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Princess Cruises: Island Princess

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Mar 1, 2017

Review of Island Princess

Terry Knight Age: 66 Occupation:Retired RN Number of Cruises: 5 Cruise Line: Princess Ship: Island Princess Sailing Date: 2016-08-20 Itinerary: Alaska We sailed from Vancouver with stops in Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway sailed Glacier Bay College Fjord and disembarked in Whittier, for our land tour. For the land portion we spent 2 days in McKinley, 2 days at Denali and 2 days at Fairbanks Lodges. We chose Princess for our Alaskan cruise and land tour

because of positive reviews of Princess for Alaska. Although the weather was in the 50's most of the trip and frequently rainy , we enjoyed our trip, especially the land tour. The ship seemed clean and the staff were friendly and courteous. BUT-We noticed a sewer odor as soon as we boarded the ship. It was bad in our bathroom, seemed to get better and then worse at times, and we got wafts of the odor at times throughout the ship during our cruise. We stayed on the Dolphin deck forward. Food is far superior in dining room than Horizon Court. (Don't miss the Creme Brulee.) We found the food in Horizon Court to look good but had no flavor. Even the desserts were blah. We did not dine in any of the specialty restaurants with additional cost. We had a balcony room which I highly recommend. If you are going Northbound, choose a room on the starboard side if you have a balcony. You will see of the towns and land as you are sailing. Bring a fabric steamer since there are no irons in the rooms. The laundry facilities are all at the rear of the ship. I enjoyed having the park rangers and the naturalist on the ship, nature and wildlife programs greatly enhanced the experience. I enjoyed the shows in the princess theater, but I think the music for dancing was a bit sedate and they need to kick it up a notch. Did not do any shopping to speak of on the ship. The excursions were all very good that we chose, except we had 2 that involved flying cancelled due to bad weather. We were able to make up for it by taking a last minute glacier landing flight out of Talkeetna on the land tour. Bring a good camera with a sports mode and a good set of binoculars. Overbook excursions, since some might be cancelled if it rains.They do not let you know of cancellations until the last minute and you might not have time to book something else you would choose. We were told by friends that had done Alaska cruises that they were more casual, and we wished we had brought some dressy clothes. We definitely felt under dressed in the evenings. We packed more for the land tour, but there were many on the cruise who only did the cruise. My husband did not bring a suit coat, or dress shirt tie (at least bring a button down shirt and tie) and we were not allowed in to the 2 formal nights in the dining room where the food is much better. Princess does a great job in getting you from place to place and informing you of where to be when. Every bus, shuttle and train has drivers who narrate during the ride pointing out points of interest, local history and their personal stories of why he came to Alaska. We learned so much and gained such an appreciation of the land and its people. We stayed at the Princess McKinley Lodge-(our favorite because of the beautiful view of Mt Denali, walking trails and setting) Princess Denali Lodge-some trails closed due to "wildlife activity", and the Princess Fairbanks Lodge. The Fairbanks lodge is more like a regular chain motel. We loved all our excursions and were the most pleasantly surprised at our last stop in Fairbanks by the included excursion Riverboat Discovery Cruise and Gold Dredge. A very enjoyable day and included so much information about the history of the area. Don't skip it!

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Aug 11, 2016

Alaska

We sailed from Vancouver with stops in Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway sailed Glacier Bay College Fjord and disembarked in Whittier, for our land tour. For the land portion we spent 2 days in McKinley, 2 days at Denali and 2 days at Fairbanks Lodges. We chose Princess for our Alaskan cruise and land tour because of positive reviews of Princess for Alaska. Although the weather was in the 50's most of the trip and frequently rainy , we enjoyed our

trip, especially the land tour. The ship seemed clean and the staff were friendly and courteous. BUT-We noticed a sewer odor as soon as we boarded the ship. It was bad in our bathroom, seemed to get better and then worse at times, and we got wafts of the odor at times throughout the ship during our cruise. We stayed on the Dolphin deck forward. Food is far superior in dining room than Horizon Court. (Don't miss the Creme Brulee.) We found the food in Horizon Court to look good but had no flavor. Even the desserts were blah. We did not dine in any of the specialty restaurants with additional cost. We had a balcony room which I highly recommend. If you are going Northbound, choose a room on the starboard side if you have a balcony. You will see of the towns and land as you are sailing. Bring a fabric steamer since there are no irons in the rooms. The laundry facilities are all at the rear of the ship. I enjoyed having the park rangers and the naturalist on the ship, nature and wildlife programs greatly enhanced the experience. I enjoyed the shows in the princess theater, but I think the music for dancing was a bit sedate and they need to kick it up a notch. Did not do any shopping to speak of on the ship. The excursions were all very good that we chose, except we had 2 that involved flying cancelled due to bad weather. We were able to make up for it by taking a last minute glacier landing flight out of Talkeetna on the land tour. Bring a good camera with a sports mode and a good set of binoculars. Overbook excursions, since some might be cancelled if it rains.They do not let you know of cancellations until the last minute and you might not have time to book something else you would choose. We were told by friends that had done Alaska cruises that they were more casual, and we wished we had brought some dressy clothes. We definitely felt under dressed in the evenings. We packed more for the land tour, but there were many on the cruise who only did the cruise. My husband did not bring a suit coat, or dress shirt tie (at least bring a button down shirt and tie) and we were not allowed in to the 2 formal nights in the dining room where the food is much better. Princess does a great job in getting you from place to place and informing you of where to be when. Every bus, shuttle and train has drivers who narrate during the ride pointing out points of interest, local history and their personal stories of why he came to Alaska. We learned so much and gained such an appreciation of the land and its people. We stayed at the Princess McKinley Lodge-(our favorite because of the beautiful view of Mt Denali, walking trails and setting) Princess Denali Lodge-some trails closed due to "wildlife activity", and the Princess Fairbanks Lodge. The Fairbanks lodge is more like a regular chain motel. We loved all our excursions and were the most pleasantly surprised at our last stop in Fairbanks by the included excursion Riverboat Discovery Cruise and Gold Dredge. A very enjoyable day and included so much information about the history of the area. Don't skip it!

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Feb 19, 2016

The prettiest of the Princess Fleet I've sailed on

I sailed with Island Princess from Ft. Lauderdale to Los Angeles and very much enjoyed my first time aboard her. I was most impressed with the decor: lovely paintings, screens, pools in the atrium, etc. Like less passengers. My room steward and diningroom waiters were the best I've had in ages. Would love to sail again on this very pleasant, comfortable ship.

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Jul 25, 2013

ALASKA

I picked Princess due to the repetition and cruise destination. I enjoyed the cruise portion of my trip. I thought most of the employees were extremely confident and professional. Our steward was enormously accommodating always inquiring if there was anything we needed, etc. The dining room menu selections were goo the food average. The accommodations were what I expected, small but adequate for two petite women. All was going well UNTIL we left

the ship for the three day land segment. Princess scheduled us to arrive at McKinley and Denali Lodges knowing that we would arrive too late to do or plan any excursions? Actually you could have skipped McKinley, nothing there. I waited for years to see Denali. Thanks to their arrangements we arrived in Denali after 4 PM with the last excursion leaving at 3 PM. I cannot even describe how distressed and depressed we were. The only reason Princess would schedule anyone to these lodges is that people would spend more money in the restaurants and gift shops Thank you Princess Cruises for ruining what could have been an exceptional vacation. Menu selections looked good and most of the food was fine but a little bland. Small but fine cabin for two petite people. Clean. Really did not participate in many activities. Be very careful of the land segment -- Princess does not schedule well for this. Took four excursions, two were nice. The Whale dinner sightseeing cruise was a waste of money. The food was horrible and the boat so so.

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Jun 30, 2013

Alaska

This was our second cruise. We cruised to Alaska on June 2, 2013. We were a bit disappointed with ths cruise only because of the workers bugging you and trying to sell things. Our first breakfast the waiters were bugging us and were very persistant. It continued with our evening meals and so on. Like trying to get you to buy Sanctuary bookings for the glacierts the next day, wine testing and so on. We told them we were not interested but they

ever gave up. That was the only real complaint but comparing this cruise to our cruise we took last year, a Norweigan Hawaii cruise June 2, 2012 for our 40th anniversary I'd have to say this didn't happen on Norweigan. Also this cruise we had three full days of cruising which I didn't like. Our last year cruise to Hawaii we cruised at night and were docked in the morning. Just had to say this, hopefully this stops. Good and plenty of food. Cabin was very good and kept clean. Average activities. The shows were great. All in all glad I went but wouldn't go back. This was three days of cruising. Too much on the water. Weather was cold and dreary.

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Feb 20, 2013

Panama Canal

We have cruised 10-15 times and never before have I been ready to come home. My 85-year-old father cannot walk long distances, so he was in a wheelchair. Cruising with my Daddy was a very special time, and this was our last cruise together. From the moment we arrived at the pier until they dumped my father out of his wheelchair on disembarkation, it was an awful trip. We have cruised mostly Celebrity which is in the same price range as Princess,

but there is no comparison in service, ship maintenance, and overall quality. Repeatedly I got the feeling that the crew just does not care. They claim to be the "consummate host," but they failed miserably. Very substandard. We have cruised probably 5 different lines, and this was the worst food. Our waitress made sure she steered us to the better items on the menu. She said it wasn't an issue toward the end of the cruise--I guess they thought if they left a better last impression, we wouldn't remember how bad it was. I am accustomed to meals being an enjoyable occasion. I was actually chastised by a head waiter for "breaking in line" after I waited in line and entered the dining room when the greeter motioned us in. We were left standing there while he seated about 10 parties behind us. I was in tears. He refused to seat us the rest of the cruise. I told the front desk about this, but nothing was done. Our cabin was very warm, and there was no top sheet on the bed, only a duvet. After two hours of trying to sleep, I called housekeeping and asked for a top sheet. I also asked if they had anything to make the bed softer. I asked for a sheet and two egg crates. I would be ashamed to offer my guest a bed to sleep on that has very little more padding than a box spring. I asked for a water pitcher, but was told I couldn’t have one. I am accustomed to having a pitcher in the cabin because I drink a lot of water. If I had to buy their bottled water, I would have paid an extra $6 a day just for drinking water. (The tap water was too hot to drink and the ice bucket didn’t hold enough ice to cool it down.) The shower was hot water only, so you couldn't adjust the temp. The room was hot, so it took a long time to cool down enough to get dressed after a shower. I learned that the laundry room was very cool, so I would go down there a cool off sometimes. I talked to the front desk manager about all of this, but I just wasted my breath. We pretty much stayed in our room. It was too difficult to get the wheelchair passed all of the carts in the hallway. Getting to meals was enough of a strain on my back. Didn't take any. But our table mates said they sent them on a half-day tour of Costa Rica in an un-airconditioned bus. I have never come home from a vacation feeling like I still needed a vacation. I asked for a refund, particularly since they injured my father. They are offerng a partial refund. I hurt my back lifting the wheelchair off the elevators because they didn't line up with the floor. One of the automatic doors kept closing on us. (I offered to go and show them which one so that they could fix it after it slammed on my hand, but they didn't care.) The last time I cruised with Princess, sewage came up through my shower drain every afternoon. I should have known by their attitude then that taking another trip with them was a bad idea, but they were the only line with a round trip Canal cruise from Ft. Lauderdale.

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Sep 17, 2012

Alaska

My wife and I just returned from a seven day cruise aboard the island Princess. Notwithstanding the efforts of a very gracious and helpful crew this will definitely be our last Princess cruise! Our biggest disappointment was the food: awful is not an exaggeration! Think hospital cuisine. On the menu everything looked great but was consistently overcooked and tasteless. If you're an obese glutton (there were plenty of those) this may be right up

your alley. However, if your reasonably discriminating in your dining save yourself the disappointment! Everything on this ship is designed to sell you something: jewelry, clothing, photographs or another cruise. This is a marketing program on the high seas. Even a cooking demonstration by the head chef followed by a tour of the kitchen morphed into a parade through a dinning room where a three hour sale of clothing was going on. From there we were ushered through a corridor where everything on the ship was laid out for sale. Alaska is wonderful, by all means go there - just not on Princess. Awful is not too strong a word. One of our servers in the dinning room shared that she had been on the ship for over a month and found the food so bad that she lost 6lbs. The only decent meal we experienced was in their premium restaurant Bayou, a New Orleans style steakhouse. Here the food was well seasoned and properly prepared. Of course it came with a $20.00 premium per person and an additional $5.00 for many menue items. Sabatini, the other premium restaurant was as disappointing as the general dining rooms. we were upgraded to a suite which we found nicely appointed and spacious. This ship apparently caters to an older, inactive crowd. To be fair there are lectures worth attending but bingo is more representative of the onboard activities. The excursions are pretty boilerplate and readily available from the vendors direct on line or in port. I would avoid booking through Princess as their cancellation policy is inflexible and it takes forever to get a credit for a tour once canceled. We took the southbound inside passage and loved the scenery. Alaska is beautiful: a real bucket list item. A tour trough Denali National Park provides a credible opportunity to see abundant wildlife.

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Sep 17, 2012

Alaska

My wife and I just returned from a seven day cruise aboard the island Princess. Notwithstanding the efforts of a very gracious and helpful crew this will definitely be our last Princess cruise! Our biggest disappointment was the food: awful is not an exaggeration! Think hospital cuisine. On the menu everything looked great but was consistently overcooked and tasteless. If you're an obese glutton (there were plenty of those) this may be right up

your alley. However, if your reasonably discriminating in your dining save yourself the disappointment! Everything on this ship is designed to sell you something: jewelry, clothing, photographs or another cruise. This is a marketing program on the high seas. Even a cooking demonstration by the head chef followed by a tour of the kitchen morphed into a parade through a dinning room where a three hour sale of clothing was going on. From there we were ushered through a corridor where everything on the ship was laid out for sale. Alaska is wonderful, by all means go there - just not on Princess. Awful is not too strong a word. One of our servers in the dinning room shared that she had been on the ship for over a month and found the food so bad that she lost 6lbs. The only decent meal we experienced was in their premium restaurant Bayou, a New Orleans style steakhouse. Here the food was well seasoned and properly prepared. Of course it came with a $20.00 premium per person and an additional $5.00 for many menue items. Sabatini, the other premium restaurant was as disappointing as the general dining rooms. we were upgraded to a suite which we found nicely appointed and spacious. This ship apparently caters to an older, inactive crowd. To be fair there are lectures worth attending but bingo is more representative of the onboard activities. The excursions are pretty boilerplate and readily available from the vendors direct on line or in port. I would avoid booking through Princess as their cancellation policy is inflexible and it takes forever to get a credit for a tour once canceled. We took the southbound inside passage and loved the scenery. Alaska is beautiful: a real bucket list item. A tour trough Denali National Park provides a credible opportunity to see abundant wildlife.

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Sep 17, 2012

Alaska

My wife and I just returned from a seven day cruise aboard the island Princess. Notwithstanding the efforts of a very gracious and helpful crew this will definitely be our last Princess cruise! Our biggest disappointment was the food: awful is not an exaggeration! Think hospital cuisine. On the menu everything looked great but was consistently overcooked and tasteless. If you're an obese glutton (there were plenty of those) this may be right up

your alley. However, if your reasonably discriminating in your dining save yourself the disappointment! Everything on this ship is designed to sell you something: jewelry, clothing, photographs or another cruise. This is a marketing program on the high seas. Even a cooking demonstration by the head chef followed by a tour of the kitchen morphed into a parade through a dinning room where a three hour sale of clothing was going on. From there we were ushered through a corridor where everything on the ship was laid out for sale. Alaska is wonderful, by all means go there - just not on Princess. Awful is not too strong a word. One of our servers in the dinning room shared that she had been on the ship for over a month and found the food so bad that she lost 6lbs. The only decent meal we experienced was in their premium restaurant Bayou, a New Orleans style steakhouse. Here the food was well seasoned and properly prepared. Of course it came with a $20.00 premium per person and an additional $5.00 for many menue items. Sabatini, the other premium restaurant was as disappointing as the general dining rooms. we were upgraded to a suite which we found nicely appointed and spacious. This ship apparently caters to an older, inactive crowd. To be fair there are lectures worth attending but bingo is more representative of the onboard activities. The excursions are pretty boilerplate and readily available from the vendors direct on line or in port. I would avoid booking through Princess as their cancellation policy is inflexible and it takes forever to get a credit for a tour once canceled. We took the southbound inside passage and loved the scenery. Alaska is beautiful: a real bucket list item. A tour trough Denali National Park provides a credible opportunity to see abundant wildlife.

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Nov 29, 2011

Panama Canal

This was my first cruise with Princess. Overall, a fantastic experience! The ship and crew are both top notch. Despite being nearly a decade old ship, it is well kept by its friendly staff. Embarkation was a breeze, luggage arrived nearly the same time as we located our stateroom. Our cabin steward was friendly and helpful. This ship is the perfect size. Plenty of places to go and things to do without seeming like you are forever wandering

around a labyrinth of a ship. Panama Canal day was the highlight. Worth it to wake up early & enjoy the Panamanian sunrise while entering the locks. (There's a secret buried in another Cruise Review about the Island Princess. It will make your early morning rise all the more special if you find it.) I have to agree with the other reviews, food was just ok. Although a blessing in disguise as I did not gain any lbs during this 10 day cruise, it was a disappointment to not have warm rolls or flavorful fish in the main dining room. We did not venture into the "upscale" restaurants. The all you can eat pizza was mostly overcooked (dare I say, burnt) and the grille above it was again, just ok. Stateroom was a mini-suite with a balcony. Good space and the 2 TV's were a nice feature. No built in DVD player (included) was a disappointment, but not a deal breaker. Bathroom was surprisingly spacious and well designed with lots of shelves and places to hang things. Main bed was comfortable and cozy. Pillows... not so much. Might want to bring your own if you can. Fold away bed was uncomfortable and mattress was very thin. Anyone who weighs more than 60 lbs will not like it. We didn't partake in a lot of the activities on board, but they seem plentiful and most people we spoke with enjoyed them. Your daily planner will be chock full of things to do... or not to do. That's the beauty of cruising. Don't miss: Aruba is a nice relaxing place with beautiful beaches. DePalm Island is clean and gorgeous. We were the only boat in town, so about 50 of us that had the run of the whole place. If there 3 more ships & 250 more people there, I don't think I would not have had as much fun. Panama: If your itinerary is like mine (not a thru crossing), make sure you take an excursion in a smaller boat to the MiraFlores (Pacific) side. Touching the lock walls & getting a guided tour from a local is the way to go for a full Panama experience. That's why you are on this cruise, right? Do it up right! Costa Rica is a lush, tropical locale. Venture to the rainforest and take the aerial tram or zipline. (Take your dramamine for the bus ride. The roads are awful.) Grand Cayman: I recommend finding your own tour to see the stingrays or for snorkeling. The locals are happy to cut out the cruise ship cost and give you a better experience for going that extra mile. All the tour companies are in walking distance of the port area & they will get you back to your ship in plenty of time. Miss: Columbia. 'Nuff said. Take a spa day on the ship. Your money will be better spent. A few items that I did not touch on above: Kid Stuff: Not many kids on this cruise (10 total), but the kids club was friendly and well stocked. Lots of crafts and other fun stuff you will not have room to pack. Again, the warm, friendly staff thru-out the ship knew my child by name about day 3, so that was a nice, welcoming feel. Tipping: This was my first experience with auto-tipping, ($12 per day per person). At first, I didn't think I would like it, but for me, it was more comfortable overall just tipping those persons that truly went that extra mile for you, knowing that others are still getting something extra. Dining in the formal dining room: This was very pleasant. Although the food could have been better, it was a nice, (relatively) quiet meal. We were never interrupted with some kind of "show" by the wait staff or a blatant plug for money (see Tipping above) by the maitre d'. The staff were warm and friendly & attentive without being "in your face". Dining in the buffet: It could be tough to find a table if you go a peak times. Staff are quick to find you a table and carry your plate for you (especially if the seas are rough). The buffet is on the bow of the ship, so if you are prone to sea sickness, I recommend taking your food out to the pool area for a less rocky meal. There were plenty of tables and areas to eat at outside in the fresh air. Other things: Pictures: Yes, there will be pictures taken & sometimes the photographers are in your way. Smile and move on... You are on vacation! (You don't have to buy them, so relax.) Work out area: Free to use all equipment which was modern and well kept. Lotus Spa: Very nice offerings, but not the best prices. (Surprised?) As with most cruises, check back frequently as specials arise daily. Shows: Get there early, cause they fill up quick. Quality & variety are very good.

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Sep 9, 2011

Northern Caribbean

Overall the cruise was good. However, there was one glaring negative that ruined this cruise experience. I am from Bermuda and my brother and I took our mom on an 80th birthday cruise. On the formal night my brother and I proudly wore our formal native dress which is Bermuda Shorts,knee socks,blazer and tie. This can be worn as formal in my country. The dining Matre'D refused to let us into the dining room because "we had shorts on". There were

other gentlemen who wore sandals with Hawaiian style shirts (this did not appear very formal to me) who were allowed into the dining room, but we were singled out and were denied access. It almost seemed personal as other passengers were in full support of my family and could not figure why we could not enter the dining room. The dining Matre'D stood his ground. We insisted that if we were from Scotland and wore Kilts we'd be admitted, or if we were from Saudi and wore robes we'd be admitted, but he still stood his ground. Princess ships are even registered in Bermuda. We took our complaint to others in the ship and after about 45 minutes of complaining to higher and higher authorities we were finally admitted, although not with the consent of the Dining Matre'D. His Predjuical behavior left a sickening taste to our cruise experience. There were no apologies of any sort from anyone. If a cruise line is going to avail itself to passengers from around the globe they should respect the various cultures. Aside from this the cruise was good. Food was Ok. Had a balcony stateroom. It was adequate but the shower was quite small. Good ... Nothing negative

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Dec 31, 2010

Panama Canal

We were very pleased to return again to the island Princess. Our last cruise on this ship was in 1993, it's inaugural year, and we found the ship to be in the same great shape. Cleanliness, passenger health, courtesy, and securtiy are priorities for the line. We found the cruise staff to be upbeat and helpful, We felt a strong pressure to buy items services on a regular basis which did not change our buying habits [and did not take away from our

enjoyment of the cruise], but it did decrease the valued passenger concept. While every attempt is made to provide you with gourmet food as well as a wide international variety, we found it difficult to find food that we recognized. Breakfast was the best meal each day especially the grill area where the chef will make omelettes to order or eggs based on your preference. My husband prefers to eat most of our meals at the Horizon court, and despite the variety, many nights we ended up with a salad, some cheese, and a pork cultet with rice. They offer a wide variety of breads, cheeses, fruits, desserts, an extensive salad bar, soups, and a hot line. We were pleased to see that the ice cream station [standard on HAL] has now become standard on Princess instead of the Hagen Daz stand for a separate fee. Our stateroom was very quiet and clean. You could only hear people passing in the hallway. We could not hear our neighbors. The air temperature was easy to control, and we only had one very brief issue with the toilet [which seems to happen every cruise] that was resolved in an hour. We strongly recommend that you bring a travel pillow. The pillow are of very poor quality. My husband used towels under his pillow for support, and I was very glad that I had brough a small travel pillow with me. This ship has a very creative staff. I applaud them for plenty of options for different tastes. This ship has a dynamic art program with lectures and a variety of events throughout the trip. I participated in the Princess Olympics and the scavenger hunt which were great fun. I also recommend a new Princess program called the Princess Pop Choir. About twenty passengers met with a member of the ship's cast to practice 6 popular songs [with dance moves] that we performed for the passengers later in the cruise. Don't miss a chance to see the Panama Canal. It is truly an engineering marvel that while a slow transit is a rewarding experience. We are very grateful to have had another chance to enjoy a cruise vacation. Princess seems to desire a positive expereience for their passengers since repeat business benefits everyone.

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Jul 30, 2010

Inside Passage to Alaska

Our reason for going was to see the great state of Alaska up close and personal. That goal was achieved handsomely. We were unfortunate in the CruCon agent not supplying us with our documents by their lack of diligence and service. It made the trip feel a bit like Kindergarten for seniors as each installment or activity was unfolded for us that day...after we were dressed, or the day before. It was a bit disconcerting as a scavenger vacation was

not what we had in mind. The scenery was fantastic and the captain and naturalist gave every consideration to the majesty of the glaciers and the respect of the wildlife. The food was mediocre. The fruit selections lacked variety. The evening dining room service was slow and the soups were not very hot. The good news is that the seafood was plentiful. This was one of the better staterooms we have encountered. Particularly nice was the room design that seperated the sleeping area from the entry door and the light that often comes in around and under the door. The room was nearly soundproof, much better than ones on other trips. Most evenings we spent listening to Jean Mac and George Gallus perform old standards in the lounge. We noted that it was the lounge preferred by staff as well. The style was relaxed, comfortable and sure. Both have training and talent beyond the average in most lounges and clubs. They were able to play "Play that Tune" or "Sing that Tune" without pause. How refreshing to hear really good music so well done. My own husband is a professional pianist so we are a bit choosy in what is really good! These two should not be missed.

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By MC_CR

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Jun 16, 2010

land sea

The land portion was fine; not sure why we were stuck in Fairbanks so long and not longer in Denali or Talkeetna. The beds were hard as rocks, but didn't stay in them long so didn't matter. Food was so-so, but the train from Fairbanks to Denali was wonderful. The train from Talkeetna to Whitter was HORRID!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! felt nickled and dimed to death over tipping; everyone wanted a tip from the bus drivers, tour people, hotel people...

