I sailed on the Coral Princess on May 28, 2005 from Vancouver to Whittier, Alaska. We arrived at Canada Place around 10:30am and the baggage handlers immediately took our luggage which went immediately through an x-ray machine. We exchanged canadian currency into US dollars and then stood in line for 5-10 minutes to go through security ourselves, just like at an airport, then to a customs desk (there was no line at all), then walked down a hallway to a big waiting room to get on the ship. Immediately went to the check in at the Princess desk where we received our room card and they took our credit card number (no wait here either). We then had about an hour wait until we could board. They would not let us on until noon which was the embarkation time. There was a bit of a wait in the line to actually board because we didn't jump up and get in line quickly.
The Room: One of our suitcases was at the room when we got there and the other was delivered a bit later. We had a balcony cabin on thestarboard side and it was a typical cruise cabin. There was plenty of space to hang clothes, a nice closet with shelves and a safe to put your things, tv, refrigerator, small desk and chair (the desk held the phone and the blow dryer and it contained a few drawers), bathroom was small but functional. Had plenty of shelves to put our things. I will say that the shower was very tiny. The bathroom had shampoo, conditioner and lotion from the spa. The balcony was a bit small but was ok for our needs and contained two white plastic chairs and a small white plastic table.
Service: Our room steward was good and attentive to our needs and we did tip him extra at the end. The service in the dining room (we had personal choice dining) was pretty good also. I did have trouble getting my ice tea filled up on a few occasions but other than that it was good and in some cases very good. Service at the bars was just like you get at home....nothing spectacular or over friendly.
Entertainment staff: These people were great. Friendly, nice, talked to you, very fun to watch and interact with. Leslie, Laura, Peter, John, and Phil were especiallly great.
The Food: The food was good. I did not lose any weight on this cruise...lol. Some nights I liked things better than other nights but I think it was good to very good. The lobster and king crab were great and I had seconds. There were a lot of chilled soups so I didn't have any soup at all. Not too many salads either because I wanted appetizers, main course and dessert. Desserts were very good. The avocado boat w/seafood appetizer was especially good. I ate in the Horizon Court for breakfast and there was alot to eat. Bread, eggs, omelets, pancakes, french toast, fruit, smoked salmon (yummy, had it every day),sausage, bacon, etc, etc. etc. Lunches for me included pizza (yes it was good), hot dog (they also had hamburgers), Horizon Court food which consisted of too many things to name here. We did eat at the Bayou Cafe for lunch on Sunday and it was EXCELLENT. The jambalaya was soooo good, as was the filet. THE COFFEE: It was not as bad as I expected. It did tase like it was made from syrup and hot water (except in the Bayou Cafe where you knew it was different) but it was very drinkable and better than I drink at work. I had no problem with that at all despite what others say. Drinks of the Day were good but not much alcohol in them.
Entertainment: They had 3 very good production shows and the talent was excellent. Broadway type shows. There was a Princess Idol competition where they had some great singers. The lounges and bars all had singers/musicians but I didn't really go there so I can't comment. There was a magician/comedian named Jeff Peterson and he was pretty good.
Things to do: They had photo classes, pottery, trivia quizzes, ice carving, culinary demonstrations, park ranger talks, naturalist talks, art auctions, movies, bingo, shuffleboard, miniature golf, virtual golf, spa, etc. Lots to do and not enough time to do it all.
The passengers were 90% older folks...I would say 60 and above and from all over the world. The scenery was spectacular...the glaciers were just great and all the ports were fun. Only negatives were that the wood on the balcony was very worn out (weird since the ship is only 3 years old) and that the white dividers separating the balconies were worn and needed painting.
We definitely had a great time and would sail with Princess again and can't wait to go back to Alaska.
My wife and I just completed a 14 day cruise Vancouver-Whittier-Vancouver. We are experienced cruisers. We loved the Coral Princess. She is beautiful, spacious and well layed out. We opted for anytime dining but usually made a reservation to get our favorite waiter. Generoso is the best Maitre De anywhere. He makes everyone feel welcome and special. Food was very good. Our waiter openly offered to get us more lobster and/or alaska crab legs. These were not the dried out frozen tasteless kind you get in Las Vegas. They were succulent!! The staff was very friendly. We only encountered one bitchy waitress. She was from Romania (table 97). Avoid her. She was either very tired or the wrong kind of person to work in the service industry. The pool was warm and never crowded. The hot tubs were also always available. We never had problems getting deck chairs. Plenty of towels and blankets. The pool side pizza was really good. They did a fish barbeque on deck and one day did reindeer chili was was equally excellent. The entertainers were so so. Not bad but hey it's not Broadway.
The lounge actsand musicians were dull. The cruise directors and staff were lively and funny if you like British music hall style entertainment. The ship communicates very well with the passengers and is very organized. We liked having a small fridge in our room. We bought hard liquor from the patisserie bar ($22.00 per 40 oz.) and bought beer and pop on shore. We brought wine and champagne on board which Princess allows. The security staff were not interested in our beer. A six pack on board was $15. Ashore it was $4. On the negative side was the coffee. It was tasteless. We bought a small jar of Folder's crystals and added that. We did not like the pillows and beds. I recommend bringing your own pillow. I am Canadian and when they chraged my Visa they converted the charges to Canadiam dollars at an exorbitant rate of exchange. I recommend paying your room account with US travellers cheques. All in all a great cruise, great scenery. We are booking again!
We started cruising in 1984 on the NCL Starward, it was our honeymoon cruise and we immediately became cruiseaholics. Since that time we have taken over 40 cruises on various lines, celebrating both 20 years of marriage and cruising this past October aboard one of our favorite ships the Celebrity Zenith. I am now in my fifties, my wife still in her 40's. During the years I have done many reviews and served The Mining Company, now About.com, as the original cruise guide. I also served as an outside agent for a cruise only agent for several years after retirement from my original career. I am now just a cruiseaholic with no affiliation to any website or agency. This was our first Princess cruise and our first Panama Canal itinerary. We were joined on this cruise by friends from Texas and their grown daughters. We originally all met on the Carnival Celebration in 1988 and became fast friends through the years. Another reason I love cruising. We have several close friends gained through the years having met on cruises. Having great friends and wonderful people cruising with you will make anycruise a happy cruise!
Another new aspect for us is now cruising during winter months. The only past winter cruise we took was a year plus ago on the NCL Dawn from NY. Being from NY this was tempting since no air travel was required. This cruise of course mandated flying from NY to Fort Lauderdale in January. Concerned with possible weather conditions we traveled a day early to FLL. January 6th saw a lovely ice storm in our area but despite it all we were able to get to the airport and our flight on JetBlue was on time. We arrived in FLL to stay the evening in the Amerisuites Hotel near the pier. Previously we had used Embassy Suites but the Amerisuites was $100 less for the date so we choose that. Amerisuites provides FREE shuttle service from the airport to hotel and from hotel to pier. Both we very good and no problems encountered. The hotel itself was clean, nice size suite with coffee maker, refrigerator and all need amenities. A nice breakfast is available complimentary in the lobby area in the morning as well/ Overall I have no problem recommending Amerisuites. One thing to note is that you will have to handle your own luggage at the hotel. There are luggage carts located in the lobby but since there are only two you may have to hunt and manhandle your luggage to your room.
On recommendation of the hotel shuttle driver we elected to go to the pier at 11:30 am. Officially embarkation starts at 1 pm but I have never seen an embarkation that didn't start early. He advised that the ship is usually disembarked by 10:30 and that around 11:30 the porters are taking in luggage and that around 300 people would have arrived for embarkation and be in line. Arriving at the pier at about 11:35 am we found porters ready and about 300 in line outside. Shortly thereafter the doors were opened and the screening process commenced. While in line each passenger was given a form to swear that they had not encountered respiratory problems, diarrhea or vomiting in the past 48 hours. I mean let's face it, is anyone having traveled to a ship for a cruise they paid for are in line to get onboard really going to say yes, and risk being denied boarding? Why even bother? We were to find out that sanitation and illness concerns were a priority concern presumably because of various outbreaks on numerous lines through the years. Two things we found that immediately differed from other ships we have sailed that the buffets were set up so that you must be served by staff wearing gloves. If fact if you even tried to help self serve you were immediately admonished and stopped by the serving people. This created quite a log jam at times. First because you had to wait for each item to be served and that since the serving tables are designed for self service the addition of all the servers adds to the congestion of the area. We were told that evening that this was the first cruise that this system had been started. Also you are more or less required to wipe your hands with some anti-bacterial or whatever solution in all entries to eating areas. When entering the main dining room that evening there were staff with spray bottles spraying our hands as we entered. It becomes a little odd being disinfected every time you get in a line to eat something.
NOTE: The buffet areas were self serve by day THREE, they obviously gave up.
Getting back to actual embarkation, it was run smoothly, first passing through the metal detectors. You are advised to put all your metal into your carryon so you won't beep when passing through the metal detector. Should you beep you are not only hand scanned with a hand wand but I also noted several people actually frisked by security staff. Something I have also never seen before boarding a ship. I guess they are taking the lead from TSA staff at airports. Next up to the check in counters, numerous and arranged by deck. Since most have already provided all their information via internet or mail in forms now required by Homeland Security the process is very fast. I presented passports and credit card and received our boarding cards in less than two minutes. Up to the photo and gangway and you were onboard.
Arriving on the ship we found staff directing us to an elevator which was being manually operated and we were placed on the elevator by which deck we were assigned to. This was very efficient in moving people and getting you directly right to your location. Also first time I had seen this, it worked well.
We were in Cabin D404, a mini-suite with balcony category AB, Dolphin Deck (9). Cabin was spacious enough and contained adequate storage most of which is provided by closet space with more than needed number of hangars. The bed was very comfortable and firm, the pillows left much to be desired. More like a couple of flat squares than pillows. Our cabin steward, Martin, was asked whether larger pillows were available and he provided much larger and fuller pillows by nightfall. The room also had a large couch easily seating three, a table and a chair besides the built in desk. Cabin outlets are located at the desk. There are two side by side. Numerous lamps and ceiling lighting are more than adequate. The wall and nightstand lights all have switches that are also dimmers, a nice touch as they can readily serve as night lights depending on your need and preference. There is a cabinet of shelves which also houses the safe. You program in a number to lock and to open. You program the number each time you lock the safe. The bathroom is ship size but contains a bathtub in this category. Water pressure is superior and we had no complaints regarding the bathroom facility. Cabin has two TV's which abut each other but face opposite directions facilitating watching from bed or couch.
Balcony was more than adequate size wise and contained two junky plastic chairs and a plastic table. No matter since we found the balcony useless at least three quarters of the time due to wind. In the few reviews I read prior to sailing the lack of privacy was noted and is indeed a key point on this ship for many who love balconies. This because the balconies are tiered, each deck jutting out from the one above. The privacy issue doesn't concern me but what I found, perhaps because Dolphin Deck balconies jut out enough to be in the air stream of the ship, the balcony was most often just too windy to even want to step out on when moving. Having sailed many ships with balconies this is the first time I have ever encountered that situation. Sailing 21 knots on Legend and Dawn in Atlantic seas never presented such a problem, nor on any ship sailed in Caribbean. So I presume that the way the deck just out makes it vulnerable to the strong wind when sailing at speed or with certain wind direction. Most evenings stepping out on the balcony was similar to popping your head out the sunroof of your car while on the highway.
