Length: 965 ft
A spirit-class ship for Princess - mid-sized for Princess meaning modern but but not too crowdedBest For People Who Want
A modern, right-sized ship with elegant surroundings; plenty to do on board but not so big that you feel like you missed something.Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
Should be Avoided by People who Prefer: Small-ship camaraderie, extensive sports facilities, lots of singles actionOnboard Experience
Coral Princess and Island Princess, launched in 2003, were the only two ships Princess built after 2000 that are small enough to get through the Panama Canal (with 24 inches on each side to spare!). Smaller than the fleet's biggest ships, yet bigger than the mid-sized Sun Princess class that dominated the 90s, these sisters in many ways represent the best of both worlds. The public rooms are the same as on the Grand-class megaships, but Island and Coral passengers feel they have much more elbow room; though a fifth larger than Princess's Sun-class ships, they carry only 20 more passengers apiece based on double occupancy.
By all appearances, Princess caught sight of the upside-down design of the Carnival Spirit-class ships presented in 2000 and couldn't resist adopting the concept of putting all the public rooms on the lower decks and the cabin decks higher up; affording the ability to add a balcony (75% of all cabins) to almost every outside stateroom (83% of all cabins). The result is a ship with beautifully appointed and spacious cabins and a hive of adjacent public rooms that are easy to navigate and offer exemplary passenger flow.
"ScholarShip@Sea" classes are held in the high-tech Universe Lounge, a two-story venue that at night, unlike any other classroom you've ever been cooped up in, becomes a show lounge or cabaret! You can learn everything from how to assemble a Web site to how to paint pottery (these are the only ships at sea with real kilns). Of course, a range of culinary classes will teach you how to cook a wide range of exotic dishes.Decor
As with most Princess ships, the atrium is the focal point with light woods and brass railings surrounding walls of glass. Due to a more generous space to passenger ratio, public rooms and restaurants are more spacious than their counterparts on other Princess ships. In the cabins, upholstery and walls are invariably in restful earth tones and off-whites, with butterscotch wood trim.Public Rooms
You'll find no scarcity of invitingly intimate lounges, many with live music. Crooners, a martini bar, evokes the heyday of the Rat Pack, while the cozy cigar lounge Churchill's evokes an English country manor. The clubby, nautical-themed Wheelhouse Bar is filled with original oil paintings. If you find yourself longing for contemporary décor, you'll find it, along with cappuccino and pastries, at Le Patisserie, which offers free-for-the-taking cookies and sweets.
In the bow, the Princess Theater, a classic sloping one-level space. offers a good view from every comfortable theater-style seat; put your drink - or notebook - on the little flip-up table. When the ceiling lights are left on during lectures, please note, it can get infernally hot in the back rows, so sit in the front!
The ship's Internet cafe, card room and library do brisk business during days at sea; indeed, you're sometimes lucky to find a place to sit! Because there are entrances from both the atrium and the midships elevators/stair tower, the rooms are often used as passageways, not exactly ideal for a library!
