I recently returned from the CORAL PRINCESS on October 30, 2003 after 10-days to the Caribbean and Panama Canal. All in all a very enjoyable cruise. Having recently sailed on five different cruise lines (Cunard, Celebrity, Holland America, Carnival, and Princess) in a 12 month period really gave me a great benchmark for comparison. My conclusion is that Princess continues to offer a rock solid product for the money, although it's a little bland for my personal liking. Certainly Princess has become more mass-market over the last 10 years, but this comes as no surprise with the larger ships and expanded fleet.
The many pros include the easiest embarkation yet. I was dropped off at the pier in Ft. Lauderdale and literally in my cabin within 15 minutes. This has to be the most painless embarkation I have yet to experience. I arrived early (around 11:30am) and expected to wait, and as it turned out this was not the case at all. My cabin was a category AF, cabin C204. An outside mini-suite with no balcony all the way forward in the ship. The location was very quiet and access to anoutside forward deck was the next best thing to a balcony. As it turned out, this secluded outside deck was a gem for watching the Panama Canal transit. The cabin itself was 302 sq. feet and the increased size was in it's length and not width. There were all the standard amenities including two TV's and a bathtub. The mini-suite was prefabricated in design as is the case with all the standard cabins on the ship, and no upgrades to finish or furnishings were apparent. A nice touch is the glass mailbox outside each door which holds the MANY leaflets delivered each day promoting the onboard concessions. Thankfully, announcements (revenue producing or otherwise) are kept to an absolute minimum on Princess Cruises. A slot in the mailbox displays the names of the cabin occupants, and is even color coded to reflect your status with Princess Cruises. A first time Princess cruiser, a Gold or Platinum Captain's Circle member. This was a nice personal touch that I believe is a Princess exclusive. Your onboard cruise card also gives instant recognition to the staff onboard as it is coded as well to the Captain's Circle level you have reached. I am a Platinum member with Princess and received recognition from many of the Princess staff each time I presented my card. The decor of CORAL PRINCESS was typical of modern day Princess Cruises. I often say if you have sailed one Princess ship you have pretty much sailed them all, and CORAL PRINCESS is no exception. Many of the lounges and dining rooms look the same on all Princess ships right down to the carpet, drapes, and furnishings. While I prefer more originality, the decor is popular with Princess regulars who feel right at home regardless of which Princess ship they are sailing. Of course there are exceptions but for the most part the ship interiors are very similar. The art work is nothing to write home about, and it would not be out of place in any Holiday Inn throughout the US. The art work on Celebrity and Royal Caribbean is certainly more expansive and expensive and I find the decor more inspiring. The activities onboard were excellent and varied. Princess now offers a Scholarship at Sea program which features lectures on everything from Astrology to pottery. It's a great program and a nice change from all the revenue producing activities like bingo and art auctions. There are also the usual pool games, bingo, bands, port talks, and gym/spa. The gym is quite nice and located all the way aft. It is surrounded by windows and I enjoyed a couple beautiful sunsets while working out. First rate modern equipment is offered and the only thing lacking was decent music. Thankfully I bring my own. A complimentary sauna is also available, but use of the luxurious steam rooms (there are four) are only for those taking part in a spa treatment. I enquired about the possibility of purchasing a daily or 10-day pass to the steam rooms but was told this was not an option. This was a disappointment and Princess could learn from Celebrity which does offer a "spa package" that enables unlimited use of the steam chambers for the entire cruise. The evenings offered a choice of entertainment options and most were repeated at least once during the cruise. There were four production shows and they were excellent, maybe the best I have seen at sea. I thought four production shows during a 10-day cruise was rather impressive. Most 7-day cruises only have two, so if you like production shows you are in for a treat on CORAL PRINCESS. My favorite entertainer onboard was Tommy McPhee from Scotland. He was the piano player/singer that performed each evening in the piano bar called Crooners. To say he was excellent is an understatement. He had a voice like Elton John and played the piano marvelously. Many nights it was standing room only in Crooners. Tommy is so good that I dare say cruise ships are beneath him and he belongs on Broadway. I also became personal friends with Tommy during the cruise and spent some fun (and very late) evenings with him at the disco. He is just as entertaining off stage as he is on. Speaking of discos, avoid CORAL PRINCESS if you have any plans of late evenings or dancing the night away to the tunes of Donna Summer or Diana Ross. The ship has no dedicated disco/nightclub and a large lounge called Explorer's doubled as the nightclub. This lounge was a poor excuse for a nightclub and had about as much atmosphere as the Princess Theater. In fact Explorer's was in actuality a small show lounge. This was a big disappointment and I think more people might have stayed out later were there a proper venue for a late night crowd. As it was, this cruise was right up there with Holland America in terms of nightlife, or lack thereof. The majority of the passengers were elderly (I'm in my mid-30's) and were in bed by 10pm. Thank goodness I found a few passengers (and Tommy) who enjoyed staying up late on occasion, and I did have a couple 5-6am nights that were rather memorable. It's pretty scary being on deck at 4am still enjoying cocktails (ordered from room service) when the "early birds" start appearing from the woodwork and roaming the decks searching for food! :) As many already know, Princess offers 24-hour fresh water pools and spas. This is a great feature and became a very fun alternative to Explorer's which closed down between 1-2am promptly and regardless of passenger presence. Princess continues to offer the "Champagne Waterfall" one evening in the atrium, and I'm glad to see this Princess tradition still in existence as I remember it from Princess Cruises 15+ years ago. Food and service were adequate but nothing spectacular. We had "Anytime Dining" which meant we ate dinner at whatever time we chose, and with or without tablemates. As it turned out we ate dinner most nights at 8:30pm and rarely (if ever) had to wait. Some nights we dined at a large table and other times at a table for three (I traveled with my bother and a friend I met on a previous cruise). This worked out well as sometimes we were not in the mood for small talk and other nights meeting new people was enjoyable. Of course we had a different waiter each evening and all were fine, but none stood out as truly exceptional. If you are looking for a more personal relationship with your waiter, meaning one that remembers your preferences then "anytime dining" is not for you. The food itself was good although I can't think of any dish that truly stood out as exceptional except for the Beef Wellington which is a favorite of mine. Princess seems to be one of the few cruise lines that still serve this traditional dish. Food in the 24-hour Horizon Court quickly grew tiresome and as the cruise went on there seemed to be fewer and fewer items I found appealing. Other options included the Bayou Cafe which we did not try, and Sabatini's which was the alternative Italian restaurant. This was an excellent option for the evening and the food and service were very good. I had tried Sabatini's onboard GOLDEN PRINCESS and the experience was very much the same on CORAL. Ports of call included Ocho Rios, Panama Canal, Cristobal, Limon, Cozumel, and Grand Cayman. I only got off the ship in Limon and Grand Cayman as I have been to all the ports many times (and only a couple months ago). The Panama Canal was very interesting as always although a full transit provides a better experience. Those that took a tour off the ship to the Pacific side locks were universally pleased with the experience. There was not much to see in Limon itself so this is another place I recommend taking an organized tour. In Grand Cayman we enjoyed the Stingray City tour as my friend Ruth had never experienced it. The day was beautiful and the tour well organized and worth the cost. It's a thrilling experience no matter how many times you interact with the stingrays. All good things must come to an end and so did my CORAL PRINCESS cruise. Unfortunately disembarkation was not as organized as embarkation and Princess could stand some improvement. Getting off the ship itself was fine, but once in the pier area it was chaos. People and luggage everywhere with little organization and a long line to get though Customs (unless you hire a porter which entitles you to a shorter line). Surely there must be a better way to end a cruise vacation? I met some wonderful new friends on this cruise and that in itself is a sure sign of a successful vacation. These are people I hope to remain in contact with which I can't say about every cruise. As I stated early on Princess really does offer a quality product, although it's just a tad stale and homogenized when compared to Celebrity or Royal Caribbean. The passenger base of Royal Caribbean seems more in line with my age group, while the modern and stylish interiors of Celebrity ships are to my personal taste. Princess is somewhere in between and while they may not be my first choice, I would not hesitate to sail on them again. Best regards, Ernie Roller ps - I took very few pictures during this cruise (maybe a sign I was having a good time), and they can be found at: http://public.fotki.com/eroller/coral_princess_10-2/
This is my review of our 7/7 land tour #22 and southbound coral cruise 7/12. We are 50 year old's, this was our 6th cruise, 3rd on princess. This is only my opinion, hope you enjoy. I am doing a day by day review, ( land first then the cruise).
Day 1- 7/7. Flight- Northwest NY to Minn.- Minn. to Fairbanks. The flight left on time landed at 1:45PM local time, connection left at 2:30PM, ran across the terminal about 8 miles (felt like it). Had Just enough time to grab food from Burger King and take it on board. Plane left on time. Can't believe there was no movie on a 5 hour flight. Arrived Fairbanks on time. Met the princess person and was given information envelope with room keys, etc. Took the bus to the Princess Riverside Lodge. All luggage was delivered to the room, we went to eat at Trackers grill, very good then to sleep. (Note: It never got dark. We knew about midnight sun and all, but it says sunset at 12:30 am and sunrise at 3:40am. But it NEVER got dark. The sun goesjust below the horizon and the sky still is bright, like just at dusk. Strange.
Day 2- 7/8. Woke up early (very), took a walk and a few pictures. Beautiful day, sunny going to be in the 80s. We ate in the Edgewater restaurant for breakfast, (OK). Off to the riverboat Discovery. It's a nice trip quiet and calm with beautiful scenery, Had a look at Mt. McKinley from 200 miles away. Saw dog sled exhibit from Susan Butcher, the dogs are real funny. Bus back to the hotel for lunch. Now off to the Gold Mine, to pay for the trip. LOL. Well back from the gold mine, I will have to go back to work after all. They said we had $24 worth of gold, they sell jewelry to put it in if you want, had a good time. Stopped at the Alaska pipeline, amazing. Then went through downtown Fairbanks. Time to shower and eat. We went to Pikes Landing for dinner, just down the road from the hotel. Sat on the deck overlooking the river. The food was very good, nice and relaxing. Went back to the room repacked all luggage, sent 2 bags direct to the ship, others to Princess Mt. McKinley Lodge. Had to have luggage outside room by 5:30 am. Time to sleep again.
Day 3- 7/9. Woke up early, (beginning to see a pattern here).Bus leaves at 7:15am to the Midnight Sun Train. Again expecting a beautiful day. We are on the train now, it left right on time. There is a tour operator on the train to book for next lodge. We then went to the dinning car for breakfast, it was very good. Great looking train cars. Not really much to see, lots of trees, trees and then some more trees. Towards the end of the ride (last hour or so) the view gets better with high mountains, a river, got some nice shots. Finally arrived at Denali Princess Lodge, we had about 45 minutes to eat lunch (we ate Lynx Pizza, so-so). Then we boarded school bus for the Denali tour. Great scenery, go to a zoo if you want to see animals. We saw 1 carabu at about 100 yards, 1 snow hare. Back to Denali lodge to pick up our coach to Mt.McKinley lodge. Nice looking lodge with large deck, great room. Ate at Grizzly's Bar, on deck, good food. You could just see the mountain, hopefully better tomorrow. Bedtime.
Day 4-7/10. Woke up to cloudy sky and drizzle. Had a good breakfast at the lodge, waiting to see if the summit flight tour would be cancelled or not. Not cancelled yet so we took the bus to Talkeetna (1hour plus). Went to K2 Aviation and were told it was cancelled. Walked around downtown Talkeetna, not much to see. Waiting for the bus back to lodge. There was a large female moose on the side of the road. Cloudy all day with no view of the mountain. Just hung out for the rest of the day. Getting ready for dinner with another couple we met (nice people). We ate at the Mountain View restaurant, wonderful food and company. Very strange, 10:30pm and still light.
