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Island Princess Review - 10 Fabulous Days - Part II


pklein9747

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ENTERTAINMENT

The entertainment on the ship was varied and good. We enjoyed the productions of Piano Man and Tribute and heard that the crew talent show was outstanding. The magician/comic, Scott Alexander was good and the comedy of Fred Klett had everyone roaring; Billy Vader, the other comic, wasn’t good or funny, forgetting his act right in the middle. Some in our group took advantage of ballroom dancing lessons, line dancing, trivia and special presentations. Everyone was happy with the quality of these activities. We made our normal deposit in the casino and here again there were issues with service as my husband complained that no one ever came around to ask if you wanted something to drink. He had to search out a server while playing.

 

PORTS:

ARUBA: Since we had only a short window of time here, a group of 12 of us took two vans to Eagle Beach across from the Amsterdam Manor. The charge was $3 per person one way. The beach was beautiful and empty (especially at 8 AM). The water was much cooler than we expected but refreshing. Very little wave activity. Lounges were available for $6 each and we were all able to secure palapas to sit under if we wanted some shade. There were restrooms available for use at the Amsterdam Manor and had we been there longer, we could have taken advantage of the bar and grill right on the beach which opens at 11 AM. We took the local bus back to the ship at a cost of only $1.30. Shopping area was quite crowded with a mix of high-end shops and locals selling their wares.

 

CARTAGENA: For goodness sakes, get off the ship and see this beautiful city. Our group of 20 arranged a tour with Lee Miles. We had Doris as our guide and she was wonderful, sharing with us her love and knowledge of Cartagena. A large mini-bus was big enough to accommodate our group of 20. We were the first group at La Popa Monastery and had time to take pictures in its beautiful courtyard before it became over run with others from the cruise excursions. We then rode through the city to the San Felipe Fortress and climbed all the way to the top where Doris explained the rich history of the Fort and shared many secrets about its construction. After that we visited Las Bovedas for some souvenirs and headed to the old city to begin a one hour walk through the beautiful streets. We toured the Palace of the Inquisition and walked through Bolivar Square. Did we encounter locals trying to sell us stuff? Yes, everywhere, but a firm ‘No Thank you’ worked every time. At no time did we ever feel unsafe. We ended our tour at Pierino Gallo Center where Lee Miles has his emerald store. While you pay for your tour there, there is no expectation or pressure to buy any jewelry at all. There is a great little store there, “Coffee And…” where you can buy some good Colombian coffee and other souvenirs. Doris allowed more than enough time at each venue and we never felt rushed.

 

PANAMA CANAL: The reason for our trip. The trip from the Caribbean Sea through the Gatun locks was amazing. When they say get up early to see it all, they mean it. We didn’t wake until 6:30 AM and missed entering the first lock! Be sure to view the trip through from both sides and the front and back of the ship, totally different perspectives give you a much better understanding of what is happening. It took over 2.5 hours to get through the locks and into Gatun Lake.

 

Here is where we ran into one of our glitches. We were scheduled for the Panama by Boat excursion which would take us all the way through the canal to the Pacific Ocean by ferry and then back to the ship by bus. This was the first of 20 excursions to tender off the ship and was cancelled 10 minutes before we were to leave. Princess’s explanation was that there was too much traffic throughout the canal and we would arrive back in Cristobal too late. We accepted that and asked to be put on another excursion. We were told by a member of the shore excursion staff that we were stuck on the ship; they could not accommodate us on any other excursion. When pressed about trying to do something for us, we were rudely told to get out of the way. While we understood the traffic explanation we were very upset being treated the way we were and not being able to see what we had traveled so far for. Our outrage took us to passenger services where they did what they could and offered us the opportunity to put in writing our complaints. These were addressed by the tour office and onboard credit was issued to all who had booked the excursion. I am sure this tour has been cancelled in the past and believe that Princess should have some type of alternative plan as one cannot just walk off the ship and grab a taxi to learn about the local culture. So, we stayed on the ship for 6 hours as it went back through the locks and got off to shop at the market on the pier in Cristobal.

