491 Princess Coral Princess Cruise Reviews

I awoke to the most annoying buzzing that just would not go away. Once I comprehended the reason for the buzzing at 3:30 a.m., I remembered that I was supposed to be getting up to head for Alaska...I fairly flew out of bed. ... Read More
I awoke to the most annoying buzzing that just would not go away. Once I comprehended the reason for the buzzing at 3:30 a.m., I remembered that I was supposed to be getting up to head for Alaska...I fairly flew out of bed. Well...actually, I stumbled and nearly went flying across the room. Nevertheless, it worked because I was able to get everyone up and ready to head to the Atlanta Airport on time. Our group consisted of me and my husband, our two teenaged sons (Sean and Patrick), and my parents (Alyce and David). We had an international flight to Vancouver to meet the Coral Princess and I was a might bit nervous. "Why were you nervous?" you might ask. The reason for my unease was the fact that we were flying (and a long way at that) on sailing day. I don't like to do that because of the risk involved. I was happy that I had insured to the hilt but I did NOT want to miss that ship. Delta had changed our flight schedules several times since I had booked the flights and at one point had only allowed us a 20 minute layover in Salt Lake City. Now, I know that airport is much smaller than the one in Atlanta that keeps changing names but still....20 minutes? That seemed ridiculously short to me although Delta told me that it met their requirements. Since it did not meet my requirements, I had insisted that they do something so they put us on an early bird flight out of Atlanta to give us a bigger layover in Salt Lake. That helped but I was still nervous. I kept hearing the negative voices in my head telling me that we were going to have mechanical problems or a huge storm somewhere and get grounded. It did end up working out though and we got to Vancouver in plenty of time. We had elected to participate in the US Direct program there and it worked really well. Once off the plane, we were following the green signs when I noticed a woman frantically waving at us. I'm southern so I smiled and waved back. Turns out that she really wanted our attention. They were "herding" - and I mean that in the nicest possible way - everyone going to the Coral Princess that day (only ship in port) into a holding room. They checked our credentials and crossed us off their list then had us wait for someone to come get us. After a few minutes - just long enough to go the potty really - they came and told us that we would have to stay together as a group and follow these guys "down". We heard and we followed. They took us down a service elevator through a "behind the scenes" area to get to the greeting area. I was tempted to whip out my camera and take pictures of the secure area but was afraid to get my camera confiscated before I ever got to the ship! The next step was a very short line to speak to a customs agent. She just checked our passports and then we were met by Princess representatives. The ladies handed us forms regarding possible Norwalk infections or other sicknesses and then sat down and continued talking among themselves. I was not real impressed with the "meet and greet" process this time. We filled out the forms then they put us on buses to take us to the airport. Our driver was Dan and he was wonderful. He gave us the nickel tour of Vancouver as we traversed the town. My husband and I had been through Vancouver before when cruising but really hadn't seen much. We enjoyed the commentary...including the corny jokes. When we got to the ship other Princess reps boarded and were much more personable than the ones at the airport. They then sent us through security and we began the embarkation process which was perfect. We did not have to wait in line at all and the representative was very helpful and polite. We walked right onto the ship after the expected embarkation picture. Tell me, does anybody look decent in these photos? I always look like I've been rode hard and put up wet. Of course, after 2 long flights and being up before the rooster finished dreaming, I felt like it as well. After hustling our bustles onto the ship, we promptly found our rooms. DH and I in A516 and my parents next door in A518. Both these rooms are Cat. BB Balconies on the port side and a little aft of midship. I know what you're thinking....what did she do with the boys? We had reserved them a category F outside obstructed guarantee - sure enough, that's what they had. The upgrade fairy had not visited them as we hoped. They had a nicely located room though - E318. That's on the 8th deck, port side, not far from the atrium. They were happy with it so we were all set. We met our stewards - I requested my mattress pad and we got the balcony divider open - and then we did what everyone is required to do immediately upon boarding a ship ...went in search of lunch. The buffet was crowded and I hate when it's that way but nothing is going to stand in the way of my lunch. We did manage to find a window table for 6 and ate an OK lunch. I am not a fan of the buffet but it was the standard. Not overly wonderful or terribly bad - just OK. We then took part in the ubiquitous muster drill and I have to admit that I was very envious of the older gentleman who was asleep right outside the window on the promenade deck through the whole muster. I almost "outed" him by telling the crew member nearby about him but decided that someone should be enjoying their time. After muster we went out on deck for sail away, taking pictures of Vancouver like crazy. We were finally THERE!! I'm glad we don't use film anymore - I would be at the bank getting a loan to get it all processed. After sail away, we "hung out" on our adjoining balconies and enjoyed the ride. We were very tired but there was no way I was missing dinner so we rested a little in the cabin - OK, napped a little, so what? Then we went to dinner for the second seating traditional. Our waiters were Arnel and Art. They were both very personable and very efficient though I have to confess that it was often hard for my southern ears to understand Arnel's accent. After all, we southerners don't have accents so it's hard to understand other people when they have one. After figuring out what to choose from the normal Princess offerings (I don't believe the menus have changed on the Coral, they seemed normal to us) we set about the important task of "chowing down". Oh! I almost forgot...did I mention our window? No? I can't believe I forgot. We had one of the best tables ever. It was a 6 seater, which suited us since we already brought our own group, and it was right up next to a huge picture window! Throughout the cruise, as we enjoyed dinner, we also enjoyed the scenery going by...including the wildlife. It was great. We ate all of our dinners in the Provence Dining room and a few breakfasts in the Bordeaux dining room. The rest of the time we were either off the ship or joined my parents in the buffet. They were not big fans of the dining room and did not eat there every night. I did find out something really cool though. Did you know that if you decide that you don't want anything on the dinner menu and just tell them that all you want is some fried shrimp that your waiter will run on down to the galley and coerce someone into frying you up a plate of shrimp? I didn't know that either but when my Mom insisted that the only thing she wanted was some fried shrimp, buddy, they stepped up to the plate and got it for her...and fast as well. That earned our waiters an extra tip and a "You made the difference" card! As for the other dining options, we enjoyed the pizzeria and grill but did not dine in the specialty restaurants. We perused the menus and decided we could live without it. The first full day out was a "sea" day. We had scheduled a little "meet and greet" on the cruise critic roll call and so a few of us met at Crooners in the afternoon and shared a few stories. It was nice to meet others. We didn't meet again though because we were all busy seeing amazing sights. That night was the first formal night. We saw people dressed up and down - mostly up. In fact, on the "smart casual" nights, I still saw some women running around in what I would have considered to be formal wear. I did not see shorts in the dining room that night but I did on other nights. I also saw jeans on the casual nights. I noticed that their sign no longer lists jeans as being disallowed in the dining room. We enjoyed the day on deck and on our balconies. I would not go to Alaska without a balcony. I wish we had been able to score a starboard side balcony but we had to change our dates and not as much was available. We had a great time on the port side as well. Day 3 found us in Ketchikan. We were scheduled for flight seeing in Misty Fiords and were dismayed to see the normally expected rain coming down. We were picked up on time from the visitor's center by the van from the floatplane company and taken to the office. Everyone was nice. Reports from other pilots were coming back that the weather was clear in the Fiords so we had high hopes and loaded up in the plane. Take off was a GAS! I have flown in small planes many times but never a float plane. We took off past the cruise ships and got a great view of the lovely Coral Princess just below. It was exhilarating. Our plane was a vintage De Havilland Beaver and it was wonderful. According to our pilot, they are the best bush planes ever made. We flew as far as we could before the fog closed in on us and our pilot (I believe his name was Kevin) said that it would not be safe to continue - not to mention that we wouldn't be able to see a thing. We agreed that we should turn back…it's always good to trust your pilot. So - here we go again back to the pretty ships. Landing was as fun as taking off. AND, you're not going to believe this, the company was so great…even though we did get a short little flight, they did not charge us at all. Nope, not one red penny. That was more than fair. I can't say enough about their professionalism. I am not sure I can mention their name without someone asking me specifically. We did have one teensy problem….the 4th of July parade was about to start and the road was blocked off so our van driver had to try to take us back to the ship by the "back" way. She managed it very well with us only having to walk a few blocks. We did have time in Ketchikan to wander through a few shops and let go of a little money. It was rainy but fun. They have a great tourist trap/hardware store right at the docks. The prices were very nice and they had EVERYTHING! Once we got back on board, we watched the parade from the ship. Everybody who lives in Ketchikan must be in the parade apparently because it lasted forever. Day 4 we made Juneau. Rain again…but not so bad. The temps hovered around 50 everyday of the cruise. My parents got off the ship early to shop and go up the Mt. Roberts Tram but the rest of us thought it would be too foggy to see much. The view was not so bad, though, according to my Dad. We had a 2pm whale watching excursion that we scheduled independently so we had time to eat lunch before heading out. I have to say that this was the very first time we have been picked up by a cab driver and his dog! The van sent to get us came complete with some sort of yapping small "terrier" type of dog (no offence to terriers) who barked at us when we tried to board. He had his dinner by way of a bowl of macaroni and cheese on the floor! Once our driver found the correct dock at which to drop us we met our first mate, Chris, and had a great time sailing Auke Bay. We saw eagles, whales, sea lions, lighthouses (I requested and the Captain complied), and glaciers. It was great. Our boat was a very nice all aluminum craft called the CanCan that just held us and the crew - Case and Chris. We were treated to wonderful personal service and delicious snacks along with a fun cruise. Ask if you need more info on this excursion. On the way back to the ship the cab driver (different one this time and without a dog) agreed to drop by Mendenhall for a moment and let us take a few pictures. The last time we were in Alaska, DH and I had done the helicopter glacier landing so we weren't interested in doing that again. On Day 5 we woke up in Skagway. My parents and children were scheduled for the White Pass Railroad around noonish and DH and I had reserved a car to drive into the Yukon. We were armed with Murray's guide, the milepost book, and the camera. While they walked about the town we headed for the hills. It was a great drive. We started out at the Gold Rush Cemetery and then headed out to Whitehorse. The views were great and we saw one black bear right beside the road. Once I got turned around to go back he walked across the road and after a few moments, he disappeared into the brush. We were thinking of lunching in Carcross but the whole place was covered over by tour busses. We couldn't enjoy it for the crowds. We couldn't even get the ice cream. We headed on to Whitehorse and drove all over trying to decide where to eat for lunch. After we decided, and ate, we figured we had seen the place so we headed back. It was a wonderful suggestion to rent a car in Skagway so I am very thankful for the advice on this board. Even though we had been before, we had not done anything other than the railroad. My parents and sons enjoyed the railroad very much though and I highly recommend it if you've never done it. By Day 6, we were into Glacier Bay. Of course it was really beautiful and we saw a lot of scenery and wildlife. Marjorie Glacier (I think) calved a few times while we were there but it was not the spectacular calving that we have seen before. Still, it was great. That night was our second formal night and I was really looking forward to Baked Alaska all day. It did not disappoint! I believe that night was when I decided to put one of your suggestions into action. There was a thread about pranks while on cruises and I got the idea to get the yellow, police line tape and put it on my parents' door. Although my Dad laughed, my mother, however, was not amused. I was amused so it was all worth it. Our best whale watching was around Icy Strait where we saw many, many whales. At one point, they seemed to be everywhere! I just stood there watching with and without binoculars and didn’t bother with the camera anymore. I was just enjoying the show. There were also porpoise in the water there as well and one pair sailed (no better word for it) right in front of our bow. They were so graceful. We were also looking for bear on the shore and our Captain spotted a brown bear (Grizzly to those of us in the lower 48) right out on a little peninsula. I wished I had the good binoculars that time but I was in Horizon Court chowing down again and only had the cheap ones with me. On the last day, we did Prince William Sound and College Fjord. I thought it was the best day for glacier viewing if that is your passion. I spent most of the day on the balcony since we were going to see both sides while coming and going. Then we crawled to Whittier and docked there around midnight. Now, for my evaluation of the normal things: The service all over the ship was excellent and the crew was friendly and helpful. Yes, the beds were hard and the pillows flat and of course the shower was designed for small children. The closet area is huge for a cruise ship and the balcony only had room for a few chairs and a very small round table. They remembered to “celebrate” my graduate school graduation in the dining room and DH received balloons by the door and cake at dinner for his birthday, which occurred aboard ship. And yes, they sang to us. The purser’s office was helpful, the photography was OK and they did want to take pictures all of the time. The only time I got ticked off was as a result of the photography dept. I have the habit that many cruisers have of gathering our pictures together each day and saving them all in one place until the last day of the cruise so I can then compare them and decide which ones I want to buy. I usually buy a few. This time, I asked a photo shop representative if the pictures I had gathered up would be safe if I put them at the end of the rows at the bottom and she told me that would be fine. The next time I went back the pictures were gone and we found that the staff had gathered up all the old pictures and dumped them into boxes that held several hundred pictures each. We were then expected to go through all those pictures in the boxes in order to try to find ours. This may be happening on other cruises but I’ve never noticed it before. It has certainly never happened to me before. I was a little upset by this procedure. OK, I was thoroughly put out by it and almost “hoppin’ mad”. I did go through them and pull out pictures but I grumbled and complained about it. Maybe it wasn’t my finest hour. I wasn’t really impressed by the singing and dancing shows – they weren’t bad but they weren’t great either. However, a few of the comedians were very funny. There was a good juggler and a good magician as well. We didn’t do any of the other onboard activities since we were too busy looking for wildlife. We even missed the Glacier Bay Barbecue on lido deck but I heard it was good. The Coral is beautiful and very well laid out. We never had to wait long for an elevator and most of the time she did not feel crowded. There were a few times when everyone was either on deck or in the Horizon Court that made it crowded but most of the time people were fairly well spread out. I believe this has a lot to do with the amount of balconies. We did not see or hear of anyone being sick and saw no indication of a Norwalk outbreak. There were hand sanitizer stations but most people did not use them. Overall, a wonderful cruise. After a speedy disembarkation – and early as well – we boarded the train to Anchorage and picked up an RV that we had rented. We then spent 6 days driving around Alaska. It was wonderful. We went down to Seward for a few days then up to Denali. We took the shuttle in Denali to Fish Creek and got to see a Grizzly fairly close along with Caribou, golden eagles, snowshoe hares, a wolf, a hoary marmot, and a Gyr Falcon. We camped in Riley CG inside Denali. It was very nice. My only regret is that we NEVER saw a moose and Mt. McKinley never came “out”. Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
Stats - we are in our early 50's, traveling with friends of the same age. Based on the info from the message boards, DH and I took one Bonine daily and never had a problem with either drowsiness or seasickness. Our friends didn't ... Read More
Stats - we are in our early 50's, traveling with friends of the same age. Based on the info from the message boards, DH and I took one Bonine daily and never had a problem with either drowsiness or seasickness. Our friends didn't take anything, but had no problems either. It was smooth sailing with warmer days transitioning to cooler, rainier days as we moved north. But as everyone told us, even a rainy day is wonderful on a cruise. The Trip: We flew to Vancouver the day ahead and stayed in the Sutton Place. The hotel itself and rooms were lovely, bathrooms just fabulous and staff very attentive. Friends had their room changed because they were two doors down from the elevators, which were very noisy. Boarded in Vancouver July 16, 2007. Arrived at 11 AM, and checked in without any lines. Waited briefly in seating area (an opportunity to review the Destination Alaska brochures), and then around 11:30-ish boarded and found our cabins (C406 and C408). Cabin: Had midship port-side Caribe balcony cabin and our steward, Rodrigo, had already opened the balcony between our and our friends' cabin. TA had re-sent egg-crate request for both our cabins about 2 weeks prior to sailing, but apparently only our friends' request had been noted. We gave Rodrigo a sticky requesting the egg-crate for our cabin, robes, extra pillows, wine and champagne flutes, and everything was available when needed (the egg-crate by evening, wine-glasses by sailaway with the champagne nicely chilled by then). Note: we remembered the corkscrew but forgot bottle-stoppers. It's ok for regular wine where you can reuse the cork or use the BC screw-top wine (the Mission Hills was yummy), but we were "forced" to drink all the champagne since we couldn't "cap" the bottle... ahhhh such sacrifice! The lager balcony was spacious and worked out very well. Although they are partially covered by the deck immediately above, they are 100% covered by a deck much higher up. If the rain is coming in at an angle from the sea side you will get wet, but we stayed dry during most of the rains, even when we were by the railing. We were extremely satisfied with the regular balcony cabins and spent a great deal of time outside (fleece jackets and thin gloves or glove liners worked perfectly well for us when we were far north). The balcony provided us with the entertaining room we needed most of the time but on the occasions before dinner when it might be colder or too soggy for our glass of pre-dinner wine, we just used the two cabin chairs plus bed-side for sitting. We slept with the curtains open, and it never gets completely black at night. It was remarkable to open our eyes at midnight, 1, 2 or 3 AM, and see mountains drifting by as we moved through the channels. We often went to the Horizon Court at 4 AM to grab coffee and a roll, and just watch the landscape go by. Hey, you can always nap later. Bathroom: Although the regular balcony rooms don't have the larger bathrooms, we found the configuration well-designed and although the shower WAS small (DH used most of the towels to mop the floor his first try) the water pressure was great and the shower-head was high enough to avoid the "bent-knee/arched back crouch" that taller people often adopt for the lower shower heads... this was a nice surprise. The closet and floor-to-ceiling cabinet provided a spacious area for clothing with LOTS of hangers, and allowed us to keep the cabin relatively picked-up and clutter-free. Empty suitcases fit under the beds. Great mirror for those "exiting the cabin" clothing checks. Bed: Although there were one or two flat pillows, we had more than enough fluffy ones in the piles on the bed to choose from for sleeping, and they made great nesting and support when we wanted so sit and read inside. The egg-crate may have had more of a placebo effect, but we found the bed comfortable and the mattresses fit together snugly without any indication we were sleeping on two separate beds. We actually found the bed at the Sutton Place (which was a 5 star hotel) much harder and more uncomfortable. We really could have used the egg-crate there! Ship: What can we say that hasn't been said already? The Coral is a lovely ship and a perfect size, making for a spacious but intimate sailing experience. DH and I went to the Wheelhouse bar and were impressed with the comfort and character of the place, not to mention the very reasonable prices and large selection for single-malt scotch. Dining: We didn't use the specialty dining since we never ran out of options at dinner (Traditional, 2nd seating). We had breakfast and lunch in the dining room as well, but snacked in the Horizon Court. Service, of course, was perfect. Our friend loves lamb and our head waiter arranged for her to get "sides" of lamb with other meals as well. One miscommunication was when they asked her how many she would like the next night and she signaled "3", they brought her 3 dinners with 3 chops apiece rather than JUST 3 chops so we all ate extra lamb that night! Our best purchase was the thermo mug and coffee card. DH and I shared one card and normally had unlimited cups of brewed coffee, splurging on cappuccinos for dinner or glacier-days. Towns: Ketchikan: No excursions here - we just wandered around the town, walked up the Married Man trail to the top of the tram for the views, and got some great shots of the Sea Star (from the "Deadliest Catch" series on the Discovery Channel). Salmon were running which was fun to see