Day 5- 7/11. Woke up to rain. We have the Jeep Safari booked for today, so quick breakfast and pack bags again. They had to be outside the door before we go on the tour. The Jeep tour was great, lots of fun. Now bus to the train again, Midnight Sun to Anchorage. No problems, got to the hotel about 8:00pm and went to our room at the Hilton. Took a stroll around the area, pretty with lots of flowers and gift shops. Sleep time.
Day 6- 7/12. Woke up early, had to have luggage out by 8:00am.Went downstairs for breakfast, very good but expensive (what else is new). The bus to Seward is very nice, pretty views with a few stops for pictures. (Tip- sit on the right side of the bus, you see the water most of the way). Can't wait to unpack on the ship and leave it for a week. We arrived about 1:00pm, picked up cruise card and was onboard in 15 minutes. Eating in 10 minutes.lol. Tip. If you go off the ship again in Seward, be sure to take cruise card and picture ID to get back on , you have to go through security again.
Thats it for the land portion of this, if you have any questions about lodges, tours or whatever ask away.
Thanks for reading this, the cruise is next Mark This is part 2, life on the ship, Coral Princess 7 night southbound Alaska.
Day 1 Seward. We went to the horizon buffet to grab lunch. The food was very good, it was nice to eat and not get a bill after (like on the land). We did laundry as we planned. The bags we sent from Fairbanks came first, unpacked them, then, headed into town for some soda. The rest of our bags were delivered, so now we were free. Went exploring the ship, it's very nice looking and clean. The first night onboard everyone has to eat 1st or 2nd seating dinner (no PC). They give you a ticket as to which seating to go to. They handed my wife one for early seating, she asked for late seating. It took them a while but finally got the right one for us. The reason for no PC dinning is Safety Drill (muster) is at 8:15pm. By the time we finished the drill and returned life vest to the room, it was after 9:00pm. We went to eat, I was mad that the ship sailed while we were still eating. After we finished we went up on deck, WOW. We enter College Fjord at 6:30am, so off to bed we go.
Day 2 College Fjord. Woke up very early (5:00am), it's a beautiful sunny day. It feels cold, of course I'm in my underwear on the balcony, lol. Waiting for 6:00am room service. Food came right on time, a quick cup of coffee and bagel and off the see the show. What a show it is. It was quite cold, so I put on several layers and off we went. Sailed up College Fjord, just amazing. The Glaciers are coming down from the mountains to the water. (Tip- Get the highest magnification binoculars you can. With my zoom lens on my camera, the ice looks like a carpet but with the binoculars you can see the rows of ice). After a while the ship turns around and goes out the same way it went in, so you don't have to be there at 6:30 if you don't want to see everything twice. Saw a few otters from a bit of a distance. Going to get a real breakfast now. Spent some time in the sun looking for wildlife, saw a whale but again far away. Went to bingo (lost), went to the casino for a while (lost) see a pattern here (lol). Later today we sailed into a fog bank and the temp. dropped and was cloudy the rest of the day. We made dinner plans with the couple we met on the train, Very nice English couple now living in Orlando Fl. Tonight is the first formal night, Captain cocktail party at 7:45pm then dinner. After dinner we went to the show Dance. Typical cruise show, good music, dancing and costume changes. Went back to the casino, won a little of my money back. Sleep.
Day 3 Glacier Bay. Slept in today, 9:00am. Buffet breakfast, as we are starting to sail into Glacier Bay. It is very cold out, gray, cloudy low 50sand windy. We got dressed, I was wearing long sleeve t-shirt, sweatshirt, waterproof jacket with fleece lining, hat and gloves. We got 2 lounge chairs right in the front of the ship up on deck 15 and watched as we sailed into the bay. After a while my wife went and got 2 blankets (the ship had these on deck 14 at the pool, which you sign out then return, free). We viewed a few glaciers as we sailed up the tar inlet, now the sun started to break thru the clouds. As the sun got stronger, the layers started coming off. The temperature must have risen 20 degrees at least. Anyway back to the glaciers. At the end of the tar inlet is the Margerie Glacier. This is the one you see in all the TV and ads, very high, with white and blue ice. Just as we approached it a piece broke off (calved) but we were still pretty far away. The ship stops right there nice and close. There were 2 small calving, not much but better then nothing. After a while the ship turns so the other side balcony's can view it. My Balcony was on this side so I ran to my room to watch it. All the balcony's on this side were full (hope the ship doesn't roll over, ha ha). Just as the ship started to leave we said it's now or never. And as if on cue we heard a crack and a large piece fell right in front of us, awesome. This is what everyone came here for. I had called room service as soon as I got to the room, ordered 2 hot dogs and french fries. So I ate lunch watching the glacier as we sailed away. My wife and I went up to the hot tub for a while, (very nice). Went to dinner, and the show, comedian Sarge (he was pretty funny). Hit the casino again (broke even) and now time to sleep.
Day 4 Skagway. Had room service breakfast, we had the Yukon bus and White Pass Train tour. Today is a mix of sun and clouds, we started up the mountains and it was very foggy for a while. There is some very nice scenery, large drop off the side of the road, lots of lakes and mountains. We go to Carcross (could have skipped this) for lunch, which is 2 little pieces of chicken, bread and coleslaw. There are some live animals in pens and 2 plastic dall sheep in the mountain behind everything (tacky). Back on the bus after lunch and then down to the train. Right at the train depot we saw a large bear in the grass at the end of the parking lot. We were about 100 feet away or less, got some good pictures. We though it was a grizzly but the train conductor said it was a cinnamon black bear. Took the train back to Skagway, great views on the train. Did a little shopping and back to the ship for FOOD, I was as hungry as a bear, Lol. Just relaxed on the balcony for a while looking for whales. Time for dinner and the show, (Curtain Up) enjoyable like the other one. Stopped at the casino (lost) and bed.
Day 5 Juneau. Woke up and called the tour desk to check about helicopter dogsled tour, (foggy out). They said go to the pier and see, we did and they cancelled it (S#+T). We were able to get on the 11:30am whale watching tour so we did it. My wife went to get a manicure while we killed time. I went to the tour desk and switched our Ketchikan tour as we had booked a boat tour there. (didn't want to do same thing). Had late breakfast and off to the whales, I hope. Well we did see whales, actually 6 humpbacks were doing what is called bubble feeding, very cool. We saw a few harbor seals and eagles. So it wasn't a waste of time, (still would have rather been yelling mush mush, lol. Going to dinner soon and the comedian Scott Wyler, he was very funny. Went to the casino and made another deposit. Bed time.
Day 6 Ketchikan. We had changed our tour yesterday from boat cruise to a seaplane to Misty Fjord and cruise. I like to do different kinds of things on these trips, and had never been in a small plane. The plane ride was really fun beautiful area, we landed on the water and transferred to the boat. It was OK, we saw lots of working fishing boats. Returned to the ship, tonight is the captain's club cocktail party. So were getting ready for dinner early also the 2nd formal night. Had the usual lobster tails tonight. Off to the show Tribute, very good music (beatles, beach boys etc.) After the show I'm planning on going to the casino to get all my money back, didn't happen. See ya.
Day 7 At Sea. Had a very sunny and warm day, Slept in late 9:00am. Also turned the clocks ahead 1 hour during the night. Had the casino tournaments today (slot and blackjack, I know I will get my money back now, lol) didn't win. We ate lunch and sat by the pool for a while. Went to the BIG BINGO game, $2000 prize (by now you know what's going to happen) right I didn't win. HAHA. We also packed all our bags during the slow time this afternoon so we wouldn't have to rush tonight. There was a pre-dinner comedy show with both comedians, a riot. We had dinner a kind of sad time, as you know it's all over. One last time to see my money, waved goodbye and back to room to sleep. We also put all of the luggage outside our door at 8:00pm.
Day 8 Disembarking. Woke up early had breakfast in the horizon court, packed our carry on bags and said goodbye to our friends, and waited to leave the ship. We had a 10:30 am flight to Toronto on Air Canada. We had to get all of our bags and go to customs, they sent us the wrong way out and had to go back to find a bus to airport. The bus didn't leave till almost 9:00 am, the airport is about a half hour away from the dock. Getting short on time. Arrived at 9:30, got bags from the bus, got a cart and into the airport we go (a mad house). People everywhere. They tell you to use a machine to get your boarding pass, but the machine said see attendant. Wait no another line, finally there and the person is typing like I am now. (thought, she was writing a book). Checked bags, went to another machine to pay leaving tax $10 PP (?), now to security line. Of course they had to open all carry on bags, look at camera binoculars etc. At last we get to the gate and they are already boarding the plane. But this is the way to fly, a nice new big plane with a movie and free headsets. Landed on time in Toronto and this place is nuts too. Because this is an international flight, we had to get all our luggage (another cart), go to US customs, long line and go to security again. Re check luggage in and go to gate. Of course they stopped my wife and went through her carry on and purse. They wouldn't let her take the can of bug spray on board. (a gift to the inspector) and off we go. Arrived on time and our son was there to take us home.
Day 9 Laundry HA HA. Hate this part of vacation.
General Information and Opinions : I now know why Northwest is called northworst by people on these boards.
The land tour is exhausting. Beautiful land and a great way to see much of it, glad we booked it with Princess for our first visit. If I go back I will do my own thing.
Princess does an amazing job of moving you and your luggage all over the place and on schedule.
The cruise was great, the ship is beautiful, I like this size ( I have been on smaller, Dawn and larger, Grand).
All the entertainment on the ship was very enjoyable, good music and dancing, the comedians were very good too.
The food was good in the dinning room and horizon court. Breakfast has the same food everyday, lunch buffet was very good. Pizza was OK, hot dogs had a funny taste to me, burgers were all overcooked for my taste. Dinner was a little to fancy for my taste (as are most cruises). But they always had steak or chicken available.
I was very disappointed in the animal viewing, I know it is very hit or miss but I kept missing.
Weather is unpredictable, the two tours we really wanted to do were both cancelled due to weather so keep an open mind and be flexible.
All the Princess staff, bus/tour guides, hotel staff, cruise crew etc. were top notch and very friendly. We will cruise with Princess again, and again.
Overall we had a wonderful trip, met many nice people and you can't believe the land of Alaska.
If anyone has any questions about specific things, just respond to this and I will try to answer them as best as I can. Thank you for taking the time to read this, I know it was long but I felt that I couldn't get enough information before I went.
Thanks and happy cruisingMark
Our Caribe 408, port side deck 10, balcony room was nice -- well appointed, and very clean. The closet space seemed a tad larger than on previous ships. Loads of hangers available.
Our balcony was at least twice as large than any other we have had, which was great! On our deck the balcony offered some privacy close to the door but no privacy out by the railing. The deck below ours (#9) had no privacy at all. Although it was the same size as ours, it had no overhang. This was not a problem; I am just mentioning it since this question seems to come up frequently.
The chairs on our deck could change position into a semi-lounger (just the back moved). This was nice. There was a nice big table on our balcony as well.
The bathroom was the same size as always -- small but serviceable. The shower was amazingly strong and wonderful. (Small things like this make me happy.) The Food Overall the food in the dining room was very good and plentiful. We did the traditional dining, large table, 2nd seating (8:15). We were quitepleased with this arrangement, as well as our tablemates. We were always among the last table left in the dining room -- laughing and having a great time.
Our waitresses (Mariana and Caterina from Romania) were the only girl-girl team on the ship, and we enjoyed their service tremendously -- it was flawless.
Our headwaiter Riccardo was kind enough to make our table a special pasta dish one night when he found out it was my favorite. We love pasta!
The wine selection was pretty good. The waitresses now handle the wine, instead of a separate sommelier. An average bottle will cost you between $22 and $35. There are much better bottles available as well. We did not try any of the alternative dining places, so I cannot comment on them. (Mostly because we really enjoyed our tablemates and did not want to dine elsewhere, although there was nothing on either menu that really interested me.)
