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4,670 Panama Canal & Central America Cruise Reviews

After 55 cruises, the Crystal Serenity was such a unsatisfactory cruise, we made arrangements to get off the ship in Cabo San Lucas and fly home. Yes we left. This was the first leg of the world cruise and we found it to be a major ... Read More
After 55 cruises, the Crystal Serenity was such a unsatisfactory cruise, we made arrangements to get off the ship in Cabo San Lucas and fly home. Yes we left. This was the first leg of the world cruise and we found it to be a major disappointment. We looked at each other one day, and decided enough was enough and let’s leave. We contacted the concierge and made all the arrangements, got on the tender in Cabo with our luggage and were gone. You are probably wondering how this could happen. Well, let us tell you our feelings about the Crystal Serenity. We had booked this cruise a year in advance and having sailed on the Symphony 10 years ago thought it would be a pleasant experience. We are a well travel couple and in the last 12 months spent a week in Tahiti on the Paul Gauguin and then the St Regis in Bora Bora. In September we did a cruise from Montreal to Newfoundland on the Seabourn Quest. Both of these cruises were very satisfactory and we will be sailing with them in the future. Now on to Crystal. Boarding. We boarded in Miami. It was quick and our cabin 8011 a standard balcony cabin was ready. Our luggage showed up quickly. We remarked how small our cabin was. Not quite 200 sq feet, but we had booked it so that’s what we got. The balcony was nice and had two chairs and a table. Unfortunately most of the time the cushions were wet so we really were not able to use it as much as we would have wanted. There was no fruit, champagne, and I will add no chocolates on the pillows at night. The tiny loveseat in the cabin was not in good repair and when sitting on it one end was sinking in. We nicely ask for a replacement and nothing was done. The next day we ask again not in a pleasant tone, and it was replaced. The mattress was saggy and probably 10 years old. Now you may read about the renovations done to the ship to the tune of $17,000,000. Don’t think for a minute that anything was done to the standard balcony cabins. They were very original. Food: everyone enjoys eating on a cruise, and I must say I honestly could not believe the poor quality food. Everything was overly salty...yes everything. I am convinced that the Chinese Consortium who purchased Crystal have cut costs at every corner. I could not drink enough water. From the beloved Mushroom soup in the Italian restaurant that was inedible due to the sodium, to the bacon at breakfast. There is no way was that made fresh on the ship. I am convinced that the majority of the cooked food was pre-made and sold to Crystal. There was a rumor that they hid the raspberries at the breakfast buffet. I chuckled when I read this so I did a test. I went up and ask the man behind the buffet if there were any raspberries..he looked at me and said to go down a ways and ask the guy there and he would get me some from under the counter. So to keep this short, it was probably the worst food we have had on a cruise ship. Everything about it was prepared on the cheap. I will add that the guys at the Trident Grill could fix an amazing cheeseburger and fries. The Passengers: people were not friendly, did not make eye contact, and were in their own little Crystal world. Most of them were very elderly and only cruised on Crystal and could not believe there were other ships out there that provided a great experience. They were very unsociable except in their little group of friends. The Internet: it was included, but as you know everything that is included is paid for in your all-inclusive fare. To sum it up the speeds were so bad that you could sit and watch a page load. There were those Crystal fans who made excuses for it, but it was unsatisfactory. Shore Excursions: overpriced and very average. Lectures: we did go to the one with Scott Kelly ,the astronaut who spent a year in space. He was very engaging and enjoyable. In summary this was an expensive cruise. We felt like we would just cut our losses and get off, so we did. We stayed four days in Los Cabos and flew home. We call it “making the best out of a bad situation” I personally thing the new ownership has done a disservice to Crystal. Since we have cruised with them previously, I could see the difference and it was not luxury. We will not be cruising Crystal in the future. Update: We received a Certified letter from Crystal Dated March 2, 2020 that we were advised that we were placed on their "Do Not Sail List" Since there never was an issue on the ship, except we requested to leave, it appears this review ruffled a few feathers". Additionally they referenced a booking which we had cancelled for 2021. This was signed by someone in customer service. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
Panama Canal transit in January, just the time to be out of the Northeast. Have been on Rotterdam multiple times. Enjoy the size of ship, the fact that it still has an Explorations Cafe and full Promenade deck, making it very comfortable, ... Read More
Panama Canal transit in January, just the time to be out of the Northeast. Have been on Rotterdam multiple times. Enjoy the size of ship, the fact that it still has an Explorations Cafe and full Promenade deck, making it very comfortable, especially on sea days. Needs some additional activities and entertainment, especially for sea days. The Billboard On Board was great, just not enough seating. Food is very good, although MDR menus seemed disjointed. If you don’t have fixed seating, it’s a long wait for open dining availability. We were lucky to be able to change after 2 nights. Lunch in Pinnacle excellent. Lido, MDR staff uniformly helpful and attentive. Lido items repetitive, but satisfying, although seemed to be short of fresh berries after first week. Ship is older, needing some cosmetic updating. Rust visible outside. Fire alarm sounded first evening, but small fire was contained without impact on guests. High winds and seas in Caribbean resulted in cancellation of Aruba port call. No much anyone can do about that. As always, ships excursions are expensive, but well organized. Felt more comfortable using them this trip due to unfamiliarity with ports in Guatemala and Nicaragua etc. Canal was a bucket list item, so glad we did this trip. If you’ve been on HAL ships of this class, you’ll know what to expect. Biggest recommendation...add more activities and showings. Often unable to attend shows due to lack of seats. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
Hubby & I chose the cruise because we wanted a short cruise that included a Panama Canal crossing. This cruise was an expedition cruise focusing on national parks in Costa Rica & Panama. Started in Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica and ... Read More
Hubby & I chose the cruise because we wanted a short cruise that included a Panama Canal crossing. This cruise was an expedition cruise focusing on national parks in Costa Rica & Panama. Started in Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica and ended I. Panama City, including a Pacific to Atlantic crossing of the Panamá Canal. We’re not naturalists but thought it may be an interesting experience. This review is intended to give others an idea of what to expect. We were first time Ponant cruisers so really weren’t sure how they do things. We arranged our own Pre cruise activities including a private transfer to Puerto Caldera. We showed up at the pier a couple of hours before the 4pm embarkation. Had to transfer from the car that brought us to a shuttle van that took us to the terminal. The driver assisted with loading and unloading luggage from the shuttle van but you have to bring your luggage into the terminal on your own. Nothing to do at the very small terminal other than sit and wait or walk around in circles. At embarkation time, a whole slew of ship crew & staff showed up and helped get luggage and passengers onboard. The Captain & Travel Manager were at the bottom of the ramp greeting all passengers. Nice touch! Once onboard we were directed to present ourselves to the reception staff who took our passports (they kept passports until the day before we disembarked) & pictures, and gave us room card keys. We also got champagne. We then followed the crew with our luggage to our suites. All in all, embarkation was smooth and orderly, no issues. Ponant was offering ‘No Single Supplement’ so we booked a Grand Deluxe Suite on Deck 6 for my hubby & a Deluxe Suite down the hall for me. Our plan was for me to use my suite for showers and a dressing room. Worked out pretty well; nice to have my suite bathroom and walk-in closet all to myself. We spent most of the time onboard in my husband’s suite since it had a lot of space and a great balcony. We did sleep in my suite a couple of times when we were in rough seas since my suite was midship. Both suites were well laid out, clean and comfy. Room stewards kept the suites nice and clean. My suite was always promptly made up (thank you Rose); my husband’s was usually done late morning. AC worked well & was relatively quiet. Toiletries were plentiful. Beds were very comfy. There were on demand movies/docs but thought selections were limited. Some satellite TV channels (sorry, no ESPN or Golf). We watched FoxNews mostly. We liked the ship. It was small, new, clean, comfy & not Las Vegas glitzy. It was also quiet and had practically no engine vibration. We didn’t hear creaking when the ship was underway like we did on prior cruises with other lines. We’ve sailed on Crystal & RSSC and enjoyed those cruises a lot. The experience on Ponant is not high end luxury but very comfortable. Less variety but enough choices to be satisfied. We made some friends during the cruise so we were usually dining with other people most of the time. It seems to us the small ship and casual atmosphere is conducive to connecting with others. Food was very good. We ate in the main restaurant Nautilus mostly because we like the full service dining experience rather than the cafeteria style service at Nemo (the outdoor Grill venue). We even had a usual table for breakfast. Thank you Jim for taking care of us. We liked that there were always several main dish a la carte choices on the menu, as well as a starter & dessert buffet for breakfast & lunch. Unfortunately the buffets were pretty much the same the entire cruise so we got tired of it towards the end. For dinner it was a full a la carte menu. We enjoyed all the meals. Service was pretty good but we thought the Sommelier was stretched too thin. The servers were good about refilling wine glasses if the Sommelier wasn’t around. Inclusive wines were so-so. Hubby & I signed up for Premium Pass. We didn’t realize the wines included in the Premium Pass will NOT be available to us during dining. We could only get them at the bar. We can however get the Premium Pass liquor anywhere. This caused us some consternation when we attempted to order the Premium Pas wines during our first dinner and were told we couldn’t. Needless to say we were not happy. We consequently met with the Hotel Director to talk about it and he apologized but explained it’s a company policy that he could not change. He encouraged us to include the issue in any comments or reviews or surveys because he believes the policy does not make sense. One thing I thought that could be improved were meal schedules. Breakfast at Nautilus ended at 9am. I normally eat breakfast after 9am. Dinner was 7pm to 8:30pm - too short, too early. There is room service but we never tried it. Shore expeditions were by Zodiac & were usually wet landings. (Ship only docked at the start and end; all other stops were at anchor.) Got used to it after the 1st couple of times. True to expedition cruising we were never quite sure what was going to happen the next day until the 6:30pm briefing from our naturalists. This is quite different from our other cruises where we signed up for shore excursions in advance and that’s the activity you did for that port. One of the planned stops didn’t happen because of bureaucratic Costa Rica red tape but the naturalists & ship crew did a great job rearranging plans. They also made sure there were always several expedition options depending on how much energy you want to expend and ability to walk, climb, swim, etc. Saw monkeys, birds, raccoons, lizards, rodents, etc. Fascinating encounter with the Emberas, an indigenous Panamá tribe. I didn’t care much for the Zodiac rides since I don’t like being bounced around. The last 2 days we didn’t leave the ship because the sea was quite rough. The crew were always very conscientious about safety though. The Panama Canal crossing was the highlight of the trip for us. Took almost the entire day to do the crossing from the Pacific side to the Atlantic. Hubby & I agreed the trip was worth it just for that! Entertainment was adequate. A group of 3 female dancers & a singer were the main entertainment group. They were very good, especially the Dance Captain & the singer. Also a guitar player and piano player. Appropriate for a small ship. Crews were friendly (especially the Filipinos) and professional. Everyone spoke English. Majority of the passengers were English speaking so announcements and lectures and briefings were in English. The Captain did use both English and French for important announcements about weather and sea conditions. 3 days before disembarking we were asked to fill out & submit a form with our disembarkation plans. We opted to do the complimentary airport transfer with an old town Panama City tour. Our plan was to leave at the end of the tour and take an Uber to our hotel instead of staying with the bus to the airport. Somehow our form didn’t get to the transfer coordinator even though we turned it in as asked. She did find the form after we told her we were not on the appropriate transfer list and she rectified the omission. Disembarkation was smooth. People waited in the lounge or theater until their group is called. Once our group was called we went down to the terminal, collected our luggage and went to our bus (tour guide didn’t have us on the list but the transfer coordinator was there to smooth things over). We had told them we were leaving the group after the tour instead of going on to the airport so our luggage were loaded last, along with some others passengers’ who were also leaving the tour at the end. Tour of the old town was very general but we enjoyed it. At the end, we got our luggage off the bus (with assistance from the driver) and ordered Uber. The bus waited until our car arrived which was nice, to make sure we were ok. By the way, the Cruise Director did a great job all throughout the cruise. She was always around, coordinating all expedition disembarkations. We found her orientation session at the beginning and the disembarkation session at the end very helpful. Be prepared to actually do the emergency drill after they tell you how it’s done. Fitness room really small. No weights. No mats. 2 treadmills. 1 elliptical. 1 bike (or was it 2?). Spa was ok. Had massage & pedicure. Both good. Our favorite hangout during the cruise was the Observatory Lounge. We went there for Pre and Post dinner drinks. Thanks Ronaldo for the great service! We definitely will cruise Ponant again & are booked on 2 cruises in 2021. We plan to dress down & pack less - more resort casual for dinner rather than cocktail attire. BTW, we had great complimentary laundry service the entire cruise because we already had the 2nd cruise booked before we embarked. Really convenient! No dry cleaning though and no self serve laundry facilities onboard. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
My wife and I (both 53) were asked to join our friends on the Eurodam 11 day cruise to the Panama Canal. Having cruised several times before on Disney, RCCL & NCL we were eager to experience HAL. I was aware that the HAL demographic ... Read More
My wife and I (both 53) were asked to join our friends on the Eurodam 11 day cruise to the Panama Canal. Having cruised several times before on Disney, RCCL & NCL we were eager to experience HAL. I was aware that the HAL demographic was the older sort. We booked in 2018 for a 2020 cruise, so we had plenty of time for research and YouTube video watching. My wife kept insisting that it wasn’t an “old person” cruise....and today, as I sit on the Lido deck of the Eurodam on day 10 of our 11 day cruise, writing this review, I can confidently say that it is a cruise geared to seniors. This doesn’t make it bad, or boring. Perhaps for my wife and I it is a bit boring. But I can certainly see why this cruise appeals to the over 70 crowd. As a disclaimer, please let me remind you that the views expressed herein are from that of a young-at-heart 53 year old. 95% of the passengers on our cruise are older than me...by a good margin. But they all seem to be enjoying the selection of activities and entertainment. There is a game room where the passengers gather to play board games or card games. There are televisions set up in that room. There is a small casino, that seems very tight on the payouts. There are two very talented pianists that play in the Billboard Onboard club and they attract a nice crowd. They performed almost every night so far. I don’t feel as though I am qualified to review the entertainment on the main stage. I am not a fan of stage shows, so normally I don’t attend. I did go to the comedian show....he was okay..but his set was targeted toward an audience 80 and up. I went back a few nights later to see the impressionist, I gave him about 20 minutes before leaving the show. His first impression was of Paul Lynde. If you know who Paul Lynde was...then this is a show for you! There was also a Brazilian musician (Danilo Gonzalez) that performed one night..I did not attend that show but I heard a lot of people walked out on the show because it was a lot of loud guitar music, not targeted toward this crowd apparently. So what is lacking? What could HAL do differently? I’m not sure they will change anything, as apparently this type of cruise works for their demographic, but here are a few things I would like to see. There is no live band on the pool deck. There are no activities throughout the course of the day that might appear on the pool decK. Other cruise lines we have been on have offered volley ball or even belly flop contests which of course would not appeal to this crowd, but surely there must be something they could offer in the form of entertainment. Half way through the first week, my wife and I found ourselves working on a jigsaw puzzle in the Explorations Cafe. That was a first for me. By the way, if jigsaw puzzles are your form of entertainment, maybe the cruise line could pitch in and buy a few new puzzles before each cruise? The one we were working on had a note in the box saying it was missing 11 pieces. Food is hard to find at certain times of the day. You can always get room service 24/7 (although the menu is quite limited). And you can always get pizza by the Sea View pool but you have to order a whole pizza and wait 10-15 minutes. An improvement would be to offer slices and have them ready-made, with an option for a whole pizza if you wish. You can also order burgers and dogs for Dive-In with a 15-20 minute wait. But if you are looking for food around 4:15PM - 5:15PM and the again from 9:30PM - 10:30PM you are out of luck! What ever happened to midnight buffets with ice sculptures and butter carved into seahorses? Does any cruise line offer that type of fare any more? As I sit on my deck chair looking at the selection of activities to choose from for the day, I may go to the Team Trivia challenge but will pass on the selection of “Look ten years Younger w/ Dr. Diana”, “Increase your Metabolism”, “Design your own Luggage Tags” or “Design your own Keepsake Tin Box”. The food on board is good, some of it is very good. I haven’t experienced anything amazing however. You can, of course, pay more money to experience one of their “exclusive” restaurants, but that is an entirely different topic that I could comment on for days. Starting with, “Let me get this straight, you can offer better food if I pay you more money? So in the meantime I have to settle for the “free” food that is included with the cruise?” I know this is common not just on HAL but the other cruise lines I have been on as well, I just disagree with the idea. There was a time when, if you paid to go on a cruise you got amazing food at each meal and didn’t have to pay an up charge for better food. Some of the other cruisers seem to like having the staff dish out your selections at the buffet. I am not a fan. I have stood to the side waiting for a roll or sausage or