This was our first Princess cruise. We have previously taken Holland America Cruises which we really enjoy. The Coral Princess is a beautiful ship - top to bottom. The atrium is spectacular with it spiraling staircase and color changing mini-lights on the ceiling. The light golden color scheme throughout Coral Princess results in a soft and warm feeling with a contemporary twist. Not overdone - just right!
EMBARKMENT: was somewhat slow. I estimate we were in line maybe 20-30 minutes?
DISEMBARMENT: was a lot quicker and worked different than Holland. On Holland you can stay in your room until your DISEMBARKMENT number is called. On CORAL, you are given COLOR/NUMBER tags and a disembarkment time to report to a specific room to meet with your other disembarking passengers. However, prior to meeting in your 'special' room, everyone must be out of their room by 9:00 am. regardles sof what time you have been given to disembark. So you then need to find a place around the ship to sit and relax until the time Many people sat in the LIDO Buffet area. When it is your time to disembark, you go to the appointed room and sit there until that prompt you to leave in a group. It worked really well. It was comfortable and very organized.
MUSTER: Coral Princess does this different than our experience on Holland America(HAL) and I like it much better. On HAL you gather together on the promenade deck near your assigned life boats. Its crowded, confusing, awkward, tiring. You have to be at an exact section of the ships and find the correct crew member to give them your room number. HAL crew use megaphones to call out passengers room number for attendance to locate those who didn't sign in. Then crew demonstrate how to use the life jackets but if you are standing in the back of a crowd you can't hear or see anything.
CORAL Princess has groups of passengers assigned to various room around the ship such as the dining room, theaters, lounges, etc Then while you are sitting and relaxing, they have several crew members walk around and go over the safety procedures. You can see and hear very clearly what is going on. VERY NICE!
FINDING YOUR WAY AROUND: You are given a very nice colored map of the ship that really helped locating where things were on the ship. Also keep in mind that one side of the ships is even number rooms and the other is odd number rooms. They note this clearly on a plaqued on each wall as you head towards your room. Also the carpet color is somewhat different on each side of the ship. This really helps to spot which direction to head when you get off the elevators. Elevator were nice and room and came fairly quickly.
PUBLIC RESTROOMS: One thing I noticed was the fact that many of the public restrooms (women) had fewer stalls in them in than HAL did. I think we only found one maybe two that had 4 stalls, the others had two at most. The stalls were the type that are opened on the top and bottom. Where on HAL each bathroom had at least 4 stall and they were completely enclosed giving you a much more private feel which I loved. A pet peeve of mine but doable.
PURELL: One thing that I noticed was that CORAL PRINCESS didn't not have as many PURELL stations located throughout the ship. You did have to use the PURELL before entering and receiving your silverware before entering the LIDO BUFFET. A crew member stood guard until you used the dispenser which was a nice touch. One other place that had a PURELL dispenser was at the grill area on deck 15. There may have been a few others but they didn't pop out to me. I didn't see any in front of the main dining room area either. On HAL - they were EVERYWHERE. All over the place...and I missed that. I had brought my own small travel bottles which worked find but I did find it a little odd especially with all the crazy norovirus outbreaks.
ROOMS: Beautiful rooms!! We had a mini-suites and I absolutely loved the space and décor throughout.
Soft warm hues making the room feel very cozy. Very comfortable bed, lots of storage, two sitting chairs, large flat screen, small refrigerator, small bathroom but doable, nice room tub and GREAT water pressure. Bathtub was a very deep tub making it a little awkard to step in (especially if you have joint issues). There was a hand bar towards the front of the tub, but none towards the back end. I always bring one of those portable suction-type hand guards for these type of situation. I like to have some type of handbar to hold onto for balance especially when the ship is moving. Nice Egyptian cotton towels. They do provide shampoo/conditioner dispensers.
No CLOCK in room. The digital phone displayed the time in a small window. On one of the channels it displayed the time after rotating general ship info, but you had to wait for it to pop up. HAL had the time always display on a particular channel, regardless of the other info being displayed which was nice. HAL also had multiple music stations.
Our steward RICHARD was TERRIFIC. Very professional, friendly and quick to touch up rooms each day.
One thing I do just as a precaution, is to spray the entire room, including bathroom, furniture and vents with LYSOL. I also bring Lysol wipes to clean all countertops, phone, etc.
There is a 'blow dryer' but it was not very powerful or very hot...if you style your hair bring your own. There were beach towels and two robes in closet.
There was no DVD player in the mini-suite which was a little disappointing. On HAL comparable suites to the mini-suite, you not only get a DVD player but you an order from hundreds of title to be delivered to your room.
