CORAL CARIBBEAN CHRISTMAS CRUISE We just returned from the Coral Princess Christmas sailing to the Eastern Caribbean 12/20/2007 - 12/27/2007. The trip was fantastic! We have cruised many times with other cruise lines but this was only our ... Read More
CORAL CARIBBEAN CHRISTMAS CRUISE We just returned from the Coral Princess Christmas sailing to the Eastern Caribbean 12/20/2007 - 12/27/2007. The trip was fantastic! We have cruised many times with other cruise lines but this was only our second cruise with Princess. Two years ago we went on the Coral Princess to the Panama Canal and had a very disappointing experience. However, much has improved with the Coral since then and Princess has made up for their mistakes!
WORDS OF WISDOM ABOUT SAME DAY FLIGHTS!!! We always fly to the embarkation port the day before the cruise, but this time we flew to Fort Lauderdale the morning of sailing due to schedule conflicts. We will never do this again because we had a BIG SCARE about lost luggage. Our flight arrived in Fort Lauderdale at 9:00am and we were ready to collect our baggage and get a taxi to the cruise port. Everything was working out perfectly and we expected to be at the ship by 10:00am. But only 3 of our 4 bags arrived! We spent over an hour at the airport consulting with the airline and trying to track down our lost bag. We had no luck and the airline just asked for our cell phone number and said there was nothing that could be done and they had no way of knowing where it was. The bag we lost was our "miscellaneous" bag that contained everything from shoes to two twelve packs of diet doctor pepper. We had no choice but to go shopping. We took a taxi to the Galleria Mall in Fort Lauderdale to buy dress shoes and sandals, and then to Walgreen's to buy toiletries and beach stuff. As soon as we paid for everything we got a call from the airport. Our bag was returned TWO hours later by someone who mistook it for their own! The worker in the baggage claim office said the two bags were entirely different colors as well!! SO PLEASE CHECK THE NAME TAG ON YOUR BAG BEFORE CLAIMING IT! We were panicked to the point of thinking the cruise was ruined and we had to spend almost $100 on taxi fares alone driving around Fort Lauderdale. To lighten things up our embarkation picture was so hilarious because we looked ready to pass out. This was a very long day.
EMBARKATION We got to the cruise terminal at 1:30pm. We gave our bags to a porter and walked directly to the Baja check in counter. There are two counters for each deck and there was no one in line for Baja. This was the smoothest embarkation we had ever had. It only took us 15 minutes from the time our taxi pulled up to the ship to the time we were in our cabin. The longest wait was for the embarkation photo, which we just had to buy as a reminder of the disastrous morning we had!
SHIP CONDITION The Coral Princess is in great condition. Everything was the same as it had been two years ago. Cleaning, painting, varnishing etc. was going on throughout the cruise. The only things that showed ware and tear were the steamer chair lounges on the promenade deck. Most of them stuck and were not able to be adjusted. The carpet outside the Princess Theater showed water spots and could also be replaced. Everything else was perfectly fine!
CABIN AND ACCOMMODATIONS Since all the cabin layouts and furnishings are the same throughout the most of the Princess fleet I won't go into detail. The only complaints we had about the cabin were the air conditioning and the mattresses. The air conditioning was reasonable, but with the duvets we would had preferred the room to be cooler at night. The mattresses we a little uncomfortable but next time we will request egg crate toppers for the beds. Everything else was great.
NEW MATTRESSES On disembarkation day Baja deck was lined up and down with new twin mattresses to be installed after our cruise. It looks like we just missed them! The crew elevator area was also full of new mattresses so it appeared that they are being replaced in all the cabins.