The pizza on pool deck was addictive! It was so good that I craved it almost every day. No wonder I gained 7 pounds in 10 days! My husband also had nothing but positive comments on the cheeseburgers at the grill. The Tours We don't take organized tours, so I am unable to comment on them. We used to take the tours, but never really enjoy them as much as striking out on our own. The Entertainment I am not one for going to the movies while on a cruise ship, but I must admit to being tempted by some good films (My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Road to Perdition, About a Boy, Insomnia, Bourne Identity, Spiderman).
The musical shows were very typical cruise-type offerings. Some shows were terrific while others were not quite as terrific, but everything was entertaining. I won't go into details here since everybody has different tastes in music (especially my husband and I!), but go expecting to be well-entertained.
The Cruise Director (Paul O'Laughlin) was very good, and his sidekick deputy cruise director (James) was also quite entertaining. Their morning show on the Princess TV was pretty funny at times, although Paul should really stop whistling on the air! James had lots of energy and seems more visible throughout the ship than Paul. One of the other assistant cruise directors, Martin, was especially fun and full of energy as well. There were 3 karaoke nights, which for some of you may be a positive point, and for others a negative point. :-) To each their own. There was also a passenger talent show on the last day, for those of you interested. Greg Bonham was on the ship -- typical Vegas-style singing and trumpet playing. Not my cup of tea, but the crowd (mostly in their 60s on this ship) seemed to love him.
Billy Vader was also on the ship. He's a comedian that we've sailed with before. He was funny when he didn't sing (which unfortunately was not enough of the time). It's not that he doesn't have a good voice; I just prefer talking funny to singing funny. I must admit however that Billy was a lot funnier than David Brenner was on the Grand a few years ago. Billy is a happy sort that is very visible on the ship and always has time to chat with passengers. He's been doing this a long time and seems to actually enjoy it.
The piano player in Crooners was very entertaining. He could play a wide variety of music, and his voice seemed to expertly mimic whatever performer he was singing.
The library was beautiful -- and chock full of brand new books. There were special comfortable "listening" chairs available, where you could sit and listen to CDs (on headphones).
The card room was much larger than on other ships, and very nice. There were loads of board games for borrowing, and plenty of cards. On this particular voyage, it seems as though there were quite a few bridge players and bridge-related activities. This is not something we are into, but it seemed to make a lot of people happy. The Ports My favorite two ports of call on this trip were Grand Caymen and Cozumel. Grand Cayman has beautiful (free) beaches, inexpensive taxis, and expensive shopping (similar to U.S. prices, if not a bit higher, for items such as t-shirts and hats, and less expensive than U.S. prices for jewelry and watches -- no tax). Eat on the ship; good food is hard to come by here.
Cozumel has beautiful beaches and inexpensive shopping, as well as wonderful Mexican food at Pancho's Backyard (we ate at the one by 8th Street, not the new one at the pier). The Fat Tuesday's bar near the pier has one portion of the bar where there are swings for seats -- what fun! We saw a lot of crew members here, since it was very close to the ship (5 minute walk). Beers are $3. The new pier is gorgeous, but because it's so gorgeous, it doesn't feel like Cozumel! (Plus prices were higher here than in town.) Luckily, the downtown area has not changed much -- I hope it doesn't! We've been here 3 or 4 times previously and we always enjoy ourselves.
We had a nice day in Costa Rica (Limon). The people there are so polite and friendly, and the city is not one big tourist trap. No hassles, inexpensive shopping, lots of sunshine. We took the time to really go out and walk around the city, and did not just stay in the tent shopping area right next to the pier, although you could probably have a nice time doing so. The Public Market is really their public market -- butchers, fruit sellers, etc. don't go there if you are expecting something like Nassau's Straw Market, but DO go there if you want to see how the locals shop.
The Panama Canal passage was very nice, as anticipated. We've done this itinerary before, so we knew what to expect. I heard from a lot of people that the top decks were very crowded -- with people camping out spaces there and in the Horizon Court as early as 6 a.m. even though we were not going through for an hour or more. (One of my tablemates said that there was no place to sit and eat breakfast because all of the chairs had been moved from the tables into rows by the windows). We could see quite a bit of the process from our balcony, but ended up going to the aft deck for a much better view, where there were only a handful of people. We ordered champagne from room service and had it delivered there. (It was the first time I've ever had champagne that early in the morning, but what the heck -- I was on vacation!) General Comments The artwork throughout the ship (especially on the stairway walls) is very, very nice. I enjoyed it tremendously.
The atrium is a work of art -- gorgeous.
The Princess Theatre and Universe Theatres are very comfortable and excellent entertainment spaces. Great lighting and sound.
The temperature on the ship was perfect for me. I am usually cold, but on this ship I was comfortable most of the time, and did not need a sweater at all. My husband was too warm occasionally, but not enough to complain about it.
The spa is gorgeous. My husband and I had several treatments there. I enjoyed my pedicure ($55) with Simone -- it was very relaxing and nice to have done on my first day so I had pretty toes for the rest of the trip. (Note that there are not many colors to choose from, so if you want a certain color polish, bring it with you.) I also enjoyed my Aromaflex massage ($79 special on port days) with Carol Anne -- 25 minutes spent on neck and back, and 25 minutes spent on feet. She made it seem like two relaxing hours instead of one. My husband absolutely loved the reflexology ($99) with Reggie, as well as the hot stone therapy massage ($159) also with Reggie. (One note -- if you think the stones are too hot, SAY something! My husband got quite a burn on his shoulder.) At these sessions, there were no sales pitches whatsoever, which was great.
The gym was very nice (not that I spent a whole lot of time there). It's nice that the machines all overlook the water. There were quite a few classes offered on the other side of the gym -- step, yoga, Pilate's, etc. The photographers on this ship seemed to take more time with you and often took several shots instead of just one, as well as single shots instead of just couples. This gave you more pictures to choose from, which was great. There were two nights that black and white photographs were taken (our favorites). It was also great fun when the photographers got off the ship during the canal passage and took shots of those out on the decks and balconies.
There were plenty of deck chairs alongside both of the pools. We never had a problem getting two chairs together in the shade. Note that no "saving" of chairs is permitted on this ship. If a towel is on a chair for more than 30 minutes or so unattended, a deck attendant will remove the towel, thereby opening the spot for another passenger. I think this is a fair policy.
The pools were clean and beautiful. The pool areas were very nice -- the chairs all have comfortable thick cushions on them -- perfect for napping!
We are late 30's/early 40's. There were probably fewer than a dozen children younger than 16 on the ship. The average age on this ship was probably 65. You will note this is a positive to us, as we get along well with an older crowd. (They make very quiet next-door neighbors!) If this is not a positive to you, keep in mind the following cruise axiom: "the longer the cruise, the older the cruisers." 7-day cruises will have a younger crowd than a 10-day or longer cruise.
PLEASE NOTE: With the exception of the first item mentioned (smoking), none of these not-as-positive comments carry much weight -- they are merely my own observations and opinions. If you are merely considering the Coral Princess, I would suggest reading all of the bullet points. If you have already booked Coral Princess, I would skip this section and form your own opinions. Rest assured that you will have a wonderful cruise on this gorgeous ship.
This was the smokiest ship we have ever been on. We had a balcony room but most of the time we could not enjoy it for more than a few minutes as somebody nearby would light up. The halls and elevator areas almost always smelled of smoke. I could not spend more than a few minutes in any of the bars or casino because of the smoke. Even sitting poolside was problematic at times because smoking is allowed everywhere on deck. I am not allergic to smoke or anything, I just strongly dislike the smell of smoke and hate that it gets in my hair and clothes. (Luckily I brought a bottle of Febreeze with me.) I heard a lot of comments on this topic (without my bringing the topic up I am not a complainer, especially when on vacation).
There is only one bar that is totally non-smoking, and that is the Patisserie. Unfortunately it is not really protected because it is right next to the atrium, where smoking is allowed. Plus, there is no music or entertainment here other than what goes on in the adjacent atrium. The Crooners piano bar has a large non-smoking section, but again, it's right next to the atrium, plus half of it permits smoking so you couldn't really escape it.
In my opinion, Princess really needs to do something about this to satisfy both non-smokers and smokers. I would suggest making one side of the ship smoking and one side non-smoking. (Open-air decks and cabins included.) I would also suggest no smoking in the common areas, such as the hallways, atrium, and elevator waiting areas. Statistics show that less than 30% of adults smoke these days; I think Princess should take this into consideration.
I would also suggest signs on the balconies as well as notices in the cabins regarding throwing cigarettes or cigars off the ship. I saw this happen twice. One of my tablemates was on the aft deck, just looking at the sunset with his wife when a lit cigar got thrown off a nearby balcony and landed on his bare shoulder. This is obviously a safety issue that all cruise ships need to address.
Because of this issue, we are actually going to look into Carnival's non-smoking ship for our next cruise. We are huge Princess fans (Platinum Captain's Circle members, having sailed with them for six cruises), but the smoking was just too much this time. The Cabin Blow dryers are a bit weak. Bring your own if you need a strong airflow. The bed pillows were very hard and uncomfortable. If you don't like hard pillows, I would seriously consider bringing your own. My husband thought the mattresses were uncomfortable as well.
The self-set wake-up call system on the digital telephone was not working for our cruise. Wake-up calls were available through the passenger services desk, but I did hear from more than one person that this was not very reliable. Bring your own alarm clock, especially if you will be taking any morning tours.
I wish somebody would invent drawers on a ship that don't have to be slammed to shut. It's the only noise you could hear from the cabins on either side drawers shutting. Unfortunately, the way the drawers are designed (so they don't slide open during rough seas), you need to shut them with some force, which causes noise. The Food My husband, who is a non-seafood eater, noticed that there seems to be fewer non-seafood choices on the lunch and dinner menus. He ended up ordering the "always available" menu selections (cheeseburgers, fettuccini, steak) several times on this trip. The Lobster Thermadore was tasteless (unless you count salt). Normally I love this dish, but it was one of the few things I ate on the ship that I did not like at all.
Due to fire regulations, there is no cooking tableside (such as pasta dishes or bananas flambé), and no basked Alaska presentation (and therefore no swinging napkins!).
Just a note for those of you considering personal choice dining I noticed quite a few people milling about the atrium waiting for their restaurant buzzer to light up. I overheard that there was sometimes a 30-minute or so wait. This can be avoided by making a standing reservation with the maitre d.
The ice cream on the pool deck was expensive. Stick to the free ice cream offered at lunch and dinner in the dining rooms.
The Horizon Court, while very pretty, offered just typical buffet food, nothing special. I seem to recall that the buffets on the Grand and Sea offered more. For example, if you like Salmon on your bagel in the morning, it was only available on one or two mornings. The service here could be spotty as well (no motivating factors, such as tips).
It's ridiculous what Princess charges for soda/pop ($1.95/can). It would be much better for the environment (not to mention passenger's pocketbooks) if they installed soda/pop fountains and gave it away for free. Soda/pop at a fountain costs only pennies a glass to make, and Princess would certainly get high marks from passengers for making this change. Note that if you are a big soda drinker, or have children who are, you can get a soda stamp on your card for $27.50, which gives you all the soda you care to drink for the duration of the cruise. The Tours We don't take organized tours, so I am unable to comment on them. We used to take the tours, but never really enjoy them as much as striking out on our own. The Entertainment It's probably because I have taken 8 cruises, but it seems to me that ship comedians and the cruise directors really need to come up with some new materialŠthere's just too much of the same old small bathroom, toilet-flushing, my room is on z-deck, etc. type of humor. Also, they all seem to spend the first ten minutes of their set asking where people are fromŠwho's from Canada?Šwho's from the U.SŠ.etc. The Universe Lounge does have some obstructed views. Get there early if you want a good seat. The Ports We were in Cozumel on a Sunday, and we were the only ship in town. Despite it being Mardi Gras time, the newly constructed Carlos and Charlie's (a few blocks south of where it used to be) seemed deserted and boring compared to previous trips here. We didn't stick around. Stay on the ship in Jamaica unless you are taking a Princess tour. Aggressive taxi drivers make this a not-fun port. Duns River Falls is worth seeing at least once, but it's not very clean, and the tour guides are also aggressive when it comes to demanding tips and herding you to shopping areas. Be sure to bring shoes you can wear in the water if you plan on climbing the falls.
