2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2019
Over all we enjoyed our first cruise very much and felt like it was a great value. We give the highest scores on most categories except dining (very good but not excellent). The dining rooms were beautiful and service was very good. We ... Read More
Over all we enjoyed our first cruise very much and felt like it was a great value. We give the highest scores on most categories except dining (very good but not excellent). The dining rooms were beautiful and service was very good. We felt the regular menue at each meal was a bit limited and felt somewhat tricked by the pay-extra choices at our first dinner. We didn't know better and ordered entrees that had a fee. We discovered this a couple days later when reviewing our onboard statement. We felt tricked. However - the steak and lobster we had was fantastic! The rest of the cruise we felt we had to be on our guard so as to not order something with additional charges. There were these intimidating men with blue jackets at each meal in the dining rooms. They were intense and stern looking and you could tell the staff were terrified of them. We called them "the goons". They gave an uncomfortable vibe to the dining room. They need to lighten up! Unless we were in a hurry, we skipped the Horizon buffet dining room. The mass feeding- frenzy was kind of gross to deal with. We had a couple room service meals that were nice and easy, and quick. Ate on our balcony. Almost all the staff were encountered were wonderful and gave us great service. They all seemed overworked however, and spoke of 12-15 hour shifts, everyday. They were all from oppressed countries and it seemed they were being taken advantage of by Princess. Did not encounter a single American staff member on the ship. Princess doesn't have ultimate control over this but we found the port stops to be extremely touristy - a big turn-off for us. Ketchikan and Juneau were especially bad. Lots of people, souvenir shops and jewelry stores!! Everything else was wonderful. A great way to see some Alaska highlights! Read Less
Sail Date: January 2019
We chose this cruise to go through the Panama Canal and it ended in San Francisco which is home for us. The ship, Coral Princess, had been in dry dock for 12 days prior to our cruise and the contractors were not finished with the upgrades ... Read More
We chose this cruise to go through the Panama Canal and it ended in San Francisco which is home for us. The ship, Coral Princess, had been in dry dock for 12 days prior to our cruise and the contractors were not finished with the upgrades such as new carpet and flat screen TVs in the rooms. Nice upgrades, but there were rolls of carpet about the ship and painting still being done. Embarkation was delayed for 4 hours as the ship was late coming from dry dock so we sat in the waiting area until we could board. Our cabin had a new TV and the room was thoroughly functional, but the wi fi was not working properly and there were tech's throughout the ship working on it. Cosmetically the ship was not up to the standards we have experienced on Princess. For instance there were speaker covers sitting on the floor in the Princess theater and seats around us were broken and wobbly. Our cabin was a balcony unit and other than the minor cosmetics we were overall happy with it, it was clean and the bed was comfortable. Dining was excellent, the food was great and a nice variety to chose from. The dinners were a little long, averaged about two hours to finish our meals. We had the early seating for dining, the shows are staggered so we could still see them after dinner. We really enjoyed the Production show, well done. The guest entertainers were excellent, I recommend seeing them, comics, magicians, singers. Lots of activities daily on the ship, we never got bored. The service was excellent, the crew is friendly and works hard. We took a shore excursion at every port through Princess and they were well organized. Only drawback is on ports where you tender in took a long time waiting in tender lines both coming and going. Some ports were short on time and some of it wasted waiting in line. Only one of the excursions we took was misleading in the Princess tour listings description. In Cabo San Lucas, MX we took tour SJD-500 that is titled "4 x 4 Desert and Camel Adventure". There was NOT a 4 x 4 ride "on a guided off-road safari adventure". It is also listed there is a tortilla-making presentation which did not happen, very misleading. We did have a tequila tasting as described and the traditional Baja meal was excellent. The camel ride was fun and unique, well organized. The description says "cameras may not be used whilst atop a camel", however we were prevented from taking photos while greeting the camels too. Disappointing since the vendor had there own photographers taking photos, unfortunately their photos were expensive starting at $40 for one! Way too expensive, we returned without a photo of us on the camel. Guests we dined with took the Whale Watching by Zodiac in Cabo San Lucas and they really liked it, said it was fantastic and they saw about 30 whales and several were up close. If we are able to do this cruise again we plan on doing this excursion. This was a great cruise and we would do it again (probably will in a few of years). Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: August 2018
I enjoyed the cruise, but the Effy jewelry personell conducted a raffle for those buying jewelry. I bought my wife a ring that cost almost 3 grand. There were 3 prizes. The same person won all of the prizes. This is almost certainly ... Read More
I enjoyed the cruise, but the Effy jewelry personell conducted a raffle for those buying jewelry. I bought my wife a ring that cost almost 3 grand. There were 3 prizes. The same person won all of the prizes. This is almost certainly impossible to happen if done randomly, i DID NOT EXPECT TO WIN BUT I DID NOT EXPECT THE SAME PERSON TO WIN ALL PRIZES. Also no drink container delivered to my room even though we ordered drink package for soda and virgin drinks. I was therefore unsure where these could be obtained until after third day, I finally took my own container and asked the person behind the drink counter in casual dinning room, who told me. I would go again but please correct these problems for a perfect score. Disney has drinnk stations free throughout ship. It would be nice to have an onboard movie theatre with current movies. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: March 2018
My husband had always wanted to see the workings of the Panama Canal! It was an item on his bucket list. The Coral Princess is a lovely ship - we loved the formal dining and met some great new people onboard. We did the full passage of ... Read More
My husband had always wanted to see the workings of the Panama Canal! It was an item on his bucket list. The Coral Princess is a lovely ship - we loved the formal dining and met some great new people onboard. We did the full passage of the Panama Canal on an excursion on a smaller ship. We were able to see the workings of the canal and learn more about the history and function. If you are looking for something for everyone, probably not the cruise for you. It was definitely an older group with few children and young adults. Food was great and the room was very comfortable. We had a mini-suite without a balcony. We found that we really liked the additional space. The entertainment could not compete with some larger ships that we have sailed on, but enjoyable and creative. Nightly movies under the stars were very fun! Very friendly and attentive staff. A pleasant surprise was in Cartegena - a great nature park right at the port! Monkeys, parrots, iguanas, flamingos roaming around. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: January 2018
At 60 days, this was the longest cruise we've ever sailed on. I found it interesting that by day 2 I was hearing such a strong undertone of dissatisfaction from a number of frequent cruisers, one of whom was already "adding to ... Read More
At 60 days, this was the longest cruise we've ever sailed on. I found it interesting that by day 2 I was hearing such a strong undertone of dissatisfaction from a number of frequent cruisers, one of whom was already "adding to my list of complaints when we get back".. Ridiculous, we had barely gotten under way. This aside, here is the good, bad and the unfortunate in my humble opinion. The good - - Embarkation and disembarkation went flawlessly. - The crew could not do enough for you. Our steward, Glad, was well named. He was quick with a smile, greeted us by name every time he saw us and most importantly he kept our Mini Suite immaculate. The public spaces, particularly the bathrooms were immaculate throughout the ship.We could have asked for nothing more from the crew that tried to keep the ship clean. - As far as food, here's my take. We opted for Anytime dining because we enjoy the flexibility. We were often given a beeper and asked, by a lovely friendly hostess, if we would like to wait for our table for two. We never waited long enough to finish one cocktail and we almost looked forward this pre dinner ritual. My point is that the wait was very reasonable. Once inside the restaurant, the wait staff was consistently excellent and we experienced many, many servers on this trip. As far as the food itself, the menu was repetitive, again as one would expect over 60 days. We never went hungry, always able to find one or two choices that appealed to us. We found the temperature of the food to be inconsistent and often not quite hot enough and that was an ongoing frustration. We did find the food tasty and well presented and, very important to us, served in rationale portion size so that if you opted to eat a full four or five coursed you did not walk away stuffed - we liked that. The wine was a bit pricey but we reduced our cost by buying wine cards throughout the trip. - We typically ate continental breakfast in our cabin from the International Cafe, where they did an outstanding job. The fact that Princess is now issuing coffee cards that are good for this voyage only, and not forever seemed to get people crazy. $31 for unlimited brewed coffee along with 15 specialty drinks seemed to me to be the best buy in town yet people bitched for 60 days - so boring. They did run our of large cups, twice, and that was troubling and someone needs to be spoken to. - Lunch was usually at the buffet where the salads were great and the food was just what you would expect. We also love the pizza and burgers on the deck. The Irish Pub Lunch and pizza at Sabbatinis were not special and we only went to each one time. No need to revisit. - We ate at two specialty restaurants, Bayou and Crab Shack - both were ordinary, no better than the MDR. The main difference was very large portion size and as I said earlier, I don't view that as a benefit. - We missed a port due to weather, oh well. We missed a second port due a bad screw up, either by Princess or the folks supplying the ship with fuel (or by weather). Either way, we made the best of a bad situation on our unscheduled day in Yokohama by seeing going to a Miyajima which ended up being a highlight of our visit to Japan. We regret missing Kyoto that day but we made lemonade, if you know what I mean. - The ship did run out of lettuce for several days - a bad screw up and someone should be taken to task. The end of the world - no. We eat salad every day and managed to survive. The tome of some of our fellow passengers was ridiculous. There was so much to eat. - The shows were standard fare, a few great shows, a few shows not to our taste and a great many good ones. The shows where they brought local performers on the ship were very fun and a nice change of pace from typical showroom headliners. The orchestra was terrific and the singers and dancers always did a fine job. - A real highlight of the trip for us was the nightlife in The Wheelhouse where the band, Blue Jade, had us dancing nearly every night (that's why we missed a number of shows). They were the best ballroom band we've seen on any ship and we couldn't wait to get in there every nigh to dance and mingle with our new friends. The party band, The Sound, were also really good. Along with a good piano player, a nice guitarist/singer, the string duo and a fine singer in crooners music was not a problem. The piped in music pre dinner in Explorers could have been much better. - As far as the itinerary, holy cow, it was great. The excursions were good for the most part, They met our expectations. We had one bad experience and were disappointed that the excursion desk did nothing to answer my complaint. They suggested I write head office on my return and I did. I'll update my review if they respond. - WE had a mini suite, B22, and while it was tired we liked the extra space, the roomy balcony, the bathtub and everything worked well. As I said earlier, it was kept immaculately. - A big complaint of mine centers around the elimination of Happy Hours and a very poop effort in the nightly Elite/Platinum parties. Princess eliminated every opportunity to reduce our drinking expenses. More importantly, by eliminating Happy Hours the venues during typical HH times are empty instead of filled with passengers having a good time. This was a major misstep. I wrote management before the cruise on this issue and was told to wait and see the replacement promotions, well there were none. My informal survey would indicate that many passengers simply drank less, spent less money, and had less opportunity to connect with other people. This brings me to my biggest concern with Princess and that's my belief that accountants are in charge and that these accountants in particular do not understand this business. I don't know how much better the food was in years past, I've only been cruising for 10 years or so, but I do know that happy hours fill lounges or deck bars and people have fun and that's the idea. It's sad to see musicians play to an empty room, which we saw every day between 3 and 4. To close - Despite the warts, we enjoyed the cruise thoroughly and were sorry to see it end. The ship was not new but we loved the deck plan, our cabin, the service, the music, the itinerary, etc and would sail on her again in a heartbeat. I hope Princess decides to step up the game regarding some of the issues that are beginning to make this look like a bargain cruise line. If they do that, we'll continue to sail this line for a long time, if not, we will have to explore other opportunities. Read Less
2 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: January 2018
Chose this cruise because we wanted to do a full Panama Canal transit, and chose Coral rather than Island Princess because it had had a more recent refit.However, the ship is still tired looking. The furniture in the cabins is shabby, the ... Read More
Chose this cruise because we wanted to do a full Panama Canal transit, and chose Coral rather than Island Princess because it had had a more recent refit.However, the ship is still tired looking. The furniture in the cabins is shabby, the hairdryers are from the dark ages, the showers are the smallest I’ve ever encountered. However we still had a great time. Most of the staff are great, yes you get a hard sell if you have a spa treatment, but on the whole the staff try really hard. The food was mixed, the buffet was sometimes great, other times really odd combinations of food. Did anytime dining and most days I rang early to reserve a table, without a reservation we found we had to wait, maybe up to half an hour. Met some lovely people, enjoyed the ports, especially Huatulco. The expert who talked us through the transit was extremely knowledgeable and my husband found the whole transit fascinating- be warned, you have to be out on deck by 6am! Drinks fairly priced. We did the ultimate balcony dinner which was fantastic for £80 extra, had 2 dedicated waiters, cocktails, canapé, champagne plus 4 course dinner and then birthday cake for my husband, all whilst evening in port in Aruba. Read Less
8 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: June 2017
