We're going on the Jan. 18 Panama Canal Cruise. We'd like to take the "Eco-Jungle River Adventure" optional tour while at Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Just read that the river (Tarcoles) was the site of a huge oil spill in September. Anyone taken this tour this fall? See much wildlife?
Thanks, Norm! This will be our first Princess cruise, and only our third cruise (first two on Celebrity's Galaxy--so. Caribbean, and Mercury--Alaska). Have you ever taken a tour of the ship's bridge? How is this arranged? I've read that it's worth bringing along a small fan to use while watching the ship go through the Canal from your balcony. Worth lugging one along? We plan to take the photo tour on Barbados--any comments on that? All cruise tips appreciated!
I'm not going to pick favorites between a vessel on which I have taken three cruises and two on which I have not cruised at all, as that would be speaking from ignorance, but I will tell you that MV Sun Princess is a gorgeous ship on which I would cruise again in a heartbeat. My personal favorite spots:
>> The magical teak lounge chairs on the Promenade Deck are a fantastic place to recharge your batteries during the daytime. If you sit back and relax in one of them, you probably will lose all sense of time and become completely oblivous to all of your cares. For this reason, I strongly recommend choosing a lounge on the SHADY side of the Promenade Deck rather than on the sunny side, where severe sunburn might be a possibility.
>> The pools are wonderful, and the main pool area also is a fantastic setting for Island Night (for which you might want to bring a tropical dress and any men in your party might want to bring "Hawaiian" shirts). Island Night also is the setting for the splendid Island Night Buffet -- which you probably won't touch if you eat dinner at second sitting, but be sure to bring your camera to photograph the ice sculptures and vegetable carvings anyway.
>> Princess's production shows are absolutely first-rate, and they are constantly rolling out new shows. They also usually have some headline entertainers aboard, so there's usually a choice of two shows (one in the broadway-style Princess Theater, located at the forward end of the Promenade Deck,and the other in the Vegas-style Vista Lounge, located at the aft end of the Promenade Deck).
>> Verdi's, at the top of the atrium, serves up some of the best pizza anywhere (sorry, but not "to go") and some decent calzones as well.
>> Most evenings, there are small combos playing very nice live dance music in both the Wheelhouse Bar, on the Promenade Deck, and the Horizon Court, on the Lido Deck. The Wheelhouse Bar actually has two combos so the live music nominally runs from 5:00 until 1:00. The Horizon Court also features 24x7 food service with a combination of buffets and evening bistro-style table service.
>> In spite of the alternatives, don't miss dinner in the dining room. The waiters, assistant waiters, and head waiters are always up to something (without sacrificing stellar service, of course!). The pizzeria is open for lunch and in the late evening and the Horizon Court's bistro service continues well past midnight.
>> Be sure to attend the formal tea (open seating from 3:30 until 4:30 every day except possibly embarkation day), served in one of the main dining rooms, at least once during your cruise.
I should also mention the wine tasting, which usually occurs on the first full day at sea. There's a charge of $5 to your shipboard account for the wine tasting, but you receive a credit of $5 toward the purchase of any bottle of wine at the tasting. The wine that you purchase can be any wine on the wine list, without restriction. If you enjoy wine at dinner, just order a bottle of wine at the tasting (which the dining room staff will open on the evening of your choice) and you'll essentially get the tasting for free. (BTW, the staff will recork an opened bottle of wine and serve it the next night if you don't finish it.)
As to your question about bridge tours/visits, some Princess ships conduct them in port and others conduct them underway depending upon the Captain's preference. In either case, there will be an announcement in the Princess Patter with more detailed information as to time and place of assembly.
BTW, you might want to check the "Caribbean" board (in the Ports of Call section) as I posted comments there regarding the ports of call on Princess's "Classic Panama Canal" itinerary.
Norm, Thanks for your comments about Sun Princess. I am contemplating sailing her in April 2002 on a 10 day canal Fort lauderdale to Fort Lauderdale. I found your comments interesting and informative. What was the age group on this sailing?
Princess draws a pretty broad spectrum of ages. I met several single 30-something ladies (a situation that a 43-year-old bachelor does not exactly lament!) and married couples who seemed to be even younger, along with people who were well into their 80's and at every age in between. Since the Halloween sailing did occurred while schools are in session, there were not very many school-age children. Nonetheless, there were several families with pre-school children.
The bottom line is that you probably will meet people of your own age on any Princess cruise -- whatever "your own age" happens to be!