This was the 5th cruise with Princess for my husband and I. We love waking up and being someplace new everyday. We chose this cruise because of it's interesting ports, and of course for the full transit of the Panama Canal. We flew to Acapulco a day before and stayed in the Fiesta Americana Villas. Acapulco was very nice and we had a glorious view from our hotel room,...especially at dawn.The only bad thing about Acapulco was that MTV had just had it's big Spring Break beach party there and the place was still loaded with partiers. This was a very LOUD place. We asked for a room on the quite side of the hotel, away from the bungee jump and beach band and we were able to sleep soundly.
Boarding the ship was a breeze and only took a few minutes to get processed and to our cabin. Our room was ready and our luggage showed up a few hours later. We attended our Cruise Critic meeting and met everyone we had been chatting and planning with on-line. We had a great group and we met people that we will keep in contact with. (Telemundo!) I'd like to mention Steve, because I know he likes to be mentioned. :)
The ship was beautiful. The Island Princess is the smallest ship I've ever been on, but I never felt like we were crowded or that the ship was too small. Food and drinks were good. My only real complaint is that they do tend to undercook the shellfish. We ate at Sabatini's one night and my lobster was served still translucent and grey looking. We also tried the Bayou Cafe and thoroughly enjoyed it. I liked that there was a band in the restaurant. There should be music everywhere I eat! :) We ate breakfast and lunches in the Horizon Court buffet and went to afternoon tea twice. We love Princess pizza, it is ALWAYS great! The Pub lunch was not well attended on this cruise. The last cruise we were on there was a line out the door waiting for fish and chips!
In Hutalco, Mexico, we took an excursion with some people from our CC group. We went to a small village where we were given a demonstration of traditional tortilla making by a Zapotec Indian. The tortillas were smoking hot, right off of her wood burning cooking ceramic,...very tasty. Next, we went to a small town called Santa Marie. They were having a celebration and we walked through and admired the food and goods at all the colorful stalls. Lastly, we drove past the mezcal processing, then continued on to the mezcal store for a tasting. This was way more than a tasting and turned into a drinking. They were very liberal with all the liquor they wanted us to taste! Since they had us liquored up, they brought out the crickets. Yes,...crickets. Apparently crickets are bar food in this part of Mexico. All the men in our group tried them, and liked them! The thought of having to floss cricket legs out from between my teeth kept me from joining in. We bought three bottles of Mezcal and headed back for the ship.
The next day we were supposed to stop in Guatemala,....but,....there was a nationwide transportation strike. So, the Captain decided not to dock and continue on to Nicaragua where we had an extended stay the next day. We did have a private tour planned in Guatemala, and our tour company, Turansa, has after some bit of prodding, only agreed to refund us 50% of our payments. :(
In Nicaragua we had another private CC excursion. We went to Granada for the day with a stop at Lake Nicaragua on the way back. In the middle of Lake Nicaragua is an active volcano, spewing out a cloud of ash. A very impressive sight. Granada was nice and we had lunch at a very good restaurant and tried the local beers. It seems EVERYONE arrived back at the dock at the same time and since this is a tendered port, the line was L O N G. It took about an hour to get back on the ship.
In Costa Rica, we had a list of places we wanted to see. So we hooked up with three other people and contracted a van and driver for the day. We first stopped at the Monkey Ladies house. This woman charges the bargain price of $2.00 for you to come into her yard and feed the wild capuchin monkey's and coati mundi's that live in the surrounding forests. I coaxed a young capuchin out to take a banana from me and got a great photo of him stretching as far as he could to get the banana, while trying not to get too close to me. We continued on , stopping here and there for photo's and refreshments. Our driver talked us into doing the Crocodile Man boat ride,....glad he did, this was a beautiful tour. We saw wildlife GALORE on the river. Our final stop of the day was at Villa Caletas. This is a grand hotel set on top of a hill over looking the town of Jaco and the ocean. INCREDIBLE views! We sat in their open air bar area and had a drink while watching scarlet macaws fly by. Perfect!
Panama Canal day started early,...we were on deck at 5:15 a.m. to start snapping pictures of the canal area before dawn. The canal was amazing! We stayed up front for a few hours, then started moving around to the other decks to get different and better views of things. I was on deck for hours! I really enjoyed watching the people, machines and the other ships that were also making the transit through the locks.
Our stop in Cristobal, Panama was short, but I bought more stuff there than I bought in all the other ports combined. They had good prices and were ready to bargain. Oh, and did I mention it was hot? The whole trip was hot, but this day in Panama was horribly hot. Sweat was dripping off of my face and nose. There were a few little bars there serving ICE COLD beer. I drank two in about a minute and a half.
Jamaica was our last stop before arriving back in the States. We have spent time in Jamaica and Ocho Rios on a land vacations, and done most all of the touristy things before. So, we opted to just walk to the grocery store and buy some coffee, then walk to the Jerk Center and have lunch. Of course we had to get a rum coconut from the coconut man before we got back on the ship. I'm not sure if it was because it was Sunday or what, but we were hardly bothered/approached by people offering to braid your hair, be your taxi driver, give you a tour, sell you weed or show you their handmade wares. That alone made it a nice day.
The cruise ended in Fort Lauderdale. Disembarkment was a breeze and we were back to the airport and the real world all too soon. We were both back at work the next day and found ourselves wondering what was on the buffet today,....sigh.