But, there were quite a few movie channels to watch as well as CNN and maybe ESPN as well. However, there was only one channel that had music on it (channel 40 I think) and played light classical music (which I loved to have playing in the background while I relax or got dressed). This station also kept passengers up-to-date on where we were geographically as well as time and sea conditions, etc.
One station that we enjoyed watching everyday was hosted by Susan and John (Social directors? I think). They were quirky, funny and informative. Love them both! Of course they also had a channel pushing jewelry and art auctions. Another station shared port information and highlights that was very interesting. Chris Roberts (Port lecturer) was very humorous, informative and interesting to listen to.
Room service was nice but limited. The only hot item for breakfast was an egg sandwhich (unlike HAL where you could order omelets ). More choices for lunch but still not extensive. Fast, friendly and timely service. Just wish the breakfast options were more.
LAUNDRY ROOM: There was a nice size laundry room. Five washers, five dryers. $2.00 load. machine for change. machine for detergent. Two iron boards, two irons. Flatscreen to keep you entertained. Very Nice.
DINING: Now this was the one area that had some hits and misses. Overall, the quality and consistency of food on HAL ships are far superior than Princess. Not that the food on Princess was bad but it just didn't stand out as much, especially in the dining room. It was just okay to me. Not bad but not spectacular. What I did like better on Princess was the lido buffet. Food quality was mediocre, but I loved the large buffet options that were presented each day. I also loved the fact that you can serve yourself, versus on HAL where they serve you from behind the counter for many entrée items. Princess had wonderful and ample salad bars that were brimming with the FRESHEST fruits (whole and chopped) and crispy fresh vegetables every day. Wonderful cheese platters, fresh cold cuts, terrines, pates, etc. The hot entrees were just okay in taste - mostly simply prepared foods. Some items better than others but overall it was very good and satisfying.
A couple of standouts in the LIDO Buffet was the "Mongolian Barbeque" - absolutely terrific. You take a small bowl, fill it with a large variety of fresh vegetables, then you go to the end of the line and tell the cook what protein(s) you may want added, then finally you request either rice or rice noodles. They cook it quickly and out comes one of the best dishes I had on the ship. Also, on GERMAN night they had a nice selection of sausages, potato salad (not the greatest but ok), etc. On international night, they had a nice selection of food from around the world...not the most authentic recipes or that great in flavor but good enough and fun. HAL really has PRINCESS beat on quality and flavor.
Another very nice standout was the omelet station for breakfast (and the savory omelette station one evening). Really good - not to be missed if you love eggs. You can also ask for eggs over easy or sunny side up at this particular station. They even had hot, freshly boiled eggs. That was a first! HOWEVER, avoid the scrambles eggs....YUCK, YUCK...they must be either from a carton or powdered...I don't know but they aren't very good. Grits were bland and watery. But mostly everything else was fairly good.
GLUTEN FREE: Here is another OUTSTANDING situation I experienced. I am gluten free and normally I don't mention it ahead of time on cruises. I just carefully select items I hope won't cause me problems. However, I decided to indicate that to Princess prior to this cruise. There was a note in the room to notify the maître'd to remind them about my selections. Well, on our first night in the MDR, we mentioned to the waiter and he immediately sent over a head waiter/maitre'd . His name was YALCIN and he was by far one of the most attentive, professional, friendly, charming and considerate cruise staff member I have ever come across. Since I hadn't made arrangements earlier in the day for that evenings meal, he took time to go over the menu and made recommendations (and modifications) to accommodate me (as well as every other passenger with dietary needs). I would watch throughout the night, being so pleasant and courteous to every guest passenger he interfaced with. Remarkable! A true Gem. Yalcin received a list of where every passenger who had dietary requirements were eating each evening and would find them regardless of where they dined to present the MDR menus for the next evening in case they planned on dining there the next day. I have never been that well taken care of regarding my dining options. VERY IMPRESSIVE. YALCIN is definitely a 4 STAR STANDOUT on the CORAL PRINCESS.
FORMAL NIGHT DINING MISHAP: One thing did go wrong while dining in the MDR. Throughout the ship, including the main dining room, there were photographers. More on this ship than on HAL. Somewhat invasive and annoying. On the first FORMAL night a young lady was going from table to table to table snapping pictures of everyone. I hate pictures being taking like that but I thought I just behave and let her snap away.. WELL she bent down to angle herself to snap a photo of me and KNOCKED OVER AND BROKE my water glass. Water poured all over my expensive formal dress. It was only water so I didn't make a scene and tried to be a good sport. The photographer then shocked and surprised me when she looked me and asked "what happened?" and looked at me as if I had knocked over and broke the water goblet. She then quickly left and continued on snapping other passengers as thought nothing happened....Leaving the BIG MESS to dining room crew staff to clean up. meanwhile I am dripping with water and shocked that she never apologized or anything...she just went on snapping pictures as thought nothing happened. UNBELIEVABLE. UNPROFESSIONAL.