piece of fruit to be placed on my dish while the food staff is attending to another passenger by dishing up an omelet or crepe or other food item which does need assistance. The food at the Lido is presented in such a way that you cannot, in most cases, help yourself even if the tongs are within reach. The sneeze guards are so low that you have to be very short or have extremely flexible limbs to helps yourself, forcing you to ask for assistance for that food selection that you wanted one more piece of, but were too embarrassed to ask for. The dining room is well run and the servers, assistant servers and head waiters are very accommodating. We originally chose the as-you-wish dining option, thinking that would be great to not have to be locked in to a dining time, but very early on we discovered that once we found a table we liked with servers that knew us, we opted to go to that table each night at the same time and the wait staff accommodated our request. This is one of the truly unique experiences you can still have on a cruise ship. That is...having your waiter call you by name, know your likes and dislikes, having your favorite beverage ready for you when you sit down and all of the other quirks you may have that you would have to explain to a new waiter if you did not commit to a dinner time. I now know that I much prefer that tradition much more than the optional come-when-you-want. Specific to this cruise, the ports were good. I think they could have squeezed another day in at half moon Cay if they wanted to. We had to miss our day in Costa Rica due to rough seas. This gave us three sea days in a row and the ship was tossing everyone around, I won’t say violently, but someone else might say it was violent. The pools have been closed for two days because of the rough water and the sliding roof is closed as well, they say they cannot open it because of the rough seas and it could slide back and forth. Not sure if that is true, it would be a bad design if that is the case. They have a policy not to save pool chairs, but that is largely disregarded by our fellow cruisers. They say that chairs unattended for 30 minutes will have the towels removed and the chair made available to someone else. This is not heavily enforced by the staff, but the seniors on board are not shy about moving your stuff if they feel your chair had been empty for too long. Towels at the pool are super easy to get. On other cruise lines we have traveled on, we have had to “sign-out” towels and then check them back in. It seems HAL is not concerned about missing towels, they are readily available to everyone and no one cares if you take one, three or thirty. Our cabin is fine, plenty of room for two adults, I think our placement at the rear of the shop may have added to the queasiness we felt after a few days of rough seas, but that is to be expected, our room steward tried his best at pronouncing our last name each time we saw him, but he was attentive and thorough and I appreciated his attempt at the towel animals each night. I also liked that this was a smaller ship. We have been on trips that have 5,000-7,000 passengers and on a ship of just 2,100 you are not standing around as much for food, or elevators or disembarking. I am very glad to have experienced the Eurodam. It is not for everyone, But that doesn’t make it bad. I probably wouldn’t do it again, there are a lot of other cruise lines I might like to experience. But knowing what to expect before you go is important for any trip you take. I got what I expected from the Eurodam, I just think they could offer their cruisers a bit more. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
This was our 11th cruise on NCL. We chose it because we wanted to do a full transit of the canal. First off, the cruise was 20 days. We booked a port balcony cabin on deck 10 somewhat forward. This was our third time on the Gem, a ship ... Read More
This was our 11th cruise on NCL. We chose it because we wanted to do a full transit of the canal. First off, the cruise was 20 days. We booked a port balcony cabin on deck 10 somewhat forward. This was our third time on the Gem, a ship we really like because it has excellent public spaces (Spinnaker lounge, outdoor fantail dining, promenade deck) that the larger NCL ships don’t seem to have. The GEM feels bigger inside than the Breakaway class ships. The cabin was fine although 20 days tended to make it feel smaller as the cruise wore on. Normally, we expect NCL to provide consistently good dining. The complimentary restaurants were pretty decent and, occasionally, were excellent. The issue we had was with Cagneys: On both our visits, they couldn’t properly cook a filet mignon to medium rare. The results ranged from completely uncooked in the center to overcooked and dry. And, for the first time ever in a steakhouse we were asked to cut into the filet to check if it was properly cooked. Clearly, their chef was having problems. Strangely, the two meals we had in Le Bistro (we ordered the file de boeuf au cinq poivres, we like filet!) were perfect. We had one meal at the Asian restaurant, The Orchid, which was underwhelming. As for entertainment, the show band (drums, keys, sax, trumpet, bass and trombone) was outstanding. Playing in various forms (trio, quartet, etc.) they never failed to impress. Jack Brady, the piano playing songman was worked hard by the cruise director. The poor guy played three to four sets per night, night after night and it clearly was wearing him out. We saw one production show, a tribute to swing that was excellent. The first comedian was okay until he told a deeply offensive joke (that reinforced a dangerous stereotype) that made us feel very uncomfortable and we left. The staff was almost uniformly excellent. Service was solid and, often, very friendly and personal. We were disappointed that the shore excusions staff, at times, seemed to have limited knowledge about some of the ports. As for going ashore, there is no escaping the fact that many of the ports visited are in some of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere and it is hard to be carefree when you see how difficult the life is for the people. Santa Marta, Colombia, for example, is overrun with Venezuelan refugees who desperately need to sell you whatever they can to survive. A sidewalk cafe meal was a non-stop effort to say no to everything from fake Cuban cigars to impromptu unwanted rap performances. We took a few low-effort shore excursions. One honorable mention goes to the Up Close Whale Watching by Zodiac in Cabo San Lucas run by Cabo Tours. Our captain Bernardo was outstanding. He was friendly and engaging and his ability to find whales bordered on the supernatural. We got over 13 sightings with some as close as 15 yards from the boat. Overall, it was a good cruise. However a few points need to be made. First, 20 days is a long time. The ship becomes a bit confining after a while. Second, some passengers could really use some lessons in common courtesy and decorum. From the guy wearing sweatpants to an elegant restaurant to the guy who thought it was funny when he placed his hand on my wife’s head to steady himself, to the scores of people who bumped, backed into or cut off others without so much as an “excuse me”, we were truly happy to escape the ship on the final day and head off into the woods to get far away from our fellow human beings. To be sure, we met many nice people and the majority of people were fine. But there was far more boorishness on this cruise than on any other that we can remember. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
We chose Princess for the first time mainly for the ports of call. The trip overall was wonderful as far as the stops and the excursions we did, some we booked through the ship and others we chose once we got off at each port. The ship was ... Read More
We chose Princess for the first time mainly for the ports of call. The trip overall was wonderful as far as the stops and the excursions we did, some we booked through the ship and others we chose once we got off at each port. The ship was a beautiful ship overall. The staff every where on the ship were exceptionally friendly, always greeting you with a smile as they passed by. Our stateroom steward was amazing, friendly and very accommodating. The entire casino staff were wonderful, the only downfall were the hours the casino was open. I have never been on a ship where the casino closed at midnight at the very latest, that was very disappointing. The food in the dining room was satisfactory, I definitely like Carnival's common dining menu much, much better. The dining staff again were amazing. The shows were disappointing overall, we only attended two, the remainder were not of interest to us. Our room was quite noisy most of the nights. This cruise as far as being on the ship just did not fit our age group, not exciting for the most part, music variety was terrible. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
Interested in the Panama Canal primarily but the whole itinerary was very appealing. We explored our departure city (Fort Lauderdale) before the cruise (1 night). Embarkation and disembarking was a breeze - so well organized, easy and ... Read More
Interested in the Panama Canal primarily but the whole itinerary was very appealing. We explored our departure city (Fort Lauderdale) before the cruise (1 night). Embarkation and disembarking was a breeze - so well organized, easy and quick. Ship has been refurbished so looked new. Cabins were typical sizes and there were good dining options on the ship. The entertainment was phenomenal both at the various bars and the theatre. The service at all times at all locations was impeccable. Our cabin was immaculate at all times. The bar service was excellent. The Medallion experience was outstanding. Every cruise line should offer this option on their ships. It made the boarding process so quick and monitoring ship activities or ordering food and drinks anywhere on the ship was so convenient. I would recommend this ship and itinerary. The itinerary included Fort Lauderdale, Panama Canal, Falmouth in Jamaica, Cartegena in Columbia and Limon in Costa Rica. It was a diverse itinerary that covered every interest. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
We were excited to view the new locks, which were made for the larger ships. We first went to listen to the excellent lector in the Princess theater, who told us the history of the building of the canal. It was extremely informative and ... Read More
