For those of you who want me to get down to brass tacks immediately, I will say this was overall a wonderful cruise. The ship was in beautiful shape, very classy and clean. This was my third Princess cruise and my 5th overall. I have never been on the Coral before. We had a balcony room on deck 8 and an interior room, and although as many of you have read, the showers are crazy small, everything else was fine. Plenty of space for clothing, nice sized balcony, comfortable beds. Water pressure in the showers was amazing. Never ran out of hot water.
Embarkation was fast and friendly, although for some reason, they never took our luggage. So when we embarked we had it with us. That turned out to be good, because our rooms were ready right away so we could get in and unpack immediately. I was happy about that because I wanted to change into shorts and now I could!
Our room steward, Pedro, was fabulous. Always smiling and greeted us by name. Very sweet to our kids, and spoiled them with towel animals and chocolates. He made sure we had whatever we asked for. He even found some packing material so we could safely take our bottle of champagne we won home. A+ for Pedro! I will say that EVERY crew member I ran into greeted me with a "Good morning" "Happy New Year" or some other kind remark. Everyone smiled and seemed genuinely happy. That was SO nice. It really affects the quality of your overall cruise. I know this from past experience with another cruise line, where this did not happen and it really spoiled the trip.
We were hoping our kids would be upgraded from their interior to a balcony, since this ship was not full, but figured that maybe the balconies do not all fit 3 people. No biggie.
The new layout of Horizon Court is wonderful. Someone really took notes on what did not work in the past with the buffet and fixed it. I never had to wait for more than a few seconds to get any food, with the exception of the omelets station in the morning, but they have to cook them as you order, so it was fine.
The food up at the court is good, not great, but good. I will give kudos for 2 things that I noticed: one was that the salads (green salads) were always very crisp and fresh. They do not skimp with iceberg lettuce either- they used mixed greens or romaine. Nice! Two was the fruit- the watermelon and pineapple and melons were always fresh and ripe. Good job! The desserts were not very good, much better in the MDR. I will say that the sugar-free desserts where surprisingly good- usually better than the regular desserts at HC.
The entertainment I noticed was geared more towards the older demographic- since that makes up the majority of cruisings population is I guess why they go that route. The first show was called "What a Swell Party" which consisted of a number of old (classic) show tunes like "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" and "Let's Misbehave". I found it to be a bit boring and dated, but I am not the demographic they are trying to please, so. The best show is "On the Bayou", great sets, costumes, etc. Don't miss that one. "MotorCity" was their ode to Motown, which was pretty good. "Ye Olde Pub Show" was awful. Yikes! I am not a prude, but I don't like some cruises ship's female dancers costumes (barely there), as I think it's unnecessary. I am proud that Princess does not denigrate their female dancers that way. If other cruise lines want to have their female dancers in thongs, then let's have the guys in thongs, too!
The comedian was really funny the first night, passable the second show. The mentalist was amazing, and the magician was good, except some of this tricks were revealed inadvertently by lighting, so that kind of took the amazement away.
The staff run game shows were great, very funny and entertaining. The other games/trivia were fine, except one staff member didn't "believe" in prizes- so when we won, we got nothing! :( Not cool.
The ports were nice, and we went on 3 excursions through Princess- the Cartagena old city tour and canoe trip through the mangroves, in Grand Cayman, the Dolphin Cove/Stingray City tour and the Panama Canal Monkey Island trip. I liked the old city tour, I could have lived without the canoe trip. Did not see much wildlife (birds, a crab), and the mangroves smelled really bad. Our tour guide was great, Willy Guttierez. I can see why he has won awards. The Dolphin Cove/Stingray City tour was great. Keep in mind that if you do Dolphin Cove and want ANY pictures, make sure you have $100 on you. You can purchase one picture for $25 or the whole CD for $100. I will say the pictures are really good, though. Worth it for me. The monkey island trip was not so great, as we only saw 3 monkeys total- all in one sighting- and our tour guide did not bring any fruit to entice them. Another boat guide did, and he had a monkey jump on his boat. The resort they took us to was OK- the hotel was nice, but our tour guide was pointing out time shares she said had been refurbished, and all of us were looking at each other and saying "they have been?!" Yikes.
In Aruba we went with Sonny Binns on a tour we designed, with 2 other couples from CC. It was great. Sonny was very informative and very nice. Definitely recommend him.
In Costa Rica we had planned to go to the National Park via city bus, but got nervous and went on a canal tour instead. Our tour guide was good and we found many animals, including 3 sloths, howler monkeys, Basilisk lizards, bird and iguanas. He was bale to get the boat right up to the sloths and we could get at the bow and get good pictures.
One nice thing about Princess is that when you get back to the ship, they have cold water and cool cloths for you- which is so nice on a hot day! Spoiled rotten with Princess!
Food in the MDR- for the most part, I'd say very good. Some things were just okay, while others were fabulous, so they get a very good overall. If you like meat, I highly recommend the Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding- SO GOOD. I also recommend the Filet Mingon- cooked to perfection! Of course their fettucine alfredo is to die for, as is my favorite dessert, the Princess Love Boat Dream. Our waiter was great, Suwit from Thailand. Made great food recommendations and was very sweet to our kids.
I preferred lunch in the MDR to HC, as the food was so much better.
My son loved the pizzeria and ate lunch there every day. The grill was also good, good burgers, good fries and hot dogs.
MUTS was great. They played "Now You See Me"- really enjoyed that one, "The Lone Ranger", "Pacific Rim", "The Great Gatsby" and had some music concerts and sports on as well. Loved the popcorn and the warm cookies and milk. Again, spoiled rotten by Princess! I did wish they had more deck hands passing out blankets, as most of the time we could not find one.
The photographers were good, if you can, find Natalie- she will take a great portrait. Very good at posing people to look their best.
Complaints? A few- no one is perfect. I was not happy that the Churchill Lounge (smokers lounge) was located in the atrium. Every time you walked past it you could smell smoke, and during disembarkation, we sat in Crooner's Bar which is right across from the atrium and got a sore throat from the smoke. We were supposed to wait in the Wheelhouse Bar, but there was no space left.
Also, during our Panama Canal transit, the loudspeaker system was not working well and the man they had aboard to tell us all about the canal during the transit could not be heard- you got every 3rd or 4th word he said, which was extremely annoying. I really wanted to hear what he had to say. I was glad I had done a lot of research on the canal before I went, or I'd have been really ticked off. My DH was furious, because he called down to the front desk to complain, hoping they'd fix it, and they acted like they didn't know what he was talking about- "they are not making any announcements" they told him. I thought he was going to go down and choke them.
I also thought they could have done more for the New Year's Party. No champagne (unless you bought it), no balloons, just streamers. One of our previous Princess cruises was over New Year's and they had the champagne waterfall that night with free champagne, a balloon drop at midnight, etc.
But, other than those things, I thought Princess did a great job and I am looking forward to my next cruise- on Princess, of course!