Another problem was the balcony furniture and deck was wet everyday. The why I am not sure, whether wind all night sent water spray close enough to mount up or whether early cleaning upstairs resulted in our balcony being drenched. There was one morning I was standing on the balcony when I suddenly got splashed with some water. Since the sun was shining I was startled, looking up found that the cabin steward upstairs was throwing cupfuls of water on outside balcony glass to clean same. Perhaps I solved our soaked balcony mystery?
Would I personally get a balcony on this ship again? Yes simply because I am smoker and do so out on the balcony in deference to my wife who is not. I also enjoyed the balcony while going through the locks. Finally I always feel that a cabin is roomier if you have access to the immediate outside. However if you are a person that can take it or leave about balconies I wouldn't bother if the price was substantially more.
Always a personal opinion. So for what it is worth, my opinion. We were traveling with close friends making us a party of six so we choose traditional dining. Our preference is traditional dining as our preference normally anyway. We enjoy having the same waiter and dining partners during a cruise, our friends when traveling together, and meeting new friends when it's just us. We were served each evening by our waiter Fabio, and his assistant Niwch ( Nick ). Both provided excellent service and were instrumental, as good waiters are, in helping make this cruise a great experience.
We requested a mixed cheese plate every evening at the beginning of the meal and this was brought out upon our arrival each evening. We had wine served each evening as well. As many lines have done the waiter and assistant are now also the wine service. Something I had not seen before but expected to see sooner or later, they were also now the bar service as well. This means they handled wine, dinner, drinks, and the bill for the card. In the case of Fabio and Niwch they handled it well enough to pull it off without service being exceptionally hurt. However I would bet that they are the exception rather than the rule
Food itself was tasty enough and well presented for the most part. The first nights prime rib was an exception, that looked and tasted more like a slice of high school cafeteria beef but other than that I had no complaints about the food. Soups were very good, I eat hot soup my wife always likes to try the chilled soups. They had one called the Pina Colada or something similar. It was even served in a pina colada style cocktail glass with umbrella and all. A pina colada without ice or booze to me. I'll stick to hot myself.
One thing I like is that they also have some items that are available every night such as a steak, fries, baked potato, Caesar salad, or shrimp cocktail. That is a nice alternative when the menu is just not to your liking or some item is not. Several nights the appetizer selections didn't appeal to me and it was nice just to be able to order a shrimp cocktail instead.
The buffet areas and food were more than satisfactory. Plenty of seating in immediate areas as well. Nice salad bars, a cutting board with something different everyday and a nice variety of hot and cold foods. Desserts were generally small squares of some sort of cake, fruits tarts, fresh fruit and such. Nothing overly to die for in my opinion. One nice touch was a hot dessert, apple betty, rice pudding, or something along that line everyday.
A highlight in buffet eating for me was the GRILL and the PIZZA areas poolside. The grill featured great burgers, hotdogs and grilled chicken one flight up from poolside with outside tables and the grill bar. Pizza, located just outside the buffet area poolside was best I have ever had on a ship, just the way I love it. Plenty of real cheese and the thinnest crispest crust I have seen anywhere. Various toppings and styles made daily. Being a New Yorker it is work for you to get me to compliment something other than NY pizza. This was gooooood!
Room Service / Coffee hit / Cigar hideaway
You can call or place out order sheet. We used both methods and for the first time anywhere, including land based room service, there was never a mistake on our order. Everything ordered was there, arrived on time promptly, and was delivered with a smile and a pleasant greeting. Each time the server noted that everything was there.
Coffee, for ship coffee, was pretty good. Good enough that I could wait for a couple of hours to stop by Patisserie lounge in the main lobby area for a shot of double espresso ( $2.50 ) jolt to keep the ticker going. A nice lounge to watch the world go by for a while, downside for a smoker like me, a coffee bar/lounge without a smoking area in it or nearby. One deck up though is a small very comfortable enclosed area called Churchill Lounge. This is the cigar/bar area with leather seats and a nice view of ocean off the promenade deck. There is not actually a bar in there but one located nearby and the servers pay attention for those entering Churchill's and show up quickly to offer a cognac or whatever you desire with your cigar. Spent some time there throughout the trip as one of my traveling companions is a noted cigar expert and is kind enough to share his stash of Cubans with me. What a guy!
As usual we seldom went to the sing and dance shows. They also had some comedians on board, we attended two of those shows. One was fairly decent, the other a ventriloquist that has appeared on TV and such through the years, well we were almost embarrassed for him. Started his act with old footage of him appearing on Carson, with Whoppi, etc. Well that was obviously back in the day as they say. Material bad, timing worse, and often hesitated like he forgot what he was doing. Many got up and left.
They also show movies in the Princess theatre each day and I enjoyed watching a couple in there. I like being able to go to an actual theatre during a sea day, much nicer than sitting in a cabin and watching it on TV although they were also shown there.
They also have enrichment type activity, they offered pottery class and computers classes. I know they charged for computers classes and I presume they also charged for pottery. Computer classes were 1 hour classes on using various programs like Power Point or Word and were in area of $20 a class. I didn't attend any of the sessions both because the offerings were more a basic level and also I figured if they couldn't run there own computer operation they had no business charging to teach anyone anything.
Before I start up on their internet system I'll point out that shows are shown both in Princess theatre and in the universe show lounge. While both are comfortable the show lounge has horrible line of sight problems, big columns and such. I would get there early to find a good seat to see the stage from.
Several lounges had entertainment at night and games in day. Overall I think there was plenty to do for those that wanted to remain busy. For those that just wanted to relax and read by pool or get some sun there was no problem. The Coral Princess has two pools, one ADULT only with a retractable roof. This is also where they ice cream bar is located ( extra charge ). The roof remained closed for the trip which made the area somewhat stuffy and sunless. When asked they said that they open the roof in port, however, they did not. The other mid-ship pool has plenty of seating, lounge chairs and table and chairs.
This ship also has a very nice Promenade deck which is nice since so many new ships have eliminated having and expansive Promenade area. There were also numerous lounge chairs on the Promenade making for a great area to sit and read away from pool activities and the hustle and bustle of open deck.
Well just can't say enough bad things about their internet café or wireless system, pure frustration. You would think that I ship that is only something like two years old would have a large internet system built into it. Actually the internet cafe is contains only about 10 terminals broken into two sections. Several of the stations were prominently marked out of service and those that were not I saw several people have a problem getting them to accept their room cards for payment. When and if you did get on they were slower than anything I have seen since 2600bd dialup and Commodore 64's. If you ask they would claim that the satellite must be in a bad location. YEAH RIGHT! I have used internet services on several ships in past two years all worked reasonably well. Either their equipment is really bad or their computer people are bad. I know not which. Since everything onboard and their precious onboard revenue stream all are computer regulated ( and apparently worked well, they didn't have any problem getting any of my charges on the bill fast ) it would be expected that their computer people are of high caliper. That leaves either they just don't care or are so network point of sale oriented that they no little about other areas.
WIRELESS was worse!!! Their system was not only slow but it was their own machine that was slow to let you establish a connection. Meaning that long before you were trying to connect to internet you have to connect to your account on their machine. That took forever. Then instead of like on most ships being able to buy a decent BLOCK of time you could only purchase blocks of 30 minutes. To do that you had to go to the Pursers Desk and get a paper card with two id numbers and enter them into the computer. Then you had to get another one and add that time again to the computer. I didn't even get connected during the first 30 minutes when my time EXPIRED. To their credit I was given another 30 minutes no charge. They give you three pages of instructions just on how to add time to your account, geez, join the new tech age.
If that wasn't all bad enough the signal cannot be received in the internet lounge, only directly under it in the lobby and Pasterrera lounge area and then signal is often weak or merely good. This also means no plug in station so you must operate on battery. That would be okay if system wasn't slower than molasses I guess. Going to download my mail which would take about 30 seconds at home on DSL, and usually about 1 to 2 minutes on ships I have sailed previously, would take about 11 to 15 minutes. Upload your outgoing, well just go buy another 30 minute card, you'll need it.
There were several laptop users and we often sat around the lobby shaking our heads in frustration waiting a quarter of an hour to download 5 or 6 short text messages. I would hate their system if it was FREE! Funny while in port I could hit the Carnival ships network and get their account webpage in seconds. Of course without an account was no help. NO the Princess system needs to be entirely redone. Maybe now that Carnival owns them they will eventually put in the same system that they and NCL use which works pretty good. In the meantime don't count on internet ability..
All staff I had dealing with were great, friendly, helpful, and smiling. No complaints on their staff or crew. Since how happy and helpful staff are is the biggest factor to a good cruise this made for just that a good cruise. The Pursers desk had plenty of staff and all remarkably helpful, something you don't always see on a ship.
NOTE: Although mentioned no where! One morning I went down to lobby looking for a Times Fax to read. Seeing none I inquired with the Pursers desk. No problem, pushed a button and printed me out a 3 page Times Fax. Then asked if I would like one delivered to my cabin each day, no charge. I did of course. Recent ships I have been on did have such service but charged for it. It was nice to see that they do not, but heck, give them time.
I liked the casino on the Coral Princess, not to big not too small. Lot's of quarter machines, enough dollar machines, a bank of nickel machines, and even a row of machines that you can set for $5 to $ 25 a pull. Caribbean poker a couple of blackjack machines and some poker type game. As far as winners, yes there were some. Watched one guy hit two jackpots on different machines within minutes, each paying over a grand. Can't complain myself either. First night hit a dollar machine for $500, second to last night hit another dollar machine for $1000 so I actually came home a little up about $150 which is unusual for playing at sea.
Normally I don't do much in ports or comment on it much because I have been to the same Caribbean ports so many times. This time one of the calling cards for taking this cruise was the Panama Canal itinerary.
Limon - tours were cancelled as when we got there the weather and waves were not conductive to tendering. The Captain waited awhile and since there was no improvement we headed off back to sea.
The passage through the canal was fabulous. After exiting locks we anchored briefly in Gatun Lake where our group was tendered to shore for the Gatun Locks and Ganges River Rainforest tour ( 3 ½ hr ). First we taken over the locks and to an area where we got on a small boat and sailed the river. Then returned to the locks where our ship was again passing through. This time we watched from observation area on land. Finally we were transported to a pier about 20 minutes away to await the Coral Princess's arrival. There while we waited in a nice new mall containing shops, dancers, and a straw market. It was a great tour. As our ship sailed in ( great photo op ) and docked it was greeted by us, the dancers in Panamanian garb, and numerous Panamanian Indians which included topless young ladies and near naked young men. Not something you see everyday when cruising.
We also took the Stingray swimming tour at Grand Cayman. We had done this some years ago and it was great doing it again. We were tendered into GC and then bussed to a pier where we got onboard an open deck boat with Captain Reid and Estoban. It takes about 25 minutes or so to reach the sandbar and we were lucky enough to be the first boat there that day which meant we could anchor in a good spot. You enter the water which on the sand bar is about 3 to 5 feet deep and Captain Reid and Estoban brought out a bucket of squid pieces to attract the stingrays. You can take a piece and the stingrays will glide over your hand in the water and suck it out of your hand. We spent almost an hour on the sandbar then returned onto the boat for the ride back to town. Vests were mandatory but did not have to be inflated. Snorkle gear was available if you wanted it.
In Cozumel we shopped all day.
So we were extremely happy with our cruise and itinerary. We had waited many years to do this particular itinerary and we were not disappointed.
