Number of Cruises: 8
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Island Princess
Sailing Date: October 27th, 2003
Itinerary: Panama Canal
My wife and I are in our mid 30’s/early 40’s. This was our 8th cruise and our 4th cruise on Princess. We’ve also sailed twice on Royal Caribbean and twice on Celebrity.
This 10-day sailing marked the 1st time that we sailed for longer than 7 nights. All of our previous cruises have been on various Caribbean itineraries.
We flew down the night before the trip (booked our own air) and stayed at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport Hilton. This is the hotel we always stay at when we cruise out of Port Everglades. It’s a nice hotel and it’s very convenient…just 5 minutes from the Airport and 10 minutes from the Port. We took a shuttle to the port the morning of the cruise at about 11:30. Since we are Captain’s Circle Platinum members, we went into the Platinum Club line but since the line next to us was moving faster we were directed to the faster line. The terminal was obviously very crowded but considering how many people are boarding the ship, the Embarkation process went smoothly for the most part and we were on the ship by 12:30 or so.
We booked a category AB mini-suite (D505). This was a roomy cabin, with an uncovered balcony. Some folks don’t like the idea of an uncovered balcony, which can be viewed from the cabins above but we enjoy it. Since there is no cover, you have a clear view of the sky and the stars at night. The cabin itself was nice but nothing fancy. It had light blue carpet with bleached wood furnishings. There was plenty of closet and drawer space. Amenities included two TV’s (not sure why you need two TV’s), a fridge, a vanity, a safe and a good size bathroom with a tub/shower combo. The tub/shower was nice because it had more room than a standard cruise ship shower. If you are over 6 feet tall, showering might be a bit awkward because showerhead is only about 5 feet off of the tub floor and the ceiling itself was no more than 6’ high in the shower. The only issue we had with this cabin is that it was located directly across from one of the ship’s service elevators and this area was sometimes noisy. The service elevator’s location is not shown in the diagram of the ship so we had no idea this was the case when we booked the cabin. The noise was not really anything to complain about, but we were awakened briefly on a few mornings due to the noise made when the staff worked there.
Overall Impression of the Ship
The ship is beautiful. All of the lounges and public areas are nicely decorated and unique from one another. The atrium is much larger than the atriums on the Grand Class ships and we liked this. Because the ship is only four months old there was no wear and tear to be seen. Public areas are clean and shiny. We usually learn our way around a ship pretty quickly but the layout of this one confused us a bit. We never seemed to be going in the right direction. That was our problem though!
There are so many lounges to choose from. Our favorite lounge was Crooners Martini Bar, which is located in the atrium on deck 7. Here they serve dozens of different types of martinis as well as any other type of beverage you can think of. If that’s not your style there is a coffee bar a few levels down, a lounge in the front section of the Bayou Café, the Wheelhouse (which has a rich nautical theme) as well as many others. The large Princess Theater is used for the Broadway type shows as well as for some of the comedians and other performances. The Universe Lounge is a beautiful, multi-purpose venue that was used for demonstrations and a number of performances and lectures.
Of course food is very subjective to everyone’s own opinion. Please keep that in mind when you read the information to follow. As I mentioned earlier, this was our 4th Princess cruise. We opted for traditional dining, second seating. Our overall impression of the food in the dining room on this ship was that it was not nearly as tasty as the food we have experienced in the past with Princess. Nothing was ever bad, but nothing was ever outstanding either. Only one or two of our entrees stood out as being very good. There was always plenty to choose from and the meals were always hot. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d have to give the dining room entrees a rating of a 6. As always, if you don’t like something, the waiters are happy to replace your meal with another choice. Bread, appetizers, deserts and the like were almost always better than the entrees themselves. Also, some of the little “special touches” Princess used to provide are now missing. Not a big deal, but two examples of this are that the waiters no longer put the dressing on your salad for you. Your salad comes with the dressing of choice already on it unless you request it to be on the side. Also, none of the deserts or meals get prepared tableside as they have been in the past. Some of the pastas and deserts used to be made before your eyes. Not any more. We just missed these special touches that enhanced the dining experience. The bottom line though is this…as passengers, we’re not doing any cooking, cleaning or shopping for food so how can anyone really complain about the meals??