We were excited to view the new locks, which were made for the larger ships. We first went to listen to the excellent lector in the Princess theater, who told us the history of the building of the canal. It was extremely informative and prepared us to better understand what we would be seeing. We had originally booked a mini-suite, and the perks included were additional credits to spend on the cruise, plus no gratuities (a terrific deal) but were pleasantly surprised to find out a few weeks before sailing that we had been upgraded to a mid-ship Club Class suite at no additional cost. As Club Class guests, we had our own entrance to the dining room every evening, plus an upgraded menu. No waiting with 100 other people to enter, we walked right in. And our position in the dining room was separate from all other passengers. By that I mean that it was in a different area with other club class members. We were really spoiled! The new Medallion technology is wonderful, allowing us to speed through embarkation, which took a whole 10 min. for the 3 of us. Debarkation at the end of the cruise was equally satisfying. We had opted for a Princess shuttle to take us to the airport at the end of the cruise, and it was effortless! About midway through the cruise, I came down with my yearly upper respiratory infection and confined myself to my cabin for a few days, but this was my bad, as I should have brought a prescription with me just in case! Oh well, live and learn. The only shore excursion we had to cancel (the girls wouldn't go without me) was our trek through the rain forest and boat ride through the small canals that run through Costa Rica. I have been there before, so no big deal for me, but I hated to see my companions miss out. They did, however, leave the ship to shop for souvenirs at the port, and upon their return said that they were glad we had cancelled, as it was so darn hot. My only disappointment was in the food, the quality of which was not on a par with Carnival, but this is my opinion. Many things in the ships dining room were excellent, but others were not as good as I've had on other Princess ships. In particular the lobster, which was very chewy and not served with drawn butter! My sister opted for the steak (also extremely chewy) and had to politely bury the chewed pieces under whatever remained on her plate. But the service provided by our little Victoria (from the Ukraine) and her co-worker also from the Ukraine, known only as Bo or Baby was excellent! The food up on the Lido deck was hit or miss as well. Some times a terrific selection, and others just a bit below average. And in my opinion, their soups up on Lido were sub-par and watery. I wish Princess would adopt a real deli where fresh sandwiches could be made as ordered, like Carnival. Their sandwiches were pre-made and somewhat rolled up in butchers paper and standing upright in a large container, which made all of the juices run to the bottom and soak the bread. I was not impressed by the food at all. We did the ship excursion in both Jamaica (Greenwood plantation) and city tour of Catahenia, and both were excellent. We got off the ship in Grand Cayman and took the 2 and 1/2 hour city tour offered at the port for just $25. (same tour offered by excursion desk for $49) and it was also excellent! They took us to 7 mile beach (gorgeous) and we also got to see the people swim with and kiss the dolphins at their center for free. We had a choice of seeing the dolphins, or crossing the street to the turtle center. The tour driver was a fountain of knowledge and we enjoyed the tour very much! Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
This was an excellent cruise. The ship was very comfortable, had excellent food and service, and had wonderful entertainment. We stayed on the ship through the locks returning from Gatun Lake to the Caribbean Sea. Fascinating to ... Read More
This was an excellent cruise. The ship was very comfortable, had excellent food and service, and had wonderful entertainment. We stayed on the ship through the locks returning from Gatun Lake to the Caribbean Sea. Fascinating to watch how the lock opens and closes. We were able to get to the viewing area in the very front of the ship, above the bridge! On deck 15, go all the way forward and through the door at the end of the hallway to access this viewing area. Our ports were Falmouth, Jamaica, Cartagena, Columbia, Panama Canal transit, Limon, Costa Rica and George Town, Cayman Islands. We did stop in Cristobal, Panama to pick up passengers who had gone on excursions in Panama. We did an excellent tour with Dora the Explorer, www.cartagenatour.com, in Cartagena. Dora is very enthusiastic about her city, speaks excellent English, runs small group tours and only charges $70 cash for her 4 hour tour. We were able to go to La Popa Monastery on top of the hill which offered stunning views of the whole area. Large buses cannot negotiate the very twisty road to the monastery. Check Dora's website for more information.. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
We had been on the Emerald Princess before, and enjoyed it. Since the last time it has been update and some areas remolded. Very nicely I might add. Biggest noticeable difference is the Market Place on the Lido deck. More open and bright, ... Read More
We had been on the Emerald Princess before, and enjoyed it. Since the last time it has been update and some areas remolded. Very nicely I might add. Biggest noticeable difference is the Market Place on the Lido deck. More open and bright, and the eating area seems larger and much nicer. We enjoyed the ports that we stopped at, all of them. On previous cruises there were some ports we did not enjoy. Our cabin was on the Lido deck, and it was so convenient to just walk down a hall and be out on the outside deck and close to the pools and Market Place. They also have a hamburger, hot dog, fries and chicken tacos eating place-all delish. Enjoy the open atrium area on deck 5,where they have the International Cafe and entertainment. You can get a salad, Panani, soup and desert while listening to music. The ports were lovely, warm and humid, but very enjoyable. Can't wait for our next cruise....... Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
Starting at embarkation sitting in an overcrowded hall for the better part of 3 hours - we were not off to a good start! No credible explanation from Princess; no bother to greet the arriving pxs when they finally made it on board. ... Read More
Starting at embarkation sitting in an overcrowded hall for the better part of 3 hours - we were not off to a good start! No credible explanation from Princess; no bother to greet the arriving pxs when they finally made it on board. Balcony stateroom was okay but was very shocked to find torn sheets and stained pillowcases on the bed (replaced 2 days later). Room steward was great as were a few bartenders and waiters, but the vast majority of staff were not engaged, sullen, and in a couple of cases - obnoxious! Food in all venues was pretty horrible for anyone with a palate (I only had 3 meals which were "good"). Buffet selection was the worst we have ever seen after being on multiple cruise lines. Restaurants were kind of dirty with the worst being the steakhouse where I accidentally knocked about 3/16" of dust off the railing beside our table - ick factor 10. Likewise I ruined a brand new shirt when I leaned against a bar railing and got a large brown stain for my efforts. For a so-called high end, large ship, the entertainment was, for the most part second rate, and most activities were pretty lame for an older crowd. Shore excursions offered by Princess were okayish, except for in Panama city where we had to stand in line for 1.5 hrs in the sweltering heat to get on a tender back to the ship without so much as a hint of concern from staff - it is a wonder some of the frailer people didn't collapse! At long last we come to disembarkation - it was a bit better than the start, but once again no one from Princess directing you where to go for transfers. We got lucky and chose the right line up. If they can do a reasonable job in ports of call, why can't they make the same effort for leaving? Is it because they no longer care about you? I would say so. We will never use Princess again - there are so many better cruise lines that they can't hold a candle to! Sure, it may be one bad experience, but they are supposed to have corporate standards, so we can only assume that this is what we can expect on other Princess ships too. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
Because I am generally a really positive person that tries to see the good in everything, I will start off with that. Edward the cabin steward was fantastic and just a great guy. He genuinely cared and worked hard. The food was ... Read More
Because I am generally a really positive person that tries to see the good in everything, I will start off with that. Edward the cabin steward was fantastic and just a great guy. He genuinely cared and worked hard. The food was generally pretty good in the dining room and the dining room staff was fun to interact with and they worked hard. Although - it makes no sense how we can be travelling through Mexico and Central America and get literally none of the amazing fruits of those countries on ship (papaya, mango, plantains etc..). Also great were the ports (specifically Huatulco and Punta Arenas)...but I am reviewing the ship here because of the large amount of sea days. I did learn that the US has a flight to Huatulco and I plan on doing that in the near future. Now to the negative - the entertainment was terrible and I found myself watching movies in the room most nights. At least the movie selection in the room was good. During the day there was no discernible entertainment. The 'entertainment' at night mostly consisted of Frank Sinatra singers and the like. While I may be relatively young for this cruise, I do know that 'old' people like a little more fun and variety than that. Trying to find something to do or eat after 9 PM, there was literally nothing. The one bar that was open (on the top level) had nobody there other than the bartender and cocktail servers. As a poker player, I figured that I could at least play poker for fun in the casino...but the poker table had an absurd 18% rake which took all possible fun out of it because statistically you are going to lose even if you play extremely well. I've been on other cruise ships and the entertainment on them was awesome, so my review isn't naively written. Also the customer service left a terrible taste in my mouth. I received a $100 Princess gift card for my birthday from a relative in light of the upcoming cruise (after the cruise had been booked). I tried to use the gift card online for excursions and internet but that was not possible as it only accepted credit card payments. I called customer service twice and they acted like they tried to help but stated that the gift card could only be used on the ship and that I couldn't use it to pay for internet and excursions. However, when I attempted to use the gift card on the ship, the person I spoke to on the ship said that I could not use it on that cruise but laughingly said that I could apply the amount to a future Princess Cruise. He literally didn't give a damn. I just had a terrible time on board the cruise ship, why would I want to go on another cruise with Princess? So now I have a worthless gift card that a family member spent good money on as a birthday gift. I didn't even know how to reply when they asked how I enjoyed the gift card for fear of hurting their feelings. Shame on Princess for its gift card scam!! Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