FOOD AND DINING The food in the dining rooms was very good. Our main complaint on our cruise on the Coral two years ago was the food. This time the food was much improved. Two dining firsts for us on a cruise were frog legs and crab legs. Both of these entrees were wonderful! This was the only cruise we have been on that offered these menu items. The food was better than our last two cruises on Royal Caribbean, just stay away from the seafood avocado boat and you will be fine. The filet and sea scallops were wonderful. The food was also served hot, which was a problem the last time we were on the Coral. The air conditioner above our table the last time chilled our food in minutes. This time was much better. Breakfast and lunch in the Horizon Court got to be repetitive because they served the same thing almost every day. Most of the food in the Horizon was good, but it was not as good as the food in the dining room. The Horizon Court in general needs help in terms of layout and aesthetic appeal. The grill helped us to get some variety for lunch, including Princess Pizza which was also good. We did not eat at Sabatini's' because we enjoy the main dining room experience and the food in the dining room was to our liking.
ANYTIME DINING ISSUES We booked our Coral Cruise six months ago and have been on a waitlist for traditional late seating dining for the last two months. We went to the Maitre'D as soon as we boarded and explained the situation. We were told to eat anytime dining the first night and that we would be accommodated the second night. Having never done anytime dining before, we called down to the purser's desk and asked what time is anytime dining and the purser laughed. Live and learn I guess. The second night we went into the dining room and found that the Maitre'D stand was removed so that more tables could be set up for traditional dining. We were basically seated in the hallway and were not happy. We refused to sit there, flagged down the Maitre'D and were promptly escorted to a table in the back of the dining room that had three empty chairs and a family of four already seated. This arrangement was fine, but why couldn't this request be accommodated in the first place? We received a $75 dollar onboard credit for this ordeal which was a nice surprise!
SERVICE Our cabin steward was very courteous. He seemed to have personality and to like his job. He always smiled at us and said hello to us in the hallway. Our room was kept in great order. Our dining room waiter was fine, but was pushy. Every time we ordered a bottle of wine he would say, "No, no, no, this one is much better." The wines he wanted us to order were $15 to $20 more than the bottles we wanted. He also came to our table two nights with the Princess Cook Book and showed us the recipes for the meals we just had. He kept telling us to buy it and we kept telling us we didn't want it. When the last two nights of the cruise arrived he kept telling us to fill out the comment card and mention table 15. Other than being a little forward, his service was fine. Some of our meals were slow however, and we didn't get out of the dining room until 10:45pm. Overall we had an enjoyable experience. Servers in the Horizon Court were always around with the carts to serve drinks and waiters by the pool were plentiful.
HOLIDAY DECORATIONS The atrium was tastefully decorated with wreathes, garland and lights draped along the railings. Christmas trees were placed in the atrium, many of the lounges, in the Horizon Court and in also in the casino. The dining rooms also had decorations adorning the waiter stations and had two Christmas trees at the entrance. Every cabin door had a holiday garnish on the mailbox. The entire ship looked festive. We were worried that the decorations would actually take away from the beauty of the ship, but we were completely wrong. Two years ago we thought the atrium looked quite drab and plain, but the holiday dEcor enhanced the ship greatly!
HOLIDAY FESTIVITIES This was our first Christmas cruise and we were so surprised at how festive the atmosphere was onboard. I highly recommend holiday sailings! A Christmas cruise brings about another dimension of cruising that is not experienced at other times of the year. Santa was sitting in the atrium during embarkation for photo opportunities and appeared again on Christmas morning handing out wrapped presents to the children onboard. On Christmas Eve the crew sung Christmas carols in the atrium while the snow machines were working. The crew choir included staff from all the departments including the captain. It was amazing to see the snow falling and to be part of the festive atmosphere. The entertainment staff did a great job keeping everyone involved. There was a table of Christmas cookies and milk in the atrium on Christmas Eve, and during Christmas day the crew pushed a cart of cookies and milk around the pool deck. On Christmas Day there was a special Holiday Family Show in the Princess Theatre. We went to the show with apprehension but it turned out to be great. The stage was set up to look like a living room, and "family members" would arrive at the door and sing a Christmas song after being welcomed. The talent was great and the show made everyone feel at home for Christmas. The Coral Princess dancers also did a knock off of the New York City Rockets. Christmas at sea is simply wonderful! There was a special menu in the dining room on Christmas Day. The cabin TV had a Yule log channel and was very festive. The Christmas music being played throughout the ship was very bizarre, but was a nice change from the traditional Christmas songs. One song had the line, "I want to wash my hands, my face and hair in snow," which we thought was very comical. A Catholic midnight mass was held in addition to Protestant and Jewish services.
