First off, let's be clear - I'm already fond of the product. I've sailed Princess since 1978 (as a child, with my widowed aunt), and I find things that make me want to come back. My travel style is definitely more "traveler" than "tourist", even when I'm cruising, and I place high weight on "value for money" in my travel - I tend to want to spend on unique experiences, not on commodity "luxury". This marked our second sailing on the Island/Coral class, our first time on Coral herself and our first cruise of 2012 (I've been busy at work).
Princess is, to be sure, solidly midmarket. If you enjoy staying in Sheraton/Hilton/Westin-type hotels, odds are good you'll enjoy Princess. This three-night sailing is part of repositioning the ship from Vancouver to Panama Canal cruising for the winter. There were no port calls.
Flawless. Best boarding of the last ten+ in Vancouver. We arrived at 11, and were onboard the ship at 12:10. The Elite/Platinum lounge was all set up with savory snacks, baked goods and beverages and all eight members of our party were able to wait together. Vancouver honestly runs best when there's only a single ship in port. We weren't able to luncheon in the MDR due to a pierside wedding and reception.
The ship was in fine shape; despite her not having the Piazza upgrades of the wider ships, flooring, soft goods and surfaces were in excellent repair. I happen to like the layout of the Coral and Island (taller Piazza atrium, public space flow all along deck 6, forward buffet), so you'd have to look pretty hard to find how Coral differs much from the other ships in the fleet. Pools, hot tubs and open deck spaces were clean and available for use as scheduled.
Thanks to the Upgrade Fairy, we moved from an Obstructed OV on Emerald to a BC Balcony on Baja. Inside the cabin, the only items showing wear were the bedside lamp bases, which appeared to have lost their varnish, and some salt spray on the balcony glass. Cabins are effectively identical to the other Grand-Class ships. Our cabin steward was friendly and efficient, and had a sixth sense for when the room was available for service.
Very good to excellent - new menu items were being tested in the MDR during the cruise, along with a new menu format. Service at breakfast and lunch was punctual and efficient; anytime dining was also very good, even with a table of eight. Special requests like app portions of entrees were handled with a smile and an attitude that it was no issue at all.
Food quality was excellent by cruise standards - the savory baking is always a particular standout, and I always enjoy the fish dishes. I only visited the Horizon Court once, before sailaway, but my friends were pleased. Poolside pizza was pronounced "authentic" and "delicious", and the grill is the grill.
Beverage service was excellent in lounges, very good on open decks. New to us were wine flight options in the Patisserie and Wheelhouse lounges - three pours arranged by theme or geography.
Three-Nights are not the best work of Princess; the welcome aboard show is abbreviated and there was only one other production show (Dance, which is f/k/a Do You Wanna Dance). It's really too cool/breezy on open decks to enjoy MUTS after dark (although, I did watch a couple of concerts from the jacuzzi). The pianist was decent, the jazz trio merely OK, and the pop/rock/dance band was nothing special. The comedian was funny, and his late set was "adult" without being "blue". I enjoyed it very much.
The usual. Trivia, various culinary and drinking demos. Getting to ride the escalators in the galley after the culinary demo was great fun (but I'm easily amused).
Lots of opportunities and classes. The gym never felt too crowded, the wraparound promenade makes walking a delight, the pools were warm enough for comfort (and the Lotus Pool midships, under the magrodrome, really deep) and the aforementioned jacuzzis perfectly relaxing.
Fast and easy. Had a leisurely breakfast in the MDR and walked off at my leisure. Never slowed down from the breakfast table to the collection of the customs declaration.