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.
This was a cruise/land tour combination. The cruise was really wonderful. The ship is very well done, great service, good food, lots of options. Shore excursions were super. Only problem...this ship was always the farthest away from town when it docked in all three cruise ports (Juneau, Skagway and Ketchican). That was a real big drawback for us.
The land tour was quite different. Princess Lodges are very nice and comfortable. However, the food is the same at all their lodges (with few exceptions), and it is just satisfactory. And it was extremely expensive! Like eating in the Hamptons (where I'm from). That was disappointing to say the least. Excursions from the lodges were quite varied, and most were really wonderful.
I'd recommend the cruise very highly and the land tour as quite good. However, find a grocery store and stock up for the land tour.
We've been on numerous cruises on many lines and this is our second Christmas (2006 & 2007) cruise on the Coral. It was a repeat booking due to complete satisfaction.
Met some good friends (R&A) on first cruise on the Coral, who also joined us on this 2007 trip.
Everything was great. The entertainment (Denise Canby Trio) was with us for both trips. We spent seven nights enjoying both their music and company.
We will definitely book on this ship again.
We cruised to the Panama Canal, departing and returning from Ft. Lauderdale, accompanied by another couple. We did not utilize any ship-sponsored tours and have no comment on them.
We had a balcony stateroom, ample room to move about and excellent storage; service to our room was top-notch; we could leave for a short time and the room would be clean, beds made, by the time we returned.
Entertainment was generally very good with the exception of one comedian who "bombed". We played bingo every day (tip: bring your own bingo daubers, they don't supply). The jackpot starts out at around $1100 and increases $150/day until won, but the game is arranged so that it won't likely be won until the end of the cruise. Tip: wait until the last day, play then and make off with the jackpot.
The ship's crew and staff were fantastically friendly, smiles all the time even when confronted with some trying guests (not us, of course!).
Only one disappointment: The FOOD. It was not quite as good as we have experienced on other cruise ships; strange, exotic combinations of dishes but without a great deal of flavor. Wefound much of it to be bland, especially the coffee. Also disappointing: They charge for soft drinks, water, coffee service if requested in a lounge, etc. At current cruise prices, we felt these should be "no charge".
Princess has "anytime dining" which is great, but reservations need to be made because everyone wants to eat around the same time to save time for the shows.
CASINO was just "OK"; not many big winners, few newer video machines, many older 25-cent and $1 mechanical reels. The "cash out" feature in the casino allows you to transfer $$ in and out of a machine on your room/account card; very neat and handy.
All in all, we enjoyed our cruise and we felt that Princess gives good value and a pleasant experience for the money. Another tip: if you take this cruise to the canal, read David McCullough's "The Path Between the Seas" beforehand and buy Anne Vipond's "Panama Canal by Cruise Ship" -- you won't be disappointed.
On October 31, 2007 we sailed on the Coral Princess to the Panama Canal. Due to a storm we had to rearrange our route. We went to Grand Cayman instead of going to Aruba first. Grand Cayman was not one of the ports we were to visit, so it was a pleasure to get this port. All the other ports, including our last which was Aruba, followed the route.
Our cabin was terrific. We had the best cabin steward (Samuel Bernardino). He was great.
We ate most of our meals in the food court because we didn't always want to get dressed up. The food was terrific. The crew we had in the food court for breakfast was great (we had Maynard Ron, Carlos and Mark). Their service was the best we had the whole cruise. Sorry we didn't have them for all the meals, but they were only there during breakfast. The evening service in the food court for dinner was the worst. Not enough help to handle what needed to be done. But the food was good.
The entertainment was outstanding. Did not see one show that was not great.
Theboarding and embarking was handled the best of the many cruises I have been on. The only drawback was that 10 cruise ships arrived in Fort Lauderdale on November 10th so the airport was a total mess. We got to the airport at 9:00 A.M and our flight was at 2:32 P. M. They would not let us check in until 11:30 A.M. so we had to lug our luggage at the airport while we waited. Not enough seats to sit down. Our airline was Air Tram.
Other than the airport, it was a great cruise. Coral Princess was one of the cleanest ships I have cruised on. We were a group of 8 people. I would highly recommend this cruise.
Beautiful Ship. No complaints in this department.
Everything very clean and in top shape.
Food Buffet was good to excellent. Fruit was always fresh and items were plentiful. Pizzaria we ate at once. The pizzas and salads were good. We chose personal choice dining and it was very good. All meals and appetizers during meals were very good. I had a crayfish gumbo, which was very good and the crab legs were delicious. My only complaint in the food and drink department was I wish more iced tea and water stations were put out on different levels. The only place I could get tea and water was the buffet or restaurants.
Entertainment Music Shows were good. The comedians and variety shows were great.
