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Island Princess Cruise Review
4.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
1,190 Reviews

Panama Canal is an engineering marvel, but Cartagena is a waste of time!

Island Princess Cruise Review by pearlywhite48

3 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: Nov 2019
  • Destination: the South Pacific
  • Cabin Type: Oceanview

We picked this cruise to mainly see the Panama Canal.

EMBARKATION- Fort Lauderdale is very convenient for us because we live in Tampa. This was one of the easiest and fastest embarkation process we have experienced. We did have to wait to board the ship because the Coast Guard would not clear the ship for some reason. the other passengers that were waiting complained that Princess ran out of coffee and snacks!!! REALLY! You will be on a ship with an all you can eat buffet!! I think we boarded the ship around noon??

CABIN - We immediately went to our room to drop off our carry on items and our cabin steward, Elmer Grande introduced himself. We asked for extra hangers and told him our main concern was to always have ice in our cabin!! Elmer was one of the best cabin stewards we have every had! We have been on over 35 cruises all over the world! Back to the cabin: bed was comfortable, the room was really cold which we love, the towels were old and dingy and pillows were old and flat.

ANYTIME DINING - We had dinner in the Bordeaux Dining Room 5 times during our cruise. We were very impressed with Vijay and his assistant, Christina! We were able to request them 4 out of the 5 times at the Bordeaux. Sadly, we were disappointed with the food. We knew immediately when we had the food from the Horizon Cafe that it would most likely be disappointing in the dining room. The food was bland, no flavor. I am assuming that they have to limit the spices due to having an older group of passengers. SPECIALITY DINING- My husband and I will usually do 2 to 3 nights in the speciality dining rooms. I thought I was prepaying for one night at the Bayou Cafe and one night at the Crown Grill. They did have Sabatini's, but we have not been impressed with Sabatini's on previous Princess ships. Our first night at sea, we had dinner in the Bayou Cafe. Andrew was our waiter and he was excellent. The food on the other hand was disappointing(except for the gumbo). Bland, bland, bland! My husband's New York strip had no flavor. I had the filet mignon and what saved it was the 3 speciality salts that the waiter recommended. So I thought our 2nd speciality restaurant was going to be at the Crown Grill, but I found out there was no Crown Grill. We canceled our 2nd reservation for the Bayou Cafe. A few days later, we decided we wanted to give Sabatini's another chance so we booked a reservation for the 3rd night at sea. Again, DISAPPOINTING! Do not order the Lobster Trio! You will get a tiny lobster tail that is boiled, mushy and looked like a piece of blubber! I was instructed by our adorable waiter(Thai guy with funky glasses) to dip the lobster into the mini bowl of lobster bisque which had 2 microscopic pieces of lobster in it. I think the third food item of the trio was a lobster risotto - I can't remember because it was tasteless! My husband ordered steak again and it was average! We are use to having aged and flavorful steaks.

HORIZON CAFE - there was a wide variety of food to choose from, but again, bland. The only dessert that was exceptionally was the BeeHive Cake. All the others all tasted like they were sugar-free. The service was great.

SHIP ACTIVITIES-boring I do have to say that the ship stayed fairly empty out in the common areas except when there was a sale! Thank goodness my husband and I brought dominoes. The only table big enough to play dominoes was in the library! Unfortunately, it was extremely warm in that area.

SHOWS - we were very please with all of the shows, comedian, magician and the Elton John Tribute.

GRAND CAYMAN - we have been to this Port several times. We picked the Dolphin Encounter and Turtle Centre. I should have known that it was a bait and switch for swimming with the dolphins. I ended paying $70 extra to actually swim with the dolphins. But I did get a picture frame with a photo, a drink and a website to download about 70 pictures. The Turtle Centre was boring. It would have been nice to have a guide telling us interesting facts about the turtles.

