by D. C. Luehrman
December 10, 2007
We cruised to the Panama Canal, departing and returning from Ft. Lauderdale, accompanied by another couple. We did not utilize any ship-sponsored tours and have no comment on them.
We had a balcony stateroom, ample room to move about and excellent storage; service to our room was top-notch; we could leave for a short time and the room would be clean, beds made, by the time we returned.
Entertainment was generally very good with the exception of one comedian who "bombed". We played bingo every day (tip: bring your own bingo daubers, they don't supply). The jackpot starts out at around $1100 and increases $150/day until won, but the game is arranged so that it won't likely be won until the end of the cruise. Tip: wait until the last day, play then and make off with the jackpot.
The ship's crew and staff were fantastically friendly, smiles all the time even when confronted with some trying guests (not us, of course!).
Only one disappointment: The FOOD. It was not quite as good as we have experienced on other cruise ships; strange, exotic combinations of dishes but without a great deal of flavor. We found much of it to be bland, especially the coffee. Also disappointing: They charge for soft drinks, water, coffee service if requested in a lounge, etc. At current cruise prices, we felt these should be "no charge".
Princess has "anytime dining" which is great, but reservations need to be made because everyone wants to eat around the same time to save time for the shows.
CASINO was just "OK"; not many big winners, few newer video machines, many older 25-cent and $1 mechanical reels. The "cash out" feature in the casino allows you to transfer $$ in and out of a machine on your room/account card; very neat and handy.
All in all, we enjoyed our cruise and we felt that Princess gives good value and a pleasant experience for the money. Another tip: if you take this cruise to the canal, read David McCullough's "The Path Between the Seas" beforehand and buy Anne Vipond's "Panama Canal by Cruise Ship" -- you won't be disappointed.