Cabin Rooms were nice. We had three in our room. My husband, son, and I. They made a bunk for our son. The beds were comfy. It was an inside cabin and Lou, our room attendant, was polite and only took care of the room "okay." We left obvious dirty dishes on the table and came back to beds turned down and still dirty dishes. We left them outside ourroom and they eventually disappeared. Fruit in our room was only filled once and never refilled. Lots of storage space for all our clothes, and suitcases fit under the bed fine. TV choices were good, CNN, Cartoon network, travel, and lots of movie choices. My only complaint, no clock in the room. We brought our own, from previous history, but not sure why this isn't a staple in the room.
The weather was absolutely beautiful on all days but the last coming back into San Diego. It was cool and windy. A little cool the first day as we departed San Diego area, but not as cool as last day at sea.
Childcare Program I had an 11 year old, and he didn't care too much for the children's program. They had an interesting program set up, but he didn't give it much of a chance. He hung out with us at the pool and went with us to ship events.
Spa and Fitness Lots of equipment. I went in the afternoons a couple of times and equipment was always available. Didn't try the morning. Didn't try any spa services.
Shopping Gold bracelets and watches were available in the sidewalk sale. No big sales in this area.
Art Auctions They had a few, but I didn't attend.
Ports The ports were great. First stop was Cabos San Lucas. We rented a "water taxi" boat and took a short 45 minute tour of the bay area. Then he dropped us off at "The Office" (Mexican bar/restaurant) on the beach. We caught a water taxi back to the cruise boat area to catch the tender. Cost was $12 a person, and my son was free. Second stop was Mazatlan. We caught an open air taxi and went to the gold zone. There we went to the beach and caught a catamaran over to Deer Island where we swam about an hour and then took the catamaran back to the mainland. It was $30 for all of us. The last stop was in Puerto Vallerta, and we took a Haciena, Tequilla, Tile Tour. It was okay. I'm glad I got to see all of Puerto Valleera, but wouldn't take it again. Too much shopping for me. I'm not a fan of shopping.
All in all, a great cruise and I would do again in a heartbeat.
This was cruise number two for my wife and I and our best friends. If we weren't hooked on cruising after our first sailing, we're definitely hooked now. We can only compare it to our initial cruise on the Costa Classica. Our itinerary this time took us return from Ft Lauderdale directly to the Panama Canal; Colon (Cristobal), Panama; Limon, Costa Rica; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; and Cozumel, Mexico. This was 10 days of absolute pleasure followed by 4 days of relaxing in Ft Lauderdale to round out the two weeks.
We flew from Toronto to Ft Lauderdale, one day in advance of our cruise and stayed at the Hyatt Pier 66. Our room in this hotel was a little dirty and noisy and definitely not worth the price we were charged. I complained (which I rarely do) but it didn't make any difference, as there were no other rooms. We returned to this hotel after our cruise and did not fare much better, but the room was cleaner. Keep in mind I expect a lot for $350.00 US per night, but I also understand that "reasonable ratesin Ft Lauderdale" is an oxymoron.
Now for the cruise. Embarkation was quick and efficient. There were gates for each deck level and this really sped things up. If you're traveling from Canada with non-Canadian citizens or landed immigrants, you must surrender your temporary visitors' visa until you leave the ship. Upon entry to the ship a quick photo is taken for which you'll pay later, of course (who can resist?). We were greeted by staff and directed to the elevator. I had expected to see the main atrium/lobby but that is not where we entered. After finding our way to our cabins (D415 and D417) on the Dolphin level, we immediately checked out our mini-suite. It was a nice size with a double bed, sofa, chair and coffee table. A mini bar, desk area and two televisions rounded out our needs for the next 10 days. The washroom was large with a tub and shower and the storage closet was plenty. A foam eggshell mattress cover was already installed, but if you don't get this I suggest you ask for one. The balcony was much larger than we expected and was quickly opened up to join our friends next door. We used these balconies every day for morning coffee, and afternoon cocktails, and they were well worth the upgrade. D415 had an open view above and D417 was partially covered by the balcony above. This combination was excellent for giving us sun or shade whenever we wanted it. After the mini-suite inspection we set off to tour the ship and to find out where everything was.
We found the Coral to be beautiful. The Princess Plaza is a 4-story atrium with splendid spiral staircases, flanked with palm trees. The glass elevators with sparkling lights zoom up and down the atrium from the Plaza to Emerald level. Most of these levels are filled with bars, lounges and shops. Forward, off the atrium, are the restaurants. The Provence Dining Room is on the Fiesta level where the first and second seatings take place. Down one level on the Plaza is the Bordeaux Dining Room where we ate. This is an "anytime" dining room and proved to be excellent. We did not reserve a table, although it is possible. We just showed up and usually got a table for 4 right away. On a couple of occasions we sat at larger tables and met different people each time. The service was good, but some of the waiters were better than others. Our second formal night was lobster night and I've never eaten so much delicious lobster at one time. I'm not sure if it was our timing or if they do that for everyone, but after our plates were delivered to us, a second platter of lobster tails was placed on our table. After that we were asked if we wanted more. "Who ever heard of all you can eat lobster tails?" The following night it was the same, only with King Crab. We also tried out the two specialty restaurants, The Bayou Café and Sabatini's, located on the Promenade Deck. The food at the Bayou Café was outstanding, however, the constant vibration under my feet was annoying. Sabatini's was also good, however, it was way too much food for us. For a $15.00 surcharge, you should definitely do the Bayou Café.