off Creek Street, and we spotted a number of bald eagles. There is a fun local book store on Creek Street with unusual (playful) gifts, tee shirts, etc. We bought ulus made in the Anchorage factory at the Tongass Trading Post adjacent to the docks as gifts, but will keep one for us. The sun came out and gave us a beautiful day. Juneau: Not surprisingly, this was the most modern and populated port. We had booked the 11:30 whale-watching tour with Captain Larry at Orca, which was terrific! The shuttle ride was fun, and gave us a brief glimpse of the Mendenhall Glacier as we headed for the docks. I spent most of the tour outside on the back deck, which provided great panoramic views and more glacier shots as well. Captain Larry certainly knows the waters, and found humpbacks feeding using a "bubble-net" technique where a male dives and makes a circle of bubbles which encloses and drives the food-source up… then you see the group of whales explode up out of the water with mouths wide open scooping up chow. Extraordinary! By the time we left, other boats had also come up to view this remarkable activity. This was my highlight of the trip! Skagway: My favorite town, and we were the only large cruise ship in port that day so there were very few crowds. It was a drizzly day, which just enhanced your ability to put yourself back in time in this small community with less than 1000 residents. The streets were wide with little traffic. Sidewalks were the more traditional “board” walks, lined by the old buildings. The town has preserved its historic feel, with walking tours, historic markers and buildings. It also has clean and well-marked toilets available throughout the town (hey, that’s important!). After passing the ever-present tee shirt and Diamonds International shops, there were many locally owned and Alaska-made stores, and we bought our “for us” souvenirs here. The Skagway Brewing Company down the street on Broadway has nice locally brewed beers and a friendly staff which makes it a good place to stop take a break. DH and his buddy took Princess’ Helicopter tour of the glacier (noon tour) and had remarkable time even with the wet, and his pictures were amazing. While airborne, they were treated to the sight a large brown bear racing across the ice, so all in all this was DH’s highlight of the trip! Wildlife and glacier viewing: This was a northward sailing and we LOVED the port-side cabin. Much of the sailing is through channels where you get land on both sides, and we often caught first views of the glaciers, although the captain spins the ship at the major glacier sites and because you sail up a channel you turn around to sail back so there is no problem in getting a good view from either port or starboard side. From our balcony we spotted dozens of dolphins playing directly by the ship on our first at-sea day, which was thrilling! Also spotted humpback whale blows/backs/tails, and farther north saw Orcas, which are really something when they’re racing just below the water and you can see those beautiful markings. The sea otters in College Fjord were the icing on the cake for us. Tip: some of the deckchairs on the 7th floor Promenade, starboard side located under lifeboat 7 can get a slight warm downdraft and are a good place to sit for viewing at anytime. You will still want your jackets and gloves in the northern locations, but it certainly takes the edge off the chill. The only negative is that it is close to the ashtrays for smokers, but we sat on the end farthest from the ashtray and smokers were usually considerate and moved along fairly quickly so it wasn’t too bad. Bottom line, the trip was splendid and we thoroughly enjoyed each minute. Our concern is that we’re spoiled now, and fear that larger ships will feel too crowded. We’re still feeling that residual “the floor is rocking on dry land” feeling even after 24 hours off the ship, which just makes us want to book something again soon. Read Less
Sail Date July 2007
We flew into Vancouver a day early and were very glad that we did. We had Princess book our flights and that worked out great for us. As soon as we got through Customs, Princess was waiting for us. They took our bags from us and got us a ... Read More
We flew into Vancouver a day early and were very glad that we did. We had Princess book our flights and that worked out great for us. As soon as we got through Customs, Princess was waiting for us. They took our bags from us and got us a cab right away. They loaded everything and we were off to the Sutton Place. Sutton Place was very pretty. The employees were very helpful to us. They had good recommendations for dinner and gave us a good list of places to see. We ate at Milestones and the food was wonderful. The wait staff was excellent. We then walked around Vancouver and found Canada Place. We did some shopping and some window shopping. The next day we got up and met with the Princess reps. We asked if it was ok for us to walk to the Canada Place because we wanted to do some site seeing near Canada Place, even though we had paid for the transfer. They said that was fine and they would still take our luggage. We got to Canada Place around 1130 and only had to wait a few minutes to board the Coral. Once on board, the trip just got better. The Coral is a beautiful ship!! We went right to our room, but it was not ready yet so we decided to explore the ship and eat lunch. Bandit was our waiter and he was excellent!! He was very friendly and polite. Always smiling and willing to answer all of our questions. After lunch in the Horizon Court, which was not bad and the desserts were excellent, we went on exploring the ship. Every Princess employee that we encountered during the entire week, was very courteous, polite, helpful and they always had a smile for us. We then went up to Lido Deck and enjoyed sailaway!! The first full day at sea, Tuesday, was a little choppy. According to what was on Coral TV the waves were about 4 feet. It was not too bad. On this day we ate breakfast in the dining room and that was very nice. We sat with other people and it was nice to meet others around us. My husband and I renewed our vows that night and it was also the first formal night. The renewal of the vows was worth the money!! Princess had everything worked out, went over what would happen during the ceremony and asked if we had anything we wanted to add. Once it came time for us, they escorted us into the Chapel and the ceremony began. We bought the cheaper of the two packages and that was more than enough for us!! The pictures turned out great!! We then went to dinner and the food was excellent. We ate in the Bordeaux because we had anytime dining. We would do the anytime dining again. It worked out the best for us. We could eat once we got back on the ship and never had to rush. We had Bandit as our waiter again. He did an excellent job with his recommendations and made sure we were happy. Everyone looked great all dressed up. On Wednesday, we were in Ketchikan. We went on our own for the Sea Star from Discovery's Deadliest Catch. This was an awesome tour! I think we were on the Sea Star for almost 2 hours mostly because we asked questions and they like to talk!! We highly recommend the short walk to the docks and going on the tour. It was the highlight in Ketchikan for us!! The guys were awesome. They were very informative and even gave us recommendations for Ketchikan. We highly recommend this tour. We then went into Juneau and went whale watching with Orca Enterprises. We had such a wonderful time with Capt. Larry and the rest of the crew. We got too see a baby humpback whale come up within 10 feet of the back of the boat!! That was pretty cool. We ended up seeing a good number of whales, usually a mom and her baby. We also saw some sea lions and eagles. We then went shopping in the various stores. The next day was Skagway and we rented a car from Avis and drove to Emerald Lake. What a beautiful drive. We saw a brown bear on our way to the lake. We stopped at many of the pull overs and took a lot of pictures. Emerald Lake was wonderful and well worth the drive. I think round trip it took us 4 1/2 hours. We then went back to Skagway and looked at some of the sights and shopped around. We did eat at the Red Onion Saloon. The pizza was pretty good. Glacier Bay was gorgeous and the naturalist on board was wonderful. We got to see some calving, which was pretty neat. We saw three whales breach, which was amazing and we did not get to see one our whale watching excursion. This was also our second formal night, which was just as nice as the first one. Then we went to College Fjord which was pretty too, even though the weather was not. It was rainy, cold and even foggy. Still worth standing outside for. Overall, we had a wonderful cruise. The food was wonderful. We ate in the Horizon Court, from the grill and Princess Pizza and in the Bordeaux Dining Room. We ordered Room Service, which was also nice. We did the Balcony Breakfast, which was awesome. There was so much food for the two of us, but well worth it. We did not eat outside, as it was too cold, but it was still very nice. (Thank you Julie). We also ordered some of the chocolate covered strawberries, which were delicious. Princess also made us a small cake for our anniversary, which was excellent. Overall, the food was great. The service was spectacular. We have never been treated so wonderful. I guess the only inconvenience we had were the showers were small, but it did not bother us at all. We really were not in them that long and the shower served it's purpose. On a plus side, the shower pressure was great!! The bed was ok, we did not ask for an egg crate and we still slept good. But nothing beats your own bed. That is it for complaints. We were not hassled to buy anything. We did not go to the Lotus Spa or to any of the shows. We enjoyed being outside much more. It rained some everyday, but we just dressed in layers and were fine. The only thing we may take next time are gloves especially in Glacier Bay and College Fjord, my fingers got cold taking pictures (we will get them posted soon). I think we ended up taking over 400!! Thankfully they are digital. We had a great time and highly recommend this cruise and Princess to everyone. Read Less
Sail Date June 2007
Wow! What can we say about this fantastic trip! We arrived a day early and stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel. Thanks to our travel agent and princess cruise, all travel arrangements were excellent. When we arrived at Vancouver and cleared ... Read More
Wow! What can we say about this fantastic trip! We arrived a day early and stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel. Thanks to our travel agent and princess cruise, all travel arrangements were excellent. When we arrived at Vancouver and cleared customs, we were met by the princess cruise line agents and they immediately found a cab us. When we arrived at our hotel, we were once again met by agents of princess and they were very helpful in giving us ideas on places to visit and restaurants. The staff a Four Seasons were very courteous and made our stay comfortable. We spent the afternoon doing our own walking tour and enjoyed dinner at Earl's. We would highly recommend Earl's. It was a beautiful day in Vancouver with many families and couples out for the day. We walked to Stanley Park and enjoyed the many shops and beautiful harbor. The next morning we met with the princess reps and decided, after talking with them, that we would spend the day site seeing and walk to our ship. The reps had already completed all of the necessary paperwork and had our blue card available which gave us immediate access to the ship, no waiting in line! What a wonderful way to begin the cruise! We cannot say enough good things about princess cruise lines. Once we were aboard the ship, our room was ready, our luggage was there, and our room steward, Benjamin, was standing by the door! He was at our beck and call, gave us his pager number. Since this was our 44th anniversary, we chose a mini-suite with balcony. This was an excellent decision. We had lots of room, big shower, full size tub, plenty of closet space, couch, chair, desk, and two tv's and comfortable bed. When we return to Alaska again, we definitely will go with a mini-suite. The Coral Princess is a beautiful ship. The service was outstanding, food excellent, and the entertainment fantastic. We chose anytime dining at the Bordeaux and had great service. Chris made sure that the table we had each day no matter if it was for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, was always perfect. We chose to have most of our dining in the Bordeaux, but we also enjoyed the Patisserie, Princess Pizzeria, the Horizon Court, the grill, and Sabatini's Italian Cuisine. We found the Princess Theater and the Universe Lounge to offer outstanding entertainment. We did take time to tour the entire ship and I can truthfully say that we did not miss one thing. We enjoyed all three ports very much, in Ketchikan we spent the day on our own, visited Saxman Native Village, saw eagles, visited Creek Street shops, and enjoyed the beautiful, quaint town. At Juneau we took the Best of Juneau Tour. It was excellent with whale watching, Mendenhall Glacier, and Salmon Bake, and the Red Dog Saloon. We did see numerous whales and sea lions and had beautiful, fantastic weather. In Skagway, we took the Best of Skagway, which included White Pass Railroad, Liarsville panning for gold, Red Onion Saloon and enjoyed another Salmon Bake. We took all tours through Princess and they were first class all the way--great transportation, fantastic tour guides, tour group was small, which made it possible for great siteseeing and being able to talk with the tour guide--well worth the money. The weather was beautiful, sunny most of the time with a little rain in Juneau. I guess by this time you realize that we had the trip of our dreams, and we are looking forward to sailing with Princess again. We have sailed with NCL and RCL. This was by far the best. *Forgot to say we saw a brown bear in Glacier Bay--our Captain loves bears and he was always on the look-out for wildlife. He did everything possible to make our trip enjoyable. He did succeed. Read Less
Sail Date June 2007
Intro First, a little background info. My wife and I have sailed on Celebrity, HAL, RCCL, NCL, and Carnival. This would be my ninth cruise and my wife's eighth and our first on Princess. The Coral did not disappoint. Alaska was pretty ... Read More
Intro First, a little background info. My wife and I have sailed on Celebrity, HAL, RCCL, NCL, and Carnival. This would be my ninth cruise and my wife's eighth and our first on Princess. The Coral did not disappoint. Alaska was pretty spectacular, too. Overall, we would rate Princess tied for second with RCCL and HAL. Princess fans do not take this the wrong way. It was a great cruise. I would not hesitate to sail Princess again. We really had a great time. Here is the review of our June 11-18, 2007 cruise of Alaska aboard the Coral Princess: Flight to: We had a direct flight from Cincinnati to Anchorage. Since 9/11, flying has become a monumental hassle. Going through security, the TSA inspected our bags for liquids. The TSA found that the liquids were not in a quart size bag and proceeded to 'shop' through our stuff and took out one tube of toothpaste (we had three), shaving cream, eye drops, and a stick of deodorant. The guy was nice enough. He let us keep 90% of the stuff we had. We had nice talk about Alaska since he just got back a couple weeks prior but what he took and what he let us take made no sense. Anyway, the flight was on time which is a blessing in this day and age. We packed really light and had only carry-on bags which made getting out of the airport and into a taxi very easy and quick. Anchorage We checked into the Extended Stay Deluxe on 8th street. We stayed here for two nights and, thanks to CC, got it for $36/nt! We thought, for sure, it would be a fleabag but it was really quite nice. The service was great. The room had a kitchenette and was clean and comfortable. The first night we got a pizza, ate half, and put the rest in the fridge for dinner the next night. We went to bed and got up at 3am and took a walking tour of downtown Anchorage. Believe it or not, there were quite a few people out walking around at that time of day. We walked the coastal trail and then headed back for a delicious continental breakfast at 530am. The Extended Stay had those make-it-yourself waffle makers of which we took full advantage. Yummy! At 640am, we met Talkeetna Aero at Merrell Field for our flight to Denali. The Extended Stay has a shuttle but did not have a driver so they paid for the taxi over to Merrell Field. What service! Talkeetna Aero Talkeetna Aero Taxi arrived at Merrell Field where four others, my wife and I met them for our flight to Denali. At 7am, on a crystal clear Sunday morning(June 10), we took off. Denali, the mountain, was out in all her glory. Even the pilots were impressed with the visibility. We felt very fortunate, indeed. We landed in Talkeetna where we changed pilots and took off for Denali NP. On the way, we got even more great views of the mountain and tons of photographs. On the shuttle from the airport to the NP, we were given our tickets for bus tour to Fish Creek. After our tour of the NP, Talkeetna Aero picked us up and we were flown over the summit of The Great One. It was absolutely spectacular. Words can not do it justice so I won't even try but it is must-do experience. I will say that Denali, the mountain, tends to be on the shy side but on this day she was feeling pretty good, obviously. Denali NP We took the 8-hour trip (4 hours one way) to Fish Creek. Again, the day was stunning in its beauty. However, according to our bus driver, the animals prefer to stay hidden on sunny days. Elton, our driver, was supremely excellent, informative, and funny. We saw a willow ptarmigan (state bird of Alaska), ravens, caribou, sheep, snowshoe hares. On our return, our bus would not start at the final rest stop so we had to jump onto another bus. Fortunately, it was on this bus that we saw the wildlife highlight of the day...a wolf walking down the road with the head of a moose calf in his jaws. Either he scavenged off a grizzly kill or his pack took it down. I bet mama moose was not too happy. Unfortunately, I missed the shot. This trip gave me a new appreciation for wildlife photographers. We got back to Anchorage around 830pm. We warmed up the pizza and went to bed. Whittier After a delicious waffle breakfast, we checked out of the Extended Stay and were picked up by the Alaskan Leopard Comedy Tour bus. Digging around their website, I found that we could buy just a transfer from Anchorage to Whittier for $26/pp. It was a great deal. The driver picked us up at 7am, filled up with gas and headed for Whittier. We were the only passengers on the bus so we had a great conversation with the driver. The driver was the brother of the owner, Trapper Tom, and is a retired director in the Anchorage Public schools. His wife is a retired Air Force pilot. We had to wait about 10 minutes for the tunnel to open. Once we got through the tunnel and parked, we walked over to Alaska Sea Kayak where we had reservations for a three- hour kayak tour of Prince William Sound. Tammy was our own private guide since we had booked independently. There was another tour that was taking this excursion but it was ship sponsored. It was a good sized crowd with two guides. We checked out a few inlets, coves, waterfalls and kittiwake rookery where thousands of these black footed seagulls hatch their young. Up to this point, it had been an incredible vacation and we hadn't even gotten on the ship yet. We finished our kayaking trip around 130pm. We grabbed our bags and walked over to the ship. Embarkation Simply the best embarkation we ever experienced. I think it helped we were the only two getting on the ship when we walked into port facility. It was great. We were on the ship in less that 10 minutes. Princess crew were stationed on each floor and in the elevator to assist passengers in finding their cabin. We met our room steward, Twatchna, who was consistently excellent throughout our cruise. He was a very sweet man who introduced us to our cabin. He did a great job. Cabin We were in C304, a port side balcony. Compared to the cabin we had on the Celebrity Century in April, this room was palatial. We liked the light colors and mirrors that really made it seem roomy. It had plenty of storage space, too. We liked how the closets were open with REGULAR hangars. A true luxury. The safe uses a four digit code rather than a magnetized key card which we liked. I know a lot of people dislike the beds but I found them quite comfortable. Our two beds were pushed together so seamlessly, I thought they were a double bed. Our only complaint about the cabin was the size of the shower and shower curtain. The shower was the smallest we have encountered and I don't know how anyone with any size could feel comfortable in it. My wife and I are both average size and we thought it was small. Second, it is so small and the shower curtain so inadequate that it was impossible not to get water on the floor. Another complaint was the balcony glass was so dirty, it was difficult to see through. We washed it which improved the visibility a bunch. The chairs were very comfortable. They were so comfortable that we brought them inside to sit on while we looked out. Ship We loved the ship. However, for whatever reason, I never got my bearings. I was constantly going the wrong way. On some parts of the ship, it was difficult to get from one end to the other. Food The food was ok. It has been said on these boards numerous times that food is subjective so take this for what its worth. We ate in the Horizon Court every morning for breakfast. We got up around 430am every day. One thing we liked about Princess is that they started the continental breakfast portion at 4am. We stuck with the cereal, fruit and pastries which were quite good. On a couple of occasions, we needed a second breakfast which consisted of French toast or oatmeal which were fine tasting. The traffic flow of the Horizon Court is terrible. Do you stand in line or can you go from station to station? It was the worst set up on any ship we have sailed. The lunches in the Horizon Court could be great to not so great. The sushi was phenomenal. The desserts were very yummy, too. Thank the lord for the pizza station because on some days that is all that was available. In the Bordeaux Room, it was also hit and miss. The bread, appetizers, and cold soups were good. The yogurt-based cold soup was the best we ever tasted. The ice cream and coffee were excellent, as well. The prime rib was good, too. The steak was like shoe leather, however. In fact, I have tasted shoe leather that was better than the steak they served. Just about everything on the German night menu was awful. Food Service We ate in the dining room three nights and the Horizon Court the rest of the cruise. We did this for a couple of reasons. One, we thought the service in the Bordeaux Room was terrible. Again, this is one couples opinion but the service left us cold. We felt the dining room staff had an attitude problem which was reflected in their behavior toward the guests. With the exception of Lourdes and her assistant, the service in the dining was, at best, condescending. In the Horizon Court, some of the workers seemed like they would rather have teeth pulled than look one more passenger. In my experience, attitude tends to start from the top. I bet that behind the scenes, the supervisors are the ones with an attitude problem. Entertainment Cruise ship level talent. In other words, not very good. The comedian was telling McDonalds coffee jokes and everybody on Holland America is old. Hilarious. Fortunately, we found plenty of entertainment watching for wildlife. That is what Alaska is all about, anyway. Ports Overall, the weather was absolutely fantastic. It really made for a great cruise. College Fjord - an rainy, foggy, dreary day. The only bad weather day we had. Could