We chose this cruise because it was our 40th wedding anniversary. After research and talking with our travel agent we found out that Princess had it's own lodges for the land portion we wanted and was one of the few cruise lines that ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it was our 40th wedding anniversary. After research and talking with our travel agent we found out that Princess had it's own lodges for the land portion we wanted and was one of the few cruise lines that could cruise Glacier Bay and get up close to the glaciers. We had previously done 2 cruises with Oceania but their itinerary did not work for our time. We knew Princess would not be Oceania but had heard good things about them also. We did have a wonderful time but some things I wanted to write about. We flew into Fairbans and Princess was there to meet us and take us to their Lodge in Fairbanks. We had a long travel day so we just walked the grounds of the lodge and had dinner outside on the deck to enjoy the beautiful weather and sunshine. The Princes RIverside Lodge sits on the Chena River. The our room was very basic but clean, This lodge could use some updating. Our dinner was very good. They told us that we could pack a bag that they would take ahead to the ship. We would then pack another bag with enough clothes for the next 3 days and our necessities we needed to stay with us. If someone would of told us this before we left it would of simplified our packing at home. The next day we had a morning excursion on The Riverboat Discovery for a narrated cruise along the Chena and Tenana River. We enjoyed this very much. It was a beautiful day and we sat up top of the boat. The narrator was terrific and staff very friendly. You get to watch a sea plane take off and land on the river in front of you. The PIlot talked by radio and it it piped over the loud speaker. Along the way you stop at Susan Butchers Iditarod sled dog kennel. Her husband brings dogs to the shoreline and you watch from the boat. Later at the Athabasca Village they bring dogs to the village and a musher gives a talk. You can also purchase the book of her famous dog Granite, makes a great gift especially for a grandchild. Coming back you get off at the Athabasca Village and young Alaskan Native Guides give talks on native lifestyle, clothing, and fishing. They also tell you about all the homes along the river. The river was kind of muddy but the scenery was beautiful. After you dock they have a gift shop and box lunches for purchase or if your tour includes lunch they have a restaurant. Ours did not and the box lunches were picked over by the time we got to them. They needed more staff at registers and a better system of getting the lunches. We ate outside on a beautiful day. We then boarded a bus for our trip to Denali Princess WIlderness Lodge. This took about 3 hours and we arrived very late afternoon. Our bus driver was Steve and he was great. The Lodge and grounds were beautiful. Our room was just fine. We had to repack and have our bags out early in the morning. We then went for a walk and enjoyed the late sunshine and dinner at The KIng Salmon restaurant. It was very good and we enjoyed our server who was delightful. We had time to do a little shopping in the gift shop and order our box lunch for after our tour the next day. The next morning we went to the coffee shop for breakfast and they told us they didn't serve some of the hot items any longer even though they were up on the board. We then left to go into the Park on our tour. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable about so much of the Park. He was very personable and we enjoyed him. The only thing we didn't like was the part of the tour where you walked to a cabin and a lady talked about what it was like to live there many years ago. I think she thought she was performing a play instead of talking to us, also the mosquitos were so bad you could hardly pay attention. The rest of the tour we saw moose, bald eagles, a bear, way off in the distance and a native Alaskan gave a talk about culture. If we ever get to go back we would love to go further into the park. After retuning to the Lodge we picked up our boxed lunch we ordered and then took a 3 hours bus ride to Mt McKinley Lodge. Our bus driver was ok she seemed to forget quite a bit of what she was talking about and rambled. We went and heard a talk by a lady who was on a expedition to climb Denali. After 3 weeks and an 11 day storm they had to go back. She was very interesting to hear. We loved the Princess Lodge at Mt McKinley. The flowers were beautiful and we sat on the large porch outside. Denali was in the clouds so we did not see it, as most people don't. They had an outside fire pit area which looked very cool but very crowded. At our restaurant we did not have a good experience. We sat at the bar and our server was not polite to us, she was very busy. Finally another man came and helped us and by that time we were getting unhappy. The food was just ok and not worth the hassle of we had to go thru to get it. Our room was nice and in a separate part away from the main lodge. THhe next morning we took a bus ride to Talkeetna, it was pouring rain but our driver was fantastic!. SHe was a young lady with spunk and an interesting story. We LOVED Talkeetna. If we go back again we would stay there and do day trips from there. It is a quirky, colorful town and definitely tourist friendly. We had breakfast at The Roadhouse. You sit at a family style table with anyone. We sat with several local people and another couple traveling like us. The breakfast was great and huge. The bakery was amazing. We got a raspberry cinnamon roll to go and ate it as we walked thru town and did some shopping. They then took us by bus to the train station where we then went to the cruise ship in Whittier. It was an enclosed glass train car and you are assigned seats so you don't now who you are sitting with. The trip is 6 hours to the cruise ship port. We were able to order lunch and drinks on the train. They do a narrative along the way. The scenery is beautiful and we were glad we did it, it's just a long trip. We arrived in the rain at the port. After going thru security, we were the last people on board the ship. Our luggage was in our room, Dolphin Deck Room 333. We had to immediately go to the muster drilll in the Princess Theater. AFter that we went to dinner in the MDR. After a long day of travel we ordered a glasss of wine and they said they did not have that wine. It seemed odd to us since it was the first day of our cruise and they were already out of something. We purchased the beverage alcohol package. They then said they had a bottle of something similar. At this point we were tired and just said ok. Something seemed off, the staff kept trying to sell us things all along, like a wine tasting, photos. We just wanted to eat dinner and have a glass of wine at leisure and not be rushed. We felt that way every time we went to the MDR. We even had to tell our waiter one time to just slow down we didn't want to be rushed that way. Our next day was a sea day and it was cruising Hubbard Glacier. We enjoyed the day very much. Then Glacier Bay National Park was next. The Park Service brought a ranger on ship and she gave a talk and then pointed out high lights as we cruised. Our captain got as close to the glacier as he could and stayed on each side about 45 minutes. It was raining so we went to our room balcony and got fantastic views!. We loved this day. The first day into a port was Skagway. We had booked our excursions ahead of time and 2 planned for that day. The morning we did the White Pass Scenic Railway Tour. If we would have known our train ride previously was 6 hours we would not have done this. It was just ok, didn't need another train ride. The afternoon we did the CHilkoot Train HIke and Float Adventure. They took you out of town in a van to start the hike. This was a 2 mile hike in with a guide who was wonderful and told us all about the rain forest we were in. Then we floated back down the river to meet the van. We loved this. We saw several bald eagles, beautiful scenery and felt like we were experiencing Alaska. It was a Discovery Exclusive Excursion. We got back to town with no time to see the town. It looked nice from the van as we rode thru. We would go back to Skagway. The next day was Juneau. We had booked the Alaska Whales and Mendenhall Trail Animal Planet Recommended excursion. We had another great day!. Our guide met us and we drove out of town to the Mendenhall Glacier Trail. It was a 1 mile hike, really a walk to a lake with a beautiful view of the Mendenhall Glacier. Annie was fantastic, She was very knowledgable and funny. She follows the whales from Alaska in the summer to Hawaii in the winter. She encouraged questions and gave us ample time for photos. We then took the van to a marina and picked up a whale watching boat. It was a smaller boat with only about 25 people on it. The windows all opened and there was plenty of opportunity for photos. They took us as close as possible to the whales we saw and it was AMAZING! Our captain was very good and took us several places and moved with the whales. On our way back in Juneau we drove thru the town and it looked great. I had time to check out a few of the shops before the boat left, it was an early day to leave. Our final stop was Ketchikan. Again we loved it here. Our excursion was The Misty Fjords Wilderness Flight and Cruise. There was about 10 of us on the small flight. Our pilot was great and got us as close as possible to the mountains to take photos. Plenty of beautiful scenery. We then landed at a boat marina in the middle of a fjord. We took a scenic catamaran back to town. The cruise was longer than we expected. They did have light snacks but it was very long. We did have time to go shopping in Ketchikan and ate a late lunch at Annabelle's Chowder House. This was recommended by a local shop merchant who owned a great gallery called Arctic Spirit Gallery. They have beautiful local jewelry and gifts. MIchael is the owner and is wonderful. His wife also owns the store next door. It was nice to have a quality local store to shop in and not just touristy jewelry and souvenir stores. The last day was a sea day. It was beautiful and we spent most of the time outside by the pool. We pulled into Vancouver on our last day early. We had been there before so we were going home. It was a beautiful skyline going into the harbor. Disembarkation was smooth and they had our bags at the airport. Something's about our boat: The Coral Princess is the smaller of 2 boats that cruise Alaska. It was clean but it big need of updating. Our cabin was a balcony cabin. It was clean but definitely needed updating. The shower/tub had a gouge in it and needed to be recalled. The bathroom tile did not match. There was a updated different tile strip on the wall but old harvest gold tile on the floor. Our steward, Raymond was fantastic. Very nice, friendly and did a wonderful job every day. One day they came to so some painting on our balcony when we were gone all day. They never did come back to clean up their paint chips where they had scraped and repainted. You could also see other areas of rusitng and areas where they just repainted over old paint. The 2 shows we went to were good and we enjoyed them. The buffet was very good. We had breakfast, lunch and dinner there during our trip. All the food was good and looked fresh. The staff had a hard time keeping up with cleaning tables. There was also the annoying people selling bellini's constantly going by. All in all we had a very nice trip. The land portion was too much moving for us and bus time. If we did it again we would structure it differently on land. We enjoyed the towns and would go back. The Captain and Cruise Director seemed very good. We enjoyed the Crooners Bar for cocktails, and the pizza and grill for lunches. The outside bar also served good pool side drinks. I am not sure we should of bought the drink package I don't think we drank enough to make it worth while but it was convenient. I don't think we would cruise Princess again. For what you got it seemed expensive and they were constantly trying to sell you more but we wanted this itinerary and the dates were what we needed so we tried it. Read Less
11 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
My wife's 60th BD loomed large in our planning and we always wanted to go to the Panama Canal so this was a great way to combine the two. On top of that, she was and still is a New Year's Baby so just any old First Night party ... Read More
My wife's 60th BD loomed large in our planning and we always wanted to go to the Panama Canal so this was a great way to combine the two. On top of that, she was and still is a New Year's Baby so just any old First Night party would not do. The Coral Princess met and exceeded our expectations at nearly every point along the way. Embarkation at Port Everglades was smooth and 99% hassle-free. Our EZ Air flight early on embarkation day eliminated any angst over possibly being late due to bad weather. Our first two sea days were a great break from the post-Christmas frenzy. Bloody Mary's were a bit on the spicy side but we managed. Second one was much better. (TIP #1: I left a nice tip for the bartender on the first drink, about 25%, so on second drink I did not leave one. However, in my final bill, they graciously added a tip for me which I had so obviously overlooked. In the future, always leave at least a small tip on your $10 cocktail so you don't get dinged later.). Food was on par with most cruises we've been on. We had flexible dining so we could go when we wanted, but only ate in the dining room about half the time. Other nights were spent at the buffet where the food was just as good as the main dining room, and better in some ways because there was more to choose from. First port of call was Aruba. It was New Year's eve so our stay was less than 6 hours. Although it turned out to be our only rain day, we had a great time because we opted for the Atlantis Submarine excursion which took us down to 140 ft. Got pretty wet walking back to the ship, but it was well worth it. Felt sorry for people who had never seen Aruba before, but we had a great time. New Year's Eve on board was lots of fun. Party hats, noise makers and libations kept the party going. My wife and I joined the party crowd packed into the Atrium and did our best funky chicken till well after the midnight balloon drop. No one noticed my dismal shuffling, because most people noticed my wife's flashing 60th BD tiara which got her the attention she richly deserved. New Year's day was stop #2 in Cartegena. Took the walk through the old city. Bought coffee in the Juan Valdez Cafe (TIP#2. Nobody spoke english in the cafe and they don’t take USD, but a MasterCard and my elementary spanish saved the day. If you no habla espanol, go with someone who does or you will get frustrated.) It was really hot so we wormed our way into a small bar down a narrow alley by the Cathedral and drank cheap beer till we went back to the ship. Princess celebrated my wife's birthday by giving us a complimentary dinner for our party of four in one of the specialty restaurants. The next table was full of friendly Quebecois who even sang Happy Birthday to my wife in French. January 2 was the big day going through the Canal. By 5:30 a.m. I was on deck with a pot of coffee front and center on deck 15. The entire transit was truly wonderful but was marred by chair hogs who insisted on trying to save a dozen spots for people who wanted to sleep in. At one point, the worst of the lot even put one of those little flimsy plastic deck tables on TOP of his chaise lounge pulled right up to the tall glass railing blocking everyone else’s view. Harsh words were exchanged when someone bumped his chair almost causing him to fall, which we were all secretly hoping for anyway. (TIP #3 - Get a spot early by the railing, toss away your sense of personal space and be polite. 99% of everyone else there is too.). After the transit we signed up for a tour of the old and new canals and even got to see the Coral Princess going back through the old canal on her way to dock in Colon. That was a bonus. Our tour included a drive through the old former Canal Zone in the suburbs of Colon. We got back to the port of Colon just as the Coral Princess was docking and left us with an hour or so to kill. There’s not much to do in at the Port area of Colon. A few shops and a restaurant but my favorite spot was the Super 99 market where you could buy reasonably priced snacks and booze. Again, no one speaks english but the touristas and they don’t take USD. Be polite, smile, use your best grade school spanish and pay by credit card and you’ll be fine.. The next stop was Limon Costa Rich and the Eco Adventure Ziplining tour in the Veragua Rainforest. Like everything else the Ticos do, this was a top notch tour. Completely safe, Great company. Upon returning to the port of Limon, we went outside of the terminal area to one of the many coffee shops where for $5 USD you could get all the wifi and coffee you wanted all day. Best deal of the trip. The next day was a much needed sea day where we finally went to the BOGO free drink happy hour in the Wheelhouse bar. (TIP #4. The second drink is not really “free”.) You have to get a second drink of the same type you buy and when you get the bill, they add a $2 “service fee”, Still, it’s cheaper than paying full price for the second drink. Last port was Ocho Rios Jamaica where we signed up for the river tubing adventure. The trip was very fun but we were only on the river for a bit less than an hour. Short, but the guides were good and did a good job of keeping everyone together. They were pretty aggressive asking for tips so just be sure to have a pocket full of dollars to give a little to each of them. We then spent a couple hours at a beach where we were treated to a good variety of munchies (jerk chicken, fried breads, plantains) and strong rum punch. Bob Marley music was ubiquitous even though there are many other fine Jamaican musicians like his son Ziggy and Third World, but you will only hear Bob Marley. Interestingly enough, not one statue or picture was anywhere to be seen of Usain Bolt. Really? The most famous living Jamaican and he was nowhere to be seen. I at least expected a cardboard cutout of him hawking some brand of rum. Our last day of the cruise was greeted by the news of the mass shooting at the FLL airport. The cruise staff didn’t have any more news than we did about changes in arrangements. Although we signed up for the EZ Check baggage program, we had to pick up our bags in the cruise terminal and Princess promptly refunded the money for the baggage handling. The airport was crowded, but in the end, we arrived back home only 2 hours later than planned. Considering what that airport went through, we counted ourselves lucky. Bottom line: Great cruise and great excursions with only a few minor bumps along the way, Keep your sense of adventure intact and you will have a great time. Read Less
12 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: December 2016
This was our first cruise with Princess and our first cruise over 7 days in length. We found Princess to be gracious and comfortable. The embarkation at Port Everglades was quick and efficient. The days at sea were relaxing and ... Read More