The rest of our meals (breakfast and lunch) were eaten at the Horizon Court Buffet on the Lido deck. The selection was excellent and there were frequent changes so as not to get bored. The Horizon is on the very front of the ship so it is pleasant to watch the sun come up as you eat breakfast. It is a little bouncy though, so if motion bothers you, head for the back. Up one more level, off the center pool, you can hit the burger grill or pizza stand for the best pizza I have had in a long time.
The ports on the cruise were very nice, but if I did it over again I may select different activities. We like to go to the beach and do a little shopping so that is what we aim for at most ports. Of course, Panama is all about the canal and the locks. We reached Panama after two days at sea. This was a fascinating day that began at 5:00 am with room service. The ship arrives very early and almost in the dark. It's a slow trek into the canal and very quiet and peaceful. As daylight appears you realize you are being escorted into the entrance of the first Gatun Lock. The journey through the locks is just over an hour, and by the time we reached Gatun Lake the temperature was very hot. Here you can depart for Panama City or many other excursions. We chose to stay on the ship and go back through the locks a second time on our way to Cristobal, Panama. We were greeted by the native Embera Indians singing and dancing dockside. Shopping for native crafts and art was available dockside as well.
The next port was Limon, Costa Rica where we took a canal boat ride through the Costa Rican rainforest. Here we saw a lot of wildlife including sloth, birds, lizards, and even bats. The bus ride back was also entertaining as our bus driver and tour guide stopped each time they saw something of interest. Later we arrived at a banana plantation where we saw the entire process including picking, washing and packaging. It was a very enjoyable tour and I highly recommend it.
After another day at sea, we finally reached Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and for us this was a beach day. We walked to the beach from the dock and enjoyed the sun. If you take the tour with lunch, the food and service is never ending. There was some musical entertainment on the beach and massages were available at a fraction of the cost of the ship. The water was warm, but watch for the jellyfish. We also did a little shopping about a block from the pier.
Next it was on to Grand Cayman and another beach day. Seven-Mile Beach was very nice, but the wind was real strong that day. There wasn't very much shade and the drinks that came with our package were all gone before we each got one. A $5.00 taxi ride to the beach would have been a smarter move considering this package cost around $30.00 per person. The sand and water were beautiful.
The next port was Cozumel and we also took a beach day and expected to do some shopping. The chairs we were given were molded fiberglass and stuck in the sand. This is not good if you want to roll over and lay on your stomach. They were crazy and not worth paying for. The beer was included though, and this softened the blow. (Beer or wine solves most problems -- lol.)
In conclusion, we had a very memorable trip. From the nightly chocolates on our bed to the platters of deserts on the buffet, we thoroughly enjoyed every minute of our Princess cruise. This cruise will be a tough one to beat. The ship, the staff, the food and the adventure itself all exceeded our expectations.
We chose this cruise for two reasons: the itinerary and the price. Of the four of us, three had never been through the Canal before. I had found an excellent price online in March, 2006 so we booked 2 balcony cabins amidships on the Aloha Deck. This was our first time on Princess. Our companion couple was my cousin and her husband who have been cruising since the 70's. It was their first time on Princess also.
Coming from Chicago in February, Karl & I had planned on flying down a day early to meet Sharon & Al in Fort Lauderdale. They were planning on wintering in Florida so they had started their drive down a week previous. We had booked Spirit airlines and their prices were good but the flight times were not. Our flight left Chicago O'Hare @ 6 AM necessitating a limo pickup at 4 AM. It was minus 6 degrees when we left the house and believe me--our jaws were flapping about this inconvenient time. This turned out better than we could have ever hoped for. Turns out we just missed the beginning of a major snowstormthat delayed flights all day. While we were in Florida sunshine, Chicago was digging out from about a foot of snow.
Doing some research online, we had decided upon the Holiday Inn Express on SR 84 for our one night pre-cruise stay. We had booked this hotel about 8 months in advance. Because it was Super Bowel week, hotel rooms were at a premium and considered ourselves lucky to get this location. The hotel turned out to be an excellent choice and our timing couldn't have been better. The free shuttle from the airport pulled into the parking lot just as our cousins were getting out of their car. The hotel looked to be newly refurbished and painted. The beds were very comfortable and the room was clean with all the amenities you could want, including a coffee maker and hair dryer. Also included in the price was breakfast the next morning.