The Horizon Court Buffet food was at about the same level as we had experienced in the past. Taste ranged from OK to very good, depending on what you selected. We encountered a few instances of stale bread and cereal. Other Food items such as pizza, burgers and hot dogs by the pool were excellent.
The ship offers two alternative restaurants…Sabatini’s, which serves Italian food and the Bayou Café, which serves New Orleans-style dishes. These two venues have nominal cover charges. The Bayou Café’s cover charge used to include a drink with your meal but it no longer does. Since we had experienced Sabitini’s on our last trip, we opted not to try it again. Our meal in the Bayou café was excellent. The only issue here is that there is TOO MUCH wonderful food served! The Bayou’s food was by far the best meal we had all week. The atmosphere in this restaurant is great and included jazz musicians and piano music to enjoy while you dine. We highly recommend this meal option. I should also point out that on no occasion did we ever see that either Sabatini’s or the Bayou Café were fully booked. There were always empty tables (sometimes quite a few) when we glanced in at mealtime. Not sure why this was the case.
Without a doubt, the current staff on this ship is about as friendly as we have ever experienced on a ship. This applies to the bartenders, the room stewards and everyone on the cruise staff throughout the ship. The Cruise Director is Alistair Greener. By coincidence, Alistair has been the cruise director on all four of our Princess cruises. He is hysterical and goes out of his way to keep you happy and busy. Hopefully we’ll have him as our CD for a 5th time at some point in the future!
We are personally not big fans of the Broadway style shows so we did not attend any of these and therefore cannot comment on them. The comedians ranged from merely OK, to very good, depending on your tastes. By far the most enjoyable show was the “Pub Night” show that was presented by the staff on the next to last night of the voyage. Lounge entertainment ranged from Excellent in the Bayou Café to good/fairly good in the other lounges.
The itinerary was made up of four sea days and the following ports of call detailed below. These are our opinions of the islands themselves, not of any shore excursions offered. For the most part the residents of these islands were very friendly.
- Ocho Rios, Jamaica: Typical Caribbean Island…In our opinion, nothing too fancy here if you don’t take a shore excursion. Good for souvenir shopping.
- Panama Canal: An AWSOME experience. If you have the chance to see this engineering marvel, take the opportunity. It is absolutely amazing. The ship docks in Colon after the canal transit and when our tour bus drove through the downtown area after our excursion, the city didn’t look very safe to us. The machine gun yielding police officers in the streets were a bit intimidating.
- Limon, Costa Rica: In our opinion, this was a wasted stop. Good day to stay on the ship.
- Grand Cayman: By far, one of the nicest Caribbean Islands. Very well maintained, very clean and very nice shopping. You do not get hounded here like you do in many of the other Caribbean ports of call.
Being that this was a 10-night voyage, we fully expected a slightly older crowd on this sailing compared to our previous 7-night cruises. We were shocked at just how sharply the average passenger age jumped though. I’d say that approximately 10% of the passengers were under the age of 45. Perhaps another 20% of the passengers were in the 45 to 65 age bracket. The vast majority of the passengers on this voyage were into their 60’s 70’s and 80’s. This is not a bad thing….we have fun with almost everyone, but we are just a bit more accustomed to having more people on a cruise in our age bracket. Hopefully when we are older, we will still be able to have just as much fun as these folks were on this trip.
- A great staff that will go out of their way to make your vacation special
- A beautiful ship
- Well organized shore excursions
- Never busy laundry rooms (which we utilized for the 10-day trip to minimize some packing space)
Some Negatives (not complaints, but little annoyances….just because nothing can be perfect!)
- Upper level seating in the Universe Lounge is awkward due to a glass barrier that surrounds the upper deck right at eye level. This makes seating in this area awkward and annoying because the glass interferes with your view of the stage below. It bothered us to the point that we made an effort not sit up there.
- The Lotus Pool area has a retractable glass roof. When closed the area is nicely air-conditioned and enjoyable if you want to escape the heat of the lido pool area. But, every day shortly after lunch the roof was opened up and the area became just as warm as the lido pool. I would have been nice for the roof to have been kept closed so that at least one of the pool areas was kept cool.
- A pad to keep our mattresses
together was not available and the queen setup we requested magically
separated into two twins during the night several times as we slept. This
got a bit annoying.
Overall this was a great trip on a great ship with excellent tablemates. Please feel free to e-mail us if you have any questions or want more detailed info. We love to share our cruise experiences.