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Island Princess Panama Canal Review Feb 09


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Island Princess Feb 22, 09

My husband and I (both in our 50’s) just returned from our first cruise to the Panama Canal. This was a 10 day round trip from Ft. Lauderdale on the beautiful Island Princess. We have previously enjoyed cruises on the Grand, Star, Dawn and Emerald, but the Island by far has been our favorite.

We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale a day early and stayed at the Hampton Inn on Stirling Road. This hotel was about $20 more than the Comfort Inn next door that we stayed at in 2008 and was well worth the additional amount. The room was bright and cheery with plush bedding and a large bathroom. We used the hotels complimentary airport pick up service and also their free shuttle to the port the next morning. In the afternoon we walked about ½ mile to Kmart to purchase some last minute items for the cruise. That evening we walked to Michael’s Pub at the Comfort Inn for a barbequed burger and draft beer.

The next morning the shuttle transported us to Pier 29 before noon. The check-in process was unbelievably fast. By 12:30 we had dropped off our carry-on in the room and were enjoying our first lunch in the Horizon Court. It was pretty busy at that time and shortly thereafter we found the outdoor grill was open but no one knew. Next year we will head directly to the Grill for our 1st on board meal.

Here is my commentary on our cruise, arranged by subject:

Ship: For us, the Island is just the right size. There are plenty of entertainment and dining options, but it is easier to navigate than the other ships we have vacationed on. The promenade on deck 7 is the same elevation, unlike the larger ships that had stairs where you least expected them. The pools, spa, gym and horizon court were all easy to access from deck 14. The space/passenger ratio is higher than on other ships and this made everything more enjoyable. Whether you wanted a treadmill at the gym, a spot in the hot tub, a lounge chair at the pool or a seat in the theatre, it was available. The only “standing room only” performance I saw in the Princess Theatre was the culinary demonstration on the last day at sea.

As a side note, not once did I see anyone at the newly added Sanctuary.

Staff: The room and dining staff offered us the same high level of service we have come to expect from Princess. We thought CD Billy Hygate and his staff were great. Their upbeat attitudes made everything more fun.

Room: We had a mid-ship balcony, B524. This was a very quiet location as there were only rooms on one side of the hallway. Each morning we had breakfast delivered to our room to enjoy the peace and solitude. Several days we headed to the large open deck at the aft of Baja deck. This was a great spot for reading and sunbathing.

Food: As on previous trips, we definitely enjoyed the plentiful food offerings. Dinner in the dining room takes a little too long for us, so we often ate our evening meal at the Horizon Court and had our dining room experience at lunch. Dinner at the buffet always features a fresh carved meat and the catch of the day. I loved the stuffed suckling pig and prime rib and also enjoyed the cooked to order mahi mahi and tilapia.

Daytime: I jump started several mornings by going to the free aerobics class at 8:00 a.m. It was ½ hour long and a good workout. The line dancing and ballroom dancing lessons were crowded, but still lots of fun.

My DH attended several of the destination lectures given by Rusty Wilson. He raved about what an interesting speaker Rusty was, so I attended his lecture about his 5 month stay in Iraq. It was riveting.

We also went to a few Wii challenges including bowling and baseball. I will be practicing up so next time I can win one of those fabulous “gold” medals.

Evening Entertainment: The DH and I favor comedians over production shows. We saw a number of good comedy, juggling and magician acts. Our favorite was Billy Vader. We’re not big classical fans, but we loved the classical concert by the Paradise String Quartet. In between shows, we usually participated in the nightly trivia challenges. We won tote bags at the “Majority Rules Gameshow”, a fun twist on trivia.


Aruba: The stop at this great port is too short. We went on the ships “Snorkel and Sail”. The snorkeling was very good and the rum punch afterward wasn’t too bad either.

Cartagena: We choose to stay aboard this day. Fellow passengers that went on tours all commented on the aggressive vendors and begging children that affected their tours. So sad.

Panama: We had a great view of the transit from the aft Baja deck. We disembarked and went on the Chagres River Cruise and Walk. The tour guide was wonderful and we saw many monkeys, sloth, birds and more.

Costa Rica: Our tour to spend a ½ day at the Hotel Playa Westfalia was canceled due to lack of participation. There wasn’t too much left to pick from, so we did the Countryside train and eco-cruise. It was a nice tour and included a visit to a banana plantation. It rained, which I now know it does each day in Limon, but it was only during the cruise on the covered boat.

