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

Family Adventure on a Beautiful Ship

Island Princess Cruise Review by mizlorinj

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Trip Details
  • Sail Date: Mar 2010
  • Destination: the Panama Canal & Central America
  • Cabin Type: Mini-Suite with Balcony

We arrived in Acapulco around 10am, cleared customs, boarded our Princess transfer bus, and were off to the port in about 45 minutes. The ride to the port took about an hour. Upon arrival at the pier around noon, we were happy to see no lines anywhere! We walked right up to the counter to check in and then right onto the ship with no wait. If you use the Princess transfer from the airport, your luggage is taken at the airport and the next time you see it is in your cabin; I liked that. Quickest embarkation we've ever experienced. We did get back off the ship after lunch to check out Acapulco a bit, and picked up a bottle of local wine and some champagne.

We had a mini suite on the Dolphin deck which was very nice; carpet looked new and most things were in good shape. Nice large balcony (though uncovered) with 4 chairs and a table. Later in the day when we saw our room steward we asked for our glass of champagne (which was delivered promptly) and for robes (not impressed with the robes that showed up the next day).

Two in our group who stayed in the mini suite farther aft had older carpet than the 3 cabins the rest of us had on Dolphin deck mid-ship section. Different design on the carpet, and theirs had some stains too. Their tiles in the bathroom weren't in good shape either. Note that if you're over 6'3" your hair will clean the ceiling over the bathtub!

Checked out the food in the buffet which, for the first time ever for me, was forward and not aft! Took some adjusting to this location change. Picked up a soda card which with gratuity comes to about $48 for 10 days.

Very nice large pools on the Lido deck; one is outside and one is enclosed in an air conditioned area. There are ping pong tables and a ceramics class area up some stairs near the enclosed pool. The ceramics class looked like a lot of fun and people really made some beautiful art. One wading pool top deck but didn't visit it after walking by on my self-guided ship tour.

The atrium area is beautiful and has live music in the evenings. On decks 5, 6 and 7 there are various bars to choose from, some large like the Wheelhouse, though I found it too dark. In other places there are little nooks to sit on a couch with a book or people-watch. Deck 7 Promenade outside is always a favorite place to walk or sit on a lounger.

I looked at all eight of our cruise cards to check the dining table; six of our party of eight were together at the same table and we two were at a different table even though our reservations were supposed to be linked according to our TA. Spent 45 mins waiting for the maitre de; he moved us to the Bordeaux room at a nice round table by a window beginning the second night. First night was open seating so we went to Provence room and had Alvin as our fantastic waiter. In the Bordeaux for the rest of the cruise we had Juan Carlos and Ivan who were fabulous. All the food was very good from start to finish. I haven't had such fork-tender lobster tails in a long time. We all found things we liked and ate in the DR most nights. We ate at the buffet for brkfst and lunch, and we always found a nice assortment of food there too. Omelet and waffle station at breakfast. Ice cream farther aft on the Lido was just ok, soft serve only or milkshakes, but it varied in taste depending on how they mixed it that day. Station closed daily at 6 which is ridiculous. Pizza was as excellent as I remembered on a Princess cruise, though that station closes at 7pm—way too early. The Bayou restaurant dinner was enjoyed by 2 in our group, and also offers an English lunch a couple days which was enjoyed as well. Check the Patter for exact dates of the lunch offering.

At the two formal nights there were very few tuxedos, and I'd guess that probably just over half of men had suits on or at least a jacket. The rest had a dress or polo shirt. That's the best I can do with estimating formal. . . I didn't pay a whole lot of attention as it's not too important to me.

My adorable nephew needed a crib and the first one brought to their cabin was old, rickety and missing a bar! No kid should sleep in something like that. So they told their room steward that crib was unacceptable, and next appeared a very nice, new-looking pack n play which my nephew slept in just fine.

Entertainment. We didn't attend many shows. The first we attended was the second night in the theater and the music and dancing was very good. The back 2/3 seats were pretty full and the front 1/3 mostly empty—unlike other cruises where you have to get there early to be in the front! Funny. We also went to the Adrian Zmed show in the Universe Lounge which was very good. We sat in the front row on the side. He chose a lady from the front center to dance a slow song for a minute or two. I think he should do a meet and greet or photo opp for passengers. He performed two nights, which seems to be what most shows do on this ship, so if you miss the first night you can go the second. Caught the end of the Newlywed game which is always amusing. The comedian/singer who was from NJ and performed in the Universe Lounge was very funny too. The evening entertainment in the atrium was very nice.

We participated in a few organized games which was fun, and won a gold Princess medal at one of them.

There were enrichment classes available. The digital photography one looked interesting but I think we napped instead.

We skipped the captain's cocktail party.

I liked that the tv had varying shows on various days. Classic movies like An Affair To Remember, episodes of The Love Boat, to the loop of the Panama Canal video being replayed. Up In The Air, The Blind Side, and some other recent films played certain days too, Inside the Actors Studio repeated with maybe 3 actors' episodes. I love the bow camera channel to see ahead of the ship and the nav channel showing exactly where the ship is at that moment.

