This is a review of the Princess CruiseTour we took May 31 â€“ June 14, 2014. The selected tour was a 7-day â€œOff The Beaten Pathâ€ land tour followed by a southbound â€œVoyage of the Glaciersâ€ on Coral Princess. The selected tour punched our three buttons; Denali National Park, Alaska Railroad and Kenai Peninsula. A similar tour was offered as a Connoisseur tour. We decided the amenities offered were not worth the additional expense.
The travelers were my wife and I (mid 50s) and two friends (mid 60s.) This would our first CruiseTour experience. My wife and I were embarking on our fourth Princess cruise, eleventh overall. Our friends were experiencing their first cruise.
Overall impressions: Four thumbs up. I am so glad we went to Alaska and spent the time we did on land. Of the land based lodges our favorite was Keani. The best overall experience was at Denali lodge and then the train trip between Denali and Talkeetna. Wish we had given ourselves a little more time to go into Fairbanks. Seemed like there was much to see there and we were too tired to take advantage of it. They toldus there were such things as â€œsunsetâ€ and â€œsunriseâ€ which may be true but it never really got dark, even when overcast, while with we in the Alaskan mainland. We did see dark again while cruising the inside passage.
A word about logistics: We arrived at Fairbanks airport, collected our luggage (at least most of it) and reported to the Princess table next to the baggage claim. We were given an envelope with our room key, luggage tags, and information regarding our stay in Fairbanks. The information sheet had our room number, information about the lodge â€“ map and restaurant hours â€“ and information regarding booked tours, as well as meeting information for our next destination. While the key looks generic it is specific to each lodge, so leave them behind you.
The luggage tags included a â€œmeet me on boardâ€ tag for a suitcase that would be transported directly to the ship, and a â€œtravel with meâ€ tag for a large bag that would be moved from location to location. There was also a separate tag indicating our next location. As we arrived at each lodge we were met by a Princess employee with similar envelopes containing lodge information and luggage tags for the next destination. (I assume for post-cruse tours you receive your info for your first stop either at embarkation or arrival at the lodge.)
I think this is going to be wordy. I have divided the review into four sections; Lodges, Land Activities, Coral Princes, and Bays and Ports. Feel free to skip past sections that are not of interest to you.
Each lodge had at least a coffee bar of some sort, a casual-ish bar
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.