not see a whole lot. The only disappointment on the cruise. Glacier Bay - this day was as good as College Fjord was bad. If you are reading this and haven't sailed yet, take this advice. Don't wait until your in Glacier Bay to get outside to look for wildlife. Get out early. The most action we had was in Icy Strait as we were entering the National Park. Whales, eagles, seals, otters. It was beautiful, too. Skagway We got off the boat about 545am and hiked up to the Lower Dewey Lake trail. The initial 500ft elevation rise was the hardest part of the hike. The path is well marked and the west side is well maintained. The only wildlife we saw was a huge porcupine. We came around a corner and it was sipping some water from the lake. We had never seen a porcupine in the wild. It didn't look anything like we had imagined. It was huge and did not move all that fast. Of course, when you have quills a foot long, speed isn't necessary. We were the most surprised by the size of this rascal. Barbara Bennett, the naturalist onboard, said that she might have been pregnant. While it meandered away, it looked over its shoulder then tried to climb a tree. It had a heckuva time. If you want to hike this trail, take this advice: Don't hike the east side of the lake. It's not that maintained, it's not very scenic, and it's not very fun. Stop at the bridge and turn around and come back the way you came. It will be the same distance (3.6 miles) and you will get the same perspective. We got back to town around ten minutes after 8am. We had reserved a car at Avis. When we got there, I found that I didn't have my driver's license so we had to take a not-fun walk back to the ship to get my wife's license. We got on the road about 930am. I would highly recommend renting a car. For $76 plus $20 for gas, we were able to drive to Emerald Lake and back. For Alaska, that is a cheap day and it's incredibly scenic. I have more great photos from this stretch than any other does. We followed Murray's guide the entire way. We stopped at Carcross and had a fish sandwich and fries (total for one sandwich, fries, drink $11)at the gas station before finishing the final leg to Emerald Lake. On the way back, we stopped at the museum ($7.95pp) and checked our the displays and the sled dogs. We had a great conversation with this woman who works with the dogs. She was originally from LA but moved up north about 30 years ago. She lived 20 years without electricity. Now she teaches art and works with the sled dogs. A very cool woman who chose an alternative lifestyle and has never regretted it. My hero. After filling up, we returned the car, checked out a few touristy shop. The town had some decent art, I have to say. We boarded the ship, ate dinner, played ping-pong, swam in the lotus pool and soaked in the Jacuzzi. It was heavenly. Juneau This is a port that we could have used a few more hours. We got off the ship 615am and walked around the city, taking in all the history and seeing the sights. Around 8am, we checked in with Captain Larry and Orca Enterprise. Captain Larry gets all the accolades, which is well-deserved, but his staff that works behind the scenes deserve a lot of credit. From the people working the email and phones, to the front desk, to the drivers, they run a tight ship. For my wife, this was the first time with Captain Larry. For me, the second. The first time, my sister and I had the most amazing time. We had a whale lunge feed about 10 feet from the boat. It was spectacular. I really did not think Captain Larry could top that first trip especially when Captain Sean, who was riding along on this trip, said that on sunny days, the food the whales eat go deeper so we might not see any animals. Juneau was warm and sunny. Fortunately, Captain Larry knows things mere mortals do not. We got out of Auke Bay and on the other side of Admiralty Island and caught up with a pod of orcas who seemed to delight in having their picture taken. Then Captain Larry caught up to a mother humpback with baby. The baby was flapping his tail in the water while mama rolled on her back exposing her huge fins. It was great. On the way back in, we found some stellar sea lions hanging out. Overall, a great whale watching expedition. Afterwards, Orca Enterprises dropped us off at Mendenhall Glacier. We could catch a ride back with them in an hour or take a shuttle. My wife and I thought we would probably need more time so we figured on taking the shuttle. Unfortunately, the shuttle never arrived. We checked out the visitor center and hiked out to the waterfall and checked out a couple of other trails on the beautiful day we had thinking we would have plenty of time to get back. We had to beg Donna, a bus driver for Princess, to let us on her bus so we could get back. She was super laid back and said it was not a problem. Thank God. We tipped her and got back but just in time. Ketchikan Another beautiful day. It was so warm coming into port, that it was too hot to sit directly in the sun. I actually moved into the shade of the balcony wall for comfort. Once docked, we grabbed a map and took the walking tour. Halfway through the walk, I took the pant legs off and went with just shorts. The last time I was in Ketchikan, it was warm and sunny...this is in one of the rainiest cities in the US. Amazing. Anyway, we got back on board about noon, had lunch and then got back off and met up with Island Wings at the rain gauge. Shona was early but so was everybody with reservation so we all piled in the van and set off for the plane. Misty Fjords was really Sunny Fjords on this day. We had reserved a flight and hike with another couple but they had to cancel so it was just the guide, Terry, my wife and I. Michelle landed on this glacial lake, we all got out, took some photos. Michelle and the rest left while we went for a hike. This was another place that is so beautiful it defies description. The highlight was spotting a black bear about 20 feet from where we were standing. It was just an incredible creature. The sun sparkling off his coat. We were near a waterfall so he couldn't hear us. He started heading our way so we had to yell at him. Obviously, he spoke English because he turned around on the log he was walking on and scampered off in to the woods after stopping and looking over his shoulder at us. It was quite exciting to see this huge beast move so gracefully and stealthily through the forest. A couple of hours later, Michelle picked us up and we returned to Ketchikan. We walked onto the ship at 530pm. The ship left port at 548pm. That was cutting it a little close but it was worth it. Debarkation and Vancouver Since we packed so light, we chose to do express debarkation where you carry off all your baggage. It was as easy as embarkation. The express passengers leave out a different gangway than the passengers with tickets which caused some confusion. Anyway, we walked off, breezed through customs and left the Coral Princess behind; a great ship and a great cruise. We lucked into a great Hotwire deal for the Pan Pacific which is the hotel attached to Canada Place cruise ship terminal. We got to stay at this five star property for $119/nt. On this vacation, Hotwire really saved us some money. We walked out of the cruise ship terminal, found the elevators, took the elevator up to the lobby, and checked in. The time it took to debark and check in was no more than 15 minutes. Time: approx 750am. The price of the hotel was even better because we didn't have to pay for a taxi. No rooms were ready which we had anticipated so we dropped our bags, grabbed a map from the concierge, hit the ATM for some Canadian funds and went for a walk. We walked a couple of blocks over to Gastown. A homeless guy offered to take our picture by the steamclock. At the time, we didn't know he was homeless. After he took the photo, he asked for few bucks. Joseph, the homeless dude, was obviously well educated. He also gave us great directions for a walking tour making sure we avoided the bad parts of town. For five bucks, we got our picture taken and advice. I told him not to drink it. He said he wasn't going to, he was going to smoke it! At least he was honest. His walking tour was great, I must say. After Gastown, we went over to Chinatown and checked out the public garden. Absolutely beautiful. We went back to Gastown and took a picture of Gassy Jack. We wanted to go up to the observation deck but it was not worth $19 bucks. Instead we walked over to the Vancouver Art Gallery and lucked into a GREAT exhibit ($19.95/pp). The exhibit is called From Monet to Dali. A truly comprehensive art history from impressionism to surrealism. Truly awesome. Rent the audio guides, it is worth the five bucks. We grabbed lunch at a deli and then headed down to the seawall and followed it over to Stanley Park. We rented bikes and rode all over the park for three hours. Part of the seawall is closed due to a terrible storm last fall. We detoured through the park. The size of the trees are amazing. Since it is a temperate rainforest, there is moss and lichen all over. It looks like something out of Lord of the Rings. That same storm toppled some monstrous cedar trees that are hundreds of years old. It really is a special place. We rode the bikes over to the Burrard Bridge. Joseph, our homeless travel guide, told us we could ride the bikes to Granville Island since it really isn't an island. We didn't have time so we turned back at the bridge. After dropping off the bikes (two bikes for 3 hours = $28), we strolled up Robson street, window shopped and had some delicious fruiti de bosco gelato. Yummmmy! We got back to the hotel about 430pm and checked into our city view room. The room was huge, especially compared to our cruise cabin. After marveling at the room, we checked out the rest of the hotel and watched the Coral Princess leave the port. Later, we crossed the road and had dinner at the food court and had a gourmet McDonald's hamburger. We walked off dinner by taking one last look around Gastown. We had a 6am flight so we had to get up 3am. Taxi's were waiting when we came out of the hotel. We got to the airport, through US customs and security by 5am. The plane was on time. For the first time in a long time, we had on-time flights for our outbound and inbound flights. Amazing! Conclusion This was one of our best vacations ever. The flights, embarkation, excursions all went off without a hitch. Was it perfect? No, but it was pretty close. We would definitely sail Princess again. We would also like to visit Alaska when the salmon are running and the bears are feasting. Someday. Read Less
Sail Date June 2007
It's almost 11pm in Florida, and I'm still on Alaska time from our wonderful cruise on the Coral. We arrive in Anchorage for our 5/28 departure a few days early. Rented a car and headed for the Mt. McKinley Princess. Set up like ... Read More
It's almost 11pm in Florida, and I'm still on Alaska time from our wonderful cruise on the Coral. We arrive in Anchorage for our 5/28 departure a few days early. Rented a car and headed for the Mt. McKinley Princess. Set up like a college campus it was a beautiful relaxing stop. We took the Three River Jet Boat excursion through Princess. The owner was our guide. He had been in Alaska homesteading since the mid 70's. Since he had trapped and lived "off the grid" for years, his insight into the history and culture of Alaska was fascinating. On Monday we packed up the rental and headed for the Anchorage airport for our shuttle to Whittier. We purchased the Princess transfer and I have no regrets since they handled all our luggage, and it was easy and painless. OK I over packed. The tunnel to Whittier was interesting, since the last time I was through it, you had to load on the a flat bed railroad car. Times have changed. embarkation took a total of 15 minutes, dock to room. He did all the paperwork ahead of time. It was a breeze. Cabin Our room was on the Dolphin Deck Forward Port D210. We were the third balcony from the front of the ship. Spending the extra money for a balcony was well worth it. My Fabreware coffee pot and insulated mugs made the time we spend on the balcony cozy, with a warm cup of cocoa, tea or coffee. Our room steward was helpful but forgetful. We requested our beds in the twin formation with egg crate mattress pad. Of course they were made as a queen without egg crate pad. The layout was corrected but I gave up on the pad, after asking for it twice. No robes, although they were asked for also. Time for my biggest criticism......ready........the pillows were TERRIBLE...flat as pancakes, hard as rocks. I asked for another pillow, it was just as bad. This is my only criticism about the boat. Food How many ways can you say YUM, YUM, YUM. We did anytime dining, found a waiter we really liked and asked for him each night. We waited once for about 10 minutes, that was it. Lobster, King crab, steak, prime rib.......I could eat like this anytime. We did the dining room each night, and alternated the buffet, room service, pizza, special buffets on deck, and the grill for breakfast and lunch. Warning....the third day from Glacier Bay to Skagway was quite rough seas (15-18 ft. waves)It is the only time you are in open ocean. Thank you for the bonine suggestion. Never felt a thing. It was a great day to hang out in the hot tub in the Lotus Pool. This seemed to be the steadiest part of the ship. The ship naturalist was very informative during our cruise of College Glaciers. We stayed on our balcony and listed to him over the TV. Once we entered Glacier Bay National Park, ranger came on board. They were really not as good as the naturalist. Seemed more interested in selling things on table in Horizon Court, and finding our where everyone was from. The TV was almost silent the day they were on board. Disappointed in the narrative, not in the view. Saw whales numerous times during the cruise, also sea lions, dolphins and a bear. (off in the distance) Ports of Call I post much more information on these in the Alaska Thread. In Skagway we rented a car from Avis and drove to Emerald Lake. It was spectacular. Got the best picture of the trip there. Should of eaten at the Koolseen Indian Place in Carcross. Held out for the great food at the Spirit Lake Lodge (it was bad, $16 for ham or turkey sandwich, cup of watery soup, pie and can of soda) Eat at Koolseen Indian Coop. In Juneau we did the Taku Lodge and Float Plane trip. It was spectacular and another highlight of the trip. Bears came into the camp as soon as the salmon came off. The gift shop these was tasteful and reasonable in price, They packed everything in bubble wrap. In Ketchikan we did the Midnight Sun Charter. Three of us on the boat caught fish.....no salmon, but it was early in the season, so we settled for halibut, sole and a few varieties I can't remember. On board, we enjoyed the horse racing and bingo. Won nothing but fun. We played a little in the casino, but was disappointed NO live poker only poker pro tables. I guess it saved me some money. We bought one of the formal pictures, and got an album. (2 pictures. 1 album = $40) The comedian was funny, we only attended the early shows. Not bar people so did not spend much time there. My friend smokes and loved the Churchill Smoking Room. Spend a lot of time there with his new smoking buddies. Debarking the ship was easy, very organized. We took the Princess shuttle to Seattle. Some people on the boat were not too good at getting places on time. Princess was very good at holding the ship for these late comers. We left Whittier an hour late, Skagway and Ketchikan we waited for a final few groups to stroll back. Well they did NOT wait when we left. Seven people did not make the Vancouver to Seattle buses. Their luggage did, they did not. Princess did not wait for them to wander on down to the buses. When we arrived in Seattle there was extra luggage on the buses, that was collected by Princess. YEA. This cruise was a 'truly once in a lifetime experience',and the Coral is a great ship. In Skagway there were three other ships, but in Juneau and Ketchikan we were the only ship in that day. Hat's off to the crew of the Coral, you made everything so special...... Read Less
Sail Date May 2007
Coral Princess, April 18 to 28, 2007; Cabin B355, AnyTime Dining. 2nd Princess cruise Overall the trip was great, just short of being perfect.   The five ports of call were all below expectation otherwise it would have been perfect. ... Read More
Coral Princess, April 18 to 28, 2007; Cabin B355, AnyTime Dining. 2nd Princess cruise Overall the trip was great, just short of being perfect.   The five ports of call were all below expectation otherwise it would have been perfect. Since we had been to Cozumel and Grand Cayman previously and after reading up on the good spots on various site on the Internet, we decided to go snorkeling on our own.  In future, we will go back to doing a tour in a protected area.   In Cozumel, we went to Chankanaab Park which was very nice but the hurricane of a few years ago ruined the water system for their lagoon which would have been ideal for snorkeling (peaceful and a lot of captive fish).  There is a huge beautiful sandy beach with cabanas and chairs, a snorkel and scuba rental shop and lockers and a restaurant but the entry into the water (except for the kiddie area) is a concrete breakwater with concrete and rock steps into the water and a metal hand railings. We had 4-5 foot waves pushing us into the rock where we tried to snorkel.  Cathy was flipped completely over once while getting in. I am not that good a swimmer even with the inflatable vest so I only ventured in once.  On her second time, Cathy did see a lot of fish when two scuba divers went by feeding the fish. In Grand Cayman we walked to some of the snorkeling areas close to downtown after turning left off of the tenders, but the beaches were not very sandy.  We found a public beach, just after the gas station on the east (land) side of the road and a cemetery on the west (ocean) side that had a sign on the road and a narrow pathway to it, which was nice and sandy. This was NOT Seven Mile Beach. As we swam, we saw one sea urchin then about 100. I stepped on a couple of sea urchins, painful for a minute but no poison.  I had seen them but I stopped swimming and stood up in 4 feet of water. There were no warning signs on the beach. So we cut short our visit to get back to the boat to have Cathy extract the spikes (which is hard to do since they break up). We never did get to see any of the reefs or other good areas mentioned on the websites.   We arrived at the entrance to the Panama Canal around 6 am. I stayed mainly on Baja deck, at the viewing area at the front or the rear. You couldn't see the side walls from the front but you could a little from the back. Also, the Sun Princess was in the locks beside us, but one lock behind, so you were able to see how close they were to the walls. And there was a freighter two locks behind us in our locks so we could watch the tug boat line it up properly. Beware when on the front of Baja deck. I think someone squeegeed the water from the Lido deck, two above, and this huge torrent of water came down upon us without any warning. At these two vantage points, I never really got the sense of awe at being moved up 26 feet.   We tendered off of the Coral to the former Gatun Yacht Club (a very short hop) and then drove 90 miles to Gamboa. It was like driving from 8 oclock to 6 oclock on a clock. We went east, then north (I think close to Colon) then west (on the road to Panama City) then south and then east again. The Panama Canal boat ride (Ocean to Ocean) was ok but the ever present diesel fumes for three hours were unpleasant.  We had to wait in Gamboa for about 20 minutes before getting onto the Fantasy of the Sea (it held 300 people, we had about 200, 5 buses) and it was air conditioned for 1/2 of the second level.  The top deck (the 3rd) was 1/2 covered. Most of the bottom deck was closed in and there were washrooms at the front and rear. Apparently there are four or five different boats. We were very disappointed in not being able to get any information about the boat from Princess before we left. Considering the potential heat, we wanted assurances that it was covered and air conditioned and had washrooms. It rained just a little so the temperature was closer to 80 than 90 which was good but it was humid. There wasn't a lot to see since even in the Gaillard Cut, the banks are cut back so much (due to the mud slides).  We passed through the first lock (Pedro Miguel) with three sailboats (tied together), a catamaran and a yacht.  Then at Miraflores, 2 other boats our size joined us and the diesel smell was really bad.  We continued on under the huge Millennium Bridge and then the Bridge of the Americas, into the Pacific and the breakwater area. We went as far into the Pacific as possible. We had a very good view of the skyline of the city of Panama. Then we had a 90 minute bus ride back to Colon/Cristobel, which had a dock with a large building, housing some permanent shops at the front and a flea market at the rear.  The bus rides were good so as to see the country side and how the people live. Unfortunately, the amount of garbage in the countryside and small towns (just thrown anywhere) during the bus ride back was terrible to see.   The rainforest in Costa Rica was good (huge green ferns and plants) but the tram went into the forest for 1 km at 10 feet above ground and then came back the same path at 50 feet above ground, so you saw the same things again.   Although the lush green was wonderful, we would have liked to have seen some other colors.  There had been no significant rainfall in 22 days, so some things were starting to wilt.  We then did a 40 minute walk through the jungle on a concrete walkway.  Lunch was a good buffet in a covered open-air restaurant behind the air-conditioned gift shop. On the return bus trip, the driver detoured to a park in the city (Limon) and we looked out of the bus at some howler monkeys.  This was great!!! Luckily we then went through the city of Limon to get to the boat, so we saw the city. It was oppressively hot on the dock at 5 pm but the bus and the rainforest were cool. I thought the souvenirs for sale at the dock were interesting.   Ocho Rios was good in the morning (Coyaba Gardens and Annandale House - they even gave us a light lunch, which was not on the tour details) but the tour made us stop at three shopping areas in the heat so that took its toll on us.  We got back at 2:30 instead of 1:30.  The excursion note says shopping at the end of the tour.  All of the souvenirs were the same.  The back roads near Ocho Rios were quite bumpy so it was quite a ride and then up to Murphy Hill was unpaved and quite rutty. I enjoyed the bus ride through the small villages and Fern Gully. I was at the very back of the small bus so I had the whole back window to use to take pictures. Luckily, for the whole trip, the temperature was around the mid 80's (rather than mid 90's), so no heat exhaustion, other than in Ocho Rios and the few minutes on the dock at Limon CR.   The Coral Princess is a wonderful boat and the 4 sea days were great.  We were on the Grand Princess in 2001 on a 7 day cruise, with only 2 sea days. The extra 2 sea days are great. The formal nights were the first sea day (Thursday) and the third sea day (Wed). The Grand Princess is 12 feet wider at 118 feet and 13 feet shorter and 2 decks taller and did roughly the same cruise (without Costa Rica and Panama) but on the Coral, we felt more rocking. The reported sea conditions were usually fairly calm at 1.5 to 4.5 feet. We also felt more vibration, even in the dining room at the front of the ship - the engines are in the rear, but maybe the desalination plant is in the front. When embarking, we got to the Port at 11:15 and got through the security check in 2 minutes; by 11:30 there was a bit of a lineup at the security check. At 11:30, they started calling the groups (1 for elite, 2 for platinum, 3 for gold) and with so few people in the waiting room, we were at the check-in area by 11:40 and in our room before 12:00. We had been introduced to a lot of fellow travelers on Cruise Critic so we met after embarkment at 3 pm in Crooners. This was a great way to meet a great bunch of people and to connect with a few fellow Canadians. Disembarkment was a little behind schedule due to customs but we were off the boat at 9:10 rather than 8:40 as per the schedule given to us the night before and there was a separate lineup for non-Americans which was very short so we went through fairly quickly.  