We choose this cruise for the transit through the Pannama Canal. The commentary though out the cruise and in the canal was fantastic. Loved the Captains updates. We where very pleased with our inside cabin and twin beds. Our cabin ... Read More
We choose this cruise for the transit through the Pannama Canal. The commentary though out the cruise and in the canal was fantastic. Loved the Captains updates. We where very pleased with our inside cabin and twin beds. Our cabin steward was fantastic. The food on the other hand was mediocre at best. Beef was the the downfall each night it was served. I have never had a more boring prime rib. Could only finnish about 1/3rd of my NY strip. I love beef. Pancakes where ok. Mashed potatoes ok. Not enough veggies. Port were not bad but nothing I would want to go back to. Cartagena had the best food and architecture, I wish I could have enjoyed it, but the hawking street people where overwhelming. They would come at you two three four deep. You could not look at a building with out them thinking you were looking at them. Then they came at you. It was scary at times. Either get rid of these hawkers or Princess change port to Aruba, or Curacao. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
Have done the historic locks 3 times from Atlantic to Pacific, so joined friends to see the new locks going from Pacific to Atlantic. Somehow, I was expecting more differences between the old & new locks, but either way it’s quite ... Read More
Have done the historic locks 3 times from Atlantic to Pacific, so joined friends to see the new locks going from Pacific to Atlantic. Somehow, I was expecting more differences between the old & new locks, but either way it’s quite the engineering marvel even if you’re not too technically inclined. Did enjoy the stop at Fuerte Amador on the Pacific side and being able to get off to see the visitor’s center, not an option on any of our previous trips. The other ports were enjoyable, didn’t feel overly crowded like on some other itineraries where there are often multiple ships in port. This was our second Princess cruise, we have cruised more often on Royal Caribbean and Celebrity. I like the “vibe” on Princess, in this case there were very few young kids on board which made it more relaxing. Emerald appears well maintained, staff were generally pleasant and helpful, there were a few outstanding crew members that will go far if Princess is smart enough to recognize their skills. We traveled with 3 friends, plenty to do with or without traveling companions. Read Less
Sail Date January 2020
We choose this cruise because of the timing and destinations. The info about the excursions are limited. Jamaica was not the best, very disorganized. We traveled on Celebrity last year and it was very enjoyable. This cruise the ... Read More
We choose this cruise because of the timing and destinations. The info about the excursions are limited. Jamaica was not the best, very disorganized. We traveled on Celebrity last year and it was very enjoyable. This cruise the open seating is very disorganized, the showers are so small you can't move in the shower without get the bathroom floor soaked and the carpet. Food is OK. Entertainment ok. I have cruised a number of times but this one was the biggest disappointment.We have a balcony so that made the experience better. We took the excursussion thru the Panama Canal which was great but it as very long. In Jamaica we went to a beach that was nothing great. Had rum punch and food, nothing I would suggest to do, then stopped to go shopping, not good. Not sure why I can't review the excursions on their website so I can give other feedback. Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
After cruising Alaska on Princess Cruise with friends many years ago, we (myself&Hubby)decide to take another opportunity and cruise again in December 2019 over the new year to cross the Panama Canal and start the new year and decade ... Read More
After cruising Alaska on Princess Cruise with friends many years ago, we (myself&Hubby)decide to take another opportunity and cruise again in December 2019 over the new year to cross the Panama Canal and start the new year and decade celebrating life onboard Island Princess. And glad am I, we did!!! Our experience was a 5star journey from the beginning ‘til the end. I will start with the embarkation in FortLauderdale where everything was well organized and we didn’t have to wait a minute(even if the cruise was fully booked).A tip to my fellow travelers:if you can, get to the port early to avoid crowds and long lines.We felt like VIP’s since we board the ship in less than 5minutes.Once we got to our room, everything is history because 10days have been filled with happy moments and great memories we will remember and share for a lifetime. For new year eve, all guests were spoiled with fine dining experience and later on the captain come down to greet and wish everyone onboard a Happy new year! and the champagne was flowing like a river.The party moved from inside to the deck outside where we did the countdown into the new decade together.Happy new year!!! Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
We chose the cruise for the locations and because we had sailed with Princess previously. We knew the cabins were comfortable and dining was excellent. There were plenty of shore excursions to choose from if that is what you are after, and ... Read More
We chose the cruise for the locations and because we had sailed with Princess previously. We knew the cabins were comfortable and dining was excellent. There were plenty of shore excursions to choose from if that is what you are after, and plenty of activities to keep you busy on the ship. We chose to do some tours, but also enjoyed staying on the ship and relaxing by the pools. I LOVE that there is a laundry on the ship. So don’t have to pack enough clothing for the entire trip. The specialty restaurants provided delicious meals for a minimal extra charge. The dining rooms offered a variety of choices and the buffet was amazing. Will definitely travel with Princess again, in fact we have put a deposit down using the Future Cruise program offered by Princess. Would recommend Princes cruises to anyone interested in a cruise holiday. Than you Princess Cruises for our amazing Caribbean holiday. Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
1. Terrible food. 2. No vegetarian choices. 3. Limited food choices 4. Poor service. (Except for cabin steward ). 5. Didn’t show college football ... Read More
1. Terrible food. 2. No vegetarian choices. 3. Limited food choices 4. Poor service. (Except for cabin steward ). 5. Didn’t show college football championship games - all 30 TV’s were tuned to a Single meaningless European soccer game. !!! Other cruises, by comparison, broadcast these games in their theatres , with hundreds in attendance. These idiots didn’t even realize what they’d done. 6. Horrible and poorly planned excursions. Worst ever. Getting off the vessel every day took an hour and we felt like cattle. We took a 6 hour trip - over lunch - and all we got was a single bottle of water and a piece of bread. Prisoners get better treatment. 7. Worst cruise director I’ve ever seen. 8. They Nickel and dime you for everything. 9. Gratuities over $50 per day - were basically paying for staff - over above our $10K cost Avoid this cruise at all costs. There are So many other better options out there Never using Norwegian again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
We chose this cruise for a couple of reasons. Number one, it crossed off one of our bucket list items, the Panama Canal. Number two, we were cruising on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as well as New Year's Eve and New Year's ... Read More