Yes every cruise must come to an end, sad but true! Princess handled disembarkation very well. Unlike recent sailings on other lines, Princess did not welcome you to stay in your cabin until called nor did they offer room service on departure day. Both of these recent touches but other lines are greatly welcomed but not to be on the Coral Princess. However no one pushed for you to be out of the cabin either! We went to the dining room for breakfast, open seating on departure day. Hours were something like 7 to 8:30 am. The buffet area was open as well but we have traditionally gone for breakfast in the dining room on disembark days. A full breakfast of omelet and egg choices etc was offered with one exception. The first time that we have not seen eggs benedict on the morning menu. Since this is also a tradition we were somewhat disappointed but not so much that we were upset or anything over it. We did inquire of the waiter about getting them, he left for the kitchen and then returned with apology that it was not possible. Oh well.
Next we returned to our cabins and awaited our color being called for disembarkation. This appeared to be mainly by deck. We were off the ship in an orderly manner between 9:30 and 10:00 am. Porters were readily available in the baggage area and luggage was easy to find since it was separated by not only color but also number. We were Aqua #2 this made for smaller groupings to sift through. The first time we have seen both color and number used and it works well. All the lines should adopt this method.
Out to the buses area having bought transfers while onboard. A short 10 minute or so ride to FLL airport and that was that.
If you have any questions please feel free to email me at email@example.com please also put Coral review in the subject area so I won't dump your mail as spam mail.
George in NY
I took a Coral Princess Panama Canal cruise December 28 to January 7 with my daughter, son and daughter-in-law. We had a blast.
We were on Baja Deck (519), and my son and his wife were in the cabin next to us. They opened the partitions on the balcony for us, which was great. The cabin was spacious and beautiful, with more than enough storage space for two women. I do wish the shower had been larger; if you dropped the soap you would bang your head on the wall. It was like showering in a locker. The real trick was leaning against the wall to shave your legs -- it was quit comical.
One drawback to the cabin was the wind: If you opened the sliding door, it was like a wind tunnel when you opened the cabin door; everything would blow all over the room. One other thing -- there was a drainpipe on the balcony and it would flush very loudly occasionally or just trickle with water all the time.
The food in the Province Dining Room was outstanding; the desserts were not. Our waiters, Miguel from Mexicoand his assistant Nikusur from Romania, were adorable and entertained us every night. If I started to order something and Miguel's eyes didn't sparkle, I knew better than to order it. Against all the advice not to give Christmas gifts, we did present them with NYC T-shirts and they were so happy and pleased.
Miguel ran down to his cabin and presented me with a beautiful hand-painted ceramic trinket box to show his appreciation. He said he has been cruising for 14 years, and it was the first gift he had ever received, and he was extremely appreciative. We also tipped above the automatic deduction. (We also presented a T-shirt to Jose, who took care of our cabin, and he too was grateful. He was so smitten with my daughter he would put two chocolates on her pillow every night.)
The food at the Horizon Court left a lot to be desired, but the desserts there were better. Pizza and hamburgers were great and so was the ice cream bar.
We had an outbreak of Norwalk Virus on our cruise. 50-plus people came down with it; the next morning the count was up to 60, and by the end of the cruise it was 90 or so. One elderly person was taken to the hospital. When you entered the buffet or dining rooms, you had to use an antiseptic hand wash and there was no longer any self-service in the buffet; you were not allowed to touch anything. Ship rails were wiped down constantly to sanitize them. The infected passengers were quarantined in their cabins. The last three nights of the cruise, we were not even allowed to have a bread basket on our table. And they stated that the next cruise was going to be the same -- no self service.
The cruise was pretty rough, with 12-foot waves and extremely high winds. My bed would vibrate and shake all night long on the windy days. One day they had to close the pool because the water was sloshing around so much. Speaking of the pools: Twice they had to be shut down and drained, because some thoughtless parent allowed their darling child in the pool and they had left floating specimens. And we wonder how viruses get started.
Ports of Call
Limon is poor and dirty, but the market by the ship had a lot of interesting things for sale. We did the Flores Tropical Garden tour; it was pretty nice, and at the end everyone was presented with a beautiful bouquet of native plants. We were also treated to a roadside stop for baby bananas that were out of this world.
New Years Eve was exciting. The atrium was filled with people on the stairs and halls waiting for the balloon drop at midnight. Some people got in the glass elevators and just rode them up and down until midnight. Out on deck they had another party; they wanted to have a huge streamer throw at midnight, but once the kids found the boxes of streamers – let's just say they were all tossed before midnight. And there was a huge downpour, but it didn't really bother the dancers. They only left the floor for about five minutes, then went back out and danced in the rain.
The Panama Canal was outstanding - I managed to be right in the front of the ship to watch everything. I don't think the experience would be the same from your balcony; you would miss the narrative and couldn't appreciate it as much. We did the Locks tour and eco-cruise, which I don't think was worth it, although the Chagris River is gorgeous. The town of Colon, where the ship docks, is dirty and poor just like Limon. The marketplace has lots of interesting things. My son and his wife did the Emberia Indian tour and raved about it.
Grand Cayman is still pretty devastated from the recent hurricane. You can see all the houses getting new roofs. Our tour guide said the locals who lost everything were given new furniture and appliances to get them back on their feet. One local I talked to said he still didn't have electricity. We did the submarine, rum cake factory, turtle farm and Hell tour. The sub was the best. Then we got a cab for $3 and my daughter and I went to Seven Mile Beach for a couple of hours. The beach is gorgeous and the sand is incredible.
Next we went to Cozumel - I loved it there. We did the Passion Island tour; I would suggest finding a cab and going the beach. It was a ride of more than an hour to get there, so we only had two hours to sit on the beach and eat lunch. When we got back to town we walked up and down streets and came across a beautiful market place. We didn't make Senor Frog's, but my son did and he could not believe what a party place it was. We had to leave Cozumel way too soon. The ship's departure was delayed for an hour because some passengers couldn't seem to make it back. So we were late the next morning docking at Belize.
Belize was just OK. I stayed around the port. My daughter did the Xunatunich Ruins tour and Marimba lunch at a hotel, and she loved it. My son and his wife took a water taxi for what they thought was a five-minute ride to the beach; it was actually a speedboat to some island. It took forever to get there and then it rained. They weren't happy about that, but they said the speedboat ride was crazy.
We experienced both rude and pleasant passengers. One teenager wanted a deck chair and the only one left was broken -- so he screamed at the deck attendant, "You work for me; just get me a chair." We had a couple at the next table who complained that the light over their table was out on the second formal night; the grumpy passenger said they were not going to sit down until the light was fixed. So there was our Miguel up on a chair trying to get a light bulb out of another socket to give them light. He couldn't get the light bulb out so the couple stormed out.
The people at the next table were extremely rude to Miguel. One young girl was always late; she expected to be caught up on the courses so she could eat with the rest, and they would keep Miguel in the dining room until after 11 p.m. On the last night, they wanted two more people to join their table but there really wasn't room, so they were not very pleasant. But overall, the other passengers were wonderful human beings, and we enjoyed talking to them.
That was our wonderful cruise - I hope you all enjoy reading it.
The Coral Princess Alaska tour is an outstanding trip. Everything about our ship-board experience was wonderful. The crew is highly motivated to provide excellent service, they have a sense of humor, and the food was excellent. We went on the cruise first, then a five day "land cruise" of Denali and Mt. McKinley. This was a blunder, because post cruise ship depression set in shortly after the land cruise started. If you are going to land cruise, do it first.
We didn't spend much time in the regular dining rooms. The speciality restaurants are outstanding!
If you are primarily interested in squeezing your money and not paying for quality, go with another cruise line. If you are interested in quality, do Princess!
The process of getting on the Coral Princess was very quick and efficient. We arrived at Port Everglades at around 11:20am and we actually were on board at 11:50am ! Upon arrival at Port Everglades, my guess is that there was 200 to 300 people waiting to get inside the building. When the doors opened, everyone got inside and since there are 2 desks per deck, with 2 lines per desk, it went fairly well. When the lady behind the desk saw our golden Captain Circle cards, she said to us "Welcome back to Princess." I tought it was a gentle thing to say... After the security check, we went to the waiting room on the second floor. We then were able to board the ship (with the usual "welcome aboard" picture taken by the ships photo crew). Since I am the kind of person who thoroughly studies deck plans before going on cruise, I didn't need help to find our cabin (C427). But, for those who can easily get lost, there were many crew members all around the ship ready to help.
Lets go from bottom (Plaza deck5) to top (Sports deck 16).
Plaza deck 5: When you enter the ship, you are in the Princess Plaza. It is a beautiful place with an open view of decks 5, 6, 7 and 8. There are 2 panoramic elevators. You will find there: the passengers services desk, the tour desk, the future cruises sales desk, la patisserie and the Captain Circle desk. There is also the Bordeaux dinning room for those who have choose the "personnal choice dining" option. The first thing that I remember when I entered the place was its cleanliness. Everything shines. And under the stairs going to the upper decks, there are changing color lights. Very fascinating to look at... Compared with the atrium of the Sun class ships (Sun Princess and Dawn Princess), the atrium of the Coral (and Island) is a bit smaller. Therefore, when there are some special offers from the boutiques on deck 6 (with many tables out of the boutiques), there is not much space to move around, especially when you are there at the time when people are going out of the dining room or out of a show from the Princess theater or the Universe lounge.
Fiesta deck 6: From bow to stern: you will find the lower section of the Princess Theater; the Provence dinning room (for those with fix sitting dinner option); the 2 boutiques (Calypso cove and Meridian bay) in mid-ship around the plaza atrium; the Princess casino with the adjacent boutique "Facets"; the photo gallery and photo boutique; the Explorers lounge; the lower level of Universe lounge. The two dinning rooms (Bordeaux and Provence) are almost identical to those on the Sun and Dawn Princess (I can't compare with those from the Grand class ships since we had never cruised on those before). If you plan to see a show in the Universe lounge, go to the lower level. In the upper level (on deck 7), the view is obstructed by the rails. I heard that Princess is planning to replace these rails with some kind of glass in the near future... Universe lounge is a great place with the three revolving stages. The shows there were magical and the sound system provides surround effects...
Promenade deck 7: From bow to stern: there is the Princess theater; the Wheelhouse bar; the crooner's bar and Churchill lounge in the atrium part of the ship; the wedding chapel; the Princess fine art gallery; Sabattini's restaurant; the Bayou café; and finally, the upper level of the Universe lounge, and, of course, the wrap arround promenade (1 mile = 2 7/8 tours). Comparing with the Sun class ships, I can say that the Princess theater est almost identical in size while the Wheelhouse bar is a bit bigger. At the back of the Wheelhouse bar (between the bar and the atrium), there is a little maritime museum showing many artifacts from P&O... It is quite interesting to see. Churchill lounge is the place of choice for those cigar smokers. And even with people inside, there is no smell outside the lounge. Now, about Sabattini. I highly recommend that restaurant ! You won't regret it. There is only one thing to know about Sabattini: when you plan to go there, don't eat two days prior to going there !!! Why ? Because you will have plenty of food and you will feel like you have to roll out of the restaurant... There is so much food there and it is so good, you won't believe it ! It took us 3 hours to eat our dinner. The 20$ cover charge per person is not exagerated. At the Bayou café, you won't eat as much as in Sabattini, but it is absolute heaven ! Try the gator ribs !
Emerald deck 8: There is the internet café; the library and the card room. The charge for using internet is 0.35$ per minute, and it's free if you are a Platinum Captain Circle member. The internet speed is fairly slow, and sometimes, the satellite link cuts. On our cruise, it happened once and the internet café was closed for almost the entire day. You can not download things from internet since there is only a screen, a keyboard and a mouse. No pc's, no diskette drive or cd drive, no hard drive... There is a printer and if you would like to print something, remember that it is 1.00$ per page. The library and the card room are quiet places.