The ship was dirty; crew was indifferent and not what i expected. ok, not the best, not the worst ok, dirty. To take an alaska cruise you want to be able to see out and the doors and panels on teh balconey were filty; they weren't cleaned while the ship was in port before we baorded and were never cleaned the week we were there. we were never offered an upgrade (which we would have taken) but some were. the shower was so small you could not bend over to bathe and there was one sink. the beds were lumpy and very uncomfortable and the carpet was filty. what activities? the only think i saw was after the ranger came aboard and we missed half of her presenation. poor communcation by teh ship cruise director. assumed everyone saw the patter in time for any events that were free (and there weren't many of those) to attend. sure couldn't rely on staff to tell you squat; relied on fellow passengers check out anything NOT related to Princess Take the 65mile ATV in Talkeetna (awesome) the photo safari/whale watching in Juneau (limited to 14 ppl if you can believe it) glass blowing in Skagqay (limited as well) mountain hike in Denali Skip the horse in all land areas; waste of time and money the rainforest in Juneau is a landscaping company that built a rode up a big hill (skip) the bush plane in Ketichan; skip if bad weather; sternwheeler in Fairbanks was boring and too many people (felt like a cattle call) Skip the jet boat in Denali Age: 53 We took 14 day 10 night, vacation from 6/1/2010 to 6/14/2010. We booked everything through Princess via our travel agent, all inclusive (supposedly) On the 6/1 we left Chicago via Seattle to Fairbanks. Needless to say it was a long day, but a necessary evil, to get to our location. We stayed at a lodge that was not owned by Princess (according to the princess rep it was nicer than the Princess hotel). Very nice resort, personal very helpful and friendly. Food was expensive. TIP; don't take many summer clothes; stick to clothes that layer and multiple jeans. Went downtown; not much there to do or see; expensive cabs Day 2- Still in Fairbanks (I'm ready to leave a this point). We had a bus transfer (cattle call) to a sternwheeler riverboat cruise on the Chena and Tanana Rivers. The excursion was about 5 hours down a river and if you are on the side facing the water great you can see and hear everything, but if not and on the side facing the land you can't see a thing. The start of the sales pitches begins here. Afterward we had the midnight dinner float trip which was nice other than our guide talking incessantly Dinner way out in the country and it was quite good and then a relaxing float down the river (take your mosquito spray) Day 3 - took a bus to the train to go to Denali. Little did we know this was the nicest train we would see and it was excellent. Staff personable, fast, efficient. Seats comfy and the ability to go between trains to shoot pictures, which were amazing. Stayed at the lodge and had a great room overlooking the river. Took a hike up a mountain (the trip was billed by Princess as a leisurely walk; anything but a leisurely walk but well worth the view. Saw a moose with 3 calves down below) Day 4 - took the full day Denali Forest school bus tour. Didn't realize you can never get out to shoot pics. It was overcast and rainy so the bus windows were covered in mud and no matter how hard the driver tried to clean them at the 3 rests tops didn't help much. not a lot of opportunity to get out with nature. did see wildlife, couldn't shoot much due to conditions of bus - wasn't overwhelmed with this one; this was the one thing I really wanted on this trip - to see the tundra and it was the one thing we really couldn't do. after shopped and grabbed a bite at the local's hangout Day 5 - took the short ATV ride in Denali which was fun (they say archaeological dig - not. you ride around in a riverbed where they found a wooly mammoth in the past) and then took a motor coach to Talkeetna. Pretty nice - got our first glimpse of Mt McKinley - words cannot describe. Driver was an excellent guide. the princess lodge was very nice; rooms not so much and the princess folks lied to us. They told us none of the rooms had a view and they did. The beds were horrid and no fan took the jet boat that evening and no big whoop - skip it folks. Just riding down a river and stopping to see yet another Indian village - no wildlife on this one Day 6 - Next day the 65 miles ATV trip - this excursion ties with the Juneau whales as the best on the trip. Only 6 folks and the guide and it was all day but worth every minute. from the view to the excellent lunch to the wildlife and just flat out fun driving through the river in that ATV - do it (we were 1/2 women, all over 50 and 1/2 men - the women out did the men!) Rode horses afterward -skip it. Walked up paths to a flattop; they shot pics and you walked down - pretty unfun Day 7 - Next day we leave (sad - would like to have been in Denali or Talkeetna one of the days in Fairbanks) Had way too much time in the morning to wait on the train but not enough for an excursion. You are bused to Talkeetna which is one hour away from teh princess lodge. then you stand in lines based on some number in the rain waiting for the train. Then you get on; OMG. tiny tiny and not at all like the first train. We were told that was the Holland train. each 'seat' was a table with two cramped seats on each side. You are forced to have conversation with people and forget a nap or taking pics. food awful - made me sick and not near the drink selection as Holland - really disappointing in this one since the scenery was beautiful and could do anything about it other than walk up and down the train (found out that not all cars were as crammed as ours; some people had seats to themselves....we ended up in the cattle car) Arrive very late at Whitter and takes forever to get to the boat. Dirty room and limited food for room service Day 8 - other than one rainy day in Denali and rain as we left talkeetna awesome weather continues; we are at sea and see the College Fjord - but I missed it. Decided to get a massage, facial and ped and mani. Massage was to be 1 hour and ended up 1.5 and they tried to charge for that. the facial was 1/2 the time trying to sell me prod and the rest not worth the money if you have had one. Skip the mani and pedi; they don't sterile and I have an infection (and it chipped within an hour) Formal meal that night - good food Day 9- We cruised in and out of Glacier Bay. Truly amazing. Again the weather was gorgeous so we got a treat. Both days cruising in the fjord and the bay the rangers narrating gave excellent insight and observations. Saw a bear on the shore and whales when we sailed out. Was so warm on the deck had on shorts and sunscreen - marvelous day Day 10- Arrive in Skagway, we went to the summit by Train $100+ per and takes over 4 hours; skip it - not worth the effort at this point in my opinion unless you go further. Rode bikes for an hour all over the town which was fun and then went glass blowing which was great. This lady has created this amazing garden with miniature train and tea house and has 2 glass blowing studios. You get to blow your own ornament (which they ship to you) and then they feed you with homemade food that was delicious - very nice. think this was the 2nd formal dinner night and we missed the captain's cocktail party due to slow service. It took 2.5 hours to get dinner and it was cold when served and the waiter had an attitude. I did complain and they sent me 8 chocolate covered cherries as an apology Day 11-Arrive in Juneau, took the early morning rainforest. skip it - just a landscaping company that built a rode on a hill. Took the Photo safari to whale watching. GREAT! Limited to 14 ppl in a small maneuverable boat. We had an orca swim under the boat! it was great - the guide knew his stuff and made this excursion tied with the ATV for #1 Ate at sabatini's (had done this on prior cruise and had excellent Italian food and from a Chicago person that's means something). This was the type of service i expected from the ship. Friendly, funny, warm, on-top of everything but not in our face. Food was ok, but service was great rough seas that night - gale force winds Day 12- - Arrive in Ketchikan, cold!!! took the float/bush plane. Okay, rainy day and windy; got a bit green around the gills. Some amazing view of the Tongess Forest. Afterward hired a local tour guy for a fraction of the Princess charge ($30 total) and he drover us for an 1.5 hours around the island. He took us to where the locals throw out fish parts and the eagles come to eat and to 2 different active eagle nests. Amazing eagle pics. Then he took us to the inlet where the seals come and we saw some - very nice tour Day 13 - Arrive Vancouver, fly home. Not sure why we landed here and had to go through hours of customs.... Synopsis- Overall the trip exceeded was very nice; land much better than ship. We had excellent weather. Alaska is a beautiful place to visit and I'm planning my return visit. Don't know that I will do Princess again though....

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Apr 21, 2009

Panama Canal

We have sailed on all lines and have had good and bad experiences but can honestly say we only had a great time on this cruise. The Island Princess was one of the best. We would love to go back on this ship and with the same crew and service. Everyone went out of their way to make us enjoy ourselves. The food on this ship was average. I can honestly say we had better food on RCCL in Jan. of this year, 09. Our room was very nice and had by far

the best storage for luggage we have ever had on a ship. We usually have a balcony but not this time and was still very happy with our room. Only bathrooms were too small. They were nice except for casino, it is too small and we do not like the coinless slot machines. Excursions - we do not normally use as they are too expensive. We do our own when we go ashore. The trip was wonderful. We would definetly go back on this ship again. Our staff in the dining room could not have been any better. They went above and beyond in their service to us. The Panama Canal was so great and the Captain, Roger Bilton, did a great job keeping passengers informed at all times on all important issues. This was definetly one of my favorite cruises I have ever been on.

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Dec 15, 2007

Panama Canal

In summary, I had a great time (most important), the ship was adequate, the food was good and the service and entertainment were excellent. The cruise started in Acapulco and ended in San Juan. Embarkation in Acapulco: No problems. It took about 10 minutes from the time we got in line till the time we boarded the ship. We took a taxi from the airport to the port, about a 1-hour ride with a lot of traffic, for about $40. We met another

couple going to the cruise ship on the flight and shared a taxi. We checked in around 2pm and the ship left port at 8pm. Ship: A good size for the port of calls with a passenger capacity just under 2000. We never had issues disembarking or embarking from port of calls. They generally had two gang planks on different level’s, which made it faster. No ice rinks, climbing walls or wave pools, but the ship had plenty to keep most people busy. Three pool areas including a large, enclosed and air-conditioned spa pool area for adults only. Two large theaters for the show and entertainment, several bars that were never full, two main dining rooms, two specialty restaurants, a buffet and pizza bar. The gym and spa were nice but not as big as some of the mega-ships. I think about 70% of the cabins have a balcony and I recommend spending the extra money for one. Food: Generally speaking the food was good. They did a better job with the meat dishes than the fish dishes. Good selection in the buffet where we ate breakfast and lunch. We did not eat at the specialty restaurants, but they got rave reviews from those who did. Entertainment: The production shows were excellent, the best I have seen on any cruise ship. The singers were better than average but the dancers were excellent. It was a Christmas cruise and Princess did an excellent job with decorating the ship and Holiday events for the kids. Service: Cabin attendants were excellent. Food service was generally good but varied. We had the anytime dining option, so we had different waiters every night. We heard the traditional dining service was better, but we enjoyed meeting different people every night with the anytime dining option. The cruise director staff was also excellent and a lot of fun. Port of Calls: I have been on many cruises and generally opt to arrange my own shore excursions in ports. This gives me the freedom to see specifically what I want to see and usually at a little lower cost. I do my research a head of time and plan out my strategy before I get to port. For most cruise travelers, I would recommend the cruise sponsored shore excursions for many reasons, but mainly peace of mind. I have nearly missed the cruise ship departure times on a few occasions, and always for some unforeseen reason. You’re on vacation to relax not worry about making it back to the ship on time. Acapulco: Recommend flying in a day early if you want to see the sites in Acapulco. Flights from the US usually get in around mid-day and it takes at least two hours to clear immigration, get bags, customs and transfer to the ship. We walked around the Old Town area and a near by beach. The cliff divers usually jump at 1pm and 8pm but these times vary depending on the date and time of year. Your only shot is at the 1pm show because the ship leaves at 8pm. Huatulco: A beautiful and currently undeveloped resort on the Mexican Rivera. The ship docks in the small town of Santa Cruz inside a protected bay. There are nine bays along the coast of Huatulco, mostly undeveloped. If you don’t want to venture far from the ship, there is a beach right next to Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is a tourist town full of shops and cafes. You can take a short taxi ride (5 min) to a slightly larger town for more serious shopping and restaurant options. You can also take a short boat ride or taxi ride to La Entrega beach in the same bay the boat is docked. This beach is choked with beach chairs, umbrellas and small restaurants, but the water is beautiful and has some of the best snorkeling in the area. We opted to hire a taxi and tour the different bays along the coast. There is a cruise shore excursion that covers a similar route but does not stop in some of the more scenic areas our private tour included. Keep your eyes open for whales. Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala: I recommend a cruise shore excursion to either Antigua or Lake Atilan. The port is an industrial container port with a small town and a few shops. Antigua is one of the most scenic and original colonial cities in the Americas. Either take a guided walking tour of the town or roam around like we did. The central plaza and La Merced church are the highlights, but also check out the Mayan art market near the bus station (5 min walk from the central plaza). We ate lunch at the Posada Don Rodriguez, a beautifully restored colonial building now a boutique hotel. The drive from the port is about 1 hour and 15 minutes depending on traffic. Puerto Cortina, Nicaragua: We had a short time in port, so we took a shore excursion to Leon and the volcanic mud pots. Again, the port area is an industrial container port with a small town close by. But, you get a nice view of the Nicaraguan volcano mountain chain (I counted 8 volcano’s) from the ship if the weather is nice. Two of the volcano’s were active and looked like smoke stacks. Leon is another colonial town but not as nice as Antigua. The Cathedral is the main draw, especially the views from the roof-top. The Cathedral is on a very active main plaza area. The mud pots are a result of the volcanic activity from the near by volcano. The local children act as guides and some dig the hot mud out of the bubbling pots and sell to the tourist. It’s a lot cheaper than buying it from a spa. The ride from the port to Leon is about 1 hour and passes through some beautiful countryside. I found it an interesting stop, but if there is one port of call you want to stay on the ship, this is the one. Punta Arenas, Costa Rica: We have both been to Cost Rica and traveled the country extensively, so we did not opt for one of the many cruise shore excursions. Instead, we took a day cruise through Calypso Cruises to Isla Tortuga, a small island with a beautiful beach. The day trip was $99/person and a short taxi ride from the cruise ship port to the Calypso boat dock. It left the dock around 9:30am and returned about 5:30pm, so make sure your ship is in town long enough. The Calypso catamaran is very nice and modern and has two hot tubs on board. Non-alcoholic drinks are included and beers are $3. The island is beautiful and you can snorkel ($10), kayak ($20/hr), hike ($5 permit) or just relax on the beach. The rugged Costa Rican coast line is a great back drop to this tropical island. Calypso serves a nice lunch on the beach. Other’s who took the cruise shore excursions to the interior of Costa Rica said they enjoyed the excursions, but the drive to the locations was very bumpy and long. Traffic was very heavy and many of the Costa Rican roads are in poor condition. Panama Canal: I think most people who selected this cruise did so for the Panama Canal transit. We arrived at the Miraflores lock around 8am on the Pacific side and cleared the Gatun locks on the Caribbean side at about 5pm. We were delayed a little from the ship traffic. Bring binoculars. I saw a lot of wildlife near the Gatun locks. My sightings included eagles, monkeys, crocodiles, a toucan, parakeets and a Green parrot. Princess picked-up a guide in Panama City and he gave an excellent narrative as we passed through the canal. Princess dropped off four photographers so they could take pictures and video of our ship and passengers actually passing through the canal from the land and air perspectives. They actually charter a helicopter and had two photographers take pictures and videos from the air. Keep in mind this ship does not stop in Panama, only travels through the canal. Cartagena, Columbia: The ship docks next to a container port but it is close to the old city of Cartagena. We decided to hire a taxi to see the major sites. He charged us $50 for a 5 hour tour, a little less then the standard rate. The two highlights are the old city and the view from the La Popa Monastery. The souvenir hawkers are relentless at every tourist stop, but a simple “No Gracias” and a hand wave and they usually leave you alone. The Old City is beautiful with colorful buildings and churches with flowers in every window. The city is vibrant and active, and I recommend walking the Old City and stopping for a drink in one of the many cafes. Aruba: I have been to Aruba several times so instead of sightseeing, we did a pub crawl stopping at bars in Oranjestad and along Palm Beach. Although Palm and Eagle Beach are very nice and close to the ship, my favorite is Baby Beach on the Southern end of the island. I usually rent a car and go to Baby Beach and some of the other tourist sights before ending in Palm Beach. The snorkeling and sailing excursions are also excellent. Curacao: I loved Curacao. Not as developed as many of the Caribbean islands and off the main cruise ship routes, Curacao has a beautiful main city, Willamstad, great beaches and interesting landscapes. We rented a car and first hit one of the better snorkeling beaches, Jan Thiel, where the Curacao underwater national park starts. Excellent coral and lots of fish. Next we drove to the North side of the island where one side is rugged, volcanic coast line and the other side has beautiful bays and crystal clear water. The middle portion has cacti and mountains. We also saw tons of Flamingos in the salt flats near the town of Daniel. The main town, Willamstad is colorful with a lot of shops and cafes. One of my favorite port of calls. Christmas Day at sea: Plenty of Holiday related events including a visit from Santa for the kids. San Juan: We have been to San Juan many times so we caught a flight to Santo Domingo for a few days in the DR. The disembarkation was very smooth. Some passengers were a little upset because they had booked rooms at the Sheraton Old Town and hoped to walk off the ship and right to their hotel. The Island Princess actually docked across the inlet from the Old Town port, which is actually better for those going straight to the airport or the Condado hotel area.    

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Jan 26, 2007

Hawaii

Buyer Beware! It is with great dismay I write to you about our horrendous Hawaiian Hell cruise aboard the Island Princess on 1/26—2/10/2007. It began with impossible and very over priced air arrangements through them (copy of complaint letter enclosed) and ended with the worst cruise ever. The cruise included more price gauging of passengers while at sea. Where do I begin? I’m still numb from the experience. We boarded what was

to be a dream vacation of a lifetime along with my parents, John (78) and Susan Upset (76). The first week at sea was nothing other than treacherous. We were deliberately and purposefully taken into the eye of a storm. I believe the captain of the ship to be incompetent as the crew had nothing good to say about him and he was the main subject of the comedians that entertained us nightly as most of our other entertainment had been cancelled due to illness since ½ the ship was quarantined due to the noro-virus that the Captain announced we had deliberately brought on board and spread amongst ourselves only to learn that most of the crew was ill and had been ill prior to us boarding just as when we disembarked quarantined crew members were still onboard, yes, and in time giving it to the newly boarded passengers that departed on 2/10/07! This is a public health and safety risk! The first week I spent in our cabin vomiting from seasickness as there were over 90 mile and hour winds and waves that rocked the ship for 72 hours straight without stopping. People were vomiting in the halls, being quarantined and most of the 70+ year old crowd became extremely ill. One woman suffered a heart attack and the coast guard took her off in Honolulu. After our Captain cancelled our first port and also after learning via crew members that Princess was fully aware of this tsunami-like storm prior to our voyage I went to the Passenger Services Desk trying to get the name and number of the person in charge so we could obtain information, details, communication about what was going on. Their clerks would not give me any information. It took me 3 days to receive the email for their passenger services dept., after submitting 2 letter’s into the US mail bin requesting information and lodging complaints their standard form letter came back with the email and address information on it. All we were told by passenger services at the time was that their Los Angeles Office was working on trying to salvage this voyage by either offering an overnight Honolulu or increasing our stay in Ensenada. Apparently they were fully aware of the severity of the damage done to passengers vacations, “they were working on it!”. NOTHING was done by their LA office or anyone for that matter, in fact the gal that told me this did so in a huffy, angry manner and adding that this is what we contractually agreed to when taking a Princess Cruise. The passenger services desk needed a major overhaul in my opinion. Other crew members tried to keep smiles on their faces and be as attentive as humanly possible in spite of working around the clock and ready to keel over from exhaustion. They did their best under dire circumstances; our beef is with upper management, the decision makers. The ones who chose to do NOTHING and jeopardized our safety, health and well being by deliberately driving us directly into harms way. We understand about mother nature but I am here to tell you that we had the same crew that was on the previous voyage and they told us that the conditions were worse coming back to LAX to pick us up! What is this saying? It’s saying that Princess Cruise Lines knowingly, deliberately and purposefully put all of our lives at risk when allowing voyage 2703 to depart on 1/26/07 knowing full well there were Tsunami-like conditions at sea. They didn’t once offer change of dates, refunds, and offer warnings of rough seas or storms once in Hawaii. Heck, they didn’t even refund the dock fee’s we paid for the cancelled islands we never docked in! With technology what it is today nobody will convince me that this could not have been avoided. Most of the crew didn’t have a day off the ship in a month! This is inhumane to say the least. My point being, where was PLAN B??? Why did they never try to re-route us and pick up the cancelled islands? Why not go around the storm. They certainly had the time to figure out a plan as at this point they were aware of it for 6 days prior to us boarding the ship and 10 days prior to us reaching our first Island! The captain instead of docking in HNL and paying a dock fee opted to shove 2,000 passengers dream vacations where it did not belong instead. We were at sea for 7 days and nights waving to the islands from the ship instead of disembarking. While at sea this extended period of time what does the incompetent captain order? He orders that the stakes in the Casino be doubled! Talk about price gauging passengers who had just lost 2 islands of their vacations, did he offer any comps or do anything for us? NO, he doubled the stakes in the Casino? Princess has been a complete and utter rip-off beginning with the air arrangements which came to $557 p/p. This would cover air travel to Europe not to LAX from DFW!!! He cancelled Maui and Kaui the 2 most Beautiful Islands. He could have gone around the storm at this point and docked in Kona or HNL and re-routed us picking up the lost Islands but he chose to DO NOTHING except ruin everyone’s vacations and create unnecessary illness. The crew was already ill prior to our boarding just as they were when we disembarked and the NEW VICTIMS boarded! The crew became so ill that our “Anytime” dining became RESERVATION only with waits up to 2 hours on some evenings. Our entertainment was often cancelled and we had the same comedian most nights his gig was to trash the cruise line, Captain and he came out with his face masked and rubber gloves on, emphasizing the degree of illness onboard and pointing out the incompetence of the Captain and main decision maker. We were unable to use the swimming pools or Jacuzzi’s due to the water splashing out of them and many days unable to go on deck all together due to the yellow emergency taped entrances/exits the same you would see in a crime scene indicating it was unsafe to go on deck. It was a nightmare. There were close to 200 passengers and crew with the virus at all times. Always newly reported cases were sprouting up every day according to letters we would receive from the medical staff, announcements and crew members that confided in us. The virus last’s approx 3 days and every 3 days there would be another 150-200 reported cases making all cases over a 15nt duration close to 1,000! The casino was closed intermittently due to illness, long lines for food, the crew had to serve our food to us even in the buffet lines at one point my 78 year old father had some bad eggs as they were cold in the middle, he felt ill, thought he had salmonella went to the medical department and was quarantined as a preventative measure so to top off all the rest of it he was confined to his cabin for the last 3 nights of the cruise when he had no fever just an upset stomach from undercooked, runny eggs. They would not acknowledge food poisoning even when ½ the dining room came down with it one evening according to several passengers. Everyone that ate the seafood pasta had food poisoning but the ship quarantined them and said they had the virus instead! I wrote 2 letters and 1 email while onboard to their passenger services dept., and so far received the pat response, “ALL DECISIONS WERE BASED ON SAFETY” and “DUE TO THE STORM WHICH WE HAD NO CONTROL OVER”. I’m sure all weather reports for that time period and as much as 10 days prior to our launching will back my claims as the crew members were ill, frustrated, embarrassed by their captain evidenced by them rolling their eyes when he would try to make an announcement with his limited English skills. Communication was pretty much nonexistent. One crew member confided that this Captain was a temporary one. I request that you do a full investigation on behalf of all the passengers of this ship especially the seniors and handicapped passengers those who cannot fight for themselves. I wonder now how many of them never made it off the ship. How many deaths incurred unnecessarily only to increase the Carnival Corporations bottom line? SHAME on them for jeopardizing so many innocent lives. Princess Cruises never compensated us for ruining our voyage nor will they admit to any wrong doing, they have not even refunded the dock fee’s that we paid for on the Islands we missed. The travel agent on the other hand has apologized and offered us a 5% discount on our next cruise which I can assure you will not be anytime soon if ever. Not unless Princess steps up to the plate and rectifies this wrong. Which should include disciplining this captain, their chief decision maker at sea. They are supposed to be the professionals. This is their business and to take so many people out knowingly and jeopardize their health and well being deliberately simply to line their pockets is an outrage and won’t go unchallenged. My claim is for trip interruption on the air tickets along with the first 7 days of our trip and 2 missed ports. The second week we were gravely inconvenienced due to so much illness of the crew. Entertainment cancelled, long waits for food, always worrying about catching the dreaded virus, All the people around us ill sneezing and coughing. In our opinion, this trip should be refunded. We won’t get our vacation time back and most likely won’t get back to Hawaii…….SHAME ON PRINCESS CRUISES. 75% of our cruise was ruined by their negligence and poor decision making. Again, they knowingly and deliberately took us out into the eye of a storm, this storm didn’t just happen and they did NOTHING to work around it or salvage it. It was business as usual for the Carnival Corporation. There are people getting sick as sea as I type this to you because as we disembarked on 2/10/07 they had numerous quarantined crew members onboard. I wonder if their Captain is now on his microphone blaming the new passengers/victims for deliberately bringing the virus on board and circulating it amongst themselves as he did with us when he knew full well that the virus was already onboard to begin with and has been for quite some time! What an outrage. We only had Lobster 1 night out of 15 and we had to wait in line for 2 hours! Some, "Anytime Dining!" We hope you will help us. TRAVEL AT YOUR OWN RISK!! Kindest Regards, W.R. Upset Voyage 2703    

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Oct 5, 2006

Hawaii

Arriving at port Los Angeles around 11:30am we dropped out luggage off, Princess was doing their pre-boarding. We chose to take the streetcar or the red car to the San Pedro Fish Market restaurant for lunch and as always the food was wonderful. When we arrived back at the ship a little after 1pm we were inside the building within 20 minutes. It was total of just over an hour before we were in our cabin. Embarkation went very smooth and

fast. I am happy to say that half of our luggage was already at the cabin when we arrived. From the time we arrived on the Island Princess she is a very clean ship and the crew is always working to keep her that way. They take keeping the passengers healthy very serious when you walk into the buffet there is a person standing there with the hand sanitizer for you before you can grab anything. The buffet in the Horizon always had hot food. Hot food can be a bit of a rarity. The foods trays are always are full or very close to being full. The food is very good. The Wheelhouse Lounge has the ball room or big bands type music playing at night, every night. This was my favorite lounge. It also had a small history museum of Princess and P&O. The piano man Bill Barclay who is in the Bayou Cafe and jazz club is outstanding. The staff in all areas of the ship are very helpful & courteous. The mustard drill was nice they were held in the lounges instead of all in lines up on deck for what always seemed a lifetime. The entertainment every night was wonderful from big names like Don Ware (a writer from the Cosby Show) to Willie Tyler and Lester, to Juggles on unicycles, and many more in between. The cruise director is Billy Hygate. It is nice to see some with the company like him for over 23 years.     

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Sep 10, 2006

Alaska

We took The Heart of Alaska Cruise tour 7S, 11 day 10 night, vacation from 9/8/06-9/18/06. We booked everything through Princess via our travel agent, all inclusive. On the 8th we left from Albany, NY via Detroit, Minneapolis to Fairbanks. Needless to say it was a long day, but a necessary evil, to get to our location. When we arrived at Fairbanks was about the only bad experience we had on the whole trip. After traveling for about 11

hours we had to wait another 45 minutes to an hour to claim our baggage. Understand that Fairbanks is a small airport with only 1 luggage turnstile. Apparently when it comes to picking up luggage Alaskan Airlines has priority and the other lines have to wait to use the accommodations. We flew in on Northwest; we were the first plane there. When exiting the plane I noticed 2 Alaskan Airplanes taxing to the tarmac. Little did I know we would end up waiting for them? It wasn’t just the Princess passengers, (3 bus loads), also Holland cruise had about one bus load. The problem was we had to tag our luggage so Princess could transport them to our Hotel. Finally the Princess outfitters came up with the solution so we could get on our way. At the time it was frustrating, but as I look back on it now it was just a minor bump in the road. We stayed at the Princess Fairbanks Hotel that evening. Very nice resort, personal very helpful and friendly, as we will say many times in this review. We went and got a bite to eat and returned to our room to find our luggage waiting for us. Here is where you decide what luggage you want where. I still can’t believe how smooth this all worked out. Princess suggests not bringing to much on the land tour, (3 days), because of room on the trains and buses. We took 1 small piece of baggage with us with a carry on for our meds and important papers, and left the large suitcase here to meet us on the ship in Whittier. Didn’t need any fancy clothing on land. To Princess’s credit all worked out very well, I did have my doubts but this isn’t Princess’s first time doing this. Day 2-9/9/06- This morning we had a bus transfer to a sternwheeler riverboat cruise on the Chena and Tanana Rivers. Once we got on the bus we could leave our carry on bags here as this was the bus taking us to Princess Denali Lodge. The excursion was about 5 hours, very relaxing and educational. From there we went to downtown Fairbanks for sightseeing/lunch on our own. Not much to see but we had a great lunch at an Italian restaurant. From there they bused us to Princess Denali Lodge just outside Denali National Park. It took a little over 2 hours to get there and on the way we saw our first Moose. What a huge animal. The lodge was beautiful with great scenery overlooking the Nenana River. Would have liked to have stayed there a couple of extra days. Day 3- 9/10/06- Boarded our school bus, (park regulations), at 6 AM for our Natural History Tour in Denali National Park. It was another beautiful day, clear skies and barely a cloud to be found. We started our trip from a taiga forest to the sweeping tundra. Weather was just perfect as we saw beautiful views of the Alaska Range. Then the grand finally, Mt. McKinley. Excellent view of the whole mountain, from what we were told we were some of the lucky few to see this from top to bottom. Total tour took about 5 hours, made many stops along the road for scenic views and animals. We saw caribou, moose, dall sheep and numerous birds. Next we went back to the lodge to board a Princess bus for a short trip to the train station at Denali. We boarded the train about noon for our 5 hour ride to Talkeetna; from there we boarded a bus for about a 1 hour trip to Mt McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge. Aboard the train we rode in the special Princess Rail cars with drinks and lunch available at our own cost. Lunch was very good at a reasonable price as well as drinks during the trip. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable with some good tips about the history and scenic views. We also had some amazing views of Mt. McKinley again from top to bottom. The lodge was beautiful. We had a great dinner here that was included with our trip through our travel agent which included everything from soup to nuts. Day 4- 9/11/06- Bus transfer from lodge to Talkeetna to board the McKinley Express Rail for our 5 hour ride to Whittier to board the Island. Before leaving the lodge we again had magnificent views of Mt. McKinley as it was another gorgeous day. Two days in a row is unheard of for tourists to see this beautiful monster according to the locals. The train ride was nice again with great scenery. We just lucked out weather wise, the leaved trees were turned and the contrast of bright yellows and reds with the green was great. It was this way both days on the train. Our tour guide was not as good as the first day but still helpful. On one of the inlets close to Whittier we saw Beluga Whales feeding as the tide came in. We boarded the ship and set sail. Day 5- 9/12/06- We cruised through College Fjord. What a sight to see. Day 6- 9/13/06- We cruised in and out of Glacier Bay. Truly amazing. I still can’t believe how close the Captain got our ship to the Glaciers. Again the weather was gorgeous so we got a treat. We got to go into John Hopkins Inlet all the way to John Hopkins Glacier. The ranger narrating this got real excited about this, obvious this was not an everyday occurrence. Both days cruising in the fjord and the bay the rangers narrating gave excellent insight and observations. I was really impressed with the Captain and his crew the way he maneuvered the ship. Day 7- 9/14/06- Arrive in Skagway, we went to the summit by bus at a cost of $37 per, took about 1 ½ hour and further up than the train. Train $100+ per and takes over 4 hours. Think we got a better deal besides already been on two trains. Skagway was a really nice little town, got some great sales because that Saturday most stores were closing up, cruise ship season is over. Day 8- 9/15/06-Arrive in Juneau, nice city didn’t take any excursions. Friends took the Helicopter to the Glaciers, said it was great walking on them and drinking the water. Day 9- 9/16/06- Arrive in Ketchikan, nice city beautiful tram ride. Nice little downtown. Day 10- 9/17/06- At Sea, Rough early morning till mid afternoon. Seas were rough but ship was stable. Day 11- 9/18/06- Arrive Vancouver, fly home. Synopsis- Overall the trip exceeded our expectations!!!!!!!!! We think partly because of the beautiful weather we were blessed with. The only day of rain was our last day at sea. Alaska is a beautiful place to visit but I don’t think I would like to live there. We definitely will return we know there is so much more to see. They were very nice and we didn’t think the prices were that bad considering we were a captive audience. We would like to congratulate Princess Cruises for excellent services rendered. Once we finally arrived at Fairbanks Lodge everything was smooth as silk for our entire cruise tour, timing was everything, (including the weather they ordered for us). The only hitch was the wait staff the first couple of nights aboard the Island. After speaking to the Maitre’d this problem was solved. The rest of the crew was very courteous and professional. This my third cruise with Princess and I will definitely travel with them again and I highly recommend this line to anyone who will listen.  

