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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Pacific Princess Panama Canal - Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale

I didn’t go home over Christmas break. After missing my flight and almost my Christmas cruise last year, my family decided to fly to me, instead. We embarked in San Pedro and spent 17 (!!!) days on the charming Pacific Princess, sailing through the Panama Canal, and disembarking in Fort Lauderdale.

After we sailed the Panama Canal Partial Transit on the Island Princess back in 2012, the full transit was added to our bucket list. And it turned out that this Christmas was the perfect time to take our dream cruise. For starters, my dad was required to take off 30 days from work (the man loves to work – he was not happy about this). My winter break at UCLA aligned almost perfectly with Rachel’s break from Clemson. Also, this is Rachel’s last year at Clemson, so it’s probably the last time we’ll be able to take such a long vacation. Our options for Panama Canal cruises over Christmas were limited to a 14-day itinerary on the Island Princess or a 17-day itinerary on the Pacific Princess. Honestly, 17 days on a ship seemed like an awful long time, and I had seen the Pacific Princess in port a few times before, so I knew how small she was. My vote was for the Island Princess…. But the Island Princess returned to port a day later than the Pacific Princess, which would mean that I wouldn’t get back in time for the first day of winter quarter. So the Pacific Princess it was.

Pacific Princess

Like I said, the Panama Canal was a “bucket list” cruise, which meant we spent a bit more on it (in time and money) than we typically do our quickly-planned Caribbean cruises. 17 days on a cruise ship isn’t inexpensive, but where the cost can really add up is in the one-way flights to get to the port of embarkation and to get back home. My family traveled from Atlanta to Los Angeles and took one-way flights on Southwest (2 free bags each!). They also had to book one-way flights on Southwest from Fort Lauderdale back to Atlanta. Since I live in Los Angeles, I only needed a return flight home, a one-way on Spirit (no free bags, paid checked bags, upcharge for everything).

I was excited to go through the Panama Canal, again, but I was really nervous about the length of the cruise and the size of the ship…. As well as how that affects the demographics onboard. Would it get boring? Would we get sick of being on a cruise ship? We had sailed on larger, newer ships the past few cruises – which I had for the most part really enjoyed – so I wasn’t sure if small ship cruising was for us anymore.

When I say “small ship”, I mean really, really small. Pacific Princess is 593 feet long with a 672 passenger capacity. The smallest ship we had sailed before was Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas (which was far from one of our favorite cruises) at 880 feet long with a 2,744 passenger capacity, though our first Christmas cruise was on the Grandeur of the Seas, and it was one of our favorite and most memorable cruises.

Pacific Princess is not the original Love Boat (which made her final voyage with Princess Cruises in 2002 and was dismantled for parts in 2013). The name was recycled in 2002 when Princess purchased the ship from Renaissance Cruises. Because Pacific Princess was built for another cruise line, she’s different from other Princess ships, noticeably in décor. I found the smaller lobby of Pacific Princess to be fitting for the size of the ship, and the more traditional décor to be quite elegant and charming.

So here we go... 17 days on Pacific Princess, coming at you slowly but surely!

The Shingletons Arrive in Los Angeles!
[Day 01] All Aboard Pacific Princess!!!
[Day 02] Drinking Bad Champagne and Making New Friends
[Day 03] Lady Luck and Lots of Lotion
[Day 04] Land Ho in Cabo San Lucas

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