We chose this cruise for a couple of reasons. Number one, it crossed off one of our bucket list items, the Panama Canal. Number two, we were cruising on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as well as New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. We had a mini-suite. We have learned from other cruises that we want to be mid-ship or a bit forward. Why? The smoke stack leaves soot on the balcony when your cabin is towards the back of the ship. Yes, you can get a bigger balcony, but the trade-off is you need to brush off the soot several times a day. The nice thing about the mini-suite is there is a large, deep tub that be used as either a soaker tub or a shower; we prefer the shower. The toilet is separated by a partial wall, so both of us could be in the bathroom at the same time. We had several freebies, including 5 specialty dining dinners, 250 free minutes of internet (but one device at a time), on-board credits, a shore excursion credit, and free adult beverages. Unlike some cruise lines, NCL does not limit the number of drinks per day. However, bottled water is not included in the beverage package. We were disappointed in most of the specialty dining restaurants. Teppanyaki's food was so-so. We know you go to Teppanyaki more for the show than the food, but the show was blah at best. We are used to the onion volcano and the fireman, neither of which we saw. Usually there is an egg tossing show, but there was none here. The food was nondescript at La Cucina and Moderno. We ended up at Cagney's twice, because we found the steaks to be awesome. The food at the free restaurants was, again, so-so. Breakfast at O'Sheehan's started out good, but we both agreed it went downhill as the trip continued. The waitstaff was somehow confused with my husband's request for both an apple and an orange juice. You can swap out sausage for the bacon for the express breakfast, but they did not always get that right either. We liked the Freestyle Dining. That means you don't have an assigned dining time or table if you want to dine in the main dining room. The Lotus Garden is considered part of the free dining. It is open for dinner only. We both enjoyed our appetizers (hot and sour soup that was not what we were used to but it was good plus vegetable egg rolls), but we thought our entrees were below par. The buffets were just not memorable (for breakfast, lunch, or dinner). We did not get off the ship at Harvest Caye, NCL's private island, for a couple of reasons. One, it started to rain as we were about to get off the ship. Number two, we heard it was very commercial. We've been on other private islands in the Caribbean, and they have a free BBQ on the island for lunch. Also, if you have the beverage plan your card works on the island. Not so for NCL. You must pay for everything on the island. Our first shore excursion (Exploring Magnificent Cartegena) was a bust. Our tour guide became disinterested during the tour. We almost always tip the tour guide, but we just could not; he did not deserve it. Also, the street vendors in Cartegena are EXTREMELY aggressive. That isn't NCL's fault, but be prepared to be approached every 1-2 minutes with someone trying to sell you cigars, magnets, hats, etc.. To say it was annoying would be an understatement. The Panama Canal was fantastic! We got up early so that we could see the ship entering the first lock. It is amazing how close the ships get to the sides of the locks. We didn't see or feel it during the passage, but apparently there is a lot of scraping of the ships during the movement. There is an 87 foot increase in height between the first full set of locks (there are 3 of them). You then get into the largest man-made lake in the world, where you either get off the ship for a shore excursion or stay onboard and go back the locks in the other direction. We opted to stay on board, and we did not regret our decision. Puerto Limon was fun. We took the Tortuguero Canal and River Cruise. Like many tours, it is all about the guide. We had a very good guide and driver, and we saw lots of sloths and monkeys. We also saw a boa constrictor and multiple bird and butterfly species. There was a change to the itinerary that we were alerted about when we checked into the ship. It wasn't a big change (2 destinations were reversed), but I liked the fact that NCL told us about this change before the ship left port. The casino is relatively small. It is very smokey. We were on another cruise line in August, and we really appreciated that they had a non-smoking section in the casino. NCL should consider this. For embarkation NCL asks you to select a 1/2 hour period to check in. We selected 11-11:30 AM. We arrived on time, and we were handed boarding card #10. We got on board about 12:30. We knew our room would not be available yet, so we headed to the buffet. FYI: while you are in a US port, you pay a small fee for every drink you order. In addition, you cannot order a drink on the day of disembarkation. We much prefer the embarkation process for Princess, where we pre-registered and got a medallion. We were onboard in 5 minutes. The other nice thing with Princess is that as we approached a bar the medallion was read, and we were greeted by the bartender with our names and our beverage preferences. NCL should consider using medallions. We did numerous trivia events. Some of them were very bizarre. We also did Jenga (it was fun) and bocce (watch out for the lip on the carpet). We were not very impressed with the entertainment. The fitness center was OK, but it was not set up logically (IMHO). Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
I chose this cruise as the dates coincided with my Winter break from school (I am a teacher). I live in the Midwest, so the warm weather itinerary was appealing, and the Panama Canal was on my bucket list. I was cruising Solo, (my boys ... Read More
I chose this cruise as the dates coincided with my Winter break from school (I am a teacher). I live in the Midwest, so the warm weather itinerary was appealing, and the Panama Canal was on my bucket list. I was cruising Solo, (my boys spent the time with their respective in-laws), and I was more than a bit nervous. Embarkation was quick and easy, with lots of helpful, smiling Oceania representatives. I was impressed. My room wasn't quite ready yet, so I went up to have lunch. A good selection of food was available. I had a Veranda stateroom on level 6 - it was wonderful, with an extremely comfortable bed. YES, the bathroom was quite small, but adequate. My room stewards were very attentive, and really made sure my stay was everything I wanted it to be. I LOVED having a veranda cabin for this trip. I used it every day, and spent part of the time going through the Panama Canal sitting out there, sipping champagne. Lovely! The lecturer was incredible. As a teacher myself, I was impressed with her ability to keep our interest, and her sense of humor added just the right touch to the presentations. She was extremely knowledgeable, and very approachable afterward for questions. The room was packed every time she spoke. The only entertainment I can speak to is the string quartet, who played in the lobby each night before dinner. They were incredibly talented - and they also drew crowds whenever they played. I never felt lonely or alone on this trip - I met SO many interesting, kind, friendly people, and plan on staying in touch with several of them. Our cruise had people from all over the world - one night I had dinner with a couple from Germany, the next from Scotland, and there was a family group from Australia. On this Holiday cruise, there were children aboard, but they were extremely well behaved and I rarely ever encountered them on the ship. We had a lot of sea days (basically every other day), but I was never bored. I have read other reviews, talking about how there is "nothing to do" on Oceania, but I think that all is in how you view things. If you expect to be entertained every waking moment by other people, this is, perhaps, not the cruise line for you. If you appreciate interesting ports of call, less people aboard, good food, and plenty of opportunities to meet people and experience the world, then do try them out. I was so happy with my trip that I have booked two more (another on the Sirena in 2021, and one on the Marina this coming summer). I did have an issue with another passenger, and the crew took care of this immediately. Other passengers also helped me out, and made sure I was safe and ok. Much of this was done without me having to say or do anything - people just kept an eye out for each other, and Oceania was right there when needed. I never waited in line for anything (other than for my Tender color or number to be called - we had several Tender ports, but never an issue or really a wait). There were always available lounge chairs by the pool, and the library was a great place to curl up with a book for a bit. The weather was mostly sunny and warm, so it was great to spend so much time outside before going back to the cold, frozen tundra. The food was outstanding - especially in the (included) specialty restaurants. The service in the main dining room (mostly during breakfast) needs some work - the senior staff was superb... but I think there were a lot of new trainees that had no idea how to serve food or drinks. At breakfast, getting a refill on coffee often took a LONG time, even if there weren't many people there. Hopefully, with practice they will get better!! With that said, I overheard many people complaining on this trip about how the service has gone downhill, and was truly awful. I didn't experience that (except for my morning coffee!!!) but perhaps my expectations were different. The only thing I really took umbrage at was the Single Supplement they charge... but that's another issue :) Anyway, I would HIGHLY recommend Oceania - I was pleased with my experience and as stated already, I will travel with them again. Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
We were excited about this Panama Canal Cruise from Fort Lauderdale to San Diego over the holidays. The cruise ports and itinerary were great! Absolutely no complaints here. Our excursions were a mix of HAL and Shore Ex. They were all ... Read More
We were excited about this Panama Canal Cruise from Fort Lauderdale to San Diego over the holidays. The cruise ports and itinerary were great! Absolutely no complaints here. Our excursions were a mix of HAL and Shore Ex. They were all well done and interesting. The food was just okay. More than once, I had to send my dish back in the main room. It was like cafeteria food and really, I’m not picky but the meat was inedible. The Lido was actually better and that’s not saying much. They ran out of Splenda, lemons, limes and chocolate ice cream halfway through the cruise. Our room thermostat didn’t work and apparently they are in the process of changing them out. Our room started out too warm so we asked to cool it down. They cooled it down but it turned into an icebox!! And they turned the fan speed up so that it sounded like a jet engine... (well, almost) It continued like this the entire cruise. Then the toilet didn’t flush... or did five minutes after it was pushed. We heard gurgling sounds constantly. There are hardly any electric outlets in the bedrooms. They provide plug strips but bring an extension cord or two. Especially if you have a cpap! There were no rooms left when we signed on in March so took a room that was over the Main Stage. It turns out there were rooms that opened later but we were never informed about them so we were stuck listening to any performance or rehearsal under our floor. We really liked the staff and they tried to do the best job they could but they really are understaffed and expectations are very high. We like Holland America but are going to seriously check ship reviews from now on before we book. We like the smaller ships but the Rotterdam needs to be retired. Rusty and too old to fix. Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