All of the customs work was on shore whereas on previous cruises it was done on the boat.  We had possession of our passports for the whole cruise and we were able to keep our Princess ID cards as souvenirs. If you had a flight before noon, I think that your departure time was around 8:00. The cab to Miami airport was $74.50 on the meter.   We didn't buy it, but the soda card was $40 plus 15% gratuity for the 10 days.  At Cozumel, we talked to people from the RC Rhapsody of the Seas and their card was $48 for 7 days.  We went to a Publix the night before we left and bought bottled water and ginger ale.  I was shocked when I had to pay $1.50 per glass for tomato juice in the Bordeaux dining room.    The airport security won't let you bring anything more than 3.4 oz or 100 ML of ANY liquid.  They took away a 5 oz bottle of water from the lady in front of us and all three of our .5L water bottle in our carry-on luggage.   On the 4 sea days, as a rookie, I took bridge lessons from 10 to 11:30 am and played from 2-4 pm. They have two categories, duplicate and social but both groups can earn points and they give out 12 prizes after the 4th sea day. I won a reversible Princess tote bag (retailing for $20). If you are a rookie like me and want to play Texas Hold'em, try the first night, when the blinds are only $2 and $4. I played the second night when they were $3 and $6. There is only one table, on the other side of the Casino bar, in the hallway leading to the photo shop, and it doesn't start until 8 pm. I heard a crewmember say that they would be adding more and/or moving the table in the future, since it is so popular. There are penny, nickel, dime, quarter and dollar slot machines. Cathy paid $105 for the Thermal Spa (no massages, a dry and wet sauna, a steam room, a eucalyptus room and one with heated tile chairs and large showers). It was a great way for her to relax and to use a full size shower. Cathy enjoyed the Lotus pool, quiet and relaxing; the roof was covered the whole cruise. As with our previous cruise on the Grand Princess, the swim-against-the-current machine was not working. The Lido pool was quite active, both in terms on the number of people and the special activities.   We watched Dream Girls in the theatre and The Devil Wears Prada on the TV in our room - other movies were Casino Royal, Little Miss Sunshine. We saw the first two shows, both good. We took a tour of the galley (kitchen) but it lasted only 3 minutes and really all that you saw was miles of stainless steel, with a few fryers going and the lunch appetizers stacked in the holding area.   The ship was full but it never really felt crowded. We had AnyTime dining so we ate in the Bordeaux (5th deck) dining room 8 of the 10 nights. The one night when we were tired and wanted to eat alone, we had to wait 10 minutes for a table and the other 7 times we joined into other groups and were seated immediately. The food was great, lobster on the second formal night and then Alaska King Crab Legs the next night (since we ate late that night, they brought me seconds without asking, when they brought the first plate).  There were usually five entries specific for that night’s theme plus 3 appetizers and 3 soups. In addition, there were very good ALWAYS AVAILABLE appetizers (Caesar salad, shrimp cocktail and fettuccine alfredo) and entrées (Sirloin steak, beef tournedos, broiled herb marinated skinless chicken, grilled lemon scented salmon as well as baked potato and French Fries). We were able to get a copy of a menu as a souvenir. One night Cathy was not impressed with the entrees so she asked for and got the fettuccine alfredo as an entrée (it was WWWONDERFUL) as well as some chicken from one of the entrées. On the two days when we had a very late lunch we had a light dinner late in the Horizon Court; some of the food decorations were simply amazing. The pizza and cheeseburgers on the Lido deck were quick and good as was the free ice cream (unadvertised) at 3:30 every day in the far front of the Horizon Court. We were thinking of going but we never made it to Bayou or Sabatini’s. We had room service breakfast twice, the first time was great but the second time was on entry into Gatun Locks in Panama. On this day, I would suggest that you run up to the Horizon Court and get a quick self-serve breakfast at 6:30. If you order room service, it ties you down to waiting in the room – we said 7-7:30 which is the earliest option and it arrived at 7:30 (that is probably their busiest day). The room service breakfast menu that you put on your door the night before says “continental breakfast” but both days we wrote on (and received) “scrambled eggs for two”. We bought the 8 by 10 photos ($20 for one or $30 for both) taken at our table on the formal night.  I asked how much for a reprint and they said $20.  The originals are too expensive and the reprint price is ridiculous. I did buy the Reflection DVD (highlights) of our voyage for $30 (we were not it in but we did recognize some of our newly-made friends) plus two other generic DVDs, Cruising the Panama and Colors of the Caribbean (combined $25), both about 20 minutes long which I feel were worth the money. At around 6 am on the 3rd sea day (after leaving Panama) there was an announcement over the intercom (which plays in the hallways and channel 38 if you have the TV on and on that channel). It woke us up but since I couldn’t make out what the captain was saying, I called the purser, who said that we had stopped in response to a distress call from another boat and that we had rescued 3 people. That brief announcement was the ONLY official comment from the ship. There was no mention of it in the daily Patter, in the end of cruise CRUISE LOG and in any other manner that I am aware of. Obviously rumors abounded but it seems that a sailboat broke its mast and we sent out a rescue vessel (one is hung on both side at the front of the deck 7) to get them. They were not allowed to bring on anything with them and the sailboat was abandoned. I realize the security concerns but I was not pleased that there was no explanation of what happened. Our cabin was Baja 355 on Starboard (the port side has the red in the carpet, I remembered this by saying that port is a red wine) which was halfway between the fore and the mid elevators. We had the emergency fire doors in the hall just outside our door. We heard running water through pipes all of the time. The maintenance man who came to check our Air Conditioning (it was working ok, it just wasn’t as cold as we liked it on the days when our patio door got the full sun all afternoon, even with the drapes closed) said that he thought that it might be the drainage from the pool which was two floors above us. We did hear of a couple on Aloha deck mention the noise above them in the middle of the night as the crew rearranged the deck chairs on Lido deck. We chose this part of the ship to be close to the centre to reduce the rocking. The only downside was that it took us a few days to realize that the fore elevators/stairs only go to the 7th deck. If they went to 5 or 6 they would be in the kitchens. We walked the Promenade Deck (number 7) on the middle 5 nights (3 laps is a mile) but the wind can be quite gusty in areas, with the resulting change in pressure on your face and ears. It was never crowded when we walked after dinner. On the TV, they show a map of our cruise but we really liked the map of the Caribbean hanging outside of the Horizon Court. Using a map from the UK Hydrographic Office (which showed the ocean depths) they plotted out our course and this helped to explain why we didn’t take a straight line route from Caymans to Limon (we had to go east to avoid a very shallow area off the coast of Nicaragua). The map was auctioned off on the last sea day but we didn’t attend. Read Less
Sail Date April 2007
This was cruise number two for my wife and I and our best friends. If we weren't hooked on cruising after our first sailing, we're definitely hooked now. We can only compare it to our initial cruise on the Costa Classica. Our ... Read More
This was cruise number two for my wife and I and our best friends. If we weren't hooked on cruising after our first sailing, we're definitely hooked now. We can only compare it to our initial cruise on the Costa Classica. Our itinerary this time took us return from Ft Lauderdale directly to the Panama Canal; Colon (Cristobal), Panama; Limon, Costa Rica; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; and Cozumel, Mexico, This was 10 days of absolute pleasure followed by 4 days of relaxing in Ft Lauderdale to round out the two weeks. We flew from Toronto to Ft Lauderdale, one day in advance of our cruise and stayed at the Hyatt Pier 66. Our room in this hotel was a little dirty and noisy and definitely not worth the price we were charged. I complained (which I rarely do) but it didn't make any difference, as there were no other rooms. We returned to this hotel after our cruise and it did not fair much better but the room was cleaner. Keep in mind I expect a lot for $350.00 US per night but I also understand that "reasonable rates in Ft Lauderdale" is an oxymoron. Now for the cruise. Embarkation was quick and efficient. There were gates for each deck level and this really sped things up. If your traveling from Canada with non-Canadian citizens or landed immigrants, you must surrender your temporary visitors visa until you leave the ship. Upon entry to the ship a quick photo was taken for which you'll pay later of course. (Who can resist) We were greeted by staff and directed to the elevator. I had expected to see the main atrium / lobby but that is not where we entered. After finding our way to our cabins D415 and D417 on the Dolphin level, we immediately checked out our mini-suite. It was a nice size with a double bed, sofa, chair and coffee table. A mini bar, desk area and two televisions rounded out our needs for the next 10 days. The washroom was large with a tub and shower and the storage closet was plenty. A foam eggshell mattress cover was already installed, but if you don't get this I suggest you ask for one. The balcony was much larger than we expected and was quickly opened up to join our friends next door. We used these balconies every day for morning coffee, and afternoon cocktails, and they were well worth the upgrade. D415 had an open view above and D417 was partially covered by the balcony above. This combination was excellent for giving us sun or shade whenever we wanted it. After the mini-suite inspection we set off to tour the ship to find out where everything was. We found the Coral to be beautiful. The Princess Plaza is a 4-story atrium with splendid spiral staircases, flanked with palm trees. The glass elevators with sparkling lights zoom up and down the atrium from the Plaza to Emerald level. Most of these levels are filled with bars, lounges and shops. Forward, off the atrium are the restaurants. The Provence Dining Room is on the Fiesta level where the first and second seating's take place. Down one level on the Plaza is the Bordeaux Dining Room where we ate. This is an "anytime" dining and proved to be excellent. We did not reserve a table although it is possible. We just showed up and usually got a table for 4 right away. On a couple of occasions we sat at larger tables and met different people each time. The service was good but some of the waiters were better than others. Our second formal night was lobster night and I've never eaten so much delicious lobster at one time. I'm not sure if it was our timing or if they do that for everyone, but after our plates were delivered to us, a second platter of lobster tails was placed on our table. After that we were asked if we wanted more. "Who ever heard of all you can eat lobster tails". The following night it was the same only with King Crab. We also tried out the two specialty restaurants, The Bayou Cafe and Sabatini's, located on the Promenade Deck. The food at the Bayou Cafe was outstanding, however, the constant vibration under my feet was annoying. Sabatini's was also good, however, it was way too much food for us. For a $15.00 surcharge, you should definitely do the Bayou Cafe. The rest of our meals (breakfast and lunch) were eaten at the Horizon Court Buffet on the Lido deck. The selection was excellent and there were frequent changes so as not to get bored. The Horizon is on the very front of the ship so it is pleasant to watch the sun come up as you eat breakfast. It is a little bouncy though so if motion bothers you, head for the back. Up one more level, off the center pool you can hit the burger grill or pizza stand for the best pizza I have had in a long time. The ports on the cruise were very nice but if I did it over again I may select different activities. We like to go to the beach and do a little shopping so that is what we aim for at most ports. Of course Panama is all about the canal and the locks. We reach Panama after two days at sea. This was a fascinating day that began at 5:00 am with room service. The ship arrives very early and almost in the dark. It's a slow trek into the canal and very quiet and peaceful. As daylight appears you realize you are being escorted into the entrance of the first Gatun Lock. The journey through the locks is just over an hour, and by the time we reached Gatun Lake the temperature was very hot. Here you can depart for Panama City or many other excursions. We chose to stay on the ship and go back through the locks a second time on our way to Cristobal Panama. We were greeted by the native Embera Indians singing and dancing dockside. Shopping for native crafts and art was available dockside as well. The next port was Limon, Costa Rica were we took a canal boat ride through the Costa Rican rainforest. Here we saw a lot of wildlife including Sloth, birds, lizards, and even bats. The bus ride back was also entertaining as our bus driver and tour guide stopped each time they saw something of interest. Later we arrived at a Banana plantation where we saw the entire process including picking, washing and packaging. It was a very enjoyable tour and I highly recommend it. After another day at sea, we finally reached Ocho Rios Jamaica, and for us this was a beach day. We walked to the beach from the dock and enjoyed the sun. If you take the tour with lunch, the food and service is never ending. There was some musical entertainment on the beach and massages were available at a fraction of the cost of the ship. The water was warm but watch for the jellyfish. We also did a little shopping about a block from the pier. Next it was on to Grand Cayman and another beach day. 7-Mile Beach was very nice, but the wind was real strong that day. There wasn't very much shade and the drinks that came with our package were all gone before we each got one. A $5.00 taxi ride to the beach would have been a smarter move considering this package cost around $30.00 per person. The sand and water were beautiful. The next port was Cozumel and we also took a beach day and expected to do some shopping. The chairs we were given were molded fiberglass and stuck in the sand. This is not good if you want to roll over and lay on your stomach. They were crazy and not worth paying for. The beer was included though and this softened the blow. (Beer or wine solves most problems. lol) In conclusion we had a very memorable trip. From the nightly chocolates on our bed to the platters deserts on the buffet, we thoroughly enjoyed every minute of our Princess Cruise. This cruise will be a tough one to beat. The ship, the staff, the food and the adventure itself all exceeded our expectations. Read Less
Sail Date April 2007
We traveled to Ft. Lauderdale the previous day and stayed at a Marriott. We chose to take an early shuttle to the ship. Embarkation was quick and very easy. Once on board we went directly to our stateroom and met our steward. He was very ... Read More
We traveled to Ft. Lauderdale the previous day and stayed at a Marriott. We chose to take an early shuttle to the ship. Embarkation was quick and very easy. Once on board we went directly to our stateroom and met our steward. He was very nice and couldn't do enough for us. In addition, he was very quick to tidy up the room in the morning and prepare the room in the evening. The cabin had plenty of room for our things except for the unbelievable size of the shower. I don't think a two-year old would fit easily. We had to line the bathroom floor with towels just so we didn't slip and fall when getting out of the shower. They should be ashamed of themselves for actually allowing their guests to use that kind of facility. We toured the ship and had lunch in the Horizon Buffet. Very nice selection and food was tasty. We chose anytime dining. It was both good and not so good. Food was good, but we were not always able to be seated right away. Some nights we had to wait 30 plus minutes. Initially it was difficult to find our way around the ship and I think it took us nearly the 10 days to really feel comfortable. Entertainment was just okay for a cruise ship, but we did not care. Spent most nights in the casino, which was bigger than some other ships we have been on. We chose this particular cruise because of the Panama Canal. Going through the locks into Gatun Lake was spectacular! We had a champagne breakfast on our balcony while going through the locks and returning we sat topside in the front of the ship. The whole experience was well worth it. We had visited most of the islands that the ship was scheduled to stop at, though we did get off the ship briefly to do a little shopping, but returned to the ship early each time to enjoy the quietness while most everyone else was off touring. We found everyone from our steward to the waiters and others extremely nice and most accommodating. This was our third Princess cruise and we will definitely do another. Read Less
Sail Date March 2007
Please excuse my spelling errors as I might make a few. I am a teenager and I went on this cruise with my mom, dad, and younger brother. This was both mine and my brothers third princess cruise and my parents have gone on quite a few ... Read More
Please excuse my spelling errors as I might make a few. I am a teenager and I went on this cruise with my mom, dad, and younger brother. This was both mine and my brothers third princess cruise and my parents have gone on quite a few princess cruises. This cruise was very nice and I really enjoyed it. I cannot say that it was better than my other two cruises as I have forgotten a lot of the details. Embarkation was really quick and easy. The only time we had to wait was at the airport for the bus. I think that the princess cruise reps there could have been a bit more friendly. At the terminal, we waited in a short line and we were able to get right onto the ship. Everything seemed pretty organized. We were greeted by employees that were available to help us to our rooms if we needed it. At the terminal, our luggage was taken so we didn't have to worry about carrying it onto the ship. It was then delivered to our room for us a couple hours later. We had a mini-suite with a balcony mid-ship. Having the balcony was really nice and I would recommend it. We were able to fit all of us on the balcony nicely. The only issue we had with the room was that it was a bit narrower then we had expected. It was the smallest mini-suite we have ever had on a princess cruise. There was a closet and some shelves; however, the shelves did not supply us with enough space for all of our clothes. The only other issue we had with the room was that there was no pull down bed from the ceiling for the fourth person, so a cot was put in our room which blocked access from one end of the room to the other (as I said the room was very narrow). I recommend double checking before embarking to make sure that the room has everything that you request. There were many activities on the cruise. During the day at the lotus pool there were often activities like trivia. There was also ceramics, line dancing,bingo, and many more activities to do during the day. Both pools were very nice but it was hard to get seating at the outdoor pool. The Lotus pool had a retractable roof that was kept closed throughout the trip. This pool was a bit quieter and very nice. The kids center was very good. We went on this cruise over Feb. break so I expected there to be more kids than there were. I was a bit surprised when I was boarding the ship and saw many older people. In total there were about 80 kids, 35 being teenagers. I was a bit hesitant to go to the teen center because on my last cruise (7day Caribbean cruise) there was an overwhelming amount of kids and the kids center there was not very organized. At the teen center, there were activities planned throughout the day until 1am with breaks for lunch and dinner. However, the schedule was very flexible and we could pretty much do whatever we wanted. My brother, who is ten, went to the kids center and really enjoyed it. He said they were a bit more strict but he was able to leave when ever he wanted. About 16 teens would come during the day and night to the teen center and we all became really friendly. It was really nice coming there at night if I didn't want to go to a show with my family. Being with a small group of people over the span of 10 days really allowed all of us to get to know eachother and often during the day we would all hang out together. If you are traveling with kids I really recommend getting involved in the kid program, I had a very positive experience. However, keep in mind that there are usually less kids on 10 day cruises and there will be even less kids not during a vacation (the cruise after mine only had one teenager and ten younger children). We had anytime dining, so we ate in the Bordeaux dining room. The food was just alright. We also ate at the Bordeaux for breakfast. Again, the food was just alright but there were a few more options for breakfast. If you don't like what's on the menu, the waiters can get you anything you request. The portions in the dining room were not that big and very controlled. We often ate lunch at the horizon court, as it was close to the pool. Again, the food is just alright, but it is a bit harder control food portions. The buffet is open all day and night. Also, at the pool, there is a pizza bar and grill which were both very good. At the entrance of every public eating room there is hand sanitizer. There is also a soda promotion and cappuccino card which my brother and my mom benefited from. At night there were many things that could be done. I went to a few of the comedian shows in the beginning of the cruise but then stopped going. I found that the comedian's jokes were geared toward the older crowd and I didn't really understand. At night, there are other things to do besides shows. There is karaoke, the casino, and movies playing. We were on our cruise during the Academy Awards and one of the lounges had it on so people could watch it. While sometimes it was cloudy, our excursions were relatively good. Our first stop was Montego Bay, Jamaica. To disembark the ship here was disorderly. There was a line to disembark going up one or two floors and it was very confusing. The line was something that we had never experienced before and we never experienced again on our ship. In Jamaica we went river tubing. Sometimes the water level is too low to do this excursion and others like it, so it is a good idea to check when the dry season is. The terminal there was very confusing. The buses were clean but looked old and driving there was a bit scary as the roads are very windy and bumpy. Our next stop was Panama. Having a balcony was really nice. We were able to watch the ship go through the locks right from our room. Going back through the locks we went to the front of the boat. It wasn't that crowded there. We then docked in Cristobal. Here we got off the ship and went to the terminal where there are a few shops. The next stop was Costa Rica. This was one of our favorite places. We went on the Jungle River Tour. There was a cute little shop there to buy souvenirs. The fruit there is really good and so fresh. After that, we stopped at a banana plantation. Our next port was Grand Cayman. Here, we went snorkeling and to sting ray city. The snorkeling was excellent. I can't say too much about sting ray city as I was too freaked out to go in the water with them, but my parents really enjoyed it. Our last stop was Cozumel. In Cozumel we went shopping. It was annoying because we arrived at Cozumel on a Sunday and some of the shops were closed. The shops are all walking distance away from the ship. Cozumel really surprised us because my dad said the last time he was there it wasn't very exciting. The Gym and Spa were really nice. I went to the gym almost every morning on sea days and I never had to wait in line. The spa was also nice, but sometimes they seemed a bit unorganized. The internet cafe is really nice if it is ever needed. There is also a basket ball court and giant chess/checkers on the top deck. Everyday the princess patter is delivered to every room. I recommend looking at them because they have a lot of useful information in them. Disembarkation was also a really smooth process. We were the first group off the ship and we got our bags and we were through customs fairly quickly. Because the cruise ended after feb. break, the airport wasn't as crowded. Overall, we had a very good time. Read Less
