After two days of jetlag recovery at Hilton Beach Resort at Fort Lauderdale, Island Princess was a blast. Words: Gavin Bentley.
My wife, Dorothy, and I enjoyed a quick and smooth embarkation and the first night on board set the tone for the cruise. We walked into The Wheelhouse Bar on Promenade Deck and Raj, the bar tender, said, “How are you?” He remembered me from two previous cruises on Pacific Princess and Sun Princess. Raj’s warm welcome and ongoing service was typical of our Island Princess experience. Indeed we had a lot of fun with many of the, as usual multi-national crew, maybe because Australians were very much in the minority on board.
Island Princess has retained many maritime themes with interesting décor, though it does pander to Americanisation and contemporary marketing, which it seems I will have to endure considering the dynamics of the cruising industry. We used the gym on a daily basis and didn’t use a lift once in our 15-day cruise – no mean feat considering we were allocated a well-appointed Balcony Cabin on Baha Deck 11. We very impressed with our cruise, although Island Princess is yet to receive the Movies Under the Stars upgrade. At 92,000 tons, her pax:space ratio was ideal, for what is now regarded a mid-size ship, with a full complement of passengers. Yes there are the Art Auctions, the never-ending flow of advertising brochures for the boutiques and some other pet hates of Douglas Ward’s, but thankfully not too many announcements.
Food and drink:
Earlier this year we did a two night ‘repo’ on Dawn Princess and were impressed save for the requirement of Traditional Dining. Thankfully, Anytime Dining was an option on Island Princess and if we were patient we managed to get our requested table. The food in both the Dining Room and Horizon Court Buffet was consistently very good. We had one meal in the speciality Bayou Cafe, an option we would not normally consider because of the surcharge, but it was outstanding for food and service with a professional entertainer doubling as a hostess. Perfect for a special occasion!
Our favourite ports were in South America – Aruba, Huatulco and Cabo San Lucas, to which we had been previously. I also enjoyed the intrigue of Cartagena, although Dorothy was a little concerned by Colombian security. Of course the highlight, and the reason for doing the trip, was the transit of the Panama Canal. That was a day I will not forget. What a great time I had, transversing the passageways of the 294m ship from the viewing decks forward and aft on Baha Deck to watch every aspect of the nine-hour transit interspersed with relaxing on the balcony observing the scenery with a light lunch and a glass (or two) of vino listening to the expert commentary from the bridge.
We will probably cruise with Princess Cruises next time, partly because our Captain’s Circle status tends to influence us in that direction. One day we might try the likes of Silverseas or Regent Seven Seas, but that may spoil us – and our bank balance – forever.