We did some shopping at the mall across the street for liquor to carry on board, the allowed 2 bottles of wine and some vodka which we put in our checked luggage for late evening drinks on the balcony. Al was smart and even had some Rose's Lime for gimlets. We weren't smart enough to buy a couple of limes. It was a nice day to do a drive by the port to familiarize ourselves with the layout and then we went to a cute vertical mall by the beach for a little last minute shopping and to soak up the atmosphere. I had heard about the water taxi ride in Fort Lauderdale. It takes you by the millionaires' mansions and lets you gawk at all the fabulous yachts. After a little misdirection by the bartender, we did find the "stop" and waited a half hour for it to come by. A word to the wise; try this during warmer weather or in the middle of the day. The sun is starting to go down by 4 PM and the ride in an open boat without windows got mighty chilly. This cost us $18/pp for seniors (over 65). Karl & I fudged a bit on our ages for that one. By the time we got back to our starting place, we had had plenty of fresh air and were thinking about dinner and bed. Our alarm had gone off @ 3 AM-Chicago time that morning and we were starting to feel it. It was so nice having the use of a vehicle to get around. The hotel was on a very busy street and you could walk to several restaurants but with a car we could go anywhere. Passing by an Outback, it got our vote for dinner and we were able to get right in. We were surprised it was so busy for a Tuesday evening but the waitress said that a lot of people had come down for the Super Bowl the previous weekend and had stayed for the whole week.
Check out time the next morning was 11 AM and we really didn't want to go to the port to stand around for a few hours so we elected to find a movie theater to kill a couple of hours. Here again, having the car was so nice. Got to the port around 2 o'clock and dropped our bags with the porters. Al went to park the car at the very spacious garage and we just walked in to check in for the start of our vacation. The charge for the garage was $12/day. There were no lines for check in so we waltzed up to the sign for Aloha deck, handed over the boarding passes we had printed up at home, swiped the credit card, received our room cards, through security and off we went to board the ship. There were people directing you to the elevators and someone on the elevator to direct you to your room. As I said, we were in the middle of the ship just off the elevator lobby. There was a privacy wall between the rooms and the lobby so as to cut down on noise. We never heard any real noise in the hall unless someone was yelling outside our door and that only happened once.
The room was lovely. I was surprised at how spacious it seemed. There was a very large, open closet with lots of hangers and a cupboard which contained the safe and shelves for our clothes. There were drawers in the nightstands and in the desk. The hairdryer was next to the desk which was pretty convenient. I did find the dryer to be woefully under heated. I have very fine, thin hair and at home it takes about 30 seconds to dry my hair. There was a lot of air blowing, it just wasn't very warm. The bathroom was very small with a small shower. Not as small as RCCL, but close. (No pun intended)
After 6 cruises with Celebrity, we were making a lot of comparisons. The bathrooms on Celebrity were bigger with showers that were more rectangular in shape and height adjustable shower heads. Celebrity also had dispensers on the walls in the shower with shampoo and conditioner. Princess had all the bath amenities in cardboard containers on the vanity. Celebrity had robes in the room. We had to ask for them on Princess. There was bottled water to purchase in the room and an ice bucket in the small fridge but no pitcher of ice water changed twice daily like on Celebrity. We had 3 sets of towels in the bathroom on Celebrity but only 2 sets on Princess. The trash baskets had plastic liners on X but not on Princess which made you hesitate to throw anything messy in the container. But these were comparisons we made among ourselves since our last cruise had been on Celebrity to Hawaii. Our cabin steward, Anthony was very efficient and took care of any special requests. There were no announcements on CP as well as X. If you wanted to know what was going on, you looked in the daily paper, the Princess Patter. The freshwater pools were great with plenty of deck chairs. Only one day did we have to go searching for a place to stretch out in the shade. We liked the unlimited pool towels on X. These towels were placed in your room doubled as your beach towels. Beach towels were separate on X and were bigger and thicker.
The ship had a 4 deck center atrium from deck 5-8 with 4 glass elevators. This was a lovely area with the shops (deck 6) and passenger services (deck 5), the library, internet café & card room (deck 8) and a couple of bars (deck 7). It was done in brass and chrome with twinkling lights and metal sculptures. It was a very attractive part of a very attractive ship. The art work was very nautical and consisted of several old portraits of dead English aristocrats in the halls on the way to the Princess Theater. But it had a downside too. Because the two restaurants were stacked on top of one another, this made it difficult to walk from one end of the ship to another without having to go up or down a deck. I think we were more than halfway through the cruise before we finally figured out to walk out of the restaurant, walk up one deck and go forward to the theater. For some reason, we never could get our bearings and constantly had to use the map to acclimate ourselves.
I thought the food on Celebrity was more upscale. I was surprised to see plain white rice served with some of our entrees. This was not something you would ever see on Celebrity. I wonder if this is a new development since Carnival bought them. It seemed to cheapen the meal. We liked that the alternative selections were printed on the menu and you did have your option of white rice, French fries or baked potato with your choice. On Celebrity you have to depend upon your waiter to mention them to you and he usually only does it once at the beginning of the cruise. The salmon in butter sauce was excellent and we all had more than one shrimp cocktail. Sharon & I LOVED the dessert soufflés. Even if I was stuffed, I managed to choke down a few tastes of those. Had to try the Princess Love Boat Dream after reading about it and it was almost too pretty to eat. The service is more formal on X. If my DH chose not to order an appetizer or soup, they brought his salad out while we were eating the other items. On X, he would be served the same course with everyone else. The bus boy acted as your wine steward, no sommelier making suggestions. The wine list on X is much more extensive.