Dolphin deck 9; Caribe deck 10; Baja deck 11: these are stateroom deck and there is no public area.
Aloha deck 12: There is the fun zone and the Pelican playhouse. This area is for children and youngsters.
Lido deck 14: From bow to stern: There is the Horizon court (identical to the Sun class ships); the lido bar; the lido pool and 3 spas; the Lotus pool and 2 spas; the Lotus bar; the Lotus spa; the gym. This is the place where people go on sea days (specially if it is a hot sunny day !). The Lotus pool area can be covered. This is the "swim against the current" pool. This feature is not always "on" since you can find a button at the end of the pool to activate it. On the ten days we where on the Coral, we had no problems finding empty chairs. So, you do not have to be up early to "reserve" a chair... The Horizon court is a buffet style restaurant. You won't find "high class" food there, but it is ok. Really nothing to complain about.
Sun deck 15: Chairs, chairs and chairs ! Just over the Lido pool, there is the Grill with burgers, hot dogs, and, of course, a bar. Between the Lido pool and the Lotus pool, you will find the golf simulator and Princess Links 9 hole miniputt.
Sports deck 16: Just over the Horizon court, there is the Splash pool with chairs. If you look a the web cam from the Coral Princess on the Princess web site, this is what you see. Further back, there is the Center court (for tennis and basketball), a giant chess game and two shuffle board. Expect the place to be very windy when the ship is at sea...
We had an oceanview double with balcony stateroom (cat. BD) on the Caribe deck 10. Since we were in the mid-ship section, where the cabins are "pushed" out, we didn't have the problem of being overlooked by the people in staterooms above us. The cabin is average in size. Since we are not the kind of people who stay in their cabin the entire cruise, we didn't care about the size of it. We go there to change and to sleep. That's it ! There is enough space for all your belongings.
On this cruise, our ports of call were: Nassau, Panama canal (Colon), Limon, Grand Cayman and Cozumel. In Nassau, we had an excursion into the city and on Paradise Island. The city tour was quite interesting with a visit to the fortifications. Paradise Island was very fast. We went there, took a few pictures of Atlantis Hotel and out we go ! All in all, I rate this tour as below expectation. Not recommend. In Panama canal, we had chosen the "Gatun locks & eco cruise" tour (tour A1). This was great. In the eco cruise part, you are on Gatun lake and the guide goes around the little islands found there. We saw aligators, turtles, monkeys... It was very interesting. For the "Gatun locks" part, you have to climb some stairs to go to the 3rd lock level. We had the chance to be there just as the Coral Princess passed through the locks. Very impressive ! In Limon, we had chosen the "Pineapple plantation: taste of tropics" tour (tour Q1). Unbelievable ! This was THE BEST tour we had. After that tour, you know all about pineapples ... and bananas ... Highly recommend it. The stop at Grand Cayman was cancelled because of dangerous conditions in the harbour. In Cozumel, we had chosen "Cozumel sail & snorkel" tour (tour S1). It was our second time in Cozumel and it was the second time we took this tour. Snorkeling with all those colorfull fish is awesome ! If you like fun, this is the tour to choose !
We were on the traditionnal first sitting option. Our waiter (Ricardo, from Mexico) and our junior waiter (Frankie, from Italy) were great. Especially Frankie. Ricardo was, at first, a bit shy and we didn't know why... Finally, he told us that it was his first cruise as a waiter (he was junior waiter for 11 years with Princess). Frankie gave us very good advice on wine selection (Italian, of course !!!) and we are sure that he should get a promotion to be a waiter very soon. By comparing with previous cruises we had with Princess, we found that the waiters (not only Ricardo, but others too), were pushing us to finish our meal as soon as possible. We talked with other passengers and they felt the same way. On previous cruises, we felt that we could stay there for as long as we wanted... Not anymore. I don't know if Princess wants everyone to go with the "personnal choice" dinner option... but for us, we are thinking seriously about it. On the other hand, the food was as great as it was. Of course, no two person have the same feeling about food, but for me, it was fabulous. All in all, I rate our dining experience on the Coral as average because of the waiters pushing us.
We generally go to the Broadway style shows. So, there were quite a few of them on this cruise and we enjoyed each and every one of them. As I said earlier, the sound systems of both the Princess Theater and the Universe lounge can produce surround sounds. There were some new Princess Cruises Productions Shows and we recommend them ! They are not to be missed ! Of course, there is many more entertainment all around the ship during the day. In fact, there is so much to do that you have to make choices and you won't be able to do everything... There is one complaint I would like to tell you about: the music on the lido deck near the Lido pool is so loud that you can't hardly talk to each other. When the musicians were there (Sugar Cane: great Trinidad en Tobago duo), it's not as bad. But when they take a break, go somewhere else or you will end your cruise being deaf ! The cruise director, Richard Joseph, is quite a guy. If you're on a cruise ship where he is the CD, go see his "Ships - where are they now" lecture. It is realy interresting. And he is very accessible. You can talk to him and he likes to talk with passengers. On previous cruises, I liked the other CD but I never had the chance to talk with them as much as I did with Richard. The best CD ever !
Fitness & Recreation:
I didn't use these facilities but my wife did. She said it was very good. It seems there was enough equipment.
Value for price:
We find this cruise to be an excellent value for the price paid.
Excellent ! The best cruise we ever had so far. We highly recommend it !
Don't hesitate to ask questions. We will try to help everyone who plans to cruise the Panama Canal with Princess.
The following review is an account of our cruise January 12, 2004 on the Coral Princess sailing from Ft. Lauderdale Florida for 10 days in and out of the Panama Canal. My wife and I are Platinum members of the Princess Cruises repeaters program, as we have sailed on Princess seven times including this sailing. There were some good things and some bad things of which we shall attempt to point out and hopefully give you future cruisers something to think about, look forward to and avoid in your future travels. This was sailing number 33 for us.
Our trip started January 12, 2004. The embarkation process was very swift and pleasant. Our travel to the ship was by Cruise Connection Bus from Ft. Myers Fl. We boarded the bus at 8:00 am and arrived at Port Everglades at around 10:15. The building was not open for check in until about 11:00 am, so we waited outside in line for about an hour and a half. Once we got inside, it was very smooth. Lines moved fast and before you know it we were aboard. We were assigned cabin # A312a verandah cabin located on Aloha deck. We had signed up for PERSONEL CHOICE dinning, as we had excellent experience on the Grand Princess, just a few months before. In fact this was the third sailing in which we taken PERSONEL CHOICE dinning. In reviewing the information in the cabin, we found a precautionary health advisory regarding Norwalk Virus. Our luggage came rather quickly and we were able to get unpacked and settled early in the day. So we then proceeded to the Horizon Room for lunch. The next thing on the agenda was the safety boat drill. We were assembled in one of the show rooms with life jacket in hand. The entire exercise took only a short time. Sail Away
That evening we went to a bar before dinner to have a drink. As we entered the dinning room, we were greeted by on of the staff. We requested a table for two. We were seated in a most uncomfortable table that had another table for two only 6 inches between them. The people at that table were looking for privacy, as were we. But we found none that evening. We did find a most attractive ship, well appointed and very elegant.
Day Two. Nassau
The day started of good, We had breakfast in the Horizon Court. While waiting for the ship to be cleared, we did a little more exploring. We found ourselves in the forward enclosed pool area. A really beautiful space on the ship. I also noticed a bar selling $3.00 Bloody Mary drinks. After about 15 minutes a young waiter stopped and asked if we wanted a drink. I said yes, we would like two of the $3.00 Bloody Mary drinks. He then asked what kind of vodka we wanted in them. I assumed we had a choice so I said we would take Stoli or Absolute. After a 30 minute wait, he returned with the drinks and I signed the ticket without looking, While drinking the drinks I reviewed the ticket and noticed they wee much higher about $6.00 each. I then went over to the bar tender, ticket in hand and asked her to explain, as there was a misunderstanding. She did explain that when you order a " called liquor" in a drink, it is much higher. I explained what had happened and what I had ordered, and she advised to come to her in the future. That evening we went to the Bayou Restaurant, one of the select extra cost dinning rooms. The meal was OK, until the desert came. The waiter brought my wife's desert and told me it would be a minute before mine came out. After a 30-minute wait and after my wife had finished her desert, and we did not see one waiter person, we left the restaurant, rather disappointed. We had paid $10.00 extra each for the dinner, plus $10.00 each for the day's tips. All in all, not a great experience.
Day Three and Four at Sea.
Days at sea were very pleasant, for the most part. We did experience two run ins with the Dinning Room Staff in our table selections for dinners, The second night a young fellow seated us next to the kitchen door, no doubt to retaliate for our complaining about the seating situation the night before. Again on one evening we went to the Martini Bar and requested two vodka martinis on the rocks made with absolute vodka. We got two gin martinis on the rocks made with bar gin, but charged extra for the called liquor. The second evening we went to the Explores Lounge to watch passengers Jeopardy show. We again ordered two drinks and mine was ok, but my wife's drink was again not what she had ordered. At that point, we gave up. It did seem the problem was a staff of waiters that were inexperienced and had a problem with the English language.
Day Five. Panama Canal
What an experience, We would recommend to everyone who has not seen it to do so. Additionally, we took a tour to Panama City. It was without a doubt, one of the most informative tours we have taken. This did make the trip worthwhile. It is a true marvel. One that each person should experience. The people are very friendly and the guides are really caring and informative. Well worth the money. When we returned to our cabin, again there was a new warning about Norwalk Virus from the Ships Doctor.
Day Six ,Limon Costa Rico
We had booked an early morning tour through and around the city of Limon. We had an early breakfast in the Horizon Court and made our way to the mustering area for the tour. We boarded a large bus, which ended up only half full. Our guide was a local female, who was not fluent in English. The bus pulled out and truly there is not much to see in this port. We stopped along the roadside to look at bananas with plastic bags covering them. And to look for monkeys in the trees at another location along side the road. Then all HELL broke loose. My poor wife had contracted the Norwalk Virus and lost everything from breakfast and likely dinner from the night before. We received little aid from the tour guide , And had to pay for a cab to return to the ship. The ship did send an ambulance to meet us in route back to the ship. The medical staff was very accommodating and provided us with medication and a list of do's and don'ts regarding the virus. The rest of that day we spent in our room. Food and drink were not issues
Day Seven, at Sea.
We spent day seven in our cabin and again, no interest in food. Surprisingly, we never heard from anyone in the Medical Office after our initial encounter.
Day Eight, Grand Cayman
We were again pretty much confined to our cabin, Our ship stopped in the harbor, but were called off. The Captain reported over the public address system, as the ship was sailing off, That the seas in the Harbor were too rough to unload passengers. I found that interesting, as at least one more ship was there, that did not sail away. Others reported that there were three ships in the harbor.
Day Nine, Cozumal
Finally, we were able to eat again and did take a cab downtown to do some shopping and get some air. Cozumal is a neat island and one of the best for anyone on a Western Caribbean Cruise. That evening at dinner, we were fortunate enough to meet some really nice passengers from New Jersey. We did end up in the dinning room and as luck would have it, we were seated at one of the 6-inch separated tables and they at the other. A most fortunate peace of luck for us.
Day Ten, at Sea.