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Aug 6, 2006

Alaska

We sailed on the Island Princess to Alaska as our first cruise. My wife and I and our two kids, ages 13 and 11, we had a good experience and I would recommend this cruise to anyone. We enjoyed the scenery, despite the weather. The shore excursions which we took were certainly worthwhile, from the beginning, the staff on board was courteous and cooperative. In general, the sailing was very smooth although on two different occasions, when

we we were in open water, the boat was rocky enough to make walking a bit unstable. Our stateroom, was an outside cabin with a balcony, it was very nice although with all four of us, I found it to be quite crowded. We did expect that thogh. We had signed up for personal choice dining and ate most of our meals in the buffet. The food here and in the dining room was adequate but by no means spectacular. In fact, some times it was disappointing. There was always enough to eat and enough variety but not always the quality one would have expected from such a cruise. The best food, we thought, was the pizza available at poolside which was superb. The entertainment on board was also OK but nothing spectacular. On the occasions in which we were sailing through scenic areas (college fjord and Glacier Bay), the on board commentary was great especially when the National Park Service rangers did the commentary. We stopped in three ports: Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway and each was a good experience in its own way. My wife and our son did the zipline challenge in Ketchikan and loved it. My daughter and I chickened out at the last minute and unfortunately, they wouldn't give us a refund but we did enjoy walking around the grounds in the zipline area. In Juneau we did the "best of Juneau" which included whale watching, the Mendenhall Glacier and the Salmon Bake. That was possibly the best of the three shore excursions, it was fantastic. In Skagway, we went rock climbing which was a lot of fun and very professionally handled. In each of the cities we had time to look around a bit and in Skagway even had time to return to the ship for lunch before heading back out to walk through this delightful little town. All in all, a good experience for a first cruise. We were not at all happy with the post-cruise tour through Princess. We left Whittier on the train to Denali and found that the train while a beautiful way to see the scenery was just too slow and too long a ride (almost 9 hours). When we arrived in Denali, we stayed at the Princess Wilderness Lodge which was not a bad place to stay but terribly expensive in terms of food. We took the Tundra Wilderness Tour in Denali and loved it. We arranged for a whitewater trip through Denali Outdoor Center over the Internet and that was a lot of fun. The next day, though, our trip really went downhill. We took the train to Fairbanks and that ride was horrible. The Princess guide on the train talked non-stop in a sing- songy voice and just drove everyone crazy with her constant trivia questions and joke telling contests. The dinner served on the train was terribly overpriced and when we arrived in Fairbanks, at close to 9, we were taken to Bear Lodge which sounds good but is really an apartment complex in a residential neighborhood. The room was nice but it seemed like being in a condomonium complex rather than a hotel. We had arranged for a tour of our own through Alaska Airlines to Barrow on the Northern tip of Alaska (a trip I would definitely recommend to the adventurous) and it is lucky we did because I can not imagine spending the day in that hotel. We passed up the two tours that were part of the tour (Riverboat and Gold Panning) but I hear from those who took them that they weren't impressed. We really wish we had left the cruise in Whittier, rented a car and driven our way across to Fairbanks or to Denali and back to Anchorage. People discouraged us from doing it and the train was a real draw but in retrospect, I think we would have saved a lot of money and enjoyed our time more had we done that.  

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Jul 8, 2006

Alaska

First of all, I would like to state that this review is coming from a teenage point of view. I was 15 (actually, I turned 15 on the first night) on this cruise. This was my 6th cruise, having previously sailed with the Big Red Boat, Disney, and Royal Caribbean. This was my first Princess. I'd also like to say that I'm leaving this review because when I was searching for reviews, I couldn't find anything from a kid's point of view. I had

no idea what the teen center was like, or what there was to do on board for anyone under 21. My family started the cruise after having already spent a week on land, on a package with Princess. It was one of the best things I've ever done. We went on the Heart of Alaska Princess Cruise tour. We visited Fairbanks, Mt. McKinley, and Anchorage, traveling in between the hotels by exclusive Princess trains. Everything we did was done through Princess, so we had no problems knowing where to go or anything. I highly recommend doing this tour, it is so beautiful, and informative. I also recommend doing the land portion first, because it makes sense. First, you do the more strenuous, traveling portion, then you go on the relaxing cruise. As an added bonus, they were having trouble with the trains going from Mt. McKinley to the Anchorage. We had to take the bus. It actually took us about 3 hours less time to get there, and each person got $75 ship credit. Handy, if you want to buy something from the ship store. Things are a little pricey. I'm sorry to say that I can't tell you much about embarkation/debarkation essentially because I didn't pay attention. I can tell you all about the ship. I'll start with the room. My brother and I shared a mini suite with a balcony, that connected to my parents' room. Our balconies actually opened up so we had one long balcony, which was quite nice, because as I remember, the balcony was rather small on its own. The room was a very nice size for 2 people. We were quite comfortable. We had 2 twin beds, a desk, a TV, a refrigerator, and nightstands. Unfortunately, the bathroom was terribly small. I could barely turn around in the shower. (and I'm not large, if that's what you're thinking). I remember my grandparents got breakfast out on their balcony because it was their anniversary. They had champagne and pastries. They said it was very good and they really enjoyed it. Since it was my birthday, I got a sign on my door that said HAPPY BIRTHDAY, JACKIE. It made me really happy. And the steward, who was amazingly attentive, gave me extra chocolates. The steward, Rex, was so nice. Whenever I would see him in the halls, he would always greet me and my family by name. Now, for the food. It was very good. I am VERY picky, and I remember there was always something for me to eat. There was a pool-side pizza place that was AMAZING. There were always lines there, but it was worth it. The teen center was awesome. They always had something for us to do. Some of the things I remember doing were Battle of the Sexes, the Dating Game, and Scavenger Hunts all over the ship. The staff who worked with us were so nice. They really related to us. And they were like our friends, not people who had to “watch” us. Of course, since we were in Alaska, everywhere we looked, there were amazing things to see. We went past huge glaciers, and myself and a bunch of people I met were standing on the balcony looking at it, and a staff photographer came up and took a bunch of photos of us with the glacier as a beautiful backdrop. Of course, the pictures were for sale for a ridiculously high price, but it was very nice that he just came around and took pictures of people. It was a nice touch, and something I had never experienced before. As a matter of fact, the whole staff on board were incredibly friendly. I don't remember meeting anyone who was unpleasant. My brother and I had the unlimited beverage plan, so we were always at the bar, getting sodas. We actually made friends with two very friendly bartenders, Mark and Trevor. They would make my brother special Shirley temples, and always give him extra cherries. It was little things like that that made this cruise stand out to me. I really recommend the unlimited drink plan, by the way. It only works for nonalcoholic drinks, but, if you drink sodas as much as my family does, it's really worth it. Plus, my brother and I always got sodas for my parents, because we had the plan, and no one knew the difference. As for the excursions, they were amazing. Unfortunately, we couldn't go into Ketchikan because of the high winds. The excursion in Juneau especially stands out to me. It was absolutely breathtaking. We took a helicopter over 4 glaciers. I got to sit in the cockpit. We landed on the glacier and got to walk around and take pictures. They also taught us a lot about glaciers and the dangers. I remember that getting on and off the ship for excursions was easy. All we had to do was swipe our key cards when we got off, and then again when we got on. All in all, this was the best cruise I've ever been on. I loved it. I would recommend this for anyone.    

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May 5, 2006

Alaska

Most of our cruises have been on Holland America Lines; this was our first on Princess Lines. My 82 year old husband and I were part of an affiliated group of 27 senior citizens with a travel agent/tour leader. Some of the members had been on several Princess liners and seemed satisfied. Embarkation: We waited in line for about 40 minutes, until we could get to Security check-in. Part of that wait was in an unprotected area, and it was

quite windy. Accommodations. The cabin on Baja deck was cleverly laid out, with plenty of storage space, but a teeny-weeny bathroom with shower only. The blankets had no third sheet to cover. We wanted twin beds, and the steward remade the cabin cheerfully for us. We rewarded him with a tip. Food. We ate in the Provincal dining room at a table for 8. There was a great deal of choice and we always found something good to eat. The service was professional, but a bit intrusive. We were exhorted at the last dinner of the cruise to rate our waiters "excellent"!! We enjoyed the Horizon Lounge also for its daily changing presentation. Entertainment. The Broadway shows were excellent and cleverly staged. The illusionist was also very entertaining. We would rate the other shows from mediocre to boring. The movies were a good choice, but the screens in both the theater and the lounge distorted the picture laterally. The theater itself would be dangerous in an emergency. It has two narrow isles, with room for about 1,000 persons. I'd hate to see a stampede there! Various. At the "Captain's Cocktail Party" nor the captain, or any other officer, found it worthwhile to make an appearance. We stood in the Atrium, where seating was in very short supply and unsuitable for such a large group. The Manhattan I ordered consisted of a glass full of ice with a cherry perched on top; the bottom had 1 cm. of brownish fluid. Not a good advertisement for the bar! Toward the end of the cruise we found out about a daily news digest. It was nowhere publicized that we could have ordered it to be delivered daily. No samples were found in the lobby. In general, we had a feeling of indifference on the part of the staff. Itinerary. It was well chosen. We had been repeatedly in Santa  Barbara before, and in SF we had pre-booked a tour of Alcatraz over the internet. The departure dock was only 10 minutes walk from the ship, and the tour was interesting. Sitka was new to us, and has its own charms. Unfortunately the tender service was totally inadequate. One waited in the overcrowded Explorer Lounge for about 45 minutes to get one, and on the way back it was the same: we had to wait 45 minutes in the cold and rain. The nature walk and tour of the raptor center were conducted by very knowledgeable guides. In Ketchikan the dock was occupied by 3 other ships. When the Westerdam left in the early afternoon, we could dock. Since we had taken a thorough tour 26 years ago, we just "explored" the town on our own. Same for Victoria. Disembarkation. Princess Lines had insisted on booking us on Alaska Air to LAX at 10:28 AM. We were to leave the ship at 7:45 AM as per printed directive. We had transportation vouchers to the airport. We were to have red tags, and first off the ship. Instead we had Cream 5, and were allowed to leave the ship at 8:45 AM. After finding our luggage, we were directed to the bus area, only to be told the "bus is not yet here". Twenty minutes later, we were told there would be no bus. "Take a taxi". There was a different group also with us, so imagine 60 senior citizens rushing with all their luggage to 8 taxis! It was bedlam. The noise and chaos were indescribable! Two ladies from the cruise line were trying to get us organized, but it was impossible. I suppose they called for more taxis. We finally climbed into one and then found that the taxi company would not accept vouchers, so we paid by Visa card. Once we arrived at the airport, found the line to our plane, and were ready to check in, we were told that the plane had "closed" and we could not board. The time was 09:50 AM. Due to incompetence and mismanagement the purser's office had us miss our plane! It left (we later found out) with 60 empty seats. We could not get another plane until 5 PM. A Princess Line employee arranged re-boarding with the Valencia office. We complained upon arrival in our homes, but our mail was ignored, and even our agency was stonewalled by the customer relations office for an entire 4 weeks! On 16 June we received an offer for a "credit" of $150 pp for a future cruise, to expire in July 2007. No mention of reimbursement of taxi fare. Conclusion. The cruise had its good points and we enjoyed most of it. However, the behavior of the cruise line at debarkation time has left a bad taste in our mouths.  

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May 5, 2006

Alaska

The Good: The food, the room steward (very helpful and friendly), the general appearance of the ship, inside and out. The Bad: The main theater is a huge facility with many seats, but with only two narrow aisles. I would hate to be in the middle of a show and a general alarm is sounded. It would result in a stampede with many fatalities, aside from a great danger to many handicapped cruise guests. Miserable tender service where the

ship had to be anchored. They used only two tenders for a ship with 2000 passengers. On every cruise I have taken, the captain and his senior staff presented themselves on formal nights. Not on this cruise! Cocktails served on formal evenings were tiny and weak. The Ugly: The Purser's Office. There was general indifference, ranging from minor matters such as not informing guests that they could get daily news bulletins delivered to their cabins to serious failings, such as the way they sabotaged the disembarkation of the travel group I was in. The cruise line had made airline reservations for the group for a mere 2 1/2 hours after landing, but would not let us off the ship for an hour (despite promises that we would be among the first to exit the ship), then by failing to provide transportation to the airport, forcing us to take taxis that would not accept our transportation vouchers. This resulted in missing our flight from Vancouver to Los Angeles, and a resulting wait of 7 to 10 hours before getting a flight out. This was compounded by the cruise line management's stonewalling when they were informed of this fiasco; to this date they have not contacted anyone among the 30 people in this group about compensation for taxi fares or anything else. I cannot speak for the other 28 of us, but my wife and I have resolved that this first Princess Lines cruise will be our last.  

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Apr 20, 2006

Hawaii

Sit down and relax and read this review. It’s long, but so was the trip (15 days). Forget about other reviews which talk about too many kids (Christmas cruise), or terrible weather (January). We didn’t have either of those. We were traveling while school was in session, so there were very few children. The Cruise Director said we had the best weather of the season. Remember, Hawaii had 40 days of solid rain before we got there, but

we saw none of it (except Hilo where it always rains). We have been on 11 Princess Cruises, and thought that Island Princess was the best Princess ship we’ve been on. This is both for the ship’s design, as well as the outstanding crew and I’ll cover both those aspects. This ship is of “Sun Princess” size i.e. 2,000 passengers rather than the “Grand Princess” 2,700-3,100 size. However, it has all of the Grand Class features of the larger ships—and then some. The cabins are Grand Class style, not the smaller cabins found on Sun and its sister ships. The public areas of Grand Class are all there—Sabatini’s, Bayou (instead of Sterling Steakhouse), Explorers Lounge, Wheelhouse Bar, and a larger “Universe Lounge/Theater” instead of the Vista Lounge. In fact, most of the public areas such as these are actually larger on this ship than on Grand/Golden etc. The Sabatini’s for example, is both larger by far, and also more elegant than it’s counterparts on other ships. So you have the best of both worlds! We had a last minute surprise, as my wife fell down the stairs at home the week before the cruise began and broke her ankle. So with a cast and a rented wheelchair, on board we went. This whole trip was to celebrate my mom’s 88th birthday. She’s in great health, but at that age has difficulty in finding friends to go along with her. She didn’t want to go through an airport with all the security hassles, so we chose this cruise which left from San Pedro (Los Angeles), and returned there. My sister and her husband were also on board. From the moment we got out of the cab, we received “Princess” treatment. Maureen and I were waved over to a side door for handicapped check-in. Now I’ve learned that there’s “regular” check-in, “Platinum Express Check-in”, and handicapped checkin. Before I could get all of my pockets emptied to go through security, Maureen was through and waiting with a Princess staff member to push the wheelchair! We were waived on board and ahead of most other passengers. They had pink shirted staff members at the entrance to push her over the ramp (true for all ports later too). We went up to our room, a mini-suite on Caribe Deck and looked it over. The mini-suites on Island/Coral differ from other Grand Class ships only in the fact that the desk and mirror above it, aren’t “angled” out into the room, but are parallel to the wall. This makes the opening to the living room wider and easier to navigate. We had a very large balcony with a square table and two large chairs. The room steward brought us a chaise lounge chair which also fit out there nicely. This allowed Maureen to keep her broken ankle “up” horizontally which the doctor had recommended. My sister and mother had balcony cabins also on Caribe, but more towards the center of the ship. My sister took my mom up to book hair appointments at the Spa. We were able to pre-book massage and other treatments on the Princess website before the cruise, but not hair appointments. We then all met at the Horizon Court for lunch and this became a daily ritual. While my sister, wife, mom and I all enjoy the relaxing days at sea, we worried that my brother-in-law would be bored. He likes to be doing something all the time. Not to worry, he found the Computers at Sea classes and proceeded to book 20 classes including Photoshop Elements and Microsoft Word. He was a very happy camper for the whole time we were at sea! We all fell into a routine of exercise in the morning, going to the Hawaii lectures that “Aloha Bob” gave each day, and then lunch. The Hawaii presentations were excellent. Aloha Bob was a NBC reporter/anchor in Honolulu for many years. He gave us history, geology, culture, and current issues/problems of Hawaii. There was a fascinating talk on Pearl Harbor and its events too. There was almost a capacity crowd in the Princess Theater each morning when he made his presentations. The first full day at sea we got together with all of our CruiseCritic friends to meet for the first time. We had been conversing with all of them for over 7 months. Len and Letty kept us all organized. They set up a dinner in Long Beach the night before the cruise for passengers who came in a day early. They also made cute name tags with flip flops on them for everyone. I had e-mailed Princess using the suggested names that I found on CruiseCritic and they arranged that we could meet in the Wheelhouse Bar and had a bartender and waiter to serve all of us. We paid our own way for this party. I had e-mailed Richard Joseph, the Cruise Director prior to the cruise asking if he could arrange a second party on the way back. I had read that he had done so for earlier cruises. He called me the first sea day, and told us that we would get a champagne party the day before we reached Ensenada on the way back. They gave us a wonderful party in Explorer’s Lounge at 5pm and we had lots of appetizers. They had an open to all passengers Mexico party at 5:30pm in the same lounge that day. He also invited all of the individual entertainer’s (mostly the comedians) on board to come to the party. They told us we had the highest turnout of any of the more recent cruises. There were almost 50 of us on board although not that many made it to either party. We sure did have a lot of fun though and met some wonderful people. Richard Joseph was outstanding both to us, and to all of the passengers throughout the cruise. I often saw him in the Princess Theater prior to shows because I would place Maureen in her wheelchair at the special handicapped section near the entrance door. He was always so kind and upbeat with us every time we saw him. When you think about it, the 15 day Hawaii cruise has more days where the passengers are together with the crew than almost any itinerary that I can think of. We’ve been though the canal twice on longer cruises, but there were more ports and less total sea days than this cruise. His whole staff kept things running and fun the entire time. Richard is a man who obviously loves what he does and does it very well. I think he’s the best Cruise Director we’ve seen in our 11 Princess Cruises. He’s also in charge of some real talent for the production shows. We had seen most of them last year (Piano Man, and the Broadway one). There was one new one I think called “Rock” which isn’t about rock music. It was a bit’s and pieces show with no real theme, but very over the top sets and costumes especially “Hairspray”. Was cute and well done. Dancing was great throughout, and so were the singers. We like Princess food, and weren’t disappointed here either. Because this is a 15 day cruise, you get a few extra menus that aren’t used on the standard 7-day set. Some things were repeated both going and coming (lamb chops and lobster twice!!). My mom wanted early seating which most of us didn’t prefer, but we settled for this anyway. We had our own table with wonderful waiters and a great Head Waiter. When we got to the islands, we went to the other restaurants so we could have time to watch sailaway and sunset on each island. We did the Bayou twice and Sabatini’s once. Both were outstanding. Great steaks at the Bayou (filet and porterhouse) as well as other good stuff. In Honolulu, Maureen and I had the most romantic dinner of all time. We booked the “Ultimate Balcony Lobster Dinner” for our night in Honolulu. This meant that the ship wouldn’t be moving as we didn’t leave Honolulu until 11pm at night. We originally had set up a sunset catamaran sail in Honolulu and we set the dinner up for 8:30pm. However, at the last minute, the sunset sail people cancelled on us. Luckily I checked my e-mail on board after lunch and saw the cancellation. Otherwise we would all have been standing on Waikiki Beach in front of the Sheraton Moana Surfrider waiting for a boat that wasn’t going to come (and Maureen in a wheelchair and crutches). I wasn’t too happy with the catamaran people because they cancelled at the very last minute, which gave us no chance to make alternative arrangements. Probably won’t ever use them again. They were recommended by others on the CruiseCritic Hawaii Board. Anyway, we re-scheduled our balcony dinner for 6:30 and had a glorious sunset dinner. The director of room service had come to our cabin earlier to arrange everything, and she came that night too, to check that everything was OK. We had our own waiter, who brought us each course. They covered the table with a tablecloth on the balcony, brought yellow roses and set the silver out. A ship’s photographer was there to take our complimentary picture (we did pay $50 per person for all of this!). Then the courses started coming: a dozen assorted canapés, including caviar; three crab cakes each, wonderful salad, two giant lobster tails with veggies, four different mousses for dessert, and a dozen small cookies to top it off. Finally, we had a bottle of Champagne with all of this and they gave us the champagne flutes as we were celebrating our 24th Anniversary two weeks early. The dinner actually comes with a cocktail and split of Champagne. We were not interested in the cocktail, and asked if we could upgrade and pay for a full bottle of Champagne and they did this. All of this took place as the sun set and then all of the lights of Honolulu came on. We didn’t have the best view of the city (mostly other docks and ships), but we didn’t care! There were three formal nights during the time at sea. The first was going over, and the other two were on the way back. The usual cherries jubilee, bananas foster etc were done on the chafing dishes in the dining room by our Head Waiter. I don’t know whether they do this in the “anytime” dining room. We also had the baked Alaska parade the final night, and I do know that the other dining room didn’t get that because not everyone is on the same course at the same time. Tours Kona Maureen stayed on board as this was a tender port, and she was still trying to be good and keep her leg up especially since we had a full day tour the next day. I went on the 2 hour helicopter ride. The one offered in Hilo is one hour and cheaper, but we wanted to go to Volcano National Park and the Botanical Garden there. The two hour flight is in two segments. You are driven up to Waikoloa where you board and then fly across the island to the active volcano. You circle around a number of times so everyone can get pictures of the glowing lava. Then you fly to the coast and watch the red lava fall over a cliff into the sea where every time the waves crash in, giant steam clouds form. It was truly spectacular. You then land at Hilo for refueling. The second leg goes out the coast and towards the Waipio Valley. You see some wonderful waterfalls along the valley cliffs and eventually you fly back to Waikoloa. The interesting thing is that the pricing through Princess was actually LESS than the brochures at the helicopter place indicated (Blue Hawaiian). While I paid something like $375 for this, the published brochure rate which you would get just by calling or walking into their shop was $450! First time I’ve ever seen the cruise tour rate cheaper than the public rate. Hilo We went on a day long tour on a “Greyhound” type bus. This worked very well for Maureen in her wheelchair and crutches. They put the wheelchair underneath where the luggage usually goes. The first two seats were reserved for handicapped, and wheelchair passengers on the bus. She had a seat to herself which allowed her to keep her leg up. We first drove to the Hawaii Botanic Garden. This is a steep valley that goes down to the sea but filled with tropical plants a lot of which were in bloom. I felt this was like “eye candy” for the camera. Everywhere I turned there were beautiful orchids, blue hibiscus, proteas and waterfalls. Got some great pictures. Next we went to lunch back in Hilo at one of the hotels. After lunch we drove to Volcano National Park. Stopped at a steam vent for pictures (you could stand next to it and it was like warm fog coming out). Then went to the park headquarters for a view out to the volcano itself and you could look at the exhibits. Coming back, we stopped at the Macadamia Nut Factory and got great packages which we shipped home for souvenirs for staff at work. We both had a chocolate macadamia nut ice cream cone. Yummy! Finally we stopped at a candy factory which was OK, but most of us were tired and they were pretty expensive. Overall, a great trip! Honolulu My mom had signed up for a “Natural Tour of Ohau” so Maureen and I decided to book also. This took us out of Honolulu and up inside the Diamond Head crater. This is an army base inside. Then we went back out to the coast and stopped at some wonderful beaches for pictures. Saw the beach where “From Here To Eternity” was filmed when the two of them were on the beach at night. Stopped at a Hawaiian temple and later we went back over the top of the mountain crest and stopped at the Pali Lookout which gives a spectacular view of Honolulu from 3,000 feet up. Maui We didn’t’ do any tours here (my mom did), but just shopped as we’ve been to Maui many times before. Kauai Here Maureen, my sister and brother-in-law and I took the Napili Explorer boat to the Napili Coast. The boat is a large pontoon boat with a canvas roof for shade. Saw spinner dolphins on the way out, and then came around the point to Napili. The water was pretty rough, but the boat kind of floated across the waves. We had less up and down motion than other smaller boats we saw. The coast, which is only accessible by boat or helicopter, has spectacular cliffs and valleys that drop from 3,000 feet straight into the sea. There are waterfalls, sea caves, and some isolated beaches. Was great for photographs. We got splashed a few times, but they gave us nylon pullovers, and we were fine. Even with Maureen’s leg, we were just sitting there enjoying the view for the whole trip and taking pictures. Overall, we had a wonderful experience. It would probably be a bit warmer if you did this cruise in September/October, but we were fine. Some of the sea days coming back were a bit cool, but not rough. We didn’t sit out on the balcony much coming back. The mini-suite living room worked well for happy hour for the family. We loved meeting our CruiseCritic buddies. It was fun saying hello and meeting them after tours to see what other things they had done.