This was our first cruise with Princess and our first cruise over 7 days in length. We found Princess to be gracious and comfortable. The embarkation at Port Everglades was quick and efficient. The days at sea were relaxing and ports were interesting to us for the most part. We chose a partial transit of the Panama Canal because the extra days of the full transit would not fit in our schedule. A partial transit gives enough of the feel of the experience to satisfy the curiosity. The Coral is a mid-sized ship and was almost full for this cruise. There were less than ten children on board as this was early December when schools were in session. The “Anytime Dining” experience was confusing. On other lines, any time meant any time. We found one entrance to the dining room to be for “reservations”. When we call to inquire about reservations, we were either told they weren’t making reservations or the only times available were after 8pm. A few times we had to wait for a table. They use a pager system. As this was an anniversary trip for us, we preferred a table for two but only were able to have one about half the time. Tables for two were often so close together, it felt like shared table for four. It was not what we had in mind. However, on our actual anniversary, the maître d Alejandro took us upstairs to the Provence dining room so we could have a private table. We often ate breakfast and lunch in the Provence dining room. We enjoyed the service. For breakfast trays of pastries were offered. I had the chocolate croissant every morning. It was so delicious. The menu was not extensive but had all standard breakfast items. Each day there were two specials for the day, one entrée and one started of some kind. The lunch menu was like it with standard items every day and special items each day. Service was quick and efficient. The Horizon Court buffet was not huge. It had stations for breads, fruits, salad, and sandwiches at lunch. Breakfast buffet offered unusual items such as rice and other entrees that I would consider lunch or dinner fare. I guess this would appeal to cultures were eggs and bacon are not the standard breakfast. I didn’t try any of these. Breakfast and lunch seemed to be mostly the same daily, although I didn’t check it every day. I did enjoy the afternoon snack. Fresh guacamole and chips were available by 2 each afternoon. The biggest surprise to me was the International Café on deck 6. At first I thought it was only a coffee bar, but I soon learned that the food offered was complimentary. In the morning, sweet treats and breads were offered, but the rest of the day, sandwiches and salads were available. The service here varied by individual. We found that coffee to go was cheaper than coffee in a cup to dine there. The location, near our stateroom and the casino, made this a favorite spot. Although we did not dine in the evenings at the specialty restaurants, we did take advantage of the lunch offerings that were complimentary. Sabatini’s offered pizza at lunch a couple of time. It was excellent pizza, completely different than the pizza offered pool side. Only two other couples were there when we were. We also did the “pub lunch” at the Bayou Steakhouse choosing, as most did, the fish and chips. It was extremely crowded and we had to sit at the very small bar. Go early if you want a table. I think this was only offered once. The main activity we enjoyed was trivia. This was held in the Wheelhouse Bar. At first glance, this is a huge space, but since after trivia occurred just as Happy Hour was ending, there were often no seats left. We made a group of friend who liked to play too and struggled to find six chairs together. Morning sessions were not at crowded. Questions varied between the easy and truly challenging. Prizes consisted of key chains usually. The casino was very small. There were smoking and non-smoking areas. On several nights, the entire casino was non-smoking which I appreciated. I found the Princess Theater to be very congested as the only entrances were on deck 7. I’m used to theaters with multiple entrances on several decks. It seemed claustrophobic and almost hazardous. I only attended two events there and preferred the Universe. It had more comfortable seating and entrances on both decks 6 and 7. There was a variety of entertainment. We don’t care for magic so we didn’t attend those shows. We enjoyed the Bayou show and the comedian. We did not purchase a shore excursion for Aruba. We were only in port for a few hours. We walked down the main street and visited a casino. We were not impressed and headed back to the ship. In Cartagena, we took the City Highlights tour. It was oppressively hot that day and the climb to the fortress was very challenging. Vendors were very aggressive. The area was very crowded (two other ships in port that day) and I could not hear our guide very well. Las Bovedas was simply a shopping stop and should be described that way. Most goods were too expensive anyway. The walk through the old city was beautiful but again, very crowded and hot. I felt as if I spent the entire tour trying not to lose my guide in the press of people. I did not learn much, but I would love to go back and spend more time on my own. We tendered in Gatun Lake to go to Panama City and the Miraflores Locks. The drive was quick and comfortable. The “snack” provided was a chicken sandwich from Subway, just meat and bread. There was another shopping stop before going to the old city. It was uncrowded and two guides split our group so it was easier to hear. However, guides need to judge their groups to take it slower when elderly members cannot walk as fast as they would like. I found this almost disrespectful. Free time was welcome and no vendors harassed us. The visitor’s center at Miraflores was a nice new facility. It was interesting to see ships passing through that part of the canal. When we arrived back at the ship, I was glad I had bought my souvenirs already instead of having to go into Colon. In Costa Rica, we took the Animal Planet recommended tour of the sloth sanctuary. It did not disappoint. The bus ride was not long and we got to see the animals right away. The tour was given in rooms where the sloths were. The guides were informative and passionate about their work. The boat ride in the canal behind the sanctuary was not explained so we just got in the small aluminum boat and paddled away. Our boatman did not speak English so we just drifted along in silence until we encountered wildlife. Fortunately I speak enough Spanish to translate for the others. He pointed out iguanas and then we arrived where the howler monkeys lived. He positioned our boat where we could watch them for a substantial time. We also saw sloths in the wild. It was a great look at the rainforest. Our regular tour guide taught us a great deal about his country and also showed us how banana plantations worked which was a bonus. I found the craft market at the dock the best opportunity for shopping on the trip with genuine crafts, nice vendors and reasonable prices. As we are going back to Grand Cayman next year, we chose not to get off the ship. Read Less
22 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: October 2016
It was my husband and my 3rd honeymoon (2 were not enough) as we are both widowers in our 50's who found one another 3 years ago and are celebrating every minute of life together in love. So, on both our bucket lists was the Panama ... Read More
It was my husband and my 3rd honeymoon (2 were not enough) as we are both widowers in our 50's who found one another 3 years ago and are celebrating every minute of life together in love. So, on both our bucket lists was the Panama Canal. Princess delivered an extraordinary experience. (And I am a pretty experienced traveler for business.) There were just a few negatives. Boarding on Princess' timed schedule was a breeze... not one person in line. We zipped through empty roped cattle shoots onto the ship. Our cabin was ready. Attendant Toffee came by shortly after to greet us. But then the first blip occurred... an officer appears with my wheeled carry-on cradled in his arms in what looked like a body bag. The front zippered panel was completely severed off... with greasy tire tracks across the front of the bag. My cosmetic bag... handle ripped off and tire tracked. Extra underwear... black tire treads across it. An evening bag... crushed. My hard-bound book inside the front zippered pocket? Covers marled. But otherwise, most other things in tact. Clearly, the bag fell off the pile, and someone ran over it with a fork lift or some other vehicle. The officer handled it smoothly, apologetically. We completed a report, and they gave us a free carry-on to get us by, but also took the damaged one to try to repair it. 3 days later, a wobbly, tire-tracked war-torn roller bag reappeared- all patched up. They did their best. But it's in the trash already. And what's important is how they reacted to it. All other luggage arrived fine. If that's the worst thing that happened - and it was - it was going to be a great voyage. And it was. Sea days are fabulous, and two days tuning the world out, and enjoying the ship's amenities was glorious. The food was terrific... not the best we've had, but very good quality. We thought we'd try Anytime Dining, but switched to standard. Our servers Randy and Ryan from the Philippines were fantastic. Great sense of humor, and so attentive. Loved lobster night, and the chicken pot pie! The buffet was hit or miss. Breakfast - how can you go wrong? But often so crowded, hard to find a table. Lunch and dinner... standard favorites with some international dishes. Desserts were just OK. Actually the sushi was terrific, as well as eggplant parmesan, and the bread pudding divine. The shows... the comedian Try Thorngill was FANTASTIC. We could have watched him every night. When my skeptical husband belly laughs on both performances, and gives a standing ovation, you know he was great. The production show On the Bayou was one of the best production shows I have ever seen on a cruise ship (and I have produced shows in my career.) The others, such as "It's a Swell Party", well, err... I felt sorry for the dancers and performers... sooooo boring... outdated numbers with songs my grandmother may have heard before (and I am 50 years old.) This cruise definitely catered to the OVER 60 crowd. Average age: 65-70. And the production shows reflected that. The two showcased singers who had their own shows were LOUSY. Tom Jones-copy cat singer-impressionist and a country-western crooner guitarist - both tried to hard. The guitar-playing was great... singing - so phony and over-acted. My husband and I walked out of both. But music is subjective, and I heard some people liked it. Cringe! I know I am tough on performers. The crew show was fantastic. John the assistant cruise director was a hoot... a ham who was very entertaining in every activity he participated in... made you want to participate as well. Singer Muhammed was spectacular... clearly the strongest player, but other vocalists and dancers were good as well. The Love Boat Dance Party on pool deck was fun, as well as the balloon drop party. Disco gets you dancing! (My era, my music. My rock-loving husband people-watched.) Other activities? I felt they were lacking (other than "sell-you-stuff" presentations or drawings or sales) - OR - they were overlapping. Several shows/movies on top of one another? Spread them out, people! Princess... please add more interactive hands-on sessions, such as fruit carving, sushi-making, cooking demos, roundtables where you can meet others with similar interests on sea days. We don't just want detox, accupuncture, shopping tours, bingo, casino games or art gallery hard sells. That was 80% of the activities line-up. (And when I heard one art dealer rep quote $5200 for one painting, and 10 minutes later, the next rep quoted the same painting $6700... you know what's going on there. Not worth the free champagne!) The historical and port talks were very informative. Now, the ports. Aruba? Nice island. We did our own excursion we heard about from others - NOT a Princess excursion. Trikes of Aruba. AMAZING. The best of the trip. Since we were only there 5 hours - from 7 AM to 12 PM... what do you do on a tropical beach island? We were picked up at the cruise ship, and taken to their offices where we rented those 3-wheeled motorcycles. After a brief lesson, we followed the ever-smiling leader/tour guide Zeus in a caravan, drove practically the entire island. What a blast! Stopped at several key spots for a rest, refresh, photos, see cool scenery. Fantastic experience. Exhilarating! Hot but sooo cool with the wind blowing. Others were jealous of our fun, waving to us on the way. And so safe... even with me afraid of traditional motorcycles. But Cartagena, Colombia... we loved our tour operator, but the country? NOT IMPRESSED. We took a private tour with Duran Duran. He was everything people said... an expert, kind, informative. We did a cooking lesson with him and his wife which included a market tour of a local labyrinth of vendors to pick out our ingredients and taste some local fruit. What a 'colorful' trek, to say the least! We were definitely out of our element... and looked like tourists... told "Put your phone away" for safety reasons. Also, you must be good on your feet and be able to keep up with Duran and his wife Maria going through the hot stalls. They then took us to their home and gave us a cooking lesson where we helped prepare an authentic Colombian meal. Delicious! We learned a lot. Their family was lovely. Wonderful hospitality, and everything he advertised. We then asked to return to the port, where there was a lovely wildlife exhibit and air-conditioned shopping. To sum up this port.... it is not the way we would choose to live. Crazy drivers and motorcycle taxis cutting you off everywhere - even the police. Barbed wire everywhere. We didn't feel safe in the inner city. Others had different experiences in the downtown areas by the old forts and churches. But we did not wish to look at old forts, churches or museums, but see how the people lived. We got our wish. It was eye-opening, and to be frank - a relief to be back on the ship. The Panama Canal... AMAZING. I am not one to marvel over mechanical wonders. But THIS? Once you learned the history and ingenuity, and how the US triumphed doing the impossible... you get this amazing feeling of pride! And then when your ship begins to go through the locks, and you see this "water elevator" lifting a cruise ship up 82'... with just one meter to spare going through the locks on either side of the ship... it was amazing! The photo team offers you the chance if you are a balcony cabin to be photographed while going through the locks inside your cabin. We did, but just know it is not the general portrait price, nor can you get them in your $199 package... it's separate. We bought 2 photos of all the ones they took and it came to $49. But they were good, showing you and the locks. During the first part of the trip, you are encouraged to make posters reflecting your family or sentiments of the trip - to display during the canal lock crossing. It's for the camera, and the video! (Yet you can't even read most posters!) They have produced this wonderful video - and drop in the footage of all the posters and wavers during this passage. A great memento... but for $70? How often would you watch THAT? They also add in several other historical Panama Canal videos in the package, but who wants THAT? We said NO to the video, but if it was $25, we would have purchased it. They have screenings to show you the video and then try to sign you up for it, before they tell you the price. Ouch! The photo crew worked their butts off during the voyage, shooting every imaginable event. Bottom line: Formal portraits on the black backgrounds were done well, and we bought several. The other backgrounds were cheesy. The all-inclusive $199 package - who needs all those photos? Perhaps great for a family. But not for a couple. And it does not include the Panama Canal balcony shots nor the videos. Excursion: Gatun Lake & Embera Indians. Loved it! This man-made lake for the canal was gorgeous - and filled with wildlife. Next a trip on a boat (not a canoe) to visit the Embera Indian Village. What a treat! Learning about their culture, meeting their families, photographing their beautiful children, their costumes, seeing them dance, dancing WITH them, then buying their wares was fascinating and so entertaining. LOVED IT! And the women were not topless, which my husband was worried about being uncomfortable. They wore ceremonial large necklaces which covered their chests. A relief for all. The port of Colon was just a few Indian vendors and one duty-free shop. Too scary to walk anywhere else. Costa Rica. GORGEOUS! This is the nature-lover's spot. We did a private tour with Jorge Morales Ramirez with his driver Vic. What a wonderful day. First the Jaguar Rescue Center - far, but so worth it. Sloths up close, monkeys and many other animals. Gorgeous countryside, learning about organic bananas and male-female banana plants. Next a canal boat ride to see wildlife, a beach stop and terrific lunch, then a scenic drive overlooking the city and through it. Nice shopping back near the ship at a market of vendors. Good prices, cheap coffee. Warning... bring your own toilet paper for public bathrooms in most of these countries... NO TOILET PAPER. Have your own stash. Seriously! Final stop: Grand Cayman: The postcard. Gorgeous blue water. Fabulous beaches. Very civilized shopping. We took a taxi, where they group shove you to the gills to get the most people they can in the bus before they budge... we waited 20 minutes... but the ride to the beach was only $4 a person. We rented a private Cabana at the Royal Palms Resort for $100. Not worth the expense... it was just a framework with sheer curtains, table, chairs and 2 loungers... but it was a splurge. Gorgeous views and swimming. Good burgers and drinks. Th ultimate beach day. Then T-shirt shopping before the tender back to the ship. No worries about this port at all... the safest of all. Then sea day back. A glorious and restful way to end the trip. Disembarkation was easy - delayed a bit, but we went straight through to our luggage. Many taxis there waiting. No worries. Final notes: - Movie choices were iffy. Knowing you have an older crowd... showing a film like "Miles Ahead"... about drug addiction with constant cussing... terrible choice. The theater cleared by the first 30 minutes. Better choices and timing! Did not go to Movies Under the Stars once... not good features. - The Love Boat channel was cool. But showing the same episode over and over each day, until the next day... TERRIBLE!!! How about 30 episodes that repeated on a loop? - The drink package for sodas, milkshakes & mocktails was well worth it... $7 per day. - Burgers at the grill were great at the beginning of the cruise, but not so much at the end. We wondered why. - The library had a nice variety of books, including some travel guides. All free to borrow. - Lots of hangers in the closet, even for clothes-horses like me who overpack. Lots of storage for luggage under the bed and in the closet bottom. - The shower was TINY. Make sure the shower curtain stays in. Or flood-time! - Deck chair hogs! A perpetual problem. When you're through, take your towels and GO! 80% of the chairs went empty most of the time, with only 40 people in the pool. So what does that tell you? Pool and hot tubs were great. - When you go to one of their "clearance sales" - sometimes the registers go down. They end up hand writing your orders down and entering them later on. Check your receipts. They over charged me, and then I had to wait 35 minutes while one of the shop folks tried to figure out what went wrong, even when I pointed everything out, had the merchandise there, showed how it was probably mis-entered. Just credit it and re-ring it, for God's sake! Sheesh!!! Check your receipts and your onboard account for mischarges. I hope you all have voyages as wonderful as ours. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: September 2016