We were instructed by the Medical Department not to eat in the Horizon Court on Lido Deck, as that invorment is conducive to the Norwalk Virus. The ship had the wait staff getting the food for you. All you did was walk around carrying your tray. The first day out they had positioned a device at the entrance and stationed an employee there to instruct all who entered to wave there hand under this bowl and a spray of some type disinfectant would drop. This you were to rub your hands together, and it would eliminate the virus from you hands. It probably worked well, but it was a bit too late to help most passengers who contracted the virus. In any event, the last day on board was a most pleasant one for us, although we were both quit wore out from the previous several days and the virus.
Day Eleven, Ft. Lauderdale
Our arrival at Port Everglades was welcome; we had really had enough at that point. The debarkation was smooth as usual with Princess Cruises. We were off the ship by 9:30am. We waited for over an hour before the Bus came and loaded us for the return trip to Ft. Myers. We finally arrived home in the afternoon.
The illness was just one of the many things that we experienced on this trip. I failed to mention that we had taken a seven-day cruise on the Grand Princess in September of 2003. That trip was altered by an approaching Hurricane. We had purchased the trip to go Eastern Caribbean and at the last minute the itinerary was switched to Western. This cruise was sold with the first port being Cartagena Columbia and it was dropped because of a restaurant bombing. I had called the Captains Circle Club just after I found out Cartagena had been dropped and spoke with a young lady who advised me that if I had a problem I should write a letter to Customer Services. I called my travel agent and she suggested and provided a telephone number for me to call. I did call and spoke with a nice young man. I explained that we had suffered disappointment when the Grand had to be re routed to the western Caribbean and now this one was already changing a port. He was very asymptotic and told me that all he could do was get us a cabin change and that we should expect to see the change come across the internet in about 7 to 10 days, We told him that would really be nice as we really enjoyed Princess Cruises and it would relieve some of the disappointment. We did not get the change in cabins. We did however, decide that we were not going to let that ruin our trip. It seemed to us that everything that could go wrong went wrong. From the Bar service, to the alternate dinning experience, to the Personal Dinning aggravation, and then topped off by the Virus and missing three days of our vacation. When we arrived home, I wrote a letter to Princess Cruises Customer Services Department explaining our concerns. It took one month to get a reply, and the Customer Services Representative said in the letter that they regret to learn of our illness and that it was an unfortunate situation caused by a very common illness currently prevalent in many areas and beyond the control of Princess Cruises and while they sympathize with our unfortunate experience, they find no negligence on the part of Princess Cruises and cannot offer compensation. We were flabbergasted, We had NOT expressed a desire for any compensation, and rather we were upset and disappointed do to the dropping of Ports of Call. The fiasco in Personal Choose Dinning, The desert situation in the Bayou alternative dinning room. The Bar Waiter Service that screwed up so many drinks and now the total lack of customer service when you have a problem or complaint. We also told him that we would likely not take Princess Cruises again, if a sincere apology were not forth coming. We also sent a letter to the CEO of Princess Cruises, to date, no apology has not come nor even an acknowledgement of receipt of our latest letter has surfaced. It has been almost 6 weeks. We can say that we enjoyed the first five cruises on Princess Cruises. And as long as things are good on board and you do not have a problem they do a very good job. But God forbid you have a complaint or problem, they will not deal with it. We are still waiting to hear from them. Likely, we will be a lot older and a lot grayer before we do. Also, They will be a lot older and grayer before we go on their lines again. It is a real shame that one or two representatives of an organization can totally turn a formerly great product into such a distasteful experience. We have very fond memories of our past accounts with Princess Cruises. It takes years to build a reputation and moments to destroy it.
We booked an outside cabin with an obstructed view because it took a good bit off of the price on this longer cruise. In my opinion having a balcony cabin on a Caribbean itinerary is a bit of a waste. Sure you might see a sunset from your balcony, but it is nothing like Alaska where a balcony gives you great views all of the time. In Alaska, you are almost always close to land and can watch for whales and bears and wildlife. In the Caribbean you only see land pretty much as you are approaching a port. This is something of a matter of personal choice of course, but I think that you can save your money for other fun things on your vacation and go down a few floors inside the ship.
We were in stateroom, E604 on the Emerald deck. This cabin was fairly well situated. If you went forward from our stateroom, you reached either the card room (stocked with lots of new board games and cards) or the library (pretty well stocked there too). Just fore of these rooms is the top level ofthe pretty atrium at the center of the ship. If you proceed aft from our cabin, you can reach the aft elevators which will take you up to the Lido deck 14 where the gym and the pools are located.
We had just cruised to Alaska in the summer of 2003 on the Celebrity Summit. It was impossible for us not to compare the two lines and the two ships. I have to say that in almost all areas, Celebrity Summit came out on top. I like to keep things on a positive note, so I'll start with the positives on the Coral Princess:
It seemed to us that the Coral Princess had a better layout of the common rooms than the Celebrity Summit. This is a pretty small detail, but both ships did a pretty good job of helping you forget that you were on a ship. The curved walls of the common rooms, sloping, curving staircases, and alternating the entrances to the lounges so that they are not all on the one side of the ship or the other all were little touches that helped in this department. In this area, Coral Princess comes out slightly on top.
The staterooms on the Coral Princess were pretty well laid out. The closet area is open and backs against a wall that faces against the bathroom door. On the Celebrity Summit the cabin closet had doors that opened into the hall that connected the entry door to the cabin. When the closet doors were open, you couldn't enter or exit the cabin, and you couldn't get to the bathroom. Kind of a difficulty when two people are trying to get ready for dinner.
TV service on the Summit was far more advanced and passenger friendly. The Summit has a navigable menu upon turning the set on. One can select from movie options and even order room service. The food options are listed and you select what you want on-screen. A few minutes after finalizing your selection, you get a phone call confirming your order. It was a great system. You also had access to your stateroom account at any time during the cruise directly through your television. All of this was available on the 3 year old Summit. The one year old Coral had a much less developed system and the channels offered were pretty limited.
Another little edge for Coral over Summit was the mini-fridge in the room. On Summit, the mini-fridge in the room was overfilled with mini-bar items. If you took them out, you just bought them and they were re-stocked and you were billed. On Coral, the mini-fridge is empty and each day our steward would fill an ice bucket in the fridge. On Summit, if you wanted ice you had to call your steward and get it delivered. There wasn't even an ice bucket in your room that you could go get your own.
Coral has really good New York style pizza up on the Lido Deck. Along with a vegetarian friendly outdoor grill, this provided a nice alternative to lunch or dinner between 11 AM and 6 PM. It would have been nice to have this option available later in the evening as well, but it is pretty common for cruises to offer this kind of thing only during the day. On the Summit, the alternative offering that really stood out was the sushi available each day on the top deck buffet. I have to say that it was the best sushi I have had on land or sea. Without exaggeration, the sushi on Summit was superb. In the category of alternative food offering, the edge goes to Summit. If you aren't a fan of sushi, then this recommendation might not be on target for you.
Now for what Summit had that made it a better vacation experience for us than Coral Princess.
One of the big differences for us was the way that tipping was handled. On Summit, the tipping was all cash and was handed to the person receiving the tip in a little labeled envelope. This was a little cumbersome if you didn't bring an extra $200 or so in cash with you on the cruise. On Coral Princess the tips were automatically added to your stateroom account at a rate of $10 per person per day to be split among your stateroom attendant, wait staff, and assistants. On the surface this sounds like it would be a better system, but what it really translated to was a staff that gave poor to very poor service. They knew that most people would not go through the trouble of changing or removing the tips from their stateroom account; most people would leave the tips structured as they were automatically determined by the cruise line. This removed any incentive to give good service. On Coral Princess we saw lots of poor service all around. Some of the wait-staff were quite good, but others were just plain poor. Many of the crew were frowning all of the time and were just rude to the passengers and fellow crew members. It seems like a little thing but it really makes a difference in how much you enjoy your cruise. By contrast, on Celebrity Summit, the crew members were all very courteous and professional. The service was good to very good all around the ship. The overall feeling among the crew and all of the rest of the passengers was one of elegance and satisfaction. I don't know that all of the differences on Summit were due to the crew wanting better tips, but that is the conclusion that I have reached. In any case, the overall atmosphere and crew behavior yielded a much more enjoyable cruise experience.
Another big difference for us was the quality of the food. My wife is a vegetarian. We phoned ahead to check with Princess to make sure that there would be vegetarian choices for her during the cruise. They assured us that they had a vegetarian menu as well as the regular offerings at dinner. Well, once we got on board we found that they had a few vegetarian choices on the regular menu each night. Often one of the courses had no vegetarian options at all. That means, if you are a vegetarian, you don't get soup tonight or you can't have soup another night. I would say that 8 out of 10 dinners had some sort of pasta with tomato sauce as the vegetarian option for the main course. Not exactly gourmet or creative and certainly not what you would expect on a cruise. By contrast, on Summit, they often had more than one vegetarian choice for each course. The cuisine on Summit left both of us feeling happier and more content with our dining options. Besides the problems with the vegetarian options, the rest of the offerings on Coral Princess were less than stellar. I would give most of the food 3 to 3.5 stars out of 5. On the same scale, Summit's food would rate 4 to 4.5.
A problem that was pretty apparent on both ships was created by rude passengers smoking cigarettes. On Coral, many if not most of the common areas and hallways smelled of cigarette smoke. This is a real quality of life issue. We aren't smokers and we don't want to smell nasty cigarette smoke on the way to dinner, in a show, or just walking the hallways. There were no smoking signs in all of the lounges, restaurants, and common areas. These were frequently ignored by rude smokers who I occasionally observed actually carrying ashtrays into non-smoking areas! There was no enforcement or intervention by the staff. This is an issue that needs to be addressed by cruise lines. Summit shared this problem but must have had better ventilation in the common areas. We didn't smell smoke in the common areas on Summit, but we did lose the use of our balcony because of rude smokers. I have heard other passengers suggest that smokers should be restricted to balcony cabins on one side or one deck of the ship. I would love to see them eliminated completely. I know this isn't likely to happen, but I think that each cruise line should offer at least one ship in their fleet that is completely smoke-free. I think that they would find the smoke-free ships would sell out faster than any of the other ships.
We aren't too interested in Broadway style shows with singing and dancing so we often didn't go to these shows in the evenings. On Coral Princess, we did attend a couple of the shows by a couple of comedians and a magician. One of the comedians and the magician were quite good. The other comedian was so bad that we got up and left 10 minutes into the show. Fortunately we were sitting in the balcony so we didn't disturb other passengers when we left. I have heard that the entertainment on Princess is very good, but I can't vouch for or against. In our experience, the entertainment offerings on Princess and Celebrity were pretty comparable.
We also attended all of the art auctions on board Coral Princess. We had gotten interested in the art auctions on board Summit where they were offered through a third party, Park West galleries. On Coral Princess, the art auctions are all handled in house. Princess cruise lines handles all of the auctions and all of the art from warehouses in Florida. Even if you are not in the market for purchasing art, these auctions can still be a lot of fun and very educational. We both enjoyed the auctions on Princess even more than the offerings on Summit. The art director, Jeffery, was very personable. He kept the auctions interesting and entertaining. He tended to get involved in his stories a little bit more than was necessary, but this is more a matter of taste. Some people like to hear more about the artists, others just want to have the auction at a fast pace. We chatted with him a number of times during the cruise and found that Princess actually requires the art directors to change their auction spiels every so often to determine if one format is more effective than another. Princess really goes all out for these auctions. They have a number of pretty high end original pieces on board. Originals from Zamy Steynovitz, Salvador Dali, Marturos, Peter Max, Picasso, Wyland, Simbari, and others were all represented. Many of these were multiple thousands of dollars beyond our budgets, but they were still very interesting to see first hand. There were also a number of limited edition prints that were available at prices starting at under $100 for unframed pieces, and sometimes only $200-$300 for well framed pieces. Shipping was pretty reasonable too. We also liked that pieces that were shown framed, were sold framed. Surprisingly, this was often not the case from Park West galleries. They offered art with a complicated coding system that you had to keep in mind to determine whether the item came framed or unframed. The Princess auctions seemed a lot more direct and honest. One of the bonuses of attending these auctions where the art giveaways that they had at each auction. We won 4 pieces of art even though we ended up not buying anything. All we had to pay were the shipping costs for each piece which was pretty reasonable.