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Mar 20, 2006

Hawaii

Arrival We arrived in San Pedro, California on Saturday afternoon, one-day before our cruise departure. Having booked a Holiday Inn “Park & Cruise” package (1-800-248-3188) for $149 per couple plus tax, we received a deluxe room accommodation (King, non-smoking) for one night, continental breakfast, champagne, and free parking for seven days. The additional eight days of parking cost $72. One of the best features - their parking lot

was under video surveillance 24/7. In addition, a chauffeured van was available to transport us to the Los Angeles World Cruise Center beginning at 11am the following day. Reserve a spot in the van when you check-in. Day 1 – Sunday, March 20, 2005 - Embarkation My wife Judy and I departed for the LA World Cruise Center via the Holiday Inn van around 12:10 pm, Sunday afternoon. Following a trip of about seven minutes, the driver dropped us off at the median, adjacent to the Princess embarkation terminal. After flagging down a member of the staff, a cruise line porter picked up our four suitcases (a nominal tip was given) and brought them to the ship. Arriving five hours prior to our scheduled departure, I figured we would beat the typical passenger “line up” at the pier. Wrong! So began our two and one half hour wait…outdoors! Of course it was unusually toasty that day and we didn’t make it to the shady part of the building for over two hours. No cruise representative offered anyone bottled water, a place to sit, or an explanation as to why it was taking so long to embark. Many folks, approximately 80 years old, were standing in line with us. It didn’t seem right to make them wait out in the hot sun. This was poor customer service in my estimation. Princess Cruise Line representatives should have brought the octogenarians inside to a seated waiting area. After our two and one half hour wait, we were at last within the building confines. I thought to myself, could this be a harbinger of things to come? Finally inside, a comely attendant directed us to yet another line. For a change, this one moved very swiftly. Almost immediately we walked up to the counter and met the “registration lady.” She issued us our Princess Cruises card – on board means for purchases, re-boarding the ship, room key all in one. This experience was similar to “check-in” at a hotel. Our business was completed in five minutes. Before leaving the counter, I asked “registration lady” to take our picture and she graciously declined…security reasons. I looked around at this empty warehouse with stanchions and ropes, and little else. Perhaps it was a security precaution, or maybe she just didn’t want to be bothered. It was now a little past 3:00pm. After proceeding through the security clearance line…we saw Island Princess up close. She was a huge ship! The next item to address was the obligatory “Welcome Aboard” picture. The two photographers were busy talking to each other as we approached them. I asked them to take our picture…SMILE! With that task completed, we boarded the vessel. Once on the ship a crew member greeted us and directed us to the elevator. He graciously pressed button number 10, and we were off to our mini-suite, stateroom C-207. What a thrill…our second cruise was about to begin! Our Stateroom With a duffel bag on rollers (I learned by reading cruise reviews that it is wise for you to carry all your necessities such as medicine, etc. on board in a separate piece of luggage) and a folded garment bag in hand, we proceeded off the elevator. Next up, our stateroom (mini-suite/AB category) with balcony on the tenth or Caribe deck, starboard side. The cabin door was open when we arrived. The room was larger than I thought it would be and smartly decorated. Mirrors were plentiful and large. Lots of storage space. The clothes closet was sufficient (plenty of hangers) to accommodate both of us. Once emptied, our luggage was easily placed under the bed, and out of the way. We had a couch/sofa bed that was about six feet long and two individual chairs. There is plenty of lighting in the room. The bathroom (with tub) was well-organized, large enough for one person at a time. The shower measured about 76 inches from tub to the ceiling. Of course, I’m 75 inches tall so I had to “duck down” when using that feature. Washing my hair was fun. I had to use the “duck and wash” routine. It was like that on our last cruise also. The balcony, or veranda as some cruise lines like to call it, was spacious. It had a table and four chairs. Yes, I could see Judy and me spending many hours during this trip on the balcony. It was now a little over three hours from the time the van dropped us off, until we entered our stateroom. We knew from our past cruise that our checked luggage would not arrive until later, so we set off to explore the ship. Having missed lunch, we were a little hungry. This would be the last time we would be hungry on this cruise! The Ship The ship is stunning. It was built in 2003. The overall length is 294 meters (964 feet) while the width is 32.20 meters (105 feet). Normal passenger capacity is 2368 while the normal number of crew is 810 - friendly folks too! We proceeded to level 14 – Lido deck. From there we visited the ship, bow (front) to aft (back), port (left) to starboard (right) and most places in between. I was proud that I actually remembered a little maritime lingo from our last cruise. First suggestion, pick up the handy “Island Princess Pocket Guide” from your room and keep it with you at all times. You will refer to it most days during the cruise. Upon proceeding to the Horizon Court for a late lunch, we consumed a light buffet style meal and tasty dessert. I was soon to become a connoisseur of desserts during this cruise. My new waistline now serves testament to that fact. After lunch, Judy and I decided to return to our stateroom, hoping the luggage had arrived. We used the stairwell to move between the floors. In fact, we used it most days. It was good exercise and faster than the elevators. Besides, the elevators at the ship’s bow only went down to the seventh floor. You then had to get off and walk to the four-deck Atrium (middle of the ship) in order to access the main dining rooms or any other lower floor. Interesting configuration. We got our walking in! Upon opening the cabin door and peering in, we found no luggage. Consternation was setting in. Our stateroom attendant, Albert from the Philippines, arrived to introduce himself and welcome us aboard. I immediately gave Albert $20 and told him there would be his regular toke plus a little more at the conclusion of the trip if he watched after us. I explained to him this was only our second cruise and we needed all the help we could get. Consider yourself lucky if Albert is ever your stateroom attendant, as he is a real gentleman. When asked if we could have bathrobes delivered to the cabin – he complied within the hour. I asked him about our luggage and he told me he would bring the bags to our stateroom when they arrived on our deck. I informed Albert that we had placed a green and gold ribbon on the handle of each bag so as to differentiate our black bags from all others. This helpful hint resulted from reading a cruise review. The safety drill is scheduled for 4:00pm at the area designated for your cabin. Ours took place at the Princess Theater on deck 7. Attendance is mandatory. After hearing the muster signal, Judy and I carried our life vests (as instructed) and walked to the designated area three decks below. After the drill, we went back to our room to stow the vests and prepare for departure. Much to my chagrin, only three of the four pieces of luggage had arrived in our room. I immediately paged our stateroom attendant. Upon his arrival, Albert explained that luggage often times is delivered at all hours of the night. He was positive our fourth and final piece would show up later that evening. Judy explained to him that most of her shoes were in that bag and if they didn’t turn up, it was up to him to loan her some of his shoes! She was kidding of course…I think. Albert was true to his word. The bag with the shoes arrived at 11pm that evening with a completely different luggage tag attached. Good thing Judy’s name was embroidered on the bag. In the future, I will include our name on a tag INSIDE all suitcases. At around 5:30pm the ship’s horn rang out – time to leave the pier, albeit a half-hour late. We walked up to deck 15 to wave farewell to good old San Pedro. Just as pictured in the brochures, nothing but azure sky and cobalt blue water for the next fifteen days...or so I thought. As the ship’s Hawaiian band played “Aloha” tunes, everyone on deck took lots of pictures, smiling and happy to be finally leaving port. I asked a few people to take our picture and all were obliging. Upon clearing the harbor, we were now subject to the vicissitude of the sea. It was time to return to the stateroom, freshen up and go to the Bordeaux Dining Room on deck 5 for dinner. Seems like we just had lunch doesn’t it? Judy and I arrived at the Bordeaux Dining Room on deck 5 a few minutes before 6pm. The headwaiter extended a friendly greeting and escorted us to a table for two as we requested. Our travel agent convinced us to book the “anytime dining” seating arrangement – Personal Choice Dining restaurant, rather than the fixed more traditional seating in the Provence Dining Room. Having now tried both options on our two cruises, we don’t prefer one over the other. Each has its benefits. You can enjoy Personal Choice Dining anytime between 5:30pm and 10:00pm each evening. This provides lots of time flexibility to your evening. You can also call ahead for a specific reservation time if you wish, or just show up and the head waiter will find you a table after a short wait. On the other hand, fixed seating (5:45pm and 8:00pm) allows you to get to know the wait staff so much better…and them to know you. The ship offers a daily newsletter, “Princess Patter” to all guests. This is your up to date guide to cruise activities. Your stateroom attendant places in your cabin while you are at dinner. You can find one at the purser’s desk also. This information sheet outlines all activities to take place on the ship the following day. The newsletter also gently reminds you about the day’s dress code, the day and date, sunrise and sunset times. It behooves everyone to read it nightly. If you do not like to partake in onboard activities, this will help identify which areas to avoid! Upon leaving the dining room around 7:00pm, we noticed that the seas had become rough. Since the rolling seas on our previous cruise didn’t bother me that much, I was ill prepared to withstand what was to come. On the other hand, my darling wife Judy had the foresight to plan for the possibility of a turbulent ocean. That’s one of the many reasons I married her…not only is she beautiful, she’s smart too! Prior to our leaving home, Judy went to the Doctor and received a prescription for a sea sick prevention patch (Transderm) just in case. Well it didn’t take long. Judy placed the “patch” behind her ear by 8:00pm. We tried to go for a walk out on the deck after dinner, but we couldn’t open the door the wind was so strong. After strolling around the shops on decks 6 and 7 for an hour or so, we decided to head back to our cabin. It had been a long day. I tried to go out on our balcony, but couldn’t open the sliding glass door more than a few inches due to the wind. As printed on the TV channel that displays the ship’s information and weather, we were experiencing gale force winds! The ship was rolling, rolling and rolling. Unfortunately for us, our lovely cabin must have been adjacent to one of the main steel beams for the vessel, as we listened to the twisting, cracking and banging (yes, that’s right – banging) of the ship’s frame the entire night. I didn’t sleep very well that night. Nor for several nights to come! It was now 11:00pm and Judy’s shoes arrived…did I mention that already? Day 2 – Monday, March 21 - At Sea The outside light peeked into our cabin despite the drapes being closed. I thought, is it time to eat again? What a night! We didn’t get much sleep last night due to the turbulent sea. Gale force winds…just my luck. This morning I turned the TV on and tuned in to the ship’s channel. The display indicated that the outside winds were 17 mph, waves 4 feet (looked larger) and it was 64 degrees. We have traveled 279 nautical miles from Los Angeles and have 1764 nautical mile to go to Hawaii. I thought, if every night is going to be like last night, perhaps we should have taken an airplane. My wife Judy, being the great humanitarian that she is, gave me one of her sea sick patches last night. It was the only way to get me to fall asleep…and her too! Maybe I offended Neptune by thinking I didn’t need the patch. Sunrise is at 6:14am and sunset is at 6:40pm. We will set our time pieces back one hour tomorrow. The ship’s channel is informative. Tonight is the first formal dinner. Tuxedo (rentals are available) or dark suit for men, cocktail dresses or gowns for women. To reserve a seating time, dial the Dining Hot Line (extension 3463) and tell them your seating time preference. They will do their best to accommodate your request. This morning, I’m almost feeling human again. After breakfast at the Horizon Court, we strolled in the area of the pool deck. The seas were acting up once more, so there were not many people walking around. In fact, hardly anybody was out and about. They must have felt like I did last night! We tried playing the miniature golf course on the Sun (15) deck, but the ball kept rolling no matter where we hit it. Often times we didn’t even strike the ball and it went rolling. It was now cloudy and cold outside...enough of this! After that harrowing sports experience, we preceded to the indoor (thank goodness) shops. I congratulated my wife on her excellent decision to go looking for bargains, inspecting goods, comparing products, hunting for deals, or what she calls SHOPPING. I haven’t doled out praise for that skill many times before! After two hours of watching her shop, I was famished! We went to the Lido (14) deck and had a few slices of pizza, made fresh daily at Princess Pizza. At the Grill on Deck 15, I tried their version of a veggie burger. Both pizza and the burger were very good! Again, we were the only passengers in the area. Glad to see that I wasn’t the only one who incurred Neptune’s wrath! Time for a nap. Formal dinner in the Bordeaux Dining Room was wonderful. And to top it off, Judy looked beautiful. She wore a black ruffled top with a long back and white sequined skirt. I wore a dark blue suit, light blue shirt and tie. Come to think of it, I didn’t look so bad myself. Everyone in the dining room was dressed nattily. All that and the meal was tasty too! After we enjoyed a Caesar’s salad, my entrée was bow tie pasta with red sauce while Judy had broiled salmon. Dessert was lemon meringue pie. Aah…decadent to say the least. The service, provided by Sam our waiter, was very professional. When we entered the dining room we asked the Maitre’D for table #36. We liked this table and waiter so much that we managed to reserve this spot at 6:00pm for the entire cruise. The Maitre’D only gave it away one evening. Of course we were 30 minutes late! Just about every table in that restaurant is a good one. After leaving the dining room, we literally bumped into the Captain of the Island Princess, Andrea Poggi. Judy asked if he would pose for a picture with her and he agreed. Shortly thereafter, Captain Poggi held a welcome reception in the Atrium, a beautiful four-story open air plaza, decorated with marble, brass and some minor water treatments. During the reception the Captain took the opportunity to introduce his mostly Italian Officers and Director level staff. That lasted only ten minutes. We spent the balance of the evening just strolling the Promenade (7) deck, and the Fiesta (6) deck. This is where you will find the Universe Lounge, the Princess Theater, The Bayou Café and Sabatini’s (alternative dining for an extra fee), the Art Gallery, Explorer’s Lounge, Photo Gallery, Casino and Jewelry Shop. We tried to go for a walk outside but the wind was so strong, we gave up. So much for our romantic moonlit walk. Upon returning back to our room, Albert (stateroom attendant) asked if we wanted fresh fruit delivered to our room daily. We enthusiastically said yes. Judy and I loved this perk. First run movies are offered on the in-room TV each evening of the cruise. The film is shown three or four times during the night. These are usually movies that have left the theater and have yet to arrive at the video store. A few of the movie presentations were Being Julia, Finding Neverland, I Robot, National Treasure, Ray, Shall We Dance and Sideways. A varied selection to say the least. The good news this evening was that the seas were calm. It was much easier to sleep tonight. No twisting, cracking and banging this evening. Day 3 – Tuesday, March 22 - At Sea We slept well last night…thank goodness. I set the clocks back one hour as requested. It is now 7:30am and we are off to breakfast. I noticed that the gale force winds have subsided. The waves are still over 7 feet tall but the ship isn’t rocking that much. Plus, the sun is starting to peek out from behind the clouds. Halleluiah! After breakfast, we took a walk across Deck 14, past the Lido pool, past the Lotus pool and into the Gym. The exercise equipment on display was impressive. There were many strength machines, free weights and cardio treadmills. I almost worked up a sweat just walking past all that equipment. Phew…I had a difficult time resisting the urge to “work out” that very moment, yet, I was successful in impeding that visual provocation. It is time for lunch yet? Wanting to purchase some additional sea sick patches soon, we descended to the Gala (4) deck to visit the Medical center. Upon entering and asking about obtaining some “patches,” we were told that the staff does not prescribe to that method of sickness prevention. They give shots instead. We passed on that for the time being. Judy and I then went up to the gift shop to purchase a pair of ”Sea Bands.” My darling wife graciously volunteered to wear the band so that I could utilize the “patches” we had remaining. Isn’t that what love is all about. What’s that growling noise? It’s time for lunch isn’t it? Off to the Horizon Court again. Can’t remember what we ate, but the deserts were incredible! After lunch, we proceeded to the Champagne Art Auction, in the Explorers Lounge on Deck 6. Tricia was the auctioneer and she did an entertaining job. The auction folks offered an eclectic group of paintings up for bid. It was a nice way to spend an hour or two. No, we didn’t have any Champagne nor did we purchase any art. I tied Judy’s hands behind her back so she couldn’t bid! One gentleman in the crowd bought over $40,000 worth of Chagall original art. Well, it is duty free after all! Hope he got some of the good Champagne. Could he possibly be a shill? Upon leaving the Art auction, we proceeded to the Princess Grapevine wine tasting which began at 3pm in the Provence Dining Room on Deck 6. For only $7.50 per person, we got to sip five different wines while receiving a brief introduction to wine making. During the tasting, all attendees were tasked to analyze the key attributes that define a wine – then again, some of us just drank the stuff. It was a fun time as our tablemates were most enjoyable. More wine garcon! Dinner this evening was eventful. After we sat down at our table, Judy noticed a man, two tables over, that looked familiar. She kept whispering to me, “I think we know that guy.” Now to truly appreciate this story, you must know that I often accuse my wife of acknowledging people she thinks she knows, only to realize, after the fact, that she had no idea with whom she had been speaking! Be that as it may, on this occasion Judy insisted that we knew this man. Being the loyal and devoted husband that I am, I decided to take action. I asked the wonderful people situated at the table next to us (Frankie and Ray from San Diego) to get this man’s attention. I leaned forward, raised my voice, and bellowed in his direction, “You sure look familiar…don’t we know you?” He looked at us and said, “where you folks from?” We replied that we were from Las Vegas. So was he, was his response. Now I must admit that he was starting to look familiar to me. I just couldn’t place the face. “Perhaps we have worked together in the casino industry?” He responded, “No, since moving to Las Vegas, I have always been a building inspector.” Then it finally dawned on us…this was the man that purchased our former house, over fifteen years ago. We had only met him once, and only for an hour or so. I thought, WHAT A SMALL WORLD, running into this guy in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Moral of the story – no matter where you go, you are liable to run into some you know…or who knows you! Always be on your best behavior! Oh…and do speak to people you think you may or may not know. You may end up with a new friend. After that dining experience, we proceeded to Deck 7, the Princess Theater. We were entertained by Duncan Tuck, a singer and comedian. His show was good. About a half hour after the performance ended, they turned the cabaret theater into a movie theater. Finding Neverland was the film of the evening. The projection TV they were using needed color adjustment, but we sat through the movie and enjoyed it anyway. It finished around midnight. We then went back to our cabin. Day three was eventful. Day 4 – Wednesday, March 23 - At Sea We slept well last night. Looking out through the sliding glass door, it appeared we were in for another cloudy day. It will be nice if we ever see the sun for any length of time! Upon our return from breakfast, we found that Albert delivered fresh fruit to our room. That was appreciated. I then telephoned to make a dinner reservation at Sabatini’s Trattoria for this evening. Sabatini’s was one of the ships two alternative restaurants…alternative meaning that there was an additional cover charge - $20 per person for Sabatini’s and $15 for the Bayou Café. We didn’t mind paying a little bit extra for a unique dining experience. While strolling past these restaurants on previous evenings, we noticed attendance was sparse. Evidently most folks did mind paying extra for alternative dining. Judy thought it would be fun to attend the Fruit Carving Demonstration at 9:45am on Deck 5. The Food & Beverage team did a fine job of entertaining all who attended. Their creative flair with fruit was fascinating. Humm, I might be getting hungry again! It was now time to go to the Princess Theater and attend a seminar entitled How to Manage the Changes in Your Life with James Brown. This hour seemed like three. At the conclusion of the session, we went up to Deck 14 and sat by the pool. The sun was out from behind the clouds so the pool area was very busy. We then decided to go back to our room. Finally, I got to go out on our balcony and enjoy the warm air. That was great! Calm waters, no whitecaps, smooth sailing so far today. We spent the afternoon reading our chosen “trip book” while lounging on our balcony. Soon it was time to get ready for dinner. Arriving at Sabatini’s we were greeted by a smiling waiter and ushered to our cozy table. The décor was charming although the atmosphere could have been enhanced by dimming the lights a little. Service was A+ during the entire time we spent in the restaurant as there were many, many waiters. This is truly a dining event. I would estimate that this was at least a fourteen course feast. It took us over two hours to complete the meal. In fact there was so much food we couldn’t even finish our entree. We passed on dessert as well. Now you know how full we were! Was dining at Sabatini’s worth the extra money…we say YES. A note was left in our room stating that we were again to set our clocks back one hour this evening. We would then be on Hawaii Time. Today was a good day. Day 5 – Thursday, March 24 – At Sea This is Holy Week. In the Princess Theater, passengers were offered Roman Catholic Mass at 8:30am every day this week. We attended most days. Protestant services are also available during the cruise. After today’s service we went for a stroll on Deck 14. The sun was shining and the breeze was warm. This was a nice change from previous days. Judy noticed that my “patch” had fallen off…probably during my shower. We’ll see how I do if and when the seas get rough again. Judy thought it might be nice to go to lunch at the Bordeaux Room on Deck 5 for a change. I agreed. We ordered off a menu rather than the usual buffet style fare offered at the Horizon Court. I had a penne pasta dish while Judy had some sort of Whitefish. Having a sit-down lunch was a nice variation from our regular routine. I guess being from Las Vegas, we are just partial to buffets! Tomorrow, Friday, we reach land – hurray! Good old terra firma. Hilo is our first port of call. Written in today’s Princess Patter is an article reminding all passengers about The Jones Act. In short, no passenger can disembark the vessel in any Hawaiian port of call due to this U.S. Immigration law. This act forbids anyone to disembark from any vessel that originated its voyage in the U.S.A. in another American port without first visiting a foreign country. Now we picked someone up in Honolulu and they disembarked in Ensenada, so I guess that is OK. Or briefly put…whatever! I’m out on the balcony right now enjoying the warm tropical air. I think I’ll measure this space. The balcony is about 8 feet deep and 12 feet wide. Think I’m bored with sea life? The captain has slowed the ship down to about 15 knot per hour. What else can I measure? The couch is about nine feet long. It looks like you can pull it out to make an extra bed. The room is approximately 37 feet long (stepping it off) and 12 feet wide. The hot water works most of the time. The safe is a great feature. The TV channels are CNN, ESPN, Discovery, TNT, and Cartoon Network just to name a few. Plus, they continually show films featuring many of the shore excursions the cruise line offers for sale. The “Ship’s” channel is my favorite. After dinner this evening we attended the production show in the Princess Theater entitled, “Let’s Rock.” There was a lot of energy from the cast which is always appreciated by the crowd. The singing and dancing was above average. Good performance. At the conclusion of the show, Judy and I went for an inside walk around deck seven. It wasn’t long before I got tired and wanted to go back to our cabin. Seems like the longer we cruise, the more tired I get. Perhaps I’m just relaxed. Day 6 - Friday, March 25 – Hilo It is 7am and the ship is slowing. We are due to arrive in Hilo (the fourth largest city in the state) at 11am. It is cloudy again today. The temperature is in the mid 70’s (thank goodness) and I’m enjoying sitting on the balcony. I see the Big Island in the distance. We are going off to breakfast and then to Good Friday communion service at the Princess Theater. We signed up (in advance) with the cruise line for the tour, “The Best of Hilo.” We are looking forward to this outing and the fact that we will be stepping on dry land. The three scheduled stops are the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut factory, Nani Mau Gardens and Akaka Falls. The tour departs at 1pm and returns at 5pm. It should be fun. We reported, as instructed, to the Princess Theater around 12:45pm. Our group was then escorted down to the tour bus at the pier. Passengers were greeted by Roe, short for Rowena, our bus driver. She was charismatic. We sat in the first seats near Roe so we could enjoy the view afforded by the large front window. Our first stop, the Mauna Loa Nut factory…or I should say the gift shop at the nut factory. Being Good Friday it looked like most working people had the day off. Judy loaded up a bag with plenty of chocolate covered Macadamia nuts...gifts of course. I just sampled everything in sight! Next we went to the botanical gardens. Off the bus, we were seated on trams for our ride through the beautiful Nani Mau Gardens. There were many beautiful ferns, gingers, colorful displays of heliconia, orchards and other tropical flowers. The air was so clean and fragrant. Next stop – Akaka Falls. Upon arriving at this beautiful State Park, interested parties were given a choice of two paths to take so as to view the Akaka Falls. Fortunately, Judy and I are in good shape, otherwise it would have been a very challenging walk. Arriving at the falls (about a one mile walk in very steep and rocky terrain), we did partake in the mandatory ritual all tourists participate in – picture taking. After posing for the requisite shots, we noticed a man about 80+ years old beginning to ascend the rocky path back to the bus. I struck up a conversation. He told me he took this tour while his wife stayed behind at the ship. Being concerned about his safety, Judy and I decided to follow the man…stopping when he stopped, resting when he rested. Thank goodness there was no rain that day as the path was treacherous enough in its current condition. We all made it back to the top, amen. It was now time to head back to the ship. As a special treat, Roe provided us with an unscheduled stop at the Liliuokalani Gardens in downtown Hilo. On display was a beautiful Japanese Garden with a stone bridge, lanterns and a tea house. It was a lovely park…most peaceful. After spending about twenty minutes there, we boarded the bus and headed back to the ship. Upon our return to the dock, we stood in line about 45 minutes to board the ship. Another line…another wait. With Princess, you better get accustom to it. Finally in our cabin about 6:20, we showered quickly and hurried to the dining room. Dinner was very good…as usual. Judy had the Lobster while I enjoyed vegetable lasagna. And of course dessert…an Apricot custard tort. YUMMY!! We enjoyed an unusual sight later this evening on the way to our next destination, Kona. Around 9:50pm, on the starboard side (our side) of the ship, the molten lava flowing from the Kilauea volcano was visible. What an amazing spectacle. The neon looking, red and orange colored magma spewing forth from the side of the mountain was incredible. The steam created from hot lava flowing into the cool ocean water bore witness to the strength and security of the fire goddess Pele who rules this beautiful island. Moments like this remind us that the universe is a spectacular place and we should be thankful for every precious moment we get to spend within its ethereal boundaries. Day 7 - Saturday, March 26 – Kona It is 7:30am and the ship just dropped anchor. Outside it is partly sunny with a warm breeze. I scheduled our next shore excursion via the Internet. “Captain Dan McSweeney’s Whale Watching Adventure” was mentioned on a cruise review and sounded fascinating. His web-site pointed out his varied background and many trips studying whales. Sounded like a winner to me. We were to be at Honokohau Harbor by 11am. About a fifteen minute cab ride from the Kailua pier in downtown Kona. Not a problem as the ship arrived in the bay at 8am. Lots of time. Ships are unable to tie up at the pier in Kona, therefore, they anchor in Kailua Bay and tender passengers ashore. Tenders are small (relative term) motorized boats which hold approximately 100 passengers. We were told that when ready to go ashore, proceed to the Explorers Lounge, Deck 6 and obtain a tender ticket. The Cruise Director’s staff will then escort groups to the tenders from the lounge on a first – come – first – served basis. A little after 10am we were on our tender heading towards Kona. Once on the pier we found a cab. Mike was an independent cab owner/driver who hailed from Chicago. He was very thankful that he moved to Hawaii over ten years ago. Couldn’t stand the Chicago winters any longer. We arrived at Honokohau Harbor in fifteen minutes, just like Captain Dan’s web-site stated. It is now cloudy (again) and there is a pretty stiff wind blowing. When looking out to the ocean, we observed white caps as far as the eye could see. Not a good sign. Soon the Lady Ann (Captain Dan’s boat) came into the harbor, about 30 minutes early. Definitely not a good sign. After watching the crew gas up the boat, we proceeded down to the boarding area. Captain Dan introduced himself and announced that because of the strong winds, he would be canceling this afternoon’s Whale Watching Adventure. Unquestionably not a good sign. Much to our disappointment this highly anticipated portion of our trip was abandoned. We called Mike the cab owner/driver to pick us up. Mike arrived and drove us to the Royal Kona Hotel (formally the Kona Hilton I was told). This is a lovely spot overlooking the bay. Judy suggested we enjoy lunch in their Windjammer Lounge. I agreed. Our seats afforded us a view of our ship and the city. The restaurant food was OK and the service was adequate. It was a nice place to linger and enjoy the sights. I suggested to Judy that after lunch we would walk back to the Pier (maybe 1 to 2 miles) and enjoy the many shops along the way. The word shopping, a wonderful salve, made her forget all the disappointment of missing out on Captain Dan’s Adventure. I must admit to enjoying it myself. After two plus hours of walking and shopping we arrived back at the pier. Following a brief wait, we boarded the tender and arrived back on board around 3pm. I would have liked to sit out by the pool or on our balcony and enjoy the sunshine, but that was not to be. No sun again today. We will rest for a while then get ready for dinner. It wasn’t long after we departed Kona for the Island of Kauai that the gale force winds returned. The seas were really rough. On the Ship’s channel they are indicating 30 to 40 mph winds and 14 foot waves. Ugh! Where’s that patch! Day 8 – Sunday, March 27 - Kauai It is 6:30am Easter Sunday morning. Right now the waves are over 14 feet high and the winds are still gale force. These are the choppiest seas I have ever encountered. We are about 11 miles outside of Nawiliwili Harbor, in the city of Lihue, Island of Kauai. The good news is that the clouds are gone and the sun is shining. Judy suggests we go to breakfast at the Horizon Court, probably to take my mind off the rough waters. Food! After breakfast, on the way back to our mini-suite, we heard the Captain announce over the loudspeaker that the port of Nawiliwili had been closed. It is now 7:30am. The ship will cruise back and forth several miles in front of the port in case the winds diminish. Our guess – it doesn’t look good. When we honeymooned in Hawaii 35 years ago, our favorite stop was Kauai. I have a rental car (convertible) reserved for this day and our first stop is to be the Fern Grotto for a river cruise…just like 35 years ago. After that “walk/cruise down memory lane” we plan to drive to Poipu Beach for some R & R before returning to the ship. Unfortunately, our hopes for a memorable and enjoyable Easter Sunday are fading. The sky clouded up as if to portend what's in store for the day. It is now 8:20am and the Captain announced that this port of call is cancelled. He said we would be heading to Honolulu and should arrive there at approximately 10pm, a full 10 hours ahead of schedule. Judy and I were very disappointed. We were also concerned that we wouldn’t get to talk to our family on Easter. I pulled my cell phone out and turned it on. To my amazement I had decent reception. I knew we were close to the island…must be that great Motorola phone! Anyway, I called Alamo to cancel the vehicle we had reserved for the day. Had a few reception problems with that call. We went up to Deck 14 so that I might have an unobstructed view of the island and improve my phone reception. Judy and I called my 83 year old Mom and wished her a Happy Easter. The wind was a bit disturbing but the connection to Reno, Nevada was pretty good. We then called our daughter Desiree in Las Vegas and wished her and her husband Tony a Happy Easter. I dialed our son Dennis’s telephone number, but he was not at home. We felt fortunate that we were able to speak with most of our loved ones on this very special day. Judy recommended that we take a walk to the Atrium to view the chocolate covered Easter Eggs on display. Wow, they were remarkable. A few of them were 4 to 5 feet tall! They are works of art to say the least. Judy stopped one of the Pastry Chef’s and asked, “How long does it take to make one of these creations?” He stated his crew works for several weeks preparing the display. Impressive culinary exhibition! David Cole, our Cruise Director, and his staff did yeoman’s work putting together a hurry up activities list for the passengers. Kudos to the excellent crew. The updated version was circulated within two hours after the announced port cancellation. Following lunch at the Horizon Court we strolled around the shops and casino. We overheard many passengers grumbling about not being able to visit Kauai. I believe the “new” activities list helped ameliorate the situation. On our way back to the cabin, Judy asked one of the crew members if, during the previous cruise, any ports were skipped due to inclement weather. He stated yes, Lahaina was bypassed due to rough seas. Interesting. Three different Easter services were offered on this day. An Interdenominational Sunrise service was scheduled at 6:20am, a Protestant service at 4:30pm and a Roman Catholic Mass was to be conducted at 5pm at the Princess Theater. We attended the 5pm service. After Mass we went to dinner at 6pm and returned back to the Princess Theater at 7pm for Magical Showtime starring Richard Griffin and Hayley Jane. The show was well done. It is now 9:30pm and we are arriving at Honolulu Harbor. We would have been here long ago except the berth where we tie up was occupied by another cruise ship. I saw her sailing away just moments before we entered the harbor. The seas are very calm over here, a pleasant difference. During the ship’s entrance to the docking area, there is a welcome reception for us at the Aloha Tower’s Shopping Center, adjacent to the pier. Several musicians are playing Hawaiian music while dancers are doing the hula, bedecked in their grass skirts. Over the microphone one of the singers yells. “ALOHA ISLAND PRINCESS.” How nice. We are at Pier 11, adjacent to the clock tower. It is now 10pm and we decide to stay onboard and get a good night sleep…for a change. Day 9 - Monday, March 28 - Honolulu What a great night’s sleep…thank goodness! It is 6:30am and a sunny 70 degrees outside with an 18 mph trade wind. Time to go to breakfast. I scheduled the “Arizona Memorial/City Tour” for this morning. We depart the pier at 8am and return around 1:30pm. At least that was the plan. Most everyone who was taking a tour this morning (several different tours) assembled in the Princess Theater prior to 8am. After being divided up according to the particular tour, we were led down to the pier and onto a Roberts Hawaii Tour bus. Our driver’s name was Sunshine, probably a pseudo name….ya think? What a personable guy. He kept everyone informed, entertained and interested. Kudos to Sunshine! After a short drive, we arrived at the Arizona Memorial Visitor Center. Knowing the drill, Sunshine went over and found out that we had a 3 hour wait before we would board the launch out to the Memorial. We then waited in line to pick up our ticket number. After everyone obtained their ticket, we went back to the bus. Upon re-boarding the bus, Sunshine drove us past Aloha Stadium, home of the Pro Bowl, Pali Lookout, Punchbowl, home to the National Cemetery honoring the fallen heroes of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. We then proceeded downtown to Chinatown, the Iolani Palace and the City Hall. In fact, Sunshine parked the bus along side the Court House so we could use the rest room facilities. It was funny…everyone who walked into the building had to pass through a metal detector prior to entering. One thing to remember, these tour busses do not have bathrooms so prepare accordingly! Back on the bus we again headed toward Pearl Harbor. Subsequent to arriving at the Arizona Memorial Visitor Center, we walked up and waited for our group number to be called. Upon hearing your number called, you file into a theater to view a short film on the surprise attack of Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. Over 1,100 men on this ship lost their lives that day…more than 2,400 overall died during the attack. At the conclusion of the movie, everyone boards a Navy launch to the memorial, a 184-foot shrine which floats above the shattered hull of the USS Arizona. Our group spent about ten minutes on the memorial before we were escorted back to the launch returning to the Visitor Center. Most everyone who walked along the memorial was moved by the solemnity of this hallowed site. Quite an experience. Arriving back at the Visitor Center, we boarded the bus. Soon after we were heading back to the pier. One additional stop was offered…Hilo Hattie’s. Judy and I got off there as we wouldn’t want to miss a shopping opportunity. There are many Hilo Hattie’s stores in Honolulu. Come to think of it, we have seen them at every port. Ubiquitous is the word that comes to mind. Anyway, we did some shopping then decided to get on the store’s mini-bus for a free ride back to the ship. After boarding Island Princess, Judy and I went to our cabin and changed into bathing suits and outerwear. Then we went back down to the pier and flagged down a cab. Next stop…Downtown Honolulu! Our cab arrived at the Outrigger Hotel about 15 minutes after we left the pier. Wow, has Waikiki built up since the last time we were here! Whereas the hotels and most of the shops were built away from Kalakaua Avenue 35 years ago, now all buildings bump up against this main drag. Looks similar to the Las Vegas Strip! Judy and I cut through the hotel and made it to the beach. My goodness was it crowded! I forgot…spring break. The beach wasn’t as deep as I remember. The water was just about 20 yards from the hotel. Perhaps my memory isn’t as good as I thought it once was. We sauntered on the beach for a half hour then washed our feet off at one of those beach showers, slipped on our sandals and walked off down the sidewalk. I suggested to Judy that we cross the street and visit the International Marketplace. Off we went. On our first visit to the International Marketplace, 35 years ago, we found it open and airy with plenty of space between vendors. Now all the stores rub up against each other plus there are two floors of retail, never mind the kiosks! Ugh…progress. Anyway, we had a late lunch at an outdoor restaurant (risky) in the Marketplace and afterwards continued our leisurely stroll down the main street. It was now late in the afternoon so we decided to hail a cab and return to the pier to complete our shopping. The Aloha Tower shops offer a myriad of products from t-shirts to beautiful and expensive pieces of art. We purchased a few of the former…none of the latter. It is now after 7pm and we are boarding the ship. It was a full day today, a most memorable time. Off to our next stop, Maui. Day 10 – Tuesday, March 29 – Lahaina, Maui We arrived in Lahaina Harbor around 7:30am. I didn’t sleep very well last night. Must have been those rolling seas again or possibly that outdoor (risky) lunch we had yesterday. It is cloudy (what a surprise) and the temperature is 72 degrees with 80 percent humidity, ugh! Here is the unusual thing…no wind! Not even the slightest breeze. Coming from a city that has about 10 percent humidity (Las Vegas) and often breezy, I find it difficult to breathe. It feels like a Sauna. I hope that feeling doesn’t last long. Time for breakfast at the Horizon Court. By the way, so far the ship has traveled 2,694 nautical miles. There will be a test at the conclusion of this cruise review! I booked a tour through Princess for this morning. It is entitled “A Walking Tour Through Lahaina’s Past.” It begins at 9:30am and concludes at 11:30am. After that I hope we can travel to Kaanapali (the home to many resort hotels) for some beach time. Much like Kona, passengers must tender in to the pier from the ship. We have to be back on the ship by 6pm as the Island Princess departs for Ensenada at that time. After breakfast, we returned to our cabin. I stepped out on our balcony to enjoy the view of Lahaina when it began raining. Well, we’ve had just about every other weather condition, it might as well rain. After about 15 minutes of precipitation, a beautiful rainbow appeared. It was as if Mother Nature was smiling at me. What a lovely sight. Judy reminded me that it was now time to go ashore. As with previous tours, we will be going to the Princess Theater to join our group of “Walking” participants, then off to board the tender. Just a few steps from the landing pier, the “Walking Tour Through Lahaina’s Past” group assembled. We were greeted by a gentleman who began the tour by walking us over to a Hauola birthing stone, a “place of creation and healing.” This was about ten steps from where we began the tour. Our guide spoke for what seemed like an eternity on a subject which should have been covered in about five minutes. Then we walked about twenty steps to a place that once housed Hawaii’s first permanent building, Kamehameha’s Brick Palace. He again spoke for what seemed like forever. We took another ten steps and he stopped and spoke about a taro patch. So for the first 45 minutes of the tour, we took about 40 steps. In this heat and humidity, I wasn’t sure I could take this very long. By the time we crossed the road and entered the Baldwin House, I gave up. I told Judy that I wasn’t feeling well and could we please leave the tour. It was fine with her. We walked over and purchased some water thinking maybe I was dehydrated. In retrospect, I’m not sure what hit me. Perhaps I was suffering from the infamous Norovirus. Maybe not. Anyway, we sat under the huge Banyan Tree in the center of town hoping my ill health would pass. It didn’t. After about 30 minutes we headed back to the tender pier. Our return to the ship was welcomed by my stomach. Upon entering our cabin, I laid down on our bed. That is where I would spend most of my time during the next 24 hours. In fact, I don’t even remember what we did that evening. Day 11 – Wednesday, March 30 – At Sea Are we home yet? Although discombobulated, I managed to go and eat this morning. In fact I don’t think I missed any meals the entire trip. I couldn’t have been that sick! Whatever I contacted beat me up pretty good the past 24 hours. I’m beginning to feel a little better. The sea is relatively calm this morning – thank goodness. Tonight is our second Formal Dress night. I will spend the day in bed trying to be ready for this evening. Two things I could count on every evening…dinner being tasty and Judy looking lovely as always. After enjoying our meal we attended the Comedy Showtime in the Universe Lounge starring Jeff Wayne. It was entertaining. After that we watched the movie Sideways in the Princess Theater. At the conclusion of the movie, it was time to go back to the cabin and turn in for the night. Day 12 – Thursday, March 31 – At Sea I’m feeling a little better today. Its 7am and time we took off for breakfast at our hangout, the Horizon Court. I think I saw sunshine for a brief moment during our stroll around the deck after we ate. It was such a rare occasion to see the sun during this trip, we decided to sit down on a deck chair and enjoy these rare moments. Our happiness didn’t last long…the clouds are back. And of course it started to rain. Judy wisely ran for cover. I sat in the rain looking skyward, taking in the precipitation like a little boy being baptized by the Lord of the Sky - Zeus…probably a friend of Neptune. I knew he would make me a relative before this trip was over! Now back in the cabin, I turned on the television. The ship’s channel indicated that the temperature had dropped into the low 50’s. This will be a wonderful book reading and movie day. We spent most of the afternoon indoor. I still wasn’t feeling all that great. We went to dinner at our usual time. After that we walked up to the Princess Theater and enjoyed Comedy Showtime with Kevin Hughes…a funny guy. After that it was time to go back to our cabin and watch the movie, “Shall We Dance” starring Richard Gere. The ship’s clocks will be set forward one hour on Friday morning, April 1, at 2am. Day 13 – Friday, April 1 – At Sea We are getting a little melancholy today as the trip is winding down. Time to eat! After breakfast we took our usual stroll around the deck enjoying the fresh air. Something is different today….oh, that’s the sun! Judy and I celebrated the emergence of that gaseous orb by lying out on a lounge chair for a few hours. It felt good to soak in some of those rays. I’m still not feeling all that well. Time to go back to the room. Nurse Judy is taking good care of me. I’m reading today’s Princess Patter (cruise news) and here is a quote from the Navigator: Island Princess will remain on an east north easterly course throughout the day. During this cruise since departing Los Angeles, we have experienced considerable amounts of tidal current. This tidal current is the periodic horizontal movement of the water’s surface caused by meteorological, oceanographic or topological effects on the Earth. Another words, the ocean has been rough, we have had gale force winds so you may have become sea sick during this cruise. English is such a wonderful language. So what do we do next? Oh well, let’s go to dinner. The desserts always make me feel better. After a delightful meal we walked to the Universe Lounge for Variety Showtime starring Jeff Wayne. Jeff was funny but his jokes took so long to develop that your mind wandered off before he delivered the punch line. We left after about 20 minutes. Judy and I walked over to the Princess Theater to watch Willie Tyler & Lester show. Willie is the ventriloquist and Lester is the dummy…or is it vice versa? That show was flat. We had enough. Back to the cabin. Day 14 – Saturday, April 2 – At Sea It is 8am Saturday morning. The sky is mostly cloudy while the temperature is a warm 60 degrees and the seas are a little choppy – 7 to 12 foot waves. Albert, our stateroom attendant, dropped off our disembarkation papers last night. It’s everything you always wanted to know about leaving the ship and didn’t want to ask. We were selected to depart with the silver group on Monday morning from Deck 10, Caribe, at approximately 9:45am. I’m sure it will be an hour after that! We will have to meet with the U.S. Immigration Service representatives at 7:15am, with appropriate paperwork in hand, prior to departure. We decided to hang around the cabin most of the day. The last Formal Dress in the dining room was scheduled for this evening. I asked Judy if we could pass on the formal attire and just go to the buffet up at the Horizon Court. She most graciously acquiesced. When we arrived at the Court there were several people dressed in formal garb, much to my surprise. Judy and I were dressed casually. For some reason I just assumed that were I dressed formally, I would have gone to eat in the main dining room, not at a informal dining area. But, that’s me. We returned to the cabin following dinner. After an hour or so had passed, I started feeling better. Judy suggested we attend the production show in the Princess Theater entitled “Piano Man” starring many talented singers and dancers. Well the show was great…the best we had seen the entire cruise. Kudos to the cast and crew! After the show we returned to our cabin to watch the movie, “The Notebook.” Such a touching, poignant film with a sobering look at Alzheimer’s disease. Makes you appreciate each wonderful day, while embracing the special moments we are blessed with during our life. We were reminded to set our clocks ahead one hour on Sunday morning at 2am. Goodnight. Day 15 – Sunday, April 3 – Ensenada The ship should arrive in Ensenada around 4pm this afternoon. Departure for Los Angeles is scheduled for 8pm. It is cloudy this morning…so what’s new? Time for breakfast and then church service. After that we will attend the disembarkation meeting in the Universe Lounge on decks 6 and 7 aft. At the Los Angeles Disembarkation Talk David Cole, our Cruise Director, explained all landing details, including Customs, Immigration, Baggage handling and on-going transportation. He instructed us on how to fill out the various forms the cruise line and U.S. Immigration Service requires. I think it is now time for an early lunch. After that we will begin packing our clothes. It is now 2:40pm and we can see the coastline of Mexico. The ship is slowing down. Judy says we are just about all packed. The sea is calm enough for us to sit out on the balcony and enjoy the view. That didn’t happen very many times during this trip. It has become a beautiful day as the sun finally peeked through the clouds. The ship has docked in Ensenada and it’s now 4pm. Passengers are allowed to leave the ship to go anywhere they want to as long as they are onboard by 8pm, the time Island Princess departs for Los Angeles. Judy and I decided to visit the stores on the pier. After window shopping at “knock off” city, we returned to the ship and enjoyed the sunshine on our balcony. It is now 8:20pm and we have placed our luggage out in the hallway as requested by the cruise line. If you want Princess to take your luggage off the ship, you must have the bags outside your stateroom by 9pm on the night before you disembark. Judy did a great job of organizing the packing. Dinner this evening was enjoyable. We bid adieu to Frankie and Ray…our nearby table mates. They are delightful people and Judy and I hope to meet up with them again some day. We exchanged addresses and phone numbers. Also, we gave Sam (our waiter) and his assistant a cash envelope for exemplary service above and beyond. They very much appreciated the gesture. After our meal, I walked over to the Passenger Service Desk (formally called the Pursers Desk) and turned in our signed shipboard statement and gratuity form. The additional charges for the trip were correct. We also agreed to the recommended daily gratuity of $10 per day, per person. Judy and I spent the next hour or so just sitting on the balcony enjoying the lights along the Mexican and California coastline. The ship never sailed very far away from land tonight. It was a nice way to end the evening and the cruise. Day 16 – Monday, April 4 – Los Angeles It is 5:25am and the ship is docking at pier 91/92, at the World Cruise Center, Los Angeles. It is fascinating how busy the port folks are, preparing to load supplies on the ship. Trucks backing up, fork lifts scooting all around…its almost dizzying. Predominately displayed on the TV was the fact that the ship has now sailed 5,184 nautical miles. Must be time for breakfast! Our last meal in the Horizon Court was good as always. It is now 7am and we are awaiting the call for us to go and meet with the U.S. Immigration Service representative on board. I’m sure we will be spending lots of time in that long line. Here we are walking off the ship at 10:45am, that wasn’t so bad. Out the gangway, down the escalator to the baggage claim. We picked up our bags and brought them to the median where we used our cell phone to call the Holiday Inn and request pick-up. The van arrived within 15 minutes. After getting into the van, I looked back at her…the prodigious Island Princess, one more time. I was thankful we had arrived safely back in LA, while at the same time secretly wishing we were getting ready to board again. It’s the journey that makes life worthwhile. Summary The food was excellent, the staff performed their duties in a professional and friendly manner, other passengers were sociable and the entire experience…well, what an adventure! With the exception of the lousy weather (which can’t be helped) and a few service “barnacles”, Island Princess represents Princess Cruise Lines in a commendable manner. Doug and Judy DuCharme