Sail Date February 2007
PCENTRAL AMERICA/PANAMA CANAL 2/7-2/17/07 We chose this cruise for two reasons: the itinerary and the price. Of the four of us, three had never been through the Canal before. I had found an excellent price online in March, 2006 so we ... Read More
PCENTRAL AMERICA/PANAMA CANAL 2/7-2/17/07 We chose this cruise for two reasons: the itinerary and the price. Of the four of us, three had never been through the Canal before. I had found an excellent price online in March, 2006 so we booked 2 balcony cabins amidships on the Aloha Deck. This was our first time on Princess. Our companion couple was my cousin and her husband who have been cruising since the 70's. It was their first time on Princess also. Coming from Chicago in February, Karl & I had planned on flying down a day early to meet Sharon & Al in Fort Lauderdale. They were planning on wintering in Florida so they had started their drive down a week previous. We had booked Spirit airlines and their prices were good but the flight times were not. Our flight left Chicago O'Hare @ 6 AM necessitating a limo pickup at 4 AM. It was minus 6 degrees when we left the house and believe me--our jaws were flapping about this inconvenient time. This turned out better than we could have ever hoped for. Turns out we just missed the beginning of a major snowstorm that delayed flights all day. While we were in Florida sunshine, Chicago was digging out from about a foot of snow. Doing some research online, we had decided upon the Holiday Inn Express on SR 84 for our one night pre-cruise stay. We had booked this hotel about 8 months in advance. Because it was Super Bowel week, hotel rooms were at a premium and considered ourselves lucky to get this location. The hotel turned out to be an excellent choice and our timing couldn't have been better. The free shuttle from the airport pulled into the parking lot just as our cousins were getting out of their car. The hotel looked to be newly refurbished and painted. The beds were very comfortable and the room was clean with all the amenities you could want, including a coffee maker and hair dryer. Also included in the price was breakfast the next morning. We did some shopping at the mall across the street for liquor to carry on board, the allowed 2 bottles of wine and some vodka which we put in our checked luggage for late evening drinks on the balcony. Al was smart and even had some Rose's Lime for gimlets. We weren't smart enough to buy a couple of limes. It was a nice day to do a drive by the port to familiarize ourselves with the layout and then we went to a cute vertical mall by the beach for a little last minute shopping and to soak up the atmosphere. I had heard about the water taxi ride in Fort Lauderdale. It takes you by the millionaires' mansions and lets you gawk at all the fabulous yachts. After a little misdirection by the bartender, we did find the "stop" and waited a half hour for it to come by. A word to the wise; try this during warmer weather or in the middle of the day. The sun is starting to go down by 4 PM and the ride in an open boat without windows got mighty chilly. This cost us $18/pp for seniors (over 65). Karl & I fudged a bit on our ages for that one. By the time we got back to our starting place, we had had plenty of fresh air and were thinking about dinner and bed. Our alarm had gone off @ 3 AM-Chicago time that morning and we were starting to feel it. It was so nice having the use of a vehicle to get around. The hotel was on a very busy street and you could walk to several restaurants but with a car we could go anywhere. Passing by an Outback, it got our vote for dinner and we were able to get right in. We were surprised it was so busy for a Tuesday evening but the waitress said that a lot of people had come down for the Super Bowl the previous weekend and had stayed for the whole week. Check out time the next morning was 11 AM and we really didn't want to go to the port to stand around for a few hours so we elected to find a movie theater to kill a couple of hours. Here again, having the car was so nice. Got to the port around 2 o'clock and dropped our bags with the porters. Al went to park the car at the very spacious garage and we just walked in to check in for the start of our vacation. The charge for the garage was $12/day. There were no lines for check in so we waltzed up to the sign for Aloha deck, handed over the boarding passes we had printed up at home, swiped the credit card, received our room cards, through security and off we went to board the ship. There were people directing you to the elevators and someone on the elevator to direct you to your room. As I said, we were in the middle of the ship just off the elevator lobby. There was a privacy wall between the rooms and the lobby so as to cut down on noise. We never heard any real noise in the hall unless someone was yelling outside our door and that only happened once. The room was lovely. I was surprised at how spacious it seemed. There was a very large, open closet with lots of hangers and a cupboard which contained the safe and shelves for our clothes. There were drawers in the nightstands and in the desk. The hairdryer was next to the desk which was pretty convenient. I did find the dryer to be woefully under heated. I have very fine, thin hair and at home it takes about 30 seconds to dry my hair. There was a lot of air blowing, it just wasn't very warm. The bathroom was very small with a small shower. Not as small as RCCL, but close. (No pun intended) After 6 cruises with Celebrity, we were making a lot of comparisons. The bathrooms on Celebrity were bigger with showers that were more rectangular in shape and height adjustable shower heads. Celebrity also had dispensers on the walls in the shower with shampoo and conditioner. Princess had all the bath amenities in cardboard containers on the vanity. Celebrity had robes in the room. We had to ask for them on Princess. There was bottled water to purchase in the room and an ice bucket in the small fridge but no pitcher of ice water changed twice daily like on Celebrity. We had 3 sets of towels in the bathroom on Celebrity but only 2 sets on Princess. The trash baskets had plastic liners on X but not on Princess which made you hesitate to throw anything messy in the container. But these were comparisons we made among ourselves since our last cruise had been on Celebrity to Hawaii. Our cabin steward, Anthony was very efficient and took care of any special requests. There were no announcements on CP as well as X. If you wanted to know what was going on, you looked in the daily paper, the Princess Patter. The freshwater pools were great with plenty of deck chairs. Only one day did we have to go searching for a place to stretch out in the shade. We liked the unlimited pool towels on X. These towels were placed in your room doubled as your beach towels. Beach towels were separate on X and were bigger and thicker. The ship had a 4 deck center atrium from deck 5-8 with 4 glass elevators. This was a lovely area with the shops (deck 6) and passenger services (deck 5), the library, internet cafe & card room (deck 8) and a couple of bars (deck 7). It was done in brass and chrome with twinkling lights and metal sculptures. It was a very attractive part of a very attractive ship. The art work was very nautical and consisted of several old portraits of dead English aristocrats in the halls on the way to the Princess Theater. But it had a downside too. Because the two restaurants were stacked on top of one another, this made it difficult to walk from one end of the ship to another without having to go up or down a deck. I think we were more than halfway through the cruise before we finally figured out to walk out of the restaurant, walk up one deck and go forward to the theater. For some reason, we never could get our bearings and constantly had to use the map to acclimate ourselves. I thought the food on Celebrity was more upscale. I was surprised to see plain white rice served with some of our entrees. This was not something you would ever see on Celebrity. I wonder if this is a new development since Carnival bought them. It seemed to cheapen the meal. We liked that the alternative selections were printed on the menu and you did have your option of white rice, French fries or baked potato with your choice. On Celebrity you have to depend upon your waiter to mention them to you and he usually only does it once at the beginning of the cruise. The salmon in butter sauce was excellent and we all had more than one shrimp cocktail. Sharon & I LOVED the dessert soufflEs. Even if I was stuffed, I managed to choke down a few tastes of those. Had to try the Princess Love Boat Dream after reading about it and it was almost too pretty to eat. The service is more formal on X. If my DH chose not to order an appetizer or soup, they brought his salad out while we were eating the other items. On X, he would be served the same course with everyone else. The bus boy acted as your wine steward, no sommelier making suggestions. The wine list on X is much more extensive. Our itinerary was 10 days with 4 sea days: Sea Day, Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Sea Day, Panama Canal, Limon, Sea Day, Montego Bay, Sea Day, and Fort Lauderdale. We were glad to be cruising with our cousins as they are active cruisers who like to get out and do something at every port besides shop. Booking excursions online prior to leaving was very easy and they were billed to our room account once we were on board. Leaving Florida was smooth sailing and the seas stayed that way for our entire trip. The temperature gradually warmed up as we steamed south so by the time we reached Cozumel, it was in the low 80's. On this part of the experience, Princess really shines. The shore excursions were many and varied, with some unusual choices. You could be as active or sedentary as you liked. Celebrity's excursions are rather humdrum with more of an emphasis on shopping. Coming back from shore excursions on Celebrity though, there would a tent set up on the dock for X where you can get cold water and/or fruit punch and a cold cloth for your fevered brow when you are coming back from excursions. Nothing like that on Princess. In Cozumel we had booked the snorkel/lunch excursion so we had to be ready to be off the ship by 8 AM. Princess had the early departees meet in the Princess Theater and we were separated into groups by the signs on the walls. Very efficient and easy as pie since we were docked at the pier and could just walk off the ship. Met our group at the end of the pier and then walked back to the ship as our excursion boat was parked right there. Sharon and Al had boarded the boat early to allow Sharon to get off her feet as her back was bothering her. The rest of us stood transfixed as the Costa Mediterraneana was backing up to berth right where our little excursion boat was parked. It looked like a Mexican standoff as the excursion captain was not making any move to get out of the way. In a move worthy of David and Goliath, the Costa ship stopped several feet short of the end of the dock (although it looked a lot closer) and dropped its lines. Only then did the rest of us get on board. The ride to the other end of Cozumel Island took about an hour and included soft drinks and water (no beer until after snorkeling) and instructions on the use of the snorkel equipment. We dropped anchor over a reef and either jumped in or used the "chicken stairs" (my choice). There weren't too many fish but what we saw were very interesting. A new development since the last time I went snorkeling is that someone takes your underwater picture and then they sell them to you for $5 back on board. It's unbelievable how they try to get every dime out of the tourists by any method. One of the group got stung by a jelly fish and his arm was not pretty. There were a lot of jokes about the best way to treat it, all of them involving various mild acid solutions, i.e. vinegar. Those of us who had opted for the lunch portion of the excursion were dropped at a great beach area with loungers in the sun and a huge tent with lots of tables and chairs. The lunch consisted of salad, fish, chicken fajitas and assorted relishes. There was also fresh fruit for dessert. Our wristbands also entitled us to free drinks at 2 designated bars so after our soft drinks with lunch, Karl & Al wandered over and got us a couple of pina coladas while they tried the Mexican beer. There were some vendors selling trinkets and also a nice fresh water pool. We were glad to get out of the sun and to use the clean restrooms. Several of the people had been brought there by bus or taxi off our ship and the other ships in port just for the beach. This was the only time we had rain the whole trip and it was just a brief shower. It wasn't until much later in the cruise that I was kicking myself for not shopping in Cozumel for some vanilla to take home. It is dirt cheap there and a great take-home gift for friends and family. The next day we were in Grand Cayman and had booked the tour to swim with the stingrays. We tendered in and were met by our tour guide who got us on a bus. There were about 10 of us. The driver took us on a short ride to where the catamaran was docked. He gave us a brief history of the island while we traveled and pointed out different landmarks and how much of the island had been damaged by Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Arriving at the boat, we had to shed our shoes before boarding. It was about 40 minutes to the sandbar where the rays awaited us. I got a great picture of them swimming towards us while we docked. The crew stated that we were lucky to be the only boat there at that time and have the stingrays all to ourselves. Contrary to all the bad press they have received since Steve Irwin's death, the stingray is actually a very benign creature unless it feels threatened. They swam all around us looking for the squid we held in our fists for them to suck up. It felt like a big vacuum cleaner taking it out of my hand. They let you pet them and the guides held them for us to "kiss" and they took pictures of us doing it. They put all of your pictures on a disc for only $55. Sharon & Al did buy it but Karl & I decided against it since I was taking pictures of my own. After we got back to the dock, we wandered around downtown Georgetown for an hour or so checking out the souvenirs and didn't see anything we couldn't live without. Our next day was a sea day and we took advantage of the pool, finding chairs in the shade to relax. We had decided to try Sabatini's, the specialty restaurant that night for dinner. After reading so much about it, I was really psyched up for the tremendous meal we were going to receive. People had raved over the 16 courses and how great everything was. We were all very disappointed. Certain items were good, like the pizza and the salad, but after eating in Celebrity's specialty dining room, it did not measure up. We were asked if we wanted caviar which was on the potato pancake and when we declined, they just skipped that course. Everyone else raved about the minestrone soup. I had the cioppino (fish soup) and while the broth was excellent, the seafood was so chewy it was inedible. I can't even remember what I had as an entree. And yet a year later, I can still recall my dinner in the Normandie dining room on the Summit. What a difference between food that is cooked to order and dishing up the same meal day after day. Some other differences we noticed was that hot cocoa was free on Celebrity whereas you pay for it as a specialty drink on Princess. Of course it is served in a tall glass with whipped cream and sprinkles on top. You also had to pay for ice cream when you finally found the counter by the Spa pool. I had read somewhere that it was free at certain times in the buffet but we never found it. Karl liked the dispensers for the hot beverages which came out very hot. This made for a nice cup of tea. The cups were also bigger than on Celebrity which offers a barely 4 ounce cup. Princess had a decent sized cup for coffee or tea. Celebrity does have nice trays with cloth placemats in the buffet and waiters to carry it for you instead of just large platters that you have to juggle with your drink. They also have a sandwich station all during lunch but Princess only had it from 3-4 PM in the buffet. I didn't see it as a food option in the Princess Patter. Maybe it was only for those coming back from a late shore excursion. We had early seating so never would have used it anyway. The pizza on the Coral Princess was very good with an excellent crust. I do have to hand it to Princess for the continuous buffet even if I don't see the need for it to be 24 hours. Celebrity would shut down breakfast an hour before lunch where on Princess they would close one side of the buffet to get ready for lunch and continue serving breakfast on the alternate side until lunch was up and running. We never tried the buffet for dinner as we really liked the dining room experience for that meal. We also never made it to any midnight buffet or even the island deck party or the champagne fountain they had for Valentine's Day. The production shows were terrific on Coral Princess and except for the "banjo guy" most of the entertainment was very good. But the theater only had a capacity of 600 on a ship with 1980 passengers. The sightlines were excellent but this was not set up as a "show lounge" like the Universe Lounge. If you were not sitting on the aisle, you could forget about that after-dinner drink as the theater was stadium seating and the poor drink servers would have to crawl over several people to serve you. Because we had early seating and the age demographic of this cruise was leaning into the high 80's we found ourselves racing to the theater if we wanted to get 4 seats together. This was a 1/2 hour before the show time. We finally decided to hit the casino after dinner and go to the late show which was definitely less attended. Say what you will about X having an older demographic, it all depends on time of year and length of the cruise. I think I was the only passenger who was still gainfully employed besides the crew. The next stop was the main reason for the cruise, the Panama Canal! We had been informed by the cruise director that we would be entering the Gatun Locks about 6:30 AM. Like everyone else who had a balcony, we ordered room service breakfast for the first serving of 7:30. Those poor guys and gals were really humping all those trays to us lazy people sitting on our verandas. We kept the TV turned up loud so we could hear the commentary on what was happening. A word to the wise; as it is very close to the Equator, Panama is pretty warm, even at 7AM in February. We had a port cabin and had the sun rising right in our faces. After a few cups of hot tea, I thought I was going to have heat stroke. I went inside to cool off and my face was as red as those Valentine balloons. I took a shower to cool off and watched the rest of our progress on TV with the bridge cam. The process was very interesting as the captain only used the side jets to maneuver the sip into the lock. Then the "mules" or railroad engines took over by dragging the ship in by the front and back docking ropes. Once the lock is closed and the water rushes in and the ship rises 23 feet to the level of Gatun Lake. All the traffic on both the Atlantic and Pacific sides is incoming from daylight to noon. The ships that are traversing the rest of the isthmus continue on to the other 2 sets of locks (going west) and the ones going east come to the Gatun locks. After noon, the ships start going in the outgoing direction as we did after they took off all the passengers by tenders who wanted to take tours. We remained on board to enjoy the mostly empty pool and have our choice of deck chairs. We docked at Cristobal and the souvenir hunters got off to check out the local wares at the pier. We were warned not to leave the area as it was not safe. There were several young native boys and girls dressed in lovely costumes posing to take pictures and I think there was no charge. There was a group of older women doing a tribal dance to drums performed by the men. Here was a real cultural clash. The men were barely clothed in loincloths and the women were bare breasted. There was nothing salacious in it, just a surprise to see it. The only other ship docked there was a Fred. Olson liner and I have to say that the Coral Princess put it to shame. I managed to get away with only spending a few dollars on a couple of Christmas ornaments to add to my vacation collection. Panama is known for its straw work and we saw some magnificent bowls and of course Panama hats. Knowing the limitations of my luggage, I restrained myself from buying a lot of "stuff". Our next port was Limon, Costa Rica. We really liked the way this itinerary was broken up with the sea days. It gave you a nice break from the hectic pace of the ports. Limon was the first port where we had booked our own tour online with Charlie Soto's OkeyDokey Tours. We decided on the "A" tour for $49/pp. We were met at the end of the dock by a representative holding a sign with our names on it. Charlie himself stopped by to introduce himself, shake hands with each of us and thank us for booking with him. Our tour was to include a trip to the a farm to see the local flora and fauna, a Del Monte banana plantation, a boat ride down the canal to look at the rain forest, a stop at the beach and some shopping. Our van was just for the 4 of us, our driver Reynaldo and our guide Ed. Reynaldo only knew a few words in English but Ed was a university student on semester break who spoke excellent English. The van was spotless and came with a cooler stocked with beer, water and Coke. He started out giving us a history and geography lesson of Costa Rica which we were glad to hear since we were all pretty ignorant about the country. A neutral country since 1954 (like Switzerland and Sweden); Costa Rica has no standing armed forces. They put their GNP into health care and education for its citizens. Its primary export is bananas. Our first stop was on the side of the road to look at the howler monkeys who resisted all our calls and showed their disdain of us by voiding their bladders from the tops of the trees. Good thing we were a safe distance away! We then went to a private farm to try some fresh mango, local bananas and some other fruit fresh from