Editor's Note: Coral Princess' theater now hosts the line's own spinoff of NBC's "The Voice," called "The Voice of the Ocean," in which passengers who are handpicked from karaoke auditions earlier in the week compete for winning title.
Entertainment options on Coral Princess offer something for everyone, ranging from Vegas-style shows and first-run movies to karaoke, virtual golf and casino gambling. Pick just about any spot in the public areas -- the lounges, the atrium, the pool decks -- and there's live music of one sort or another.
On either side of the Promenade and Fiesta Decks are the ship's two grandest venues: Princess Theater and the state-of-the-art Universe Lounge. Tucked between those are the majority of bars and lounges, including the night-clubby Explorers Lounge, the more sedate Wheelhouse Bar, the retro-yet-sophisticated Crooners martini bar, the gentlemanly Churchill's cigar lounge and the full-service casino, with its variety of table games -- poker, blackjack, roulette -- and state-of-the-art slots. Blackjack and slots tourneys are scheduled during each cruise.
By day, the ScholarShip@Sea program continues to focus on enrichment (to some degree) and offers a wide range of programming. On our cruise, there were dance classes, lectures on fashion and bridge, as well as computer instruction. The morning we got to the Panama Canal, a speaker provided a primer on the canal's history and how it works.
In particular, we enjoyed some of the gigs announced in Princess Patter, a guide to the ship's daily activities. Chief among them were two wine tastings, a culinary demonstration with the executive chef and the galley tour.
Movies Under the Stars (M.U.T.S.), the big-screen outdoor theater, was installed aboard Coral Princess in November 2009. Passengers can enjoy movies, concerts, sporting events and other special programming throughout the day and evening. At night, movie-goers can curl up on deck chairs with complimentary blankets and tubs of popcorn.
Shore excursions are varied and range in level of activity and in price. All offerings have been vetted by the ship.
Coral Princess was designed to go through the Panama Canal, so it is smaller than the line's larger ships. Yet it doesn't scrimp, offering as much in the way of public room space -- lounges, eating areas, entertainment venues -- as Princess' larger vessels.
The centerpiece of the ship is an eye-catching four-level atrium, a favorite meeting place and ideal people-watching arena. On Deck 5, you'll find the passenger services, shore excursion and future cruise sales desks; Deck 6 houses the ship's boutiques; Deck 7 sports the art gallery and wedding chapel; and Deck 8 is home to the Internet Cafe, card room and library.
Self-service laundry facilities are stationed aft on Decks 8 to 12 and on Deck 5. The medical center is on Deck 4.
Perhaps more than anything else, the focus on fitness was the biggest surprise of the ship.
There's an oceanview gym with weight machines, elliptical trainers and treadmills, all upgraded during the 2009 dry dock. Pulse group cycling, yoga, Pilates and aerobics classes are on offer. As the cycling instructor emphatically noted, "You must go fast! Push it hard!" Prices for the classes range from $10 to $40 and are even more costly for one-on-one personal training.
Additionally, passengers can attend lots of seminars on everything from abs and metabolism to aging and detoxifying. In fact, a passenger from Canada said she chose Coral Princess specifically for its fitness program in her effort to build a cruise around detoxification, fitness and the healthy eating she found on the Lotus Spa menu.
Next to the fitness center is the Lotus Spa, a serene Balinese-inspired health spa and salon featuring a stunning variety of treatments. How's this for multiple choice: a Tahitian scalp massage, a mud room for couples, "gentle touch" teeth whitening, and a cellulite reduction program, popular in Europe, called ionithermie algae detox -- and that's just for starters. In the "thermal sanctuary," you can relax in thermal grottos, aromatic steam chambers, sauna suites or hot stone loungers. To top things off, a stylish beauty salon offers everything from regular haircuts to coloring and hair consultations, eye and neck lifting treatments and sunglow makeovers.
One of the largest attractions of the spa, post dry dock, is the adults-only Sanctuary, a two-deck, outdoor relaxation venue. Caring and unobtrusive staff, known as Serenity Stewards, provide cooling Evian misters, chilled towels, MP3 players and healthy and refreshing drinks and snacks, like fruit skewers, spring rolls and smoothies, while you veg out on padded lounges. Fees are $10 for a half-day.
Multiple pools do a respectable job for sun aficionados. The Lido Pool, now outfitted with Movies Under the Stars, is the center of outdoor activity on the Lido Deck, while the nearby Lotus Pool is a swim-against-the-current pool for a bit more of a workout. Both are flanked by hot tubs. Another pool is tucked away on Deck 12 aft outside the youth area. Kids can enjoy two splash pools -- one by the Fun Zone and a second hidden away up top on Deck 16.
One of the most wonderful places onboard is the relatively quiet outdoor promenade on Deck 7, a terrific place to walk or run (2.8 circuits equal one mile). For top-of-ship athletics, climb to Deck 16, where you'll find basketball and shuffleboard; mini-golf and a golf simulator are one deck below.
There is no in-cabin babysitting service, but what's not to like about Fun Zone, a supervised youth center with video games, a splash pool, scavenger hunts, pajama parties and occasional visits to the ice cream bar?
On our cruise, there were only 25 passengers under 21, including two in our group -- Eli, age 3, and Isaac, age 2. The boys -- and their parents -- thought the Fun Zone's youth counselors and programming were great. Both spent a good deal of time there.
One section is reserved for children between the ages of 3 and 12 and features state-of-the-art computer games, puzzles and crafts materials. Another area, called Remix, operates as a teen center (ages 13 to 17) complete with jukebox, big-screen TV and foosball table. That's quite a wide range of ages grouped together (and newer, bigger ships in the fleet usually operate with four kid categories), but Coral Princess typically attracts an older demographic, so those kids who sail here get enough personal attention to make up for it.
There's also group babysitting in the Fun Zone for children between the ages of 3 and 12, and parents are provided with beepers so that they can stay in contact with youth counselors. Group babysitting, at $5 per hour, per child, is available 10 p.m. until 1 a.m.
Note: Kids who are not potty-trained must be accompanied in Fun Zone by a parent.
* May require additional fees