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Feb 20, 2006

Hawaii

This cruise was probably the best (15 days )we have taken so far in spite of the weather which was somewhat cooler than expected. This was our 19th cruise and our 3rd on Princess. Embarkation was efficient and relatively fast ( I say ‘relatively’ because the bit of delay we experienced was not entirely Princess’s fault since RCCL’ s Vision of the Seas which was to have left the day before ours had been delayed because of a mechanical

problem and was embarking on the same day, Thus port people were doing their best to efficiently service both our ship and the unscheduled Vision). Generally it went smoothly and personally have no complaints about it. The Island Princess is a beautiful ship, exquisitely clean and extremely well laid out. Public rooms design however is so-so – certainly not as well designed as on RCCL , Holland America or Celebrity (other lines we have cruised with). However the shows and especially the comedians were great. Also Hawaii Bob (Bob Basso – of Hawaii Five-0 fame) was the guest lecturer on our cruise and he made it a wonderful learning experience. What a learned, enthusiastic, multi-facetted and thoroughly enjoyable ambassador for his chosen state. As well, a retired TWA pilot, a Mr. Barron was also onboard and his lectures on his life adventures at TWA, (especially for an aviation buff such as myself) were not to be missed. Our stateroom (Balcony on Dolphin deck 9) was the most beautiful we have had to this point (except for the shower stall which seemed a tad smaller than usual and the all too common cloth curtain that just seems to want to stick to you all the time – yeesh! You’d think they could do something about that!) Our room steward was just marvelous. He couldn’t do enough for us. The room was immaculate thanks to Francisco. We just had to ask and what we needed appeared. The food in the Horizon Court was great. Good variety, plentiful and always available (and free ice cream in the afternoon and evening – Imagine that!). Not like some other lines which don’t seem to have much to offer after 10 in the evening except for room service. Lobster which is mostly seen once during most cruises was always available in the alternative restaurants ‘Bayou Café’ and ‘Sabattini’s’ (mandatory cover charge) and appeared at least 3 times on the menu of the regular dining rooms. As well the pizza bar and the hamburger grill opened during the day were an appreciated diversion. The anytime dining available on Princess is just the best – Never had to wait for a table for two for dinner, anytime we wanted between 6 and 10 p.m. The wait staff as well was efficient and thoroughly enjoyable. There were a lot of sea days on this cruise but that was just fine with my wife and I. As I still work full time I wanted a cruise which would give me plenty of time for R & R and not to many hectic and lengthy tours. It was exactly what we needed and wanted. It was for us the most refreshing and relaxing cruise we’ve been on. If you think we sound absolutely overjoyed with this cruise – you’re right. I can’t find anything really negative to say about it. We already booked two more cruises (one in Oct. New York/New York to the Caribbean) and the Hawaii cruise (yup, same one) for next February.  

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Oct 22, 2005

Hawaii

I recently read a review of this particular cruise by a fellow cruiser, Mr. Dave Thompson. I have to say, out of all the cruises I have been on, which include, Premier, NCL, Royal Caribean, Celebrity, etc., this cruise was one of my favorites. I have to disagree with Mr. Thompson regarding our cruise director, David Cole. I thought he was fantastic! Both Mr. Cole and the assistant cruise director, although not being shipmates for long,

did an amazing job. I am sorry that Mr. Thompson felt that Mr. Cole was not a professional, however, I do not feel you can blame the cruise director for inadequate seating. Mr. Cole is right, contact Princess directly or here is a suggestion, make sure you get there early! The only criticisms that I would have about the whole experience is that our table waiter and our cabin stewart was not the best that I have experienced. It was our waiters very last week working for the line, and he simply did not care. We found our cabin stewart did not go the extra distance for use even after receiving an additional gratuity at the being of the cruise. Maybe that was our mistake. We found that if we were not out of our room by a 9:00 a.m., we would receive a phone call with no one on the line. After this happen twice, we figured out it was our cabin stewart trying to get us out of the room to clean. That's the luck of the draw. These two factors would not, however, discourage me from taking another cruise with princess. The food was great, entertainment wonderful - especially one of the comedians; the spa phenomenal; and the Cruise Director one of the best. This was a honeymoon voyage for my husband and myself and we are taking another Princess Cruise in June on the new Crown Princess, where we will celebrate my parents 50th anniversary. I cannot think of a better place to celebrate!! I am truly hoping that Mr. Cole has been reassigned to this ship.  

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Oct 22, 2005

Hawaii

You'll find the support staff and supervisors more than adequate to fulfill your need for a special vacation on board a cruise ship. The personal service is delightful, courteous and friendly, and the crew well trained and enthusiastic. The ship is immaculate, well designed and well maintained. Although we were forced into personal choice dining, it turned out o.k., but missed the regular experience with the same tablemates and waiter.

The Horizon Cafe topside was great for breakfast, pizza and grille were good also. Dining room fish prep was unreliable at best but beef always on the money with veal excellent. Salads and soups were enjoyable. When any waiter was asked for a recommendation from the dinner menu he/she offered the non committal "I can bring you both dishes". The desserts were good but not memorable, however most people liked the soufflés. The casino staff, Michelle, Irina, Gabi, Igor, Delia, and more were thoroughly professional albeit entertaining and playful while they lightened the load in my back pocket. Slot machines were actually paper shredders. They oughta turn them babies up. The photo staff -- Cat and Sara, and the guy with the spiked hair that says "c'mon , baby" all the time -- did a great job making the posing fun and entertaining. The photo gallery is my wife's "casino" so more than a few mega pixels were used on us, and purchase decisions difficult. The ships dancers were above average and the shows' variety and content enjoyable. However, the comedians needed some new material. Well, it sure beat getting up for work that day, anyway. The cruise director, David Cole, needs a vacation. When I expressed my frustration at having a full blown variety show in the limited seating lounge (while I was sitting on a metal folding chair in the rear with a very limited view), he seemed to let his own frustration pour out like lava, and ultimately instructed me to write Princess a letter if I didn't like it. Evidently this is a recurring complaint on the cruise. Well, hey Dave, diffuse the situation with some basic customer service skills, or advise the passengers in the Pitter-Pattter (daily newsletter) of the limited seating. Or, better yet, let Martin, the very gracious and friendly assistant take over while they leave you in Hawaii for one rotation. Shake it up with a Hula girl, or hula boy if need be, pal. Lighten up, we're on vacation, remember. Embarkation was rough, and Customs insisted on clearing the entire ship before letting anyone disembark. Ok, we missed our morning flight with the other 500 early passengers, but the airlines were very accommodating, at least for us. I guess the cruise director told the customs guys to write Princess when they asked for a cup of coffee, so they dug in their heels. Actually, the Princess experience was very good, but the lack of training for customer service agents in the home office and the cruise director's misplaced basic skills left me with the impression that future Princess cruises for me would set sail with a puff of morning breath. This was my 6th cruise, and all have been enjoyable, but next time I go the selection will be as follows: 1. Celebrity 2. Royal Caribbean 3. Another line 4. Princess

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Jun 3, 2005

Hawaii

My wife and I have just taken our third cruise together, and this one was with Princess, while the others were with Royal Car. Anything is only as good or bad by comparison. Having enjoyed our previous trips, we were looking forward to this one in particular because we had heard from others how remarkable it was. We had also heard from others how good Princess

cruise line was. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Anyone thinking of going to Alaska, should think twice. And also about going with Princess. Let's start from the beginning. We wanted everything to go right from the start. We reserved a balcony room on the starboard side to make sure we were looking at land the whole time. And we booked some shore excursions ahead of time. We had our travel agent handle all the details. Except for the excursions. When we received our paperwork about the plane, we were shocked to find out how long it would take to get there. We live in RI so we knew it would be long, but how it was worked out was ludicrous. To get there was like 12 hours and the return flight was 14 hours into the next day. I immediately called my agent, and told him to try and make better arrangements. He called back and said it would cost us an additional $500.00. We agreed. Princess makes all the arrangements for travel. The final tab for all this (without excursions), $7,800.00. Not a cheap trip already. Upon arriving at the airport we were greeted by Princess personnel, and I have to say, better than Royal Car., wisked by border authorities and off to the ship in no time at all. And all of our luggage was taken care of with no hassles. Our first minutes on board were a bit confusing. There were no signs to where the complimentary boarding lunch was, what deck, and no crew to lead us there. After talking with other passengers we found it. Not a good start. As we sat down to eat our meal, after a very long ordeal to get there, no more than 2 minutes went by when we were asked to sign up for "wine tasting". We refused the first one. Then we were constantly badgered by four others. To which we just said said OK. It got to point where enough is enough. And as the trip went on, it was obvious that this was the "theme" of Princess, to constantly try to sell you something. Even at the dinner the server was trying to sell you a "recipe book" from the chef. (Please...) Having been on other cruises this appears to be the norm, but Princess does go (pardon the pun) overboard. Also the silverware on the ship was pathetically ugly. Something you would find at a flea market, not on a cruise line that is supposed to be elegant. If I'm supposed to dress for dinner, the least they can do is present a better dinner table. The food was OK. Nothing to write home about. There were no special presentations similar to those on Royal Car. The menu selection I could receive from my wife at home. Of course you may asked for seconds of anything, but why would you? By the way if you don't like the standard dining they have other restaurants. But they come with more money. A cover charge of $15.00 or 20.00 per person is needed. I would have thought any restaurant on the ship would be included. Not the case here. On the second day of our cruise, 50% of the passengers, (easily) were seasick. Even myself. The ship was rocking unbelievable. When I went to the ship doctor, we were greeted by a sign. Open at 10:00am. If emergency call a specific number. I grabbed the phone and the person said "go to gift shop and buy Dramamine". Well, gee, thanks for your medical help! A group of other people started the trek upstairs to find "which one" had the stuff. If you have ever been seasick I don't think that you want to scour the ends of the earth to find something. We found them with the "liquor". Needless to say that day was a washout. With Royal Car. they brag that they add more ballast tanks to cut down on the ship rocking. I Never had a problem with Royal Car. on two cruises. I really feel that the ship's doctor should have made himself available, instead of leaving the passengers to help themselves. The cruise line should have been more compassionate. I think it's time to try and shorten this review. The excursions were nothing but expensive. The gold panning was nothing but a con. Most excursions are just something to do, because there really is nothing to do in Alaska. The tramway in Juneau was the only thing worth it. You're better off walking around towns yourself. There were not enough activities on board ship. If it wasn't for the Casino there would be nothing. They have some (bingo, trivia, nightly entertainment (which wasn't good), and nothing more. If you want to be bored, this is the ship. The crew was 50% nice. The other 50% could care less just to say HI! Probably because they get their tips no matter what they do. (Worked into the bill at the end) For the cruise I give a "C". Total for the "extra" bill $1200.00 Now the land tour. We started in Whittier on board a train, to Mt. McKinley lodge. This took 5 hours. Princess owns the lodge. More excursions, more money! No thanks. Also, you have to pay for all meals. Of course premium prices. We stayed two nights. Again no activities for free! Off to Denali Princess Lodge. More excursions, more money! No thanks! One History tour free at Denali park. Trapped on a school bus 4 hours. Thanks. What was terrible here was, we had to wait 5 more hours to receive our luggage after we arrived at Denali. If I'm here, it would be nice if my luggage was with me. Next day off to Fairbanks on a train 4 more hours, for overnight. We arrived too late (8:30pm)to do anything but sleep for the plane ride the next day. To sum up the trip: If you want the greatest scenery ever, go to Alaska. If you want to be eaten by a million mosquitos, go to Alaska. If you're looking to spend a lot of money and not care, go to Alaska. If you want to see a lot of wildlife, it's not in Alaska. If you want to be bored stiff (or spend a ton of money on excursions) go to Alaska. If you want to see mediocre towns with no economy,(very nice people though) go to Alaska. Alaska is highly overrated, for a cruise. The primary function is 4 to 5 months of cruise ships to bolster the economy there. Kind of a letdown but true. If you're still wanting to go to Alaska, do it on a different cruise line. Stay out of "Princess World". And be prepared to spend $10,000.00 with the land tour. When I returned home I checked with Royal Car., and they offered a better deal for less. Whether they are any better. You'll have to let me know. This will be my only time to Alaska, and final trip with Princess. Rating for the trip: C

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Feb 18, 2005

R/T Hawaii

My wife and I just finished a wonderful 15-day cruise to Hawaii on the Island Princess. We are experienced at cruising and have been on longer trips before. This cruise was by far the most enjoyable for us of all the longer-term cruises we have taken. Princess has given the Embarkation and Debarkation question a great deal of thought as it was

the easiest, quickest and most trouble free we have ever experienced before. Upon arriving to check in and actually sitting in our cabin took approximately 30 minutes, and our luggage was delivered shortly thereafter. Getting off the ship was just as easy. On the departure day we had a nice breakfast and then went down to the deck where the departures were taking place. Each cabin is given new luggage tags prior to departure that are color-coded and have a large number on each. In our case we were a “Pink 5”. This designation told us that we would depart with the Pink group and should go to Section 5 of the luggage pick up area. Once off the ship we walked to the Pink 5 area and there was our luggage all assembled together for pick up along with approximately 40 or so other bags. It was so easy. We were in our car within 15 minutes of leaving the ship. Now the question about the food on board: It was simply wonderful. The buffet (24 hours) was excellent with a very large selection of hot and cold food, fruit, salads, soups, sliced meats and cheeses along with many baskets of bread, of all types, baked daily on the ship. Likewise, the dining in the dining room was excellent. Wonderful selection of main courses, soups, salads, appetizers, and deserts. We could not have been happier with the food and service in all areas. There were a few highlights that I feel may give you a glimpse of how nice this was. During the 15 day trip there were four times when the ship had a “Pastry Buffet” and a “Sushi Buffet” – These buffets were in addition to the normal buffet and were huge in there own right. The Pastry was astounding and the Sushi was also. The beauty and amount of goods present was breathtaking. There was enough to feed hundreds and plenty in reserve. Our cabin was very nice with a comfortable veranda. We spent a good deal of time out there reading and watching the ocean simply go by. Our veranda had two reclining chairs and a full size table. The cabin inside was very comfortable and perfectly clean. It had all the things needed for a comfortable stay including fresh fruit of your choosing delivered daily. The bath room is nice but the shower is small. The redeeming factor there was there seemed to be an endless supply of hot water. The towels were large, fluffy and plentiful. They provide special Pool Towels that are blue and white striped. Again, very large and fluffy. The ship itself is beautiful with every amenity one would want. There are plenty of deck chairs inside and outside and large numbers of big soft chairs to sit in for reading or simply resting throughout the ship. The entertainment was varied, very good and presented at times that made sense with your dining times. There are two movie theaters that showed first rate new movies several times a day plus a great library, many smaller sitting areas, a Internet Café, smoking room, card rooms and the normal assortment of shops that seemed to have everything. Naturally, there is a nice Casino for those who want to enjoy the games. If you want to swim or be in a hot tub – no problem. The ship has three pools that are very large by ship standards along with five large hot tubs. They were clear and warm. Plenty of room with no crowding. One of the pools is inside a eye popping beautiful enclosed area that was at the least spectacular to look at and enjoy. Finally, the entire crew was so friendly to everyone. They were are well prepared for their job as one could possibly ask for. There was service at every turn with a smile and a friendly hand if needed. In all, we would rate this cruise close to 100% perfect and recommend it to anyone who would love to be at sea for several days coming and going.

