At somewhere around 90K gross tons, but only as many passengers as some of the smaller ships, we never felt crowded. It was an itinerary focused on the older crowd and younger cruisers and families should take note that this may not be the right fit for their late night desires in activities. It’s less about high intensity onboard activity than other Cruise lines and more about the destination.
The food at times was outstanding and disappointing at others, but overall it was mostly above the average. Certainly, much better than the Fun Ships.
The entertainment was very good. The comics were actually funny and not offensive or foul mouthed. The musicians, dancers and singers were exceptionally talented and the production shows were outstanding. On this itinerary the star of the show was the Panama Canal and it did not disappoint. What made the canal experience perfect was that it was done in the historic original locks due to the Panamax size of this ship. Other ships can cram three-, four-, five-thousand passengers onboard, but must use the new 2016 locks. A modern beauty, but lacks the historic credentials of its smaller cousin. Better check this out soon, though. It looks as though Princess has opted to use larger ships after this season, likely to push more paying customers through the turnstiles, history be damned. I recommend that you read Pulitzer Award recipient David McCullough’s book, The Path Between the Seas. You will appreciate what you are seeing and paying for so much more.
Our cabin was on Caribe Deck 10, starboard side, forward. Caribe is one of those decks that mostly has other cabins above and below, so the noise is usually not an issue. Forward on the ship may not be for everyone because the undulating motion of the ship pushing through the waves may cause seasickness for some. But my wife and I have owned boats and cruised many times before and seem to have our sea legs firmly established. Normally the side of the ship doesn’t matter much, since on itineraries like Alaska, the Captain will spin the ship to give both sides of the ship equal time and views. At the Canal we enter from the Caribbean side from the north (Yes, the canal runs north and south. Look at a map.) the sun rises in the east, that makes the starboard (west facing) the shady side for your balcony in the morning and conversely, the shady side on its return through the canal in the afternoon when the sun is now heading toward the west. You’ll thank me for this information later.
The stop seems better suited for families with children of many ages, but is rather uninteresting to us, the over 60 crowd. Once you walk around the grounds and take pictures and selfies with the “Amber Cove” sign and then visit the shops. You notice that there is no beach here. That would require an excursion off the property. I’ve been to other cruise line owned shore stops such as Half Moon Cay. Which was excellent. The mood and feel was so much more inviting at HMC than here. With a boat load of us senior in port the mood was more like an empty water park whose day was in the past. Next time I come here, I’ll likely opt to stay onboard where the poolside food is included.