Ok, so that most of the comparison between Celebrity Summit and Coral Princess. Now on to the ports of call that we visited on this cruise.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica
We had read a lot of concerned posts and complaints about this port so we approached it with some trepidation. Based on some recommendations online, we tried to contact Chef and Libby for a tour of the area. They never returned our emails from a couple of weeks before the cruise. I don't know if this means that they aren't doing business anymore or if they just didn't have the time to get back with us. We got to the port and didn't have any tour booked. We got off by ourselves and intended to get a cab to Dunn's River Falls. We had read that the government controls rates for taxis and that we should only use taxis with red license plates. The control rate for a taxi from the pier to Dunn's River Falls was supposed to be $22. We got to the taxi stand and were told that it would be $5.50 per person by the taxi chief. We figured that we would be sharing the cab with another 2 people to make up the $22 for the cab. Actually, we had 8 other passengers in the cab. That is $55 instead of $22 for a 2.5 mile trip. This is just an example of the corruption that you will encounter at this port. The taxi driver was nice enough, but things were very anti-American all around. We are both quiet and respectful people who get along easily with all kinds of people. We are definitely not your typical "ugly American" cruise passengers. We were interested in seeing some of the real Jamaica, but we both felt uncomfortable there. My wife was wearing dark sunglasses and said that just about every man she saw looking her up and down in a way that made her feel very uncomfortable. She is used to getting her share of glances from men, but she said that it was menacing and we cut our visit short after seeing the falls. Dunn's River Falls was definitely worth doing at least once. We really enjoyed walking up the falls and spending some time at the beach. We wore our bathing suits and carried all of our gear with us. We even carried our digital camera with us in a double sealed plastic sandwich bag. This worked just great and we got some really good pictures of ourselves on the falls. We came out way ahead of some of our fellow passengers. We paid $5.50 per person for the cab ride plus $10 per person for entry to Dunn's River Falls. That is a total of $31 dollars for the two of us. The cheapest rate for a trip to Dunn's River Falls if booked through the ship would have cost us $96.
The partial transit to Gatun Lake was very interesting. It was something that everyone should do once in their lives. It wouldn't be a destination that I would go back to, but I am glad that we did it. We got some interesting pictures and video of the transit. There were a number of shore excursions available from the ship for people interested in seeing more of the locks. We thought we would likely see enough of the locks from the ship and the shore excursions were all pretty expensive. We were right on both counts. For us, there was plenty to see from the ship as it transited the three locks up and then back down. The ship then docked at the port city of Cristobal for a couple of hours to allow people who did go on shore excursions to board. If you are interested in buying liquor or cigars, the port of Cristobal is by far the cheapest place to buy. Even the Jamaican rum was cheaper here than in Jamaica. The larger bottle of Myer's or Appleton Rum was $9. Other brands were similarly inexpensive and there was a very large selection. The port of Cristobal also offered a pretty typical market where you could browse around for a gift. There are a lot of the typical tourist offerings, but also some hand-made baskets, carved wood and stone, and original paintings. Unless you feel like throwing your money away, do yourself a favor and haggle at least a little bit on the price. The vendors offer their goods at an inflated price expecting you to make a lower offer; it is part of the experience of markets in this part of the world. If you really want a better deal, practice your Spanish. The vendors are very impressed with visitors who care enough to learn a little of their language. We saw another passenger pay $70 for a painting that we then negotiated down to $50 with the same vendor.
Limon, Costa Rica
All of our research into this port didn't yield much. We were told that the port of Limon is very industrial and that there are no tour companies operating there. We were told that if there was any port that we wanted to book a shore excursion, this would be the place. We went ahead and booked an excursion to the Cahuita National Park through the ship at a cost of $79 per person. Cahuita is a coastal rainforest located about an hour away from the port. We found out after the fact from our tour guide that Cahuita offers some of the best snorkeling in Costa Rica just 100 meters off the beach. This was after the tour desk on the ship told us that there was no snorkeling at Cahuita. We had specifically asked because we had our own snorkeling equipment with us and wanted to know whether we should take it with us that day. As it turned out, the weather was too stormy that day to even enjoy the beach so we couldn't have gone snorkeling anyway. Still it was more than irritating to have the tour desk be that poorly informed about the destination that they would tell a passenger something that was just plainly wrong. The tour itself was enjoyable and informative. The passengers that we were with on the tour did their best to ruin the experience and to spoil the outing for everyone. We were both mortified by the idiocy of the questions and comments from the other individuals on the tour. Directly after the tour guide had finished giving us a bit of the history or Costa Rica and the Limon area one of the fat Texans on the tour asked in his twang, "When did the U.S. buy Costa Rica. I mean, don't we own this place?" To his credit our tour guide, Alfredo, reiterated the bit of history he had just finished telling, "No, sir. Costa Rica is an independent nation. We gained our independence from Spain in 1851." That wasn't the only such comment. Another passenger on the tour asked, "Are we going to get our money back since it rained?" Keep in mind that this person booked a guided RAINFOREST tour. It rained in the rainforest! How did that happen? We still enjoyed the trip quite a bit getting some great pictures of a three-toed sloth and capuchin monkeys in the trees just over the trail we were walking. Another little bit of mis-information spread by the tour desk on the Coral Princess. They claimed that Limon had no tour operators working there and we pretty much had to book through the ship or we would be stuck in the industrial harbor with nothing to do or see all day. That just isn't true. Right at the end of the cruise ship pier is a taxi stand run by a tour company. A little bit further along there is a town square where we saw at least one store front offering tours to San Jose and Rainforest tours etc. And true to form, the guided tours off the pier were considerably cheaper than the ones booked through the cruise ship. Cahuita National park tours could be had from the cruise ship pier for $45 per person. We paid $79 per person for the same tour. If you have 4 or more people in your group you could hire yourselves a private taxi for the whole day to take you just where you wanted to go for $250. That sounds like a lot but keep in mind that 4 people would have paid $316 for our HALF-day tour to Cahuita with a really unpleasant group of passengers. If we were traveling with friends or family and had known our options up front, we definitely would have paid the $250 and had a much better time.
This was definitely our favorite port. And like one of our previous cruises, the favorite port was also the one that we had the shortest time visiting. Grand Cayman was also the only port on our itinerary that required the use of ship's tenders. Ultimately this meant that we were only able to be in Grand Cayman from 8:30 until 2:30. We had booked a tour of snorkeling and stingrays with Captain Bryan through the web before leaving home. We already had all of our tickets and directions to his office which was only a couple of blocks from the dock. Grand Cayman is a much wealthier island than some of the other places in the Caribbean. We felt totally comfortable just strolling around though the traffic was a bit heavy. Unfortunately when we got to Captain Bryan's office, we were told that someone had run into his catamaran the previous night. The boat had to stay where it was until the insurance adjustor got there. They called another tour operator down the street and got us onto another boat for a similar price. This tour was with Captain Marvin. The snorkeling in Grand Cayman was fantastic. We went to the coral gardens, the barrier reef, and the stingray sandbar. The water was clear and jewel toned. There were all kinds of fish and the stingrays were amazing. The crew of Captain Marvin's boat were less than cordial to the guests and were borderline cruel and abusive to the poor stingrays. They grabbed one of the docile females and then held her up and took pictures with other passengers for a good 15 minutes. This is an animal that has gills and needs to be underwater to breathe. They were lifting it out of the water again and again for at least 15 minutes. Think of the equivalent of grabbing a dog and holding it underwater again and again so people could take a picture. My wife and I were both very disturbed by this. We didn't let it spoil the trip for us, but it was definitely a point we held against the crew and Captain Marvin. We would not recommend them to anyone not interested in supporting animal abuse. After returning to the port area, we had only the time to do some window shopping. Our first stop was into Blackbeard's. They were in the same building as Captain Marvin's and are worth a stop. They have good prices on alcohol, but the main attraction is their rum cakes. The have at least ten different varieties ranging from pina colada rum cake to mango to key lime. Don't know if you like rum cake? No problem. The store puts out a large tray with a fresh baked cake for every flavor they offer. It makes a nice snack mid-day after a day of snorkeling, but it really serves to sell the rum cakes. No wonder they don't mind how much you eat, because you WILL buy one. When we visited, they had a buy six mini's get one large cake free offer. The small ones we handed out as very well received gifts. The Blackbeard label is also much more reasonably priced than the other ones offered on the island (including the popular Tortuga brand). The port area is heavily inhabited with retail establishments. There are gift shops and jewelry stores everywhere. The main street by the port takes you to Seven-Mile beach, lots of hotels and resorts. It is also well populated by American staples like Burger King, KFC and the like if you are less adventurous with foods or traveling with finicky kids. We didn't have time to look for a local restaurant (the rum cake samples filled us up pretty well), and by the time we were hungry, it was time to get back to the ship. Given the chance, we would gladly return to Grand Cayman. Cozumel, Mexico
Cozumel was a bit of an adventure for us. We wanted to snorkel again because we had heard great things about the reefs here. We had in mind to head to Chankanaab park. The cruise ship pier is populated by overpriced stores offering liquor, jewelry, and t-shirts. It is also in the middle of nowhere. In order to get to town or just about anywhere else on the island requires some sort of transportation. There are cars for rent ($70 and up for the day), scooters for rent ($25-30 per day), and taxis available once you get to the front of the shopping area. We had seen that there was a bike trail on Cozumel that kept cyclist out of traffic for most of the way around the island. We are both cyclists, so we thought it might be fun to rent some bikes to get around the island. Unfortunately, there are no places to rent bikes anywhere near the cruise ship dock. I had spotted some bikes on a rack off to the on side of the shopping area that was indicated by a sign for crew only shopping. After some convincing, my wife agreed to go back there with me and check it out. We found out that the crew grocery store did rent bikes but only to crew members. supposedly. I asked about the bikes and rates. The owner said that they were available for $6 for 5 hours or $10 for the whole day and all he would need was one crew ID. I told him that we weren't crew but we were really interested in renting bikes. We didn't want to rent a car or scooter and couldn't make an exception for us. He agreed to rent us a couple of bikes. Like most bike rental places, the bikes were really poor quality and in really poor condition. We decided to make do in the name of fun and headed out on our amazingly heavy bikes toward Chankanaab, about 2.5 miles distant. The ride there was pleasant enough. It turns out that the paved bike trail leading from the cruise ship pier happened to be under heavy construction just then which had us sharing a narrow busy road with cars and taxis. That was a little nerve-wracking. We turned off this road to head on the coastal road toward Chankanaab. Now there were fewer cars or taxis since this road is not the fastest way to get to the park. It is definitely more scenic and being on the bike allows you to really enjoy the environment all the more. Chankanaab charges a $10 per person admission, but this gives you access to a snorkeling beach, pretty nice walking gardens, reproductions of Mayan ruins, and the dolphin encounter area. The dolphin encounter will cost you extra and we didn't go in for that. The snorkeling was great. Right off the beach you could get into the water and see all kinds of fish and beautiful coral. When we were there (early January, 2004) there were a few very, very small jellyfish in the water. Both my wife and I were stung a few times in the water at Chankanaab. I don't know if this is a seasonal thing or what. The stings weren't so bad that it made you get out of the water, but still pretty painful and definitely a shock the first time you are stung. The depth of the water there was 6 to 25 feet. This is a pretty good depth for snorkeling down and getting a closer look at the fish and coral. I had a little Minolta APS underwater camera with me on a lanyard around my neck. I was able to snorkel down and take some pictures with the camera before coming back up for air. Of course, it was nearly impossible to look through the viewfinder at anything with your mask on. Most of the pictures were just point and shoot. The film is in for developing now, so we'll see how they turn out by this weekend. I am really hoping we get some good shots out of that camera. After both of us had been out snorkeling for about 45 minutes, we came back on shore and relaxed on the beach under the shade of thatched beach umbrellas. We also took some time to stroll around the lagoon and the gardens at Chankanaab before heading out for lunch.