Laundry room on Dolphin had 5 washers and dryers and it was $1 per wash and dry. Also 2 irons. Be aware there is no cold cycle, so even though the machine readout says cold, the water is hot. I found this out by opening the machine as the water had started going in to my dark clothes and burned my hand! Changed setting to "colors" which was not as hot, but surely not even cool. Evenings are less crowded with others doing laundry than during the day.

Spa. One in our group had a massage and facial at the spa, and she enjoyed all the treatments. She said the girls were not pushy with selling their products either.

Ports: In Huatulco we walked to the beach by the ship and were able to use chairs and umbrellas at a local restaurant and bought drinks from them. $2 beer. The water was very nice and the view of the ship was spectacular. You could rent wave runners here or go for a ride on the banana raft.

We did not stop in Guatemala as there was a transit strike. We had a private tour booked with Turansa Tours there, and they refuse to give us a full refund; they said they will refund half our payment as they claim they incurred costs that day. Obviously their decision will impact our using this company in the future, as the skipped port was due to an issue in their country, and they would not have been able to drive us anywhere as roads were being blocked everywhere according to the news. Not a smart business move on their part.

Nicaragua we did the ship's Masaya Volcano tour which was very good. Comfy bus and excellent tour guide, Gerald. When I discussed this tour with others, I learned our guy gave lots more information than some of the other guides. The active volcano was really cool to see, but it was very hot there. The tendering was of course a nightmare. The water was rough in the afternoon and one tender of the four apparently wasn't working, so 3 tenders had to take hundreds of people who stood for hours in the sun back to the ship. There is a market at the pier with some trinkets and stuff. Local beer too under a nice thatched roof, which is where we hung out hoping the tender line would shorten. But more buses came and unloaded people and the line grew way too long. There had to be hundreds of people in line by this point. How the ship left on time is beyond me.

Costa Rica we had a private tour with Odyssey Tours. We walked to the end of the pier and met up with our guide who informed me they would split the 12 signed up people into two groups for comfort instead of squishing us into one vehicle. Thank you! Got to see monkeys, eat fresh mangoes, see crocodiles on a river ride, swim at the beach, spot a scarlet macaw (beautiful!), find the sloth hiding in the tree, and stop for coffee at a grocery store. Great tour and I highly recommend Odyssey. We also met some fun people on this tour.

Entering the Panama Canal. We arrived at the Bridge of the Americas while it was still dark but it was daylight as we entered the Miraflores locks. We were in the Horizon Court at a table at the front for the first few hours. Get there early to get one. We stayed there until lunchtime, then wandered around to view at different points on the ship. For the last locks for us, Gatun, we hung out on the Promenade deck. I think the bow of the ship should also be open for guest on journeys like this one. Amazing to watch the locks work. It takes a long time to go through each but it was wonderful! Hang out on your balcony or deck 7 and get your photo taken as you go through the locks. I think the coolest photos in the Gallery were taken on aft decks with the lock behind you. One person in our group was back there and his photo came out great with a tall-masted sailboat behind him entering the lock. After going through the canal we stopped in Cristobal at what appears to be a large warehouse with vendors selling their wares. There is a nice bar at the waterside end of the pier that's outside. Good $4.50 margaritas! Horrendous line getting off the ship (entire length of ship and then some) and equally long getting back on. If I do this again, I will wait 30 minutes after docking so there's no line to get off the ship. There is no way to avoid the long line getting back on.

In Jamaica we did another ship-sponsored tour which was Mystic Mountain, Bobsled, and Dunns River Falls. We went to DRF to use the beach which has eroded since our last time there in 2005 or so. Was still nice clear and warm water, so we enjoyed swimming for an hour. Then we headed to Mystic Mountain. Chair lift ride was cool and waterslide at the top was awesome. Nice pool and great views. We had a snack at the restaurant and then did the bobsled. And then again; it was so much fun. Would go there again in a second!

I liked the cold towels awaiting us upon arrival back at each port.

One morning at 5am my brother who was with his family on the starboard side woke up to the foul stench of waste. Turns out the waste was transferred incorrectly to a ballast near the fresh air intake. Lasted a little while and was gone. Yuck!

Half of us did express walk-off and we were off the ship by 7:35am, at the airport and checked in by 8:10am. Some of our group who did not do express walk-off arrived at the airport gate by about 8:45. Plenty of time to make our 11:05 flight. There are a lot of taxis waiting at the port when you exit; note that the van rides to the airport cost more than a taxi to the airport.

A few things we did not like: bed linens and a towel had holes (I couldn't believe my eyes!) and robes were too old; the long and slow tender lines were annoying. Be aware of the photo promotion giveaways; you have to ask to receive them (I got a couple cute photo magnets but only because I asked for them per a sign by the photos I bought). It appears my dad needs to call Princess to get what look like soda charges removed; he had the drink card so there should be no $2.30 charges at bars. I missed MUTS on this ship. Pizza and ice cream stations need to be open later than 6 or 7pm. The survey handed out at the end of the cruise was for input on the ports only; there was no survey for the service/food/ship, etc. No receipts seem to be given out for drinks anymore. And there was no seafood buffet in Horizon Court on sailaway.

Ship was very nice and we had great weather except for 2 brief showers one day. I thought the ship handled very well even in the two short spouts of rough seas we encountered. This was the smallest ship we've ever sailed, yet it did not disappoint us!

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Mini-Suite with Balcony
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