CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews

Princess Cruises Island Princess Panama Canal March 5, 2004

Here is my review of the Island Princess. I am a male in my late 30's. This was my 9th cruise. I have done 4 on NCL, 2 on RCCL, 2 on Princess Including this one and 1 on Holland America.

The ship is a well decorated and nicely appointed. It was not cheesy, including the casino. It was tastefully done. I was not "WOWED" at all by this ship. I am not looking for a Carnival neon type of ship, but it is more on the conservative side than the other ships I have been on.

The state room was great. It was a mini suite on the Dolphin deck in the back of the ship, about 10 rooms from the Stern. We had a covered balcony. Many of the balconies on the ships were not covered. Our friends had balconies on Dolphin deck also, but they were uncovered. When it rained, the uncovered balcony was useless and it rained several times. While ours was covered, we were able to walk out and enjoy the out side with out getting wet. Not to mention that when out on an uncovered balcony, it was like being on stage with many people from above looking down.

The inside layout of the stateroom was the best room I have seen on a cruise ship. We had a large bathroom with a full tub, an awesome closet area, two TV's: one facing the bed and the other the sofa. The TV's were a nice touch. It worked well in our stateroom. I did not see a standard balcony stateroom, so I cannot compare the two, but if you can afford the mini suite, it is definitely worth the money if you like or need the extra room.

The linens and bedding were not great. They were substandard to the other cruise lines I have been on. The sheets were pilly and they did not cover the blankets with another sheet with the turndown service (like some other cruise lines do). Therefore the blankets were exposed and they were scratchy and pilly. The pillows were flat and uncomfortable. The beds, when made up into a queen, would split apart in the middle of the night. It was the most disappointing part of the cruise.

The physical layout of the ship was nice. If you were in the back of the ship, getting to the Horizon Court buffet area (in the front) was far and awkward to get to, but I did not mind the walk.

The pool areas setup could be improved upon. The indoor/outdoor retractable roof pool was very nice. The area was very quiet and elegant. That seemed to appeal to some, but not all, including me. It seemed that most people were interested in sunning at the outdoor Lido Pool area that was livelier. It had the Steel drum tropical music, pool games along with the Grill and Pizza restaurant. It was hard to find a lounge chair poolside at the Lido Pool, while the nicer Lotus Pool had plenty of available chairs. Also, most of the swimmers were in the outdoor Lido pool and sometimes the pool was so crowded with people, that you could not swim, rather just float. While they did a good job with outside pool area, it just needed to be a bigger space with a larger pool.

The food was typical cruise line food in the dining room, it was no better or no worse than any other line I have been on, but the Pizza restaurant on the Lido deck was excellent. I love pizza and being a pizza connoisseur, I believe they did an awesome job making it. I went to Sabatini's and Bayou Café, Island Princess' specialty restaurants that charges a flat fee to eat. Bayou Café was $10.00 and worth it, Sabatini's was $20.00 and not worth it. For two of us Dining in Sabatini's with 4 drinks total, the bill was close to $80.00 including tips and the $20.00 seating charge per person. I am all in favor of paying for a nice meal, but skip Sabatini's and spend the money on your favorite restaurant when you get home. While the food was good, it was not worth the extra money for the dining experience. Based on the pizza they were serving by the pool, I expected their Italian specialty restaurant be as good, but it was not. You win some; you lose some.

As expected, if you are looking for nightlife on a cruise, this 10 day Itinerary does not have much of one. It really is not the ship that causes it, but the itinerary. There were only a handful of people in the Explorers Lounge after 11:00pm. It did fill up for Karaoke and 50's dance party type of things, but they were usually over by 11:00pm. I read on some reviews and talked to friends that cruised a similar 10-day itinerary and they found the same to be true. Princess did a nice job at trying to encourage nightlife, but if few people show up it does not make for an exciting crowd.

The casino was the nicest casino I have seen on a cruise ship. But I don't gamble much so it was not that important to me.

I usually have a massage while on a cruise ship. I did not use any of the spa services so I cannot comment on it. I kept my eye out for a Sale for massage services towards the end of the trip. While they did discount some massages towards the end, it was not significant. The Gym was nice, but it could have used a few more aerobic machines. In the mornings the gym was crowded and there was sometimes a wait for them. But other than the mornings, it did not seem to get very crowded.

Ports Visited:

Ocho Rios: I did the Dunn's River Falls Climb. It was awesome. I left the group and guide and climbed by myself and it made the experience that much better. Either way it was great.

Panama Canal was awesome. One recommendation if you are staying on the ship and not doing an excursion; when the ship is leaving Gatun Lake and going back through the canal, go to the back of the ship for a spectacular view of the ship being lowered back down to sea level. I stayed on the ship and did not do an excision and thoroughly enjoyed myself at the stern of the ship.

After the locks, the boat tied up next to the Pier in Cristobal Panama. The port had a great little market set up, most likely because the town did not have much to offer. They had local music and dancing along with local crafts and stuff like that. I bought great 100% Haines cotton T-shirts with Panama Canal stuff on them for $5.00 each. A great bargain. If you like shopping, look into a place called the Free Zone. We saw lots of crew running to catch taxis to go there. Apparently it is a shopping market with amazing discounts on clothes, running shoes, electronics etc. By the time I found out about it, it was too late to go and I did not inquire anymore.

Puerto Limon: Do some kind of excursion. The town did not have much to offer. I did one on a boat up a river and it was well worth it.

Grand Cayman: They cancelled swimming with the Rays excursion so we went to 7-mile beach on our own and did a little shopping afterwards. There was not much to the Island but it was a nice day.

Cozumel: Great Island. It is Mexican so it has some flavor as opposed to Grand Cayman with the KFCs and Burger Kings. I did an awesome excursion. It was the ATV (all terrain vehicle) kayak and Snorkel. If you are not interested in riding an ATV, the Jeep off road excursion drives the same route. We drove many miles along the eastern shore beach dirt road, stopped for lunch, swam, rode some more, saw small ruins. It was a great day. The water was too rough to kayak or snorkel, but the ride was so fun that I it did not miss it. If the ATV interests you, reserve one ATV per person. Two people on an ATV can be very uncomfortable.

All in all it was a great cruise. The service from the staff and crew was perfect. I would recommend this ship and trip if the Panama Canal Interests you.

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