My husband and I have traveled extensively. We were excited that this cruise was to take us to multiple ports and did not repeat any that we've visited before. Further, we've cruised with Princess before and felt comfortable with the cruise line.
Embarkation was fairly smooth. We got on the ship, found our cabin as expected (although we were disappointed that our view was obstructed), and headed for lunch. Next, we toured the ship and found it as most ships in this class. We are not first class people, so the decor of the ship and layout suits us just fine.
Let's pause here to share that the COVID19 virus was starting to grow in intensity in the world (not necessarily the US), and the cruise line did offer a 100% refund of cancellation fees (whatever that meant) if customers wanted to cancel. My husband stayed on the phone for an hour the morning of the cruise, but couldn't get through, so we decided to go on the cruise even though we had some doubts.
Day 1 was a day at sea. We had rough seas...not terribly rough, but consistently and decently wavy. My husband and I didn't get sick, but we heard of several passengers who did. We were concerned about the many elderly on board and the possibility of them losing their balance and falling while attempting to walk. The crew kept reminding people to use handrails.
Day 2 was to be in Jamaica. However, due to the rough seas, the port wouldn't come out to assist the ship in getting to the port. So, Strike One port.
Day 3 was at sea...still rough seas. :( As my husband says, "It's feeling like Groundhog Day (the movie)." We did arrive in Cartagena, Columbia early (approximately 5 p.m.) and allowed to get off the ship. They even arranged for us to have excursions. Of course, you get to pay for them. $$ My husband, desperate to get off the ship, booked a carriage ride around the old city, and a dinner in town. It was an expensive excursion, but we had an enjoyable evening.
Day 4 was Cartagena, Columbia
Thank Goodness, we get to get off the ship and step on solid ground!!
The ship was getting boring. We were happy to go tour and visit.
We booked an excursion through the cruise ship; a canoe tour of mangrove tunnesl and a walking tour of the old city. The canoe tour was quiet and peaceful and guides went to great lengths to show us monkeys, sloths, and a variety of birds. The old city stroll didn't allow much time to really shop, but as we had gone to the old city the night before, it wasn't an issue for us (others were disappointed).
Day 5 Panama Canal
This was a day we looked forward to.
We were both excited to see us go through the locks which we did have plenty of time and view of the ship going through 3 locks. This ship narrated and talked us through the history of the locks, what we were seeing and what was happening.
Once we got into the lake, we were told we had to be scanned for potential fever by the Panamanian officials before going on excursions (those who had booked them). We all lined up and were scanned for fever, then received all the stickers, etc. for our excursions.
A little later, we began boarding our tenders to leave. My husband and I were on the second tender. Once they loaded everyone, we wondered why we were waiting by the ship for a few minutes without leaving. Then, I noticed the first tender coming back toward the ship. At that time, I told my husband, "They are not going to allow us to enter Panama." (due to the virus) Sure enough, a ship official soon boarded the tender and told us the Panamanian government had decided to not allow us to come ashore due to the fear of the virus. (Why did they go to all the trouble of testing all of us for fevers if they were not going to let us come ashore?) Anyway...Strike Two port!
Day 6 Puerto Limon, Costa Rica
We booked an excursion through the internet to Tortuguero and a banana plantation.
We found the group to meet, although we had to walk a decent distance from the ship to them. We boarded the bus and they drove us rain forest, then along the beach to an area that honestly didnt look like it would be safe (felt safe when we got there, though). We got off the bus and into boats they were rowed by locals who tooks us through mangrove growth. Some locals danced for us in traditional clothing before and after our boat ride.
Back on the bus, they took us to the banana plantation. They pulled up to the gate (which was closed), and informed us that the plantation was closed to visitors due to a fungus that was endangering the world's population of banana's. The proceeded to tell us about the process of banana growth and process to market while we sat on the bus. Not sure why we had to drive all the way there for them to sit at the gate and tell us the process. They could have told us this at the port or while we were driving to the boat tour. Plus, we feel we paid for a two part tour, but only received one part. After the banana gate, though, they did drive us by a shopping place (how convenient). It was off by itself and the prices were all in US $). The prices were high and I'm not sure why anyone would purhase there. My husband and I took a quick walk through and then got back on the bus. This tour disappointed us greatly.
Day 7 at sea
Over the week, we've been watching the news and seeing the pandemic getting out of control. The US is getting very nervous about the virus, more cases are developing there, and the stock market is taking a hit as a result. One Princess ship has been off the coast of California for 2 weeks as they have cases of the virus on board and my husband and I are getting nervous that we could get held off the coast once we get back. Unlike most of the passengers on board, we have jobs to get back too. Today, we booked a flight home from Grand Cayman (our last port) so we will avoid the possibility of quarantine.
Day 8 Grand Cayman
Guess what?? Grand Cayman is not allowing cruise ships in their port due to the virus, so Strike Three Port! :(
Luckily, the flight we booked is fully refundable. Now, we pray we do not get quarantined off the coast when we get back to Florida
Day 9 at Sea
Day 10 back to Florida
Luckily, no one on the ship has shown any signs of the virus and we are able to dock.
Disembarkation was super smooth and fast. Thank goodness as we had a 10:40 a.m. flight home.
Why did I give the cruise a poor rating:
1. We didnt get to go to 3 ports...wouldn't you know it, the 3 ports that mattered the most to me and my husband.
2. Food...whew...the food is just average, at best! They feel they have to put every steak and pork in a brown gravy (the same brown gravy for all of them). Even though they try to mix up some of the foods at the buffet, we found most of them to not be good/tasty. Keep in mind, we are not gourmet/5-star people. More than one day we went through the buffet and couldn't find anything to eat, other than a salad. We ate more hamburgers and french fries from the Grille than anything for lunches. Thank goodness for the Grille...burgers and fries were very good.
3. Gripes you'll find on nearly all cruises...internet too expensive; excursions too expensive; entertainment just okay; very little music by the pool (loved it when they had Thosh DJ by the pool/need to do that more often)
1. Trivia...had a blast at all of them (went to nearly every one)
2. Staff...nearly every one we dealt with was kind, accomodating and really tried to instill postive vibes, especially with the difficult cruise we were experiencing (Kudos to Thosh, Ken, and Kristina)
3. Could actually get pool chairs on this cruise...probably because of the age of most of the passengers and/or the cruise wasn't full due to the virus
good cabin, but terrible view; didn't even bother with the curtains