We had a couple of coupons that we had printed out from the web before leaving for free margaritas with food purchase from Mr. Sanchos beach club. We consulted a map of the area to find that Mr. Sanchos was located a few more miles along the same road heading further away from the cruise ship pier. We had some debate about whether we wanted to ride these heavy bikes any further from the pier. Ultimately our desire to see as much of Cozumel as we could won out and we headed out further West toward Mr. Sanchos. We were pretty hungry too by then and we knew that we could get food there. Not knowing just how far it was made the trip kind of interesting. Eventually we arrived at Mr. Sanchos. We had lunch for about $21 USD which I thought was rather high for Mexican food in Mexico, but the food was good. My wife was pretty tired after lunch so she found a beach chair to relax in while I wanted to have another go at snorkeling. There are a few hundred feet of beach there but there weren't that many people in the water. I soon found out why. I don't know if it was a difference in the current or the coastline, but the water next to Mr. Sanchos was just FULL of jellyfish. There were so many that you could see their pale, translucent bodies in the water but there was no avoiding running into them. I was dedicated to get some more time in the water and to snap some more photos, so I trudged ahead. I would say that in the 15 minutes I was in the water I was stung on every exposed surface of my skin 500 to 1000 times. No exaggeration! I have a pretty high threshold for pain, but the stings on my lips and hands really hurt. I did see some additional species of fish including a rock fish and a beautiful anemone. If the pictures turn out they will be really unique. If they don't, I will at least have some great memories.
Unfortunately by the time I got out of the water for the final time, the weather had turned rather rough. A wind had picked up out of the East and it was starting to rain. We still had a couple of hours to get back to the ship, so we didn't rush out into the storm. When the rain had slacked off a little bit we braved the whipping wind and started out our ride back to the ship. The wind was gusting up to 25 mph by this point making the riding less than fun. My seatpost bolt on the bike was missing, so the seat kept sliding lower and lower as I rode. It was almost comical with the two of us pushing along on these over-heavy, poorly tuned bikes. Railing against the wind with all of our might. My knees coming up to my chest with every pedal stroke. And we had 6 miles of riding ahead of us to get back to the ship. We trudged and fought our way along the coast. We passed Chankanaab on the way back after what seemed like an eternity. About a mile further, we heard a very ominous sound from the back of my wife's bike. Yes, her rear tire had just gone flat with a rush of escaping air. We were still 1.5 miles from the cruise ship pier on rented bikes during a rain storm. Fortunately the next person who passed in a Jeep was a fellow passenger who agreed to take my wife back to the pier while I rode the remaining bike back there by myself. We hid the bike with the flat tire off to the side of the road near a sign and I started off riding back. Not having to worry about Audra keeping up, I just stood up in the pedals and went as fast as I could to get back and get the ride over with. I explained what had happened to the other bike once we were back at the shop. The owner wasn't too happy, but was nice enough under the circumstances. He said he would pick up the bike on the way home that night. We got back on the ship tired and wet. Cozumel was certainly an unforgettable adventure.
The Coral Princess far exceeded our expectations. The ship was beautiful and all public rooms very tastefully done. The Crooners Bar was a lot of fun as each evening there was a sing-a-long with a very funny Gentleman piano player from England. Three Production shows were excellent with the fourth, unfortunately just loud and not as good.
The food was outstanding. We were surprised as there were 2000 passangers on board. We chose the "Personal Choice" dining room and had a table for two each evening, except the two we ate at the Speciality Restaurants, which were also very good. Everything selected in all restaurants came prepared as ordered, and hot which is a feat not accomplished on many of the larger ships
The Lido was also quite good. Not having to use trays but very large plates instead kept the lines rapidly moving. Selections were many and quite varied.
Bakery rolls, pastries and cakes were superb.
Only complaint,no omelette stations in the morning and the excessive charge for ice cream with no other choice on deck.
amount of stars:5
This cruise began in Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida with a crescent moon and culminated in the Florida Straits with a total Lunar Eclipse. What happened in between is the substance of this review. There was nothing average about these ten days. From the first glimpse of the Coral Princess in port with her "gas turbine/diesel enviro engines installed above decks in the funnel, it is obvious that this ship is something different. When arriving in port our son Marcello asked, "are you sailing or flying?" This is an impressive, unique silhouette: polished steel structures, resembling jet engines, and steel stacks, perched atop a 15 deck tall ship!
This ship, built in Chantiers de l'Atlantique, St. Nazaire, France, is 964 ft. long, her beam is a Panamax 106 ft, her height is 204 ft. and with a draft of 27 ft, her maximum speed is 24 knots. There are 987 cabins including 20 wheel chair accessible (sq. footage between 217 - 374); 89% of all cabins are ocean view and 83% of these have balconies. Passenger capacity is 1,970 and the crew numbers 900. She is still in her inaugural year having beenlaunched December 2002. Registry, of course, is Hamilton, Bermuda.
Since Princess is the union of two venerable lines: England's P&O (Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company) founded in 1840, and Italy's Sitmar Line established in 1913, her crews reflects these beginnings even today. When P&O purchased Sitmar in 1988, a new line emerged --- Princess. The Coral Princess' Captain Giorgio Pomata joined Sitmar in 1978, and has continued to serve on many Princess ships as Captain.
Crew members and customs reflect the Princess' origins. The serving of High Tea in the Bordeaux Dining Room every afternoon at 3:30 pm accompanied by the Delphinus Strings contributes to her very English atmosphere. The continental manners of the top Italian crew members, like Passenger Services Director Carlo Gunetti, from whom a formal greeting is customary (Ladies .."a kiss on the hand is quite continental"), and Maitre d' Generoso Mazzone, who overseas the ship's dining venues like a virtuoso conductor, generate an atmosphere of elegance and efficiency. Whilst the very British Cruise Director Trevor Bradford handles the passenger activities with great aplomb.
EMBARKATION Security was evident at Port Everglades when we arrived at 11:30 am. Embarkation started at noon. There were crew members on the dock to assist with the wheel chair and the pre entered data sheets helped to expedite the processing. The on board credit/cabin key card is a handy system. We were in our cabin within 30 minutes --- which is quite excellent.
The expansive "Welcome On Board" Buffet was appetizing; however, we tend to avoid buffets, so we ate on Lido Deck 14 at the Princess Pizza (very crispy, thin and excellent). During embarkation, personnel were stationed at all elevators providing directions and a welcoming atmosphere. Our luggage was in our room by 1:30 pm. Very efficient!
SHIP'S PUBLIC AREAS Passengers enter the ship on deck 5, into the Princess Plaza. The "Under the Seas " theme juxtaposes the Coral Princess' motto "Over the Seas." There are murals of crustaceans, black and white whales, and coral formations, as well as bubbling cylindrical glass fountains. A cascade of stainless steel flows down four flights from Deck 8, while an impressionistic stainless steel boat acts as a net for marine shapes and both are illuminated with changing colors. Each separate level of this four deck atrium affords areas for cocktails bars, coffee bars and entertainment.
Plaza Deck 5 forward is the Bordeaux dining Room. This walnut wood paneled room has several very nice paintings, square walnut columns with brass trim and a ceiling with white twinkling lights over head. The Fili D'Oro linens used in the dining rooms are a nice touch. Midship is the Passenger Service Desk, Tour Desk and the Patisserie Coffee Shop, serving specialty coffees, teas and pastries. Then, there is a series of mostly outside staterooms and just a few inside cabins.
Fiesta Deck 6 forward is the Provence Dining Room. Toward midship are the onboard shops and the entrance to the Princess Casino flanked by two red coated, beaver hatted, tall Buckingham Palace Guards. The Casino has carpeting depicting Beefeaters, Big Ben, among other London scenes. Among red painted telephone booths, passengers play Hyde Park Poker, Buckingham Palace Blackjack and other charmingly named games of chance. Going toward aft is the expansive Explorers' Lounge. It is off a wonderful corridor with windows to the sea and mosaic green, tan and white pillars forming a six arch arcade in front of the lounge. The carpeting depicts African animals, and the walls display several murals with exotic scenes (Asian, Turkish, Egyptian, Ethiopian, etc.).
All the way aft on Deck 6 is the Universe Lounge with its wide, wide, revolving and elevating stage, which is a fitting place for on board extravaganzas. However, the brass rails on its upper level obstruct the view of performers. These are soon to be replaced with glass. Look for the interestingly lighted two deck bar in the rear.
Promenade Deck 7 forward is the Princess Theatre. This simple, open room has a perfect view of the stage from every seat. Its walls are covered in gold and maroon suede. Go early or you may not get a seat. Walk toward midship to see the Wheelhouse Bar, a beautiful dark walnut paneled room with a huge brass and copper light as a centerpiece. The tables are drop leaf with brass fittings, brass wall sconces and dark green and brown leather furniture complete the decor. The carpeting is blue depicting continents, oceans and sailing ships. The walls hold many ship memorabilia and paintings of ships like the 1950 "Chusan" of P&O.
The Wheelhouse corridor entrance is flanked by two wooden ship's figureheads: One a female in a black sarong and the other a naval officer with gold epaulettes. These evoke images of the South Seas.
Mid ship is the Crooner's Lounge with pictures of the "Rat Pack" (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. etc...). Here you may purchase a martini in a Sinatra souvenir glass. There is also the Churchill Lounge where cigars and spirits can be enjoyed. Mid ship, on the port side is a beautiful wedding Chapel where couples may be married in international waters by the Captain.
Going toward aft is Sabatini's, the upscale Italian restaurant, which in this class ships is larger and more elegant than the "Sabatini's Trattoria" of the Grand class ships. Then, there also is the Bayou Cafe with its brick walls, New Orleans Jazz and Cajun cuisine. All the way aft, on this deck, is the balcony of the Universe Lounge. Outside is the wrap around Promenade with lounge chairs for reading or watching the waves.
Emerald Deck 8 has the Library, the Card Room and the Internet Cafe with world stock trade information, all of which are clustered around the central elevators. Then, both forward and aft are staterooms, some categories with balcony and some with obstructed view.
Dolphin Deck 9, Caribe Deck 10, and Baja Deck 11 are all staterooms and suites, mostly with balconies and some inside cabins.
Aloha Deck 12 is mostly staterooms with balcony and a few inside cabins, except for aft, where are located the Pelican Children's Pool & Playhouse (ages 2-7 yrs), the Fun Zone (ages 8-12 yrs) and the Off Limits Teen Center (ages 13 -17 yrs). As you can see the young people have their own well supervised facilities.
