This was our 6th cruise on Princess and 11th overall. We sailed from LA on nov 22 for 14 nights and arrived in Ft Lauderdale 6 Dec. We had a balcony cabin. The Coral is a beautiful ship. It is in very good condition. The cruise was sold out yet I often caught myself wondering "where is everyone".
There was however a problem with anytime dining. This was due to an overflow from the traditional dining room for both seatings. There were very limited anytime dining slots available from 6:15 to 7:45. They offered different excuses the first four nights. We had to wait in line 20 minutes for a beeper and then another 20 minutes for a table. They would not admit to the traditional dining overflow problem. The maitre D said call in the morning for a reservation. The reservation said you can have 5:15 or 8:15. They acted like this was normal. A prolonged conversation would get the proverbial "its Princess HQ" "we cant do anything". We had to dine at a later time. This was usually 7:45 on. It would have been more appropriate and respectful if they had told the truth about the nature of the problem.
The Coral's dining was improved from the last couple of Princess cruises. This was true in the buffet and the MDR. The service was always excellent. They cut back in some things as always seems to be on Princess. I missed having a good steak on the every night menu. This was replaced with beef tips. The shrimp cocktail keeps shrinking so I usually ordered 2. The 14 day menu was varied and well done. The staff in the buffet really engaged you and were always asking if you needed something. They cooked eggs and often lunch sandwiches to order. The hamburger frill and the pizza was very good. Princess seemed to have upgraded their ice cream in the MDR, very good!
The entertainment was consistently very good. The cruise staff was sharp and always connected with the cruisers. They did do away with the live band at the pool. This was replaced by the DJ or concerts on the big screen. I thought this was another nickel and dime squeeze from Princess HQ. Bad move.
The location of the sanctuary on the Coral is very obtrusive. It is in the fantail of the ship. This completely shuts off this area for sunbathing and the pool. We went for 1/2 a day for $20. Its a shame as the rear of the ship over the wake is my favorite area. Princess should do away with the Sanctuary as there was hardly ever anyone there. How much money can they be making? Better to please the vast majority than to keep squeezing for another dollar.
There were always plenty of loungers available throughout the sun decks. The deck cruise was again always very engaging. I often felt we had the place we were in to ourselves.
The on board expert on the panama canal was fabulous. He was a tremendous plus for the cruise. His slide show before we got there was exhaustive. Endlessly interesting and insightful. This for for the history and the current expansion. He was available throughout the 9 hour transit and his commentary and explanations were aired throughout the ship. I watched from the bow, stateroom balcony, promenade deck, and the main swimming pool. They had the bow camera on the tv and the giant screen. The transit day was the best day I have ever had cruising.
We did not stop at any of the Mexican riviera ports. We had 5 straight sea days out of LA. They would bring the ship in close to the shore and the mountains in mornings. This gave rise to really neat sunrises coming up over the mountains. We saw a whale breech 5 or 6 times. Also from our balcony we saw giant sea turtles floating by and sea lions.
Dance lessons were good but a little crowded. The bands were good.
Always with Princess it is the atmosphere of the ship that makes it for me. This is about the staff and the fellow cruisers. These cruisers were a little older than the other Princess cruises. Meeting and talking with some many wonderful people really makes the cruise. I have found this to be true on all of the Princess cruises.
This was really a wonderful, beautiful cruise.