In Costa Rica, skip the park near the pier. It's not very clean or interesting. General Comments This ship did not seem as stable as any of the others we have traveled on. You could really "feel the sea," especially when you were all the way forward or aft (like in the Princess Theatre and Universe Lounge). Our cabin was mid-ship, but we could feel the motion of the ocean all night. It didn't really bother us too much, but there were a few people who seemed to react negatively to this. Bring Bonine or Dramamine, and you should be fine.
On previous trips, we have bought quite a few pieces of art at the art auctions. (And we've been very, very happy with what we've bought.) On this particular trip, even though we went to all four of the previews, we did not see anything that we really wanted to bid on. Since art is subjective, don't take this comment too seriously. The shops did not seem to offer as much merchandise as those on the Grand Princess.
The fine jewelry shop was located right next to the Casino, and in fact had a door opening into the casino. While this might be a successful marketing ploy, I could not spend more than a few minutes at a time in there because it was too smoky. (No matter what time of the day.)
The wine tasting was held in one of the dining rooms, and I was quite surprised to see almost every table filled! It was $5 for the tasting, but if you pre-ordered a bottle of wine for your dinner table following the tasting, you would get $5 off that bottle. I usually enjoy these, but I have to admit that I did not learn anything, and was not that fond of the wines chosen for us. (Asti Spumanti? Do people still drink that?)
I was not happy my facial ($129) as the therapist spent way too much time telling me what was wrong with my skin and what I needed to buy in order to correct it. If I had bought all of the products she "prescribed" for me, I would have spent more that $500 and no, I am not joking. My tablemate's "prescription" would have cost over $700 and personally, I think she had much nicer skin than me! The facial itself would have been quite enjoyable had it not been for the sales pitch. If I was at home, and visiting a local spa that I would be getting regular care at, then I would welcome this approach. However, while I am on vacation, I just want to enjoy the pampering.
I really don't think Princess should charge $10/class for yoga and Pilate's. It's not that the classes were not good; it's just that it seems so greedy. It seems especially greedy when the teacher hands you an invoice/receipt at the end of class that all but requests a tip. The same teachers teach the step and other classesŠwhy are these classes worth more?
The formal photos and black and whites were only shown as 8x10s you could get 5X7's printed, but they would cost the same, so you felt like you were getting ripped off if you did so. And how many 8x10s of yourself do you really need?
Great ship. Just under 2000 passengers which is great when you getting to any port-no long waits to embark or disembark.
PORT TOURS: of course, as with all other cruise lines, these were way over priced for what you get. We arranged a couple on our own and found out by the vendors that we paid half of what is charged to passengers who book thru the cruise line. No real surprise, but for the most part you can make arrangements to see many of the same sites when you arrive at the port as those pre-booked thru the cruise line can-at half price. Ports were interesting-Cozemel is of course the best - lots of shops good restaurants and very friendly people, cheap to eat and shop.
FOOD: The Pizza shack at poolside on the Coral Princes was outstanding! Great hamburgers and hotdogs as well. The 24-hour buffet (cafe) was also great, fresh, lots of choices, and Delicious. My wife preferred the cafe to the restaurants, as you didn't have to dress up, had a greater variety and food-tasted great! Buffet was always clean, well stocked.
I agree, after trying the openbuffet /cafe on the Royal Crib. line (which was terrible) I was very impressed! The two alternative restaurants were also well worth the surcharge and not to be missed! One had Italian food the other Cajun. Service and food at both was first rate.
PERSONAL CHOICE DINING: You can choose to eat at one of the restaurants where you can eat when and where you want- no specific dining table or time! We did this, made a standing reservation with the maitre-d' (gave him $ 20.00) Thus after this one tip, we always got seated immediately, whenever we arrived at the appointed time, and always at our favorite table! We of course tipped him at the end of the cruise as well. Those complaining of waiting, well this would happen at any restaurant if you showed up without a reservation! One guy tried to get seated right away by stating he was a "retired superior court judge"! The maitre-d' looked at him with the look that said "and this effects me how". Well, he had to go back to the end of the line - too cheap and stupid to dispense with a little tip (after seeing us just walk right it (don't ya just love it?).
THE SERVICE: with respect to the cabin attendant and dinning staff, was great The other staff at least smiled and said hi whenever you passed them in the gangway or lobby. No complaints here.. POOLS: The ship had two fresh water pools (one covered so you could swim in anytime) they were always clean and refreshing. Very comfortable lounge chairs too.
ENTERTAINMENT: on board was a big disappointment except for one comedian named Bill Vader. He was great and got the only standing ovation and deservingly so.
CABINS: (We haad one with private balcony on Baja deck) Clean, comfortable and reasonable in size. This again was better than on the Royal Crib (Maj. of the Seas).
Downside: 10 day cruises tend to have a majority (65% at least ) of the passengers were well over 60 years of age.(so maybe this is why you get bland entertainment with the xception of Bill Vader). Music in all lounges was bland, soft 40s or some trio. No rock or upbeat music ! They also charge for ice cream at their ice cream bar ! Shore excursions are too expensive,
Overall: the food was much, much better than on the Royal Crib. as was the service. I would not hesitate to take this same (10 day) cruise again. Out of 5 stars I would rate it 4 over all. I would love to return on this same boat for the food, service and ports, but the entertainment is only good if your in your 70s !!!!!!!!!!
Booking: We booked this cruise in the spring of 2002 with our local travel agent and selected the mini-suite because we liked the balcony and size of the cabin, which was similar to what we had on the Rotterdam a few years ago. We were confirmed in that cabin in a few days and did not change or allow an upgrade. We completed the online registration on Princess.com web site as soon as we had our booking ID and we also booked all of our excursions online prior to sailing. We had also registered our credit card for onboard purchases. Our tickets and "express check-in" designation arrived about one month prior to sailing.
Travel to ship and embarkation: We chose to handle our own air and hotel since we were sailing from and returning to Fort Lauderdale. The price Princess wanted for the air and a night in the hotel prior to sailing was about two to three times what we could book ourselves. We got round trip air on US Airways direct from Philadelphia to Ft. Lauderdale for $194.00 apiece, booked about 6 months prior to the cruise. We usedsome frequent flyer miles to upgrade to first class, so it was an effortless flight for us. We also had our TA book a room at the Marriott Harbor Beach resort for one night at a rate of $239. Princess wanted over $300 apiece for us to stay in the same hotel for one night. We flew to Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday, February 1 and arrived around 4:00 P.M. We had our luggage in a matter of minutes and took a taxi from the airport to the Marriott and were in our room around 4:45 P. M. The cab cost us $10. We had dinner in the hotel and after walking on the beach awhile, we were in bed early. In the morning we had breakfast in the hotel and then gathered our suitcases and got a taxi to Port Everglades. We arrived there around 11:30 and turned our 4 bags over to the waiting porter. There was no line for checking in and there were deck designations over the counter where about six representatives were waiting. We handed in our tickets and signed one document and were given our room cards. These cards had our names, our room number and listed our dining as personal choice. We headed up the escalator into a waiting area where about 100 other people were already waiting. At about 12:00 noon they began allowing us on board and after the stop for the photo, we were on the gangway. Our picture was captured as we entered the ship and swiped the cruise card, and there were agents at the elevators escorting people to the appropriate floors. We were taken to deck 9 (Dolphin) where another representative pointed us in the direction of the room on the port side, but did not escort us any further.
Cabin: Our cabin was a mini-suite and was over 300 square feet in size. It was larger than the one we had in the Rotterdam in 2000. The bathroom entrance on the right as you enter the cabin is also the entrance to the closet. It is sort of a 'walk in' affair with a closet at one end, with open shelves from floor to ceiling. The safe is in this closet, and we found it adequate to hold our passports, some cash and travelers checks. There is a shelf along the top of the closet. The closet is probably about 6 feet long. The bathroom in the mini-suite has a full size tub with shower. The countertop where the sink is was about 4 feet in length. There are glass shelves (3) above the counter, and a mirror is behind the counter for the full length. There are also two glass shelves in the corner of the bathtub. Under the sink/counter, there is a shelf that runs the full length. The beds were placed in the king arrangement as we had asked, and there are night stands with lamps on either side of the bed. There are two Televisions, one that is viewable from the bed and one from the sitting area. Next to the bed there is a desk with four drawers on either side. There is a hair dryer in the wall next to the desk and there are two electrical outlets on the desk top. There is a full mirror on the wall behind the desk. Across from this desk is a counter with shelves and a small refrigerator is behind a door. Inside we found a bucket of ice already waiting. There are glasses on the shelves as well and there are more shelves above this cabinet. In the seating area there was a full size sofa that could be opened for an additional bed. There was also an upholstered chair and a coffee table. The balcony doors opened to a balcony that had a round table suitable for eating and two chairs that were adjustable.
Our housekeeper was Edwin and he showed up just a few minutes after we arrived. We asked for robes and he promised to get them immediately. He also told us how to request a bowl of fruit and showed us how to use the phone, thermostat, television, and breakfast order form. The TV showed CNN, CNBC, ESPN, TNT, and had several Coral stations showing the web cam, the bridge report, and information on the Princess station that covered port talks, and other information.
The Ship: We saw no luggage yet, so we took off to explore the ship and make spa appointments. I knew from experience that often spa appointments are fully booked on the first day, so I headed there first. It took us awhile to figure out how to get into the spa. It is in the aft of the ship and we took a mid-ship elevator, so it was confusing. We did not find anyone at the main desk when we did find the spa, but after wandering around I ran into someone who worked there and she agreed to find the appointment book and make appointments for me. So, I got the first appointments of the cruise, and scheduled a massage, manicure and pedicure all for the next day, our first sea day.
Then we kept exploring. On the same deck as the spa we found the Horizon Court, the buffet. This buffet advertises that it is open 24 hours a day. It was already busy with folks who were eating lunch. We took some fruit and coffee and kept exploring. There are two pools on this deck: the Lido pool is outside the buffet and has glass walls along the sides, but an open air top. There is another deck running around the sides of the pull, and you just walk up stairs at the end of the pool to reach this area. On the main area of the pool there is a bar and the pizzeria. On the next level up, there is the Princess grill that serves hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, etc. There were hundreds of lounge chairs with blue and while striped pads on the chairs. From this deck you can also walk up to the sun deck and there is a small "splash" pool there. It's just a tiny pool that is only about 8 inches deep. There are lounge chairs up there as well, and it's the only place you can look out over the bow of the ship. Heading toward the aft past the lido pool, you come to the Spa Pool. This pool has a retractable cover, and also has a lower and upper seating area around it. Both of these pools also have several hot tubs on the sides, if one prefers the warmer water. All pools have fresh water only. Past the spa pool is the spa and the fitness center. Further past the fitness center there is a children's area and the Pelican pool.
We kept exploring. Below the Lido deck there are four deck that house only staterooms (Aloha, Baha, Caribe, and Dolphin). The Emerald deck has about half of the deck for staterooms, but there is also a library, card room and the internet cafe there. This is the top deck that also has a view of the atrium. The atrium runs from deck 5 to 8 and there is also a glass elevator running between these floors only. The atrium was beautiful with winding staircases and little lights along the entrances to rooms and lounges. The lights changed colors, and it was all very beautiful. The wood used throughout the ship made it appear very warm and the carpet was all coral and turquoise colors.