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Dec 20, 2004

Hawaii

It saddens me to have to say that I can no longer recommend the Princess Cruise line. Under the management of Carnival Corporation for the past few years service has degraded to the point that the cruise has become more trouble than its worth. You have to beg, bargain, or beseech for: 1) A table for two at a time more or less to your liking; 2) Robes;

3) Toiletries; 4) Extra Towels (rationed!) 5) Fruit bowl (which we never got); 6) Laundry bag; 7) etc. Additionally, there were no seat covers in the restrooms; there was an irritant in the air that bothered many passengers bronchi-probably from the aerosol used on the stages to make the lighting more apparent; the on-board lecturers were unprepared or boring; and, finally, the food quality ranged downward from good (fowl) to inedible (fish, beef). The cruise director's idea of a high time was bingo. Passengers were allotted one (1) threadbare beach towel for use on deck. The beach towel was assigned to the cabin and passengers lugged it with them weree're they went till they found a likely spot. The balconies on the cabins were miniscule, of limited use. Those on the upper three or four cabin decks were open to public view. There were some good points: the entertainment was generally very good to exceptionally fine, with the exception of two comedians who had the mis-fortune to die (theatrically speaking) on stage. The ship is well-designed and pleasantly decorated. The cover-charge restaurant Sabbatini's is excellent. The same can not be said for the other cover charge restaurant, the Bayou, which, although it served excellent Oysters Bienville, also served inedible steaks! Also, embarkation and debarkation were very well handled. Too bad the good hardly outweighs the bad.

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Oct 5, 2004

Hawaii

Great 15 day cruise! First time on Princess. Excellent service, beautiful ship. I highly recommend this cruise if you like a lot of sea days.

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Jul 9, 2004

Alaska Cruise

We Floridians like to escape the summer heat, so when Vincent saw a July Alaskan Sea/Land Cruise advertised, "North to Alaska" sounded great ---- we just returned from this trip, and it was great. The Sea cruise included the following ports: Vancouver, Canada; then in Alaska: Ketchihan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, College Fjord and Whittier. The Land tour

included Anchorage, Fairbanks and the Midnight Sun rail tour through Denali National Park (Healy and Talkeetna). We now realize that the expectations that we had for the land tour were unrealistic in terms of wild life. However, the interior of this largest state in the union is a fascinating geological lesson unfolding, due to the Pacific Plate's movement against the N. American Plate: the vista of the effects of subduction and mountain building is awesome. Geology Professors speak of fault lines and their consequences, but, sailing or railroading past rows on rows of mountains formed by tectonic plate movement is an incredible trip. We flew from Ft. Lauderdale, had a change over in Los Angeles and arrived in Vancouver on July 9th and embarked on the 10th. Having sailed on the Island Princess' sister ship, the Coral Princess, we will refer you to our review of the Coral Princess (Oct. 2003) for the description of shared characteristics. Suffice it to say that the Island Princess is also Panamax, 964 ft. long, 105 ft. in the beam, a gross tonnage of 91,627 and with a passenger capacity of 2,368 (on this cruise 2,100 passengers, 400 of which were repeaters). The most distinguishing feature of the sister ships is their polished steel gas turbine/diesel enviro engines perched high above decks, adjacent to the stack. This review will concentrate on the excellent service provided by Captain Andrea Poggi, always punctual in every port and cognizant of the passengers' curiosity regarding the glaciers, and the flora and fauna of the wonderful wilderness of Alaska. Passenger Service Director (PSD) Adam Gorst was very helpful and informative; and the Dining Room staff, under the direction of Maitre D' Giuseppe Gelmini, was just superb. Overall, Princess service was as usual tip top. EMBARKATION Boarding began punctually at 12 noon. Those passengers who had filed their data sheets on line received "priority boarding" status. Passengers in wheelchairs were assisted in boarding first and were accompanied to their cabins. PSD Gorst has a finely tuned crew; we were on board in less than twenty minutes, dropped off our carry on baggage, and were off to the Buffet. On Lido Deck 14, Vincent's old acquaintance from the Golden Princess, Pizzaiolo Carmelo Maesano, greeted us so warmly, that within five minutes of boarding, we felt personally welcomed and at home! THE SHIP The Island Princess was built at Chantiers De L'Atlantique, St. Nazaire, France, 2003. Princess provides a handy trifold pocket guide of the 15 decks (there is no Deck 13). Five decks are allotted to passenger staterooms and suites, and six decks are allotted to public venues (See the Coral Princess review for a deck by deck description, which is replicated on the Island Princess). Many of the public areas are thoughtfully arranged with passengers needs foremost. For example, in the Princess Theater, all seats have an excellent view of the stage, free from obstructions by columns or poles. The decor is simple but elegant in red and gold. In the beautifully decorated Universe Lounge, the seats on Deck 6 have an unobstructed view of the stage, while on Deck 7, there are seats with obstructed views from decorative railings and inadequate deck slopes, thus passengers continually play "Musical Chairs" seeking a better view. The Wheelhouse Bar is a huge room with nautical memorabilia (many ship portraits in oil, wonderful dark wooden tables with brass accents, etc.) This was the setting of terrific on board Lecture series like "World of Whales" and "History in the Making" (Iditarod dog sledding). Very appropriate for this cruise. Stairwells on the Island Princess are full of interesting, large art work, too numerous to describe here, but well worth checking out. Unlike most ships the Bordeaux and the Provence Dining Rooms are located forward. The center of activities is the four deck high atrium (Decks 5 to 8), where are located the Passenger Service Desks (Purser and Tour offices), in addition to the dining room entrances, and the Wheelhouse bar, the Internet Cafe`, the Library, the Card room, shopping boutiques and various bars and sitting areas. All of them interconnected by four Panoramic elevators. Overall this ship is elegant and beautiful. Decks 14, 15 and 16, are also devoted to public areas such as the Gym, Lotus Spa, and the Lotus pool (a domed heated lap pool and two hot tubs) immersed in a South Sea Island atmosphere. Here is also located the Oxford Dipper to aid handicapped passengers in and out of the pool. Midship on 14 is the open area Lido Pool, and forward is the Horizon Court devoted to casual buffet dining. This ship with her traditional nautical motif and tasteful decorations has struck a perfect balance of style and comfort. FOOD & SERVICE Director Gorst has a staff with a "can do" policy. If you have a special need, just voice it and you shall be accommodated. When dining, we need a table near the entrance, so we won't disturb too many diners with the wheelchair. We spoke with Maitre D' Giuseppe Gelmini, the first afternoon on board, and he chose for us Table #20 near a window, where service was excellent and our waiter Vlad and his assistant took great care of us. First Purser Melania Parnisari, Food & Beverage Director, is the first woman on the Princess Cruise Line to hold this position. She told us that as a child she watched "Love Boat" on TV and dreamt of sailing on board, and now she is living a dream come true. She took us on a private tour of Executive Chef Gunter Deseske's galley. Here we saw the incredibly neat and organized food preparation areas (all stainless steel) and met Gunter's Sous Chef Saverio Brattoli and the Pastry Chef (Artist!) Vincenzo Frigulti who did all the classics: N.Y. Cheesecake, Swan puffs and pies which he augmented with sugar or fat free tasty alternatives. Over 9,000 meals are served daily, very delicious and beautifully plated. Across the Princess Lines the menus are standardized and thematic; the following are the highlights of the week: * The Sail Away Dinner with shrimp cocktail and Prime rib; * The Captain's Dinner offering Crab Quiche, Lobster and Pheasant; * The Princess Dinner featuring Endive salad and Roast Buffalo; * The French Dinner with Pate` de fois gras, escargot and Duck a l'Orange; * The Italian Dinner featuring Prosciutto and Pappardelle (pasta) with Rabbit; * The International Dinner had WonTon Soup, and Surf and Turf; and finally, * The Chef's Dinner with Asparagus, Lobster Bisque, King Crab Legs or Rack of lamb. These were all delicious dinners with many more choices, too many to list them here. If passengers want to snack, go to see Pizzaiolo Carmelo who makes crispy, gourmet pizzas at Princess Pizza on the Lido Deck during the day and at Sabatini's at night. He specially made one for us with porcini mushrooms: Semplicemente deliziosa (simply delicious). Thank you, Carmelo! There is 24 hour room service, which we used mostly for breakfast, and it was always punctual and excellent. The two alternative restaurants are well worth the nominal additional fees: At Sabatini's feast on eight appetizers, four specialty pizzas, two soups, mesclun salad, three pastas (spaghetti, gnocchi and cannelloni) and finally choose from several entrees (Shrimp, Lobster, Chicken, Scallops, Prawns and Veal). The final touch is Tiramisu, of course. All this under the watchful eyes of Manager Michele De Mario. We also ate at The Bayou; cajun cuisine was an experience for us: Mary loved the corn bread and the sampler plate of appetizers, but it was Vincent who ate all of his Alligator ribs. If you dine at these alternative venues, skip lunch or you may rue the fact that you can't taste it all! One afternoon there was a delicious Fish Barbecue served up on the open deck featuring crab cakes, fish filets, sea food kabobs and a tasty reindeer chili (all references to Rudolph aside) many passengers enjoyed the fare. Service on board is excellent and the dining room staff includes Head Waiters Ciro and Ennio who ensured that all staff were alert and on the job. The "Personal Choice Dining" offers both the traditional fixed seating and the Anytime Dining which gives passengers flexibility in dining hours and venues: many cruisers availed themselves of this new system. CABIN Stateroom #B620 on Baja Deck 11 with ocean view and balcony, is a spacious cabin and the exact replica of the one we had on the Coral Princess. It has a double wide door, triple armoire, personal safe, refrigerator, huge bath with shower and appropriately placed safety rails, king size bed, night stands, and end tables. Best of all was our wonderful steward Cristina, who anticipated our needs. There were sheer curtains and heavy drapes to block out the white nights. As previously noticed on the Coral, the shelves in the bathroom are much too small to hold the necessary toiletries. ENTERTAINMENT Cruise Director Richard Joseph was literally born to his job. Princess includes serious lectures on Alaska, a friendly staff, some of whom imparted interesting information we are seeking. For example, Tim Spicer knew specific details for planning a dream Tahiti cruise. He confirmed what others suggested: Air Tahiti Nui direct from L.A. is the best, and try the local bread fruit, mangos and other delicacies. Several shows were memorable, among which Greg Bonham, the trumpeter who could hit the high notes, and who could also sing in a voice with a huge range. Excellent in cabin TV (CNN, ESPN, BBC) and the movies both in cabin and on the big screen at the Princess Theater ("Calendar Girls," "Plot With a View," and "Mona Lisa Smile," plus many more). For sports enthusiasts, there are three decks 14, 15 and 16 with aerobics, gym, Center Court, Princess Links golf, Lido and Lotus pools, hot tubs and spas. Princess has it all covered. PORTS OF CALL This was our second Alaskan Cruise with the same itinerary doing the Inside Passage out of Vancouver. July 10th, Saturday: Vancouver Embark. 12:00pm Depart 5:30pm July 11th, Sunday: At Sea July 12th, Monday: Ketchikan Arrive 6:30am Depart 2:30pm Its name means Eagle River in the Tlingit native language, and this is the best place to see Bald Eagles. There are the following tours: 42A - Totem Pole and Town tour 2.5 hrs, $36. 48I - Great Alaska Lumberjack Show 1.5 hrs, $29. July 13th, Tuesday: Juneau Arrive 6:00am Depart 7:40pm Alaska's capital is named after the co-finder of three of the largest gold mines in the world. Among the available tours are these: 18A - Mendenhall Glacier and the Salmon Hatchery, 3 hrs, $39; 28P - Whale Watching, 4 hrs, $109. July 14th, Wednesday: Skagway Arrive 7:00am Depart 8:42pm The tour of choice for us: 67H - White Pass Scenic Railway, 3.5 hrs, $95. There are great number of tours for hiking, fishing, boating and flying. July 15th, Thursday: Glacier Bay Cruising through the bay from 6:00am to 3:00pm. If there is any one left who doesn't believe there is global warming occurring, well, from the ship's Bridge, Park Ranger Adam Gomez narrated this interesting fact about the bay: 200 years ago Glacier Bay was covered by 400 feet of ice. Captain Poggi, with immense respect for the area, slowly and reverently navigated this bay of still water with floating icebergs and views of magnificent glaciers. Some of the icebergs (growlers) make noises like bubbling seltzer water. There were Orca whales in the lower part of the bay, where they feed in shallow waters near the shores. July 16th, Friday: College Fjord Cruising in the fjord from 3:00pm to 6:00pm. Cruising by the famous glaciers named after some of the United States oldest and most famous Ivy League Colleges and Universities (Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Holyoke etc.). Enchanting sights! That evening we cruised across Prince William Sound on the way to Whittier. July 17th, Saturday: Whittier Arrive 1:00am Debarkation began as early as 7:00am for those passengers with early flights. DEBARKATION Exiting the ship was orderly and color coded. When our color was called, crew assisted us with the wheelchair off the ship and we collect our luggage. For those continuing on the Land Tour, there was the Alaskan Airlines check in desk located at the end of the baggage claim area. Be careful of heavy luggage. There is a charge for extra weight over the allotted amount (44 lbs per passenger? Check it with the airline!): The lady in front of us had to pay $50 additional for the extra weight. We were off the ship by 9:00am and on a bus to begin our Alaskan land tour. ALASKAN LAND TOUR This five day tour, starting in Whittier and ending in Anchorage, Alaska's largest city, includes an air transfer and three long train rides. July 17th, Saturday: Passengers were transferred by coach from Whittier to Anchorage (2 hrs.), then took an Alaska Airlines flight to Fairbanks (1 hr). From the air we saw some of the wild fires that have been plaguing Fairbanks this summer. The air on the ground had a distinct smoky scent. Many locals told us we were lucky to have missed the really bad days two weeks before, when everyone was wearing surgical masks. The temperature was 88 degrees (F) when we landed, so much for the cool northwest. We transferred from the airport to the Fairbanks Princess Lodge for a two night stay. We were given an envelope on the bus with our schedule and room key. This was neat, no lines to wait on, and our luggage was already in our rooms when we arrived. This was to be repeated at each city on the tour. Nice preparation on the part of Princess Tours. July 18th, Sunday: At 8:30am the "City of Gold" tour took us through an old gold mine, where panning is still done by tourists. This is a good place for souvenirs and the tour included complementary hot chocolate, coffee and freshly baked cookies for the weary gold miners. At 1:30pm we boarded a three deck paddlewheel for the "Riverboat Discovery Tour." There were several stops where natives shared and demonstrated their culture; we saw Iditarod Champions with their dog training farms, and samples of local huts and homes. This was a wilderness ride that Disney would have appreciated because of its authenticity. We even watched a native Eskimo (Inupiat) filet a salmon for preserving. July 19th, Monday: We placed our luggage outside by 5:30am, transferred to the railway depot at 7:15am and boarded the Midnight Sun Ultra Dome at 8:15am. If this sounds early, just remember most of us were easterners used to DST, so this was like 12:15pm to us. Up to this point Fairbanks had been flat land, now we started a 4.5 hrs train ride through miles and miles of tundra with scrub like trees (low willows, birch and alder, plus the miniature scrub black spruce). Then the train went into a river bed and through canyons, tunnels and over trestles and into the mountains. Always with delightful changing vistas. We arrived in Healy and were transferred by bus to the Denali Princess Lodge, with its Old Hickory Furniture (Shelby, Indiana) This lodge and its surroundings are extraordinarily beautiful: many gigantic begonias, dahlias and marigold grown so lushly by the long, long summer days. Look out for the giant cabbages. Monday afternoon we took a three hour "Natural History Tour" with guide Josh Becker through the taiga (forest) and the tundra and up into the mountains to Inspiration Point (also called Primrose Ridge). From this site one can see 360 degrees panorama of mountain peaks. Fantastic! This is where the very spiritual natives sit to communicate with their spirit friends. An Athabaskan native woman spoke of their matriarchal society and subsistence hunting. The roads are lined with fire weed a beautiful lavender spiked wild flower. Wild life is scarce here, but we did see the Alaskan State bird the ptarmigan, to be exact we saw the whole family: a hen, a rooster and several chicks. They look like bantam chickens small and brown with a more colorful rooster, who fiercely defends the family. We saw white Dall sheep with their curled horns and a caribou that walked across the scrub straight toward the bus. Josh stopped and warned the passengers to be quiet. This beautiful animal walked along side the bus and strode to the front of it and then turned and slowly walked back. All the while cameras were clicking. We were all amazed by the huge rack of antlers. Denali National Park, we were told is the size of Massachusetts, with more then 160 species of birds, 37 species of mammals and hundreds of species of plants. We found that looking for wildlife there is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Imagine seeking less than 350 grizzly bears or 100 wolves in six million acres. Both moose and caribou number less than 1,900 each. This harsh climate is not conducive to either flora or fauna. If you yearn for wildlife, then you should book special tours which bring the visitors to specific areas like Brooks River Lodge in Kanai National Park, where bears congregate to catch the salmon swimming upstream, as shown in National Geographic films. We never even saw the official Alaskan pollinator the mosquito (Skeeter), since this year there has been very little rain. July 20th, Tuesday: We transferred at noon to the Ultra Dome train again to ride from Denali to Talkeetna 4.5 hrs. The dining car had all glass sides. It was lined with booths and tables covered with cloths and decorated with blue iris in silver bud vases. The wall sconces added an elegant touch. Up the spiral steps is the glassed topped dome of the railroad car complete with bar. After winding through beautiful taiga forest, we arrived at Talkeetna, which is the starting point for all Mt. McKinley climbs (the local indigenous tribes call it Denali, the big one). This is a town that is little more than a widening in the road. If seeing wildlife in Denali Park was difficult, we were now about to learn just how difficult it is to see Mt. McKinley. We transferred by coach to Mt. McKinley Lodge and our bus driver, Joy Raby, answered our question about which direction to look by saying, "If it's out . . .". We now decided to rename Mt. McKinley "Peek-a-boo Mountain." Joy's mother Wilma told us about the rarity of photo opportunities, not only of the mountain, but also of wildlife (her collection of photographs are stunning, but the result of over thirteen years work!). It seems that the mountain is usually shrouded in clouds and many times it is difficult to discern what are snow covered mountain peaks from what are white clouds. We were told that during this period of the year the "Big Mountain" is only visible 30% of the time. July 21st, Wednesday: This morning we all gathered on the deck of the Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge and stayed until we had to board our coach at 3:15pm. We saw one or two minor peaks, but never the majestic range depicted on our post cards. Dejected, we boarded the Midnight Sun Ultra Dome for the last time and a 3.5 hour trip to Anchorage. We saw truly beautiful mountain ranges and rainbows. We arrived at the Hilton Hotel at 8:30pm and once again check in was simple; room keys, luggage transfers and tags were provided. July 22, Thursday: We shopped and walked near the visitors center in Anchorage. The main streets were lined with huge hanging baskets of midnight blue lobelia and golden giant marigolds. At noon we transferred to the airport. We were eager to go home but truly disappointed that Mt. Mckinley had eluded us. Then on our way to the boarding gate, we looked out the panoramic windows and low and behold there was a clear view of Mt. Mckinley and its range. We asked a local and the response we got was "Didn't anyone tell you that Anchorage usually has the best view of the mountain?" We feel that we had some unrealistic expectations regarding wildlife etc., but we had a terrific trip through the interior of Alaska and enjoyed it immensely. SUGGESTIONS 1. Many of the public areas on the ship are carpeted making it difficult for wheelchairs; Costa and Carnival lines have used marble and tile extensively and thus are more user friendly. 2. We suggest to passengers with limited mobility to view the deck plans when booking their cruise. In this ship, for example, the cabins closer to the midship elevators are the best to minimize the distance to places most frequently visited, such as the dining rooms, the theater, the various lounges and passenger service desks. Unfortunately for us there are no wheelchair accessible cabins in this area midship. 3. We had a beautiful and comfortable stateroom; however, there is a minor deficiency in the bathroom where the shelves for toiletries were too small to hold a few necessary items. 4. A young cruiser told us to be sure to remind cruisers to bring their bathing suits. Alaska does have a summer! CONCLUSIONS Overall this was another great cruise. A bit too much traveling for Vincent with his mobility problem, but it was worth the effort. This was our sixth cruise on Princess and it will not be our last, as matter of fact, we have booked two future cruises with destinations to be decided. Our next cruise, however, will be on the new RCI Jewel of the Seas, on her maiden transatlantic crossing in September. Until then, Happy Cruising!

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Feb 4, 2004

Western Caribbean / Panama Canal

I stayed at the Holiday Inn Ft. Laud Beach. The area is not as nice as the main hotel area where the Sheratons are, but it was good for the price. We walked to the Sheraton in about 15 minutes. Love taking the water taxi to see Millionaire Mile (saw the yacht owned by the owner of Princess) and going to the restaurants. I took bonine the first day, but

it made me drowsy, I did fine the rest of the cruise with my sea bands. It was really rough the night before the panama canal and the night after, a woman on deck 11 called down in the middle of the night to see if there was something wrong with the ship and the captain made an announcement the next night to advise of rough seas, but I didn't feel a thing on my room on Plaza deck, in the middle, room 602 - outside. The upgrade fairy upgraded me 8 levels. I booked my cruise with cruises only, much lower than booking with princess, plus I got a $50 shipboard credit - you have to ask for it and we received coupon books during the cruise. My friend had booked with princess, she asked customer service for the coupon books and was told the travel agents were running a promotion, so they would not give her any. I had read that the Coral Princess the week before had the norwark virus so I was expecting to see the staff wiping down areas etc. but did not notice anything. The Star had hand sanitizers outside of the horizon court restrooms, but not the Island. Watch out when ordering the drinks/mocktails of the day, they will not give you the price advertised unless you demand it, they always try to push the larger size drinks, some of the waiters are pretty pushy, but the service was great. There were plenty of deck chairs everywhere, no need to try to chair hog. Some of the nights you could get to a show at the last minute and get seats other nights be there 15 minutes early, especially the first couple of nights. I didn't think the production shows were as good as the Star, but still worth seeing. The comedians were just ok. The newlywed game was terrible - don't bother. We enjoyed the horse races and the casino. In Ocho Rios we did the catamaran snorkeling trip on the cool jazz through Princess, this is the worse snorkeling I have ever done, hardly any fish and not much for coral, they only go a few yards away from the ship, we really enjoyed sailing though, sat out on the net, had huge waves. Did the "nativeway" tour in Grand Cayman to the sandbar. I was really looking forward to getting in with the stingrays and was really scared when I did, they are huge and surround you, I'm glad I did it, but I wouldn't do it again, one man at our table was bitten/hurt by one, had a mark on his arm, but he was fine otherwise. Some of my table mates did the glass dome train excursion at the canal, but didn't like it. Going through the canal, I went to the horizon court at 6:15 and was able to get a good table, one row back. During the voyage go to deck 7 - promenade to be eye level with the locomotives, the best place was in the back, I was on the lido deck, you can see other ships behind you and beside you, it was great. I stayed on the ship and enjoyed the ride back through the locks. I don't get massages, can't see paying hundreds of dollars, but if you want to save some money, they always go on sale the last 3 days, the hot rocks was reduced from $158 to $85 and they had daily specials, so why book the minute you get on. I had looked forward to going to the disco with my friends, but they would not start it till after midnight - so that no one was there, when the show in the explorers lounge ended, there were still about 30 people there, I asked the dj to play a song, he said he doesn't start till midnight, 10 minutes later the lounge was empty. I went back at 12:30 and there were 2 people sitting at a table. I don't know why princess doesn't start the disco after the shows when they have people there. It's like Princess is against the partying atmosphere. So if you like to dance, forget it. I loved the cruise though, it's a beautiful ship, but I am 50 and can't wait to try Carnival again, I love the Carnival pool parties and bands (there is no band poolside on Princess, only 1 person singing to recorded music). The mood on Princess is quiet, really quiet and refined, Carnival is for those who want to stay up past 10 and like to dance.

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Jan 15, 2004

Panama Canal

Just completed the January 15th 2004 - 10-day Panama Canal cruise on the Island Princess. Just brief note about me. I am in my mid-30’s and have been fortunate to have taken 18 cruises (this is my 3rd on Princess) thus far on most of the major lines (I try to take 2 per year). I love to cruise because I think it is the most relaxing type of vacation you can

find. You can do as much or as little as you want. Overall Impressions: An excellent trip and Princess continues to be a solid choice for the mass market cruise lines. I would think that Princess should appeal to most people unless you are looking for a very active nightlife (more about that later). Embarkation: Very smooth. I always book my airfare separately. Arrived in Ft. Lauderdale around 10:30 and was at the Pier at 11:15. A line had formed outside the terminal building of early arrivers, but they started processing people about 20 minutes later. As I pre-registered on the Internet, it took just a few minutes to check in and I was on the ship Ship: Overall, I liked the Island very much. I was on the Golden last year and the Island seems similar only a bit smaller. I thought the lobby/atrium was one of the nicer ones I have seen recently. Other public rooms were nice and seemed functional. I don’t really concern myself with these things too much so I won’t spend much time on it here. Passengers: Not that it really matters to me, but the average age of the passengers on this sailing was likely in the 70’s and probably the oldest crowd on any cruise I have been on. It could be a combination of the fact that it was a 10-day trip and that it was mid-January, not a popular vacation time for families. I make note of this only since there was not much activity around the ship past 10 or 11pm. So if your looking for a lot of nightlife, this is probably not the exact itinerary and timing for you. Cabin: I was in category BA on Caribe Deck. It is a standard outside balcony but had an “extended” balcony. The cabin was pretty standard and functional. Same goes for the bathroom. I will note that I had read the comments on the small size of the shower and I must say it is all true. They do seem smaller than usual. I had trouble figuring out how some people I saw on board fit in there. However, it did have awesome water pressure if you turned it all the way up. Having the larger balcony was a plus. It had two reclining chairs and a pretty good size square table. This balcony offered some privacy from above, but not total privacy. Service: I was very happy with the service. Our cabin steward was excellent and very friendly. He did a good job of always being available and efficient, but never being intrusive. Most of the other staff I had contact with were mostly friendly but I am not a high maintenance passenger. Food: As many people have appropriately said on these reviews, food is a subjective thing so I will only give you my opinions. After 18 cruises, I realize that when you are cooking for 2,000+ people, the likelihood that you will have a “gourmet” experience is remote. So here it goes…overall, it is my opinion that Princess has some of the better food of the large cruise lines. Dinner in the dining room was good to very good. I think that the beef dishes were typically not the best I have had (somewhat tough) but the chicken dishes, seafood and pasta’s were generally very good. I tend to think that Princess does excellent pasta (a lot of cream sauces). I would typically order the pasta entrée as a starter in a small portion. This is a way to try the pasta entrée without having to have it as a main dish. Of course, if your hungry, just order both as an entrée. As with all cruises I have been on, the waiters are very eager to bring you whatever you want and however much you want. Appetizers and soups were also mostly good but I thought the salads were typically uninspired. As a comparison, dining room food was just a notch below what I had on Celebrity Constellation in May and hands down far superior to the dining room food I had on Explorer of the Sears in November of 2002. Horizon Court: This is where I think Princess is much better than the other large cruise lines including Celebrity. I ate most of my breakfasts and lunches in the Horizon Court. Despite being poorly designed for traffic flow, the Horizon Court has pretty good food for a buffet. There is a nice selection and it doesn’t seem like it has been sitting around for a long time as it can sometimes on other lines. Also, the food is always hot. For breakfast, you can go with the standard items but there was also a fresh egg & omelet area where you could pretty much order what you wanted. I am a big milk drinker and one thing I didn’t like was that milk was only available at breakfast and at the dinner buffet. I have been on the Grand and Golden and I recall that there were milk dispenser’s available 24hrs in the Horizon. Anyway, I took a bunch of milk cartons and stored them in my cabin refrigerator. Room service: Pretty standard here too. Ordered room service for breakfast twice and it was delivered on time and was usually hot. If you don’t know…you can pretty much write down whatever you want and they will bring it. It does not need to be listed on the door menu card. A note of caution, be very explicit in what you want…. if you order pancakes, you must specify syrup, or else they wont bring it. Also you can write down whatever time you want. I asked for breakfast 1 hour earlier then was listed as available on the card and the food was delivered at the time I requested. Entertainment: I saw most of the production shows and they were pretty good. While the production shows tend to be similar content across the various cruise lines, the Island Princess singers and dancers were very talented and I enjoyed the shows very much. They also have a long term comedian onboard who does three shows through out the cruise and he was also very enjoyable. Lots of other bands and music on board all of which seemed to be good. Shore Excursions: Cozumel – Took a taxi over to the Chankanaab National Park for some snorkeling / sun. If you’re looking for a lazy beach day, this is a good place to go. They have a variety of water sports if that is of interest. It is $10 cab fare each way and $10 entrance fee to the park. Snorkel gear was $6 per person if you head farther down the beach ($10 near the entrance). The snorkeling is ok, but not great. Grand Cayman – Booked the Stingray City and Snorkel tour though an independent operator Native Way, who was recommended on the boards. Native Way didn’t show up at the pier as promised. Medical emergency was later cited as the reason. Don’t know if I would trust them again. We just did the same trip with people advertising the same trip at the pier. I would recommend going to Stingray City if you have never done it before…. it is a unique experience. Panama Canal – Nice experience if you have not been through it before. We had booked the Ocean-to-Ocean tour, which was going to be the highlight of the trip (you get to go through the canal and locks on the Pacific side in a smaller boat). Unfortunately, this tour got cancelled about a half-hour before it was supposed to depart. This is where Princess really dropped the ball. As they insisted it was beyond there control, they still did not handle the situation very well. There were about 250 very unhappy people who were scheduled to go on this tour and they were none too happy to hear that not only was the tour cancelled, but there were no other options to join another tour. Therefore, we were all stuck on the ship until late in the day when the ship went back through the locks and docked in Colon. To add to our frustration, the tour desk supervisor didn’t handle the angry passengers very well. In fact, he became downright hostile as many of the passengers affected were voicing their displeasure to him. Princess obviously refunded everyone the cost of the tour and then a few days later (bowing to persistent complaints and angry passengers) decided to give everyone scheduled on the tour a $100 ship credit. Limon, Costa Rica - Went on the Jungle River Eco-Cruise. 2-3 hour cruise in the rain forest. It was interesting and the guides were excellent. Ocho-Rios – Was booked on the Yacht sailing trip to Dunns River Falls. This tour was cancelled early on in the cruise (no reason given). Decided just to cab over to Dunns, which was just as well ($11 cab each way and $10 per person to enter the falls). Other Comments: Cutbacks continue to be noticed on all the ships as cruise prices continue to be very reasonable. I have been cruising many years and prices are lower now than they were several years ago. That being said, I am of the opinion that I would rather pay an extra $50 or $100 for the cruise then be nickel-and-dimed for things that used to be included in the cost of the cruise. Some things I noticed on the Island were that juices are only available at breakfast time. If you want any type of juice at any time other than breakfast, it will cost you. Same thing goes for hot chocolate. I sometimes like hot chocolate after dinner but there is now a $1.50 charge. This seems pretty petty, but it did really bother me. All the cruise lines are doing this extra charging, but it varies on what items they have decided to start charging for. Any way you cut it, it’s not a good trend. I never had any problem getting lounge chairs. I don’t know if it was due to the age of the passengers or that there seemed to be lounge chairs everywhere. I pretty much had my pick of chairs anywhere on the ship. Overall, Princess continues to be a great choice in the large cruise line segment. They have good food, nice ships and friendly staff. The Island Princess is comfortable and I have no problem recommending this ship or line.

