The transit is a "must do"
Island Princess Cruise Review to Panama Canal, Central America
Went to LA the day before and stayed on the Queen Mary over night. It was a great start for a cruise as it took us back to the beginning of cruising in luxury. The history included famous people who sailed on her, her role during the war and more. You get a self-guided audio tour with the booking and it is fascinating all the things the Queen Mary has been through. They were still working on parts of the ship. Evidentially she had slipped into some disrepair, but she is now looking like an old lady with stories to tell. Highly recommend these accommodations.
We took a cab to San Pedro to board the Island Princess and arrived within our slotted time. Embarkation went smoothly with our cabin available for carry-on drop off. We promptly went to the Horizons on Lido Deck for lunch. The Horizons is in the front of the ship so we were always a bit disoriented as we are used to the buffet being in the aft. The food selection was good and tasty. I enjoyed this part of the ship as it seemed so open even when crowded. It did get busy for the transit, with folks saving their place at the front at 4:00 AM.
We expected the passengers to be an older crowd and we were right. There were only about 2 dozen (or so) 50 and under. The disadvantage to this was the scheduling for Early Dining…. It was overbooked and a real disaster when the Any Time diners tried to get into the MDR. We skipped the MDR the 3rd night due this mess but figured out a “work-around” after that. We were impressed that they were able to have a varied menu for 15 days. The food was good and the presentations very appealing. They are also very accommodating for people with special diet needs (be sure to let them know ahead of time). We were slightly disappointed in the more casual dress on formal night than the last time we sailed on a Princess ship (2 years ago). That said, they did enforce the dress code as posted daily in the “Princess Patter” and at the entrance to the dining room.
The balcony cabin was smaller than we anticipated and the shower was tiny (kept hitting my elbows). We felt that a balcony was a must because we had no idea how much rail space would be available for the transit. I would recommend deck 9 (Emerald Deck) because it is closer to the water and better for measuring the rise and fall of the ship. Sadly there was a leak in the plumbing on decks 9 & 11 and they were frequently turning off the water for hours at a time and there was a musty odor in the corridors. She is, after all, an older ship and age takes a toll on us all.
Our room steward, Glenn, was the best we have had in many years (reminded us of the ones back in the beginning of our cruising history). He watched the cabins to see when his passengers left to eat and promptly cleaned the cabin. There was no need to pick when you wanted your cabin cleaned as it was morning and evening (with chocolates every night). We asked for a sheet because the duvet was too hot for sleeping under and he had it ready that very evening. He always asked if there was anything else we needed and seemed happy to fix whatever problem arose. He was always smiling and remembered our names.
There were only a few smokers on this cruise (mostly the younger folks), so the casino was relatively smoke free. They would go to Churchill’s to smoke or the one outdoor area (I think there was only one). No one seemed unhappy on either side of the issue.
If you have sailed the Island Princess in the past and expect deck 7 to go around the ship, that is no longer true. Many folks did a daily walk on this deck, but either turned around or walked through the ship for their laps. This is more shaded than deck 15 where others went for the daily laps. Yes, there is a gym on board, but I have no idea what it looks like.
We had a “destination specialist on board that gave presentations for each port of call and information about the area in general. These were wonderful and very informative. If you have a chance to hear any presentation from Humberto Neto, go and enjoy.
Food and Dining
Service and Staff
Cabin / Stateroom
When going through the Canal Decks 9 and 11 have a forward public area. You must go through a door marked "emergency exit" but is open and available for the transit.