Continuing down from deck 8 we saw there were two large boutiques, as well as one that only sold fine jewelry (Facets). There were several very unique lounges: Churchill's is a cigar bar. This lounge is completely closed in by frosted glass walls and doors and I can honestly say I never smelled any cigar smoke coming from there. There is Crooners which specializes in martinis. There is La Patisserie that specializes in coffee drinks of all types. They also serve cookies and pastries free of charge throughout the day. There are two large lounges: Explorers lounge and the Wheelhouse Lounge. Explorers had leather furniture and murals on the walls showing big game and African grassland. The Wheelhouse also houses a sort of maritime museum with items from ships past and the P&O history. There are beautiful wood furnishings in this lounge, as well as beautiful mermaid statuary. There was also the casino, which is made to look like London, complete with wax figures of the Grenadier guards outside, and double decker bus replicas inside. Two huge theaters were also in the public areas, the Princess Theater and the Universe Lounge. The theater was simply theater seating with a large stage at the front. But it was huge, and could seat about 800 I'm sure. The Universe lounge was truly unique. There are three stages and they rotate. They also have several screens that can be used on these stages. There are cameras that can be used overhead, and show demonstrations. This lounge was filled with small sofas and upholstered chairs and tables, and there are additional seats on a second level around the edges of the theater. This theater also has a bar.
Two dining rooms are also in the public areas, one on the 5th floor and one on the 6th. The Provance dining room is used mostly for folks who had been assigned traditional early or late seating. The Bordeaux dining room is for those who selected personal choice dining.
The 7th floor is the Promenade deck and we saw there was a teak deck and additional lounge chairs here. This is a nice walking area, but the life boats also hang overhead around the whole deck.
After this tour and a little snack, we decided to head back to our room again, and when we arrived back there, around 2:00, three of our four suitcases had already been delivered. We spent the remainder of the afternoon getting unpacked. Shortly after we started putting things in drawers the fourth bag also arrived, so we were fully unpacked prior to dinner.
Personal Choice Dining: We like to sit alone when we cruise. Or, I should say, my husband likes to sit alone. He considers himself an introvert, and doesn't want to be rude and ask to change tables if he doesn't like someone, so he prefers that we just sit alone. So, we though Personal Choice would be good for us, as we would not be forced into a specific time and could try different waiters too. The first night we showed up around 7:00 for dinner and there were a couple people already in a short line. We asked for a table for two when we got to the front of the line about five minutes later. The head waiter, or whoever he was, told us he was not sure one would be available very soon, but said he would check. When we asked, we were immediately escorted to a table for two. Total wait time, 7 minutes. The waiters were not memorable that night. The next night was the first formal night and the captains welcome aboard cocktail party. We did not go to the party, but when we arrived at the dining room at 6:45 we saw that everyone else had just come from there and were now in line for dinner. There were around 10 people in line. We waited about 10- 15 minutes and when we got to the front of the line it was just like the night before. At first we were told we would have to wait if we wanted a table for two. We said ok, and within a few seconds we were escorted to one. We did not remember those waiters either. On the third day, I called early in the afternoon about a reservation for 7:00. I was told the earliest reservation I could get was 8:00. We decided to just go wait at 7:00, and we did. That night we had almost no wait and we ate at table 10 where our waiter was Fernando Ruiz and the assistant was Makko. They were a wonderful team. Both were from Mexico and were just delightful. They were friendly, funny, and service was excellent. We decided to ask for them again the next night and we liked them that night too. So, on the 5th day we asked for a reservation for table 10 in their section. We were told that table was already reserved at 6:00 each evening and we could not have it until 8:00. So, we took that reservation. However, the maitre'd told us that if it was ready early, we could have it early. So, every night after that we showed up between 7:15 and 7:30 and it was always ready. In fact, Fernando told us that many nights the other people did not even show up so it was empty until we showed up at 7:30. I wonder how many other tables were reserved but then the passengers didn't come, and the dining staff still held the tables open for them, causing others to have to wait longer?
Food: We enjoyed the food on the cruise. I would not say that it was spectacular, other than maybe the souffles they had for dessert. My husband ate beef about 8 of the 10 nights and he enjoyed it always. I had lobster that was very good, and also had grilled chicken, shrimp cocktail several times, and pasta on a few occasions. We also ate most lunches and breakfast in the dining room. We did not find the Horizon Court worked well for us. We found that the food was good, probably as good as in the dining room. But, the people crowding the serving areas and serving themselves were not always courteous to others. They were sometimes just slow, sometimes sloppy, and sometimes just rude in bumping into others and not even excusing themselves. I also found it difficult to balance a plate full of food and a drink while circling the dining room for five minutes or more looking for a table. Also, the Horizon Court seemed to always have the air conditioning running on frigid. The few times we did get a snack from there, we usually took it outside near the pool where it was warmer. We often went there in the afternoon or evening for a snack or cup of coffee. It was very convenient for that and was not crowded at all other than at the main meal times. On one occasion we left really early for an excursion in Costa Rica and we ate breakfast there. Because it was 6:30 AM it was not crowded at all and the food was good. The variety was vast there. They usually had everything the dining room served, and then some. There were lots of fresh fruit and salad selections, as well as many hot and cold desserts. There were plenty of sugar-free desserts as well, I noticed, but I never found any sugar free yogurt, which is what I prefer for breakfast.
We ate one lunch at the Grill on the Lido deck and I had a hamburger and Larry had a beef hotdog. Both were excellent. We also ate Pizza one day and it was great pizza as well. We often got cappuccino or latte from the La Patisserie bar. It was really good, although you could also get these free of charge in the dining room after dinner.
On several occasions we had room service for breakfast. There is an order form to hang on the door when you go to bed at night. It has "continental breakfast" type items such as cereal, yogurt, breads, Danish, fruit, coffee, juice. On the message boards I had been checking I heard you could write it other items and they would bring them. On all days we ordered room service I wrote in Fried Egg and bacon and they always delivered it all. The room service food always arrived at the time we specified and it was always hot. We could not have asked for more. It was especially great to eat on our balcony while transiting the Panama Canal!
Tours: We booked all of our excursions online at the Princess Web site. We considered booking some independently, but we haven't had good experiences doing that so stuck with Princess. When we got on the ship, our tickets for all excursions were in our cabin already, so we never had to visit the tour desk. However, we also had a letter in our mailbox stating that our first port call was changed from Ocho Rios Jamaica to Montego Bay. Our excursions had been cancelled, and we were given a credit for them. We also had a list of excursions we could book in Montego Bay. The destinations and prices of these excursions were listed, but there was no description anywhere or what they included. We had wanted to go to Dunn's River Falls, but the price for that from Montego Bay was significantly higher and it did not seem to include a Plantation tour. We could not find anyone who could tell us about these tours. When we went by the tour desk it was crowded or not open. We decided to just take a cab into town that day. Later when I had my spa appointment I noticed that nail technician (Simone) was from Jamaica. So, I asked her about Montego Bay. She told me there is nothing to do there, and that to go from there to Ocho Rios was about a two hour trip one way. So that explained why the price went up and did not include a Plantation tour.
When we were called for our tours, we were asked to gather in the Princess theater at the time designated on our tickets. This worked fairly well. We were sent to places in the theater where a member of the tour office held a sign designating our tour number. We would wait there until called to head out for the gangway or tenders and then we would meet up with the tour guide and get on buses.
The tour office handled this very well until we hit Cozumel. For some reason, the tickets for Cozumel excursions had us meeting our tour on the pier, rather than in the Princess Theater. We were going to Tulum that day and we knew it would be one of the first tours out as we had to take a ferry to the mainland. We were to meet the ferry on the pier at 9:20 AM. The ship was scheduled to dock in Cozumel at 9:00. So around 9:00 we headed for the gangway area on deck 5, even though we had not yet heard an announcement that the ship had been cleared. When we got near the deck and lobby where the gangway was we saw hundreds of others also waiting there. It seems that everyone going on a tour was told to meet on the pier. Even though some were not going on tour till 10:00 or later, they were all waiting to go down the gangway and perhaps do a little shopping first. There were also many who were not going on tours at all but just wanted to go out and shop. Plus we began noticing that there were many from the crew who were obviously not in uniform and had the day off and were also waiting to leave the ship. by the time the gangway was opened, around 9:30, it was a mad house in this hallway, stairwell, and foyer. The elevator doors could not even be opened as so many people were jammed up against them. We were afraid some of the elderly were going to be trampled. It took us about 15 minutes after the gangway opened before we could get to the pier. They only had one person checking people off the ship. We asked a member of the tour staff why they had done it this way, rather than use the theater which had worked well in all other days. She told us there would not have been a problem if the ship had not been late docking. I'm not sure I buy that answer.
Excursions: We had some wonderful excursions on this cruise. In Jamaica, we had our only bad experience. The nail technician was right in telling me there is nothing in Montego Bay. We did take a taxi to "town" for about $3 apiece each way. The port "expert" on the ship, Elizabeth, did a port talk the day before and told us that there are 80,000 people in Montego Bay and 79,000 of them are taxi drivers. She was close. These taxis are actually 12 person vans in most cases. And they don't like to take trips unless they are full. So we had to sit at the terminal building until they got 12 of us to go to town before leaving. It's only a few miles to "town" which is really sort of a strip of small stores on two floors in a severely congested area. The shops sell coffee, jewelry and t-shirts predominantly. The shop employees loiter in the doorways and on the sidewalks and follow the tourists down the streets begging you to come to their shops. There are a few residents who are willing to pose with baskets of fruit on their head in hopes you will pay them to take their pictures. The whole thing was very sad. After walking the length of the twenty or so shops, we had enough and decided to return to the ship. There were hundreds of taxi drivers soliciting us to take us on a tour or back to a ship. We saw one van with already about 6 people in it, so we joined them. We still had to wait another 15 minutes or so until the driver solicited another 5 or 6 before he finally started out down the narrow streets and returned us to the dock.
In Panama the most thrilling part of the tour is going through the locks themselves. In our case we were up at 6:00 AM to be ready. But, we did not really enter the first lock until around 7:30 AM. We were finishing our breakfast on the balcony while we were watching the process. Lots of others were also on their balconies. In fact, they offered us a $25 Panama Canal breakfast that included champagne, but we opted for the regular stuff. While we were in the locks, some ships photographers were down on the lock itself and they took pictures of all of us on our balconies. Those were interesting pictures, and of course we took the bait and bought them later! We really enjoyed seeing the canal process from all areas of the ship though, so we wandered up on to the top decks to see from there, and also went to one of the lower lounges on the 5th floor where we could actually see the inside walls of the lock when we first entered it, and then watch the wall ship away as the ship rose when the water entered underneath us. That was really neat to watch from that perspective.
When we completed the Gatun locks we sailed into Gatun Lake. We dropped anchor there and those of us on excursions were taken off the ship on tenders. We met up with out tour guides there and got onto buses. Our tour was the train trip from the Atlantic to the Pacific on the Panama Canal Railroad. We had booked the Deluxe Executive Dome car. We rode about 15 minutes on a bus to the Train Station at Colon and we boarded the restored train car. It had booths with tables in between and each booth would seat two people on each side. There were booths on both sides of the aisle. The side windows and the ceilings were one continual piece of curved glass. The upholstery had obviously been restored recently. It was very pretty. Our tour guide was Marty, a man in his late 50's with no Spanish accent that was noticeable. In fact, we thought he was American, but he did say he was from Panama. He told us later that he'd gone to Prep School in Minnesota for many years as a young man, and he'd also worked for Braniff Airlines in Miami for about 20 years before retiring back to Panama a few years ago. He was very knowledgeable about Panama, the people and culture, and the canal and its history. He kept us entertained and informed. The train heading toward the Pacific Ocean side of Panama and paralleled the canal as it went. We saw the lake formed when the dam had been built to create the canal waters. We saw wildlife and old military bases that the Americans had used prior to turning the Canal Zone over to the Panamanians on December 31, 1999. The train stopped in Mira Flores and we again boarded buses. These buses took us to the Mira Flores locks. There we were able to climb about 20 steps to a small observation platform where we were able to look down on to the lock. A ship was going through this lock while we were there so it was quite interesting. We also entered a small museum there and were shown a short film on the canal. We had another few minutes to walk around this observation area where one of the "mule" locomotives is on display. Then we were back on the bus. We then drove on to the Pacific Ocean near Panama City. We could see the Bridge of the Americas that crosses the canal and the skyline of Panama City, which looks like any modern city with sky scrapers. When we returned to the train, we went back to our domed car and there were box lunches for each of us. We had a sandwich, chips, banana and we were offered coffee or lemonade to drink. When we returned to Colon, we again boarded buses and were taken back to the ship where it was docked in Cristobal. At the pier there was a small group of shops in a mall area where many Panamanians and some of the native Embrea Indians were set up selling crafts. There were also Panamanian dancers performing there. After shopping a few minutes we went back on the ship.