Lido Deck 14 forward has the Horizon Court (24 hr) Buffet Restaurant seating 386, which is quite crowded at peak times. Outdoors are the Princess Pizza, Lido Bar, Lido Swimming Pool, three whirlpools, and the Haagen Daz ice cream bar. Towards aft is the Solarium Lotus Pool area with its retractable dome and a swim-against-the-current pool and two small whirlpools. Excellent before 9:30 am, when you may have it all to your self. The decor is relaxing: a statue of a young Buddha overlooks the pool and there is a white gazebo on the end. Aft is the Lotus Spa and the Fitness Center.
Sun Deck 15 has a Princess Link mini golf course and the Golf Simulator with some of the world's most renown courses featured. It also holds the Outdoor Grill serving hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, etc....
Sports Deck 16 has a Splash Pool, a Center Court for sports with space for spectator seating, Shuffle Board and the Deck Chess Set.
FOOD & SERVICE Passenger Services Director Carlo Gunetti has this ship running like a precise time piece: The service is fast and friendly. For instance, a screw broke on Vincent's wheelchair during boarding and Ronan Amaral, Jr. Asst. Purser, supplied us with a temporary wheelchair while he had Vincent's fixed over night. He was very helpful, and we appreciate his thoughtfulness. Throughout the ship we always received courteous and prompt service with a smile!
The "Anytime Dining Program" means that there is more to do for the Maitre d' Generoso and the Head Waiters, since there is no longer a fixed time and table for many cruisers: thus, reservations and seating is an ongoing activity. We happen to recognize Head Waiter Pasquale Marino from previous cruises, but on the Coral he was magnificent. Generoso and his staff pleasantly greeted the passengers at the dining room door and outdid themselves in accommodating everyone's request in the best possible way. Moreover, the Maitre d' himself went from table to table assuring that everything was perfect.
At Table #20 for two, we enjoyed some of the finest meals. At lunch, our waiter, Elisa Dumitrescu was always cordial and efficient as was the asst. waiter Sandor Lorincz. Every evening our waiters Gerardo De Leon and his Asst. Larry Gutierez were top notch. We know this wonderful service is mainly due to the instructions of Generoso and Pasquale. We surely received special attention. They helped us in selections from the kitchen and their recommendations were always excellent. Thank you for the many great delicacies. Bravi! The International Menu offers splendid choices; there is a lot of reading. We thoroughly enjoyed this Gastronomic Tour. Executive Chef Michael Borns, his Sous Chef Giuseppe and the Pastry Chef Cosimo (Sicily) did three "Culinary Demonstrations," two of which we attended. Princess Lines has three Corporate Executive Chefs, and seventeen Executive Chefs, thirteen of which are Italian, including our old friend Antonio Cereda. The gustatory delights we sampled were outstanding and here are some of our recommendations:
SAILAWAY DINNER: Shrimp Cocktail; Cream of Porcini Mushroom Soup; Watercress and lettuce salad, and Nebraska Prime Rib.
CAPTAIN'S WELCOME DINNER: Crab Quiche with jalapeno chili salsa; Capon broth, tortellini with minced chives; Mixed salad with arugula; Lobster Thermidor or Royal Pheasant with shallots and Parisienne potatoes.
PRINCESS DINNER: Cold water Lobster & Crayfish Cocktail with sun dried tomatoes; Chilled Cream of Zucchini with William pear and blue poppy seeds; Endive salad with mushrooms and shallots; Roast Buffalo slowly cooked in Napa Valley Red Wine sauce with potato pancake and baby vegetables.
FRENCH DINNER: Pate de fois de Strassbourg; Escargot Bourguignon (cooked in Bourdeaux wine); French onion soup; Mixed garden greens and radicchio with vinaigrette; Caneton Roti a` l'Orange (Roast duckling glazed with Orange Curacao sauce).
ITALIAN DINNER: Prosciutto di Parma with melon; Eggplant Parmigiana; Pasta e fagioli; Salad of baby spinach, crispy bacon, pine nuts and Pecorino cheese; Pappardelle al Sugo di Lepre (Flat egg noodles with rabbit sauce).
INTERNATIONAL DINNER: Baby leeks with smoked salmon in Champagne sauce; Won Ton soup; Salad of lettuce, tomato, avocado and red onion; Penne pasta with calamari; Surf & Turf of Filet Mignon and Jumbo grilled shrimp.
CHEF'S DINNER: Green asparagus spears in warm tarragon butter sauce under puff pastry; Lobster bisque with Cognac; Salad of field greens, cherry tomatoes and shredded carrot; King crab legs or Rack of Lamb Dijonaisse with Brussels sprouts and garlic mashed potatoes and mint jelly.
These menus do not list the "piece de resistance" DESSERT. There is such a variety, that we will only name a few of our favorites:
* Swan puffs on a heart shaped lake of melted chocolate. * All of the Soufflés, vanilla, chocolate, raspberry, hazelnut and their accompanying sauces. * Almond mousse with custard -- ooh la la! * Sorbets, sherbets and ice creams are all made on board and are delicious. * Pecan pie, apple pie, and pear tart --- do not miss them. * Dark chocolate mousse, heart shaped with Lady Godiva liqueur, Tiramisu and NY cheesecake are served every day. * Many fruits, international cheeses and delicate petit fours are served daily.
The dining room staff are beautifully dressed every night: Nile green dinner jackets, Red, White & Blue cummerbunds with stars and matching ties. The Maitre d' Generoso looks spiffy in his pin stripe trousers and black cut away. Head waiter Pasquale was sharp in the white tuxedo with shawl lapels. What more can we say? As Executive Chef Borns said, "Food is a feast for the eyes as well as the palate." The English Rose dinnerware was the palette for the plating of excellent culinary masterpieces.
We also dined in Sabatini's whose decorations were refined and lovely. The long parade of antipasti made the main course seem anticlimactic; however, we still managed to enjoy the veal chop and the fritto misto frutti di mare (mixed seafood, langostino, shrimp, scallops etc., etc...). This made for a very enjoyable evening, overlooking the sea with wonderful background music.
CABIN Our Stateroom # C627, wheelchair accessible, has a double wide door and when entering on the left there is a triple armoire with two closets, and a third with shelves, and a personal safe. Next, there is a TV, and a desk/mirrored vanity with hair dryer, and two chairs. When entering on the right there is a huge bathroom with 5x5 ft. shower and many safety rails in the proper places. The triple mirror is nice, but the shelves are small. There is a queen bed, two four drawer night stands and an end table.
The far wall is glass with the ramp and door to the double balcony. There was a large table and two chairs to which our terrific Steward Henry Sebastian added a chaise for Vincent. Henry was excellent in every way. Accommodations Supervisor Dorota Bak (Poland) visited us just to check if we needed anything. She was very courteous and we appreciated it. Thank you.
ENTERTAINMENT The Coral Princess has many venues similar to the larger Grand class ships, but it is smaller and carries fewer passengers. The Princess Theatre Production shows were nicely staged, (but could use a sound check, since the decibel rate was too high at times). We preferred the Universe Lounge, where the Premier Season of "Tribute" was performed on the extra wide stage, while making good use of its rotation and elevation capabilities. The show was dedicated to music legends such as the following: the Beatles ("Hey Jude"), the Beach Boys ("California Girl"), The Rat Pack (Frank, Dean and Sammy were all highlighted), and finally Cher's "Believe" was saluted. The singers were terrific and the Princess dancers were energetic. The same cast performed "Da Beat" a Jazz/Swing piece.
Most shows were staged twice to give cruisers a chance to see them. We especially enjoyed Tony Cherry, a singing impersonator, who did a memorable Tom Jones and other imitations.
The "Princess Patter" lists all daily activities, plus has a column from the Ship's Navigator which is informative both historically and geographically. It also gives the current ship's position. Other activities were Trivia, at which we each won 5 gold medals and 6 silver for Mary and 7 silver for Vincent. There is also line dancing, Bingo, horse races, and daily movies (i.e. "Bruce Almighty," "Alex and Emma," "Plots with a View,"), etc. The Princess Scholarship Program is new and offers the following classes: Pottery, Digital Photography, Building Wealth Investing, and the Princess Grapevine wine tasting.
All of the above is under the stewardship of the affable Cruise Director Trevor Bradford, and he is up to the task. Princess also has a Captain's Circle Program which has many benefits for repeat cruisers. On board Host Nicola Fisher was helpful and explained many of the perks: a Quarterly, preferential pricing, stand by, platinum check in, on board events etc. It pays to return to Princess. We expect to return soon, since we have booked on board three future cruises!
PORTS OF CALL
Oct. 30, 2003 Port Everglades, Ft Lauderdale, Florida, Depart 5:00 pm Oct. 31, 2003 At Sea Nov. 1, 2003 Cozumel, Mexico -- Arrive: 6:59 am Depart: 4:26 pm Some of the available shore excursions: Tulum Mayan Ruins, 7 hrs, $94; New Waves Scuba Diving, 2.5 hrs, $75, for beginners. Nov. 2, 2003 Grand Cayman -- Arrive: 10:00 am Depart: 6:36 pm Island Highlights & Stingray Sandbar Snorkeling, 4.5 hrs, $64; Atlantis Submarine Odyssey, 1.5 hrs, $86. Nov. 3, 2003 At Sea Nov. 4, 2003 Limon, Costa Rica -- Arrive: 6:27 am Depart: 6:56 pm The Jungle Train, 3.5 hrs, $49, a ride through the lush rain forest; River Rafting, 7.5 hrs, $99. Nov. 5, 2003 Panama Canal -- Arrive: 5:46 am Depart: 7:26 pm One hour and 42 minutes to traverse the Gatun Locks; Cruising in Gatun Lake (the world's largest man made lake), There was a a perfect rainbow off starboard side, which we saw from our balcony as we ate breakfast; We arrived at Colon's Cristobal Cruise Terminal at 4:06 pm, but were not allowed into the city because of political demonstrations. There is great shopping on the pier (coffee, T-shirts, Panama hats, etc...) Nov. 6, 2003 At Sea Nov. 7, 2003 Ocho Rios, Jamaica -- Arrive: 12 noon Depart: 4:18 pm Prospect Plantation & Dunn's River Falls, 4 hrs, $62; River Tubing Safari, 3.5 hrs, $69. Nov. 8, 2003 At Sea Nov. 9, 2003 Port Everglades -- Debarkation: 9:00 am
SUGGESTIONS 1. During the Welcome Aboard Buffet, at the Horizon Court some crew should direct the passengers to the various food stations thus minimizing the long line formed at the first station near the entrance. This long line occurs mainly on the first day, when new passengers are unaware of the several food stations which can be accessed independently.
2. At the Princess Theater the last row of seats and the area behind it should be reserved for people with wheelchair and those with limited mobility as well as the persons accompanying them. The reserved area should be supervised by a theater attendant before the beginning of shows.
CONCLUSION Princess remains one of our favorite cruise lines. We are now Platinum Members of the Captain Circle, the Princess "Frequent Floaters" Club. We have already booked with Princess three future cruises; however, before we'll be back on a Princess ship, we must complete the next three cruises in the near future: The Southern Caribbean on the new Serenade of the Seas, Dec. 6 - 13, 2003; the Western Caribbean on the new Costa Mediterranea, Jan. 11 - 18, 2004; and the W. Caribbean again on the new Mariner of the Seas, Feb. 22 - 29, 2004. As you may have noticed we love cruising and we especially favor new ships, which we can first explore and write about. We plan to write reviews of our next cruises, so look for them at the appropriate time. We wish you Great Holidays and Happy Cruising