This was my sixth Princess cruise and my second to the Panama Canal. The first, with my husband, was also on the Coral Princess and we had a terrific time. This "girlfriend" trip I was excited to experience the newly refurbished Coral Princess as well as tour the Canal a second time.
Given that I am at the Platinum level both boarding and disembarkation were flawless. Our luggage arrived at our cabins (interior) without a hitch. Our cabin steward was terrific and took care of our needs and concerns throughout our two week stay on board.
The service on this ship was outstanding no matter where you went or with whom you spoke. All the waitstaff work very hard to make sure your meals and service are top notch. As mentioned above, our cabin steward, and every cabin steward we met, was courteous, professional and friendly.
My friend and I took the ship's tour, offered at the beginning of the cruise with a limit of 14 people. The $150 cost for this tour is money well spent. Our tour lasted four hours as the Captain kept us on the bridge for quite a long time. This is a behind the scenes tour of the entire ship and you are presented with a bag full of "goodies" that evening. So, if you decide to take this tour on your next cruise make sure to pack an extra bag 'cause you will need it to bring home the extras.
The ship's tours are good. I prefer private tours but am cautious in which countries I sign up for a private tour. I did have an issue with one of my Princess tours and wrote a note to the tour desk describing the disappointment on a segment of the tour. I was not surprised, though, to receive a call from the tour office to discuss my concerns. I've found Princess to be very responsive to their customer's concerns and needs.
Princess is an environmentally responsible cruise line and I appreciate the efforts made to recycle and limit waste. In addition, attention to cleanliness and sanitary conditions are posted throughout the ship. One has to clean their hands before entering the dining rooms, there are notices posted in all bathrooms to wash your hands before exiting, etc, etc. I know some folks became ill on our cruise but, thankfully, we did not experience an Norovirus outbreak.
The Not So Good (and I've let Princess know all this so I don't feel bad posting it here)
The International Cafe
The first thing I noticed was that my favorite hangout on all my tours - the International Cafe (IC) - had been relocated to Deck 6. When on Deck 5 the International Cafe's large windows allowed you to sit with a good cup of coffee and watch the sea, or just people watch in comfort. When the IC was adjacent to the Atrium you could partake of the music and other offerings as well as quietly read a book.
On Deck 6 the IC is located next to the Casino. There is never a quiet time here anymore. I'm an early riser when I would go for coffee in the wee hours of the morning the noise of the slot machines interrupted the quiet. When the photo easels are erected the view of the ocean is blocked. Plus, there are no chairs near the windows so sitting and reading here is not an option.
OMG...this was such a disappointment. I've always enjoyed the musical numbers - the singers and dancers work so hard to produce a good show at sea. However, the shows were cut from 50 minutes to 30 minutes! I've seen several of the shows on previous cruises and they were great....but you can't have a GREAT show in only 30 minutes. Princess...go back to the longer shows!
The Scholarship at Sea and port lectures were ok, some better than others. That said, what do lectures about the History of Nursery Rhymes, Cuba or NASA have to do with a cruise of the Panama Canal with stops in Aruba, Colombia, Nicaragua, Mexico or Costa Rica? I understand that the demographic of a Panama Canal cruise is "older" but the ship is not a rest home, for heavens sake, and that's the demographic that most of these programs seemed to be geared towards.
Finally, every Princess cruise I've been on has offered diverse activities on board, especially on sea days. On this trip the activities were unreal - paper airplane making, model ship building, the Great Egg Drop! Really, I kid you not, The Great Egg Drop. Unbelievable and disappointing, for sure. The activities left much to be desired. I read lots of books, though, as the shopping in the ship's stores was seemed to be limited to large sizes and clothing for the more mature woman.
Food and more
The food, as always, was very good. I tend to prefer the Horizon Court as the offerings in the buffet are always fresh and varied. A few of my friends preferred the dining room for all meals and were never disappointed. I find the dining room menu limited but good if you like fewer choices. One never goes hungry on a Princess cruise, that's for sure.
I wasn't upset that the Dessert or Chocolate Extravaganzas were not included on this trip. While they are delightful to see and taste I imagine the cost and time to prepare these events are huge. And, I'm sure there is a lot of waste involved, as well.
The Art Auctions are fun. But be forewarned...if you "win" a free work of art in the raffles you cannot carry it off the ship. There is a $35 shipping fee attached so it isn't really free. I can understand the shipping cost and don't have a problem with that. I do have a problem, however, with this not being disclosed at the onset.
That's about it. I will continue to sail with Princess unless I experience similar disappointments on my next cruise. But, one thing I know for sure, my next cruise will NOT be on the Coral Princess.