Our itinerary was 10 days with 4 sea days: Sea Day, Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Sea Day, Panama Canal, Limon, Sea Day, Montego Bay, Sea Day, and Fort Lauderdale. We were glad to be cruising with our cousins as they are active cruisers who like to get out and do something at every port besides shop. Booking excursions online prior to leaving was very easy and they were billed to our room account once we were on board. Leaving Florida was smooth sailing and the seas stayed that way for our entire trip. The temperature gradually warmed up as we steamed south so by the time we reached Cozumel, it was in the low 80's. On this part of the experience, Princess really shines. The shore excursions were many and varied, with some unusual choices. You could be as active or sedentary as you liked. Celebrity's excursions are rather humdrum with more of an emphasis on shopping. Coming back from shore excursions on Celebrity though, there would a tent set up on the dock for X where you can get cold water and/or fruit punch and a cold cloth for your fevered brow when you are coming back from excursions. Nothing like that on Princess.
In Cozumel we had booked the snorkel/lunch excursion so we had to be ready to be off the ship by 8 AM. Princess had the early departees meet in the Princess Theater and we were separated into groups by the signs on the walls. Very efficient and easy as pie since we were docked at the pier and could just walk off the ship. Met our group at the end of the pier and then walked back to the ship as our excursion boat was parked right there. Sharon and Al had boarded the boat early to allow Sharon to get off her feet as her back was bothering her. The rest of us stood transfixed as the Costa Mediterraneana was backing up to berth right where our little excursion boat was parked. It looked like a Mexican standoff as the excursion captain was not making any move to get out of the way. In a move worthy of David and Goliath, the Costa ship stopped several feet short of the end of the dock (although it looked a lot closer) and dropped its lines. Only then did the rest of us get on board.
The ride to the other end of Cozumel Island took about an hour and included soft drinks and water (no beer until after snorkeling) and instructions on the use of the snorkel equipment. We dropped anchor over a reef and either jumped in or used the "chicken stairs" (my choice). There weren't too many fish but what we saw were very interesting. A new development since the last time I went snorkeling is that someone takes your underwater picture and then they sell them to you for $5 back on board. It's unbelievable how they try to get every dime out of the tourists by any method. One of the group got stung by a jelly fish and his arm was not pretty. There were a lot of jokes about the best way to treat it, all of them involving various mild acid solutions, i.e. vinegar. Those of us who had opted for the lunch portion of the excursion were dropped at a great beach area with loungers in the sun and a huge tent with lots of tables and chairs. The lunch consisted of salad, fish, chicken fajitas and assorted relishes. There was also fresh fruit for dessert. Our wristbands also entitled us to free drinks at 2 designated bars so after our soft drinks with lunch, Karl & Al wandered over and got us a couple of pina coladas while they tried the Mexican beer. There were some vendors selling trinkets and also a nice fresh water pool. We were glad to get out of the sun and to use the clean restrooms. Several of the people had been brought there by bus or taxi off our ship and the other ships in port just for the beach. This was the only time we had rain the whole trip and it was just a brief shower. It wasn't until much later in the cruise that I was kicking myself for not shopping in Cozumel for some vanilla to take home. It is dirt cheap there and a great take-home gift for friends and family.
The next day we were in Grand Cayman and had booked the tour to swim with the stingrays. We tendered in and were met by our tour guide who got us on a bus. There were about 10 of us. The driver took us on a short ride to where the catamaran was docked. He gave us a brief history of the island while we traveled and pointed out different landmarks and how much of the island had been damaged by Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Arriving at the boat, we had to shed our shoes before boarding. It was about 40 minutes to the sandbar where the rays awaited us. I got a great picture of them swimming towards us while we docked. The crew stated that we were lucky to be the only boat there at that time and have the stingrays all to ourselves. Contrary to all the bad press they have received since Steve Irwin's death, the stingray is actually a very benign creature unless it feels threatened. They swam all around us looking for the squid we held in our fists for them to suck up. It felt like a big vacuum cleaner taking it out of my hand. They let you pet them and the guides held them for us to "kiss" and they took pictures of us doing it. They put all of your pictures on a disc for only $55. Sharon & Al did buy it but Karl & I decided against it since I was taking pictures of my own. After we got back to the dock, we wandered around downtown Georgetown for an hour or so checking out the souvenirs and didn't see anything we couldn't live without.
