From the Midwest, we have been vacationing together for over twenty five years and have found cruising seems to fit our current lifestyle better then the beach and all-inclusive resorts of the past. We began with a four and half hour flight into LAX which we found to be one of the easiest terminals yet to fly into. Hope the new construction doesn't change that. Other then our luggage being last out the chute we were at our hotel, LAX LaQuinta, in ten minutes once we walked out the doors.
A good-enough hotel with breakfast included plus let us check in three hours early, though it may border gangland. McDonalds and mini-mart next door was perfect for dinner and a six pack to unwind with. Plenty of time for a morning run behind the hotel and points northward but would probably not be advisable late in the day.
Hotel shuttle back to airport late morning to catch the Princess's transport to the boat. Were advised we'd find a Princess rep in the Delta baggage area, terminal One, but Delta is at terminal Four. We got off at One and were glad we did as they could still squeeze our luggage onto the bus.
While this is our second cruise on Princess we are no experts. Embarkation went well and it would seem the best way to do this is to just do as told and pay heed to the guides. Only issue is our luggage again as one does start to get a little antsy as the dock fades from view on the horizon and still no luggage outside our door but like last time, it showed up eventually.
Side Bar: We are introverts. Do not come onto a cruise to meet people. Don't care who is on the boat really, not their ages, money, grandkids, what surgeries they all have had or how many trips taken. Not many kids on this cruise but you can ask the little girl at McDonald's that needed ice, I do not despise them. As for the age of the boat being skewed to the older crowd I'm getting there my self (54) just as every one eventually does. Other reviews told of the staff as not very friendly. Believe me you, as an introvert, they are way friendlier then I require. All I want is competency and the staff on the Coral is way beyond that.
We choose a full covered balcony room on the right side of the boat for the sunsets on the Pacific as we headed south. They were great, and there was plenty of sun to be had thanks to the boats and the suns relative positions. Showers are small but can get use to though can't help wonder how some of the less then thin did.
We purchased the soda card (mostly for the tonic and coke needs of cocktails), the seven wine silver card and 100 minutes of internet the first day. Expensive (and you can pay more if you like for more net time or better wines) but we understand that providing us these services on a boat out in the middle of the ocean is not cheap.
The first five days of this voyage are "at sea", great for getting into the rhythm of the boat (though she would have liked another port stop in there). Any crew member I encountered was friendly and proficient. Did have a bartender tell me "there are other bars" when I came down for my third tonic water of the night and not at all sure why he thought I wouldn't know that. Picked anytime dining, as we eat early, and were very happy to be able to sit immediately on those nights we ate in the Bordeaux dining room. Good food, great service and while a table for two still required sitting with a second table for two arms length away we found that people that choose such, much like ourselves, are not looking to meet and chat so that was just fine.
Working out on the Coral was a little disappointing as there is no dedicated running track and the workout room can be packed at times (at least at the start of the cruise). There are only a few resistant bikes which is my preferred means with out a road to work with. She found the treadmills and some of the classes to her liking and I used the staircases on the ship for the most part. My workout routine was mostly maintenance anyway and no one bugs you on the steps as they are not used all that much.
Over did and ran a 102.1 temp one night which coupled with a trade wind induced rough sea passage once into the Caribbean laid me out a bit but recovered and had no effect on the cruise itself save for a dampened appetite for a few days which helped out in keeping off the pounds anyway. No weight gain this trip which is something as buffets, where we ate 70% of intake at, are always my nemesis no matter where I encounter them. The food was very good (other then the German night but that is just a taste preference) and pizza at the pool filled the bill but the hot dog from the grill could have been skipped. Soft ice cream guy seemed to be the happiest server on the boat, but then who wouldn't be serving ice cream.
Saw enough wildlife (dolphins, a whale's tail, sea turtles) to keep it interesting and perfect weather throughout the 14 days, other then a little wind, made the trip what it was. As for the stops, we booked only one shore excursion and took walks at the others to at least get off the boat for a bit. I enjoyed Punta Arenas in Costa Rica though she found the razor wire a little disconcerting. However, it was mostly families out and about and the boat docks right on the beach. The locals leave you alone and while the litter seems to grow wild here, such is life. Checked out some local shops for wine but Chilean was all we could find, which can be some good wine but wasn't up for experimenting after buying the card on the boat. Fuerte Amador before the canal was good for a tender ride and a leg stretch but way too far of a walk to get anywhere.
The canal is what one comes here for and was not a disappointment. Especially nice to see other land tourists and perhaps some locals as well come out and wave to the boat as it goes through. Being on the right side of the boat (as well as in the right lock) you are at eye level past the viewing stands and we have plenty of pictures of them taking pictures of us. The new canal construction was off the left side of the boat and hard to believe it will be done in a year and a half but they are working at it.
Only shore excursion, the old city tour at Cartagena, in Columbia. The shopping stops border irksome due to the constant offers of belts, hats, sunglasses and such that are ever present but they take no for an answer, though sometimes a very hard no, but such is life there. Could have skipped the tourist spots no doubt to get the real flavor of the city but being Columbia, we stuck with the flock. Only fault I found was the guide should have advised restroom locations with out having to be asked. And you knew he was being asked because the microphone he was wearing to narrate picked up everything.
Aruba is a good place to stretch legs with lot of shops close by. No one bothered us but then again there is money on this island and that makes a world of difference.
Strange, but we did not take in a single show, catch any but a part of one of the movies out on deck, watched no in-room TV nor did we sit in any of the lounges. We really do not need to be entertained. Used the pools twice, spent maybe twenty minutes a day in the sun, shot some buckets, played some paddle ball, shuffleboard, ping pong and played mini-golf. Took plenty of walks and enjoyed almost every minute (rough seas aside) on board. I really do not know what became of it but time flew for us here.
Disembarkation was as easy as getting on. Shuttle to airport was quick though long enough for driver to remind us twice how tips are almost considered required. He does earn it I guess, as he had to load all the bags himself.
Would not hesitate for a moment in booking our next cruise with Princess but we are leaning towards some other line just to see what else is out there.