Island Princess Cruise Review to Panama Canal, Central America


7+ cruises


Helpful Votes

5 out of 5

Another bucket list checkmark - Panama Canal did not disappoint!

Sail Date: February 03, 2016

Reviewed: 7 months ago

Traveled As: Couple

Room Type: Suite

This cruise represents the first half of our Panama Canal adventure. I will review the return trip separately but we enjoyed both legs equally because of the wonderful customer-focused attitude of the crew members coupled with an interesting itinerary. My husband and I traveled together on this trip.


Cruise Photos

Cabin / Stateroom
(Sorry but I am tired of having to re-enter this comment which did not carry-over when I decided to edit another section of this review). Suffice to say, we loved our cabin location and type.
Embarkation and Disembarkation
Port Everglades embarkation was great... smooth as silk.
San Pedro (in transit) was not so great. I've commented on that separately.
Ship Quality
Ship is older but it was clean as a whistle. The decor reflects an earlier time but it is relatively neutral and comfortable.
Destinations and Excursions
The highlight of the cruise was the Panama Canal. We went for that reason alone. Nothing special about Aruba and it was made even less inviting by the fact that we were only in port for a few hours (7am-1:30).
Missed Costa Rica due to poor weather but we were able to substitute Cabo San Lucas (tender port) instead.
Onboard Activities
Lots of trivia. The daily poolside zumba and line dancing classes were always well attended. Variety of arts and crafts classes offered.
Passenger choir was largest I've seen on any ship. Lots of fun.
Bingo offered but did not attend.
Name-that-Tune hosted by a piano player was different.
Children's Programs
(this survey needs a not applicable option.)
Nothing stands out for the theatre shows->. Predictable comedy routines with old jokes about cabin size, etc., magic/illusion shows were ok.
The Souvenir Trio (Ukrainian group) were a passenger favorite. We were groupies for the entire voyage.
Guitarist Josh Wheeler was very pleasant and actually knew a rather obscure Elliott Smith song. Xcite dance band was fabulous.
Service and Staff
Excellent professional crew topped off our experience. Even the behind-the-scenes crew members were smiling and welcomed us if we passed by while they were working. Simply amazing.
Food and Dining
We cannot say enough positive things for the quality and variety of food offerings in all venues. Normal Love Chocolate Journey was fabulous (if you love chocolate). Only negative thing I can think of saying is that The Bayou called itself a "steakhouse" but the menu was so Louisiana Cajun-focused that I had to wonder why they bothered. Recommend Sabatini's over The Bayou.
Ft. Lauderdale (Port Everglades), Florida
Oranjestad, Aruba
Cartagena, Colombia
The horse-drawn carriage tour books up early so book ahead of time or you will be out of luck. Also, book a tour through Princess. There were many warnings about wandering around public areas in Colombia.
Panama Canal Transit
Book a balcony cabin for this cruise. On deck 10 forward, at the very bow, there is a door on the port side. It is not labeled but it leads to an open bow area which is great for viewing during the canal traverse.
Fuerte Amador, Panama
The smaller transports for excursions are cramped and just a smidge bigger than a mini-bus. Beware before you book. Also keep in mind that this is a tender port and often quite windy which whips up the water a bit. The tender ride is a choppy adventure and getting on/off the tender can be intimidating for the less physically abled.
Puntarenas, Costa Rica Had to skip Puntarenas due to poor weather and port closure. Went to Cabo San Lucas instead.
Puerto Chiapas (Tapachula), Mexico
There is literally a pool and a visitor center right off the pier. The center features a few vendor shops but it is difficult to figure out if goods were local made. The pool features a bar and was crowded the entire time we were docked. Otherwise, there is NOTHING in the immediate port area. Book an excursion if you want to actually see something. Also, this port was extremely smoky. Can't actually say why but air quality was poor, especially in the morning hours. If you have a breathing condition, this is not the port to do a lot of physical activity unless you book an excursion outside of the immediate port area.
San Pedro (Los Angeles), California
Our second poor experience getting through this port process. We were in-transit passengers and they still managed to mess it up. My disabled husband finally got out of his wheelchair and hobbled back on board. This port needs serious help.


The concept of Anytime Dining is great, but execution needs some fine-tuning. Make a reservation for a set dining time once you get on the ship. Yep, that flies in the face of "anytime" dining but if you dine at a popular time, not having a reserved table leaves you sitting with a beeper waiting.

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