the trees. While we were there, Reynaldo spotted a baby sloth on the ground and gave it to Karl to hold so we could all touch and pet it. First time we had ever seen a sloth, much less hold one. Reynaldo and Ed then took us on a walking tour of the farm to look at the different vegetation. Reynaldo cut some sugar cane for us to chew and this was a first time experience also. This was an easy walk on flat ground and mostly even surfaces, which was a concern for us since Sharon has back issues. But she did fine through this and the whole cruise. There were bathroom facilities w/flush toilets at this farm also. Next stop on this tour was the Del Monte banana plantation. We got a real lesson in third world economics here. We saw how the bananas grow very rapidly on stalks and how they are harvested green and placed on a conveyer that goes from the field to the processing area. Here all the work is done by hand to cut the large bunches down to a manageable size. They are washed several times and put on another conveyer where someone's job is to put the sticker on each bunch and then they are hand bagged and loaded into crates for shipment. We asked Ed how the Costa Ricans liked this job and he said that Costa Ricans would not take these jobs as they were too low paying! The people doing all this work were imported from Nicaragua and were "guest workers" who lived on the plantation. My cousins who had both worked in a factory environment all their lives were commenting about how all of the work done could be mechanized. I guess it was cheaper to hire the help than bring in the machines. These people worked 12 hrs a day, six days a week and were happy to have the jobs! The housing was nothing to write home about either. We decided that even in our rooms on the cruise ship, we still had a lifestyle that was 1000% better than most of the people in that country. Wave that Red, White and Blue because no one has it better than we do! The rest of the tour was taken up with a boat ride which was actually pretty boring. There were some kids with turtles to look at and not much else. How many times can you look at the same type of bird? Then we went to a very nice beach but we were not dressed for swimming. We did not want to sample the local cuisine or buy any of the souvenirs there. What we really wanted to do is to go to a local supermarket and purchase some 1820 coffee which I had read about on the cruise sites. They did this for us and Sharon and I found exactly what we were looking for. They use the metric system so 500 grams of coffee is about 1 lb, 2 ounces and cost about $2.62 each package. We loaded up to bring this home for our kids since they are too big for t-shirts. Reynaldo then took us to an overlook to take a picture of the bay and our ship and then we were back to the dock. I think we were gone a total of 5 hours. No problems whatsoever but if we were to ever go to Limon again, I don't think we would even bother to get off the boat unless there was some great snorkeling there. It was after we got back that the incident with the Carnival passengers occurred. Our third sea day was Valentine’s Day and our second formal night. Karl & Al had decided to wear a tux for formal nights as they had for our cruise the previous year to Hawaii. There had been 3 formal nights on that 14 day cruise and quite a few of the passengers had elected to go “black tie”. There were not many who did that on this cruise. Karl likes to rent the tux so as to cut down on the amount of clothing he has to bring. We did like the Princess dress code of Smart Casual most nights. Since Celebrity has an “informal” night, it requires the men to bring a sport jacket. It was very nice having Valentine’s Day as a formal night. Our dear spouses purchased corsages for us and they were waiting at our places when we went in for dinner. Princess had set up a display of large heart cakes in the atrium on deck 5 at the base of the glass elevators and had a large heart made of red, pink and white balloons that stretched the height of all 4 decks! There was some form of decorating in all the public rooms. It was all nicely done and made a lovely acknowledgement of the day. In Montego Bay, we had reserved a van and driver with Barrett’s Adventures. They offered several tours but we were not interested in tubing or climbing Dunn’s River Falls or to take the all day drive to get to Ochos Rios. Chester was our driver and he was more than willing to give us a tour of his home town. We booked Barrett's Adventures because of all the recommendations on the cruise site. We decided to just to see Rose Hall (this was our 3rd time in Jamaica and none of us had never seen it) and wherever our whim took us. Our choice was the 6 hour private tour for $35/pp. There were 4 of us. We were late getting into the receiving building because we had to tender in instead of docking. (Freedom of the Seas took that spot. What a huge ship!) Chester was waiting just were they said he would be holding a paper with our names on it. He was courteous, informative and the van was spotless. My cousin asked that he show us Montego Bay since Al had only been to the Sandals resorts there and had not ever seen the town. Chester showed us the real Montego Bay where rich, middle class and poor lived. We never felt threatened or unsafe. People waved at us all the time. We saw the oldest church in Montego Bay and new housing under construction. The road construction for a new road between MoBay and Ochos Rios is very slow going. We estimated that it would probably take 5 years to complete as there were very few road graders and truckers doing the work. Not like we are used to seeing in the States. Before we got to Rose Hall, we stopped at the Ritz Carleton White Witch golf resort for a bathroom break. This place was absolutely gorgeous! We really had to admire the manicured grounds and the view of the sea. I’m sure it costs a bundle to golf there. Rose Hall was beautiful but with a creepy history. They say Annie Palmer’s ghost still walks even if her tomb is in the garden. They had a newspaper in the gift shop for free which showed the stages of reconstruction and I am sorry I did not pick one up. They also had several “ghostly” photos which people had sent which purported to show faces in the mirrors and other apparitions. The former dungeon is now the gift shop with an adjacent bar and restaurant. It was educational and interesting. After Rose Hall Chester asked if we would like to stop for an authentic Jamaican "jerk" lunch. We all kind of hemmed and hawed as we were not sure if it would be to our liking, but Al jumped and said sure, why not. I thought Sharon was going to kill him. We stopped at a place called Scotchies and it had a dirt floor and a food counter. Sharon and Al had the chicken and pork 1/4 lb each, yams and breadfruit and something I can't remember the name of but was like a doughnut. We had the 1/4 lb pork and the other stuff too. It was delicious. Karl bought Chester's lunch and we all ate together. It was spicy but not too hot. I was thinking I was going to have to take a Zantac when I got back to the ship but I was fine. He also took us to a place called Strawberry’s for some shopping but it was very high pressure and the prices were not cheap. We bought some Jamaican coffee there. You would probably be better served going to a supermarket if possible. We also stopped at the Taj Mahal shopping mall for a short time but then headed back to the ship. You had to show your cruise card to get back into the port. There was lots of security with locked gates and armed guards. Chester told us that you had to be smart in MoBay and not go into the bad areas, which he obviously avoided. We bid Chester goodbye and thanked him for our lovely day. We felt we had gotten our money's worth and seen some of the real Jamaica. Getting through security to get back to the dock was a mess with very long lines and only 2 people manning the scanners and actually frisking you before they let you through the door. There were shuttle vans waiting to take you over to the dock where our tender was but after sitting all day, it felt good to walk a bit. We actually were on the last tender to the ship. Glad to be “home” and back on board. The last sea day was real low key. We played bingo for the last time and did not win the big prize. The gambling on this ship was a big contrast to our previous cruise where I had won $1400 playing 3-card poker and split the big bingo prize the last day. Here I reverted back to my normal losing pattern in the casino. I finally switched to playing Blackjack and started winning some small amounts but too little, too late. They had the usually “tournaments” for slots, Blackjack and 3-card poker. They might have had one for Texas Hold’em also but I wasn’t paying attention. Sharon and I did some last minute shopping in the boutique shops buying identical shirts to wear to the next family outing, but other than that we didn’t see anything that really floated out boat. Dinner was “American” night and there were crab legs on the menu which were outstanding. It was the first time in 8 cruises that I had seen those on the menu. Not even in Alaska. We had done the automatic tips on our account so there was nothing to be done for that except to say good bye to our waiter and busboy. On Celebrity they gave you a little card to hand to your waiter and busboy indicating that you had added the tips to your account. Here I guess they had to wait to find out if we stiffed them or not. The last day, we had breakfast and cleared out of our rooms with our carry-ons and waited in the place of your choice for your number to be called. Since we were leaving on deck 6, we waited in the lounge adjacent to the casino and had a table and four comfortable chairs to relax in before our color was called. We had no early plane to catch so we could care less when we finally disembarked. A big surprise when we walked off the ship as Fort Lauderdale was a chilly 55 degrees. Al and Karl had to catch a shuttle to the other end of the port to get the car since we were only one of several ships docked there on a Saturday. It was interesting seeing people arriving so early to get on the ship when we were not the last ones off. They were going to have a long wait. Sharon & Al dropped us at the airport and continued back to Fort Myers to continue their vacation while we settled in for a long wait for our flight home. All in all it was a very nice cruise. Princess did a nice job with the shore excursions and the rooms. The ship was lovely and comfortable, except for the theater which was too small. We would definitely consider Princess again if the price and the itinerary were to our liking. Read Less
Sail Date February 2007
Since all aspects of cruising is based on personal preference, and everyone has varying expectations, you should take every review with a grain of salt. Overall, we enjoy Princess cruises for the value, knowing that there are no luxury ... Read More
Since all aspects of cruising is based on personal preference, and everyone has varying expectations, you should take every review with a grain of salt. Overall, we enjoy Princess cruises for the value, knowing that there are no luxury accommodations, gourmet meals or well-known entertainers. But, there is the enjoyment of being on vacation, doing as much or as little as you wish, getting a flavor of different countries/islands and enjoying the travel to each new port while the captain and his bridge crew are responsible for getting us there safely, meeting and enjoying the company of fellow passengers and enjoying all the onboard activities - the Princess Patter was a guide to planning our daily activities. Our vacations have not always been on cruise ships, and there will always be aspects of travel that will be unpalatable, but none so horrible as to keep us from cruising again. Even the incessant barrage of sales tactics can be easily ignored or politely refused. Ship The ship was beautiful and had an impressive atrium. It was a nice size ship and well maintained. We stayed in D206 (Forward, Dolphin Deck, port sides). The room was adequate for us. We had plenty of space for our belongings. Room safe was useful. The bathroom was very small. The shower, with humor, is tolerable - don't drop the soap! The balcony was fully covered and had a "partially obstructed view." There was a partial wall which blocked half of the balcony. But, it still allowed us to stand and view the trip through the Canal. It also afforded some shade from the sun. We saw a beautiful Valentines Day display in the atrium and outside the Horizon Court. They took hygiene seriously and were constantly pushing the use of hand sanitizer and telling us to frequently wash our hands, use our cabin bathroom whenever convenient, etc. Thankfully, there were no outbreaks of Noro viruses. I'd like to sail the Coral again to enjoy the things we missed. Entertainment/Onboard Activities We attended a comedy magic show in the Universal Lounge (Greg Moreland) and two comedians in the Princess Theater which were very funny (Billy Vader & Scott Wyler). I enjoyed Dr. Lawrence Hall's lecture "The Incredible Mayans." We attended two cooking demonstrations by onboard chefs in the Universal Lounge. The second was more of a comedy show. The "chef" demonstrated his skill rolling out dough with a wine bottle. We took a tour through the galley. We would have enjoyed it more if smaller groups were taken through at a more leisurely pace—but, at least we got a peek of what goes on behind those shiny revolving doors! I watched a movie in the cabin one evening I wasn't feeling well (no it wasn't the Noro virus or sea sickness). We attended a wine tasting (about $10 per person) which was held in the Bordeaux dining room. I thought it was very nicely done, but a bit rushed. We enjoyed Greg Watson, the piano entertainer in Crooners Lounge. If you meet Philip bartending in Crooners, ask him about his first day as a cruise ship employee. He had us in stitches! We watched a martini-making demonstration and the Mr. was a participant in the festivities! We tried our luck in the casino. The Mr. broke even and I left my deposit. I'm not a big gambler so it wasn't much of a loss. We enjoyed the pool & spas. Also enjoyable were our gatherings on the Lido deck with fellow passengers to shoot the breeze, have a cocktail or two and share a few laughs. Dining The Bordeaux dining room was very spacious and the seating at even the largest tables was comfortable. Service was better some nights than others. The food was good with a decent variety each night. It was our first time with "anytime" dining. We like the concept and enjoyed meeting new people every night. We experienced long waiting lines on three occasions, but once we got inside the door and said we'd like to be seated at any open table, we were seated immediately. The staff sporadically checked diner's cards to ensure they were "anytime" diners. We never made reservations. We thought it defeated the purpose of the concept. Reservations are allowed, which some passengers used to their full advantage at the expense of other "anytime" diners. We heard a group made multiple reservations at various time intervals for the same night under each of their cabin numbers, but only used the reservation at the time that was most convenient for them. I did mention this in the end-of-cruise questionnaire and hope Princess finds a way to eliminate multiple reservations and only accept diners who have signed up for "anytime" dining. But, until they work the "kinks" out of "anytime" dining, we will use the late Traditional seating for our next cruise. We usually had breakfast in the Horizon. Lunch either in the Horizon, the grill or pizza, dinner in the Bordeaux dining room or the Bayou (one night). The first formal night we had dinner in the Bayou with our delightful dinner companions from the first night of the cruise. The ambiance was nice and the meal was decent. Ports We only did shore excursions in two ports. The other port days we spent relaxing in the lounge chairs which are scarce when all passengers are on board. We enjoyed the swimming pool and spa and enjoyed time with other passengers we met on deck. Cozumel, Mexico - Our shore excursion was a Mexican cuisine cooking and tasting. We took a short bus trip to Playa Mia, where we were paired up with a nice couple, Chuck & Diane. An entertaining young chef guided us through our edible creations, as we sipped our margarita. During the cooking class, a heavy rainstorm passed through, but we stayed dry as we were under their new pavilion. We enjoyed eating our culinary delights with a glass of wine. We were also impressed that cleanliness and hygiene were stressed before starting the cooking class. They had a portable sink where everyone washed their hands before the class began. The portable cooking stations were immaculately clean. They also had a buffet and beach bar which was available to us during our stay. We brought our swimsuits and towels and had a bit of time to enjoy the beach before we had to catch the bus back to the ship. We really enjoyed the day! Grand Cayman-We booked the "Island Highlights & Stingray City" shore excursion. We were disappointed that the Stingray City portion of the excursion was cancelled. But, they credited our account for one-half the cost of the shore excursion. We got conflicting stories from the Princess excursion staff why it was cancelled. It was beyond our control and didn't spoil our day on the island. We boarded a bus and rode around the island as the bus driver pointed out various places and a bit of the island history. We stopped briefly at 7-mile beach. Next we stopped in "Hell" which had a gift shop with the proprietor behind the cash register dressed as a devil. In the back of the property is black coral in jagged shapes. It looked like rock formations that would be found in hell. A popular picture opportunity was standing next to a wooden statue of the devil. You can send mail from "Hell" which will bear the postmark from "Hell." The bus driver explained there was major damage from Hurricane Ivan. The side of the building in "Hell" indicated how high the water became from the flooding. Our bus driver said that he is thankful to be alive because he spent a night hanging onto a tree. Next was a stop at the Tortuga Rum Factory store which was very crowded. We relaxed on the back porch while the crowd thinned and then sampled some rum and rum cake. Yes, I bought some delicious rum cake! Our last stop was the turtle farm. Our bus driver gave us a nice tour around the turtle farm explaining the history, purpose, and improvements being made to the facilities. Everyone was able to hold a turtle. Our guide said that if they start flapping their flippers to just rub under their chin and they will settle down. It worked! Another nice day, and an island we hope to enjoy again in the future. Maybe next time we'll take a cab to 7-mile beach. Panama Canal Transit This is the main reason we chose this itinerary. We were up early and enjoyed the transit through the locks into Gatun Lake from our balcony. We watched our transit from Gatun Lake back to the sea from the Horizon court. We were fortunate to share a table with one of our previous dinner companions. We had a great view and kept cool while we indulged in some excellent desserts. I did get a few good pictures of the canal from one of the side staircases, without the blue windshields blocking the view. We enjoyed the history & marvel of the canal. This trip was another travel wish of ours fulfilled! Embarkation/Disembarkation Embarkation was a breeze until we were halfway up the gangway. There was some sort of snafu where folks with blue cards weren't being accepted by the scanner. We were asked to move back down the gangway. Not too long of a wait before we were told to proceed up for boarding. Disembarkation is a bit slower, but part of the cruise experience. After we located our bags in the sea of baggage---shame on us, only one of our bags had a special identifying "dohickey"---, we had a porter take our bags to our waiting bus. A few dollars for the porter services is well worth it! Princess Air We opted for the convenience of having someone else take care of the reservations. The trip down was fine. The return trip was a bit convoluted: bus from the ship to Miami Airport, Miami to Orlando on American, switch to Delta in Orlando to Atlanta, Atlanta to Myrtle Beach. Our flight out of Miami was delayed two hours and 15 minutes, causing us to miss our connection in Orlando. We were booked on another airline through Charlotte and touched down in Myrtle Beach sometime after 11:30 p.m.. We put in a claim for our missing luggage and received it two days later. But, we are counting our blessings that the luggage wasn't lost on the flight to Florida. We think we'll take our chances making our own flight arrangements next time, especially since Spirit now flies nonstop from Myrtle Beach to Ft. Lauderdale. Conclusion We love cruising and are doing it all over again on the Emerald Princess next Valentine's Day! Read Less
Sail Date February 2007
We stayed in Fort Lauderdale the night before the cruise, at the Holiday Inn across from the beach on A1A - What a terrible mistake that was. Dirty old place that should be torn down. We took a taxi to the port about 12:30PM on Feb 17th ... Read More
We stayed in Fort Lauderdale the night before the cruise, at the Holiday Inn across from the beach on A1A - What a terrible mistake that was. Dirty old place that should be torn down. We took a taxi to the port about 12:30PM on Feb 17th for embarkation. They had recommended to board about 2:00PM, but we were anxious to get out of the hotel, so took a chance. Checking in was easy, but being some of the first people they hadn't quite fully staffed the check-in desks - so a little confusion for a very short time. We were on board within 30 minutes and to our cabin which was a mini-suite on Dolphin deck. It was a spacious comfortable room with tons of shelves are places for clothes. My only complaint about the room was the balcony that was open in full sight of all the decks above. We had previously been in a regular balcony room on the Caribe deck which was half again bigger in size and very private with a roof covering. So - never the Dolphin deck again This was our 5th Princess cruise, so we were very comfortable with facilities, dining etc. The Horizon court is excellent most of the time. We had set dining time for dinner and except for the first night the food was pretty good to excellent. We took only one Princess cruise tour in Costa Rica for white water rafting. The rafting was great for an hour or so, but the tour was about 6 or 7 hours long because of the bus trip and stopping for lunch. I wouldn't do that again. Our friends had booked a private tour through Okeydocky tours on the internet and were extremely pleased. It had a variety of activities including the zip line and cost about half what it would have booking a similar tour on board. We did the swimming with Sting Rays in Cayman. My wife freaked out when they swam by - It didn't thrill me much either. Not sure why we did that now? The Panama Cannel was fascinating to see. Over all, another great cruise. We have booked next February on the Emerald Princess already! Princess is really good. They almost never say - no can't be done. Our room steward was OK - just average. We have had better, but OK. We did take in some entertainment. One comedian was hilarious and could be in Vegas, - another was not great. There was a huge musical production that just seemed too ambitious for the talent of the staff - but it is all free!! Read Less
Sail Date February 2007
We have just returned from a wonderful cruise to the Panama Canal. My husband and I traveled with our daughter and her husband on the Coral Princess. Since we wished to meet some family in Florida, we booked our own airfare and hotel for ... Read More
