Our past cruising?: We have done seven previous cruises. First was June 2006 on 204-passenger Seabourn Spirit, Athens to Istanbul, enjoying these Greek-Turkish areas. Late July 2008 on the 940-passenger Crystal Symphony, Dover/UK to Stockholm, for the Baltics and Russia. July 2010 on the 296-passenger Silversea Silver Cloud from Copenhagen seeing the dramatic Norway coast, above the Arctic Circle, Top of Europe, etc. June, 2011 from Barcelona for Italy, the Croatian Coast on this same 2850-passenger Celebrity Solstice that we used for two weeks from Sydney to Auckland in early 2014. In 2015, we escaped the Midwest cold winter with 26-days doing a return to the Silver Cloud going a 1000 miles up the Amazon River and then visiting, on this back-to-back, follow-up cruise on the same ship ten different Caribbean Islands. Last year, it was our first visit to Africa, doing five days in Cape Town, a ten-day Silver Cloud sailing along the South African coast, then by air to Victoria Falls and six days of safari exploring in Botswana. All four cruise line companies are different and very good with great service, fellow passengers, staff, etc.
What?s best? The honest answer is . . . it depends!!!. Ports, schedules, timing and prices vary much. The most fun is what you are doing now and planning the next fun trip for the future.
What will be the "verdict" for our first time sailing with Princess? This is our first cruise for visiting Colombia, Central America, Mexico and, of course, the famed Panama Canal!. This cruise length is fifteen days with eight sea-days. Lots more sea-days than normal for us. This cruise option came up fairly late as my wife, Penny, learned that some high school classmate were doing this Panama Canal cruise that finishes in scenic and historic San Francisco. Initially, we were not sure such a Panama Canal cruise would be that interesting. BUT, as we talked with a number of other travelers who had done this sailing, they all raved and super praised doing this journey. We got this cruise booked in October, plus scheduling excellent, low-cost Southwest Air non-stop flights to Fort Lauderdale and coming back from the Bay area.
We arrive in Fort Lauderdale, Monday, Feb. 27, ahead of schedule at 1:15 pm, got checked into our 14th floor rooms at the GalleryOne Doubletree overlooking the Intercostal Waterway and with the beautiful blue Atlantic Ocean to the east. Very scenic, sunny and nice!! The Fort Lauderdale "Water Taxi" stopped right at our hotel and we bought an all-day pass. Super enjoyed traveling around, seeing the fancy, mega-million-dollar homes and yachts along these local waterways. We stopped at the Las Olas Blvd. district, having lunch there in this pulsing and happening location, sampling some great galleries, doing more south of the main town, etc. We changed boats and went all of the way down to Hollywood Beach, saw a great sunset as we passed the Port Everglades commercial docking location with many big ship being loaded, enjoyed walking around on the beach-front boardwalk, etc.
We were supposed to get together Monday night dinner with a Cruise Critic board ?star? and fellow-poster with her DH at their favorite local Italian dining place. BUT, he had a dental emergency Sunday with a painful broken tooth and lost gold crown. He got to a dentist, had a "fix" done and is healing now. Good news!
We boarded the Island Princess at 1:30 pm Tuesday and all went smoothly and was fairly efficient. No long lines for waiting! Our line and going through the security scanning actually was quicker than what the Princess ?Elite? passenger experienced. Even with the two bottles of wine carry-on limit, nobody even checked to see how many bottles we actually had as a carry-on. We also bought in Fort Lauderdale a "private stock" of Diet Pepsi, Diet Mountain Dew, sparkling waters, etc. That was easy to have put in a separate, added bag we had and check it directly onto the ship. Easy! Saved lots of money compared to the on-ship beverage costs.
Our first overall impressions on the ship have been very good. Food, both in the main Bordeaux dining room and at the Horizon Court buffet, have been surprisingly done very nicely, offering a wide variety, served warm, being tasty, etc. The buffet has been much above our expectations!! But, for those of us with ?Any Time? dining, however, it only means at many prime hours between and around 6 and 7 pm that you can leave a name and maybe wait 30-45 minutes. Calling this "Any Time" is not exactly true. Calling for a reservation at 8 am to get a dining time in the evening is also a super frustrating challenge/process, unless you get really lucky.
Last night, the first major production show in the Princess Theater was "Encore". We were tipped off by Ann from Dublin, who had been on this same ship doing a Panama Canal transit a couple of weeks ago, that this show was really excellent. Ann was 100% correct!! Yes! Yes!! Encore was spectacular. Great costumes, singing, dancing, sets, lighting, etc. Need proof and solid evidence? I have five wonderful pictures to share!! WOW! Seeing is believing. BUT . . . .
PRINCESS PHOTO BLOCKING??!!: This morning, it was impossible even to connect with the Photobucket picture hosting site. Nor, to upload any of the great pictures taken on-board early in this cruise. You should see some of the nice visuals of the sail-away, ship facilities, food and other fun experiences so far. I went to the tech staff, including talking with the tech department head for this Island Princess ship. He confirmed that Princess has a policy to BLOCK any and all such access!! I explained my goals and past easy uploading for other lines, including the ?good free advertising? from my taking the time to do these postings on Cruise Critic. He understood and ?got it? regarding my frustration. He promised to check with the Princess Central Office bosses to see if any solutions are possible. Sorry, for now!
Yes, I understand that some cruise ships do not want Internet uses with big, BIG bandwidth consumption. BUT, most every one of my pictures I would upload to Photobucket are only 141 KB to 313 KB each in size. In uploading just six pictures at a time, two or three times a day, of this small size, it is hardly a ?data hog?!! I bought and paid of the larger 680 minute Internet package for this cruise in order to share these visuals and our travel details.
Any other reactions or experiences with Princess on these Internet issues?? Sorry, I do not have any handy folks to whom I can e-mail these pictures so that these visuals can be posted by them from their off-ship location. Yes, I could try waiting until getting in a port and uploading from there. But, our first two ports in Aruba and Colombia are very tight with the narrow port time schedules. There would not be any free time to hang there and accomplish what Princess will not allow from the ship.
We arrive tomorrow at 7 am (actually 6 am EST) in Aruba and must do the sail-away by 1 pm. More later.
THANKS! Enjoy! Terry in Ohio
Enjoyed a 14-day, Jan. 20-Feb. 3, 2014, Sydney to Auckland adventure, getting a big sampling for the wonders of "down under? before and after this cruise. Go to:
for more info and many pictures of these amazing sights in this great part of the world. Now at 172,262 views for this posting.