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Dec 16, 2003

Panama Canal

Great ship, good staterooms, inadequate food and service, good port calls, terrible entertainment, nothing special for Christmas. Princess Cruises has lost their identity, just another generic cruise line

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Oct 27, 2003

Panama Canal

Our Cruise Background My wife and I are in our mid 30’s/early 40’s. This was our 8th cruise and our 4th cruise on Princess. We’ve also sailed twice on Royal Caribbean and twice on Celebrity. This 10-day sailing marked the 1st time that we sailed for longer than 7 nights. All of our previous cruises have been on various Caribbean itineraries.

Embarkation Process We flew down the night before the trip (booked our own air) and stayed at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport Hilton. This is the hotel we always stay at when we cruise out of Port Everglades. It’s a nice hotel and it’s very convenient…just 5 minutes from the Airport and 10 minutes from the Port. We took a shuttle to the port the morning of the cruise at about 11:30. Since we are Captain’s Circle Platinum members, we went into the Platinum Club line but since the line next to us was moving faster we were directed to the faster line. The terminal was obviously very crowded but considering how many people are boarding the ship, the Embarkation process went smoothly for the most part and we were on the ship by 12:30 or so. Our Cabin We booked a category AB mini-suite (D505). This was a roomy cabin, with an uncovered balcony. Some folks don’t like the idea of an uncovered balcony, which can be viewed from the cabins above but we enjoy it. Since there is no cover, you have a clear view of the sky and the stars at night. The cabin itself was nice but nothing fancy. It had light blue carpet with bleached wood furnishings. There was plenty of closet and drawer space. Amenities included two TV’s (not sure why you need two TV’s), a fridge, a vanity, a safe and a good size bathroom with a tub/shower combo. The tub/shower was nice because it had more room than a standard cruise ship shower. If you are over 6 feet tall, showering might be a bit awkward because showerhead is only about 5 feet off of the tub floor and the ceiling itself was no more than 6’ high in the shower. The only issue we had with this cabin is that it was located directly across from one of the ship’s service elevators and this area was sometimes noisy. The service elevator’s location is not shown in the diagram of the ship so we had no idea this was the case when we booked the cabin. The noise was not really anything to complain about, but we were awakened briefly on a few mornings due to the noise made when the staff worked there. Overall Impression of the Ship The ship is beautiful. All of the lounges and public areas are nicely decorated and unique from one another. The atrium is much larger than the atriums on the Grand Class ships and we liked this. Because the ship is only four months old there was no wear and tear to be seen. Public areas are clean and shiny. We usually learn our way around a ship pretty quickly but the layout of this one confused us a bit. We never seemed to be going in the right direction. That was our problem though! Lounges/Theater Venues There are so many lounges to choose from. Our favorite lounge was Crooners Martini Bar, which is located in the atrium on deck 7. Here they serve dozens of different types of martinis as well as any other type of beverage you can think of. If that’s not your style there is a coffee bar a few levels down, a lounge in the front section of the Bayou Café, the Wheelhouse (which has a rich nautical theme) as well as many others. The large Princess Theater is used for the Broadway type shows as well as for some of the comedians and other performances. The Universe Lounge is a beautiful, multi-purpose venue that was used for demonstrations and a number of performances and lectures. Food Experience Of course food is very subjective to everyone’s own opinion. Please keep that in mind when you read the information to follow. As I mentioned earlier, this was our 4th Princess cruise. We opted for traditional dining, second seating. Our overall impression of the food in the dining room on this ship was that it was not nearly as tasty as the food we have experienced in the past with Princess. Nothing was ever bad, but nothing was ever outstanding either. Only one or two of our entrees stood out as being very good. There was always plenty to choose from and the meals were always hot. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d have to give the dining room entrees a rating of a 6. As always, if you don’t like something, the waiters are happy to replace your meal with another choice. Bread, appetizers, deserts and the like were almost always better than the entrees themselves. Also, some of the little “special touches” Princess used to provide are now missing. Not a big deal, but two examples of this are that the waiters no longer put the dressing on your salad for you. Your salad comes with the dressing of choice already on it unless you request it to be on the side. Also, none of the deserts or meals get prepared tableside as they have been in the past. Some of the pastas and deserts used to be made before your eyes. Not any more. We just missed these special touches that enhanced the dining experience. The bottom line though is this…as passengers, we’re not doing any cooking, cleaning or shopping for food so how can anyone really complain about the meals?? The Horizon Court Buffet food was at about the same level as we had experienced in the past. Taste ranged from OK to very good, depending on what you selected. We encountered a few instances of stale bread and cereal. Other Food items such as pizza, burgers and hot dogs by the pool were excellent. The ship offers two alternative restaurants…Sabatini’s, which serves Italian food and the Bayou Café, which serves New Orleans-style dishes. These two venues have nominal cover charges. The Bayou Café’s cover charge used to include a drink with your meal but it no longer does. Since we had experienced Sabitini’s on our last trip, we opted not to try it again. Our meal in the Bayou café was excellent. The only issue here is that there is TOO MUCH wonderful food served! The Bayou’s food was by far the best meal we had all week. The atmosphere in this restaurant is great and included jazz musicians and piano music to enjoy while you dine. We highly recommend this meal option. I should also point out that on no occasion did we ever see that either Sabatini’s or the Bayou Café were fully booked. There were always empty tables (sometimes quite a few) when we glanced in at mealtime. Not sure why this was the case. Staff Without a doubt, the current staff on this ship is about as friendly as we have ever experienced on a ship. This applies to the bartenders, the room stewards and everyone on the cruise staff throughout the ship. The Cruise Director is Alistair Greener. By coincidence, Alistair has been the cruise director on all four of our Princess cruises. He is hysterical and goes out of his way to keep you happy and busy. Hopefully we’ll have him as our CD for a 5th time at some point in the future! Shows/Entertainment We are personally not big fans of the Broadway style shows so we did not attend any of these and therefore cannot comment on them. The comedians ranged from merely OK, to very good, depending on your tastes. By far the most enjoyable show was the “Pub Night” show that was presented by the staff on the next to last night of the voyage. Lounge entertainment ranged from Excellent in the Bayou Café to good/fairly good in the other lounges. Itinerary The itinerary was made up of four sea days and the following ports of call detailed below. These are our opinions of the islands themselves, not of any shore excursions offered. For the most part the residents of these islands were very friendly. - Ocho Rios, Jamaica: Typical Caribbean Island…In our opinion, nothing too fancy here if you don’t take a shore excursion. Good for souvenir shopping. - Panama Canal: An AWSOME experience. If you have the chance to see this engineering marvel, take the opportunity. It is absolutely amazing. The ship docks in Colon after the canal transit and when our tour bus drove through the downtown area after our excursion, the city didn’t look very safe to us. The machine gun yielding police officers in the streets were a bit intimidating. - Limon, Costa Rica: In our opinion, this was a wasted stop. Good day to stay on the ship. - Grand Cayman: By far, one of the nicest Caribbean Islands. Very well maintained, very clean and very nice shopping. You do not get hounded here like you do in many of the other Caribbean ports of call. Fellow Passengers Being that this was a 10-night voyage, we fully expected a slightly older crowd on this sailing compared to our previous 7-night cruises. We were shocked at just how sharply the average passenger age jumped though. I’d say that approximately 10% of the passengers were under the age of 45. Perhaps another 20% of the passengers were in the 45 to 65 age bracket. The vast majority of the passengers on this voyage were into their 60’s 70’s and 80’s. This is not a bad thing….we have fun with almost everyone, but we are just a bit more accustomed to having more people on a cruise in our age bracket. Hopefully when we are older, we will still be able to have just as much fun as these folks were on this trip. Overall Positives - A great staff that will go out of their way to make your vacation special - A beautiful ship - Well organized shore excursions - Never busy laundry rooms (which we utilized for the 10-day trip to minimize some packing space) Some Negatives (not complaints, but little annoyances….just because nothing can be perfect!) - Upper level seating in the Universe Lounge is awkward due to a glass barrier that surrounds the upper deck right at eye level. This makes seating in this area awkward and annoying because the glass interferes with your view of the stage below. It bothered us to the point that we made an effort not sit up there. - The Lotus Pool area has a retractable glass roof. When closed the area is nicely air-conditioned and enjoyable if you want to escape the heat of the lido pool area. But, every day shortly after lunch the roof was opened up and the area became just as warm as the lido pool. I would have been nice for the roof to have been kept closed so that at least one of the pool areas was kept cool. - A pad to keep our mattresses together was not available and the queen setup we requested magically separated into two twins during the night several times as we slept. This got a bit annoying. Overall this was a great trip on a great ship with excellent tablemates. Please feel free to e-mail us if you have any questions or want more detailed info. We love to share our cruise experiences.

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Oct 27, 2003

10 day Panama Canal

Embarkation: I must say Princess has the best embarkation process of any cruise line I have been on! From the moment I got off the bus til the time I was in my cabin, it was not more than 10 minutes - and I arrived at 1:15 pm. Stateroom: I had Aloha 221 - forward on the starboard side on Aloha deck. This was a cat BC balcony cabin.

I loved the location of the cabin (just past the forward elevators). It is right below the Horizon Court but I NEVER heard anything from above at anytime while I was in the cabin. Robert was my room steward and he came and introduced himself to me within 15 minutes of getting to my cabin. My two special requests were handled expediently. The cabin had the queen bed, two nightstands, a desk/vanity with a chair and a small table, mini fridge and tv all in the bedroom part of the cabin. The closet had ample wood hangers and slacks hangers that you could actually take off the pole and rehang. There was a shelving unit with a door on it that had six or seven shelves in it - on shelf held the safe (you use a 4 digit pin number on these safes). Plenty of storage space for two or more people. The bed did separate when sleeping, so I put a life preserver between one of the nightstands and the bed and that worked like a charm in keeping the beds pushed together. Now, onto the one thing that Princess did wrong in their standard inside, outside and balcony cabins on the Coral class ships: the bathroom. The sink/vanity area and toilet were ok - plenty of storage on the vanity. It is the shower that is the big problem. The shower measures 2.2 feet by 2.25 feet - literally it is that small. The shower head is high up on the wall, but it is NOT a hand held shower head. The average sized person cannot take a decent shower in that small of a space! Shame on Princess for this! Food: I had traditional dining - late seating in the Provence dining room (deck 6). Was seated with friends at table 148 where Marco, Henry and Pom were our head waiter, waiter and assistant waiter. These guys were excellent! The food (remember food is very subjective) ranged from good to very good with a couple of dishes and desserts I found to be excellent (amongst them were ricotta filled pasta squares served in a butter sauce and the always available fettucine alfredo.) I will note that traditional early seating was filled up after the first night - there appeared to be plenty of seating available for traditional late seating.   I also ate lunch at the Bayou Cafe: the food was excellent, the service was fair. I had the carptebaggers filet and that was the best beef entree I had the entire cruise, and the chocolate pecan cake was the best dessert. I did not go to Sabatini's at all. The Horizon Court buffet was good - not great but good with a good selection of dishes for both breakfast and lunch. There is an omelette/eggs made to order station set up for breakfast. The layout of the Horizon Court is confusing and the traffic pattern results in chaos until passengers figure out how it works. I wish Princess would have trays that you could carry - it is hard carrying your plate, utensils, beverages, etc. Lounges: The Wheelhouse Lounge was larger on this ship than on the Grand or Sun class ships - I didn't go in here at all unless trivia was being held in there. Explorers Lounge was nice venue; I went there when trivia was being held there and occasionally in the evening after supper for a drink or to just see what was going on there. My favorite lounge on the ship was Crooners - the martini bar on deck 7 in the atrium. The staff there were fantastic and fun loving and after the first day, they knew our names and our preferred drinks. A big thank you to Maria and Mark the bartenders, Andre and Nadtaya and the other waiters who just made the time spent there special. Entertainment: I did not go to one single show on this cruise, so I can't comment on that. The poolside music was ok - but not spectacular. Pools: There are 4 pools on the Island Princess. The Lido pool is the main outdoor pool. The Lotus pool is under the retractable roof and this pool doubles as the swim against the current pool - the current machine can be turned on and off by pressing a button to the right of the grate just below the water line. Both these pools are over 6 feet deep. The Lotus pool has the steps going down into the pool, the Lido pool has the ladders going down into the water. The Pelican pool far aft on Aloha deck is NOT the children's pool. It is a small pool about 5 feet deep. The only way to get to this pool is either from the deck above at the back of the ship or you have to go through the Fun Zone and Wired on Aloha deck. There is also a splash pool on Sun Deck - about 8 inches deep. There are three hot tubs around the Lido pool and two around the Lotus pool - they were hot and they weren't hogged by kids (there were only 17 passengers under the age of 18 on this particular cruise.) Ports of Call: First stop was Ocho Rios - I stayed on board as the Voyager of the Seas got the prime docking space near the shopping center - we were at an industrial pier about a mile away. The Panama canal is just an awesome sight to behold! The whole process of lining up to get into the lock, the mules pulling the ship, the lock gates closing and opening is all fascinating! It takes approximately 8 minutes to raise or lower the ship in each lock. After docking in Gatun Lake, only people on ship sponsored tours are allowed off the ship (this is controlled by the PCA - Panama Canal Authority.) You are tendered to shore where you will meet up with your shore excursion. A group of friends and I did the train excursion in the deluxe vintage dome car - the extra money to get on that car is worth it! The views from the upper deck are wonderful. It takes about an hour to go from Cristobal to Balboa on the Pacific side on the train. The bus tour for the most part on this end of the country was a bust - the only interesting thing was going to the Miraflores locks and watching ships going through there. We happened to be there at the time the people who were on the Ocean to Ocean tour arrived on the Pacifc Queen and we were able to watch them descend from sight as they were going back down to sea level. Then it was back on the train to return to Cristobal. We were then bussed to the ship which was docked at Colon at pier 6. There is a nice shopping area right at the dock and there is a cultural show that is put on there as well. Limon, Costa Rica I did the Jungle River Pontoon Boat ride - had a nice bus ride to a resort where we boarded the boats to go to the river. Saw lots of birds and even saw a three toed sloth hanging in a tree and a huge iguana sunning itself. Back to the resort for shopping and some rest before returning to the ship. There is a small shopping area here at the port - internet access and shops. But do not proceed beyond the gates at the pier there - it is very dangerous once outside the pier area. We were warned repeatedly not to venture past there.   Grand Cayman was a busy port - besides us, the Norwegian Dream, the Veendam, The Sensation and the Imagination were all in port that day. Tendering on and off the ship was ok, but there are only two tender terminals with two berths at each terminal. There was a lot of gridlock waiting to get a berth at the tender piers. I did not do an excursion here, just got off and did a little shopping. Cozumel was next - we were berthed at Puerto Maya. Again, I just got off and shopped a little and headed back to the ship to enjoy the peace and quiet. Debarkation: I just want everyone to know that the scream that was heard in Fort Lauderdale at 8:01 am on November 6 was me getting the first look at the final sign and sail card bill. The weather on debarkation day fit our mood - it poured all morning with occasional thunder and lightning. Debarkation was handled well, we were cleared by immigration and customs and started debarking about 8:30. This was absolutely one of the best cruises I have been on, between the friends I went with and the friendliness of the onboard staff (even Evil Colin of trivia fame). I never met a staff member who did not smile or say good morning, etc. Never had a request turned down and everyone I dealt with appeared to be enjoying themselves. A special hi to Mike and Betty, Steve and Colleen, Naomi, Charles, Jane, Rita, Camilla, Lucille from Leicester, England, Paul and Marjorie, Lily and all the other wonderful passengers I met onboard playing trivia and pictionary or just lounging by the pool or at Crooners!

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Sep 12, 2003

Alaska, Southbound

We felt that in order to really see Alaska we had to fly to Anchorage for a geographically lengthier cruise. The Vancouver to Vancouver round trip we took last year doesn’t go far enough north, and the one-glacier cruising day was marred by a low fog. We were mesmerized the first time we watched the Island Princess sail into Vancouver and dock at Canada Place this summer. She’s a beautiful ship. They had a christening