Ocho Rios: We walked less than 1 mile from the James Bond Pier to Island Village shopping center. We browsed through many nice stores and then made our way to Margarita Ville where the beer is ice cold and the nachos are piled high. My DH had to try the swim up bar and I have a photo to prove it.

Summary: Last year we found the Emerald Princess much too crowded for our taste. The Island Princess is perfect to us. We are hoping to go on the Island in 2010 for the Ft. Lauderdale to Acapulco Panama Adventurer.


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Thx. for your review. We are booked on a Ft. L. to Vancouver cruise in Apr. 2010 on the Island. Really looking forward to it. We were on the Royal last year and we also enjoy the smaller ships. Seemed more intimate and it was easier to get to know fellow passengers and the crew.

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We are booked on the Island in Oct. and I can't wait! Glad you had a good time!


Also, where is the swimup bar?


The swim up bar is right in the middle of Margaritaville. They also have a waterslide! You can see some photos of this on the web site for Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville.

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We did the Island Princess over Christmas. We went from Ft Lauderdale to Acapulco. Your review brought back some really good memories! Thanks! Gabrielle


I'm glad you enjoyed reading my review. I really enjoyed writing it!


When you did the Ft. Lauderdale to Acapulco trip did you have Princess arrange the flights? I usually take care of flights myself to save money and to get exactly the flights I want. However, I've never booked a flight that involved more than one airport. Do you have any advise for me? Thanks!

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Thanks for your concise review - it was very helpful. We are 1st time cruisers on the Island Princess for a full transit 18 day cruise next month -April 23 (I'm so excited!!!!) ... so this was timely. Thanks again.

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I'm glad you enjoyed reading my review. I really enjoyed writing it!


Cruz, how come you didn't join the roll call for this cruise? We had a meet and greet with 9 couples at the Wheelhouse on the 23rd, and several of us had fun together on excursions. Seeing familiar faces around the ship and in ports definitely added to our enjoyment. And we even won luggage tags thanks to the combined brainpower of the CC'ers in both Trivia and Scattergories.


I agree that it was a terrific cruise, and we loved that the ship never seemed to be crowded, except the lines at Italian night at the Anytime dining room. Otherwise we got right into the ADR.

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I'm glad you enjoyed reading my review. I really enjoyed writing it!


When you did the Ft. Lauderdale to Acapulco trip did you have Princess arrange the flights? I usually take care of flights myself to save money and to get exactly the flights I want. However, I've never booked a flight that involved more than one airport. Do you have any advise for me? Thanks!


Hey Sun Cruzer! We took care of our flights ourselves- well my friend who is a TA took care of it... We stayed an extra day in Acapulco and two extra in Ft. Lauderdale. We started in Ft. Lauderdale and that was great. We also stayed at the Hampton Inn.


Flying out of Acapulco was God-Awful. The Delta had booked us on an Air Mexico flight- since Delta didn't fly the day we were leaving. The run around began with Air Mex being over booked. Then Delta had to FIGHT to get us on the flight. Then we had a problem with getting out of Mexico City- Delta had over booked and we had to 'fight' to get our flight out... I think 1/2 of the problem was that we were flying out on January 3 a Sunday so a holiday and everyone trying to get back to the states... It sounded like ALL the Air lines had over booked. I know people who had Princess Air got bumped off their Sunday flight and moved to the Saturday flight... Had a hard time gettting things to go back to what they wanted. Again I know it was the TIME of year more so then anything else.


The Paper work that you get for immigration- DON'T LOSE IT! If you stay over night in Acapulco- they need the paper work when you get to The airport. We were in line with a nice Candaian gentle man and his daughter. They forgot their documents. The man's wife had it at the motel- she was staying an extra few days... It cost him $80 nad he had to go through Immigration again! So never throw out any piece of paper until you are safe and sound at home.


We found that we didn't care for Aapuclo and We didn't care for Mexico City. Of course we went from Acapulco to Mexico City to Atlanta to Minneapolis/St. Paul! We never lost our suitcases.... Just a lot of traveling. That was going to be the case if we had left the day the ship got in or stayed for days.... No easy way to get to Minnesota! ;)

Any more questions? Just ask! Gabrielle

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Thanks for your review, I enjoyed reading it! We leave on the Coral Princess in Sept for the 15 night full transit from LA to Ft Lauderdale. I'm looking so forward to seeing a monkey in a tree...weird I know :D

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I missed the large balconies of the Grand Class ships last month when on the Island. We had a suite on Caribe and the balcony was so narrow that a card table had to be turned diagonally for 4 people to sit at it during the Ultimate Balcony Dinner.



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