The Captain can marry you quite legally in the wedding chapel. The Universe Lounge presents floor shows at night, while cabaret rules the Africa-themed Explorer's Lounge. The bright, kid-scaled Fun Zone and Pelican's Playhouse children's center and smallish Off Limits teen center may be found at the stern on Deck 12.Cuisine
Predictably, the main restaurants and Lido cafeteria serve Continental ship cuisine -- fettuccine Alfredo, broiled lobster tail, Beef Wellington, that sort of thing -- unlikely either to offend or amaze most diners. If you ask the kitchen for something less bland, it will happily oblige, or try the Bayou Cafe's spicy shrimp gumbo. barbecued alligator ribs appetizers, "mud-bug" bisque soup, fried catfish, grilled jumbo prawns, and chicken and chorizo jambalaya in a subdued, woody ambience, with faux brick walls and lantern lighting. Sabatini's, which warms your palate up with more than a dozen quite substantial antipasti before it brings out your main course, will test even the most energetic gourmand's capacity. Allow three hours for this "event dining" experience. The Lotus Spa menu offers such innovative options as chilled yogurt and tamarind soup sprinkled with grated lemon rind, filet of baby turbot with a fennel pernod sauce, and a tropical fruit smoothie flavored with lime.Restaurants
Princess's "Personal Choices" flexible dining program, whereby passengers can opt either for traditional two-seating dining, or dine when and with whom they please, is nowhere better implemented than on these ships. In the Bayou Cafe, you can enjoy zingy New Orleans-style cuisine to a jazz trio's accompaniment for $10 per person, including a cocktail. Sabatini's offers alternative diners a gigantic multi-course Italian feast for $15. The always-open Horizon Court dishes up standard cafeteria fare during breakfast and lunch; but at night gets swanky, offering its patrons items from the ship's main restaurant. During the day, the circular layout of food stations and the lack of clear paths between them occasionally results in mild chaos.
The Provence and Bordeaux dining rooms are nearly indistinguishable, but for one distinction. Provence is dedicated to traditional fixed-seating dining (6 p.m. and 8:15 p.m.) and Bordeaux offers Anytime Personal Choice dining; anytime the whim strikes you between 5:30 and 10 p.m.Service
The extremely international staff is unfailingly chipper and professional. Flatteringly, the waiters seem to take particular delight in remembering diners' personal preferences.Tipping
Regardless of which dining plan you choose, you'll be charged $10 per person per day for dining and stateroom personnel, even if you're a child. Consult the purser, at the reception desk, about raising or lowering this amount. All beverage tabs automatically include 15-percent gratuity. Tip the spa, casino, and other staff as you deem fit.Entertainment
With a dozen or so venues for nightlife, you're virtually assured of finding something that floats your boat, to coin a phrase. There's no faulting the lavishness of the production shows, which feature extravagant special effects. The performers in the cabaret are a talented bunch.Cabins
As is true of all Princess vessels, the 33 cabin categories on offer are misleading; the range of choice is closer to 10. Princess puts virtually identical quarters into different categories based on location.
That said, Island Princess has the largest number of balconies in the fleet. Eight-five percent of the cabins are outside, and 85% of those have private verandas. Refining the Princess vision of gigantic ships with an intimate feel, their tiered design eschews the too-familiar "wall of balconies" look, achieving a clean, flowing profile.
Standard outside cabins are 160 sq. ft., standard balcony cabins 217-248 sq. ft. The mini-suites, much more spacious for not a lot more money, offer 280 to 302 sq. ft., but the privacy of the balconies of those on Dolphin Deck is severely compromised; they can be observed from the balconies of the three decks above. The largest cabins measure 470 sq. ft. Suite occupants should expect neither butler service nor amenities beyond such standard one as TV/radio, hair dryers, mini refrigerators, bathrobes, and personal safes, daily deliveries of ice, and evening turndown service. Closet and drawer space is at a real premium; pack light! The shower stalls in standard cabins are pretty cramped.
Premium suites and minisuites amenities include complimentary laundry and shoe shine, a selection of pillows, daily in-room canapés and high tea, and free Internet access.
A self-service launderette ($1.75 washers, $1 soap, $1.50 dryers) is located on each stateroom deck.Fitness/Spa
The Steiners' operated Lotus Spa offers not only massages and hair and beauty treatments (for which be sure to book as you board), but also seminars on everything from abs enhancement and metabolism to aging and detoxifying. There are also Tahitian scalp massages, a mud room for couples, "gentle touch" teeth whitening, and a cellulite reduction program, popular in Europe, called ionithermie algae detox. The gym, though smallish, has all the weight training, running, and aerobic equipment anyone could reasonably demand.