Our next day was a sea day and we took advantage of the pool, finding chairs in the shade to relax. We had decided to try Sabatini's, the specialty restaurant that night for dinner. After reading so much about it, I was really psyched up for the tremendous meal we were going to receive. People had raved over the 16 courses and how great everything was. We were all very disappointed. Certain items were good, like the pizza and the salad, but after eating in Celebrity's specialty dining room, it did not measure up. We were asked if we wanted caviar which was on the potato pancake and when we declined, they just skipped that course. Everyone else raved about the minestrone soup. I had the cioppino (fish soup) and while the broth was excellent, the seafood was so chewy it was inedible.
I can't even remember what I had as an entrée. And yet a year later, I can still recall my dinner in the Normandie dining room on the Summit. What a difference between food that is cooked to order and dishing up the same meal day after day.
Some other differences we noticed was that hot cocoa was free on Celebrity whereas you pay for it as a specialty drink on Princess. Of course it is served in a tall glass with whipped cream and sprinkles on top. You also had to pay for ice cream when you finally found the counter by the Spa pool. I had read somewhere that it was free at certain times in the buffet but we never found it. Karl liked the dispensers for the hot beverages which came out very hot. This made for a nice cup of tea. The cups were also bigger than on Celebrity which offers a barely 4 ounce cup. Princess had a decent sized cup for coffee or tea. Celebrity does have nice trays with cloth placemats in the buffet and waiters to carry it for you instead of just large platters that you have to juggle with your drink. They also have a sandwich station all during lunch but Princess only had it from 3-4 PM in the buffet. I didn't see it as a food option in the Princess Patter. Maybe it was only for those coming back from a late shore excursion. We had early seating so never would have used it anyway. The pizza on the Coral Princess was very good with an excellent crust. I do have to hand it to Princess for the continuous buffet even if I don't see the need for it to be 24 hours. Celebrity would shut down breakfast an hour before lunch where on Princess they would close one side of the buffet to get ready for lunch and continue serving breakfast on the alternate side until lunch was up and running. We never tried the buffet for dinner as we really liked the dining room experience for that meal. We also never made it to any midnight buffet or even the island deck party or the champagne fountain they had for Valentine's Day.
The production shows were terrific on Coral Princess and except for the "banjo guy" most of the entertainment was very good. But the theater only had a capacity of 600 on a ship with 1980 passengers. The sightlines were excellent but this was not set up as a "show lounge" like the Universe Lounge. If you were not sitting on the aisle, you could forget about that after-dinner drink as the theater was stadium seating and the poor drink servers would have to crawl over several people to serve you. Because we had early seating and the age demographic of this cruise was leaning into the high 80's we found ourselves racing to the theater if we wanted to get 4 seats together. This was a 1/2 hour before the show time. We finally decided to hit the casino after dinner and go to the late show which was definitely less attended. Say what you will about X having an older demographic, it all depends on time of year and length of the cruise. I think I was the only passenger who was still gainfully employed besides the crew.
The next stop was the main reason for the cruise, the Panama Canal! We had been informed by the cruise director that we would be entering the Gatun Locks about 6:30 AM. Like everyone else who had a balcony, we ordered room service breakfast for the first serving of 7:30. Those poor guys and gals were really humping all those trays to us lazy people sitting on our verandas. We kept the TV turned up loud so we could hear the commentary on what was happening. A word to the wise; as it is very close to the Equator, Panama is pretty warm, even at 7AM in February. We had a port cabin and had the sun rising right in our faces. After a few cups of hot tea, I thought I was going to have heat stroke. I went inside to cool off and my face was as red as those Valentine balloons. I took a shower to cool off and watched the rest of our progress on TV with the bridge cam.
The process was very interesting as the captain only used the side jets to maneuver the sip into the lock. Then the "mules" or railroad engines took over by dragging the ship in by the front and back docking ropes. Once the lock is closed and the water rushes in and the ship rises 23 feet to the level of Gatun Lake. All the traffic on both the Atlantic and Pacific sides is incoming from daylight to noon. The ships that are traversing the rest of the isthmus continue on to the other 2 sets of locks (going west) and the ones going east come to the Gatun locks. After noon, the ships start going in the outgoing direction as we did after they took off all the passengers by tenders who wanted to take tours. We remained on board to enjoy the mostly empty pool and have our choice of deck chairs.
We docked at Cristobal and the souvenir hunters got off to check out the local wares at the pier. We were warned not to leave the area as it was not safe. There were several young native boys and girls dressed in lovely costumes posing to take pictures and I think there was no charge. There was a group of older women doing a tribal dance to drums performed by the men. Here was a real cultural clash. The men were barely clothed in loincloths and the women were bare breasted. There was nothing salacious in it, just a surprise to see it. The only other ship docked there was a Fred. Olson liner and I have to say that the Coral Princess put it to shame. I managed to get away with only spending a few dollars on a couple of Christmas ornaments to add to my vacation collection. Panama is known for its straw work and we saw some magnificent bowls and of course Panama hats. Knowing the limitations of my luggage, I restrained myself from buying a lot of "stuff".
