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The Island Princess - Los Angeles-Hawaii-Los Angeles
This was our third time to Hawaii, but our first time making a round trip. It was nice to be able to drive to the port and leave the car. No hassle with airports and airlines.
We arrived at the dock around 11:30 and checked in with no problem. We were escorted to the Platinum Lounge and waited for about 30 minutes before we were taken onboard in a priority line. Smooth as silk. We learned later that boarding was a real hassle for passengers later in the day.
Our cabin was ready for us and so we dumped our carry on and went to the Horizon Court for lunch, all before 12:30. Driving to the port is definitely the way to go.
The Island is a beautiful ship. We had sailed on her sister ship, Coral Princess, last year and so we were very familiar with the layout. We had a cat AB, mini-suite. They are nice, big rooms with a large balcony with a full size table and two armchairs. We always take second seating traditional dining and we had a table for eight. The main pool, the Lido Pool, is well protected from the elements and the Lotus Pool is fully enclosed. It was really popular on this cruise because of the cool weather.
The Island has several lounges and bars. The Wheelhouse Bar is very plush with its leather covered, overstuffed chairs. It also has a small dance floor. The Crooner?s Bar was very elegant, but usually a bit on the smoky side. It served 52 different martinis, so it couldn?t be that bad. The Explorer Lounge was a nightclub style lounge and definitely very smoky. We preferred the Atrium Bar area. It had nice seating, good service and we got to listen to the piano player every evening. It was also a great place to people watch. There were two theaters, the Princess Theater, very well laid out, and the Universe Show Lounge, a more intimate setting, but difficult to see if you weren?t on the front row.
Overall the food was very good. We never had an evening where we didn?t find something that we enjoyed. I was surprised at the end of the cruise to realize I only had beef one time. There was a wide variety of dishes, lots of fish and one night they had rabbit, on of my favorites. Service was excellent. Both the waiter and assistant were from the Philippines and they really hustled. We kept them busy with wine service and they were always there. Our head waiter was very visible and came to the table every night for a chat with us. On St Patrick?s Night there was no corned beef and cabbage on the menu, but it was available in the Horizon Court. Our assistant waiter disappeared for a few minutes and returned with plates full of corned beef.
The Horizon Court food was quite good. It was standard cruise ship buffet food. There was a norovirus scare while we were on board and that cramped the serving in the buffet a little. You couldn?t help yourself, staff served you and it was a bit congested until everyone worked it out. It was an eye opener to see how many people still didn?t use the disinfectant that was available and actually refused it when offered by the staff.
We thought that the majority of the entertainment was the best that we had seen in several cruises. There were a couple of really good, clean comedians, a hypnotist that was hilarious and several dance shows that were very entertaining. We really enjoyed the pianist in the Atrium. We sat and listened to him every night before dinner. He won a lot of points when one formal night, with Moneypenny in a red dress, as we walked down the staircase to the bar, he stopped playing whatever he was playing, and switched to ?Lady in Red?. Nice touch. The pool trio was not one of the best that we have experienced, but they had a tough job, the weather wasn?t conducive to outdoor fun.
The average age on the cruise was just over 65!!! Looking at the passengers, I?m surprised it was that low. I?m in my 70?s and I felt very young and chipper when I looked around. What surprised me was the dress. I?ve never seen so many jeans and sneakers in the dining room for dinner. It was quite surprising to see these older folks in jeans and sneakers going into the dining room using walkers and sticks. There were also a lot of people who wore sweats to dinner.
We had a lot of sea days and not a lot of good weather to enjoy them. We kept busy going to lectures, martini/margarita/cocktail demos and tastings. I went to the maitre d?s wine tasting. Six excellent wines and really well done. We can fold napkins, carve fruit, make towel animals, etc with the best of them. We also relaxed a lot and did a lot of reading.
We didn?t dock in Kauai. The cross currents were too strong and so the captain sailed around the island. We saw more whales and dolphins than we have ever seen before. It was quite a spectacle. We sat on our balcony, drinking champagne and martinis, enjoying the snacks from the Horizon Court. What started out as a disappointing day ended up being a lot of fun.
We had booked a trip up to the Haleakala Crater. The weather was overcast when we started out, but as we climbed up to the crater, it got really misty and drizzled a lot. It was a long, and I mean long, drive up the mountain and by the time we got there it was raining pretty hard and we could only see about 50 feet. It was also very cold, down in the 40?s. It was a huge let down. We went on to the Maui Ocean Center and had lunch and then toured the Center. We were both disappointed. We had expected something really good, but it was in fact very ordinary. We felt very let down with the whole day.
It was raining again, but we had a few hours before our trip, so we went ashore and walked around the Aloha Tower Marketplace. It was a great time. MP bought a really beautiful red gown and several other things. We enjoyed walking around and between the showers we walked around the shopping district close by. Around noon time we started our tour. It was to the Polynesian Cultural Center. By the time we got there, it was pouring down. The day looked like a disaster. The coach driver got everyone ponchos to wear. They were fantastic. We walked around in the rain, saw several shows and went to the luau. We had a great time and if we ever go back to Oahu and the weather is good, we?ll certainly go back to the Cultural Center. We had a great guide, a Maori called Darrell. He was fun, entertaining and really knowledgeable. If you haven?t been, definitely give it a try. It is really classy and entertaining. We spent about seven hours there and the time just flew by.
We had another tour booked, the Painted Church and the Sacred Place. It was another very successful trip. The church is very small, but really beautiful. MP?s only problem was that she couldn?t find any candles to light. The Sacred Place is very beautiful. Even in the dull, drizzly weather you get that feeling of serenity. It is well cared for by the National Parks and we had fun doing the self guided tour. After the trip we had lunch at Quinn?s, great fish and chips. The fresh fish was ono, delicious.
We expected it to be raining in Hilo, and we weren?t disappointed. We were a little concerned because we had booked a trip to the Kilauea Caldera and we didn?t want a repeat of our Maui day. It turned out to be one of the highlights of the cruise. The caldera was awesome and the light rain made it even more impressive by creating the steam. It was like the twilight zone. We went through the Thurston Tunnel and overall thoroughly enjoyed our day. Hilo is what I think of when someone talks about Hawaii. It is so lush and beautiful, and once out of the city it is unspoiled. Then you get to the Volcanoes National Park and you think that you could be on the moon. The Big Island is really beautiful.
The sail home was a repeat of the sail out. Lots of lazy days at sea. We had dinner one night in Sabatini?s, the Italian specialty restaurant. We were disappointed with the food and the service. We wouldn?t do it again. Compared to the specialty restaurants on RCI, Chops and Portofinos, it has a lot of catching up to do. We docked in Ensenada to comply with the Jones Act, but we opted to stay on board, enjoying the view from the balcony, along with a few cocktails and snacks. Disembarkation was a breeze. We were off the ship, through Customs and on our way home by 9:30. When we got home, we found a bunch of snow, there was almost 7 ? inches in front of the garage.
Overall it was another great cruise, guess there?s no such thing as a bad one. The weather could have been better, a lot better, but we still had a great time, met some really nice people and just enjoyed ourselves.
You can see our photo album at http://community.webshots.com/user/jbond105/3