In Costa Rica our excursion left around 7:00 AM for a long bus ride to the Rainforest. The bus ride was made interesting by Gloriana our tour guide. She is a Marine Biologist by education, and also has a master's degree in wildlife management. She is very proud of her country and shared a vast amount of information with us. Costa Rica is a beautiful, lush country that grows a great deal of fruit and flowers for export to the rest of the world. We passed many fields growing bananas, coffee, chocolate and ornamental flowers. She had our bus driver stop and buy a bunch of "finger bananas" to share with us. They were much sweeter than regular bananas we were all used to. When we got to the rain forest we divided into groups of 5 and boarded the gondolas of the aerial tram. These tram cars go through the tree tops on cables. Many times we were over 45 feet off the ground. The trip is about an hour and a half in length, and we saw many types of trees, flowers, birds, butterflies, snakes, and insects. At the end of the tour we only had a couple of minutes to look in their gift shop and we were off on the buses again. We stopped at a place where we ate a catered lunch under a canopy. The food included some tough beef steak, chicken, fish (all grilled), rice, plantains, squash, and some coconut flan for dessert. There was also Costa Rican coffee, which was quite strong in my opinion. We were there less than an hour and then back on the bus for about a 90 minute ride to some canals and rivers close to Limon. We boarded a long boat with a canopy top that held all 45 of us in low seats. We cruised along the canals and rivers for about two hours. We saw much more wild life here, like crocodiles, egrets, monkeys, iguanas, sloths, and many other birds and butterflies. It was a great trip. Upon returning to the dock, we were only about 30 minutes from the pier where the ship was. We had about an hour to visit the craft area near the terminal and we shopped for some Panamanian wood items, and some clay vases and pots. This was our favorite excursion.
In Grand Cayman we were only in port about six hours and it was a Sunday. We did the 100 foot submarine dive and that was interesting, but very short. Then we took the trip to the sandbar on a catamaran where we snorkeled and swam with the stingrays. That was great fun as we had never done that before. It should be done by everyone at least once. However, I will remark that although the water is shallow there, I was not prepared for how strong the waves are, and as a fairly light person, I was continually knocked over by waves. Other small women also commented that they were surprised how hard it was to keep on your feet. I was not so concerned with falling down, but they warn you not to step on the stingrays and I was afraid I was going to do just that. But it was a great experience.
In Cozumel we rode the ferry to the mainland and took another one hour bus ride to Tulum to see the Mayan ruins there. It was fascinating, but we really only had about an hour by the time we got there. It was over 90 degrees that day, and not a cloud in the sky. It was also quite humid. I cannot imagine being there in the summer. We really enjoyed seeing the Caribbean from the cliff that the temple is built on. Our guide, Enrique, was very knowledgeable of the history and showed us all of the features of the ruins. After the trip back on the bus, and again on the ferry, we also walked around Cozumel for about an hour and bought some T-shirts for our grandchildren. Here's another town where the shop employees will accost you on the street begging you into their store. I'm just not into that type of scene, so we did not stay long in town but returned to the ship about 90 minutes prior to sailing time.
Miscellaneous: As a new ship we had been somewhat fearful that things might not operate well on the Coral, especially since it had been delayed at the ship yard and two cruises were cancelled. However, there was very little evidence to us that things were not at 100%. One thing we noticed is that if you are in your cabin there is no way to hear the announcements over the PA system. We asked about this, and supposedly we should be able to hear them on one of the TV channels if you want to, but that was not yet operational. Some early cruisers had said that the air conditioning or water temperature were faulty. We did not notice that at all, although some public rooms were too cool for me. We did not notice any problems with stabilization and in fact even when the seas were a little rough, the ship seemed to ride fine to me. We did feel vibration in the Universe Lounge one night, but never in our cabin or other public areas.
Every morning the cruise director and assistant conducted a "morning show" that was broadcast on the Princess channel. It mostly consisted of them reading through the Princess Patter and outlining what was going on for the day. Sometimes another member of the staff was shown visiting an area of the ship, such as the spa or casino, and once he interviewed the Captain. It was something to listen to while getting dressed in the morning, but it was not important information that wasn't already covered elsewhere.
The "port expert" Elizabeth provided talks prior to each port call, but these were primarily advertisements for stores that Princess endorses. We had never experienced such blatant selling on any other cruise line. She actually had products displayed from the shops and went on for an hour about them. We had gone to many port talks on the Rotterdam when we cruised in the Mediterranean and there the expert spoke only about the countries and cities we were going to visit, the culture of the people, and he often mentioned the types of products that might be a good buy in that country, but there was never any showing of goods or suggestion that we should use a specific shop. After the first talk, we tuned her out and didn't go to any of her presentations.
The new Universe Lounge is truly a state of the arts multi-media center. We attended shows there that were excellent, and we also attended two food preparation presentations by the Executive Chef and Maitre'D. The cameras they have there show the food preparation projected onto large screens from above the work surface. There is a complete kitchen on the stage with a working stove, refrigerator, and it was excellent. I felt like I was watching "Emeril" on the Food Network. We also went on a Galley tour at the end of the last culinary presentation. The kitchen is spotless and enormous. The kitchen on the 5th deck provides food for both dining rooms, with an escalator for use by the waiters who are serving in the 6th floor dining room.
My husband attended several photography classes that were offered as part of the Scholarship at Sea program and he found them to be very informative for him. They were presented by photographers from the ship and also by a computer expert. There were other classes on navigation, communications, and computer applications, as well as daily programs on pottery making. There is a working kiln on the ship and an expert on board to assist those interested. We did not participate in these so I cannot comment. There were fees associated with these classes.
Disembarkation: We had booked an 11:30 flight out of Ft. Lauderdale and during the first week on the ship we were asked to complete a form outlining our plans since we did not book transfers or flights with Princess. Because of our early flight we were then issued Red 1 tickets for disembarkation, which was scheduled to be the first group off the ship. It was planned for 8:00 AM, but we did not actually get cleared by customs and start disembarking until about 8:45 AM. We were waiting in the hall way near the gangway when they started calling folks so we were about the 10th and 11th people off the ship, literally. We barely stopped at immigration and arrived in the luggage room where about ten porters were waiting for us to arrive. We quickly found our 4 bags because of the hints we had picked up on the internet message board to put yellow duct tape on our luggage. The porter had our four bags on the cart in less than five minutes and we did not really stop at customs at all. We were out the door and into the first taxi waiting and heading down the road before 9:00 AM. It's just about 15 minutes to the airport, so we were there before 9:30 and had plenty of time to drink coffee and moan about having to fly home to the snow!
Summary: All in all this was a great cruise. We were tentative about trying Princess because we really loved HAL's Rotterdam. I would have to say that most things about Princess are comparable. Where I think HAL has the edge is that the service is more personal and the staff are more friendly and cordial overall. On the Coral our waiters were wonderful, once we found them. But some of the others we encountered were just "ok." Never rude but not overly friendly either. Our housekeeper was just great, too, but others often did not even speak when you passed them in the hallway. We also found that tour office, purser, and other staff were "ok" but nothing special. I think having the person with the white gloves escort you to your cabin when you first arrive on a HAL ship just set the tone for the whole cruise, and on Princess we had someone (who was not even smiling) just point and say "go down the hall that way and it's on the right."
Also, we like the size of the HAL ship better. The Rotterdam was made to hold about 1,000 passengers, and there were 1,900 on Coral. That in itself means more crowded conditions. We stood though one show on the Coral, and I can't see doing that ever again.
However, the mini-suite was considerably larger on the Coral, and we really enjoyed that extra space. The closet was also bigger, so if the suite is important, then Princess gets the edge. The food was comparable, as were the tours. The shows were much better on Princess, both in variety and the quality of the performances from the on board staff.
I hope this is helpful to those who might be considering cruising of the Coral. It's a beautiful ship and well worth the cost we spent for the ten days in the sun!
- Introduction -
This was our first 10-day cruise and our first time to the Panama Canal. Before she was put into service, Coral Princess experienced a number of problems. She had a one-month delay in delivery, a very rough crossing and a noticeable roll problem. In spite of these difficulties Coral Princess proved to be one of the very best cruises, of the 17, that we have taken. It was the only cruise, in recent memory, where we didn't encounter any problems. Neither of us was sick or injured and we returned with everything we set out with. by all accounts, it was a glorious cruise on a lovely lady.- Ports of Call -
Ft. Lauderdale - Nassau - Panama Canal - Limon, Costa Rica - Grand Cayman - Cozumel.
- Review -
Our cruise on Coral Princess was in doubt when Princess cancelled the first two sailings. Suddenly, we were moved up from the forth sailing to the second. We were carefully watching the bridge cam to see if Coral would leave St. Naizare, France. Shortly before Christmas she sailed to Ft. Lauderdale for her maiden voyage on January 3, 2003. Wedidn't notice any appreciable difference in service or amenities because of the delay. On the contrary, if we hadn't known of the delay and the rush to put her into service, we would have believed that she had been sailing for years.
Our ten-day cruise on Coral began a day early when we flew down to Ft. Lauderdale on Delta and stayed at the Sheraton Yankee Clipper Hotel. We had a good flight and a pleasant stay at the hotel but the weather was unseasonably cool. On Monday, January 13th we departed for the pier around noon and boarded the ship. Boarding was a pleasure. Except for a momentary misplacement of our Passports we boarded quickly. We opted not to use the Platinum check in desk (there was only one) but instead, went to the Aloha Deck check in. There were fewer people in that line.After pausing for a welcome aboard photo and a photo for our boarding card we entered through Deck 5, the lower level of the Centrum. We then took the lift to Deck 12 and found our cabin A623 - a standard outside cabin with a private balcony. We were upgraded to category BB from the best available outside cabin with balcony. Although small, the cabin was pleasant enough. Because the ship is new, everything was sparkling clean. Oddly, there were not a lot of wardrobe aids. Except for shelves and clothes rack there were no dressing hooks or belt or tie racks. The wardrobe was not very well thought out.
In our cabin we found a letter from Fleet Medical Director, Dr. Grant Tarling regarding the recent outbreak of Norwalk Like Virus (NLV) aboard other passenger ships. The letter goes on to explain that Princess meets vessel sanitation standards and explains simple ways to help prevent the spread of disease. The letter also went on to say that if any passenger experiences symptoms that they should report to the medical center and that there would be no charge for treatment. To our knowledge, there were no reports of NLV onboard our sailing.
The safe was too small. The knobs on the drawers were flimsy. One broke off but was quickly fixed the next day. The balcony was small measuring 4.5 ft. By 9 ft. It was the most private of balconies. The balconies below us were visible from above. Some of them were the mini suite balconies. They didn't afford any privacy. As for the mini suites, they were not much larger than our standard outside cabin and in our opinion, were not worth the extra cost. They had a small couch and two TVs, each side by side facing opposite directions.