PORTS OF CALL We called at St. Thomas, St. Maarten and Princess Cays. We have been to St. Thomas and St. Maarten many times so we just walked around town and did some minor shopping. We cruise mainly to be on the ship, not to go to the ports. Princess Cays was nice but very chaotic. We had to obtain tender tickets and wait about 45 minutes to get off the ship. If we ever went to Princess Cays again we would stay on the ship. Lunch on the island was limited and not good. The lines were long and seating was limited. We concluded that because the Coral doesn't call at Princess Cays regularly the crew was not prepared like the crew on the Caribbean Princess which calls at Princess Cays every week.
WEATHER AND SEA CONDITIONS The weather overall was great. Temperatures were in the 80s almost every day. We had some rain showers on embarkation day and in the morning of the first sea day but it was sunny and warm every other day. There was also a 15 minute tropical shower just before sail away in St. Maarten. St. Thomas was very hot. Sea conditions were moderate for the majority of the cruise. The December trade winds were evident and made Christmas Eve night and Christmas Day rather rough. The Coral handles the seas very well and most of the motion was due to pitching from bow to stern. The ship moved more due to the winds than high waves, and the pools mirrored the seas on Christmas Day. We didn't hear about anyone becoming sea sick and the motion just allows you to know you are at sea and not in a hotel. I love the motion of the ocean.
CREW MEMBER POLICIES What turned us away from Princess two years ago was the policy that some crew members, the entertainment staff and officers are permitted to eat in the Horizon Court with paying passengers and mingle extensively in passenger areas on their time off. On our previous Princess cruise we saw an officer in complete white uniform and name tag laying asleep on a deck lounge chair on the promenade deck while at sea. The singers and dancers also congregated on the promenade deck and ate at the same buffet and were served drinks by other crew members. We have never witnessed crew members using passenger facilities on any other cruise line. During the Champagne Waterfall party many crew members and waiters were dancing along with the passengers. On this cruise we witnessed the same policy. Does anyone else have feelings about this?
ENTERTAINMENT The production shows were very good. We have seen Tribute and Dance before, but saw them a second time and liked them. The ship was very quite after 11:00pm each evening. At 11:30pm you could walk from stem to stern and see only a handful of people. At 12:30am you could walk around and not even see a crew member.
MISCELLANEOUS We had a medical disembarkation in St. Thomas. On the night of 12/26/2007, at 2:00am, the captain made an announcement regarding a missing person. He apologized and said that it was necessary to broadcast on all circuits because it was an emergency. They paged a passenger to dial 12000 on any of the ships telephones. Another announcement was made 20 minutes later ordering the "missing persons operations" to stand down. We found out from a crew member the following day that a girl was in someone's cabin and could not be found by her parents. The crew member told us there was a search party getting ready to search the water if she was not found.
OVERALL Overall we had a great time onboard the Coral for Christmas. A holiday cruise was just what we needed to escape winter for a week. We were very pleased with this cruise. Passengers on this cruise were of a variety of ages. We were surprised that there were only 300 kids onboard. They were well behaved. The only time we noticed the kids was when a group of 7 year olds took all of the red, white and blue balloons out of the dining room on the last night and ran up and down deck six holding nearly 100 balloons. It was quite a sight to see them flying through the crowded photo gallery with all those balloons. I believe I have covered most things. If you have any questions about the ship I will be more than happy to answer them.
WE RATE THIS CRUISE 8 OUT OF 10 Happy cruising to all of you at Cruise Critic Read Less