This was a Pacific coastal cruise--somewhere I wanted to see. It was vintage Princess, but the Coral Princess is very nice no matter what you may read in these reviews on Cruise Critic. Yes, there are a couple of chips, etc here and ... Read More
This was a Pacific coastal cruise--somewhere I wanted to see. It was vintage Princess, but the Coral Princess is very nice no matter what you may read in these reviews on Cruise Critic. Yes, there are a couple of chips, etc here and there, but it's very nice, very clean. The size is good. I hardly every had to wait in line for elevators or food at the buffet. My husband's leg started giving him trouble while walking when we were gone and Princess staff couldn't have been nicer even going so far as to bring up a wheelchair at Santa Barbara tender port out of nowhere and loaning us a cane from the desk until the medical area opened. The food was so-so, and I thought more varied in the buffet than in the dining room. Why can't there be some regular food like ordinary cake or pie or fried chicken or a casserole? The shows were much, much better than before that I've seen on Princess. They were modern with modern music and enthusiastic singers and dancers and a very funny comedian. The northwest area of the continent is beautiful. We stayed at the Pan Pacific in Vancouver. It's the way to go if you can swing it. The hotel takes your bags to the ship, and you just go downstairs to board. Nanaimo has a beautiful harbor and a great Dollarama store close by. There's also a grocery store and drug store. Just hop on the free shuttle and get off at the harbor. The mall is across the street. Volunteers couldn't wait to showcase their town. Astoria, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco were all pretty and have their own things that you would want to see. Alcatraz, the wharf, vineyards, scenic views--all beautiful. If you use Gray Line in San Francisco, make sure you know exactly where you are going and the address. We and several other passengers had trouble finding it even with a taxi. It's a very small place on a corner. Book your tour of Alcatraz from home. You'll be sorry if you don't. Also Alcatraz is a long winding, slanted (13 story) walk uphill. It's doable, but, again, know your abilities. In Santa Barbara, it is a 3-4 block walk to any shopping or eating after you get off the tender. Most of the walks from the ship to the ports themselves are long. I say this not for those who are used to walking, but for those who may have physical limitations. Santa Barbara is a tender port where wheelchairs are not permitted unless they fold and the person can walk on to the tender. There aren't many activities on the ship. That was a bit of a disappointment since I like to stay busy and not just read and relax although some of that is nice too. Maybe historical classes, free smaller tours of the kitchen. The one tour was much too large to hear what was said. Tours of back stage? Information on the towns we are visiting? Of course, no one wants to get off, but it has to be done. It's my most unfavorite part of the cruise. Get your bags out before bedtime then sit and wait for awhile the next morning. But it was a smooth disembarkation. We had an extremely long wait to get on Super Shuttle at the port. The shuttle was there, but the driver would not leave until the van was totally full. I'm ok with that except in this case we sat there full except for two people for 45 minutes. No one was happy. He ignored us wanting to go ahead and leave. The shuttle people there were on our side, but he refused to leave. There aren't many of these cruises during September and I know sometimes it's rainy. We had beautiful weather the whole way. We were very lucky. Read Less
10 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: August 2016
We chose this cruise because it was one of a few that went north from Vancouver to Anchorage and we wanted a midsize ship with a balcony rooms that left on a specific date. After reading the reviews on Princess, we felt it was the right ... Read More
We chose this cruise because it was one of a few that went north from Vancouver to Anchorage and we wanted a midsize ship with a balcony rooms that left on a specific date. After reading the reviews on Princess, we felt it was the right choice to make. Food: We signed up for the 5:45 dinner seating. What we didn’t know was there were only 2 seatings: 5:15 and 7:30 (or 8). 5:15 was a little too early for us. So, we went to the 'reserved 5:15 seating' dining room for 3 nights, the cafeteria for 3 nights and then the steak and seafood dining room for 1 night. Although we had to pay extra for the steak and seafood dining room - it was worth it. They were incredibly careful with my allergies, the food was excellent and the server was very attentive. The 5:15 seating dining room was very attentive to my allergies also but insisted that I order dinner the night before - no spontaneity there. The cafeteria had most of the same food minus the special of the day. Plus it allowed us the freedom to eat when we wanted and not have to change clothes. They served a fabulous variety of fish that was always good. There was always fresh fruit and salads for breakfast and lunch. The last night in the main dininig room the food was excellent. Given the selection of food available and the workout room, it was possible to take the cruise without gaining any weight. The service in all of the restaurants (and the cafeteria) was excellent and attentive. To our surprise, not everyone dressed up for dinner. People were dressed in evening gowns to jeans on formal night. For the rest of the dinners, people wore a mixture of business casual and very informal. The excursions seem to be standard across all the regular cruise lines (NCL and Holland America seemed to be with us at most ports). We loved the Animal Planet Alaska’s Whales and Mendenhall Glacier Trail. There were multiple whales that dove and came up near us. We took one kayak excursion that we booked based on a suggestion in Trip Advisor. It was slightly cheaper and we found out the cruise lines had contracted with the same firm to run the same kayak excursion. We had 6 people in our group and the cruise group had about 12. Overall, we truly enjoyed the cruise. We might try a different line next time but that is only to see what would be different. Our ship had about 2000 people. The ship was big enough that it provided a variety of entertainment and restaurant offerings but it wasn't so big that you got lost or were not able to find a romantic corner to sit and watch the coastline- without a lot of people joining you. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: June 2016
My husband and I celebrated our 30th anniversary in 2016 with Princess Cruise Lines. We flew into Fairbanks to begin our 3 day ground trip. It was our first time on Princess cruise lines. It was a great experience. We were well taken ... Read More
My husband and I celebrated our 30th anniversary in 2016 with Princess Cruise Lines. We flew into Fairbanks to begin our 3 day ground trip. It was our first time on Princess cruise lines. It was a great experience. We were well taken care of from arrival until we boarded the ship. I was in awe from observing the midnight sun. The ground lodging was was wonderful at all three locations. The train ride was great with windows large enough for viewing and taking pictures. This allowed us ample view of Mount Denali. The mountain view come in better and larger with each mile traveled.The quality of the food on board was better than other lines I've been on. But I wanted to comment on the shopping experience and it is this: the prices become more reasonable at the ports towards the end of the trip. Save some money! The furs were not as inexpensive as I wanted, but all the ports offered comparable prices. I would definitely do it again. Read Less
5 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: May 2016
Connoisseur Escorted Cruise Tour My wife and I traveled from San Antonio to Vancouver the day before our cruise started. No hitches or glitches during travel to Vancouver, other than the amount of time it took to get there from San ... Read More
Connoisseur Escorted Cruise Tour My wife and I traveled from San Antonio to Vancouver the day before our cruise started. No hitches or glitches during travel to Vancouver, other than the amount of time it took to get there from San Antonio. I don’t travel as well as my wife and the extended time in the airplane kind of got to me. I am very glad we decided to arrive a day ahead of our departure. We stayed at the St. Regis Hotel in downtown Vancouver. We took the train from the airport to the city center station and walked to the hotel, a very nice short walk. The downtown was busy and full of life. The city itself seemed clean and cared for, quite beautiful. I cannot say enough about the hotel staff at the St. Regis, they had answers to questions we didn’t know we would ask and we asked a lot of them. The front desk staff was the best we had the experience of dealing with at any hotel we have every stayed at. To say the least we were very impressed with the front desk staff. The service staff was also excellent and available to ask extras of anything, or help with whatever. Breakfast the next morning was free, and good, and the waitresses were way above average. After we checked into our room we decided to go to the Vancouver Aquarium, located near the entrance to Stanley Park. And after talking with the front desk staff we decided it was too far to walk, and I didn’t feel like riding a bus that didn’t get us all the way to our destination, so we took a taxi. It didn’t take long and the cost was minimal, to us, that is. We wondered about the displays, watched a show of a whale species I was unfamiliar with, ate lunch and wondered about some more until about 4 PM. We had reservations at “The Teahouse,” a restaurant also located in Stanley Park, but all the way across from where we were, near the entrance. Since our reservations were for 6 PM we decided to walk across this large wonderful park. We were very glad we did. We met some of the most wonderful people of Vancouver. They helped us with directions, took our picture standing under a tree, so enormous it made me look thin. We took our time and still we arrived a bit early at the restaurant. Since there was an open table near the windows looking out over the water, they seated us right away. The restaurant is mainly a seafood restaurant and our choices were very good. After our meal we decided we didn’t want to walk all the way back across the park, so called for a taxi from the restaurant. When we got back to the hotel we were really tired, I was actually falling asleep. We got to the room, readied for bed and I think I fell asleep while lying down, what a comfortable bed. I did wake once for about three seconds due to some siren noise in the street. We got up on time the next morning got ready and went downstairs for the free breakfast. It was a real breakfast that one orders from a menu. Then went back to our room packed up. I noticed I had forgotten some toiletries. We asked at the front desk and were told that a drug store was right across the street. So we went shopping. Then checked out, caught a taxi to the cruise ship terminal. It was bad, very bad. There were four cruise ships in port, all unloading and loading passengers, traffic to the cruise terminal and within the cruise terminal was awful. There were people everywhere trying to get into the cruise terminal and processed onto their cruise ship. Once we turned our baggage over to a porter, tipped him, and made our way into the cruise terminal things went a bit smoother. We actually missed our call as it took a bit extra time for people to process their passports. So we didn’t sit and wait at all. We went from one room to the other processing whatever we had to process there and onto the ship. I don’t think the whole thing took a half hour, even with the large crowds. When we boarded we went to eat lunch at Horizon Court. Horizon Court was really nice, crowded but nice. They had a good selection of foods, hot and cold. I ate more than I should have. I didn’t notice that they had regular sized plates, as well as the platters at the entrance to the food lines. At about 3 PM it was announced that we could go to our cabins. When we entered we were surprised by the size. We had previously gone on a river cruise and that cabin was almost half the size. Our luggage had not been delivered yet, nor had the bottled water I ordered. We checked with the purser and he said he would get right on it. Then we went wondering a bit. When the announcement was made for the muster drill we went to our cabin to get our life jackets and the water was there, the luggage arrived within minutes. Muster drill had some start and stop fits. It seems our departure time was delayed, so they delayed our muster drill for a half hour or so. But it finally got done. We put up our life jackets and went wandering again, to find our any time dining restaurant. We also found that taking the stairs, if one is able, is a lot faster than the elevators. All I can say about dining is that it was wonderful. Everything I ordered was excellent, done the way I wanted and time between courses was rather quick, not fast, but quick. We ate breakfast in Horizon Court, usually lunch also. There was a blueberry desert they had for lunch that was the best I have ever had. I cannot remember the name of it. I am sort of glad I can’t, or I would be making it at home and weigh about a hundred more pounds. All the food was, as far as I can tell, and what the chefs told us, from scratch, all of it. And you could taste it, you really could. I started taking pictures of what we ordered but after a day or so was so impatient I couldn’t wait to start eating it. The picture taking went by the wayside. Except for the Chocolate covered Pistachio Pudding, International Café, and our meals at Sabatini’s. Nope I didn’t take a picture of the blueberry desert I talked about. I didn’t have my camera and I wasn’t going to go get it. I even ate two of the blueberry deserts, the only one that I did, promise. The service everywhere was excellent, even getting off and on the ship, I didn’t keep a list of the names of all the people that helped us, gave us information, or gave directions, but I should have. No matter what the question, or how many times it was asked the people at the cruise service desk always smiled and were pleasant, every time, really. The entertainment was usually good. There was one show that my wife said was loud to the extreme, I didn’t go. It didn’t seem, from the write up that I would like it. I am glad I stayed away, and napped. The rest of the shows were very good to excellent. Even the ones that were just advertisements for shore excursions. We liked the lumberjack show in Ketchikan. The Best of Juneau was OK, but a bit over priced for what we expected. I was excited and thought we would see whales breaching every five minutes, but it didn’t happen and it was a bit rainy and cold. The water was a bit choppy. We saw lots of eagles, sea lions and a mother whale with baby. Also the lunch was really not great, it was OK, but, like I said, I was excited and expected more. Skagway was very good. We did the sled dog ride, which was a pretty good van ride away from Skagway. We got to pet the lead dogs and then later some of the puppies. Glacier Bay was fantastic. I really envy people that get to go there and stay to fish or do research. The sun was out, it was near 70 degrees Fahrenheit, it was marvelous. I wanted to stay the whole rest of the cruise. As we crossed the Gulf of Alaska we saw a lot of Orca and other sea life. It was also the only time we walked the promenade, which I really liked. It was cold, windy, and rainy but I didn’t care, I liked it very much. Disembarkation was a snap, no luggage to handle ourselves, except our carry on. Just walk off the ship and onto the train at Whittier. At Whittier the cruise ended and the tour began. We had to get up early because we were the first group off the ship and onto our train to Talkeetna; and the Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge for two nights. The big mountain, Denali, was clouded over for the two days we were there. On the first day you could barely see about two thirds of the mountain through the clouds and mist. Since the weather around the lodge was kind of misty, we decided to go tour Talkeetna. How funny weather can be. It was partly cloudy and the sun shown bright in Talkeetna. We walked about the town, went to a couple of