Ahhhhh the Island Princess. What a great time, what a great ship. The itinerary for this Panama Canal saiing was incredible, all countries I had yet to visit and all countries with amazing food! First, my disclaimer. I am a 45 yr old married woman who travels with mom. I live full-time in Hawaii, on the island of Maui. When I travel I do not go to beaches or do any ocean sports as I live on the best beaches in the world. So sorry, folks, no beach reviews from these ports. Although, Huatalco and Jamaica had the most inviting waters.
We chose embarkation in Acapulco because we love to visit Acapulco. I had six airports and four flights in two days to get there from Maui. My mother had it easier going from SFO. We flew through Mexico City and it was not a problem, Mexico City airport is easy to navigate and pleasant to sit around in. Acapulco airport, on the other hand, is a little bit mixed up and on what I call "island time". If you're luggage does not show up in the customs arrival area, simply go to domestic, it's sitting there. Apparently happens all the time. We stayed at the Grand Acapulco, which was quite nice and QUIET.
Embarkation process was no problem. We arrived early, 11 am, and had to wait an hour, but I used the internet right there in the terminal and ended up meeting my Cruise Critic friends there as well. So the trip was off to a good start.
We found our ocean view obstructed cabin with no problem. We met our room steward right away and I made sure I got my egg crate mattress pad. Mom did not want one, but I am a side sleeper and needed the extra cushion. Make sure you get on this right away, as the ship does not have many and the steward will try to talk you out of it. Our cabin was small, but had an incredible amount of storage space and drawers. The picture window was blocked by a life boat, however, natural light streamed into the room and you could look out and see where you were. We enjoyed our room. However, I have to admit, more than once on this cruise I wished I had sprung for the balcony. If you have the budget, please get a balcony, the weather is amazing and warrants a sit outside.
I had read many reviews of Island Princess before this trip. I was worried about quite a few things and thankfully none of them ever happened: There was no cigarette smoke anywhere I was, the Cruise Director, Frank, was everywhere and having a good time, my cabin was awesome, the staff were awesome, the food in the Dining Room far exceeded my foodie expectations, the buffet not so much, people loved the entertainment and there was plenty of it.
The ship felt large and roomy and honestly, aside from formal night there was never anybody around. The ship felt empty more than it seemed full. This cruise itinerary attracts a large retired population, there were no children on the ship, there were very few under 40. People eat early and go to bed early.
I met up with a group from the Cruise Critic roll call and did almost all of my shore excursions with them and we hired private tour operators from Cruise Critic. I only took one ship excursion and it felt like I was being "herded" from place to place. I was extremely happy with my private tour operators. You can email me personally if you want their contact information.
The food on the ship exceeded my expectations in the dining room only. The buffet was not good. I am a coffee drinker and I bought the coffee card, which gave me access to espresso drinks and freshly brewed coffee from the bars. The only place you will find freshly brewed coffee is at the bars, the buffet and the dining room use a syrup mixed with water and it is putrid. If you really need your coffee, I highly recommend either bringing your own and a small coffee maker, or the Starbucks VIA, which I had, and VIA is better than the espresso drinks they make.
The Panama Canal crossing was awesome. I recommend getting up early and heading to the top of the ship, or to the Baja or Caribe decks all the way forward and watching the approach INTO the canal. Then I took a nap and got back up for the first locks. Then a nap. Then the second locks and the Gaillard Cut, nap and then finally the last locks and sail to Carribean Sea. It is best to move around the ship constantly, unless you have a balcony, of course.
The entertainment on the ship was abundant. I played bingo and trivia and had a lot of fun. For me, the best entertainer of all was Martin Kaye, a piano guy in the Crooners Bar each and every night from 9-12 pm. Unfortunately, Martin was on his last cruise and has moved on to the Grand Princess. I am not a fan of the production shows, but they were enjoyed by most everyone I talked to.
I did not lay out by the pool at all, but everytime I cruised through there, it seemed to be roomy with chairs open. I preferred the Lotus Pool, which was quieter and covered from the sun. I visited the spa twice, once for a ladies spa night, which was fun and once for a massage. I am a massage therapist and hard to please. I will just say that after my first massage I cancelled my second massage appt. Massage therapist was not skilled and I don't like to be sold products after I just got a massage.
The exotic ports on this itinerary were awesome. You absolutely MUST purchase shore excursions. From the ship or privately, but you have to. There is nothing to do in any of the ports aside from Hualtulco, San Juan Del Sur and Jamaica. In every port, we had lunch and all the food was incredible and no one got sick. It's all good. These days there is good sanitation and whatnot most everywhere in the world and especially where the Island Princess takes you. Eat and Enjoy!
Internet. If you absolutely need to be on the internet, it is possible, but you better start saving your money. It is expensive. Very expensive. If you wait until the last day, they have better deals. You can expect to spend at least $100 for about an hour of time and everything goes through satellite so it is really slow. There are internet cafes in some ports, but I was so busy having fun I rarely found the time to make it there.
This ship is very very nice. The staff is nice. The food is great. The itinerary is exceptional. Please note, that in 2011 the Island Princess will no longer go to Guatemala, which is an amazing port, so go now!
Much aloha, Laura K email@example.com
E616 - Oceanview Obstructed. Excellent storage and space. Good condition. Picture window with natural light was a plus. Bathroom small but worked just fine.