We have just returned from a wonderful cruise to the Panama Canal. My husband and I traveled with our daughter and her husband on the Coral Princess. Since we wished to meet some family in Florida, we booked our own airfare and hotel for two nights prior to embarkation. We booked direct flights with USAirways from Pittsburgh, arriving in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday, Feb. 25th. We stayed at the lovely Atlantic Hotel on Fort Lauderdale Blvd. It is one of the luxury Sheraton offerings, and it was very luxurious. We enjoyed the pool area and bar, especially the bartender, a friendly English lady. We did eat breakfast at the restaurant, which was very good, but very pricey. Our first night we ventured to the Rustic Inn Crabhouse, located on Ravenswood Rd. We had a ball!! It is very rustic, and every diner receives a mallet with their crab dinner. Whenever someone is celebrating a special event, like birthdays and anniversaries, the entire restaurant joins in by pounding their mallets on the wooden tables. Great fun. Great food. Try their famous garlic crab. Although the hotel was beautiful, I would try a different location if going early, again. The beach was right across the street, but everything else was an expensive taxi ride away. We arrived at Port Everglades, Pier Two about 12:30pm and proceeded onboard with no wait and no difficulties. Everyone of the Princess reps were very friendly and helpful. Once on board we stopped to purchase a soda drink card, just one per couple is needed, and preceded to our cabin. We both booked mini-suites for two reasons. First of all, we like the seating area offered in the mini-suite and larger balcony, but also prefer the tub/shower to allow more bathing room. The rooms were well-designed, but could use a little upgrading on upholstery and carpeting. Ours was stained in several places, but otherwise, the room was spotless. The balcony had a table, two regular chairs, and two reclining chairs. We had our steward open the door between the balconies. We had also requested to have the egg-crate mattress pads for the beds, which were in queen formation, two weeks previously. If you wait until you are onboard, you may not get one. Our steward, Jamie, also provided us with robes and slippers. For the first time, we had chosen the anytime dining, which we really liked. We usually went to dinner about 7-7:30, and rarely waited more than a few minutes, just time enough for a cocktail nearby. The first night we were seated at table #30. Our head waiter was Marian, and the assistant waiter was Ruel. They were wonderful!! We ended up requesting them each evening, in fact they were looking for us and did their best to hold our table each night. The food in the dining room was very good. The selections provided a great deal of choices, and Marian was always able to customize any of the offerings to please picky eaters, like my husband. We did try Sabatini's one night and were very disappointed. We're not gourmet eaters, but we do enjoy good food. None of us enjoyed any of the meal, including the dessert! The waiters were efficient, but not friendly and did not add to the dining experience. I love lobster and shrimp, but whatever they had used as a seasoning stopped me from eating any of it. It was the only meal which we came away hungry. We usually had a continental breakfast preordered for our room each day, but a couple of days we called room service to order a more substantial breakfast, which was excellent. For lunch we usually had pizza or something from the grill by the pool. The pizza was ok, but not as good as what I have had on other Princess cruises. We occasionally went to the Horizon Court for the buffet, which was good, but crowded. The one thing that did surprise me was the average age of the passengers. My husband and I are in our mid-50’s, and we were the teenagers. We only saw 3 children on the entire cruise. The advantage to older average age was that they did go to bed earlier than most did on other cruises. We pretty much had the bars and casinos to ourselves by 11:00pm. We did find a great bar where we seemed to migrate often during the afternoon and evening. It was the Crooners Bar which boasted a very talented piano/singer every evening. We sat at the small bar and were very entertained by Phillip, the bartender. He loved to show us card tricks and other puzzles to our delight. We always had a lot of fun while enjoying our cocktails with him. Several other passengers felt the same, and we became a familiar group. We also enjoyed the casino, and unfortunately for our pockets, they enjoyed us, too. All of the dealers and servers were very friendly and seemed to know what you wanted before you even asked. They offered a variety of slot, blackjack, etc. tournaments which were very popular. Our first day was a sea, which was a nice way to start off the cruise—very relaxing. The second day we were to be in Cozumel, but unfortunately we couldn’t tender in because of extreme swells. The ship didn’t feel rough, but it was dangerously rough on the tenders. The captain reluctantly aborted, so we had a second day at sea. Again, the third day was at sea, as was scheduled, so when we finally were able to get off in Grand Cayman, everyone was happy. We booked the Pirate Adventure in Grand Cayman. They took you aboard the Jolly Roger for some fun and a little rum punch. Although it was fun, it was not nearly as much fun as the Jolly Roger my daughter and son-in-law experienced in Barbados. After that 2 hour trip, we took a taxi down seven mile beach and enjoyed the water and sunshine. The next stop provided our favorite tour. In Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, we booked the Jungle River Eco Adventure. It was wonderful. Our tour guide had her masters in eco-tourism and was fascinating. We traveled by bus to the Tortuga Canals which are a natural waterway through the rain forest. She made sure that we saw all the wildlife possible and taught us about their habits and life styles. Very interesting! She told us that we were smart to have booked the morning tour since the afternoon is very hot and humid and the animals tend to hide away in the heat. After the canal ride, the served us tons of beautiful fresh fruit and beverages, entertained us with a live calypso band, and provided a small shop for souvenir shopping. Next, we were off to the banana plantation. Although being Sunday, the workers were not working; our guide still was able to give us a very informative tour. The next day was the Panama Canal, and we were not disappointed. We entered the canal before daybreak which was interesting to see with all the lights. We could hear the howler monkeys in the trees as we squeezed into the first lock. Having a balcony was very nice. We toasted the canal with champagne as we watched all the activity. Once through the locks, we anchored in Gatun Lake where the passengers taking tours got off into tenders. We stayed onboard and napped, but were up and ready for the return through the locks. To get a different view we went to the Promenade Deck for a closer look, and again, we were not disappointed. The entire day the ship played a variety of documentaries about the Canal that were very helpful. Once out of the canal, we docked in Cristobal to wait for the passengers returning from tours. We were able to get off on the dock and visit the shops. It was basically a flea market, not worth the trip. Our next day was at sea as we traveled to Ocho Rios, Jamaica. We were never bored with so much to do onboard. We had become interested in the bingo games along with the pools and casino. In Ocho Rios we took the cruise tour to the local beach club, which was very well run. We had comfortable lounge chairs either in or out of the sun, a hostess to bring us drinks and tapas, music and entertainment. The only downside of the beach was the water. Although it was clear, it unfortunately had a lot of trash in it. We didn’t go out of the beach club complex which was surrounded by barbed wire fencing. Others who did venture out on their own told us how much they were hassled to buy drugs. After Jamaica, we had one final day at sea before arriving back at Fort Lauderdale. Disembarkation went smoothly and even ahead of schedule. We had purchased transfers to the airport, and again, very efficient. We had to wait several hours at the airport due to our late flight, but had no problems. Overall, we all enjoyed the trip. I’m sure my daughter and son-in-law will probably not take another Panama Canal trip due to the age of the passengers, but my husband and I would probably return. I think the next time we would want to travel all the way through the canal and up the west coast of Central America. Read Less
Sail Date February 2007
Our Embarkation went without a hitch, we actually arrived pretty early and they checked us in early as we had 4 children we were travelling with. When we arrived in our cabin we had treats awaiting us, chocolate covered strawberries, fancy ... Read More
Our Embarkation went without a hitch, we actually arrived pretty early and they checked us in early as we had 4 children we were travelling with. When we arrived in our cabin we had treats awaiting us, chocolate covered strawberries, fancy little sandwiches and champagne. The strawberries were huge and delicious. Kids Activities: our children joined the Pelican Pete children's activities in the children's play area. The children loved it and wanted to be there every day. At night when the children did not want to go to the shows they provided babysitting at a minimal cost and the kids were able to have treats and watch movies. The play area was filled with everything for a child, from video games to karaoke to table top games and so much more for the younger children also. They also had theme days/nights for the kids which our children loved, Mexican night where they had a mexican meal and dressed up, Pirates night which the children loved. We couldn't get our kids away from the play area. The food was wonderful on this ship, we ate a few night at the formal dining, the kids loved getting all dressed up and having a family photo taken. It made them feel very special and the wait staff really fussed over the children. The pool areas were beautiful and lots of lounge chairs to sit on. The spa was really nice and the ladies were wonderful in the spa. The Entertainment was above and beyond, the talent on this ship was the best I have seen on any ship I have been on and for that matter it was Vegas quality. The singers were very good and the dancers were the best I have seen, lots of energy and very professional. The magicians/comedians were also very good, also of Vegas quality. The crew staff were very entertaining and full of energy. They were always there trying to get everyone in the spirit of the day. Our room stewards were very helpful, friendly and couldn't do enough for us. These people are extremely overworked and still manage to always have a smile on their face when you are requesting something of them. We did a few shore excursions which we enjoyed, the best day was the Captain had invited our children onto the bridge and we were able to stay on the bridge going through the Panama Canal, that was such a learning experience for our children. it was amazing to see so high up. Overall this was a wonderful trip, not many other children were on this cruise but that was nice as the children were paid extra special attention and plenty of fuss was made. We will do many more Princess cruises in our future and the Coral stood out for us and made a home run for our family. Read Less
Sail Date January 2007
SHIP: Coral Princess DATE: December 12, 2006 VOYAGE: 6642 10 Day Panama Canal, R/T Ft Lauderdale FLIGHT: I took the red eye out of San Francisco of which had a connecting flight out of Charlotte North Carolina. Both flights were on time ... Read More
SHIP: Coral Princess DATE: December 12, 2006 VOYAGE: 6642 10 Day Panama Canal, R/T Ft Lauderdale FLIGHT: I took the red eye out of San Francisco of which had a connecting flight out of Charlotte North Carolina. Both flights were on time and rather uneventful thankfully! The bus ride to the ship from the airport is a short 15 minute ride. The Princess staff at the airport could have been more friendly, so far I haven't come across any of the staff at the airports to be trained as well as the ships staff. I have heard that Princess contracts out these people and it shows. Most of them need a lot more training in customer service and the art of being friendly and polite! EMBARKATION: Getting on the ship was a breeze; we were in line for only 10 minutes and thought the security line in another 5 minutes. The staff was friendly and very helpful. I would like to see Princess create a better ship board greeting when getting on, because as it is you get your cruise card and go find your cabin by yourself. Perhaps a few of the crew could say "welcome aboard, are you ready for your Panama Canal adventure? We look forward to seeing you throughout this cruise and if there is anything you need just let us know!" I doubt that would cost anything. CABIN: Balcony E731 My cabin was delightful, very clean and well stocked. The cabin was a good size and didn't feel cramped. Everything worked and the balcony was huge! At the stern of the ship the balconies are quite a bit deeper than mid-ship. My cabin steward always kept my cabin sparkling no matter what time of day or night I was there. BUFFET: I ate at Horizon Court for breakfast and lunch everyday. The food was plentiful and any special requests I had were fulfilled. The only recommendation I have is to have better fresher fruit. Most of the staff in the Horizon Court were helpful, although a few were less than friendly. DINNING: I had the late seating in the dinning room at a table of 8. Our waiter and assistant waiter were quite good. I have a few food allergies so I requested a special salad, amongst other things not on the menu of which the head waiter made sure I had every evening, I never went hungry. The food was great although it was better on the Dawn Princess I was on in October. Dinner was a 2 hour affair every night and all my table mates were wonderful. ENTERTAINMENT: I went to most of the evening shows after dinner, mostly comedy, magic and a few dance productions. All were good, some of the comedy was great! STAFF: Most of the staff were very helpful and always said hello and looked busy taking care of something. SHIP: The ship is great and very clean. The indoor pool and Jacuzzi area was great! PORTS: Our ship was on time throughout the entire cruise and the weather was wonderful everyday, lot's of warm sunny days. All shore excursions went as planned and were great. Going into the Panama Canal was wonderful; we had a clear warm day and got lots of great pictures and video. FITNESS: I used the fitness center/spa everyday, the equipment was good and the spa area (sauna/steam room) were great and clean. DISEMBARKATION: Getting off the ship went very smoothly, I had breakfast, packed my toothbrush and waited in the atrium until my color was called. I found my bags easily, went through customs, boarded a bus to the airport and was on my way. This was my 6th Princess cruise and the level of service has been consistent throughout each cruise. I read these CruiseCritic reviews regularly as well as talking with fellow passengers and find that most people have a great experience with Princess. My next cruise will be on the Golden Princess sailing to the Mexican Rivera out of San Francisco and it should be great! If you have any questions please email me (Steve) at happyspirit11@hotmail.com Read Less
Sail Date December 2006
We've been back from our cruise for a week now and really it was an awesome cruise. Forgive my spelling errors please :). Embarkation: After a hectic first day (AND I MEAN AWFUL!), we got on the ship without any problems (We ... Read More
We've been back from our cruise for a week now and really it was an awesome cruise. Forgive my spelling errors please :). Embarkation: After a hectic first day (AND I MEAN AWFUL!), we got on the ship without any problems (We didn't have to wait in a separate line for an hour thankfully). The Ship: Ok, seriously, the public rooms were awesome! The atrium really impressed us. The whole ship was still decorated for christmas so it looked like the whole ship was illuminated and going to sail away all glittering. Our favorite public room was definitely the Wheelhouse Bar. The public rooms were really all great. The pool area was sometimes loud but really impressive and a LOT better than Disney's. The Lotus Pool was a real nice quiet place.The atrium was very dramatic in a sense that it made you feel like you were getting the elegant treatment. We went up to Baja Deck to see our mini-suite which was real nice. It felt bigger and it was bigger than our last room. Our deck, which really was amazing, was for 4 people and was extremely panoramic. Our steward was extremely nice and quick (no more than 5 - 15 minutes to get our room ready for evenings). Our favorite public room out of all the rooms is definitely the Wheelhouse Bar. The was a big room that had nice music playing, great decor, views, and we spent every night from about 6 - 7:30 there just talking and laughing as a family. The Princess Theatre was really nice (however it seemed that the theatre was small for the amount of people that wanted to go in). The casino LOOKED nice and it was all open to the public hallways on deck 6. The Universe Lounge was really a great place to see a show or participate in a game show (If you want to participate in the marriage game, don't bring you're kids cause they ask questions about "gardening"). The Card room and Library were really quiet places that you could go just to relax and calm down. However on evenings at sea, the card room was very full. The internet cafes were really nice and welcoming and the news ticker was neat. Going now to deck 14 to the Lido pool. The Lido pool was really spectacular with 3 hot tubs around it, a large pool that could easily accommodate the people that want to go in it, and really great pizza and burgers. The Lotus Pool is where our family put our chairs. They had the roof closed the whole trip and it was way quieter than the Lido pool. The ice-cream bar was really fabulous (except the line ups can clog up on hot sea days) and you can create really neat creations. The gym was nice but smallish for the cruise and could get busy on morning sea days so get there early! The hidden treasure of the ship is at the very back at the Family Pool. It was usually dead and it provided stunning views of the back of the ship. The most panoramic pathway of all the ship is coming from the inside of the Lotus Pool heading back towards the splash pool. The mini-golf on deck 15 was err interesting. There wasn't any child supervision and there was a whole group of kids throwing the golf balls over the side and throwing clubs everywhere. The add onto that, the golf course was in bad shape and they could of put more time into upkeeping it. Entertainment: The welcome show the first night was really neat and it was a great way to get to know the staff and what the ship is all about. We never really went to the large shows except that one. We went to the 2 comedians on board and they were both very good. The entertainment in the lounges were nice except one band. The duo playing in the atrium was the best music on the ship. They played familiar tunes with the piano and steel drums and they filled the whole atrium with warmth. The band on the pool was for the most part good excluding the loudness. Cabin: Our cabin was on Starboard side Deck 11 and we had a Mini-suite. The room seemed and was larger than our previous cruise. The bathroom was large and had a nice shower/bath. There was a lot more wiggle room in this room and we could get around easier. The couch idea was neat how the bottom bunk stretched out like a single hide-a-bed and the top bunk folded down from the roof. We had two TV's which was nice except when two people were watching intriguing shows, it became chaotic. The decor in the room felt older than the last cruise but was still nice. My favorite part of the room was the large mirrors they placed on the walls which gave a sense that it really was a royal treatment. The 4-person deck was a real treat and it really could hold 4 people. On the outside of our door was a glass almost mail-box like thing. This is where we got all the patters (extremely useful. TIP: Use these everyday), shopping guides, notices, etc. Dining: Sorry to say, the dining disappointed us. Back here at home we eat out a lot to real nice places and we were disappointed with the food. To start off, the Horizon Court. Some days, we all found something and it was really good. Some days (particularly breakfast) we just had awful meals. The hashbrowns, all through the cruise, were bland and left a taste of metal pan in your mouth. Usually, the meat was dry and they gelled the cold ham and it came out really disgusting. I found that the only way I could eat one of their bagels was to toast it. To add on to that, the Horizon Court was always WAY to small for the amount of people that wanted to eat there. The views however from the windows (particularly the front if you were lucky) were quite stunning. We had anytime dining so we ate at the Bordeaux Restaurant. We were expecting a more diverse menu and something more unique. Sometimes there were good meals of steak or the occasional pasta. But usually, they were OK dishes like dishes with not a lot of flavor. It seems like they saw an idea and tried to imitate it, but failed. The deserts, were disgusting. The decor included lots of elbow room, nice warm colors flowing throughout the room, and nice carpets. Ok, the only thing that restored our faith in the dining is the specialty restaurants. We went to Sabatini's on New Years Eve and we didn't really know what to expect. It really is quite an extravaganza of antipastos, seafood, pasta, pizza, veal, chicken, everything really. Only thing is, if you bring kids to this Restaurant, they would definitely have to broaden their horizons of what foods they will or will not eat. Neat decor here considering we had our own little corner by the window. It was a nice, airy Restaurant which really italian colors and candle-lit tables. Our favorite Restaurant of the whole cruise was the Bayou Cafe. The ambience really made you feel like you were in the French Quarter, and so did the food. The room itself was mostly blacks and browns usually only lit lights that flickered like candles. Our favorites -> Porterhouse Steak, Chorizo Sausage and Chicken with Jambalaya, and of course the Johnny Cakes in the bread basket. We liked it so much the first time, we went again! Special: My parents renewed their vows on the cruise and really IT WAS WORTH IT! First we got canapes and chocolate dipped strawberries in our room every night. Second, they got souvenir wine glasses and bath robes for them to take home. For the ceremony, they had to pick out music, boutonnieres (sorry my spelling), my mom got a bouquet of orchids and roses, they had to exchange rings, and to top it off the person who organized it was extremely nice and she made everything really easy. Also, on top of the welcome bottle of champagne they got, they got a another bottle of champagne for dinner. Plus, we got breakfast for 4 out on the balcony during the Panama Canal locks day which was truly amazing. Plus, they got 2 free spa treatments. Best of all, was on the last sea day we all got to go on the bridge tour. That was truly fascinating. Spa: According to my mom, the spa was bland compared to Disney. However the 2 massages she did have were very nice. Destinations: Ocho Rios (Dec. 31): Just to tell you off the bat, we hate Jamaica. We went 12 years ago and hated it. And it doesn't disappoint. We went on the Bamboo beach Club beach day excursion. The beach was right in the Ocho Rios Bay. The Beach was real nice, the drinks were good, the service great, but the water was awful. Plus, it kind of took away from the mood with huge razor wire all the way around the beach. After a while we walked to Margaritaville which was really nice. On the walk back it got sunny again and many people asked us for money. We got back on the ship early and enjoyed the rest of the day at the pool. Panama Canal (Jan. 2): This was absolutely fantastic! The front of the ship was too crowded with people so we went down to the Promenade (If you're ship is going through the right locks, go to the port side of the ship, if you're ship is going through the left locks, go to the starboard side of the ship). After our breakfast on deck, we tendered out to the harbour and went on a train tour. We got the Deluxe Car was was really nice. The tour took us all the way to Panama City and Back. Limon (Jan 3): When we arrived, we could;d instantly tell that Limon was quite poor and almost frightening. We went on the Jungle Boat ride in the morning which was nice cause it poured rain and then it stopped so we could see the animals. After, we drove up to the mountains to go on the aerial tram tour. That was really amazing. Grand Cayman (Jan 5): I had been sick the day before because of the rough seas and was still kind of sick. Since we weren't on a tour, we didn't have to wait at all for a tender and just got right on. On the pier, we went on a local tour where us and 2 other couples went around the west side of the island. We saw Hell, the Turtle Farm, Tortuga Rum Cake Factory, and Seven Mile Beach. Since we had only 5 hours, we didn't go the beach but after we went shopping. For lunch we went to Margaritaville (where we all had the best specialty drinks of the cruise) and walked around more. This was our favorite stop. Cozumel (Jan 6): I have a love/hate relationship with Mexico and when we got off, I was impressed. The town was quite nice. We went on the Passion Island Beach excursion which was fantastic. Everything was great. Ft. Lauderdale (Jan 8): Disembarkation went as smoothly as embarkation did and that was nice. We had an awful rest of the day which included an unexpected overnight in Dallas because our flight from Fort Lauderdale to Dallas left late and our flight from Dallas to home left early. Crew: Overall the crew were very nice and they always said "Hi" to you or asked if you needed help. We were surprised how many Canadians there were (including 2 from Vancouver on the Entertainment team). Our steward was especially very good and we gave him a little extra tip. Well thank you for reading and if you are going/planning on going on the Coral Princess, it truly is a great ship. Read Less