Shortly after we arrived in our cabin our cabin steward came by and introduced himself. He was 36 year old Dodo from Bangkok. We mentioned that we were Platinum Club members and would like to have the use of bathrobes, which he promptly brought. Dodo would turn out to be one of the best cabin attendants that we have every had. He was courteous and always happy to provide us with the very best of service.
A word about the beds. They were marginally comfortable with a 4-inch foam mattress on a rip rap of nylon springs. The one drawback was that they were too narrow. They would not have configured well as a double bed. The pillows were wonderful.
The cabin was especially well lit. A good deal of thought went into the lighting design and switching. The temperature of the cabin was comfortable and easily controlled. Everything in the cabin worked except the telephones wakeup call feature. When we missed a wakeup call we found that the system was not working and had to make arrangements for a wake up call from the purser.
We set out to the Horizon Court for a light lunch and made a point to do a mini tour of the public areas while working our way to lunch. There is nothing about the Coral Princess that made us want to say, "Whoa". The ship is lovely but there is nothing distinctive about it, unless you count the two jet engines on the funnel which were placed there as a purely decorative feature to tout that the ship is propelled by gas turbine engines. If you didn't know what ship you were on, you wouldn't know that you were on the Coral. The interior design is a big yawn - boring and uninspiring. The absence of artwork was all too evident. The most boring of the public areas? The pool deck.
The Horizon Court served a typical buffet style breakfast, lunch and dinner. We ate several breakfasts and most lunches there. The food was good but the variety was lacking. The most noticeable of drawbacks was its size. The serving area was small and always crowded. The flow of pedestrian traffic resulted in clogged isles. Bob's favorite was the hot soups and deserts and Hellen's favorite was the sushi, severed on only two days.
Outside the Horizon Court on pool deck, deck 14, was the pool bar. Next to the bar was Princess Pizza. In all of our encounters with shipboard pizza this was without a doubt the very best pizza that we have had. It was made fresh, hand tossed, topped with the familiar toppings, baked and served hot. This was truly a wonderful spot and should please pizza lovers.
Following lunch we thought that we should check on our dining room seating. We wanted to meet with the maitre d', Generoso Mazzone, to make sure that we were seated at a round table of eight or more on the main, fixed seating. We met with the waiter assistant who told us that the maitre d¢ would be available at 5:30 in the Provence Dinning Room. We met with him and found that we were indeed seated at a large round table right in the middle of the dinning room. We opted out of Personal Choice dinning in favor of fixed seating. Personal Choice dinners ate in the Bordeaux dinning room one deck below us. We were seated at table 158. Our table mates were two couples from Oregon traveling together and a couple from Manchester, England. All were older that us. We had a very pleasant time with them and enjoyed their company. Our waiter Remus was from Romania. He was a pleasant enough fellow but his service missed the mark.
When we returned to our cabin all of our bags were waiting for us. We hastily unpacked. It was a cool day in Ft. Lauderdale so we decided not to go to pool deck for a swim. After we unpacked, we prepared for the lifeboat drill at 4:30. Our lifeboat station was the Explorer Lounge. Shortly after, we sailed from Port Everglades on our way to ten glorious days on Coral Princess.
Our first day was a port call at Nassau. We took a taxi to Atlantis and toured the "Dig", a fanciful interpretation of the Lost City of Atlantis legend. We had never been to Atlantis so we wanted to see for ourselves just what everyone was talking about. It's a beautiful piece of property and we are glad that we went. Our $25 apiece to tour the Dig would have been better spent elsewhere. It was not that interesting and certainly not worth the price. We would recommend a land-based taxi over the water taxi. It's a dollar more per person each way than the water taxi but it's quicker, less crowded, no noxious fumes and drops off at the hotel entrance. It was a cool day with on and off showers. Had it been better, we would have headed for the beach but instead we went back to the ship.
Back on board we sought out Princess Links for a game of golf. Well, put-put golf. Located on Sun Deck (15) this tiny little space offers nine holes of miniature golf. It was fun and we enjoyed our game. We promised each other to return again but we never did.
Following Nassau we had Wednesday and Thursday at sea while making our way to our second port of call - the Panama Canal.
We used the day to lounge about the pool and start working on our tans. Coral Princess has a new program called Scholarship@Sea. It boasts the only onboard pottery kiln. Candace Resnick demonstrated the use of the pottery wheel and taught a fellow passenger the art of pot making. There was a fee to cover the cost of materials.
Wednesday night was the first formal night and Captain Philip Pickford's welcome aboard cocktail party. Captain Pickford did not attend the receiving line but did say a few words about the ship and the future of Princess Cruises midway through the party. The party was very well done. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and came away feeling that we were indeed welcome guests.
Following dinner we went to the Princess Theater to see "Da Beat", the first of three production shows. Introduced by cruise director, Paul O'Loughlin, the show was nonstop high-energy singing and dancing. Good but not great. We would later enjoy the production show "Dance" much more. The third show, "Tribute, Tribute, Tribute", premiered Wednesday, January 22nd in the Universe Lounge. It was the best of all. Following "Da Beat" we were then rip roaringly entertained by funnyman Bill Acosta in the Universe Lounge. We don't remember laughing so hard. All of the shows were backed by the Princess Orchestra under the direction of Gordon Hough. They were perhaps the finest shipboard orchestra that we have every heard.
by Thursday (a day at sea) we were well on our way to improving our tans. Hellen used the morning to attend the Brain Waves Quiz; the culinary demonstration and the skin care clinic. Bob spent the better part of the day at poolside. We watched as Patricio Balquiedra turned a block ice into a noble bald eagle. At 2:00 the pool games began. Hellen volunteered to be one of three judges. She was given a gold medal, a pen that lights up and a travel clock. She had a fun time judging the contestants.
Jay Johnson of the TV show "Soap" performed in the Princess Theater. We had seen Mr. Johnson before on another cruise. Much of his show was what we had already seen. Following his show we went to the Universe Lounge to see Comedian Rick Starr. That evening we left a wake up call on the auto phone for 5:30 in order to be out on deck early enough to watch as we entered the Panama Canal. We also ordered coffee. The room service menu didn't allow for service before 7:30 AM but we penciled in 5:30 and sure enough, our coffee arrived on time unlike our wake up call, which never arrived. After checking with customer services we were told the system was not working.
As we awoke Friday morning we first went out onto our deck to see if we were near the canal. As it were, two pilot boats were along side. We hastily finished our coffee, dressed and went up on deck to stake out our spot to view our entry into the canal. We feared that we might be too late for a good vantage point but we weren't. We entered the locks of the canal around 6:30. A member of the Panama Canal Commission could be heard over the loudspeaker giving a narrative of the canal and our position in it. After about an hour, we retreated to the Horizon Court for breakfast and by way of a window seat continued to observe our passage through the locks.
We were booked on the Grand Tour of Panama. by now, Coral Princess was in Gatun Lake. The weather was warm and sunny. We disembarked Coral by way of tender and arrived at a nearby pier where we boarded a bus for the observation platform adjacent to the canal. We were treated to a fascinating narrative about the canal as we watched the container ship, Yong Tai from Hong Kong pass through the canal. After this stop, we boarded our bus for a brief trip to The Hotel of the Americas, our jumping off point to our boat ride on Gatun Lake to the Embera Indian fishing village. This reenactment of Embera life gave us insight into their culture and way of life. It was especially enjoyable for us. It was one of the highlights of our cruise.
Coral Princess was christened at 12:30 this afternoon by the president of Panama, Her Excellency Mireya Moscoso. We knew that by taking the tour we would miss the Christening but was pleasantly surprised when we returned back to the ship. As we boarded, we noticed a large crowd gathered at the bottom of the gangway. We inquired and discovered that they were waiting for President Moscoso to disembark. We went on board and stationed ourselves at the bottom of the stairs that let up to the Centrum decks. Shortly, Madam President made her way down the stairs and right past our position. Hellen said to her, "hello Madame President", at which she replied, "Enjoy your cruise".
Before dinner that evening we stopped by the Internet Cafe on Deck 8 to check our e-mail. The cafe proved to be a very useful tool to get e-mail out to family and friends. The service was reliable and reasonably fast. There was always a seat at one of the dozen or so terminals. The cost was $.50 a minute. An advantage of being Captain's Circle Platinum Club members meant that we were able to use the cafe free of charge. Each day our charges for the service were deducted from our shipboard account.
Following dinner we went to the theater to catch Kenny James, a Star Search grand champion. He was entertaining and talented. Following the show we took up our favorite spot in the Crooner's Lounge and was happily entertained by resident crooner, Jere Ring. Sitting down with Jere was a nightly ritual. No one would ever accuse Jere of being bashful. He was a hoot. It was here that we got to meet and know Rita and Mel. Jere looks a lot like Dennis Quaid. When we saw Jere the next morning in the lift I asked him if anyone ever mentioned that Dennis Quaid bears a striking resemblance to him. He was caught off guard. He laughed at my observation and the way I phrased the question.
At dinner that evening we learned that our Costa Rican Adventure tour had been cancelled. The aerial tram was out of service. We hastily beat a path to the shore excursion desk and booked a 7:15 tour to Tortuguero Canal known as the Amazon of Costa Rica. It was a fascinating trip down the canal. As our boat made its way down the river we discovered howler monkeys, sloths, birds of all sorts and a crocodile. It was an exciting tour. We were blessed to get the first tour as we were told that by the time the river gets saturated with boats, much of the wildlife retreats into the jungle.
Coral sailed at 6:30 that evening but before leaving, we shopped in the market on the pier in Limon. We learned that Limon is Spanish for lemon. It was something about a group of men gathering at the lemon tree for midday drinking. The town that grew up around the tree was called Limon.
A word about the food and service in the Provence Dining Room. We found the food to be excellently prepared. It was tasty, served hot and we were offered a good variety of choices. If you love fish, you will love the menu on the Coral Princess. In addition to the nightly selections, sirloin steak, broiled salmon, chicken breast and fettuccini may be ordered anytime. The deserts were outstanding but the choice limited to three. At least three ice creams were on the menu. New York style cheesecake, Princess Dream, ice cream sundaes, sugar free deserts and fruit could be ordered anytime. Executive Chef Michele Cossoli from Lago D'lseo, Italy has done a marvelous job with the food on Coral Princess. Except for the beef, we could find nothing wrong with the taste or presentation. Michele's specialty, cold water lobster (Maine lobster).
The service at our table was not up to par. Our waiter, Remus from Romania, was friendly enough but had trouble remembering everyone's order. He mixed them up more than once. Wine and water glasses sat empty a good deal of the time and on most nights, we were the last to leave the dinning room. Another fault of our waiter was that he sometimes would let his assistant present the entrees. We've never had this happen before. It's always been the waiter who serves the dinner. The dinning room captain, who served our section, was nearly invisible. It's been our experience that the captain makes his presence known early on and then assists with such chores as removing the shell from the shrimp or lobster. Our waiter was tasked with this job. We also learned that punishment for being late for work or for not performing up to standard meant banishment to the Horizon Court for the breakfast meal. We saw our waiter there more often than we cared to.
One night, we opted to go to the alternative restaurant - Sabatini's. It was nice but we were plied with too much food. The dinner was leisurely enough (2 and 1/2 hours) but we had hoped that we could escape the hubbub of the dinning room. Unfortunately, we just exchange one set of hubbub for another. The only two choices were the entree and the desert. Bob had the lobster and Hellen the capon. All of the other courses came to the table on cue - each waiter responsible for their own course. Oddly, there didn't seem to be a lot of traditional Italian dishes. At $15 each we felt that we got good value for our dollar but would only recommend Sabatini's with caution. The food was nice but not great. It was nothing out of the ordinary. We had heard that the better of the alternative restaurants was the Bayou Cafe. We didn't go but talked with folks who did. Go for lunch, drinks are included.
