First time on Princess -- Great experience

Caribbean Princess Cruise Review to Panama Canal, Central America

Cruises: 7+ cruises
Review: 1
Helpful Votes: 29

Overall rating:

3.6 out of 5
Verified Review
Caribbean Princess

10 Night Panama Canal With Costa Rica & Caribbean (Ft. Lauderdale Roundtrip)

Sail date: November 20, 2017

Ship: Caribbean Princess

Cabin type: Oceanview

Cabin number: P245

Traveled as: Family (older children)

Reviewed: 4 years ago

Review summary

First time on a Princess cruise and we enjoyed it. Very good food, interesting schedule of activities, polite staff, and something for everyone. I'm already looking for my next Princess cruise itinerary!


5 out of 5
No long lines, super fast process and friendly agents. Probably the quickest embarkation ever for us.

Ship experiences

Food and Dining

4 out of 5
We really enjoyed the food on this ship. The buffet had an enormous variety of foods, although their hot selections should be expanded, fresh fruit was the same every day, and their chef should go to Salad Bar School to learn how to set up an amazing salad bar. Theirs was below Pizza Hut level, unfortunately, with store-bought salad dressings. Just by adding a larger variety of salad additions and homemade dressings (very easy), this would have been a great improvement. The dining room service was excellent, thanks to Benedict and Brigitta, but on a couple of days, there just wasn't anything that appealed to us. In fact, one night my daughter checked out the posted menu, took pics of it with her cell phone, and after we all reviewed it, we decided to eat at the buffet that night. Still, the main dining room food was very good quality. Initially, we were assigned to Anytime Dining, but after 2 nights switched to the 8 p.m. seating. One night, there were so many people in line, they were trying to see if any of us could be seated in one of the assigned dining rooms and another night we were given a pager and told it would be a 30 minute wait. I've never been sold on the Anytime Dining concept, although it sounds good in theory. One night we ate at the burger bar on the Lido deck and felt very insulted by the young man behind the counter. He didn't want to be there, he didn't want us to be there, and it showed. I ordered their signature burger, paid an extra $5 or so, and was told it would take 25 minutes to cook. I was willing to wait, and the burger was excellent, but the whole experience was very off-putting.

Crown Grill

4 out of 5

The Crown Grill served 2 British pub meals on sea days, and we took advantage of both. We love British pub food. The Scotch egg was amazing -- huge! The size of a softball. Fish and chips were standard, but served hot, the curry dishes were very good, and the bread and butter pudding was like eating a hot, eggy cloud. So good! We decided to take my son here to celebrate his 16th birthday. Dinner was okay, but if we had spent $120 of our own cash (we had onboard credit), I would have been disappointed. My Porterhouse steak had a massive amount of fat on it -- so much that I couldn't eat half of it. However, everyone else seemed to really enjoy their steak selections, and the steaks were very large. My baked potato was small and sad looking. The onion soup with blue cheese was probably the best thing I ate that night. Desserts were okay, visually appealing, but just didn't hit the right chords with us. The lemon tart was the only dessert we finished. Since it was my son's birthday, they brought out a huge chocolate dessert for him, with a candle, and sang the birthday song. The gesture was very sweet -- the dessert just wasn't our style. Very heavy, dark chocolate-y. It needed some whipped cream or vanilla ice cream to lighten it up a bit. Service was above average, not great.

Onboard Activities

4 out of 5
We have younger kids (now teenagers) and have taken them on other cruises - 1 Royal Caribbean, 4 Carnival. Even though Carnival caters to younger people, there never seemed to be anything on their schedule that appealed to us. On Princess, with a median age of 71 for this voyage (we were told by the ship's doctor!), there were numerous activities I wanted to enjoy. The Movies Under the Stars is a great concept, and we enjoyed several features, including watching a Texan/Cowboys game from the hot tub. I used the internet cafe several times but never made it to the daily Bible study or the knitting group (wish I had known about that one).

Lotus Spa

1 out of 5

If you've ever gone swimming in a pool full of piranhas, then you may very well enjoy your interactions with the staff at the Lotus Spa. I found a couple of them to be very hard sell, unpleasantly so. I had planned on 1 or 2 treatments for myself but first, scheduled a lime and ginger massage for my 18 yo daughter as a treat. It was $155 for a 50 minute massage and when I scheduled at the counter, the spa manager told me she would add another 15 minutes if I "schedule it for right now." She must have sold used cars in a past life. I agreed and my daughter enjoyed the experience. However, when I saw the room charge, the spa had charged me $199 for the longer massage and had added their own tip. My daughter said she was never given the chance to add a tip. I thought I had read all the fine print, so it's possible the gratuity was automatically added -- bad, bad form. I called the spa and left a message that we had been overcharged. I was told the manager would call me, but she never did. On the last day of the cruise, when my husband was paying our charges, he went to the spa to ask about the overcharge. The manager fabricated a story in which *I* had scheduled the longer massage! Since my husband hadn't been there when I scheduled it, there was NO WAY for her to possibly know or even remember the interaction, since she didn't know who his wife was. The woman refused to back down over $40 and basically accused my husband of lying!! We are both business owners and this tactic was shocking to us. Since Lotus Spa is an independent business, there is NO ONE to appeal to. A customer service person from the ship came to the spa to talk with my husband and all he could do was give my husband the business card for the corporate customer service desk! So -- my advice is to confirm what you have scheduled. Find out what the tip policy is, and don't be bullied by Mararitte, the head piranha.


5 out of 5
We didn't go to any shows -- kind of wish we had, but I did enjoy the steel drums, piano, and guitar music (live) in the central area of the ship.

Children's Programs

Our teenage son didn't care to participate in the teen hangout and activities.