We recently returned from a 10-day cruise to the Panama Canal on the Island Princess. There were several things that made this cruise special – a Birthday celebration, getting together with over 38 family members/friends, and just the ... Read More
We recently returned from a 10-day cruise to the Panama Canal on the Island Princess. There were several things that made this cruise special – a Birthday celebration, getting together with over 38 family members/friends, and just the opportunity to spend Christmas on the high seas. However, without the overall excellent service provided by the staff the trip wouldn’t have been as wonderful as it was. First off there are a few staff members that I’d like to highlight, starting with our booking agent Kim. She did an outstanding job coordinating all booking aspects of the trip especially since several members of the group booked through third-party agents posing the additional challenge of ensuring that those individuals were correctly assigned to our group. Then there was Diana from Group Events who worked with me in organizing the onboard Birthday party. She patiently addressed all my questions and ensured that every detail was accurately communicated to the Events team. Also, need to mentioned Jena – Customer Relations Manager and Carlie – Videographer who both did an awesome job in addressing all my questions/concerns once onboard resulting in a classy and smoothly run Birthday Bash. Overall, I have nothing but positive words for all staff members that we encountered. Pro: • Excellent customer service from Steward and Dining Staff • Internet service Cons: • Ship is small as compared to newer ships and linen, carpets and room furnishings are showing their age • Meal choices were very limited – appeared to serve the same items daily just in a slightly different form. Soups were often too salty, juices appeared watered down and there was a complete lack of variety as it pertained to Vegetarian or Vegan meals • Given this cruise offered several Caribbean & Inter/South American stops it would have been nice to have more meals that reflected the cultural delicacies of the region; and the few attempts at offering regional dishes left a lot to be desired. Would suggest getting a Regional Chef on staff or someone with this background to offer consultation. Overall, this cruise ship was chosen because of the itinerary and it delivered. Everyone in our group has a great time. Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
After reading reviews for a few months ahead of our first cruise with Princess, I thought I would post about my personal experience. Island Princess, Christmas in the Panama Canal . A bucket list tick cruise for many. One of the ... Read More
After reading reviews for a few months ahead of our first cruise with Princess, I thought I would post about my personal experience. Island Princess, Christmas in the Panama Canal . A bucket list tick cruise for many. One of the smaller princess ships, built in 2003, remodelled in 2015. Boarding was flawless. We left our Fort Lauderdale hotel at 11am by cab. We were ordering coffee onboard in La Patisserie by 1130. The boarding time on our ticket was 1230. We were in the cabin by 12. The balcony cabin was fine. The water package was delivered and on the bed, the medallion WiFi was superb throughout the trip. Dining The food was generally good. We had set dining at 730pm, the earlier one being 515pm. Some tables for 2 were better than others. We were very lucky. And onto dining wear, subject of many posts. Smart casual. As long as your not in shorts or beach wear, you’ll get in. Jeans, polo shirts, trainers... even an outdoor puffer jacket and jeans were noted. Formal wear , well tuxedos and ball gowns were rare. Dark suits with or without tie, with or without jacket .... it’s not enforced from what we saw. It doesn’t really work when the minute you enter a bar before or after dinner, passengers are in shorts and t shirts. Surely only a matter of time before it’s dropped. For lunchtime , sea days they seem to do crab shack in Cafe Bayou and Alfredos Pizza in Sabatinis on deck 7. The Horizon Buffet is the standard cruise ship “ trough” throughout the day. By the pool, the Grill for hot dogs and burgers - the pizzeria and ice cream bar. The latter at times understaffed leading to waits. Ice cream free, malted milk shakes at a charge. In the evening , try Cafe Bayou and Sabatinis, both were excellent alternative dining . Service at Breakfast in the main dining room can be slow. The minute steak takes 15 minutes to come! Bars There are the pool bars, Crooners on deck 7 of the atrium, squashed in with a piano player, much more suited to a crows nest type venue but the ship doesn’t have one! Wheelhouse Bar is wooden panelled by the theatre - bands and background music. Venue for morning trivia. The bar only opens pre dinner till 12. The show lounge bar is Explorers deck 6. Home of Karaoke, Quizzes and Entertainment. They have “ Liars Club” , a game show that is actually Call My Bluff. There’s a quiz there - which seemed quite flat. ....... Entertainment and Sea Days Princess Theatre is home of the Production Shows. “ Do you Wanna Dance?” is old school cruise ship camp. The big production offering is called “The Secret Silk” , a complex Chinese/Japanese folk tale which is strangely studied with western music. The best show is “On the Bayou” which works really well. Finally, the “ Encore” show seems to include an added Soprano who adds to the cast. The production shows were supplemented by an amusing Christmas show, a singer song writer, an acrobatic violinist and American comedian. The Culinary Show is very entertaining. Then you get to tour the galley which ends of course in an area where there is a shopping sale, which you use to exit. They thought that tactic through ! On that note, Chad the onboard shopping concierge says “shopping is the number one thing to do on a cruise”. The discounted aftershave onboard was more expensive than Amazon or Home Bargains! The rum tasting turned into a mini stampede, one passenger accelerating towards the drinks tray at high speed in a scooter within the bounds of the shop. To be honest, if it’s overcast or choppy at sea, there isn’t a lot to do. Watch vegetable carving , egg carrying competitions or passengers throwing paper planes in the atrium ..... play Pictionary in the bar by yourself . Try the Sanctuary for a quiet chill on a comfy sun bed. Book early if you want shade. It’s $20 for a half day. No pool on Island Princess Sanctuary. You get the bed, waiter service and flavoured water. It did seem that a proportion of passengers booked - and paid for the Sanctuary but then didn’t use it , or just came for a few hours if they booked all day. The staff confirmed that to be the case. More money than sense ! Service was variable depending on staffing numbers. The onboard enrichment lecturer was a retired high school lecturer who threw together some power point presentations based on his research from Wikipedia. Accuracy was not always essential - certainly not on his maritime attempts. I have sailed on a lot of ships - big and small. Island Princess didn’t seem to be a great sea boat. A lot of movement in not a lot of swell. One passenger said she was cancelling her transatlantic on her on the basis of how she felt that sea day. On the plus side, the WiFi onboard is superb. Ports Was the Panama Canal worth it? Absolutely. We stayed on the ship to see the transit both ways. Annoying basic commentary on the morning transit from the Wikipedia led ex teacher at 7am. But really enjoyed it - but that’s what we went for , a bucket list tick. Limon - book the Sloths in advance if you want to go. It was fully booked and people were left frustrated. We went on the Princess tour. I think you could find a taxi to take you there and pay for a tour. It’s open 0800-1400 Tuesday - Sunday with tours on the hour. The sanctuary trip involved a canoe ride which was abandoned when we visited as the river was swollen. This was only after one failed attempt with the group ahead of us. I was amazed to see Princess put pensioners in a small canoe in the fast flowing river without life preservers and attempt to navigate against the stream in torrential rain! Insurance firms would be wincing. Take a light waterproof jacket if you are going to do it. The town itself has a nice vibe and seems safe. The crew were heading to MacDonalds! There are great local cafes not far from the port if you prefer a more local bite- plus a supermarket. The cafe opposite the park was superb and good value. Falmouth, Jamaica. If you aren't on a tour , the town is small , expect lots of people trying to sell you stuff. The bus round town is $20. You can walk were it goes easily for free. There isn’t much there. There is a port area with over priced shopping. Cartagena, a great place to wonder. We took the “ by yourself tour” which includes a 30 minute orientation walk. Then you have 90 minutes to explore yourself. Hundreds of street vendors, beautiful colours and architecture. The port actually has a mini zoo you can enjoy plus over priced gift shop. Grand Cayman - the ship tenders here. We did the land and sea tour, semi submersible, turtle sanctuary, Hell and a rum cake gift shop stop. The latter is what it is, the rest were great and a good way to pack things in as costs are high on Grand Cayman. Overall, yes we enjoyed our trip. A cruise is what you make it, the people you meet, the experiences you have. Thoughts For me, I thought Princess would be more professional , have more to fill sea-days. I’m not sure if their management or onboard entertainment director ever just sits and watch what their staff are told to do. Timings are rigid. People lining up to sing karaoke , the explorers lounge buzzing. The bar busy. But rather than let it roll, the kareoke stops with people left disappointed, the DJ started to change to the disco atmosphere and watched 75% of the passengers walk out. I’m sure the DJ could have waited 20 minutes. Onboard flexibility in creating atmosphere. Some of the game show contestants and karaoke singers have more personality and presence than members of the entertainment team hosting it. And given the sound and light equipment , they could make more of it. Put the song lyrics up for all the audience to see at karaoke aswell even. The same happens in the Wheelhouse Bar where an older crowd enjoy dancing. 