There are a basketball/volleyball court and a computerized golf simulator, as well as a nine-hole miniature-golf course up on the top deck, which you access via a windowless wooden door that makes it look permanently closed. It's not; just go on in.Attire
A typical cruise includes two formal evenings. The other evenings are "smart casual", meaning sweaters, skirts and blouses, and slacks and collared shirts. Shorts and jeans are considered too casual.
This is only to inform you that the Coral Photo Mugs we got in the Calypso Cove leak liquids through the sides of the mugs. This could be dangerous. They leak at a rapid rate and are not useable.
This our first cruise on Princess thru the canal. We have done four other cruises on Holland America (x2) and Royal Caribbean (x2) . being our second cruise thru the Canal we were interested in seeing the changes for the new locks. We are in our mid to late fifties . I suffer from very bad knees that restrict how much Walking I can do.
Princess Cruise Air and Transfers: We selected this option as it was the cheap airfare and a hotel was included at Fort Lauderdale. We are going to take this option with Princess transfers again. The only problem with their flight schedule was that if a flight was late you had to Quickly run or jog to your next flight. On arrival in FLL we where met by the Princess Rep and transferred directly to the hotel . We where impressed as how Princess handle Delayed or lost luggage . The transfer to Port Everglades was very smooth and on time as scheduled or a little earlier..
Embarkation: What impressed us most was how quick we went thru the pre-boarding lines And onto the ship. The totaltime from getting of the bus to being in our cabin was less The 30 min. The cabin was ready and the cabin steward introduced himself with 30 min. HAL and RCI could learn on how to do embarkations this fast.
Accommodation: We originally where got a price from our TA for BH Balcony on Dolphin Deck . Before we even put A deposit down we were upgrade to a BA cabin on Aloha deck under the Adult’s only Pool ??? The layout of the cabin was the best we have ever had. Ther was no wasted space with a couch and Coffee table . The closet was more adequate for my wife’s clothes . Most of my cloths were On the shelves except for my formal outfit.
Ports: The scheduled port s where Aruba, Cartagena, Fuerto Amador , Puntarenas , Huatulco Acapulco and Cabo san Lucas. The only ports we went ashore Cartagena, Huatulco and Acapulco. Huatulco we went ashore to see the Pink Church on the beach . Acapulco was to visit the fort overlooking the harbor. The rest of the time we just stayed on the ship and relaxed in different quiet spots on deck and around the Wheelhouse Bar.
Food: We ate most of our breakfasts in the Horizon Court on Lido deck. We normally had lunch and diner In the dining room. We had chosen “Anytime Dining” . We normally had supper at 5:30 with MDR opening at 5:15 . I noticed that if you waited until 6:30 you could have a long wait. The wife found the fish cooked to perfection even in the Horizon Court. The only problem we found was with the smoked salmon that was served . It had a tendency to soft and watery . This might just be a personal preference as we both grew up wild smoked sockeye salmon (Pacific Salmon)
Ship in general: The ship was very good condition. Everything was well laid out and in good shape. The only issue we had was that teenagers would run up and down the halls until all hours and the parents didn’t seem to care or notice . A couple of times we saw toddlers crawling on the floor of the MDR as stewards were trying to serve tables and carry large trays of meals.
Weather: The weather was usually sunny (85 gegrees) with high humidity (90-100%) . The first sea day after leaving FLL we were in a Force 7 sea and wind condition. They closed the promenade deck for walking during the short period. As we left Cabo the temperature started to drop and sea fog formed for a few hours . The temperature dropped to the high 70’s as we approached San Pedro Pier.
Disembarkation: Again Princess was well organized and disembarkation was a efficient as embarkation. The only hold up US Customs in processing the passengers. We used the Princess transfers to LAX . With a 9AM disembarkation we be late getting to LAX . We disembarked 15min early and arrived at LAX within 45 min.
Misc items: We saw whales as we left Cabo . Between Panama and Acapulco we saw two sea turles. Numerous dolphins and flying fish where observed.