Service and Staff

4 out of 5
Other than our nightmare experience with Margaritte in the spa, everyone treated us very well. Service was good, overall, although there were times in the buffet where it took a while to get drinks refilled.

Ship Quality

5 out of 5
We were pleased with the appearance and cleanliness of the ship. I didn't notice anything terribly worn or dirty looking, but then, we didn't spend time in any of the bars or the casino.

Cabin / Stateroom

3 out of 5
This is a tough one because we LOVED the location of our cabin (Deck 5), but the cabin itself was just too small and there was no sitting area. When I booked the cruise, all balconies and suites, were taken, so we had a window cabin with 4 bunks. At first, the bed felt really good, but after 3 days, I noticed my back was really bothering me. You kind of sink into the soft mattress, but there was no support and after a while, that became an issue. The down comforters were very nice and lush. With 4 of us, I appreciated the design of the cabin itself, which allowed total privacy in the area by the closet, which allowed someone to change clothes there, dry off after a shower, etc. The closet was large and had enough hangers for us. Also, between 7 drawers and about 8 or 9 shelves, we had enough room to store clothing. Deck 5 was an awesome location! I really enjoyed walking through the art gallery a few times a day and the International Cafe, coffee bar, Internet Cafe, and the Vines store were so conveniently located. Unfortunately, Jimmy, our steward, told us that all rooms on Deck 5, are the same size, so if we travel on the Caribbean Princess again, we will either need 2 rooms on this deck (teenage kids are huge) or get something larger on another deck. Once the ship traveled beyond Princess Cays, the weather became much warmer and humid, and our cabin AC just wasn't doing the job. With one phone call, someone came along and opened the AC vent completely, and this was a big help.

Ports of call

Ft. Lauderdale (Port Everglades), Florida

1 out of 5
We just flew into the airport here and went directly to the terminal via Uber, which I highly, highly recommend.

Princess Cays (Cruise Line Private Island)

5 out of 5
I thought I was in HEAVEN here. The weather was absolutely perfect, the water temperature was a dream. Since I was about 6 weeks out of some major surgery, I rented a bungalow for $199, worried that the heat/humidity might be difficult for me. However, there was no need to worry. The bungalow was nice to have, very tiny inside, but a couple of times, the AC was welcome. No excursions here -- the kids rented paddleboards and tried that out. Hubby and I enjoyed the floating loungers that came with the bungalow.

Cartagena, Colombia

4 out of 5
We took a taxi from the terminal area and the driver took us shopping and on a short tour of the city. Traffic was really bad, and that slowed down our progress and ability to see more. I really enjoyed the shops and the variety of products in the stores in the Old City area. We bought Cuban cigars, coffee, a cute nativity set, and quite a bit more. This was my first trip to South America, so the shops were filled with goods that were new to me.

Panama Canal (Cruise Into Canal)

2 out of 5
This one is hard to rate. The process through the new locks was, in fact, rather boring. We paid $189 per person to go through the entire canal, thinking it was one of those Bucket List things, like snorkeling in Iceland. Sadly, the excursion took almost 12 hours of our day. The bus ride was rather long, taking us to a launching point to board a ship that held a couple hundred people. The bus stopped at a gas station, along with 7 other buses from the ship!, for what reason I wasn't entirely sure, but we went into the convenience store and ordered some food, just to sample something different. Prices were VERY inexpensive. After this stop, we continued to the boarding point and then were held captive for about 9 hours. The tour guide yammered the entire time, sometimes repeating things he had already said. He just would not shut up. At times, the boat was travelling so slowly you could hardly tell it was moving and the progress was excruciatingly slow. Painfully so. When we actually got to the old locks, now that was something. We were able to touch the sides of the locks and were able to see a ship in the adjoining lock, sitting 20 some feet higher than we were. I think the old locks tell more of the story about how amazing this is. Since the process to the Pacific took so long, we didn't have any time at all to shop and got back to the ship very late. In retrospect, I'm glad we went on this excursion because of the ultimate accomplishment of passing through the entire canal. Was it worth nearly $800 for the 4 of us -- no, it wasn't. LIke I said, a tough call.

Colon, Panama

1 out of 5
By the time we got to Colon, it was late and we had to go directly to the ship.

Puerto Limon, Costa Rica

5 out of 5
We weren't sure about what we wanted to do in Limon and, therefore, didn't schedule any excursions. We got off the ship mid-morning and encountered one of those tour guide/taxi drivers who hang out at most ports. This one told us about a ziplining company that was superior to the one offered by the ship's excursion office. "Jungle Breezes" is the name of the company. She said this ziplining experience had much longer runs that were fast and lots of fun. Plus, it was $50 per person, compared with a much higher price via the ship's. We had a BLAST!!! We saw a sloth up in a tree, huge iguanas, and were up high in the rainforest canopy. Based on the median age of this cruise, 71, and the fact that Princess caters to an older demographic, I'm guessing that the ship's ziplining excursion was a bit tamer. I highly recommend Jungle Breezes -- dont be taken aback by the rugged drive there, which happens to be much, much closer than the Veragua ziplining location. It was nice to have a short drive through town with a cab driver than board a huge bus and travel over an hour to Veragua.

George Town, Grand Cayman

2 out of 5
No excursions. We did some shopping. With 5 ships in port, the shopping area was unpleasantly crowded and horribly hot and humid.


3 out of 5
Better than one experience on Royal Caribbean when they actually forgot about our group!! As mentioned in previous reviews for this same cruise, a medical emergency put us a few hours behind and that affected the disembarkation process. Customs was a total breeze and we were out on the curb waiting for our Uber driver in no time.
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