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 Island Princess Hawaii ('06) part 3

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NDJollyMon
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PostSubject: Island Princess Hawaii ('06) part 3   Sat Jul 12, 2008 10:35 pm

NDJollyMon's review continued....

Honolulu, Oahu -- The ship docks at Aloha Tower Marketplace. (ATM) It’s a fun place to eat, drink, and shop.

We took the Princess tour: USS Arizona & City Tour. The tour was good, but did not go where advertised. Because of long waiting times at USS AZ, we didn’t get to go all places, such as the Pali Lookout as they advertised. Shuttles, buses, and taxis can be had right at the front entrance to Aloha Tower Marketplace.

We took a taxi to Waikiki for $17 one way. We attended the Royal Hawaiian Luau, which was very good. You receive a lei greeting, a couple free Mai Tai’s, and a photographer will take your picture and offer it to you for $20. The hotel is very nice, the seating was great, and it can all take place indoors if the weather is less than nice. Walls are open to the beach, with a spectacular view of Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head. The show was good, the buffet food was good, and the price was ok. We caught a taxi at the front door, and headed back to Aloha Tower for $14. We even had time for pitchers of beers at Hooters Honolulu before boarding the ship at 10:30pm.

TIP: If you are attending the Royal Hawaiian Luau, check their website for a coupon. We received 20% off with the coupon offered on each admission. Reserve early, they sell out.

FYI: If you want to get from the ship to Waikiki area, a free shuttle can be caught at ATM going to Ala Moana Mall. You can then catch the free shuttle to the Waikiki area. This is the FREE method of getting from the ship to Waikiki. The free shuttles look like trolley cars. ~The next cheapest way to get to Waikiki area is by bus. The stop is right outside in front of ATM, and it costs a couple bucks.

Ratings:

Princess excursion; USS AZ & city tour: A-

USS AZ as a must do attraction: A+ (you have to go here!)

Royal Hawaiian Luau: A

Hooters: A

Lahaina, Maui -- This is a tender port.

We took the Whale Watch excursion, and saw many whales. We were lucky to see a couple of male humpbacks fighting over a female at pretty close range. The excursion boat is nice, with shade on the lower deck if needed. The boat rocks pretty good if the swells are big, so take your meds if you get seasick. There were a few sick people on our boat. The channel between Maui and Lanai can get pretty rough.

We had a rental car reserved with Enterprise after the excursion but never used it. We called for the shuttle, and it never came. I tried calling for an hour straight and the calls went unanswered. We took the shuttle to Hilo Hatties, and just walked the town shopping the rest of the day.

TIP: The old courthouse in front of the famous Banyan Tree has restrooms, and really cool free walking maps of Lahaina.

Ratings:

Princess excursion; Maui Whale Watch Tour: A-

Enterprise Rental, Kaanapali: F

Ensenada, Mexico -- Only a four hour stopover here. Shuttle buses line up outside the shopping center at the pier. They will take you to town for $2 each person, each way. There are loads of shops, restaurants, and bars in town. Downtown Ensenada is a fun place to shop. There are people lining the sidewalks selling things but they aren’t overly aggressive.

FYI: The Shopping Center at the pier is very small. You can buy souvenirs, liquor, and sundries there, but not much else. There is a little bar in there with a really nice, old bartender. Some of the ship’s crewmembers stop for drinks there, and are fun to talk with.

Los Angeles, California -- Disembarkation: Went pretty smoothly, even though there were 3 ships in harbor. You tag your luggage and set it out in the hall before 8pm the last night. You will be called to Customs by your luggage tag color, and process through. Then you go to a public place to relax until you are again called to leave the ship. We lounged on deck in the warm sun.

There is no luggage carousel; they just put the luggage out according to your tag colors. Getting a porter was difficult, but only because of the bad management of the Princess Transfer program! We dragged all our own bags out to the transfer bus waiting area.