Five of us (2 brothers and their wives, and a sister) travelled together -- between us we had 2 balcony mini-suites next to each other, and an interior cabin. The former were spacious, clean, had ample storage space, and a very generous balcony which easily sat all 5 of us. Service in our cabins was excellent and we really enjoyed being able to place a fruit order each day, which was delivered to our cabin (however the interior cabin suffered from lack of attention in this regard).
The whole ship seemed clean and well cared for and the staff was friendly and helpful. We particularly appreciated our 2 servers in the Provence dining room where we had the "late" seating.
Food onboard was excellent, considering the huge amounts the kitchens had to produce. With the Provence, the Horizon buffet, and room service we never went hungry. We tried the "specialty" restaurant Sabatini's one night and enjoyed the quiet ambience and incredible attention. However, the food was not especially better than what we had in the Provence. So for $20 each extra, we weren't sure it was really worth it.
Every deck seems tohave its own laundry room with about 8 washers and dryers and 2 irons. Soap is for sale and is not too expensive, and neither are the machines. Mornings are a busy time for laundry -- late afternoon is better.
The library is so well stocked that we all regreted lugging books from home in our suitcases.
Internet service is excellent with about 12 stations in all.
Our best shore excursion was "Costa Rica's Favourites with Lunch," with a knowledgeable, enthusiastic guide in a beautiful country.
We found Princess to be as efficient and competent as any well run hotel and as good as any other cruise line we've traveled on. We wouldn't hesitate to recommend either Princess or the cruise through the Canal (from LA to Fort Lauderdale).
That being said, there were a few areas that concerned us:
Shortly after we boarded we realized that our 2 balcony cabins were on the "smoking" side of the ship. Nowhere in the literature had we noticed that Port side is "smoking." Fortunately for us, neither of our immediate neighbours were smokers, but we did meet another passenger who had a rather unpleasant altercation with the smoker in the cabin/balcony next to his. Next time, we will ensure we are on the non-smoking side of the ship.
Princess offers a variety of shore excursions for each port varying from the sedentary to the energetic. Three of us opted for the more energetic ones and we had issues with some of them. Princess, who seems very safety conscious as far as the ship goes, seems unaware of the laxity of standards on some of their excursions.
The "Huatulco river float" warned of the necessity of our donning life jackets and helmets, so one of our party didn't bring his sun hat, thinking it superfluous, only to find that just the life jackets were distributed and consequently he had to spend an hour or so on the river in the hot sun, hatless.
"Colonial Leon and Bubbling Mud Pots" resulted in our being let loose in a field of hot springs erupting through a layer of mud with the only supervision being 10 year old local children who spoke only Spanish. One of our group received a bad burn to one foot when it sunk into super-hot mud where the group was walking. This resulted in several trips to the ship's well-equipped and staffed medical centre. Although the usual medical fees and costs were waived, the injury had a serious dampening impact on the rest of the cruise for those involved.
The tour through the "Mangrove Tunnels" in Cartagena meant that we were punted (4 to a canoe) around a mangrove swamp (from which all the birds and beasts had fled) in a very decrepit, leaky, tippy, dug out canoe perched inches above the filthy water, by a guide who spoke not a word of English.
Princess needs to send its staff out to re-check some of the excursions it offers!
Princess movies offered in the large theatres were a disappointment in both the selection (too many chick flicks) and the timing (usually middle of the day when we are either at lunch or just returning from a shore excursion). Given the number of "at sea" days, better movie entertainment would easily be possible.
We only went to one of the "Scholarship at Sea" lectures and were treated to a dull lecture, read off a power point display, that was far too reminiscent of my grade 10 geography class.
The ship's photographers, while professional in their finished product, were often intrusive to the point of harassment.
We would have preferred more time in each of the ports -- some of which we were only docked at for half a day -- which was not enough time for sightseeing as well as shopping.
And finally, our shipboard account -- delivered to us on the day before departure -- was full of unexplained "codes" and was almost incomprehensible. It might save frustration in the long run to stop by the passenger service desk every day to check the account and verify all the entries.