Embarkation - We were looking forward to a short-but-sweet getaway from San Francisco to Vancouver, B.C., Canada, but disappointment began right at the gangway on embarkation. We had booked a VS Suite, so our check-in was smooth in spite of several of their check-in laptops not functioning. Several check-in stations were unable to process passengers, so people who were behind us faced an ever-increasing delay to get through the initial check-in process. After checking in, we walked to the gangway where we had to stand in line for about 1-1/2 hours due to the ship’s security system complete failure. They were unable to use the boarding kiosks to sign us onboard and take our picture. Although there was a staff person with a walkie-talkie standing nearby, he had no idea about what was going on -no one from the ship issued any information about the delay for almost 45 minutes. The crew eventually abandoned their routine and resorted to checking us off a paper master list by hand to get us onboard. Due to this problem, it took much longer for the embarkation to finish, and the ship had a 2 hour delay leaving the berth for sea.
The ship normally would have been able to make up this time to our only port of Vancouver, Canada, but due to weather conditions (they alleged) we were informed on our only full day on board that our arrival was going to be delayed and that any of us who had flights before 4PM would not be able to make them. Our one and only full day on the ship was mainly dedicated to trying to re-book travel plans to get home after our original plans had to be scrapped. The ship did offer free internet and phone calls, to everyone so people who had independent plans could try and reschedule, but the internet was overloaded and in addition to overcast conditions, was almost useless. This is not the ship’s fault, but did add to our frustration in trying to make alternate arrangements. Of course, the load on the phone system was maxed out and it took several hours to get a line out. By the time we were able to start making calls, our options had passed. We were finally able to book an independent bus transfer to the Seattle – Tacoma Airport, so we could spend an unplanned night at a nearby hotel. Our great TA was able to rebook our flights back to our home for Sunday, which was a Godsend, as our ability to communicate from the ship was almost nil.
We managed to dock in Vancouver around 11:30AM. Between this delayed arrival and the extremely long time for the ship to get clearance to disembark, they did not start letting passengers off until about 12:20PM. When any of the staff in attendance in the waiting lounge was asked for any status when debarkation would begin, we were told they had no idea, and that there was no one we could ask, but she would announce it when she received a radio call. We never heard any announcement for our group to leave. We finally found out from a fellow passenger that our group had already left and two more groups had been dispatched. The continual lack of communication to the passengers only added to our frustration.
Life onboard – Our suite was very nice of course. My wife loved the Jacuzzi Tub and the goodies you get in a suite for use in the tub. The bed, linens and pillows were top notch. Our steward, Henry, was very good and efficient. We hardly saw him. We were not able to take full use of our huge balcony due to the weather conditions, but that is just the way it is sometimes. We had heard that Suite guests had free use of the spa, but when we inquired about it at the Sanctuary they (the staff person we asked went to her manager to check) said we were mistaken. When we got home we researched our Suite amenities and we found we had free access to the Lotus Spa, not the Sanctuary. We know it was our mistake, but we never got a list of amenities, and we can’t help but feel that the staff should have been able to re-direct us to the correct place. Again, we felt that staff was not fully aware or informed of all that was going on.
Dining - The pizza served on this ship is the best we have ever enjoyed on any Princess ship. Our two dinners in the Provence Dining Room was excellent, as was the staff. Once again, the Fettuccine Alfredo was absolutely delicious. After so many years, that dish on a Princess ship continues to be top-shelf. We did not see any shows; we were too busy trying to get our travel plans changed. The exterior of the Coral Princess is being minimally maintained; it is showing signs of needing some significant rust cleaning and painting. The interior is in great condition and well kept.
In this case, we did not escape completely, until we were off the ship and on our way to Seattle with a new plan to get home.
In summary, we have learned that we will never again travel without travel insurance that can be brought to bare to resolve changing travel plans when delays such as what we experienced on this trip. We also learned to triple check what the various staff tell us is fact. May your reading of our experience on this trip be helpful when you are deciding whether or not to decline or accept travel insurance.