museums, ate lunch; saw a movie about the mountain, Denali. Then caught the buss back to the lodge. During supper the power went out. I am glad we went early; we were supposed to eat later. Some people didn’t get what they wanted because of the power outage. The next day was cloudy and rainy all day. We stayed about the lodge and walked the trails. We went to a presentation about snowy owls. The man doing the presentation had a live snowy owl with him. The owl had an injured wing that healed badly so it could not be released back into the wild. The presentation was very good and I got a couple of decent pictures of the owl. The next morning the people that came to pick up the luggage, to transfer it to the Denali Lodge, came a bit early, too early for us. We missed their pick up. It was supposed to be at eight in the morning, but they picked up the luggage about fifteen minutes early. We got our luggage to the front desk and they got it to the Denali Lodge before the other luggage arrived, yea. I started to get sick from what I thought was the Birch Tree pollen when we were at the McKinley Lodge. I was coughing, sinuses and, ears clogged up. I couldn’t sleep all night and was usually up at about 3:30 AM to cough up blow out, yuck. I went to the emergency medical clinic in Denali and they gave me an anti-biotic, guess they thought it was something more than allergies. Anyway, it didn’t seem to help much. We went on the bus ride into the Denali Wilderness area and saw Moose, Bears, Dahl Sheep, Caribou, but not one wolf. We also saw many eagles, and birds of relatively hard to find species. Some I have pictures of and some were just blurs. I forgot my tripod at home, ugh. It was hard enough to get pictures on excursions from the ship but now, through an open window on a bus and, no tripod, bad, real bad. I am amazed I have as many decent pictures as I do. It was a long behind weary bus ride for our average age group, which was, I believe, over 60. But I am very glad I went, feeling bad, full of anti-biotic and allergy medicine I am still very glad I went. We also saw some humans hiking the wilderness area, amazing to remember that we were once that young, and had that much energy, I envied them a bit, but not too much; it was cold, and snowy. The naturalist that drove our bus was very good. He usually spotted the animals before we did and put real time videos of them on the buses’ video system. When we got back to the lodge we rested a bit, got up and ready to go to the dinner theater. It was a good show, better than we expected. The food, however, wasn’t that good. Guess we had gotten used to the food on the ship, because we kept comparing the service and food at the lodges with what we got on the ship. The lodges always came out real bad. The lodges use seasonal contractors and they need a much longer training period before going to their respective hotels. Instead it seems they get to practice on the guests instead. Perhaps Princess could put them on the ships as extra crew for a month or so before the Alaska tourist season starts. That way they could see what real service, and real food is. Then it was on to Fairbanks by bus. It was still cloudy and rainy, I was feeling a bit worse, but enjoyed the stop, I forget where it was, huh. It was interesting because it was where they have a device that is placed o n the river ice during winter and one buys lottery tickets guessing the day the ice will break. It is worth a good bit of money. In Fairbanks I was sick and didn’t want to go to dinner. When my wife got back to the room I was laboring a bit to breath. We went to the front desk to ask for a taxi to go to the emergency room. They called our tour escort and he arranged to pay for the taxi to and from the E.R. At the E.R. they gave me an inhaler, after several tests, which helped a great deal. I was able to go on the last tour to the gold dredge and riverboat, Indian village. To me these were the second best of the whole trip, Vancouver and the ship being tied for first. We did gold panning and got $38.00 in gold. Lunch was included in the riverboat tour but I can’t say too much about it, being kind of under the weather, I didn’t like it. Over all I would say take the land tour first, then the cruise back to Vancouver. You would have time to build relationships with the other, Connoisseur Escorted Tour, members. And, be able to enjoy a continued camaraderie on the ship and perhaps in Vancouver. If I were to do it all again that is the way I would book it. It was a wonderful tour, our escort was good to excellent, me being a tad sick, he was probably excellent, I just couldn’t tell, or didn’t care. We flew out of Fairbanks to Seattle and stayed overnight at the Cedarbrook Lodge, near the airport, but away from the traffic noise. It is a beautiful hotel, and grounds with walking trails. By this time I was feeling a bit better away from all of the Birch Tree Pollen, at least I wasn’t getting worse. We had a great lunch at the hotel, expensive but great. We rested until dinner and decided to walk to a nearby restaurant. It was much like a Denny’s that we have in Texas. It was enjoyable and the walk helped me a great deal. I am very glad my wife picked this for her 65th birthday present, and let me come with her. Read Less
17 Helpful Votes
Sail Date: February 2016
Just returned on thurs feb 25.. stayed at HAMPTON INN PORT N.. take note there are 2 hamptn inns in the port area..ours had pink lawn flamingos ontop, 2301 sw 12th .they upgraded us again for HHonors.. please see trip advisor for ... Read More
Just returned on thurs feb 25.. stayed at HAMPTON INN PORT N.. take note there are 2 hamptn inns in the port area..ours had pink lawn flamingos ontop, 2301 sw 12th .they upgraded us again for HHonors.. please see trip advisor for positive reviews. Upon arrival (via shuttle from hotel), note, this is a big port we dropped some folks at pier 22 then headed to#2..a 10 min drive. LONG LINES..mis information ie checking bags Again.. (were here in july 15) seems a issue w the port not necessarily the cruise lines.. We bought our 2 bottles of wine registered them, all good. Onto the ship! 1st impression, not pushy w selling things like liquor packages & specialty dining, you go to the venues or call from cabin..while exploring, take the massage teaser its free & a good way to get into vacay mode. We made our sabatinis & steakhouse reservation, which we could have skipped easily, but of the 2, steakhouse better overall. truly the food in Bordeaux ( main) anytime was best we've had; Celibrity came closest. Even the sugar free desserts were good! Grabbed a quick bite at horizon ct buffet , good not a big variety , but remember this is not a huge ship all things r on a smaller scale, including CASINO which was less crowded after 10:30 pm , also dont expect free drinks from pitbosses on this line, even highrollers complained.. On our cruise , ship went to sleep 11:30 ish ( given time of yr & lack of nightclub) this sailing average age 60's & up , a few families, but mostly well traveled well educated. we met some lovely people, dont b afraid to strike up conversation w table nxt to you ! Seems formal nights have scaled back too, no more mother of bride / sweet 16 gowns, a nice cocktail dress or flowy pantsuit ..men leave the tux out. CABIN on ahloha 12.. we were under buffet but only heard a little chair scraping ..mostly lunch so sleep was fine. Shower IS laughable, prefer sliding partition (some other lines) to cold curtain sticking to u. Closet space very good. Balconly was nice for viewing canal transit up CLOSE!, but plenty of spots for photos w/o added expense. SMOKERS... since ur balconies r off limits theres Churchills , but it gets very hot & even smokers couldnt take it..poor ventilation ugh! Also, deck 14 forward (look for silver boxes on walls) , back L corner of casino, but not everynite..& deck 7 aft..which was dopey since this is also promenade deck for joggers.. The potty odor is still very noticeable especially near atrium everyone commented on it, perhaps some airwick stuck aroud.. but it was not good. Also, this was post drydock and heard of a few more burst pipes on D deck. Met some independent contractors replacing copper pipes but that wasnt there area.. If ur plannning to use the Sanctuary, go up in the morning & check.. probably wont b full in advance ..that way u dont wind up stuck w bad weather.(refund if pouring) .ours was fantastic 90 & sunny. did the full day $60 pp for canal day was great! Summer mths maybe crowded though . BOGO Wheelhouse bar, 2x's 3 & 9pm by one drink /beer incl, get one for $1.. comedian & ventriloquist best of the lot. Husband & I split coffee card , worth it.. Excursions. .we hopped a bus to 7 mi beach grand cayman 7$ ea way Cartagena bus tour old city w 2 hrs free time. $39 pp..the hawkers really detract from this lovely walled city, just say " Gracias pero no" & they'll move on. Costa rica..5 1/2 hr rainforest ..saw toucans, leaf cutter ants, 1 sloth. The 350 steps r 125 ea way Ochos rio..walked to margaritaville (wound up at nxt bar better drinks) nice little beach.. We all sprayed repellent and I never even heard the buzz of mosquitoes during entire trip but this was the dry season. All in all good trip ;pretty ship, interesting ports , great dining staff (hi leah..table 30-35) & best of all we got away from the bitter winter! Oh..if u made ur own flights, u can sign up for your luggage to be taken to & checked in at airpt...info in ur cabin mailbox towards end of cruise. Read Less
1 Helpful Vote
Sail Date: November 2015
This was our 10th cruise with Princess, our 2nd on this ship. My wife and I were not part of a group so we had a good chance to interact with the staff and the other guests. Most of the guests were older but there were a couple of families ... Read More
This was our 10th cruise with Princess, our 2nd on this ship. My wife and I were not part of a group so we had a good chance to interact with the staff and the other guests. Most of the guests were older but there were a couple of families on board. Maybe the combination of kids being at school and the length of the cruise (15 days) was the cause for the generational mix. There was one lucky little girl. My comment was that she had a thousand grand parents on board. We arrived in Ft. Lauderdale the day before departure and stayed at the Mariott on Hollywood Beach. It is more expensive than the other options in the area but I was looking for a sure thing. Mariott delivered so no complaints there. Embarkation was very smooth. The drive to the cruise terminal was not too bad although traffic was backed up a bit on the way. Once in the terminal, there was practically no wait. We got through the embarkation process in less than 5 minutes. I think the secret here is to arrive at the time Princess suggests, in our case about 1:30. We ate at both of the specialty restaurants, Bayou Café and Sabitini's At the Bayou Café, we both had a filet steak. It was prepared exactly the way we liked. An interesting wrinkle is the 3 types of salt we were provided. I enjoyed the different tastes but for the life of me I cannot recall their names. I do remember one of them was black. Give it a try if salt is not a problem for you. Our waiter, Witold, was very interesting. It turned out he comes from the same area of Poland from which my family originated. Small world. Our dinner at Sabitini"s was also very good. We both selected the lobster 3 ways and were very pleased. The buffet was smaller than on some of the larger ships but I always found plenty of dishes that I enjoyed. Often, depending on the time of day, many of the tables already had diners. However, there were usually open chairs and folks were very ready to share and strike up conversations. What a great opportunity to meet people from all over the world. We signed up for anytime dining. The Bordeaux restaurant is reserved for this choice. If one insists on a table for 2 or 4, there is a good chance there will be a wait during peak dinner hours. My suggestion is to make clear that you want to share a table and meet new people. We hardly waited, had some marvelous dinners and made new friends to boot. We usually checked out the entertainment in the Princess theater in the evening. The nights that featured the ship dancers were a bit hit and miss. We enjoyed the first show, called Dance a great deal but felt the others fell a bit flat, at least for us. We got great laughs from the comedians and particularly enjoyed Karen Grainger, a vocal impersonator, although I liked her natural voice best. In addition to the main attraction, the Panama Canal, the itinerary included 5 port days. We did excursions arranged through Princess at all 5. These are all hot and humid locations. Be sure to bring and drink plenty of water. The first stop was Aruba. We took the California Lighthouse and Moomba Beach tour. We did not have a lot of time here so that colored our decision to take this tour but for my money skip the lighthouse and go straight to the beach. It is right next to the Holiday Inn so a taxi or a bus for the adventurous should be an easy alternative. The 2nd port of call was Cartagena. We took the mangrove swamp and old city tour. Our guide, Sergio, was very informative and a lot of fun. We were there on November 11, a day a big parade was occurring. We had to make a small change in the order that we saw things so that the bus would not get stuck in traffic. We stopped outside the old fortress but did not have time to go inside. To be honest, the fortress is so large that it would be worth a tour all by itself. The mangrove swamp was a little way out of town so it gave us a chance to see the more modest part of the country. The wooden canoes were handled by experienced boatmen that grew up in the area. We also saw the way a local fisherman casts his net then hauls it back. He is not in a boat by the way, just standing in water where there were no mangroves. After this, we returned to the old part of the city and got to see some of the parade. It was very colorful. We did see a lot of police and military in town, probably due to the parade. I hasten to add that I felt very safe and that everyone was very friendly. The 3rd stop was Puntarenos in Costa Rica. We took the garden and crocodile tour. We were supposed to have a sky walk component of the tour but Princess changed things and we did not notice in time to raise an issue. There were 3 main portions. There was a chance to see crocodiles from a bridge, a walk through a rain forest, and lunch and a walk in a garden up in the mountains. On this tour, there were 2 guides. Both were familiar with the plant and animal life we saw and also provided a good description of the history of their country and its culture. On this tour there were also a couple of chances to do some shopping. There is not much shopping at the end of the pier so these tours are a better bet if shopping is important. Right at the end of the pier across the street, I checked out the local beer at a bar. I can recommend it. It is very safe and also has free WIFI. The 4th stop was San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. This is a tender stop so there is not any support for guests with mobility issues. Tendering started an hour late so that threw schedules to the winds. We took the tour to Marsaya, the active volcano. Our guide was informative, the bus comfortable, the scenery on our route providing a glimpse of local color. Along the way, we stopped long enough at Lake Nicaragua for some photos. We drove through but did not stop in Grenada. Folks we ran into at dinner, who took the Grenada tour, complained that they felt rushed. A festival was being set up so the operator likely suffered from the late start more that our group. Lunch was at a very nice establishment and the volcano very interesting. There is a wall right along the rim so you get a chance to look into the caldera. Sulfur fumes are constantly released but on this day, luck was with us as the wind blew the smell away from us. The tour concluded with a stop by a crater lake. There was plenty of shopping here and the view of the lake breathtaking. There were a lot of families out for the day so it was very festive and safe. There is not much shopping were the tenders land but a market is under construction so buy stuff while on your tour. There seemed to be more shops further up the beach but we did not have time to investigate. We did talk to a couple who was on the tour to Nicaragua's capital city. They complained that the police boarded the bus and checked everyone's ID. The process took half an hour or so they said. One look and the authorities should have realized the bus contained nothing but aging tourists. Oh well, it is their country. The last stop was Cabo. This is also a tender stop. We took the El Arco tour with lunch by a beach. Big mistake. The tour itself left late and was comprised of a ship crew that seemed more interested in collecting a tip. There was a very dated recorded narrative by Michel Cousteau but it just did not work for me. At least the guide that joined us for the bus and beach portion of the tour was better. I have no complaint with him. You can get great pictures of El Arco from the ship and it is easy to take a water taxi to several beaches. There are also many good restaurants so get out and explore. It will come as no surprise to anyone reading this but Cabo is a heck of a party town. Oh yeah, we also went through the Panama Canal. What an engineering marvel. Be sure to be up early so that you can get the best viewing spot. Forward views on decks 14 and 15 fill up fast. Aft is less congested and also provides an interesting view. There is blue glass that is intended to shelter guests from the wind but it messes up photos. The best photo spots are at the top of the stairs leading from deck 14 to 15. Decks 10 and 11 forward also offer larger common area verandas that allow better photos than higher decks. Bill, the destination expert, gave a series of great lectures about all the stops but especially about the history of the canal. Bet sure to attend these. So, if this was the best cruise ever, why only 4 stars? Well, the fact of the matter is this ship really needs a visit to dry dock. Our cabin was on the Dolphin deck (9), port side. Several times during the cruise a leak developed somewhere on a higher deck resulting in a shower of leaks out in the hall. There was one time a light fixture was filling with water. The good news was that the water seemed clear if you get my drift. The crew worked hard at fixing the problem. Water was vacuumed and fans set out to dry the carpet. It was clear however that a more complete solution is needed. Our cabin steward, Conrado, did a wonderful job working around the chaos in the hallway. I am happy to report that no water got into our stateroom. In spite of the leaks in the hall, I really like this ship. It seems to be the right size. Sure the buffet and casino are smaller than other ships but it just feels right. This ship also has a large enclosed area aft of the pool (deck 14) that makes it perfect for Alaska cruises or on days when the weather is poor. I suggest a stateroom on deck 9. If you can swing it, get a mini suite. The extra room is nice on a long cruise and the balcony very roomy, easily large enough for 3 or 4 people. Deck 9 is quiet but close enough to the main activity areas so that it is not always necessary to take the elevator, at least if there are no mobility issues involved. I also totally enjoyed the itinerary because there were so many sea days. If I wanted to read, great. If I wanted to do something, I checked the daily Patter and found something to my liking. My wife, who reads books at a lightning pace, was able to find plenty of selections that suited her in the library. The library is not huge for sure but adequate for a cruise ship. Watch the Patter for the Buy One Get One (BOGO) special. It happens twice a day. Disembarkation was very smooth. We found our luggage quickly, went through customs and immigration with no hassle, and were whisked to the airport. All very efficient. So yeah, as far as I am concerned, this is our best cruise ever in spite of the blemishes. I would definitely do it again. Read Less
