January 18, 2003
The new Coral Princess was christened today by Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso while the ship was in transit on the Panama Canal. The brief, dignified ceremony was held outside on deck under a hot sun, while slight breezes kept the well-dressed guests from melting. The first female president was stylishly dressed and smiling throughout the ceremony. She addressed the gathering in Spanish (which our correspondent does not speak) and then returned to the shops onboard after the VIP luncheon to buy a dozen bags of souvenirs --- T-shirts and toys for children, we were told. Princess President Phil Kleweno said the fact that the president agreed to be godmother is "symbolic of the close ties we feel with the people and government of Panama." The Coral Princess, he said, was specifically built for canal cruising, with a high percentage of balcony staterooms (85% of all outsides) and the maximum space possible inside a ship that can still squeeze through the canal. The 88,000-ton, 1,970-passenger Coral Princess is a bright, airy ship with lots of chrome, marble, lighter woods and colors of pale blue, sand and, of course, coral. The new Bayou Cafe, a New Orleans-themed restaurant, is a lively spot with a jazz band and a menu sprinkled with crawfish, gumbo, alligator and the like. It will operate 10-day canal cruises roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale until summer, when it heads to Alaska. Sister ship Island Princess is due out in May and will operate the same itineraries.