopping in Colon, we transited Gatun Locks and into the lake were anchored. From there we took a tender to a waiting bus for meet a boat to complete our transit of the canal. It was a bit of a nightmare as we somehow missed our schedule time in the locks. This delayed us about two hours. Finally we transited the remainder of the canal ending up in Panama City at dusk. Because our tour was over 2 hours late we really had no time to experience Panama City or Colon. This is really the only way to see the entire canal. It is a bit pricey, but a must do to reach both oceans on this itinerary.

We had little time for the beach this trip and with Grand Cayman being our last port of the trip it was a high priority. We took a short (very short) cab ride to the Marriott Resort on Seven Mile Beach were we spend a few hours relaxing, swimming and reading. The Marriott was a fantastic although the drinks appeared very expensive. Assuming the food would be equally expensive we cabbed to a local restaurant for a light lunch then headed back to the ship. On our way back we did a little shopping in the Pandora shop near the pier.

Having been to Puerto Limon previously we opted for a private tour secured at the pier. Our young tour guide Shana Hanson we absolutely fantastic. It might seem odd, but the highlight of this trip was a stop a the Del Monte banana plantation and a trip to a local beach restaurant and bar. We had spent a little time at the plantation on our last trip, but this one was fun with Shana pointing out some of the details of plant operation. The Quinbamba restaurant and bar had some local live entertainment and good food and drink. All in all for $25pp we had a great time.

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Member Since 2005
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