Sail Date: April 2014
We arrived one day early, and spent the night at a hotel that had a shuttle to the port terminal. Most hotels provide shuttles (may be a small charge). However, in future, I'd plan to arrive (from Ottawa, Canada) on the day of the ... Read More
We arrived one day early, and spent the night at a hotel that had a shuttle to the port terminal. Most hotels provide shuttles (may be a small charge). However, in future, I'd plan to arrive (from Ottawa, Canada) on the day of the cruise. It's only a short ride from the airport to the port terminal. Embarkation was fast and efficient. We arrived about noon, and were in our room in under one hour. Bags arrived in early afternoon, and had lunch around one. Passengers who boarded later said there was no lineups and came through as quickly as we did. Entertainment was okay, not great. There's music at the different lounges and in the atrium usually from five or six until... A great three piece string orchestra, as well as a great pianist. The other performers (3 different groups) were okay, but tended to lean too much toward 'crooners' and 50s and 60s music - often too low keyed. There was the typical comedy, variety, music and illusionist shows. Good, entertaining, worth taking in, ...but, again, not great. Food: Lots of variety at the buffet; and a great omelette station that wasn't usually busy. The dining room always had something with the appetizers or main course that would appeal. A couple of times I order something that didn't really satisfy. The staff are very accommodating, and brought something else. Ports: Ocho Rios: Did the raft ride on Martha Braie River. Slow moving river, and enjoyed: One word: relaxing. Unfortunately, it's a 90 minute ride from ship...chance to see some of the country side. Lemon: Take time to shop in the dock area. No hassle from people as you browse, and there's quite a variety. We did the banana plant and rainforest train ride...worth doing. Cartegenia, Colombia: Wow! What can I say...you think peddlers hassle you on some of the island, well, the experience here is unbelievable. The guide dropped us in front of a "good" emerald store. The peddlers in the area were such that after five minutes, I just got back on the bus to wait. But, in spite of the peddler experience, it's worth doing the old city excursion because there is so much history, and some of the older structures (fortress, cathedral) are amazing. Panama: Don't bother an excursion if you've taken this cruise to see the locks. There's lots to see from the ship; you have a front row seat to the action, and it's an amazing show!!! Panama: Don't bother an excursion if you've taken this cruise to see the locks. There's lots to see from the ship; you have a front row seat to the action, and it's an amazing show!!! Aruba: Absolutely beautiful island. There's no need to do an excursion unless you want to snorkel. It's safe to walk, and there's lots to see within walking distance. A few final notes...Hats off to all staff. Some say that automatic gratuities has caused the quality of service to decline. Not so on this cruise. Cabin steward and dining room staff were absolutely phenomenal in taking care of our needs and providing help whenever needed. We found all the staff to be very friendly as we moved about the ship. The ship shows some signs of wear around certain areas and some of the furniture in the stateroom We had a balcony, and found it's worth it when you're in the Caribbean. Finally, the big question....would we sail Princess again? Probably would, but given all the options out there, we'll most likely try another cruise line just so we can compare.   Read Less
Sail Date: July 2012
I will start by saying that we were really looking for a cruise to Europe but with flights so expensive to basically everywhere is Europe this summer when Princess dropped their prices to Alaska a few weeks ago, we decided to give it a ... Read More
I will start by saying that we were really looking for a cruise to Europe but with flights so expensive to basically everywhere is Europe this summer when Princess dropped their prices to Alaska a few weeks ago, we decided to give it a try. Neither of us had ever been to Alaska and yes, we both wanted to go but we were planning to wait a few years. However since we really wanted to go on a cruise...off we went. We flew into Anchorage Saturday night, embarkation was Monday. We stayed at the Embassy Suites in mid-town. Very nice hotel, close to a few places to eat and a grocery store with a liquor store if you want to carry on a couple of bottles of wine with you. They offered a free shuttle which we took advantage of to pick us up at the airport and to take us downtown. Breakfast was really good but the lines to eat were a bit crazy. Between all the people who acted like they have never eaten breakfast in a hotel before and only one person cooking omelets it was at best slow. Ultimately I think I would stay downtown if we did it again. Close to the market, restaurants, activities, etc. Embarkation went smooth. We opted to buy transfers from Alaska Cruise Transfer. Went smooth, they picked us up when they said, had some narration on the ride over, Whittier tunnel was neat to see and all at half the price of the cruise ship transfer. We walked on the ship just after 3pm and everything was ready. Our bags showed up very soon after we got to our cabin. Cabin A306. Small but worked. To be fair we usually choose at least a mini suite as we like the space they provide. It was quiet had a covered balcony, was close to forward stairs and elevators. Very small shower but great water pressure. Cabin had enough storage and the refrig kept things pretty cool. Beds were horrible in our opinion. Hard...very hard. Oh yes, not one single towel animal either. We opted for the Horizon court the first night for supper, other than that we only ate breakfast at the buffet two other days and that was it for the buffet. Not that it was bad, we just didn't eat there much. We went to the welcome aboard show the first night, in fact we basically went to all of the shows that were offered. Sarge the comedian, the illusionist, the hypnotist, and production show Motor City. Yep we went, but basically thought they were all very unimaginative. After looking at scenery all day and having basically nothing else happening on the ship we went for lack of something better. In fact it was very strange. I don't know if it was the type of crowds that generally go on this cruise or what, but there was not a lot of activities to choose from. Stuart the cruise director did not seem to be engaged in the passengers at all. Hubbard Glacier did not get visited due to weather and too much ice. Glacier Bay was nice and we saw a few glaciers, whales, dolphins, birds. Basically everything you were supposed to see. Commentary from park ranger was fine. Skagway was an okay stop. We chose to ride the train which was a very nice ride with a lot scenery but looking back at 119 dollars each it was pretty high priced. I would recommend finding something to do that takes you out of town as there isn't much there and you can pretty much see walk it quick. Would also be a good day to see it and then head back to the ship for a massage. We enjoyed Juneau. We bought through the cruise ship the Taku River Lodge and flightseeing excursion. Fly in a float plane, see several glaciers from above, land on the Taku river, eat fresh grilled salmon, experience a historical lodge, fly back to Juneau. If you are wanting to see some whales this is a good stop to sign up for some whale watching as well. Ketchikan was our only really rainy day. Other days had a little bit of drizzle at times but also times when it was sunny (Hubbard Glacier day it was very thick fog). We walked around town a bit, did a little shopping, had lunch, bought some canned salmon, a t-shirt, etc. then back to the ship. You can easily walk to the salmon ladder and fish hatchery if you don't want to buy an excursion. The meals were good, they still had lobster tails one night in the main dining room. Most were the size of a jumbo prawn. We ate at the Bayou Steakhouse one night. Very good and a nice change from the main dining room. 5 extra dollars over the cover charge for a lobster tail but you got a great lobster tail for the money. Yes as other people said, they were always trying to take your picture. We didn't buy any but thought it was fun to let them take them and look at them later. I always have though if they would lover the price they would just about sell all the pictures they take. As it seems they must throw a lot of them away. Pub lunch occurred twice during the cruise and we went both times. Fish and Chips were very good. It was a great lunch that I don't think a lot of people knew about because it wasn't busy at all. We signed up for the ultimate ship tour. We enjoyed this very much. Three hours of going everywhere on the ship you can't normally enter. Bridge, Galley, Engineering, Laundry, etc. If you are interested in the "How" then this is a good tour. If you only care that things just get done and don't care about how it gets to that point, I wouldn't sign up for this. Disembarkation went very smooth. They do a great job and has to be one of the best we have experienced. Conclusion, this was our 9th cruise and 2nd with Princess (first on the Crown) and I would rank this toward the top of the bottom third (we are in our mid 30's). For Princess the Crown is still keeping them in the running with us for future cruises. We still have had much better experiences with RCI. We did get a relaxing vacation. I however was also in the mood for a great cruise ship experience and what we really got was a great tour of Alaska instead. Read Less
Sail Date: June 2012
If you plan to drive in Alaska on your own, I strongly recommend getting the Milepost. It provides info on lodging, food, fuel, and items of interest for all of the major Alaskan roads. Also, reviews of the lodging and tours in the land ... Read More
If you plan to drive in Alaska on your own, I strongly recommend getting the Milepost. It provides info on lodging, food, fuel, and items of interest for all of the major Alaskan roads. Also, reviews of the lodging and tours in the land portion of the trip can be found in the Review section of Tripadvisor. I especially want to thank all of folks that post in the Alaska section of the Tripadvisor forum. Without the forum, I would have had a very difficult task to determine an itinerary (special thanks to Manitoba Maple for the itinerary suggestions) and decide on attractions, restaurants, and lodging. The search engine on works great and helped me locate past posts that provided a wealth of information and answered my questions. I also wanted to thank the posters at Cruisecritic. I wanted to especially thank Budget Queen for her suggestions on the Denali summit flightseeing tour and using the shuttle bus in Denali NP. I also wanted to thank Cruising Goddess for her Alaska website. Her packing list was invaluable to developing our Alaskan wardrobe. We loved the convertible pants! The posters at Cruisecritic also provided good info on Alaska, as well as, helping with cruise and cabin selection. I fall in the category of a severe planner and try to tie down as many loose ends as possible, so the information on both sites is a valuable resource. Day 1- Travel day We landed in Anchorage in late afternoon. We pickup our rental car from Alamo. It was a Nissan Altima which is considered full size. We were able to stow our three pieces of luggage and the two day packs in the trunk. (Following advice on the TA forum, we booked a rental car through Alamo about a year earlier for eight days for a total cost of $366.) It was raining when we left the airport, but that ended quickly. The sun came out, and we got our first views of the mountains surrounding Anchorage. After a full day of flying, we had enough energy to shop for groceries, deet, the Milepost, and sundries at the Wal-Mart on Dimond Blvd and get sandwiches from the nearby Subway. We headed to our lodging at the Girdwood Guest House. It was still a sunny day, and the heavily snow-covered mountains along the Turnagain Arm were an unexpected surprise. Pat and Judy at GGH were great hosts. They told us there was more snow on the mountains this late in the year due to the heavy and prolonged winter and spring snow falls. We were able to sleep well because our bedroom at GGH has no windows. Day 2-Girdwood to Homer Day 2 starts with our first wildlife sighting. While fixing breakfast, my wife spotted a black bear across the street. He was about 20 feet away. He moved away before we could get to a camera. We did the Glacier Dog sledding tour with Seavey Iditarod/Alpine Air. Alpine Air runs the airport location and operates the helicopters, and Seavey runs the dog camp. The day was overcast, but no rain, so we were good to fly. They fitted us with fleece gloves and waterproof jackets and pants in addition to the glacier boots. Since I saw glacier dog sledding on an RCL commercial in the early 2000's, I had always wanted to do this tour, and I was not disappointed. They land you onto Punchbowl glacier. During the helicopter trip, we saw blue ice pools. While we were on the glacier, I noticed all the footsteps made in the ice reflect a slight blue tint. The dogs are only 30 to 40 lbs, but they are incredibly strong. I did not realize how eager they are to pull the sled, and they will do it with or without a musher aboard. We got to hold the 8 week old puppies who were so cute. The view of the surrounding mountains around the glacier was spectacular (sorry if I overuse this word in my report, but this vacation was incredible). I got to ride in the co-pilot seat on the way back. Because of my height and weight, this was an unexpected thrill. The scenery in the mountain valleys was beautiful. We wish the helicopter ride could have been longer than 10 minutes each way. After the helicopter trip, we decided that the Alyeska tram would be a letdown, so it was on to Homer. We made several photo stops along the Turnagain Arm and Portage area. We took several minutes at each stop just to admire the incredible views of these snow and ice covered mountains. Along the drive to Cooper Landing, we noticed the beautiful green colored water in the streams. The scenery after Cooper Landing to Soldotna is not as spectacular since it is mostly trees, but we were rewarded with great pastries at The Moose is Loose bakery in Soldotna. After Soldotna, the scenery improved. We had views of the Cooke Inlet. Along the Sterling Highway between Ninilchik and Anchor Point, we made several stops to admire the mountains across the Cook Inlet. I read reviews talking about an impressive view as you enter Homer; they were right. That view of the town, the bay, and the mountains was awesome. We stayed in the Compass Rose Quarters at the Alaska Beach House. Doug and Sue were great hosts and provided good information. The cottage is a stand-alone building which has a balcony overlooking Kachemak Bay. There was an amazing view of the ice-covered mountains across the bay. Upon our arrival, there was a bald eagle perched in a nearby tree. Apparently, there was a bird turf battle for the tree. The eagle was being strafed by 3 crows. I expected the eagle to strike back, but I guess it figured it wouldn't be worth the effort with so many surrounding trees. It flew off and yielded the tree to my least favorite birds. We spent the evening admiring the view from our balcony and the comfortable recliners inside the cottage. Even with overcast skies, the views of the mountains are so striking. Day 3 - Homer Originally, we planned to go to Seldovia on the Kachemak Bay ferry since this would only take about half a day. This would have still allowed about a half day to explore Homer. However, the ferry company changed the schedule, and we would have spent an entire day in Seldovia. We wanted to see Homer as well, so we opted to spend the day in Homer