Well yes, I'm back, and thank you all for the kind comments. Had a wonderful time. I made the tough decision early-on not to try to stay in touch--I wanted to do it daily and thoroughly or not at all; and we we're forewarned early on that there would not be internet access the first two days and last two days due to a satellite issue, and as BJS pointed out, when it was working, it was painfully slow.
I did, however, take copious notes and over the next few days will try to condense them into a coherent review.
Briefly, the trip met or exceeded all expectations; of course one of the expectations of travel is that not everything will meet your expectations, and in that, we were not dissapointed.
(still with me?)
Princess remains an excellent value for the cruise dollar; and there was much about this cruise that was outstanding--first and foremost the ship itself; Island Princess is just a gorgeous ship--not without a few design flaws I'll go into later--but beautiful, clean and very well maintained. But then she's only four years old so that should be a given.
But there were some inconsistencies I have not encountered before; for example: breakfast and lunch in the dining room were excellent every time we chose that option--but dinners, while usually outstanding, were sometimes very ordinary. The presentation was always great but sometimes the substance was not so great (Penny--don't fret; the soups are still great--they have a new cream of cauliflower seasoned with curry and ginger and a zucchini bisque that I could have made a meal of).
Also, the dining room staff, for the most part, was very attentive and cheerful; but there were some that were sullen and others downright rude.
At the same time, the cabin steward, buffet staff and cruise staff could not have been more attentive and friendly.
The entertainers ranged from some of the best I have ever seen on a ship to some of the worst--go figure! The highlight, as usual, were the singers and dancers in the production numbers. The orchestra backing the shows was the best I have seen and the lounge combos were much better than usual--and boy, I'm a tough critic there! One of the high points was a string quartet that appeared at various venues and times throughout the cruise--even afternoon tea.
Another pleasant surprise was the shore excursions; all five of the five we took were great. I will continue to be a proponent of ship-sponsored excursions.
Another contrast was embarkation and debarkation. We arrived at the terminal at 12:00 and by 12:30 were eating a fantastic hand-carved turkey dinner with all the trimmings. I recall someone else having this experience on another line but this was a first for Princess. Debarkation, on the other hand, was the proverbial Chinese fire drill. In all fairness to Princess I must say that it was the passengers themselves that were the biggest problem. If people would just listen to the very simple and clear instructions and FOLLOW THEM, it would go much smoother. But there are always those who try to beat the system and muck it up for the rest of us. Even at that, we were off at 9:50--great, considering we had no forward travel plans.
So all-in-all, a truly wonderful vacation. I will post more detail in coming days.
It's great to be back and I really and truly missed you guys and gals!
Rick, glad you had a wonderful cruise. You certainly were missed. Loved reading your review and look forward to more. And I hope you took lots of pics. I was the one that posted about getting on Glory early and had the great Turkey dinner. Glad you got to get on early.
Looking forward to hearing more, and again glad you had a safe and great cruise, your wit and wisdom were certainly missed.
Dwayne, thank you so much for that warm welcome; I really missed all of you also. In spite of a few glitches it really was a dream cruise. So it was you that had turkey dinner! Sorry, but I just couldn't place who it was; what a great way to start a cruise.
Took tons of photos, but don't hold your breath--the wife and I are still neophytes at this digital photography thing. Truth is I still shoot 35mm; she does the digital. But we're learning.
f-mattox, welcome back. Glad you had a good cruise. Loved hearing about the Island Princess. We'll be on her in 2 days. Can't wait to hear more of your review. Hope you post more before we leave. Who was the cruise director?
I know how excited you must be about now. I'm not able to put a review together before you leave as I had to go right back to work (I work weekends); but I'll try to tell you a little more.
The cruise director was Billy Hygate, the Godfather of all cruise directors; he's been with Princess something like 25 years and is just as energetic and enthusiastic as ever. He did a Tom Jones medley that blew everybody away. The Tatra String Quartet will be on through July so if you like classical music (or even if you don't) you should check them out. Afternoon tea to string quartet music may sound a little highbrow, but it's really quite enjoyable.