Our next port was Limon, Costa Rica. We really liked the way this itinerary was broken up with the sea days. It gave you a nice break from the hectic pace of the ports. Limon was the first port where we had booked our own tour online with Charlie Soto's OkeyDokey Tours. We decided on the "A" tour for $49/pp. We were met at the end of the dock by a representative holding a sign with our names on it. Charlie himself stopped by to introduce himself, shake hands with each of us and thank us for booking with him. Our tour was to include a trip to the a farm to see the local flora and fauna, a Del Monte banana plantation, a boat ride down the canal to look at the rain forest, a stop at the beach and some shopping. Our van was just for the 4 of us, our driver Reynaldo and our guide Ed. Reynaldo only knew a few words in English but Ed was a university student on semester break who spoke excellent English. The van was spotless and came with a cooler stocked with beer, water and Coke.
He started out giving us a history and geography lesson of Costa Rica which we were glad to hear since we were all pretty ignorant about the country. A neutral country since 1954 (like Switzerland and Sweden); Costa Rica has no standing armed forces. They put their GNP into health care and education for its citizens. Its primary export is bananas. Our first stop was on the side of the road to look at the howler monkeys who resisted all our calls and showed their disdain of us by voiding their bladders from the tops of the trees. Good thing we were a safe distance away! We then went to a private farm to try some fresh mango, local bananas and some other fruit fresh from the trees. While we were there, Reynaldo spotted a baby sloth on the ground and gave it to Karl to hold so we could all touch and pet it. First time we had ever seen a sloth, much less hold one. Reynaldo and Ed then took us on a walking tour of the farm to look at the different vegetation. Reynaldo cut some sugar cane for us to chew and this was a first time experience also. This was an easy walk on flat ground and mostly even surfaces, which was a concern for us since Sharon has back issues. But she did fine through this and the whole cruise. There were bathroom facilities w/flush toilets at this farm also.
Next stop on this tour was the Del Monte banana plantation. We got a real lesson in third world economics here. We saw how the bananas grow very rapidly on stalks and how they are harvested green and placed on a conveyer that goes from the field to the processing area. Here all the work is done by hand to cut the large bunches down to a manageable size. They are washed several times and put on another conveyer where someone's job is to put the sticker on each bunch and then they are hand bagged and loaded into crates for shipment. We asked Ed how the Costa Ricans liked this job and he said that Costa Ricans would not take these jobs as they were too low paying! The people doing all this work were imported from Nicaragua and were "guest workers" who lived on the plantation. My cousins who had both worked in a factory environment all their lives were commenting about how all of the work done could be mechanized. I guess it was cheaper to hire the help than bring in the machines. These people worked 12 hrs a day, six days a week and were happy to have the jobs! The housing was nothing to write home about either. We decided that even in our rooms on the cruise ship, we still had a lifestyle that was 1000% better than most of the people in that country. Wave that Red, White and Blue because no one has it better than we do!
The rest of the tour was taken up with a boat ride which was actually pretty boring. There were some kids with turtles to look at and not much else. How many times can you look at the same type of bird? Then we went to a very nice beach but we were not dressed for swimming. We did not want to sample the local cuisine or buy any of the souvenirs there. What we really wanted to do is to go to a local supermarket and purchase some 1820 coffee which I had read about on the cruise sites. They did this for us and Sharon and I found exactly what we were looking for. They use the metric system so 500 grams of coffee is about 1 lb, 2 ounces and cost about $2.62 each package. We loaded up to bring this home for our kids since they are too big for t-shirts. Reynaldo then took us to an overlook to take a picture of the bay and our ship and then we were back to the dock. I think we were gone a total of 5 hours. No problems whatsoever but if we were to ever go to Limon again, I don't think we would even bother to get off the boat unless there was some great snorkeling there. It was after we got back that the incident with the Carnival passengers occurred.
Our third sea day was Valentine's Day and our second formal night. Karl & Al had decided to wear a tux for formal nights as they had for our cruise the previous year to Hawaii. There had been 3 formal nights on that 14 day cruise and quite a few of the passengers had elected to go "black tie". There were not many who did that on this cruise. Karl likes to rent the tux so as to cut down on the amount of clothing he has to bring. We did like the Princess dress code of Smart Casual most nights. Since Celebrity has an "informal" night, it requires the men to bring a sport jacket. It was very nice having Valentine's Day as a formal night. Our dear spouses purchased corsages for us and they were waiting at our places when we went in for dinner. Princess had set up a display of large heart cakes in the atrium on deck 5 at the base of the glass elevators and had a large heart made of red, pink and white balloons that stretched the height of all 4 decks! There was some form of decorating in all the public rooms. It was all nicely done and made a lovely acknowledgement of the day.