CARTAGENA, COLUMBIA - we will NEVER, EVER visit this area again. It is dirty and you are accosted by street vendors selling you junk. If they are not following you and in your face, they are harassing you while you are waiting in an area for the bus or if you are on the bus. The vendors would actually throw merchandise to the upper deck of the Hop On/ Hop Off bus. They are screaming for money and if the passengers do not want the merchandise, you see the the merchandise flying off the bus. I must have told the locals "No thank you" at least 250 times! I do not want magnets, hats, sunglasses, cigars, beers, water, soda, tablecloths, headbands, etc. I thought vendors in Jamaica and Morocco were rude and obnoxious - this was, by far the worse place we have been to. The traffic is horrendous. They do not follow laws there. You have to be very careful where you walk because the sidewalks/roads have huge holes filled in with trash or covered up with a piece of cardboard. As far as the HO/HO bus, many passengers including my husband and I were upset because the tour guide did not make an official announcement to get off at the Castle de San Filipe. Yes, the bus stopped several times near the castle, but it was because of the traffic. At the 2nd stop after the castle, 4 passengers asked the guide why she did not announce the castle stop and she said she did. The upset passengers had prepaid entrance tickets for the castle and there wasn't enough time to go through the entire bus ride loop to get back to the castle. The guide told them they had to get off the bus and get a taxi back to the castle. It was disappointing not to see the castle.

PANAMA CANAL - loved it. I'm sure it is impossible to have cleaner windows when going through the canal, but it would have made it easier to see from the ship if you are in the Horizon Cafe(front of the ship) or even in our cabin which at the very back of the ship. It is truly an engineering marvel watching a huge ship going through the new locks. We did an excursion through the jungles to visit Fort San Lorenzo and the new locks. Our tour guide and driver were amazing. The bus ride was long and uncomfortable due to the poorly maintained roads, but we were able to see huge monarch butterflies, Howler monkeys and a 2-toed mama sloth with her newborn baby on her stomach.

LIMÓN COSTA RICA - we did the Puerto Viejo Beach and shopping excursion. Our tour guide, Marvin told us some interesting facts about Costa Rica. It was a long ride to the beach, but the roads are decent. As we were driving through Limón, there is definitely not much to see there. The beach was average. When we were dropped off at the city of Puerto Viejo, we had about 75 minutes to grab lunch and do some shopping. By the time we finished lunch, we only had 20 minutes to shop before boarding the bus. The shops lost a few sales because they did not have correct change to give back to the buyers. The little shopping area at Port Limón where the ship was docked was great. Very clean and the vendors are so humble and polite. I rarely buy souvenirs, but we got some great deals on artwork, coffee, cacao candy, mahogany wood items and cigars!

JAMAICA - we wanted to do the beach excursion, but it was sold out. This was the one port that we did not purchase the excursion prior to the cruise. So we purchased the Rose Hall/Beach/Margaritaville/Shopping excursion. I found Rose Hall interesting; my husband found it boring. The Hip Strip shopping area was a rip off. Overpriced, cheap souvenirs. Truthfully, they should skip Hip Strip and Margaritaville and go straight to the Doctor's Cove Beach Resort to spend more time at the beach. The catamaran ride back to the ship was great. The rum punch was delicious and potent. I was happy to not be accosted by the locals and the roads are much better in Montego Bay versus Ochos Rios.

This was our 9th Princess cruise. We may not return to Princess for our next cruise. We went on our 1st Norwegian cruise in July and the food choices were amazing and so delicious. It was the Norwegian Breakaway....lots of activities.

pearlywhite48's Full Rating Summary
Onboard Experience
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Cabin Review


The cabin was okay. The pillows are old and flat. The bath towels were old and dingy. The bed was comfortable. Elmer Grande, our cabin steward was amazing!!

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)

Convenient cruise port to embark a cruise ship since we live in Tampa. It takes about 3 1/2 hours from Tampa.

Dolphin Swim

We did the Dolphin Discovery and the Turtle Centre. I had to pay $70 extra to actually swim with the dolphins.

View All 92 Dolphin Swim Reviews
Turtle Farm

It was not a farm, but a Turtle Centre. A guide explaining the different sections and interesting facts about the turtles would have been better.

View All 329 Turtle Farm Reviews

Long bus ride, decent roads, average beach, shopping a bust. You can do better shopping a the Lima port where the ship is docked.

View All undefined undefined Reviews

We stopped at the Hip Strip shopping area and Margaritaville prior to going to the Doctor's Cove Beach Resort. We would have preferred having more beach time, but you can not get into the resort unless you are accompanied by your tour guide.The catamaran ride back to the ship was so much fun. The rum punch was very potent!

View All 50 Beach Reviews
Montego Bay

I found it interesting, my husband found it boring.

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