NO HAPPY HOURS? Unless we missed it, the ship did not have any happy hours for drinks. That was a little disappointing. HAL had them every day and we enjoyed that in the evenings at times.
POOL/MUTS: There were a couple of places to enjoy the pool. The sanctuary (reservation required) was a small but charming set aside are for those who was a more private area to relax. Then there was the lido pool, splash pool and lotus pool. The lotus pool was next to the lotus spa. This was a very lovely, calm and relaxing area but filled up quickly. The lido pool was were the live bands played mid-day and where the movies under the stars (MUTS) big screen was located. Nice big area with ample long, low-sitting, lounge chairs. There were very few regular sitting chairs which disappointed me. I couldn't enjoy this area very much because I have a bad back and getting up and down from a low lounge chair is difficult . Also the back of the lounger leaned back which is also bad for my back. I prefer the plastic upright chairs. There were only a few around the bar area and several behind the bar for smokers (I believe).
HAL provides much more of the table/chairs around their pool (as well as loungers). This area got very full quickly on movie nights...
During the day when the band wasn't playing, they would show nature shows or other vacation destinations to watch, along with piped in music which was nice. They would also show an afternoon movie on some days.
MUSIC/MUSICIANS/ All the live musicians throughout the ship were all terrific. Solutions played upbeat Caribbean music, Rhapsody played some old-school, bluesy, R&B type music. There was a jazz group that played in the Bayou Cafe that were really good as well. Atrium often had a pianist (Tetiana) and strings TRIO who both played lovely, classy music throughout the day. One of the best performances for us was a single sola artist named DANIEL OLIVER. He was outstanding. The tone of his voice was remarkable. He was charming, funny and oh so very TALENTED. A very nice man to chat with in person - a real CLASS ACT!!!
CARD ROOM/CIGARS: If you enjoy playing cards, they had a rather larger area for folks who like that sorta of thing. Also they had a small but comfy looking room for smoking cigars - full of air purifiers.
LOUNGES/CASINO: We enjoyed all of the lounges throughout the ship. Even the eclectic wheelhouse bar with its mix match of furniture was fun. We sat in all of them and had different experiences and met different people which was fun. The casino was larger than on HAL and seemed nice...we didn't use the casino but walked through.
EXCURSIONS: We didn't do too many. One of the things I really liked that PRINCESS does differently then HAL is that they provide a BOX to drop off your excursion selections so you don't have to stand in a long line waiting to speak to someone. They also provide a up-to-date board on which excursion are full. You receive your confirmation in the evening in your inbox (that sits outside cabin).
Cartegena: We did the walking city tour. Loved the architecture. Very hot to walk around. Worst part were the pushy streets vendors everywhere you went. A big turn off. If they weren't so pushy I probably would have bought items from them. At the end of the pier where you docked, was a lovely area to see beautifuls birds such as toucans, parrots, flamingos, swans, and even some rabbits. Don't miss this. There were also shops around this area.
Aruba was a nice walking city with a nice shopping mall area but was closed because we arrived on Sunday.
Colon, Panama - we stopped briefly to pick up guests who took a panama canal boat ride through the locks. You could walk to a small strip like mall area but not too much around.
COSTA RICA - LIMON - loved the area and the people the most at this port. The straw-like market was crammed with very nice homemade items. Most vendors weren't too push or annoying so I bought quite a few items. They were a lot more professional than some of the other stops we made. Puerto Limon is a beautiful harbor area surrounded by a mountain range and a thick rainforest. Very lovely.
Grand Cayman was a very nice, more upscale touristy town. Great for divers, snorkelers. Beach was nice but we did the tiki beach excursion and the water had terrible large and sharp rocks everywhere...The other beach excursion we heard was easier on your feet to walk around the water. Very beautiful island.
OVERALL: We loved the CORAL PRINCESS. No real complaints (except for the photographer who spelt the water and never apologized). Princess was very similar in many areas to HAL. Both are classy and refined in many ways. Princess had a little more upbeat vibe to it. Both are great for older crowds, even though younger families will enjoy it as well. Not as many children activities as Carnival, but perfect when you don't need that or want that type of ship. We would definitely take another CORAL Princess cruise.