45 minutes later... it’s over and another item starts, loosing the crowd. Events in bars for new cruisers - morning trivia in wheelhouse bar - where the bar isn’t open to even get a soft drink or coffee. Why ? It’s obvious surely. Opportunities for them to earn income and passengers to relax. Staffing in the wheelhouse at night goes from over staffed to being impossible to get served as they are trying to sort theatre orders ! Meaning that pre dinner drink is rushed. Unhosted events are often in bars - singles, LGBT...etc. If other passengers are there and there is no signed area or nibbles etc, I’m sure most folk would be nervous to go up to people and ask if they are travelling alone - or are they gay? I think the problem is that cruising has moved forward at such a pace - and carried passengers expectations with it. So the mid size ships like this at 16 years old struggle to deliver. Where she does deliver is fitting the old locks of the Panama Canal. However, if Princess stopped and looked at what they could do with this class of ship, it could be better with a few tweaks. Would I book Princess again ? Maybe...it would be destination dependent- not necessarily that I was bowled over. It’s a step above P&O, a step down from Cunard . We left the ship with great memories and enjoyed it. Experienced really good service and great food, visited fascinating destinations. I just think it could be so much better with a few obvious improvements that Princess management should be seeing. Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
My husband and I have been talking about going to see the Panama Canal since our first cruise to Alaska in 2006. We have finally retired and decided on the Christmas Cruise to the Eastern Carribean and Panama Canal on Island Princess. ... Read More
My husband and I have been talking about going to see the Panama Canal since our first cruise to Alaska in 2006. We have finally retired and decided on the Christmas Cruise to the Eastern Carribean and Panama Canal on Island Princess. She is the sister ship of our Alaskan cruise ship Coral Princess so she was familiar in layout. We stayed in a local hotel the night before the cruise and decided to get to the Port early. We were in a group of about 25 people who showed up early and were given the number one to be called for embarkation. We were called about 11 am and went on board. Embarkation was smooth and effortless. We walked around and took pictures for a while and then went to lunch in the Horizon Court. We decided to check out our room and found our luggage already delivered. We had a balcony cabin and layout was good with plenty of storage and hangers. We had requested late seating (715p) in the Provence Traditional dining room but we were assigned a 715p seating in the Bordeaux Dining room which is used for Any Time Dining. This caused confusion as first we were told to get in line and wait to be seated but I questioned why we were given a seat and time assignment on our Cruise Card and still had to get in line. Hostess then told us to go right in to our table and to do this every night. It took several nights until the hostess and wait staff recognized us and did not ask where we were going! We enjoyed the dining very much, had great wait staff who remembered our choices in beverages and food came fairly quickly with only rarely a wait time. Entertainment was excellent, we went to the production shows, comedian, juggler, singers. Everything was very professionally done. All the cruise staff were polite, pleasant and helpful. We booked all our excursions through Princess. The one excursion in Panama was cancelled by the tour company and we were reimbursed by Princess. We did not schedule another excursion but decided to watch the departure through the Gatun locks. All our excursions were very informative and very organized and on time. We had excellent tour guides who answered all questions and brought us back to the ship on time. Would like to give a shout out to Fran in Limon, Jose C in Cartagena and Sonia in Grand Cayman who did excellent tours. We also scheduled airline flights through Princess EZair as this was recommended by travel agent as the best prices. We had problems with delays on American Airlines so would not use American again. Overall we were very pleased with our cruise! Read Less
Sail Date December 2019
Boarding This was the fastest and smoothest we have ever boarded a ship. From exiting the cab to entering our room took about 30 minute’s total. It was flawless as was disembarkment. Bars/Entertainment We spent most of our time ... Read More
Boarding This was the fastest and smoothest we have ever boarded a ship. From exiting the cab to entering our room took about 30 minute’s total. It was flawless as was disembarkment. Bars/Entertainment We spent most of our time at the Explorers Lounge and had a great time with the bar staff. We also went to the Wheelhouse for trivia and a tribute to Billie Holiday which was fun. The Casino bar was friendly and down to business as they are way too busy to socialize. Overall the bar and wait staff was the best I’ve seen on 5 Princess cruises; they were more entertaining than the entertainment. As for the entertainment, each individual act/show/game was good or OK but the sequencing was terrible. Karaoke followed by DJ plays your favorite dance music draws a different crowd so everyone just left the bar after Karaoke. It was like scheduling Bingo after a Karaoke show, they didn’t but you get my point. Princess also needs to post large signs at the venue entrance for UNHOSTED Singles & Solo’s Get-Together or LGBTQ+ Get-Togethers events. These unhosted events were in the large Wheelhouse bar and other passengers coming in had no idea it was gay or singles night. The entertainment was nice but we had to jump from venue to venue to stay within a single type of entertainment. Casino I’ve never had so much fun losing money. The Dealers and Pit Bosses were great but the passengers on this cruise were there to have fun and we did. The passengers in the casino did not have that hard core Vegas style attitude towards gambling. The Dealers joked and laughed right along with us; it was great. Smoking Areas The Island Princess only has 3 smoking areas, an outside uncovered space on deck 15, Churchill’s lounge and a small section of the casino. Because of the limited areas on every cruise ship smokers get to know each other very well and form strong bonds/groups. With only 3 smoking areas this cruise was the best as around 10 of us became great friends. I logged my first formal complaint with Princess due to their complete and total lack of understanding smokers. On the formal night it was raining so the outside uncovered smoking area was unusable. They also closed the Casino to smoking that night leaving the small Churchill’s lounge as the only smoking area for the entire ship. The Captain or Casino Manager should be able to override the “rigid schedule” and make ad-hoc changes. If it’s raining don’t close the Casino smoking area; reschedule that for another night – make a managerial decision. The non-smokers just outside Churchill’s Lounge in Crooners were as upset as the smokers. Dining We had the privilege and pleasure to dine in the Sabatini's, Bayou Café, Bordeaux Dining Room, Ultimate Balcony Dining, Horizon Court, Slice Pizzeria and a lot of late night Room Service. The food was delicious everywhere. This was our 3rd time doing the $100 Ultimate Balcony Dining for 2 ($50 each) and it was phenomenal again. A five course meal with Champaign served on your private balcony makes for a beautiful and romantic night. The wait staff is superb and patiently waits in the hallway between courses. If you’re in love, this is the way to create a special moment; photography is included. Princess Theater We did not attend a single show in the theater and there is a good reason for that. We have no idea what each show is from the Patter. We looked in a couple of times and there was a guy talking and another time some people singing. I’m looking for the Broadway style production shows which I heard was on this voyage. Princess knows well in advance what show is being performed in the theater and should do a special Patter insert on the first day with show details and pictures. Ports/Excursions We took this cruise for the Panama Canal and it did not disappoint. Having a wraparound Starboard/Aft balcony (C731) only enhanced the experience. The canal is truly an engineering marvel and should be on everyone’s bucket list. We took various excursions at every port and they all met or exceeded expectations except for one. DO NOT TAKE the Limon, Costa Rica - Limon Waterfront & Backstreet Canals excursion. It was drizzling so they skipped circling an Island where Christopher Columbus anchored his ships in 1502 (big deal) and when straight for the canal. The boat idled for about a half mile down a canal lined with trash and slums, literally. We spent 2 ½ hours looking in the trees for birds, three-toed sloths and monkeys. We saw 1 of each and to kill time they turned the boat around so the people on the other side could see. I was ready to jump out and swim back to the ship. Going to a free public zoo at home would have been better. Princess e-mails out surveys that allow you to rate your excursions. Our ratings now show up when reviewing excursions. Ease take the surveys and rate your excursions – you could be saving someone a horrible experience like the Limon Waterfront & Backstreet Canals excursion. Overall While the entertainment could have been sequenced better, it was still good. A rainy formal night with only one small inside smoking area was terrible, it was only one night. One excursion of 5 was disgusting and the canal was beyond amazing. All of the negatives account for less than 1% of an awesome 10 day cruise. My husband and I cherish the positive and we don’t dwell on the negatives. We had a great stateroom & balcony, delicious food and a lot of fun especially in the Casino. But what made this particular cruise a perfect 10 for us was the Princess staff and our fellow shipmates we bonded with – thank you all. Read Less
Sail Date December 2019

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