by Hank M
October 9, 2007
We recently returned from the Oct 9th sailing on the Island Princess from Los Angeles to Ft Lauderdale via the Panama Canal. On this cruise we celebrated our 50th anniversary. The views are ours alone and passengers on the same cruise may have different opinions.
Pre-Cruise: We opted for the Princess two day pre-cruise at the LA Airport Marriot. Princess excels in these programs. We were met at LAX by two Princess Reps and quickly placed on the hotel shuttle. The Marriot is a nice hotel. The rooms, though small, are clean and bright. The only drawback is the area. There are only a couple of places to eat nearby and the food in the hotel expensive. We used VIP tours one day for a 5 hour tour of the LA area. The second day was spent at Disneyland. We have been to Disneyworld a number of times and really enjoyed seeing the California version. The next morning you were given a bus number and we were off to San Pedro and the Island Princess. From arrival to departure it was well organized.
Embarkation at San Pedro was fast. Being Platinum cruisers there were only 8 people in line although regular check-in lines were longer. We were onboard in less than 15 minutes, received a nice Princess upgrade, and proceeded to cabin A321. Our cabin served us well for the 15 days as it was clean and bright with the usual storage space and small bathroom. We were very pleased. Our Cabin Steward, although a little short on personality, was very efficient. We left him a little extra at the end of the cruise.
Without going into detail may we say the Island Princess is a beautiful ship. The size was perfect, less than 2000 passengers. All of the venues were very nice, good after dinner entertainment and nice spots to relax. One of our favorites was the Lotus Spa and Pool. This was the "Adults Only" area. Very nice decor, a few hot tubs and beautiful pool. We enjoyed the relaxing music in the area. At night some parents did bring their kids in the pool but by then it was quiet and it was no big deal. There were also lounges available in the regular pool area, not nearly the "chair hogs" one finds on the usual Caribbean runs.
Food: Like entertainment this is very subjective. We cannot comment on the regular dining room as we used "Anytime" dining. We tend to eat early so we never had a wait. We enjoy a table for two and never had a problem getting one. The tables for two are in reality tables for four and we met some delightful people during our mealtime. We opted one night to dine in the Bayou Cafe for an extra $15 pp. We were extremely pleased in the New Orleans style meal and felt we received our money's worth. We dined in the 24 Lido Buffet several nights. The food was good, not great, but again the subjective thing creeps in here again.
Let me briefly toss in the Formal Dress thing at this point. On this cruise there were 3 Formal Nights. We dressed for the first and last, opting for the buffet on the middle night. I would say the mix was about 70% dark suit and 30% tux. Yes, there were a couple of rebels with open neck sport shirts, but I don't want to get this controversy ramped up again! A good number of people changed into more comfortable attire for the evening shows and again this is a matter of opinion but in no way offended us personally!
Entertainment: Again we approach something subjective. What we enjoy, you may not! We were fortunate to have been able to see the second performance of "So You Wanna Dance". Outstanding! The other production shows were "Piano Man" and "Motor City". We had seen both these productions on prior cruises but still enjoyed them. The Princess singers and dances and the lead performers were excellent. So young and so much energy! Oh my! There were also the usual array of Comedians, Magicians etc. All were entertaining.
The Ports (very briefly):
Huatulco, Mexico: In one word "Beautiful"! It is the new Cabo! Beautiful beaches and magnificent scenery. They are planning for the explosion which is certain to come. At this time they want to keep the area "their little secret". I don't blame them! We also stopped to try Mexican Mescal drinks. It got kind of blurry after that!
Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala: All the tours were well received. We opted for the "Drive Through Animal Sanctuary", and had complimentary fries, beer and soft drinks in the thatched hut refreshment area. We got caught in a real jungle rainstorm but with the heat and humidity it felt good!
Puerto Cortino, Nicaragua: Very poor area. Some passengers say it is a "diamond in the ruff" but will take time to develope. Some liked it and some didn't. We are from the "didn't" camp. We had a scary situation which we will not cover here. The jury is out on this stop!
Puntarenas, Costa Rica: Again the tours were mostly well received. We opted for the Mangrove Boat Tour and Scarlett MacCaw Santuary". We saw some huge croc's along the banks of the Mangroves along with many birds and monkeys. The sanctuary itself, with the beautiful Red and Green MacCaws all allowed to fly free was one of the highlights of our trip. Costa Rica itself is beautiful and the people friendly.
The Panama Canal: What can be said about the all day journey though the heat and humidity and magnificent scenery of this man-made wonder. This is an experience we wish everyone could do in their lifetime. Magnificent!
Cartagena: What a beautiful old city this is! We attempted a walking tour of Cartagena but as soon as your feet quit moving you are besieged by a relentless array of vendors. We never heard what our guide was explaining. I could have bought a genuine Rolex watch for $25. (for you I will make it $15). Stupid me! Again it is a beautiful city!
Aruba: Bright, colorful and fun. Been there before so no tours. Shopped a bit and returned to ship.
Montego Bay, Jamaica: The best part of Jamaica is when your ship sails out of the harbor. Personal opinion only!
Fort Lauderdale: Opted for our usual "walk-off" debarkation and it worked well. We were at the airport by 8:30. The friendly folks at Delta said they would get us on an earlier fligh to Detroit. Then they mentioned this little favor would cost us $100 extra. We waited!
Finally -- Great cruise on a fine Princess ship. The weather was excellent although very hot and humid. We were a couple of days ahead of the Pacific storms and had smooth seas all the way. This was cruise #29. We have #30 already booked and are in the hunt for #31. We are very fortunate to be able to do what so many people dream about. Don't think we do not appreciate it!