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Emerald Princess Cruise Review
4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
1,737 Reviews

Canal a highlight

Emerald Princess Cruise Review by Dawn Poore

2 people found this helpful
Trip Details
  • Sail Date: Dec 2019
  • Destination: the Panama Canal & Central America

This was the seventh cruise for my husband and me, the fourth with Princess. Overall, we enjoyed ourselves. We knew the weather would be hot and humid, but were not prepared for how exhausting it would be. (Of course, I'm not implying that this was Princess's fault!) We were glad to have all the sea days to recuperate!

Embarkation in Ft. Lauderdale was chaotic, to put it mildly. We have never had to wait so long to board. It was 2:30 before we finally got on board. By that time, lunch was over in the dining room. The buffet was packed, of course, and the lines for the pizza and burger places near the pool were extremely long. It seems that on embarkation day the dining room could be open longer.

We had a balcony cabin on deck 10, and it was just what we expected. Our room steward was pleasant, courteous, and very efficient.

Dining experiences on this cruise did not live up to what we have come to expect. The main dining room choices for lunch and dinner were limited and repetitive. Three of the four times we ate lunch there, we both ordered cheeseburgers from the "always available" part of the menu. We had dinner in the dining room most nights, always hoping it would be better than the night before. Highlights were the pheasant, pork chops, gnocchi, and lobster. We had a free special dining perk, and we chose the Crown Grill, based on the reviews we'd read. We felt the food was only marginally better than the dining room. The maitre d' was friendly and pleasant, but our waiter was somewhat arrogant and condescending. We were glad the meal was free. We would definitely not pay $29 to eat there again. The best dining experience we had was at the Salty Dog Gastropub in the Wheelhouse bar. It was $12 each and worth every penny! There were great choices (lobster mac and cheese, short rib poutine, gourmet grilled cheese and tomato soup to name only a few), and you get a ton of food even though they call it "small plates". The atmosphere was relaxed and casual. Many of the tables are bar stool height, which we don't care for, but the waiter gladly rearranged a table and a couple of chairs in the lounge section so we could have a regular height table. As for the buffet, blechhhh. It was much smaller than we've ever seen. Food choices were repetitive and boring. The plates were almost too hot to hold, which makes it odd that the food was cold when we got to a table. I guess it started out that way. We avoided the buffet for most of the cruise. Unfortunately, room service was no better. We usually order room service breakfast when we have an early shore excursion. The food was cold or barely warm, and often didn't come with items we asked for. It seems odd that we can get hot pizza delivered to our house but room service can't deliver hot food to the rooms. We loved the International Cafe! My husband is a coffee-holic and I love a good chai latte. We were not disappointed. It's also a great place for a snack or a light lunch. And it's open 24 hours.

The entertainment in the Princess Theater was so-so. We enjoyed the ship's troupe of singers and dancers in a disco themed show and another rock music show. A guest violinist was also very good, as well as the band for all the shows. We didn't go to any other shows in the theater because the description in the Patter didn't sound like we'd like them. However, we LOVED the steel drum player, Roston, and LADO Strings. We followed them around the ship from the Piazza to the Wheelhouse bar and back again. They should have been on the main stage as far as we're concerned.

We really enjoyed the destination expert's talks on the ports and a woman from the art auction doing a presentation on the art of DaVinci.

We had never been to any of the ports on this cruise. The Panama Canal was amazing. Everyone should experience it! We did shore excursions sponsored by Princess at all ports but one. Our favorite was the Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica. We did not book an excursion in Puerto Vallarta. We thought we'd just wander around and see what there was to see. Well, what there was to see was mainly shops and stalls selling made in China souvenirs. We went back to the ship after an hour and a half.

Disembarkation went very smoothly. We did have to go to Guest Services to request an earlier disembarkation time, and we're glad we did. We would barely have had enough time to make our flight if we'd gone later. The customs line was long, but moved pretty quickly. (And yes, we know that's not within Princess's control.) It was a much better experience than embarkation.

This cruise was on our bucket list, and we're very glad we took it. The somewhat minor inconveniences definitely did not ruin our cruise! Looking forward to our next Princess cruise!

Dawn Poore's Full Rating Summary
Onboard Experience
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
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Shore Excursions
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Cabin Review

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

Everglades Tour

Air boat tour of Sawgrass Recreation Area. Guide was very knowledgeable and funny. Saw alligators! Ride was about 30 minutes. There is also a small zoo which we toured and had the opportunity to hold a baby alligator. When we called directly we were told they were full. The concierge at our hotel had a few seats on hold, so we were able to go after all. The tour company picked us up and dropped us off at our hotel for free. Tour was $60 per person.

View All 149 Everglades Tour Reviews

Nice taste of the city. Dance company was very good.

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Fuerte Amador (Balboa)

Scenic Drive and Walking Tour of Colonial Panama. A lot of walking on very uneven surfaces. The guide's estimates of distances left a lot to be desired. When he said six blocks, it was more like ten. Don't really remember much because I was so concerned about breaking an ankle on the cobblestones.

The Sloth Sanctuary was our favorite. Our guide there was great. The regular tour guide on the bus talked too much and repeated himself. He led us around the Botanical Gardens. He spent 15 minutes talking about bamboo while we just stood there in the hot sun. In the orchid house, he did the same thing, describing in minute detail the structure of the plants, how they are pollinated, etc. Interesting, but too much. The Oxcart Factory was fascinating, but the on-site guide also went into too much detail.

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San Juan del Sur

Granada, Masaya Market and Volcano. Saw musicians in a marketplace. Masaya Volcano was interesting, but couldn't get a very good view.


Highlights of Huatulco. Guide gave a good background about the town. Stopped at a local restaurant for snacks and beverages (no charge, even for beer) and heard a local musician. Stops at scenic overlooks and in the cathedral square.

Puerto Vallarta

Skip it. Over-commercialized and overrated. Filled with shops that sell made in China trinkets.

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Dawn Poore
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