This edition of marc’s blog continues my recap of our recent cruise down the Pacific coast of Mexico and Central America, through the Panama Canal, followed by stopovers in Columbia and Aruba, then finishing up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida…14 sunny seasick-free days!
If you have never been cruising, part of the lure is the ship itself. With bursting interesting in cruising over the past several decades, the cruise lines have been very competitive in building state-of-the-art ships, each one more spectacular than the one just before. There are many people who cruise with little interest in where the ship is going. They’re more entertained by the amenities and activities the ship has to offer. Those, plus the mega-supply of good food and time to just vedge and do nothing, are enough to make them content as a mermaid.
Our Panama cruise was aboard the Island Princess, one of two sister vessels especially built by the Princess Cruise line for passage through the canal, meaning it’s a bit narrower than the usual cruise liner, but it’s hard to notice unless you bring a tape measure along. The Island Princess doesn’t have any of the gimmicky accouterments like rock climbing, surf pools or a skating rink. It’s a pretty basic boat with tasteful design, two pools (one indoor), a gym and spa and a few specialty restaurants. There’s no rollercoaster or thoroughbred horse track.
The Island Princess did have one feature that was pretty awesome. On the top deck, rising above the pool area, was a huge digital screen. “Movies Under the Stars” was the feature attraction for this venue, including a nice deck chair and popcorn, just about nightly. Throughout the day, the screen was always busy with ship-related video or travel footage. What was incredible was how sharply focused and bright it was, even with full sun glaring down on it. It was brighter than my expensive flat screen TV in the family room at home.
Meanwhile, the center court, as in most modern liners, is pretty spectacular, rising several decks high with glass elevators, winding staircases, lots of gleaming brass and an array of circling shops offering cruise wear, jewelry, and souvenirs.
Most cabins on the Island Princess have a balcony. This is a great asset and well worth the additional cost over an interior cabin. On this particular cruise the balcony offered a great seating area for passage through the Panama Canal. It was also great for morning sunrises with coffee and Danish! The cabin on this cruise seemed larger than any we’ve had in the past which was unexpected given the ship was the smallest boat we’ve been on. That’s our humble cabin and balcony under the arrow on the picture.
One observation I’ve made after half a dozen cruises is how uncrowded the ships always are despite the number of people onboard. This cruise had about 2000 passengers, plus crew. You would expect long lines and crowed decks and elevators. It always amazes me, once the cruise is underway, how dispersed the people are and how often it appears you pretty much have the run of the ship. Of course, there were always one or two at the rail, scanning the horizon for an errant iceberg or a submarine’s periscope…and maybe even a float-through McDonald’s. Next blog: the trip!