In Montego Bay, we had reserved a van and driver with Barrett's Adventures. They offered several tours but we were not interested in tubing or climbing Dunn's River Falls or to take the all day drive to get to Ochos Rios. Chester was our driver and he was more than willing to give us a tour of his home town. We booked Barrett's Adventures because of all the recommendations on the cruise site. We decided to just to see Rose Hall (this was our 3rd time in Jamaica and none of us had never seen it) and wherever our whim took us. Our choice was the 6 hour private tour for $35/pp. There were 4 of us. We were late getting into the receiving building because we had to tender in instead of docking. (Freedom of the Seas took that spot. What a huge ship!) Chester was waiting just were they said he would be holding a paper with our names on it. He was courteous, informative and the van was spotless. My cousin asked that he show us Montego Bay since Al had only been to the Sandals resorts there and had not ever seen the town. Chester showed us the real Montego Bay where rich, middle class and poor lived. We never felt threatened or unsafe. People waved at us all the time. We saw the oldest church in Montego Bay and new housing under construction. The road construction for a new road between MoBay and Ochos Rios is very slow going. We estimated that it would probably take 5 years to complete as there were very few road graders and truckers doing the work. Not like we are used to seeing in the States.
Before we got to Rose Hall, we stopped at the Ritz Carleton White Witch golf resort for a bathroom break. This place was absolutely gorgeous! We really had to admire the manicured grounds and the view of the sea. I'm sure it costs a bundle to golf there. Rose Hall was beautiful but with a creepy history. They say Annie Palmer's ghost still walks even if her tomb is in the garden. They had a newspaper in the gift shop for free which showed the stages of reconstruction and I am sorry I did not pick one up. They also had several "ghostly" photos which people had sent which purported to show faces in the mirrors and other apparitions. The former dungeon is now the gift shop with an adjacent bar and restaurant. It was educational and interesting.
After Rose Hall Chester asked if we would like to stop for an authentic Jamaican "jerk" lunch. We all kind of hemmed and hawed as we were not sure if it would be to our liking, but Al jumped and said sure, why not. I thought Sharon was going to kill him. We stopped at a place called Scotchies and it had a dirt floor and a food counter. Sharon and Al had the chicken and pork 1/4 lb each, yams and breadfruit and something I can't remember the name of but was like a doughnut. We had the 1/4 lb pork and the other stuff too. It was delicious. Karl bought Chester's lunch and we all ate together. It was spicy but not too hot. I was thinking I was going to have to take a Zantac when I got back to the ship but I was fine.
He also took us to a place called Strawberry's for some shopping but it was very high pressure and the prices were not cheap. We bought some Jamaican coffee there. You would probably be better served going to a supermarket if possible. We also stopped at the Taj Mahal shopping mall for a short time but then headed back to the ship. You had to show your cruise card to get back into the port. There was lots of security with locked gates and armed guards. Chester told us that you had to be smart in MoBay and not go into the bad areas, which he obviously avoided. We bid Chester goodbye and thanked him for our lovely day. We felt we had gotten our money's worth and seen some of the real Jamaica. Getting through security to get back to the dock was a mess with very long lines and only 2 people manning the scanners and actually frisking you before they let you through the door. There were shuttle vans waiting to take you over to the dock where our tender was but after sitting all day, it felt good to walk a bit. We actually were on the last tender to the ship. Glad to be "home" and back on board.
The last sea day was real low key. We played bingo for the last time and did not win the big prize. The gambling on this ship was a big contrast to our previous cruise where I had won $1400 playing 3-card poker and split the big bingo prize the last day. Here I reverted back to my normal losing pattern in the casino. I finally switched to playing Blackjack and started winning some small amounts but too little, too late. They had the usually "tournaments" for slots, Blackjack and 3-card poker. They might have had one for Texas Hold'em also but I wasn't paying attention. Sharon and I did some last minute shopping in the boutique shops buying identical shirts to wear to the next family outing, but other than that we didn't see anything that really floated out boat. Dinner was "American" night and there were crab legs on the menu which were outstanding. It was the first time in 8 cruises that I had seen those on the menu. Not even in Alaska. We had done the automatic tips on our account so there was nothing to be done for that except to say good bye to our waiter and busboy. On Celebrity they gave you a little card to hand to your waiter and busboy indicating that you had added the tips to your account. Here I guess they had to wait to find out if we stiffed them or not.
The last day, we had breakfast and cleared out of our rooms with our carry-ons and waited in the place of your choice for your number to be called. Since we were leaving on deck 6, we waited in the lounge adjacent to the casino and had a table and four comfortable chairs to relax in before our color was called. We had no early plane to catch so we could care less when we finally disembarked. A big surprise when we walked off the ship as Fort Lauderdale was a chilly 55 degrees. Al and Karl had to catch a shuttle to the other end of the port to get the car since we were only one of several ships docked there on a Saturday. It was interesting seeing people arriving so early to get on the ship when we were not the last ones off. They were going to have a long wait. Sharon & Al dropped us at the airport and continued back to Fort Myers to continue their vacation while we settled in for a long wait for our flight home.
All in all it was a very nice cruise. Princess did a nice job with the shore excursions and the rooms. The ship was lovely and comfortable, except for the theater which was too small. We would definitely consider Princess again if the price and the itinerary were to our liking.