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