If comedian Kevin Hughes is still on make every effort to see his shows--best comic I've ever seen on a ship; and he dosen't resort to a potty-mouth to be funny, but is still adult--excellent.
There are no bad seats in the Princess Theater but try to get there at least 20 minutes before showtime as it is usually full--especially for the production shows, "Piano Man" and "Motor City". "Tribute", a salute to the Beatles, the Beach Boys and the "Rat Pack" (strange combination) was in the Universe Lounge, all the way aft, and you really need to be early because that lounge, while one of the most unique I've seen, has a balcony that is almost useless as most sightlines are spoiled by railings or sound and lighting equipment. And on the main level the couches are quite comfortable but the chairs are not, and passengers figure this out rather quickly.
If you like karaoke, they have a version of "American Idol" called "Princess Pop Star"; passengers compete and are actually voted on by the audience. They have several heats during the cruise and the winners of each heat compete in the finals on the last night. It's a hoot.
They have huge overstuffed leather chairs with built in CD players and earphones in the library so take a few favorite CD's along--or they have some you can check out.
Depending on the weather, you have the open Lido pool or the covered Lotus pool with teak furniture and soothing music.
The Horizon Court (buffet) is a very attractive room with beautiful views forward and to the sides, but try to avoid peak hours as it gets very hectic; some people get very aggressive at feeding time.
The dining rooms, Provence for traditional and Bordeaux for anytime, are nearly identical and both lovely. I ate in both, but that's another story.
There are two alternative dining rooms. The Bayou cafe is excellent; we had filet mignon and porterhouse with all kinds of extras like cornbread and jambalaya. But one of the highlights of the cruise was dinner at Sabatini's; outstanding food and service. You order one of the entrees (my wife had lobster and I had Chilean sea bass) and they bring you a little of literally everything on the menu--course after delectable course. Dinner took two hours--and we savored every minute of it.
The Grill on deck by the pool has great burgers, hot dogs and grilled chicken sandwiches. The pizza--not so hot; and I refuse to pay for soft serv ice cream. But you can get the real thing occasionally in the buffet.
Well Lanie, I've covered some of the high points. If I can answer something specific for you, please ask; as you can probably tell, I love to talk about it.
You are going to have an absolutely wonderful cruise.
Dwayne, you keep the kind words coming and I'll just keep on writing.
The first night, once past Catalina Island, was as rough as anything I've experienced. I think it was ChucksOK that referred to it as "the potato patch". And it wasn't just a heavy rolling motion; it was also a serious "smack and shudder", like it was being buffeted by winds and serious waves; from what I hear, pretty much like the previous cruise. In fact my wife and I were at the beach the day the previous cruise sailed, and as we looked at the dark and white-capped sea, I said something like, "I'm sure glad we're not sailing today".
Well, we got ours!
Being up high (Baja deck) and all the way forward didn't help much either. Fortunately, neither of us have any problem with motion sickness so all we lost was a little sleep. But I do feel very sorry for those that were experiencing discomfort--although it didn't seem too widespread; or at least not many were talking about it.
One advantage of a high percentage of, shall we say, more seasoned travelers, is they tend to roll with the punches and not dwell on the negatives. There are, of course, some glaring exceptions--they show up here from time to time.
But the seas gradually subsided and by the second full day it was perfect--nice enough for swimming and sunbathing in the Lido (open deck) pool. They even retracted the glass dome over the Lotus pool.
It got progressively warmer and was beautiful the whole five days at the Islands. Then the process reversed on the return.
We had two days of cloudy skies and "moderate" seas, but nothing like the first night. From two days out of Ensenada on it was beautiful again.
So, it was really only one rough night out of fifteen--not bad!
Thanks f-mattox! We're so excited can hardly sleep anymore. This is going to be such a strange cruise. We've never been to Alaska, only cruised to the Caribbean. Never used Princess. Not sure how much we'll be able to see, the forecast shows rain every day in every port, but we're determined to enjoy this no matter what.
We love classical music and can't wait to hear the Tatra String Quartet, and we love comedians. Hope Kevin Hughes is still on.
I see you have another cruise booked on this ship next April. Did you book it during your cruise?
Got a few last minute details to take care of today. Other than that, we're ready to roll!