and were rewarded for that decision. The day started out overcast with a low cloud deck. We decided to start with a visit to the Island and Oceans museum. This museum has pretty cool exhibits on the people, history, geography and fishing of the area. While in the museum, blue skies and the sun appeared. We walked the museum trail through Beluga Slough to Bishop's beach. The view from the beach was gorgeous. The beach consists of a dark grey colored sand from the granite mountains which I had never seen. There were posted alerts about a moose being spotted near the trail, but we did see any moose. We then decided to drive along East End Road. We found out that buildings and trees block the view across the bay. To view the beautiful scenery, you need to travel on the interconnecting Old East End Road and the small public gravel roads. We couldn't get enough of staring at the scenery on both sides of the bay. At the end of the paved portion of East End Road, a young woman in a colorful long Russian dress and bonnet was caring for her two children in the front yard of their house. We turned around and headed back to Homer. Since we're fans of the Deadliest Catch, we had to go to the Time Bandit store. We found out the Time Bandit was in port at the Spit, so we rushed to go there. We found the TB. In real life, the ship looks small. I know it is only 109 feet long, but on TV it appears to be larger. It really takes a special kind of courage to take a ship this size into the Bering Sea during winter. We went to the Land's End which has a lounge that has an outdoor area with nice views of the mountains. We ended the day by driving to Skyline Drive. This required driving on East and West Hill Roads. These roads had some turns with steep drop offs that were sort of challenging to this flatlander. On Skyline Drive, there is a pullout that provides a fantastic view of Homer, the Spit, and Kachemak bay especially on this sunny day. Day 4- Homer to Girdwood It was a cold, overcast day, but I wished we could have stayed another day in Homer. I really recommend spending two full days in Homer. We really enjoyed the views from balcony. During our stay at the cottage, we had numerous eagles fly over us. On our way out of Homer, a moose cow and calf were grazing about 20 to 30 feet off the highway. The moose is an unusual looking animal. It looks like it has parts from other animals and was obviously the product of a design by committee. Even though it was overcast and occasionally rainy over the Kenai peninsula, it was sunny across the Cook Inlet, and we were treated to outstanding views of Mts. Redoubt and Iliamna. At one pullout, there were roadside signs describing the volcanoes. Mt Redoubt last erupted in 2009, but it was quiet today. We also saw eagles. While driving down the gravel road to the Russian Orthodox church in Ninilchik, a moose cow crossed the road. The moose walked to our right side, and we saw that the calf had preceded her. We watched them feed on the trees. We proceeded to the church. The inside of the church was closed for the day, but it was a treat to see the outside of the little church. We stopped to see the Princess Wilderness Lodge at Cooper Landing. That area has great scenery especially with the green colored streams. Though it was raining, there were quite a people fishing in the river. We arrived at Girdwood where we again stayed at the Girdwood Guest House. Soon after we arrived, the bear we saw on Day 2 came back to tell us hello. We ate at the Silvertip Grill. I had the reindeer lasagna which was delicious. They also had great beer from an Alaskan microbrewery. The grill is frequented mostly by locals, and they made us feel at home. Girdwood is a cool little town. We were again able to take refuge from the white nights in our totally dark bedroom. Day 5 - Homer to Matanuska It was overcast, windy, and cold as we toured the Turnagain Arm area toward Anchorage. The weather did not detract from the spectacular scenery along the arm. We stopped at Windy Point (it earned its name that day), Bird Point, Beluga Point (did not see any whales), and Potter Marsh. We saw lots of birds at Potter March. We even saw Canadian geese with gosling. Some birds like the songbird were at the railings of the boardwalk, but for most, it helps to have binoculars. During our travels along the Turnagain Arm, we did not try to view the bore tides since they were predicted to be very low height or non-occurring. Due to the low cloud deck, we scrubbed going to Independence Pass and Hatcher Mine, and we opted for the Musk Ox Farm. This is a good side tour especially if you have children. The tour guide was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. The musk ox which is actually a goat looks like a throwback to the Wooly Mammoth days. They even let the children feed wild dandelions to the young musk ox. We continued our drive on the Glenn Highway. I found out the hard way that the road to Matanuska was in the mountains (probably foothills, but to this flatlander they seemed like mountains). We got a good view of the Matanuska glacier. At 26 miles long, it is impressive. We stayed at the Majestic Valley lodge and ate at the restaurant at the Sheep Mountain lodge which had good food. Day 6 - Matanuska to Talkeetna It started out as a foggy morning, but the clouds began to lift. It was a sunny day as we did our 3 hour walk on the Matanuska Glacier with MICA tours which we booked the previous day. I really enjoyed the glacier walk, and hopefully I will be able to do at least another one in the future . We got to see the deep crevices and holes in the glacier. We saw the small greenish blue kettle ponds. The snow-capped, surrounding mountains and glacier were absolutely gorgeous. The trip was harder on my wife who has a bad knee. We mistakenly thought that glaciers were relatively flat with some gradual changes in elevation. Wrong, silly flatlanders. There is a somewhat steep change in elevation. We wished we brought her knee brace (which she has not had to wear in over ten years). It would have also helped if she had a hiking pole. The MICA guides were absolutely fantastic about assisting her. We felt bad that we held back the two much younger people in our tour. Needless to say, this was her first and last glacier walk. We drove to Talkeetna. On this sunny day, the scenery along the Glenn Highway was beautiful. Mountains are on both sides of the Matanuska river with the road cut into one of the mountain (yeah I know, foothills). We spent a lot of time stopping and viewing the scenery. After Glenn Highway, the drive from Wasilla to Talkeetna is a bit of a letdown. To quote a line I previously read on Tripadvisor, it was trees, trees, and more trees. When we got to Talkeetna, we spotted Denali (McKinley) from a pullout on the Talkeetna Spur road. The mountain was in a full view! We tried to get a summit flightseeing tour for that evening, but were not successful. We stayed in the downstairs lodge room at the Susitna River Lodging which has a good view of the adjacent Susitna River. From the lodge grounds, you can see some of the Alaskan Range, but not Denali. Later that evening, a couple of large raft tours on the river passed by the lodge. We really enjoyed our short stay at the lodge and at Talkeetna. We ate at Twisted Creek; great service and beer (brewed onsite) and good food. On this Alaskan trip, I verified that halibut is not my favorite fish, but I like how it is prepared at Twisted Creek. Day 7 - Talkeetna to Healy It was an overcast day at Talkeetna, but the skies were clearing over the Alaskan Range. We booked a mid-morning summit flightseeing tour with K2 Aviation. There were some low clouds on the west side of Denali, but were able to get full views of the mountain on the east, south, and north sides. The skies continued to clear as the flight progressed, and we got beautiful views of Denali, Foraker, Hunter, and the surrounding areas. This area had gotten a fresh dusting of snow the previous night. As with other areas of central Alaska, the mountains had much more snow than usual due to the heavy winter and spring snow falls. On a clear day, I highly recommend this tour. It was exhilarating. I was also fortunate to sit in the co-pilot's seat. Ed was our pilot who provided great narration. We did a final drive around Talkeetna (such a cool little town), and it was on to Healy. The scenery improved as the Alaskan Range began to poke above the trees. We also had a black bear cross the highway about 50 to 100 feet in front of us. I was getting sleepy during the drive, so my wife took over the driving. While I was napping, she said she saw a bull moose on the side of the road (I snooze, I lose). We stopped at the Wilderness Access Center in Denali National Park to pick up our prepaid tickets for the 6:15AM shuttle to Wonder Lake. We also watched the short film which was about the early history of the park and construction of the park road. We then headed to our lodging at the Denali Lakeview Inn which is on the shores of Lake Otto. We stayed in the Alaska Room which has large vertical windows providing spectacular views of the mountains and lake. We also had a shared balcony with two other units. We ate at the nearby Black Diamond Grill. The food was very good. I had an Alaskan King Crab leg and salmon. The beer was from the Glacier Brewhouse in Anchorage. We went back to the inn and stared at the scenery from the comfort of the wrap around couch. The white nights are tough on sleeping, but great for viewing scenery. Day 8 - Denali NP We woke up at 5AM to another sunny day! We drove to the WAC and boarded the shuttle bus. The seats on the bus were surprisingly comfortable, and there was an overhead storage rack with ample room for our day packs. Our shuttle bus driver was Wendy who was fantastic. She gave a great commentary on the history, wildlife, and geology, and geography of the park. She also had fantastic vision at detecting wildlife. Because of Wendy, we saw moose, brown bears and cubs, loons, willow ptarmigan (Alaska state bird), dall sheep, and caribou. She stopped for all wildlife sightings. For some of the bears and caribou, Wendy stopped the bus and waited patiently. She said the animals would get nearer to the bus, and she was right. The caribou crossed the road in front of us, and the bears approached close enough that they could be easily seen without binoculars. We also saw a red fox walking along the road. At the Eielson VC, we ate the sack lunches that were prepared by the folks at the Lakeview inn. The lunches were good and must have smelled good because it interested a ground squirrel who we thought was going to leap onto the bench. I told him know "no" repeatedly, and he kept faking a leap. Apparently, the back and forth between the squirrel and I must have been entertaining enough to draw a crowd snapping photos. Eventually, he got bored and left. He must have put the word out on me to his other squirrel buddies because they scurried when they saw me. From the park entrance to one of the stops, we got full views of Denali! By the time, we got to Eielson, some clouds were at the base of the mountain, but you could still see about 80 to 90% of the mountain. We rode the bus to Wonder Lake, but could only see the top of the mountain at that point; we did see the red fox during this trip. The bus ahead of us saw a wolf pack, but we did not. The mosquitoes at Wonder Lake were numerous but not swarming, but we were glad we had head nets and Deet. 100% deet works great at repelling mosquitoes, but it takes quite a few hand washes with lots of soap to later get rid of the smell. We considered ourselves lucky to get a great bus driver/tour guide, plenty of wildlife sightings, numerous Denali sightings, and a sunny day. We ate at the 49th State Brewery in Healy. The food was OK, but the beer was good. They only brew one beer, a golden ale. The other draft beers are from breweries in Alaska and Washington. Day 9 - Healy to Anchorage It was a fairly uneventful trip to Anchorage. The day started out overcast, but became sunny by afternoon. We did see the top of Denali at a road side pullout. We stayed at the Ship Creek Comfort Inn. We chose this location because it was within walking distance from the train station. We had reserved tickets to Whittier on the Alaskan Railroad for our cruise tomorrow. The inn borders the Tony Knowles trail and Ship Creek. At the creek, there were a lot of people fishing for salmon. We stayed a while, but no one hooked a fish while we were there. Our room was on the creek side of the building, so it was not directly facing the train tracks. We heard, but were not bothered or awakened by train whistles during the night. Day 10 - Anchorage to Whittier Comfort Inn had a great breakfast which we needed since we wound up having a full day. We checked our bags except our daypacks with the railroad employees at the large white tent that is adjacent to the railroad terminal. They had a special section for Princess Cruise luggage. We were told that the bags would be checked all the way to our stateroom on the ship. We then got our ticket from the counter inside the building. We were told that boarding would begin about 20 minutes prior to departure, so we were able to go back to our room at the Comfort Inn for about an hour. The train has very comfortable seats with a lot of legroom. There was ample space in the overhead storage rack for our day packs. We had another sunny day. This afforded great views of the Turnagain Arm and Portage Glacier. After we came out of the second tunnel, we saw Whittier, the Coral Princess, and sunny skies! When we departed the train, I immediately called Major Marine and was told they had about 100 available seats for the 4-1/2 hour tour to Blackstone Bay. We did not opt for the salmon and prime rib buffet. We were still full from breakfast and knew we would eat on the ship that evening. We got an assigned table to ourselves on the first level. We spent most of our time on the open decks on the first and second level. The views of the snow capped mountains and waterfalls were spectacular on this sunny day. The tour has a Park ranger on board who provided great commentary. We saw otters and harbor seals in the bay. We stayed at the Blackstone and Beloit glaciers for about 20 to 30 minutes each. We were within 1/4 mile of each glacier. There was quite a bit of cracking and some large chunks of ice fall from the glacier. I don't know if they would count as calving. One piece seemed small, but sound like a gunshot when it hit the water. We saw quite a few waterfalls, and stopped close to a large one for pictures. We enjoyed the boat ride to and from Whittier. This was a great tour especially with the great weather. We returned to Whittier and boarded the Coral Princess. On our past Caribbean cruises, we had booked inside cabins. For this cruise, we splurged and booked a mini suite, and we are glad we did. When we opened the door, great views and our luggage were awaiting us! We loved this stateroom. We spent a lot of time on this cruise looking at scenery from the balcony or the full size sofa in the stateroom. Day 11 - Hubbard Glacier It was an overcast day with a very low cloud deck when we got to Yakutat Bay. The onboard Princess naturalist said not worry. She said there was a 90% chance of seeing the glacier, and she was correct. We were only able to get within 8 miles of the glacier because of the floating ice. The glacier is the largest in the world and it was impressive. En route to the glacier, we did see the tail of a humpback whale. Day 12- Glacier Bay National Park A sunny day in Glacier Bay! We viewed Reid, Lamplugh, and Margerie glaciers. In addition to the onboard naturalist, we had Park rangers on board to provide commentary and respond to questions. One of the rangers told me that there was more snow on the mountains than in past years. We were about a mile from Margerie glacier. We saw quite a bit of ice fall from the glacier. We saw an eagle floating on an iceberg close to the ship. Day 13- Skagway It was a sunny day in Skagway! Not all was perfect, I started with a head cold. We went on the Emerald Lake-Carcross tour with Dyea Dave. We also had reservations for the WP&YR train from Fraser Meadows to Skagway. Shelby was our tour guide. Our experience with her was the opposite of Wendy with the Wonder Lake shuttle. The tour seemed rushed, and compared to other tours, we got minimal informative narration. That day, she seemed to view herself more a bus driver than tour guide. I had read great review about Dyea Dave, but it seems if you don't get Dave then the quality of your tour may be luck of the draw. With that said, the scenery to Carcross is pretty. We saw a group of vehicles stopped on the side of the road. Most on our bus saw a bear. We saw a lake that was so still that it mirrored the surrounding land. When we encountered that lake, I thought it was part of the land. We also saw Emerald Lake which gets its color and name from the algae growing in it. We visited the Carcross Desert which is the world's smallest desert. Carcross is a quaint, tiny town, and the water around Carcross also appeared to have an emerald color. The train ride from Fraser to Skagway was great. The allure of the train is not so much the scenery which is pretty, but that the tracks are cut into the side of a mountain. One thing we would have done differently was to not bring both daypacks on the Skagway bus trip. We typically carried the small camera, water, some snacks, and the rain jackets and rain packs in the day packs. Since we had room, we probably included other stuff that I can't recall now. The small bus used by Dyea Dave did not have an overhead storage rack. (I had previously asked them if it was OK to bring day packs which they said would be OK, but neglected to ask if there was storage for the packs.) There is very little room under the seats for day packs. (This was also true of the shuttle bus used by Orca Enterprises.). The smaller day pack was able to be put on the floor and shoved a little under the seats in from of us. We had to carry the 20 inch long day