Following dinner we made our way to the Universe Lounge for the comedy of Steven Scott. He was good but not great. After the show it was island night deck party. We were so tired from the day's activities that we passed on the limbo and conga line.
Sunday was a day at sea. We were heading for Grand Cayman. The weather was poor - cloudy and cool so following Mass I used the time to video tape the ship and shoot some digital pictures. Hellen went to Kitty Bartholomew's mosaic class. Ms. Bartholomew is known for her show on Home & Garden TV. Hellen is a fan and enjoyed the presentation and a chance to pose for a picture with Ms. Bartholomew.
As Captain's Circle members with Platinum Club status we were invited by Captain Pickford to a special luncheon held in our honor. We arrived a few minutes after 12:30 in the Provence Dinning Room and was greeted by Nicky, the Captain's Circle hostess. We were seated with two couples and Richard from the purser's department. One couple was from England and was on their 34th Princess cruise. The other couple, he a golfer and she a scuba diver were on their 6th Princess cruise. All in all about 30 Platinum Club members were in attendance. We were given cocktails before lunch. The luncheon of Potpourri of Seafood Cinderella, Medallions of Fresh North Sea Halibut and a Princess Fantasy Delight were masterfully prepared by Chef Cozzoli. A ship's photographer took a group picture of our table and following lunch, we were presented with the picture, signed by the captain, chef and other members of the ship's crew. It was a very nice surprise and a treasured memento.
Because the weather was bad, we retreated to the comfort of the Lotus Pool. This pool has a retractable roof and the pool area is air- conditioned. The roof was closed due to the poor weather. Both pools on Coral are fresh water but only the Lotus Pool is heated. One of the hot tubs in the Lotus Pool area had an annoying way of "stinging" the legs with scalding hot water. Midway through the cruise we noticed that the jets for this pool had been shut off.
Captain Pickford had his wife and three children on board. Their two boys, roughly ages 8 and 10 were frequent visitors to the Lotus Pool. This day was no exception as the two redheaded lads were having a swim with their father and mother. Knowing that the captain wished to spend some personal time with his family we and others didn't make a point to notice the captain thereby affording him the privacy that they were seeking.
A major problem with Coral Princess is its propensity to roll, that is rock from side to side. This is most evident in the Lotus Pool. The sea was rough this day and deck attendants had their hands full trying to contain the water that was splashing out of the pool. The squeegees and water vacs were constantly trying to dry up the water. A section of the floor in front of the bar was closed off due to the excessive water on the deck. So bad was this problem that water was overflowing the deck and running down the side of the ship to the decks below. This is a major problem. Hellen became ill from the ship's movement. She went to dinner but ate only crackers, apples and ginger tea. The chef was kind enough to mince some ginger that Hellen put in her tea. It saved the day.
The show in the Princess Theater that evening was the second production show, "Dance". Starring Laurie Miller, Doug Crawford, Deneice Tame, and Scott Chamberlain "Dance" featured the aerial artistry of Anna & Rick. The Princess Dancers were outstanding. We really enjoyed this show very much. After the show we went to the Crooner's Bar but found that Jere was no longer entertaining there. He had left the ship on Saturday. It wasn't the same without him.
Grand Cayman had received 30 inches of rain the day before we arrived. As a consequence, we were unable to anchor in South West Sound. The sea conditions were not favorable for tendering so Coral made her way to the leeward side of the island. We weren't sure if we would be able to tender from there. I had a scuba excursion booked and Hellen was going in to Georgetown for some shopping. I went to the Princess Theater, the staging area for shore excursions, and waited to be called. While I was waiting it was announced that my excursion had been cancelled due to bad weather. I returned to the cabin. We then decided to take the tender to shore and see if we could arrange for an island tour. Once ashore, we hooked up with Mr. Shirley Delbert and his ten-passenger van. For $20 each he took us on the grand tour. We had been to Grand Cayman many times in the past but we have always missed the Turtle Farm, the rum cake factory and Hell. Not this time. We had a nice tour and it helped to salvage the day. We ran into an old friend - Royal Caribbean's Nordic Empress. We sailed her in 1991.
Coral sailed for Cozumel at 3:00 so we were back on board early. It was formal night and the repeat passenger's cocktail party - The Captain's Circle. Captain Pickford was absent from the party but Staff Captain Alan Wilson represented the captain. It was a nicely done affair. Plenty to drink and good company. It has been our experience that Princess takes good care of its repeat passengers and this night was no exception. It was especially nice when Hellen's name was called as one of the three door prize winners - a bottle of Champaign. We brought the bottle to the dinner table and our waiter served it to our table mates.
We went to the Universe Lounge to see Ed Alonzo of the TV show "Saved by the Bell". He was performing a comedic magic show. Not funny and his magic was uninspired. He grossed out the audience when he sliced his arm with a knife. After the show, we went to the Explorer's Lounge for a nightcap and then to bed.
The weather in Cozumel was beautiful - warm and sunny. When we were approaching San Miguel we noticed that the ship wasn't head for the International Pier or the Puerta Mayo Pier but rather it was headed in a downtown direction. It turned out that we were berthed at Punta Langosta Pier. This is a new pier for us, not having visited Cozumel in over two years. It was very conveniently located with the Punta Langosta Mall across the street.
We had booked the Swim With The Dolphin excursion at Chankanaab Park. In a word - wonderful. We had so much fun swimming with Triton and Titan, two male dolphins. This was the highlight of our cruise. Following the dolphin swim Hellen stayed on at Chankanaab while I took a taxi back to the ship's pier for a scuba excursion. I arrived early. Three other divers showed up for the tour and soon we were in taxis headed for the Sand Dollar dive shop just off of the Palancar Reef. The last time I was in Cozumel I dove with this operator from the same boat - Roman Holiday. The dive was great. A two-tank dive to the Columbia and Santa Rosa reefs. It doesn't get much better than that. After the dive I returned to the ship and made it just in time to shower and dress for dinner.
Following dinner we went to see the comic Marty Allen of the Allen and Rossi comedy team that I grew up with. I remember them from the Ed Sullivan show. Marty was now performing with his wife, Karon Kate Blackwell a song stylist and pianist. She was terrific. Marty's act was stuck in a time warp - circa 1960 but he was still funny.
Wednesday was our last day of the cruise before disembarking in Ft. Lauderdale on Thursday. It was a day at sea so we made the most of it. In the morning I made a walk-a-round with my cameras and Hellen began packing. After lunch we spent the afternoon poolside trying to get the last of the sun and polish off our tans. We watched the pool games and listened to Sugar Cane, the pool band. At 4:00 we made our way down to our cabin and finished packing.
We spent the evening at dinner taking pictures of our table mates, exchanging addresses and enjoying that last of our delicious meals in the Provence Dinning Room. After dinner we went to the Universe Lounge for the show "Tribute, Tribute, Tribute". We were the first passengers to see this show. The producer and choreographer were in attendance and following the performance, were called to the stage by Cruise Director, Paul O'Loughlin to take the audience's applause. It was a wonderful show and the staging was magnificent. After the show we went back to our cabin to finish packing and to put our bags out in the hall.
Well, it finally arrived, our disembarkation day. We were sad to leave. It was such a wonderful cruise. We had a great time. It was one of our very best. We had an early flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Boston so we got our breakfast early in the Horizon Court. We had red tickets for early disembarkation. Rather than wait in the Platinum Club lounge in the aft of the ship we opted to spend the waiting moments in the dinning room. We had coffee while we waited. We were the first called, around 8:45. We went to the baggage claim area in the terminal, collected our bags and made our way out onto the street and took a taxi to the airport. $10 cab fare plus tip. We arrived at the airport in plenty of time for our flight to Boston. We checked in at the e-ticket kiosk and were told that our bags were headed for the inspectors. When we got home we found that one of our bags was opened for inspection. On our flight down, we didn't lock our bags but secured them with plastic ties used to bundle wire.
- Summary -
Our Cruise aboard the brand new Coral Princess was probably one of the best cruises we've had. There is nothing about Coral that catches the eye or the imagination but the service and helpful staff more than make up for any shortcomings in the ship's stale design and ordinary decor. We were royally entertained by the ship's bands and production team. The shows were great. We met some nice people and that made our enjoyment of the cruise more delightful than it otherwise would have been. The Panama Canal was special because it was a new port call for us and it was the occasion of the ship's Christening. We will always have the memory of being onboard when Coral was christened. Costa Rica was new too us as well. It's a beautiful country with a marvelous eco-system of rain forest and rivers.
The weather could have been better but it wasn't. Nassau and Grand Cayman were cold, cloudy and rainy but that didn't detract from our enjoyment of the other fine days we had. We would happily recommend the Coral Princess. We would go again if we could. What impressed us the most was that even though she was delivered late by the shipbuilder, everything was in place and worked well. There was a genuine cohesiveness about the crew that made it appear that they had been serving aboard Coral for a lot longer than they had. Except for the excessive roll, there is really nothing bad that we can say about Coral Princess. We enjoyed our cruise and if you choose to sail Coral Princess we hope that you will enjoy her as much as we did.
Bon Voyage! Bob & Hellen Hersey Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Our Photos - http://photos.yahoo.com/bc/bob_hersey/lst?.dir=/Cora l+Princess&.view=t
- Rankings -
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
The Good - Platinum Club benefits, friendly staff, excellent cabin steward, delicious pizza and ports of call.
The Bad - excessive roll, pool deck ambiance, dining room waiter and narrow beds.
The Ugly - There really wasn't much to describe as ugly on Coral Princess. An all time first for us.
Overall Rating - * * * *
Seamanship and safety of the vessel: * * * * Sanitation * * * Food Service In The Dining Room * * Food Quality In The Dining Room * * * * Food Variety In The Dining Room * * * Food Service In The Horizon Court * * * Food Quality In The Horizon Court * * * * Food Variety In The Horizon Court * * Stateroom Amenities * * * * Stateroom Comfort * * * * Stateroom Attendant * * * * * Room Service * * * * Production Entertainment * * * * Headliner Entertainment * * * Show Band * * * * * Pool Band * * Lounge Entertainers * * * Cruise Director * * * * Cruise Staff * * * * Ports of Call * * * * * Shore Excursions * * * * Meet and Greet - N/A Reservations * * * * - Rating Schedule -
* Poor ** Fair *** Good **** Excellent ***** Outstanding
- Ship Facts -
Operated by: P&O Princess Cruises, Los Angeles Port Of Registry: Hamilton, Bermuda Official Number: 733720 IMO Number: 9229659 Call Sign: ZCDF4 Classification Society: Lloyd's Register of Shipping, London Class Notation: A1 Passenger Ship 91,627 Gross Tons. 53,394 Net Registered Tons. 964.3 Ft. Ship Length. Moulded Breadth: 105.6 Ft. Total Breadth (Wings): 126 Ft. Total Height Above Keel: 203.4 Ft. 2292 person, double occupancy cabins. 2 dining rooms. International Crew: 981 persons Propulsion Type: 2 Synchronous Electric Motors Diesel Engines: 2 Diesel Electric Wartsila 16V 46C Output of Main Engines: 40,000 kW Manufacturer of Main Engines: Wartsila N.S.D. Italia S.p.A Thrusters: 3 Bow Rolls Royce 3 Stern Rolls Royce Propellers: 2 Fixed Pitch, Six Blades Rudders: 2 Semi-Balanced Splade Rudders Stabilizers: 2 ACH Engineering Fuel Capacity: 1938 t (Heavy Fuel Oil) 1786 t (Marine Gas Oil) Fresh Water Capacity: 2199 t Cruising Speed: 21.5 Knots Maximum Speed: 23.4 Knots Built by: Chantiers de L'Atlantique, Shipyard of St. Naizare, France Year Built: 2002 Inaugural Sailing: January 3, 2003 Christening Date: January 17, 2003 Godmother: Her Excellency Mireya Moscoso, President of Panama