ceremony one night with searchlights and an overnight VIP cruise, complete with a guest appearance by Gavin Mc Leod, the captain of the TV series “Love boat”. The ship returned at dawn the next day, and she left at sundown for her first Alaska cruise. We wanted to cruise on this ship. We started haunting the cruise boards looking for an attractive price. We booked the cruise and our travel agent sold us a motor coach transfer through Princess from Anchorage to Seward, where the dock is. We found out later that it was a 3 1/2 hour bus trip. When we booked the cruise we had no idea that we had to travel that far from Anchorage to Seward in order to get to the ship. We examined a map and decided we didn’t want to ride a crowded bus down that twisty highway, and we considered a one way rental car. We did some checking and found that Princess also offers a scenic 5 hour train trip on the Alaska railroad’s “Grand View Train” to the ship. It’s a little more money but it sounded great. It offers the adventure of an excursion on our way to the ship. Princess arranges a train car exclusively for their passengers, and a dining car is available. We’re not comfortable on day excursions from a cruise ship because there’s always the feeling of rushing and a lot of riding around in packed to the gills 15 passenger maxi vans. No thank you. PREVIOUS CRUISES This will be our fifth cruise since Sept. 02. We like the food on Celebrity, but there is always a new-to-us cruise line beckoning. We’re going to compare the value and amenities of the Island Princess to those of Celebrity Millennium class during this cruise and in this review. We want to take advantage of the frequent cruiser programs by cruising mostly on one cruise line. We are looking for our home cruise line. GETTING THERE Air Canada, Vancouver non stop to Anchorage. Full Airbus 320, courteous cabin crew, decent snack & free headphones. Flying is the hardest part of cruising. The “Airbus” is aptly named. This flight required obtaining an air deviation. Princess put us on Alaska Airlines first but we didn’t want to fly from Vancouver to Seattle and then change planes. Taking the train to the ship meant we had to overnight in Anchorage. Princess offered a hotel downtown with a $200 plus overnight rate. We searched the internet and read some guide books and settled on the Voyager hotel located downtown across the street from the hotel that Princess uses. ANCHORAGE We paid $125. per night and had a nice top floor, corner room in the 38 room Voyager hotel, free broadband internet and free local calls. There was a long bedroom with a big window and an ante room or foyer where we left our bags. Showtime and HBO were free, and there was an in-room mini kitchen with a microwave, coffee setup, etc. Complementary pastry and coffee were served in the lobby in the morning. Comfortable place. www.voyagerhotel.com. A block away was the Sandwich Deck, which served a hearty breakfast and tasty burgers. We wanted to have dinner downtown at Orso but the town was jammed with cruisers coming and going to their ships/tours plus it was Friday night and the locals were off for the weekend. The restaurants were jammed and well dressed obviously cruising couples wandered the streets packed with other cruising couples in the long Alaskan twilight; it was as surreal as a Fellini movie. We found a micro brewery off the tourist path called The Snow goose and had sandwiches and beer. They also brew a strong but not hard root beer. Very good and reasonably priced. The music is incredibly loud upstairs and on the patio to the point of being hurtful. It’s more peaceful in the dining room downstairs. GRAND VIEW TRAIN TRIP (It certainly is!) We took a cab a few blocks to the Egan Center on 5th St., which is the in town check in and luggage drop for the cruise lines. You do need to check in early but it’s merely a check in. The buses to the train station start boarding at 12:30PM and the train leaves at 1PM. If one is staying in a downtown hotel then it’s wise to taxi your hold bags to the Egan center between 9 and 10AM and then go back to your hotel and relax until the departure time for the busses to the train station. Much better keeping your hotel room than sitting at the Egan Center for 2 to 3 hours in an oversized, crowded & windowless basement hall. It would be helpful if Princess would list a suggested check in time as well as the scheduled time for the bus to the train station and the actual train departure time. A 5 minute bus ride to the station, and we board the train to Seward. Lovely dome car. The train crew told us that sometimes the train car taking cruisers to the ship isn’t a dome car, depending on whether the dome cars might have been shipped off to another job. Recently 3 of the 4 dome cars were taken by Congressman Don Young of Alaska for the annual Congressional convention at the Alaska Sea Life Center. The train crew also mentioned that hundreds of gallons of alcohol were donated to the Congressional convention by various companies. It’s a 3 day annual blast for congresspersons and senators to wine, dine, fish, drink free booze and recreate themselves. Does the U.S. taxpayer pay for the congressional travel to this soiree? It is indeed a grand view train trip; glaciers, tunnels, lakes and soaring eagles. It was a magnificent Alaska day; the kind of day one would hope for when setting off on a cruise. We got off the train, right at the dock; the Island Princess loomed large against the ocean, sky and mountains. What a beautiful sight! EMBARKATION There was a long check in line but since we filled out our info on the internet we received what is called express check in and we were quickly given our cruise cards and checked through security. One negative, Princess has started putting one’s birth date on the actual cruise tickets that are handled by many. In today’s world security has of course been heightened, but birthdates info shouldn’t be printed on the tickets. It’s an open invitation to identity theft. I think it should be left in the Princess computer files. SHIP’S PHOTOGRAPHERS We started for the ship where we were diverted to be photographed; not with the ship in the picture but in the warehouse where we checked in, against a blue background. This was our embarkation photo. When we saw the finished photo, it had a template framing it, with the name of the ship and the sailing date, the picture could have been taken anywhere. No sense of the cruise. The final irony was that they wanted $19.95 US for the picture. That’s the highest price we have ever seen for an embarkation photo.  If we are to be hectored into submitting to posing by ship’s photographers, the photographers should at least stage their pictures by taking advantage of the majesty of the ship as a background. They would sell more pictures. These photographers were more aggressive than on most ships; they had the advantage of using digital cams and checking the pictures so they were confidently lurking, like Ninjas at every gangway wearing silly animal costumes and trying to get their arm around you to effect a pose. It was ugly. A simple “no” would not deter them. It took a higher quality “no” to quell their faked exuberance. STATEROOM This ship was launched just a few weeks ago and everything is fresh and new. No free glass of Champagne was offered at the top of the gangway though ala Celebrity, . Geographically, we had the best cabin location we’ve ever had. Couple of doors from the library on the Emerald Deck, #8. Just around the corner from the beautiful glass elevatored atrium. One of us walks with a cane and we prefer the bathrooms in a handicapped cabin for shower safety purposes even though it means we will not have a tub and we will have an obstructed ocean view cabin. We had a lifeboat blocking most of the view. This will be our first cruise without a veranda. We love the ocean breezes wafting through the big doorway but this cabin is bigger than the veranda cabins and centrally located. Spacious bathroom with the shower grab bars located perfectly. No storage shelves under the sink though and only 2 little shelves on each side mounted on the wall. The countertop was very narrow, almost an afterthought. Celebrity Millennium class bathrooms are smaller than this one but they have plenty of storage above and below the sink and deeper countertops, which makes them very usable. The queen bed on Island Princess is one of the shorter queen beds ala Holland America. Celebrity and Crystal have a tall queen bed that’s an inch or two longer. I’m 6’ 2” and my feet hang off the foot of the bed unless I put my head all the way to the headboard. The bed was comfortable, with a 4-drawer built-in on each side. 2 nice closets with the good hangers that hook over the bar, not the ones where you have to slip a knob in a slot as in most hotels and cruise ships. Another closet fully shelved to serve as a dresser and a nice vanity with a hair dryer built in next to the vanity mirror. 2 plugs in the vanity area but so close together that you will need a power strip to charge most batteries, electric razors or laptops. No wall or cabinet door hooks for jackets, robes etc. in the bedroom area. Celebrity has plenty of hooks, not just on the back of the bathroom door. A nice cabin but not ergonomically organized and not as good use of colors and mirrors to give a feeling of more space as on newer Celebrity ships. We ended up with a lot of our stuff just sitting out on table tops. We much prefer to be able to easily put it away as with Celebrity. Princess provides shampoo and conditioner in customized, bottle shaped paper/foil containers that are the same size and color and impossible to open in a shower with wet hands. They are so alike that you can’t read the labels without your glasses on. Hard to do in the shower! We met our cabin attendant, Joey, from the Philippines. He was doing 17 cabins this trip. Whew. I don’t know how they do it. We would be glad to make our own bed one day a week as long as we could have a few extra towels, and these stewards could get a day off at least 2 or 3 days a month. The question of tipping the attendants on their day off would unravel some cruisers though. THE LIBRARY The good news is the library is 2 doors from our cabin; the bad news was that the library had very short hours and was never open past 6PM in port or at sea. Sometimes the night time is the right time to check out books. Celebrity and Crystal have late evening hours at the library ala a video rental store. Comfortable, beautiful library with popular fiction, biography, travel & a bit of art. Pretty pedestrian stuff. No librarian had a hand in selecting this library. Beautiful, big leather chairs with built in CD players, but you could only use the CD player when the library was open. Staffed by various members of the crew and entertainment staff, not by a person whose only job is that of librarian. PROMENADE DECK This is one of the things that makes cruising so special. An unobstructed teakwood deck that wraps around the whole ship on Deck 7. Lovely teakwood loungers to relax in and watch the ocean slide by when you are tired of walking. Island Princess gets a gold star. Only one drawback: there are no drinking fountains along the way, so one pretty much has to lug water if deck walking for exercise. Celebrity doesn’t have these wonderful wraparound promenade decks. PROVENCE & BORDEAUX DINING ROOMS This is our first experience with personal choice cruising. You may eat anytime or at a fixed seating time. We opted for the traditional fixed first seating in the Provencale dining room. The personal choice dining is in the Bordeaux dining room on deck 5 which is open until late for dinner. Under this system you can opt for personal choice if you missed your traditional seating time. Our dining room team consists of Dante and his asst. Adrian. The headwaiter in our dining area is Cristian. They are all from Rumania. We notice that the dining staff on this ship is mostly European. The dining room troops work hard and have an excellent “can do” attitude. They are in the same situation as the cabin stewards, they are worn out from little time off but they do their best to hide it and they never stop smiling and asking if there is anything more they can do for you. It’s getting harder to get crepes on cruises anymore but Cristian manages to get us some for dessert one evening. The bright spots for us were the Provence and Bordeaux dining rooms where the Maitre d’, Giorgio Pisano, is watching over everything. The hotel manager could take management lessons from the Maitre’d. The food, sauces & desserts are better on Celebrity except for the beef. Princess has better beef, grilled properly. The croissants were awful; they tasted like plain bread and were over baked with no flakiness at all. I was told they were not prepared by the pastry department. They were made from pre-mixed dough, sent to the ship to be baked. They tasted like bread from the supermarket. HORIZON COURT BUFFET The buffet layout is circa 1980’s; hard to fathom since this is a brand new ship. Celebrity has wider aisles and better flowing buffet lines. There are no trays on Island Princess just huge oval shaped plates, but it’s hard to balance your drink glass on a platter and also have room for your napkins etc. without the stuff running in to the food on the platter. No separate omelet stations, just the cook frying eggs with his back to the line so he cannot interact easily with customers ordering and fry eggs at the same time. Celebrity’s omelet bar is away from the main buffet line and relieves the pressure on the main line. The omelet chefs face the line and things move quickly. The Island Princess buffet is open 24 hours, which is the one good thing about this buffet, but it’s cafeteria food. Comparing it with Las Vegas, it’s like the buffet at Circus Circus. Huge quantities of food but not well prepared, and presented in an offhand way. Princess needs to fix the buffet food and organize the lines. Actually, take sections of the lines and make them into stations that can be approached from various angles. Being at the Horizon buffet is being in a milling crowd. The servers look a bit confused and hassled and it’s hard for the waiters to get into the crowd in order to help people who need it. There are no drink machines for the orange juice so it has to be pumped out of thermoses that must constantly be refilled by staff, which slows down the lines on a regular basis. The lack of management in the buffet area is painfully evident. At the Island Princess buffet it was not easy to just grab a cup of coffee; the coffee stations were few and seemed to be in the middle of a crowd. That’s actually the good news because the coffee is catering truck level. We mostly resorted to designer coffee served at a price at La Patisserie, in the world’s smallest cups. Cappuccino was free with meals taken in the dining room or the alternative restaurants but word has it that Princess is going to start charging for it in the dining rooms soon. ALTERNATE DINING ROOMS Italian at Sabatini’s ($20.00 cover charge per person) and Cajun at the Bayou Cafe ($10.00 per person with an additional $6.00 for each person who orders lobster). We had a couple of excellent meals at the Bayou Cafe, worth every penny of the extra charge. Sabatini’s served multiple courses of very good food. They also had the best coffee on the Island Princess. Worth the extra money. Make your reservations early in the cruise. SPECIAL BUFFETS They had an “Alaska Buffet” afternoon on the second day of the cruise while we cruised College Fjord. All kinds of fish, sushi etc. but served outdoors by the pool on an extremely cold and blustery Alaska day. Celebrity serves their poolside buffets in the protected pool area where the roof is covered. Princess staff was wrapped in blankets, jackets, etc. trying to keep up a brave front in the stinging wind. Chairs and tables were blowing over. It would have been hilarious if it wasn’t so cold and windy. I asked a management person why the buffet wasn’t moved to the covered pool area and was told that management didn’t feel it was a big enough area to accommodate the buffet crowd. It would have been big enough because when all the tables were taken outside people would have naturally moved into the Horizon Court to eat the buffet food from outside. On the 5th day of the cruise they had the “Fish" buffet and they wisely decided to have it in the covered pool area. The staff and cruisers were much happier. LOUDSPEAKERS We were awakened at 6:30 AM the first morning of the cruise by the loudspeaker system on the Promenade Deck below us. It was the Ranger doing a program on College Fjord, which we were cruising by at the moment. We were on an Alaska cruise last year at this time and they restricted the loudspeaker commentary to the upper decks where every one was having their coffee and mulled cider and watching the glaciers. I felt it was thoughtless of Princess to broadcast over the loud speakers on the lower decks while people were still sleeping. Compounding the noise the ranger giving the talk had poor microphone technique and was speaking too loudly, causing the sound to break up and the speakers on the Promenade deck, near us, to vibrate. I took a look out at the promenade deck and it was pretty much deserted. The glacier watchers were indeed on the upper decks. I made an inquiry about this and received a letter from Alastair Greener, the cruise director, offering an apology for any inconvenience and saying that it was impossible to adjust the volume on the open decks as they were using the loudspeakers that are part of the emergency system and the volume is fixed. The commentary is also on the ship’s TV for anyone who wants to listen while they watch from their cabin or veranda. Celebrity would never broadcast through the open deck speakers at 6:30 in the morning. The last 3 days of the cruise there were extended loudspeaker announcements again, throughout the ship, in the mid-afternoon from Cruise Director Greener (the man who wrote me the loudspeaker letter) about the evening’s activities and the final, close out art auction. They had this so called “final” art auction over 2 successive afternoons near the end of the cruise complete with nap-ruining announcements. THE PRINCESS PATTER The usual daily ship’s newspaper with events, schedules, news, ads etc. The most poorly laid out paper we’ve seen on any cruise line. No separate box listing the dining and snack venues and special buffets. No orderly listing of events. Most of the entertainment offered that day is featured in boxes on a facing page but they don’t always list all of the entertainment on that page. The variety of typefaces chosen and herky jerky layout meant that if you didn’t really study it, you could easily miss something you would have wanted to do. Most cruise lines list the ship’s officers as well as the hotel management staff and key troops in an early edition of the paper. Only the Captain’s staff was listed. I still don’t know who the hotel manager/director or chief purser is on the Island Princess. He was indeed the invisible man. GYM All the latest equipment, big view and a separate room for special classes, spinning etc. There were TV’s everywhere and people would watch different channels with the sound on. The sound should be disabled and set on captions like they do in regular fitness clubs. We missed having a spa cafe with healthier, lighter meals, available ala Celebrity. PIZZA AND GRILL FOOD We never tried the pizza or went to the grill above the pool area. It was too Alaska cold this time of year and we mostly spent time outside on the promenade deck. There was an enclosed Jacuzzi and smaller pool area with a sliding roof, decorated in an Asian theme with Buddha and lions done in red and dark tones. SHOWROOM ENTERTAINMENT We tried to attend one of the Broadway type shows in the main, 2 level, Universe Lounge. We arrived prior to the show, but the only seats available were upstairs in the back. We usually favor these seats because you can leave quietly if you wish. The sightlines are poor from these seats; they are not staggered or elevated enough, neither are the taller tables with bar stools against the back wall. I suspect no theater designers collaborated with the naval architect who designed this mess. The decor and furnishing were beautiful but the place was not audience friendly. Celebrity wins this comparison Get there a half an hour early to get good seats. There are hordes of seat saving weasels to contend with, saving multiple seats for those who choose to arrive later. Shame on them. The comedian wasn’t very funny but we waited to walk since so many people left early in his show. LOUNGE ENTERTAINMENT The best. Jazz stylings from the Perry Phillips trio with Efacho Okeke on piano, David Colding, stand up bass and Perry Phillips on drums and vocals. Very pleasant renditions of standards and jazz classics, every night in the Bayou Cafe for listening and dancing. We like jazz and it’s rarely to be found on a cruise ship. There was a jam session one night with the horns, reeds & guitar from the ship’s orchestra playing with the trio, they played some great west coast jazz from the Shorty Rogers, Stan Kenton, Gerry Mulligan era. Great music. Campbell Simson played solo jazz piano during the brunches at the Bayou Cafe and evenings from 6 to 8 PM. His material ran from Ragtime, New Orleans barrel house piano with a heavy left hand to lovely renditions of the standards. Wonderful. Crooners lounge has a piano bar and song stylings from Eric Stone. There was dance music every night too at the Wheelhouse Lounge with the Kathy Farmer trio and the Tito Cruz quartet. AFTERNOON TEA Served in the dining room. The real deal. Warm scones, great preserves and standing upright whipped cream, not the flat watery stuff, along with finger sandwiches and mini desserts. Yummy. LAUNDRY ROOM On various decks and easy to use. A must for cruisers trying to eliminate their hold baggage. Celebrity doesn’t have them. ATRIUM Beautiful with glass elevators, plenty of hotel desk help but no interactive hotel bill or room service ordering on the television. There was always a piano player, or a guitar player or a string quartet playing. Beautiful staircases. The ship’s newness was apparent here. A lovely place to hang out. CRUISING THE GLACIERS The ship cruises slowly and then reverses its course in the narrow fjord. Great seamanship on the part of the invisible sailing crew. It’s a great experience; what an Alaska cruise is all about. The weather was clear and the sun was shining but it’s still very cold up there. The wind cuts across the deck and the partially protected deck chairs have been swooped by those who leave their gear on them and disappear somewhere inside. Management requests that people refrain from doing this but management makes no effort to stop the practice. INTERNET A 35 cents per minute rip off; it can cost a great deal if you get hung up with your email or reading an on line newspaper. ALASKAN PORTS have been written about ad infinitum so we will keep it simple. SKAGWAY Old west theme, interchangeable with the touristy areas of the Dakotas or northern Arizona, Colorado etc., wooden sidewalks, lots of shopping, jumping off place for those who want to take the White Pass Railroad excursion. When we got off the shuttle bus ($3.00 round trip) we inadvertently followed some crew members into an internet cafe, the Seaport Cyber Station, which was right next to a great coffee place. JUNEAU Forget the expensive, incredibly short aerial tram ride, save the 20 plus dollar per person fare. The view is beautiful but the trip is only 4 or 5 minutes each way. All kinds of shopping in easy walking distance. It’s the state capitol. KETCHIKAN Had to tender in on a cold, rainy day. Brrrrr! 5 ships in town this day; everybody with a dock but us. It’s the first time we ever had to tender at an Alaskan port. There’s a Wal-Mart free shuttle for souvenir shopping at low, low prices. CRUISE DIRECTOR We viewed the daily TV show, featuring cruise director Alastair Greener and his assistant James cackling at their viewing audience. It was like watching a Saturday morning televised kiddie show. I wondered which one of them was the puppet. We were being patronized big time. Had they behaved more like real persons it would have been watchable. There seems to be no middle ground with cruise directors and staff. They are either very good or very patronizing. TIPPING I had my doubts about the automatic tipping, but it seemed to eliminate a lot of crew anxiety. We tipped our waiter, his assistant and our cabin steward extra. They were well worth it. SUMMING UP The Island Princess is beautiful. Personal choice dining works. We took the traditional first seating but we sometimes skipped dinner at our appointed time. If we had too many scones at tea time we went to the Personal choice or alternative venues at a later hour. We would always let our regular waiters know when we were not coming to dinner and they appreciated it. The balconies in the veranda cabins are not very private and are the smallest we’ve seen. We truly enjoyed the lounge entertainment and the alternative restaurants. The no omelet station, poorly laid out and managed buffet was the disappointment of the trip with the lame coffee running a close second. We are going back to Celebrity for our next cruise, but we will try Princess again on the right itinerary. Celebrity has better food in the buffet and in the dining rooms, and they keep the loudspeakers to a bare minimum and never for an art auction. We never observed the hotel director walking the ship or checking anything out, and the lack of management showed in many ways. Princess’ attitude seems to be, it’s all there for you the cruiser; find it and make the best of it. Pottery, golf, spinning class, Rotary Club, Bridge etc., something for everyone. There are cruisers who want to try and do everything. That’s a track meet, not a cruise vacation. The Island Princess is a hotel with a propeller, but not a grand hotel. Grand class cruising on the Island Princess is a misnomer. This cruise also made us realize that for us the 7 day cruise is not enough. It takes 2 days to decompress and recover from flying to the ship and to get the lay of the ship. We finally relax a bit and really start cruising by the end of the 2nd day on board when we have finally figured out where everything is. Four days later you have to pack and then be thrown off the ship early the following morning. We’re looking for that longer cruise next, with a veranda. This cruise proved there is no going back once you’ve had a veranda. We are poring over the fall cruise offers and considering back to back eastern and western Caribbean cruises. We’ve had it with cold weather cruising. Tahiti, the south seas and Australia as cruising destinations look good, but the flights are so unbearably long in order to get there and back. Happy cruising, Patrick & Harriette Regan

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Aug 1, 2003

Alaska

The transportation to the ship was long and tiresome. The ship is beautiful and very elegant. It's not huge on the inside like most other ships, but its very personal. The atrium is always alive with orchestral music which is very nice. The food is good but the choices slim after 10. The horizon Court is always open but unless you want to eat dinner again there isn't much to eat after 10. The pizza and grill were great (when they were

open). The shows were also good but the dancing shows were aimed at an older crowd. The onboard Naturalist, Rachael, was very informative and a great addition with her onboard commentary. Stay outside during days in College Fjord and Glacier Bay. Personal Choice is nice but there is usually a wait of about 15 minutes and the show schedule doesn't leave much time to dilly dally. Hope you enjoy your cruise on this wonderful ship!

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Aug 1, 2003

Alaska

Our first cruise and overall an excellent experience. The ship is brand new. We think we were on their fourth cruise and there were no bugs evident. Food: Excellent. We chose “Personal Choice” dining as opposed to fixed time and assigned seating; which was fine except you we had difficulty making reservations between 6 and 8 PM. Two more restaurants with entertainment; Cajun and Italian. We would have preferred Polynesian

vs. Cajun. Twenty four hour cafeteria with excellent variety. Entertainment: Outstanding! Two major shows every night plus. Broadway quality dancing. Crew: Very friendly and competent. Atmosphere: Here a string quartet, there a cocktail pianist or quiet guitar: Relaxed and elegant at the same time. Accommodations: An outside cabin with a balcony is a must. Everything clean and neat. Shore Excursions: Well organized. Maybe 10% overpriced. Mechanical: We had excellent weather so the stabilization systems were never challenged. Ways to improve: 1. At one port, the walk to the tour bus was way too long. 2. The lady who did “critter” (whale, seal etc.) spotting didn’t always give complete instructions such as Port side at 2 o’clock 20 yards from shore.

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Jul 11, 2003

Alaska

Getting to the ship: Because I had not been to Vancouver before, I arrived in Vancouver the day before the scheduled departure of the maiden voyage of Island Princess. The entry process into Canada was flawless, and the international customs/baggage claim area was well organized and efficient. I would have like to have found a luggage cart, but was unable to find one and there were no signs directing me to the storage area. I was meeting

my cruise partner and couldn’t leave the area, so my search for a cart went unrewarded. Our hotel (Days Inn Vancouver) was only several blocks from the convention center/cruise terminal, and after checking in we headed to the piers to see who was in. Unlike most US ports, the ships in Vancouver tie up literally next to the convention center and there is a great walkway allowing an up-close and personal look at the vessels that are in. As the Island Princess was being ‘commissioned’ later that afternoon, it had the berth of choice on the west side of the convention center. The Ship: Island Princess is the sister ship of the Coral Princess and is basically the Sun Princess design with the same number of passengers, and more public space and balcony cabins. We had booked in inside cabin on deck 12, but were upgraded to an ocean view cabin on deck 9 which was wonderful for our Alaskan adventure. Included on this ship is a dedicated internet café, golf simulator and miniature golf course, an elaborate children’s area and a pottery boutique introduced as part of their new ‘scholarship at sea’ program. In addition to their two main dining rooms, one for traditional dining and one for Personal Choice dining, Island had two alternative dining options: a New Orleans style Cajun restaurant that doubled as a jazz café, and an expanded Sabatini’s Northern Italian restaurant somewhat larger than the same restaurant on the Grand class ships! The ship has a complete promenade deck, 2.8 laps to the mile, which was well used for both exercise, a nap in the deck chair, and for gazing at the spectacular glaciers. The internet café was functional and comfortable at $0.50 per minute and $1.00 per printed page. There were about 24 hours where there was no satellite internet coverage around Glacier Bay. The passenger mix was typical for a one week cruise on Princess, and there were slightly more than 200 kids on board, all of whom were very well behaved! The cruise: As I stated earlier, this northbound Alaska inside passage voyage was the ship’s maiden trip since it was delayed from leaving the shipyard. While some of the service crew had made the journey from France, most of the ship’s company arrived during a brief stop in Los Angeles. We were very interested to see how they would perform giving the limited on board time. The crew was not new, and most had come from other Princess ships. Our cabin steward was a veteran of 14 years with Princess, and the Cruise Director and Assistant Cruise director were the team that were put on all their new builds – I had seen them on Grand Princess, and knew their experience would pay off, and it did! The itinerary was the standard Northbound with stops in Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and cruising in Glacier Bay and College Fjord. The shore excursions went off without a hitch from what I could tell showing the results of putting experienced people on staff. Literally everyone who took a flight seeing or hello trip thought it was fantastic and worth every penny. Our highlight was the White Pass and Yukon Railroad trip in Skagway, which boards right at the pier, and is also worth every penny. The only shore excursion complaint that I heard was those that took a ‘Wildlife Jet boat Trip’. No one that I talked to liked it in any way shape or form. There was no wildlife, and it was cold. None would do it again. Following debarkation which went very smoothly, we chose to take the Alaska Railroad transfer to Anchorage for an extra few dollars. We left the Seward station at 7:15am and arrived at the Anchorage airport at 11:30am for those passengers who had flights before 3:00pm and at the Anchorage Rail Station at 12:00 noon where we were shuttled efficiently to the welcome center at the Anchorage convention center. Our large bags were there, and there was secure storage for our carry-on bags (I had no problem checking my laptop computer) so that you could walk around Anchorage unencumbered by baggage. I would highly recommend the r ail transfer, as it is an exceptionally picturesque way to get to Anchorage. The cabin: Our ocean view cabin was very comfortable with a twin/king bed and a couch/sitting area. There was plenty of full length hang up area, but the drawer space was pretty limited. This would be a problem for voyages longer than one week. A hair dryer and safe are included as part of the cabin. The restroom was small, but functional. The shower was smaller than others on different ships and was somewhat difficult to maneuver in without getting water outside the shower curtain, but the shower head was great – one of the better I have experienced. The controls were a little confusing at first and there are no readily visible indications of their intended purpose. We figured it out by trial and error. Our cabin steward was exceptional as you would expect after 14 years at sea! Dining: Buffet dining is in Horizon restaurant on Deck 14. I was impressed that there was no break between breakfast and lunch – a continuous service. The food was fresh and presented tastefully. During breakfast, the ship did not have its juice dispensers operational yet, and relied on thermos type coffee pots to serve three juices. In addition to scrambled eggs, there were several other egg dishes available to choose from. The dessert selection was not as extensive as I have seen on other lines. Dining Rooms: After several breakfasts and lunches at the Horizon, we opted for the open seating dining room for lunch. The food was a little better, and the presentation was wonderful. This became our lunch venue of choice. For dinner we had asked for late traditional seating, but were not assigned it upon boarding instead being assigned Princess flexible ‘Personal Choice’ Dining. As we were among the first to board, we headed for the Maitre D’ and put in a request for traditional late dining. As an enhancement to Personal Choice, Princess has added the ability to make a dinner reservation for Personal Choice to eliminate the long waits that some of my customers had experienced on other Princess ships. Though it took us 15 minutes to get through on the phone the first night, we were able to walk right in upon arrival at our designate time. By the next afternoon, we were assigned to our traditional late dining and shifted to the other dining room for the remainder of the cruise. We had six at our table for 8. Our Head Waiter was experienced, but I am pretty sure that our assistant waiter was relatively new. Our service, though friendly, was a little slow, due mostly to the fact that the team had one too many tables to serve. There was also a little confusion in the orders because of the number of people that they had to take care of. As this team learns to work together, I think they should improve. The dinner fare was excellent, and multiple choices of several different courses were routinely ordered without problem. We did not try the Cajun Restaurant, but did return to Sabatini’s on the second formal night ($15 per person surcharge). We had made reservations as soon as we boarded, and it was routinely sold out. It was a leisurely (2.5 hour) Northern Italian meal. We had purposely shown up hungry, as my experience was that copious amounts of tasty food were served! I was not disappointed. Scholarship at Sea: Princess had undertaken a ‘scholarship at sea’ program to enhance shipboard life. Included in this cruise were pottery demonstrations, computer application lessons, food preparation, and wine tasting and evaluation plus more. About half of the offerings were done free of charge, and for those that wanted more in depth learning and charge of up to $25 was levied. The food preparation was impressive. We had the Corporate Executive chef on board – responsible for menu’s fleet wide – and he provided two cooking demonstrations. They have created a TV level portable kitchen in one of the show lounges that resembled something for Julia Child! They were still working out the kinks as some of the equipment was not installed yet, and some did not work, but after a few cruises when all of the parts are fully operational, it will be an impressive and tasty hour! In their dedicated pottery studio, you can take lesson, create a masterpiece, and have it fired and finished on board! Entertainment: The Island Princess two show lounges are state of the art with revolving and raising/lowering stages and ultra sophisticated sound and lighting systems. Two new shows were debuted which were exceptional – as good as any I have seen. Additionally they had a Hypnotist on board who offered two ‘prime time’ shows and one ‘after hours’ show that were the funniest thing I have seen at sea. After the first show and word got around, the remaining shows were packed! There was a very good Jazz combo in the Cajun restaurant, and two trios that Alternated in the signature Wheelhouse Bar. For whatever reason, the cruisers on this voyage did not stay out late – the ship was pretty dead after about 11:00pm and we managed to close several lounges down at only 1:00am. The casino was typical of most other casinos at sea, offering the usual cruise games. Summary: This was a fantastic cruise. The ship and crew were ready, and, although there were a few minor ‘first time’ glitches, we left feeling that the crew had been making this ship work for years rather than days! Well done Princess!

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  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Hawaii

This trip was in celebration of my 50th birthday and what a celebration it was! Other than problems (I should say nightmares) with our flights, (I would book my own next time, not through Princess) the trip was great! Yes, it was a long flight, but what do you expect from Philly to Alaska. I suggest giving yourself a few extra days to adjust to the time change. We (there were 9 of us) arrived a day earlier than the tour. The 20 hours

of daylight does throw you off a bit! We started in Fairbanks. Enjoyed talking to the locals (humorous taxi drivers) and hearing their stories. The mosquitos were not bad this time of year. Just a few here and there. We took the Discovery Riverboat Tour. I highly recommend this tour. It gives you an overview of the area, culture and the village was very interesting. We stayed at the Bear Lodge, very nice. Next day onto Denali via the train. This was a beautiful and restful ride. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast onboard and gorgeous scenery. The staff were excellent. Denali Wilderness Lodge was home for 1 night. There were a lot of excursions to choose from. Three of us just stayed at the Lodge, enjoyed a leisurely dinner and took in the beautiful views. Again, no mosquitos, but it was May and the weather was cool, 60 degrees. The next morning we enjoyed the 4 hour bus tour of Denali National Park. I enjoy the history and culture of different areas. Just sit back and appreciate hearing about and seeing the beauty of Alaska. The Park personnel were knowledgeable and the trip enjoyable. We saw dall sheep, moose, caribou, etc. and a lovely presentation by a native Athabaskan women. We took a bus ride to our next destination - Mt. McKinley Wilderness Lodge. A rustic lodge with great amenities, lots of excursions to choose from, this was our home for 2 days. We were fortunate to see Mt. McKinley show itself 3 times! We were told that the mountain is not always visible. Each showing was a treat! The rooms were comfortable, the lodge relaxing and the food very good and not over priced. The staff were very accommodating. I skipped any excursions and relaxed for the next two days (I was on vacation, it's good to sit back and relax!) The last day on land we saw the mountain for the last time and took the bus to Talkeetna. Nice little shops, again, taking in the scenery. We walked to the train station in time to get on the train to take us to Whittier. Unfortunately, Princess must have subcontracted with Alaska Train lines to use their cars, they were dirty, the food service and food were poor and the staff pushed the drinks. Thank goodness for the beautiful scenery and great traveling companions. Finally, we boarded the Island Princess in Whittier. Embarking was smooth, the staff most helpful when we needed them. Our balcony room was very spacious. Overall, the next week was fabulous! The food was very good, as was the service. Especially enjoyed the afternoon teas. There is a lot to do onboard, something for everyone. THe days in College Fjord and Glacier Bay were restful, however, there were activities available. We loved sitting on the balcony, wrapped in blankets and ordering room service as we took in the magnificient glaciers. It is truly a breath taking sight! Our first port was Skagway. It's a little town, but very interesting history. Several of us enjoyed the Jewell Gardens and a walk through downtown. The next day was Juneau. We were disappointed in our Taste of Juneau tour. A bit overpriced and the tour guide didn't give enough time to complete the tour. We're still waiting to see if Princess will refund a portion of our money. But, we enjoyed Mendenhall Glacier. Our last port, Ketchikan, was fun. I took a canoe trip and walk through the rain forest (too short). It was fun, but not worth the money. We walked around town and enjoyed the shops. There is sooo much to do, so many excursions to choose from. Our group varied in age and interest, so when we got together, it was fun to here about everyone's adventure! Overall, everyone was please with their side trips. Some are priced reasonable, others were overpriced, but that's just the way it is on all cruise lines. Disembarking was not the greatest. We chose a faster plan, getting our flight boarding passes on the ship for an extra fee. The lines on the ship to pick up your packet were too long. The staff at the port in Vancouver were very slow in getting us to the buses with one person in a wheelchair. Overall, I was very pleased with Princess. Several of us our planning to do this trip again with Princess. I especially enjoyed the land tour and would extend that next time around. There was so much we enjoyed and I only shared a small sampling. Take this trip, enjoy Alaska and come away refreshed. It is a truly a unique experience.

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By VP _CR

  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Hawaii

This was my 3rd cruise with Princess. The bonus is most of the ships we have been on have the same layout so getting around was relatively easy. We started in Fairbanks. I was a little disappointed because our room at Pike's Waterfront Lodge was practically in the parking lot - very noisy. Again, this was our 3rd cruise with Princess. Our friends who were first time cruisers with Princess were put up in a private cabin - very quiet. Because

we have to put our suitcases out before any reasonable person should wake up, we heard doors slamming and personnel picking up luggage all night long. No sleep at all between that and the busses rolling in. The Sternwheeler Riverboat Tour was great. Really good free donuts on board. Susan Butcher's husband was the highlight. The motor coach to the Denali Princess Lodge was a good time to catch up on the sleep you missed. Denali Princess Lodge is very nice, small rooms, paper thin walls. Slamming doors and people picking up luggage all night long. Again, no sleep. We had a great tour guide for our tour Natural History Tour in Denali National Park. Our itinerary said, "no bathroom on bus for 4 hour ride, adjust your expectations accordingly." I dehydrated myself which was totally unnecessary as they made 3 stops with bathrooms along the way. We then took the Princess Rail to Talkeetna. Best food I had on the trip. Nice train car - gorgeous scenery. We decided to tour Talkeetna. The bus picked us up an hour later and we were all anxiously waiting for it for about 45 mins. Off to Mt. McKinley Lodge. Another beautiful lodge with paper thin walls and no sleep. Mt. McKinley was out and it was spectacular. The next day we took the McKinley Express Rail to Whittier. Not nearly as nice as the first train. Rather disappointing really - our seats were torn and dirty. We arrived on ship. I will say Princess is very organized and there were no problems with luggage, tours, getting on or off ship. I read somewhere that if you do the land tour first, do your laundry on the ship on Sunday because nobody else is doing it. WRONG. We had 3 washing machines going on 3 different floors and it was crowded. Also, everyone was ironing because it was the first formal evening. I can't tell you about the other days, but forget about Sunday. I was really under whelmed with the service and staff aboard Island Princess. In fact, I would go so far as to say they were downright rude. They could care less about the passengers - why should they? They know they'll get tipped because tips are included. We literally had to force one photographer to take our picture one evening. The dining staff was a joke. I had to grind my own pepper - which I'm capable of doing, but it's an example of how little they did. For 4 nights we sat at a table in the middle of the room between wait stations. On the fifth night we asked to be by a window and you'd think we asked them to turn the ship around. Getting served anywhere was like pulling teeth and nobody, but nobody, smiled. Alaska itself was phenomenal so we had a fantastic time any way. It was just too bad that Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan could've been the Caribbean or Mexico with Diamond's International and Tanzanite. No real local fair to offer. In Skagway we took the Glacier Point Wilderness Safari - highly recommend it. Tour guides were excellent, but your feet will freeze. They make you wear their rubber boots and I don't think there's enough socks possible to keep your feet warm. In Juneau we took the Mendenhall Glacier Float Trip - skip this one. The glacier isn't impressive and again you freeze on a boring raft ride. In Ketchikan we took the Adventure Kart Expedition - way fun - a definite must. We didn't take any flights, which actually worked out well because they were canceled due to weather 2 out of 3 days - and we had great weather I thought. Your day on Glacier Bay will be cold - very cold. But, spectacular. I packed everything from short sleeves to ski clothes and wore it all. We had some mosquitoes in Fairbanks, but otherwise, not a problem the end of July. I highly recommend going to Alaska, I'm not sure I highly recommend Princess - we had a great time in spite of them, not because of them.

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