FYI: The Princess Transfer program was all messed up at disembarkation. This REALLY needs improvement. We waited in line WAY too long to board a bus out of there. Many people missed flights, or were very rushed to make it. Our bus line was over 2 city blocks long to board 1 bus! You would think they would have it all together since they do it so often, but they don’t. My advice is; SKIP THE TRANSFERS and grab a shuttle or taxi to the airport.

FYI: LAX needs to get it together as well. The line for security to x-ray your bags gets way too long, and needs to be relocated. Then, after that long wait, you wait in another huge line to go through security. (ie…huge line, one security checkpoint out of 6 open)

FYI: The pier porters were much nicer, and more helpful here than the ones in Miami, FL. Not once was I given any grief, did they demand a specific amount dollar amount, or were my suitcases threatened, as porters do in Miami. Those thugs try to intimidate you into paying them way too much to toss a couple suitcases in a bin. (payment to ensure your luggage arrives safely on your ship)

Ratings:

Disembarkation: A

LAX Security Setup & Operation: D+

Porters: N/A

Princess Transfer Program Management: F

Conclusion: I knew when I booked this cruise that the majority of the people on this cruise would be in the ‘older range.’ It’s a long, pricey cruise, and who has more time and money than retired folks…right? (my attempt at humor) I don’t mind…I love older people…but we were clearly some of the youngest passengers onboard.

Dining & Food: Food is very subjective, but here is what I found: I liked each and every meal I had in the dining room, and our servers were outstanding. The Head Waiter came by each night, and was very nice Breakfast and lunch service is sometimes hit and miss, but the food was always good, and the company interesting. I’m still not a big fan of Princess dining rooms. They are very understated compared with Royal Caribbean ships. (if you compare)

I’m not a big fan of ANY buffet, and Horizon Court was no exception. It’s a place I only ate out of convenience a few times for breakfast mostly. Many people thought it was great, but I didn’t.

We had dinner in the Bayou Café ($15 each), and it was great. The Carpetbagger Filet was the best steak I’ve ever eaten! Worth every penny.

I loved the Pizza, and all the food at Princess Grill. I didn’t care much for the ice cream at the Lotus Pool area either. Ice cream was better in the dining room, and it was free there.

Ratings:

Provence Dining Room Food: A-

Provence Dining Staff: A-

Bayou Café Food & Staff: A+

Horizon Court Buffet: D+

Princess Grill & Pizzeria: B

Coffee Rating: I love coffee, and find that most cruise ship coffee is pretty bad. Princess coffee is pretty bad as well. I bring my own coffee maker, and make it in my stateroom. This is a good cruise to do it on, as you can buy some great coffee in the islands! (check the rules to see if your coffee maker is allowed)

The coffee is different at each location, so I rated it:

Dining Room: C-

La Patisserie: C+

Horizon Court: F (totally undrinkable, and I’m not kidding)

Bayou Café: C-

Entertainment: Bands were ok, and most shows too. I’m not big on most of them, but I liked the comedy stuff. I know this wasn’t a Caribbean cruise, but I sure missed the steel drum music!

Activities: I liked most of the Cruise Directors staff, and activities. I got involved in a few, such as Battle of the Sexes, (I was Captain, and Men won) and The Princess Survivor Challenge. ( I placed 2nd…got robbed in the end )

Ship: I have loved every ship I’ve been on, and Island Princess is no exception. She’s beautiful, and kept up well. I do think Royal Caribbean’s ships have much more of a WOW factor, and seem more elegant. Princess atriums all look the same, and are nowhere near as impressive as RCI ships.

Spa: A very nice spa package is available. We paid $150 for 2 people to use the Sanctuary as often as we liked. There are several aromatherapy steam rooms, showers, saunas, heated beds to use. Very relaxing. Overall: We liked this cruise very much. Hawaii is beautiful, and I loved all the sea days! The crossing is cool, rough, and windy, so pack and dress accordingly. Most everything met or exceeded our expectations. Princess is still one of my favorites!
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