pack on our lap for the duration of the bus ride. For the Orca trip, we learned our lesson and crammed the above items into the smaller day pack. That worked well for the shuttle bus ride and most importantly, the boat trip. On the WP&YP train ride, there are overhead storage racks. Looking back, the only bus or boat trip where we needed 2 day packs was on the 11 hour Wonder Lake shuttle bus where we also had to carry lunches, snacks, and additional water. Another thing that surprised me was that there was more leg room between the seats on the old passenger cars on the train than there was on the small bus. Even with the limited legroom, I would still use one of the tour companies to travel to Emerald Lake and back to Fraser since the bus does stop for photo ops along the way. Day 14- Juneau Another sunny day! We did the whale watching tour with Orca Enterprises. The entire experience was great. The driver who drove us to and from the docks provided a lot of information on the sights we saw on the way. On the boat, Jeff was the tour guide, and Josh was the captain. They were great. Jeff gave an informative talk about the humpback whale especially their feeding habits and behavior. Josh was adept at finding whales. We saw plenty of backs and tails. Josh also told us to watch the eagles. He pointed out how one would scoop the fish out the water, and another eagle would try to steal it. The fish was usually the winner because it would fall back into the water during the aerial scuffle. It was fascinating to watch the eagle acrobatics. We had about 15 passengers on the boat, so everyone got ample time to go up on the upper deck for whale watching. You can only be up on the upper deck when the boat is stopped, and they limit 6 passengers at a time. We got to see Mendenhall glacier from the boat. We were a bit tired from our travels and decided not to visit the glacier. Since it was a sunny, cloudless day, we took the tram up to Mt. Roberts. We had great views of the surrounding area from the top. We saw an interesting short movie about the Tlingit people. There are quite a few walking trails and one that goes down the mountain. There were still mounds of snow on the mountain. The tram was a good alternative to the glacier. Day 15 - Ketchikan This was a sunny day in normally rainy Ketchikan. We were scheduled for the Misty Fjords/Glacier flightseeing tour with Family Air. Gretchen picked us up on the street in front of our cruise ship. We chose Family Air because they were the only company that would do the glacier tour without having at least four people booked. I guess this is because Dave's plane is a Cessna bush plane and normally seats four. The other companies used a slightly larger DeHavilland and seat six. Dave is the owner and the pilot. He told us that the great weather had some drawbacks. On an earlier flight, there was quite a bit of turbulence. He said that the glacier portion may be too rough, but it would be our choice whether to proceed. This was our first flight on a seaplane, and I really enjoyed the experience of taking off and intentionally landing on water. As we had seen elsewhere in Alaska, there was more snow on the mountains than normal. We enjoyed flying through the fjords. Dave is very personable and gave a good description of the area. There was quite a bit of turbulence. We heard other pilots saying they were turning back because their passengers were getting queasy. The turbulence prevented us from landing in the lake and getting off the plane onto land. We did land in the water near a boat owned by a friend of Dave's. They had just caught a 50 lb fish. We were able to stand on the pontoons which was still a cool experience. Because of the turbulence, we decided not to proceed with the glacier tour. After the flight, Gretchen dropped us off at the Creek Street area at our request. She directed us to the salmon ladder, but said it might be too early to view salmon. She was right. The salmon ladder is pretty neat to see, and it would be great to visit it in July and August during the salmon runs. We walked down Married Man's trail which is what men used to sneak down to the brothels on Creek St. It is a scenic walk down the trail. We took the funicular from Creek St up to the Cape Fox Lodge. Going up the hill gave us a nice view of the area. We had lunch at the Heen Kahidi Dining Room which has nice views of the dock area. We enjoyed the open face sandwiches. I had the Bear lunch which consisted of salmon and cream cheese on flat bread and a yogurt topped with raspberries. My wife had chicken, green onions, and havarti cheese on flat bread. Just outside of the inn was a collection of totem poles. After enjoying the view from atop the hill, we took the funicular back to Creek St. Ordinarily, you would pay the attendant $2.00 pp at the lower level. For this trip, there was no one there. I had read that this does occur frequently during the summer, and you just operate the funicular yourself by pressing the up/down button. We walked along Creek Street to Steadman's bridge. Creek St now contains shops and restaurants. The buildings are on the water and supported by pilings. There are informative signs on the buildings that were brothels. At Dolly's house, a young woman in 20's garb appeared at the door and gave us a funny double entendre sales pitch for the tour. She had a lot of enthusiasm. At this point, it was late afternoon, and I was getting tired from the head cold. We passed on the tour, but in hindsight, wished we had taken the tour. Days 16 and 17 - Sea Day and Vancouver It was an overcast day and visibility was limited. The sea day allowed us the opportunity to crash. We slept most of the day. We disembarked in Vancouver, we took the City HIghlights/Stanley Park tour through Princess. This was the only tour we booked through Princess since it included a transfer to the Vancouver airport. The tour guide was very good. The bus was very comfortable with overhead storage for the day packs. We had a 3:14 PM flight, so this tour was a great alternative to sitting in the airport. The tour included a 20 minute stop at Stanley Park. They have a very impressive display of totem poles. From the park, there is a scenic view of downtown Vancouver and a final view of the cruise ship. Thankfully, the trip home was uneventful. Misc. Lessons Learned and Conclusion: Food: Someone in a recent trip report stated that they found the fish to be overcooked. With exception to the Twisted Creek restaurant in Talkeetna, I would agree. I did enjoy items such as the reindeer lasagna at Silvertip Grill. This is something that I cannot get back home. Customer Service: I had read posts in Tripadvisor that gave the impression that personnel at the lodging and restaurants might be apathetic regarding the patrons. We were fortunate. All of the hospitality personnel that we encountered were very friendly and accommodating. Sleep: I wish I had worn the sleep masks at home well before the trip to get used it. During the trip, it made it a challenge to get used to sleeping in near daylight conditions with a mask. Energy: I was surprised how taxing this trip could be at times. Even though I'm nearly 58 years old, I had a lot of energy during our trip last year to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. Quite a few times during the land portion of the trip, I found myself tired around 6 or 7PM at night. Conclusion: This trip had been my dream vacation for a while, and it met my expectations which were high. We enjoyed our stays at the various accommodations and would do so again. With exception of Dyea Dave, all of our excursions were a lot of fun. Hopefully, my first trip to Alaska will not be my last. Read Less
Sail Date: September 2011
We booked a 10 day cruise tour through Princess. We flew into Anchorage 2 days ealier to see Anchorage on our own. We loved having a rental car and some time to let our bodies adjust from the time change, before meeting up with our tour ... Read More
We booked a 10 day cruise tour through Princess. We flew into Anchorage 2 days ealier to see Anchorage on our own. We loved having a rental car and some time to let our bodies adjust from the time change, before meeting up with our tour group. We met at the Anchorage airport, and took a bus to McKinley Wilderness Lodge. We were there 2 days,and went flight seeing and visited a dog musher camp. Then we went to Denali Princess Lodge. (very nice) We took the Natural History Tour in Denali, and went to the dinner theater. Then we took the Denali Express railway from Denali to Whittier, where we boarded the Coral Princess. We loved coming into Whittier on the train! The domed train was a wonderful way to spend the day in Alaska! So our land tour was the highlight of our trip! The Coral Princess is pretty, but very hard to navigate. Because of the centrium, you have to learn which elevators take you to the level you are trying to go to. We were on Dolphin Deck 9. Coming to our stateroom, the hall smelt like a nursing home. (urine smell in the carpet) That was not a great first impression! But our mini-suite was very nice and spacious. But be aware that if you get a mini suite on the Dolphin level, your balcony is not covered. It was raining on our embarkation day, so we couldn't get out and enjoy our balcony like others could. Our furniture was wet-and we didn't want to stand out in the rain. I wish the balcony had been covered, as they were on other decks. We signed up for traditional dining-which I though was at 6:00 pm and had requested a table for 2 by the window. We were given a table in the middle of the room and our assigned time was 5:30. We thought that was too early. So we met some couples on our land tour-and went to anytime dining with them. But the Coral Princess is very inflexible about the dining rooms. Traditional seating only in one and anytime dining in the other. We liked the freestyle with NCL better. The food was not as good as NCL or Royal Caribbean. But the service was great on Princess. The front desk was very rude. Someone had entered an incorrect number and our credit card was denied. We kept getting letters in our stateroom, telling us our credit card had been denied. It took us 4 days to get that straightened out-and my husband was the one who discovered that the cruise line had entered the wrong number. They were very indifferent about the fact that they were the cause of the credit card problem. But once the correct number was entered- there were no more problems with our credit card!The entertainment was good. We enjoyed the comedian and the singers and dancers were great! It was too cool to use the pool or hot tub, but the pool deck was very pretty. We got a drink card for $9 a day, and it was well worth the money. I loved the virgin pina coladas and their hot chocolate! We loved the pizza and soft serve ice cream on the pool deck! We often took snacks back to our room. We enjoyed the enclosed area on level 15. That was a good place to enjoy the scenery in the rain and wind. We chose Sept. because of the price, but I wished we had gone in May-for about the same price. I heard there is more snow in May and the weather is better. We had a lot of rain and wind. In fact, when we were out in the Pacific we were in 80-100 mph winds (hurricane force wind). Half of the ship, including me- were sea sick. But when the ship got back in protective waters and the waves calmed down, everyone felt better. Alaska is beautiful! If you haven't been you need to go. June, July, and Aug. are the most crowded and most expensive months. If we ever go again, I would like to go in May. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2010
We just returned from this great cruise. The Panama Canal was the focus for our trip, and that is why we selected this Princess cruise. We had not sailed on Princess in a while and I had read many comments related to the food and areas for ... Read More
We just returned from this great cruise. The Panama Canal was the focus for our trip, and that is why we selected this Princess cruise. We had not sailed on Princess in a while and I had read many comments related to the food and areas for improvement. Our expectations were more than exceeded. We live in the Northeast so we flew into LA two days before the cruise and stayed a the Doubletree Hotel in San Pedro, very nice, right on the marina, and they had a shuttle that took us to the ferry for Catalina Island as well as to the pier the day of the cruise. Boarding was smooth, we arrived early so we had to wait until almost noon to board , but then it was smooth and quick and we were in our room. Luggage was delivered within 2 hours. The mini suite was nicely laid out , the balcony had a table and 4 chairs. The only complaint I had on this cruise was with the bed, it was very uncomfortable, after I complained they changed the mattress , which helped but it was still not great. We had assigned seating , first sitting ( a first for us) , nice table mates, great service and the food was just fine, there is an alternate menu that you can choose from each night if you wanted to, plenty of choices and we enjoyed all our meals there. We did not plan to do to the dining room on the formal nights, but since we enjoyed our dinners so much, we did attend the last 2 formal nights, my husband wore a sport coat ( no tie ) and that was fine. The Horizon Court, with the buffet, is the same as it is on most ships, although it is a little congested when you first walk in. We are coffee drinkers and I felt that the coffee in the Horizon court was weak, but the coffee in the dining room and room service was better. Speaking of room service, they were exceptionally fast and efficient, we routinely ordered room service in the morning and in the evening for coffee and cookies. We did eat in each of the specialty restaurants, they were good, but we felt that the specialty restaurants on HAL and RCC were better My husband did the Ultimate Ship Tour and thoroughly enjoyed it, a small group of 9 people and they had a 3 ½ hour tour, very impressive, expensive, but he thought it was well worth it. He was amazed at how clean everything was everywhere he went. We spent more time in the casinos then seeing any of the shows so I cannot comment on those. We did look at the Sanctuary , but chose not to use it. We swam in the indoor pool and relaxed on our balcony or on the pool deck. Ports Cabo San Lucas- tender port- very congested waiting for the tenders, due to other ships in port. We just walked about the marina, very crowded area, we were originally going to take a water taxi to the beach- it was just too crowded in the area. Acapulco, since we had been there before as well, we decided to stay on the ship, very relaxing Huatulco- I had read the comments on CC re the nice beach right at the pier and that is where we went- we paid $ 5.00 and had lounge chairs and a beach umbrella, beach was great we just walked back to the ship. Puntarenas- we do not normally do ship tours, but we decided to do the Pacific aerial tram, the tram tour was not worth the money, there were 8 passengers and a guide, the guide was very good, we did not see great views, nor animals or birds , all we saw were trees. They had a buffet lunch that was okay and then there was also a 40 minute walk to see reptiles- we did not do that. It was very hot, there were a number of cruise ships in port, so it was very crowded, long time standing in lines, shuffling along. Puerto Amador- here we also did a ship tour but this one was worth every penny. We did the Panama Canal by boat tour. They took us by bus to the ferry that would take us through the Pacific side of the locks. The ferry was old but it had plenty of seats, both in the shade and in the sun, they supplied cold drinks the whole time and a very nice buffet. Excellent narrator pointing out lots of interesting information. It was great to experience the locks with a small boat and then the ship the next day. Our cabin was on Caribe deck forward , starboard side, so we had a great view of all the goings on. We did go to the front and the back of the ship to see it from a different angle , but we spent most of the time on our balcony. Seeing the mules in operation and the whole process is really inspiring. Cartagena. We took a taxi into the old city, we shared with another couple and it was $30.00 total. The taxi driver was offering to stay with us and take us on a tour for $60.00, we were not interested but we did see a number of these taxi drivers , with their blue shirts, walking with people in the city. As stated many times on CC, there were lots of people trying to sell you stuff , especially when you first entered the area, but once you said no, they would go on their way, the problem was there was so many of them. Lots of shops in the old city and it was getting quite warm .We had no problem getting a taxi back- this time for $ 10.00 Aruba- again 4 ships in port, when you get of , it is a little bit of a walk to the end of the pier- we were the 4th ship there. On the way back there was a shuttle to take you to the ship. We planned to take a taxi to eagle beach, but we did not see any- again very crowded, lots of stores- so we took the bus ( bus terminal right near the pier) Bus fare was $1.30 pp each way. We saw the sign for Eagle Beach, but we did not see any beach chairs, so we stayed on the bus and got off at the Hyatt. Great little beach, they charged us $10.00 for the use of the umbrella and 2 lounge chairs and 4 towels. The return bus stop was right outside the hotel. Fort Lauderdale, we chose early walk off and were off the ship around 0730, plenty of time to catch our flight home Overall a great cruise and great experience, time for relaxing and enjoying the warm weather and seeing the wonderful Panama Canal. Read Less
Coral Princess Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.4
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 4.0 3.9
Public Rooms 4.0 4.5
Fitness Recreation 4.0 4.1
Family 5.0 4.1
Shore Excursion 3.0 4.0
Enrichment 4.0 3.9
Service 4.0 4.5
Value For Money 4.0 4.0
Rates 4.0 4.2

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