 

LIMON, COSTA RICA. Here we had prebooked an excursion with J.J. He met us at the pier exactly as he had said with a large luxury passenger bus for 18 of us. He has a vast knowledge of Costa Rica and you can tell he loves his country. Our first stop was a local fruit stand on the side of the road where we sampled locally grown organic bananas, star apples, oranges, and the sweetest, juiciest pineapple any of us every tasted. We then headed off to a DelMonte Banana Plantation where J.J. gave us a full explanation of the growing, harvesting and packaging of the bananas. Who knew so much was involved in the production of this tasty produce! It was then off for a one hour tour of the Torteguero Canal by boat. We didn’t see a lot of wildlife, some herons and other birds and some sloths up in the trees but it was beautiful. J.J. stopped and picked some flowers for us to see up close and also stopped at a friend’s to show off his pet…a small crocodile that we had an opportunity to touch. J.J. then took us to Playa Bonita for a swim (beautiful warm water with some great waves) and an authentic Costa Rican lunch (casada with chicken) with good local beer. We finished with a visit to a local supermarket where we picked some good Costa Rican coffee at a great price as well as vanilla and banana vinegar. (J.J. has some great recipes that he shared with us!) Again, we were never rushed and what was originally thought to be a 4-hour tour lasted 6 hours.

 

OCHO RIOS, JAMAICA. We had originally scheduled a private catamaran to the Falls and then snorkeling. It was scheduled for 9 AM. However, in checking my email on the ship it was discovered that the time was switched to 12:30 PM and as we had to be back on the ship at 3:30 PM, we knew we would be too rushed and cancelled. So that left us with a last-minute decision as to what to do. Along with another couple we chose the Chukka River Tubing excursion through the ship, and we were happy we did. It was a somewhat cool, overcast day as we left for our trip up into the mountains of Jamaica. As we glimpsed the river and its rapids through the trees on the way up, we knew we were in for some good tubing and the trip down did not disappoint. The rain, which began as we started our trip down the river, just added to the ambiance and beauty of the White River Valley. And those rapids were so much fun. The three guides on the river were extremely helpful and friendly.

 

 

THE SHIP. The Island Princess is a beautiful ship that, other than the buffet, is beautifully thought out. It never, ever felt crowded. And while the average age on the ship was older, probably mid-sixties, there were a few young couples and children and teens. We never had a problem finding a lounge chair in the shade or the sun and were blessed with beautiful weather everyday except in Ocho Rios.

 

DISEMBARKATION. As with embarkation, it was a breeze. We were off the ship by 9 AM and at the airport via taxi by 9:45 AM.

 

This was a wonderful trip shared with some amazing people who we are now fortunate enough to call our friends. Given the opportunity we would definitely sail this itinerary again but would most likely choose to go all the way through the canal on the ship. We will also sail on Princess again, but after speaking with others, we will probably try Celebrity to experience a better quality of service.

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We will also sail on Princess again, but after speaking with others, we will probably try Celebrity to experience a better quality of service.

Thanks for your review, I enjoyed reading it very much:)

We will be on the Island in 18 days and we can't wait. We had a great time on all our cruises but we have been very satisfied with Princess and and always got a good price. My first cruise was with Celebrity and we didn't find their service any better than on Princess, as a matter of fact, I feel Princess is a notch above. If I felt their service was better than Princess, at least I can say that justifies their higher pricing. But that is only my opinion so I do wish you luck with Celebrity, maybe they improved since we tried them 10 years ago.

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Really enjoyed your review - informative and interesting. Thanks. We also enjoyed your pictures. It looked and sounded like your had great time. If we may make a mini-correction on a couple of your photos: The chapel altar at La Popa has St. Monica on the right, St. Augustine (354-430, St. Monica's son and bishop of Hippo, in ancient Africa) with the Virgen de la Cardelaria in the center.

 

Thanks again for helping us relive our recent Island voyage.

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Really enjoyed your review - informative and interesting. Thanks. We also enjoyed your pictures. It looked and sounded like your had great time. If we may make a mini-correction on a couple of your photos: The chapel altar at La Popa has St. Monica on the right, St. Augustine (354-430, St. Monica's son and bishop of Hippo, in ancient Africa) with the Virgen de la Cardelaria in the center.

 

Thanks again for helping us relive our recent Island voyage.

 

Thanks for the correction. We were so in awe of the beautiful chapel that I'm afraid I may not have been paying attention the way I should to our guide!

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Princess’s explanation was that there was too much traffic throughout the canal and we would arrive back in Cristobal too late.

