This was our first cruise with Princess. Our last cruise was was on a "high end" luxury cruise line so we were concerned that this cruise might be a disappointment. Happily, that did not turn out to be the case. With one exception, discussed below, this cruise was a delight.
Dining - I will start with a dining evaluation because my wife and I really enjoy dinning. We thought the food on Island Princess was great. We used both the buffet and the formal dinning room with most meals being taken in the formal dinning room. We thought the meals generally reflected the skills of the ships award winning Italian chef. When taken in context of the attractive overall price of the cruise, the food on the ship was an outstanding value. Food service was excellent from headwaiter to assistant. I think the dinning room service was actually better than I have experience on some "higher end" cruise lines.
Public rooms - The Island Princess public rooms were nice in the modern flashy sense of the word. The passengers seemed to spend a lot of time in the public rooms so they must have been answering a need. The paintings throughout the ship were nice.
Cabin - We deliberately booked one of the smallest cabins on the ship. It was more than adequate. The interior decor was well done and made the cabin seem larger than it actually was. The only complaint would be the extremely small shower - a comment I heard from several passengers. A big plus was the excellent cabin service that greatly enhanced the enjoyment of the cruise.
Fitness and Recreation - I made frequent trips to the gym. I thought it was plenty large and well equipped. The views from the gym were nice. I never found it to be crowded on any visit.
Shore Excursions - At most ports there were a wide range of excursions ranging from very active to simple shopping trips. For the most part, these excursions were reasonable well done. The tours in Nicaragua and Guatemala disappointed some of the passengers because both countries have developing economies. I enjoyed both countries - particularly the coffee plantation visit in Guatemala. On the first day, getting the crowds off the ship to the proper excursion was a bit of a problem. After the first day, things we better.
Enrichment - Princess deserves an A plus for having a decent enrichment program. On board lecturers made several presentations that greatly enhanced the enjoyment of the cruise, particularly the trip through the Panama canal. The lecture program was not as good as on the late and much lamented Swan Hellenic line, but they were decent.
Entertainment - This was a high point on Island Princess. The broadway musical style production shows were well done and very well attended by the passengers. It was really nice that, in addition to the big shows, the other entertainment was really good. The ship piano players were exceptionally good and we particularly enjoyed Brendan Jones who played in the Crooners Bar at night.
Service - As previously stated the service was outstanding in both the dinning room and the cabin. Our cabin steward was great. I will add the bar service to the list of great service. From warm brandy sniffers to champagne opened with style, these guys did their job well.
Embarkation - Getting on the ship was great. We went down a day early and stayed at the Fairmont Princess (a very nice experience). The Princess staff set up a pre-boarding procedure at the hotel the night before the cruise. It worked great. All we had to do the next day was ride the bus to the ship, pick up a few papers, and walk on board (in time for a great lunch). Disembarking was the one real problem with the cruise. It was a disaster. Communication from the staff on disembarkation procedures had been minimal. What was communicated showed an unexcutable process. In the end, crowds of people stood around for hours and became angry. This was an unfortunate ending for an otherwise great cruise. Princess needs to fix this problem. Unfortunately, I heard many passengers say that the experience getting off the ship had permanently soured them on Princess.
Overall Value - Setting the disembarkation problem aside, I thought this was a great cruise - overall and in terms of value for the money. We would do Princess again. However, it would help to learn that they had fixed the problem with getting people off the ship.