 

We were on the Panama Canal by Boat excursion on 2/27/09 and I'm wondering if our trip was responsible for causing Princess to cancel your's. There were 4 large buses taking passengers to meet the smaller boat, and our bus broke down on a very rutty, littered road. We were delayed at least an hour, but thankfully the boat waited for us. The delay put us behind in getting through the locks, and we made it back to the Island after our scheduled departure time. The trip on the smaller boat through the locks was amazing, but traveling on what passes for roads in Panama leaves a lot to be desired!

 

I also agree with you on Cartagena. We were pleasantly surprised by how much we enjoyed it. We were on a Princess tour of the fort and monastery.

 

Thanks for sharing your experiences as it brought back very nice memories of our "peek a boo" cruise to the canal!

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Thanks Pat for a very concise report on our cruise, and especially thank you for the wonderful "friends of Doris" tour you et up in Cartegena. Seeing the old city and the historical sites was the best part of the tour for me personally. I especially liked the museum of the Inquisition. We took the tour to the sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica to see the wonderful work Mr. Arroyo is doing there to try and rehabilitate these animals. Seeing the wild howler monkeys and sloths in the trees was really a unique experience. In Ocho Rios Sonsee went for the horseback riding at Chukka Stables and loved the time riding the horses in the ocean. While she was doing that, someone in the stable area was going thru the customer's posessions they had to leave while riiding in the ocean. They found and stole her passport, which we did not not miss until getting ready to walk off the ship on Tuesday. Yes, it was her fault for taking it and losing it .... lesson learned! I would give this cruise a "C" at best. I was dissapointed in the food in the buffet and agree with Pat in how it was organized. I was constantly having to backtrack to get something that should have been co-located with that item like butter for the bread, etc. Thank God for the pizza! I ate a lot of it on this trip. I'm not a fan of the grill after getting a bad burger on the very 1st day of our Tahitian Princess cruise, and losing 10 pounds on that cruise. I generally avoid the grills now since they tend to cook things and then heat them up again when you order something. We loved the fresh cookies served in the afternoon. I would be there waiting most days since the chocalate chip cookies are gone right away. Hint: you can get them from room service in the evening :). They did a great job with embarkation. We got there about 1:00 pm and breezed right thru every part of the process. No lines anywhere, and our luggage was there by the time we got back from lunch. This was our 1st time being at the rear of the ship and I thought there was just too much engine vibration and shudders from way down below I willl go back to the middle next time. Like everyone else that got cancelled from our Panama Canal tour, that was a huge dissapointment for us. What a drag to have been so close, and yet so far. Thanks Pat, and to the others who spoke up right away. I was going to wait until we got home and write a letter to Princess. I wonder how often this excursion gets cancelled? The stop in Cristobal was a total waste of time, except for picking up our passengers. You see the same old junk that everyone else is selling, and you don't dare leave the pier area. I still don't understand why they even bothered with a 4 hour stop in Aruba.

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  • 2 weeks later...

So sorry you missed the tour through the canal - it made the trip for us - Im sure the Princess people were as disappointed as you were that the tour had to be cancelled - but surely you do not think they could do anything about it -

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Princess had no control of ship traffic through the canal, but the ABSOLUTELY had control over not allowing us (99 of us!!!) to join ANY other excursion had, or to make up another one for us!

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It's snowing in Albuquerque on Easter!!! Supposed to hit 70 degrees on Tuesday!

 

Hi Patti!

 

Wow, I thought it was chilly here...it was in the low 50's...but snow, no thank you! Now I know why you two want to move out of there...I'm sure it didn't snow in Florida today!!

 

Looking forward to our next get-together. I'll be purchasing the plane tickets this week.

 

Pat

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Princess had no control of ship traffic through the canal, but the ABSOLUTELY had control over not allowing us (99 of us!!!) to join ANY other excursion had, or to make up another one for us!

 

Unfortunately, no cruise line can conjure up additional shore excursions or space on existing shore excursions at the last minute. At some point Princess tells the tour operators how many passengers to expect and the tour operators provide the resources for that count.

 

In some cases all busses, guides, etc. are already fully booked. If they are not, they are still not instantly available.

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Yeah, we got about an inch in the early morning. Melted right away. I guess it was in the 50s by afternoon.We do get weird weather here. I'm glad you're getting the tickets. We're so excited!!!!

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