Sail Date December 2006
This was, by far, the most educational cruise we have taken. Ten days that included 5 ports and 5 sea days allowed for much more down time. Using Park and Fly when driving to Fort Lauderdale was less expensive, convenient and very ... Read More
This was, by far, the most educational cruise we have taken. Ten days that included 5 ports and 5 sea days allowed for much more down time. Using Park and Fly when driving to Fort Lauderdale was less expensive, convenient and very efficient. Embarkation was a bit confusing in that they gave out numbers which didn't mean a thing. Not until we asked questions did we find our way to the ship. Our upgrade from mid-ship on the baja deck to aft on the emerald deck was much better than we had ever imagined. Our steward Marek did an excellent job. Meals at the Horizon Court were mediocre but the little packets of salt and pepper in place of salt and pepper shakers drove us nuts. We always had to ask for a sugar free dessert, as there were none on the buffet line. Early seating in the Provence dining room was perfect, as were the meals and service. The hamburger/pizza bar served an excellent hamburger. The ports of Montego Bay, the Cayman Islands and Cozumel provided the usual shopping places but all the ports start to look alike after a while. The exception was a 9-hour excursion through Costa Rica that included a visit to the rainforest, stopping at a plantation and having an authentic Costa Rican lunch. The marvels of passing through the Panama Canal will always be remembered. We missed evening activities on the Lido Deck as it became very quiet after 7:00 p.m. Activities seemed to move to bars, the theaters and the casino. We used the self-service laundromats on two occasions and found them very convenient. Management of the Coral Princess should be commended on their efforts to maintain cleanliness and hygiene. Employees were posted at the entrance to every eating area with squirt bottles of alcohol for your hands. We were hoping for self-service disembarkation as we faced a 10-hour drive home; however, we were told no self-service disembarkation is allowed at Fort Lauderdale. Nevertheless, our color code was called early enough that we had found our luggage and were driving back home by 9:00 a.m. Read Less
Sail Date December 2006
Overall, this cruise exceeded our expectations. My husband and I have been on 8 other cruises together; this was the first on the Coral Princess and to the Panama Canal. We are Princess Platinum members, so we enjoy the free internet ... Read More
Overall, this cruise exceeded our expectations. My husband and I have been on 8 other cruises together; this was the first on the Coral Princess and to the Panama Canal. We are Princess Platinum members, so we enjoy the free internet privileges. One suggestion on use of the Internet--free to Platinum and above members, 0.50/minute otherwise--is that in order to take advantage of email, you should set up an account easily accessible from the web before you leave home (e.g., yahoo, msn, etc.), and let you family/friends know the address ahead of time. (We have an account through RoadRunner which is not easily accessible via Web, and Outlook is not available from the Internet Cafe computers on the Princess ships). Back to the cruise. Embarkation was difficult from Ft. Lauderdale. We later learned that Customs had established some non-standard limitations the day our cruise was boarded. The Princess personnel could have done a better job of communicating, and when we entered we asked where we go for Priority boarding and were told to stand in line with everybody else; about 40 minutes later we were told to come ahead. The entire boarding procedure took about an hour, so it really wasn't all that bad. The ship itself is pretty outstanding in terms of public rooms and amenities. This was the first ship that I'd been on that had a basketball court. Also enjoyed having a Promenade deck that allows walking around the entire ship, which we've had on some ships before (e.g. Royal Princess) but not all. There were lots of lounges, and the atrium area (covering decks 5-8 in the center of the ship) is gorgeous, especially since it was decorated for Christmas (Dec. 2 boarding), much to our surprise. It has a special set of glass elevators that only go within the atrium area. The shows were quite good. One thing about the social activities that seemed unusual is that they appeared to be geared toward making a very small group of people the winners and center of attention for all events (rock and roll party, island party, ice breakers, and the like). On other cruises we've been on, the social staff went out of their way to make everyone, and especially people that weren't necessarily the "life of the party" feel included and special. The particular people who were the winners of all the contests on this cruise were those who were striving to gain attention. My husband even suspected that they were "professional partiers". This is just an aside; it really didn't detract from our enjoyment of the cruise, and the social staff did some extras like providing streamers for us to throw during some of the events (although the streamers really did get in the way of dancing and could be a safety hazard). There were 4 complementary ballroom dancing lessons--meringue, salsa, waltz, and one other. The attendance was much larger than we have been used to, probably due to the popularity of "Dancing with the Stars". Given the large crowd, the 2 social staffers who conducted the lessons did a good job and people had sufficient space to dance. There were also frequent line dance classes. I joined in one of them, and it was easy to follow and fun (also drew a good-size crowd, but there was enough space). The food in the Horizon Court was probably the best buffet we've experienced on a ship, and we utilized it for a larger percentage of our meals (most breakfasts and lunches) than in the past. They also serve ice cream daily from 3:30-4:30 PM, a non-advertised treat. We had the Anytime dining option, which is in the Bordeaux Dining Room on Deck 5. We enjoyed the flexibility and meeting new people each evening (we were always asked whether we wanted to share or dine privately, and always opted to "share"). The downside was that we felt that the service was not as stellar as that which we've received on other Princess ships when we had fixed dining. We do understand that the wait staff is not able to become as acquainted with the diners when there are different people at their tables every night, and that there is extra work involved in seating arrangements that is not incurred for Fixed Seating. The dining room food--entrees and desserts were fabulous (although there were some loser items--probably best to ask the waiter for their recommendation, which we did not do). In my humble opinion (IMHO), the soups and salads (which are a big deal to me) left much to be desired. Most of the soups were of the froid (cold) variety, and often sweet, which I prefer hot and spicier soups. The salads were pretty skimpy. Of course, one could always find soups and especially salads to their heart's content up in the Horizon Court. There were 3 cases of Norfolk virus that we learned about toward the end of the cruise. Princess takes all the precautions, with personnel dispensing special cleansers to each passenger as they enter any dining venue. The stateroom was virtually identical to the one we had on the Sapphire Princess in '05--basic stateroom with postage stamp balcony. It's still nice to have that balcony, albeit small. The stateroom itself can be configured as a queen bed (upon request) or 2 twins. It has shower and large closet. There aren't many drawers, but instead you have another closet with little shelves to use. Movies are available from your stateroom TV, as well as in the theater. We had the best steward--Nancy, on the Aloha deck. We had a "Scholarship at Sea" program available, which we did not use. My husband and I had just completed a PhotoShop class at home prior to the trip, so figured that the offering in that area would be too basic for us. Pottery was also available for those so inclined. There were a couple of shopping lectures given by the on-board shopping consultant, and one of two gem seminars given by Hubert Gesser, a guest jeweler who is reported to be jeweler of the Queen of Spain. We shared a dinner table with Hubert one evening, and were entertained by the experiences he shared with us. We also had David Rogne on board to give his famous lectures of various explorers in the areas to which we travelled, e.g. Christopher Columbus--Dr. Rogne's style is to assume the persona of his subject, and we had sailed with him previously in South America. As usual, on the last day we submitted our deposit for our next Princess cruise--Princess offers incentives to book your next cruise on board, you can either select the specific cruise and even stateroom, or just sign up (as we do) for a To Be Determined in the future cruise. Princess gives you up to 4 years to take the cruise, and your deposit (only $100 per person) is refundable anytime during that period should you change you mind or be unable to cruise. Read Less
Sail Date December 2006
This being our 4th cruise on Princess and the second on the Coral, we pretty much knew what to expect about the ship itself. We live in Orlando but still decided to arrive the day before so we could be on the ship early. Pre-cruise we ... Read More
This being our 4th cruise on Princess and the second on the Coral, we pretty much knew what to expect about the ship itself. We live in Orlando but still decided to arrive the day before so we could be on the ship early. Pre-cruise we stayed at the Marriott in Coral Springs which is a bout 30 minutes from the port. The hotel has a golf course which is the main draw to this property. Our room package included champagne as well as a buffet breakfast. Might as well get into the swing of things right away with the whole buffet line! The pool area was disappointing, very small. All the rooms face the atrium and there were a couple of times that the noise from the lobby traveled up and could be heard while inside our room. The next morning we arrived at the port around 11am dropped of the luggage, parked the car and were in line by 1130. Embarkation - Could have been a lot better, we were in what we thought was the line to the terminal, only to find it was a special line for a wedding party. Our line was outside and had already started to form. We found that we were at the only terminal that did not have a waiting area and no facilities while waiting. Embarkation was delayed due to a problem with the gangway when the ship arrived, delaying the prior cruise from debarking. Once the doors opened we made it through the check in pretty quickly then in line again for security. There was only one security line, once you got past that, we were put in a holding area until they were ready to allow passengers on board. I have certainly seen much better embarkations and worse. Cabin - We arrived at our cabin, a mini D523 which was a great location. The only downfall was this cabin did not have any cover which we thought would be OK but found out later on in the cruise when we encountered some rain, it would have been nice to have a little cover. Our cabin steward way Rey, very accommodating and took care of getting us feather pillows for the bed. He kept the room very well maintained during the entire trip. Ports - First port was Montego Bay. We did the Taste of Jamaica excursion which included a short duty free shopping stop and a trip to a sugar plantation. It was very warm that day while in port, however when we got to the higher elevation at the sugar plantation it cooled considerably. We were late leaving since one of the ship's excursions was delayed returning to the ship. Next was the Panama Canal. We awoke very early (430am) to see the ships lined up and returned to the room while we entered the canal and the first set of locks. This was quite amazing and it was fun with everyone out on their balconies to experience the canal. We left the ship after entering Gatun Lake, tendered to shore where we left in a bus to another dock and boarded a boat to finish the trip through the canal. Our guide, Arturo, was very knowledgeable and did a great job during the bus ride as well as on the boat. A box lunch was served, consisting of a turkey sandwich, banana muffin and all the water and soft drinks. Beer was sold for $2. The weather was very nice, it was warm but not hot since we had a nice breeze for most of the day. Once we completed the canal crossing we drove back to Cristobal, had some time to visit the shops at the terminal before sailing on to Limon. Limon, even though some say it is not the prettiest part of Costa Rica was a very pleasant day. The weather when we arrived was nice and we spent the morning resting in our cabin and did some laundry. Our excursion was to leave around 1130, my one regret was not getting off the ship in the morning and doing some shopping at the pier. For our excursion we did the Offroad Adventure, and were very happy with our choice. Our guide Eric did a fantastic job with the tour as well as his partner who drove the large modified bus/offroad truck. We drove up to the side of a mountain along the river, took a short hike to learn about the various plants and animals before our snack of fresh fruits(some of the best watermelon and pineapple we've ever had) and beverages. While stopped the rain started but it didn't dampen our experience the least. We continued on through a banana plantation, small village and drive along the coast before returning to the ship. Next port was Grand Cayman which we did not leave the ship for. The ship had to anchor quite a ways from downtown at Spots Cove, due to the weather (very windy). We had already planned on staying on the ship for this port so it really wasn't an inconvenience for us. Our next stop was Cozumel and it didn't disappoint us at all. The ship docked downtown so we spent a little time visiting the shops near the ship before my 12pm excursion. I had one of the best times on the Mexican Cooking Cuisine class held at Playa Mia beach. The entire group really had a good time, and our chef Luis and his assistant did a great job even though we battled strong winds that kept blowing out some of the stations flames. After preparing our meal of sopas, grouper with mango sauce and arroz con leche we ate our creations! While cooking our server kept the beverages coming as well as served us wine with our meal. Once we returned to the pier we had some more time to shop since the captain extended departure time due to late arriving because of high winds. Dining - We prefer Anytime Dining due to not having to worry about getting back from shore in time to dine in the dining room. On a couple of occasions we had dinner in the Horizon Court because we were tired after all day excursions. The food in the Horizon Court is average buffet fare. Breakfast is pretty much the same everyday. There is an omelet station with many choices of fillings. We had two choices of juice each day, orange or cranberry. Lunch each day was at either the buffet, pizza or burger grill. One day there was a very large sushi bar, and not being one that does sushi very often, thought it was pretty good. I purchased the coffee card at the LaPatisserie on my first night since I enjoy a cup of decaf cappuccino with my dessert after dinner. This was a good deal since it also included fresh brewed coffee each morning. We dined in the Bordeaux dining room and was able to get a table for two everynight without a wait except for one night where we waited maybe 10 minutes. The staff in the Bordeax was acceptable and found the food there to be very good, especially the prime rib, and our favorite, the Fettucine Alfredo. On formal nights we dined at the specialty restaurants. The first formal night we dined at the Bayou Cafe/Steakhouse. What it lacked in service, it wasn't terrible, but not what it should have been, the food made up for it. I made my own surf 'n turf by combining the filet with the lobster tail (extra $5, but worth it) entree's. The lobster was an 8 oz tail and was cooked perfectly as was the filet a perfect medium. DH had the huge porterhouse! Second formal night we dined at Sabatini's. I learned from the last time dining here to pace myself and it's ok to not eat everything that is brought to your table! I returned to my room after dinner this time not feeling as miserable as the last time I had dined there. My favorite pasta was the gnocchi and dessert, tiramisu. Service was fine even though it started out kind of slow. I think we waited about 5 minutes before a server came over for our drink order and there were only about 4 other tables seated at the time. Staff-The crew on the Coral is the best of the three princess ships we've sailed on. From the attendants in the restrooms, the room stewards to the casino and pursers staff. This is one of the reasons we continue to return to Princess. Spa/Fitness Center - We purchased the Thermal Suite pass for the entire cruise and used it most days. This is such a nice quiet place to relax and use the sauna, steam rooms and refreshing showers. I used the treadmills almost everyday and never had to wait. Our spa appointments were booked prior to sailing and found that there were some problems with doing this. When we arrived found that one of the appointments was an hour later in their system than what we booked it for. After waiting an hour and 45 minutes, the treatment finally began. When I asked how this could happen was told that the online system doesn't know which therapist it's booking for and sometimes schedules a hairstylist instead of a massage therapist. We didn't really think this was an acceptable reason and even though we received an apology, we cancelled three other appointments. Outside of the Thermal Suite, our spa experience was not what we've experienced in the past and we were disappointed. Debarkation - What a mess! We found out that we would be docking at a different pier than the one that we left from. As a result after claiming luggage and clearing customs and immigration I waited with the luggage while DH took the shuttle over to pick up the car. This process added about 45 minutes to our departure from the pier. Overall we had a very good time on this itinerary. One of the reasons we chose it was for the sea days. We had a good mix of relaxing mixed with visiting ports we had never been to before. We are already looking forward to our next cruise with Princess, we booked two future cruises before we left the ship! Read Less
Sail Date November 2006
My husband and I were on our third cruise, first with Princess. He is 66, I am 60. We flew into Ft. Lauderdale the day before departure. We made our own hotel reservations online, and opted for the Ramada, less than 2 miles from the Cruise ... Read More
My husband and I were on our third cruise, first with Princess. He is 66, I am 60. We flew into Ft. Lauderdale the day before departure. We made our own hotel reservations online, and opted for the Ramada, less than 2 miles from the Cruise port. Ramada picked us up at the airport and delivered us to the ship the next morning. $89.00/night, including full American breakfast. They have a pool, nice restaurant/night club, and Tiki bar. Others on the cruise chose the Plantation motel, some paying as little as $69/night, with the same amenities, but no breakfast. We were pleasantly surprised at how easy the embarkation process was for the Coral Princess. We waited in a large hangar-type building with chairs until our group was called. Our luggage had been taken directly from the Ramada van to our suite. We had a mini-suite which had a bathtub/shower combo, so if you don't like stepping in and out of a tub, even with safety bars, you don't want this type suite. I guess the only difference with the suite is a larger closet (it's not walk-in though as claimed) with plenty of hangars. The balconies are very small. Two TVs were nice. I read an online review by a professional cruiser who swore the Coral Princess had the best crew around. I did not find that to be the case, although I have no major complaints. Our cabin steward, Alfie, was a Filipino who was nearing the end of his contract prior to six months at home, and he was pleasant, but appeared tired. Most of the staff in the regular dining room were Romanians. I didn't care for our main server, a Romanian woman. It has been my experience that the main servers get the job because they are usually a combination of charming, witty, funny, etc. She was none of those and would interrupt lively dinner conversations to simply ask if everything was OK (yes it was, except for her interruptions). There are only 3 maitre'd for the entire restaurant and we were fortunate to have Jose, a Brazilian, and he was everything you could hope for it that position. I am not a strong walker, so I looked for non-strenuous activities. There were lots of trivia type games daily, and I played then regularly. I cannot speak highly enough about the Entertainment staff, headed up by Scott and the DJ Leon. My favorites were Rebecca and Liam from the UK and my husband flipped for Veronica from Mexico. With notable exceptions, you are much better off simply getting off the ship and making your own excursion reservations. But you must sign up early for the train ride at the canal, as that books up. Try not to buy anything onboard, as the prices were wildly out of line for local merchandise you could bargain for onshore. We opted for the early seating in the main dining room at a table for 8. We enjoyed the 3 other couples and often found ourselves the last table to empty because we were so engrossed in conversation. The food was simply wonderful. The entertainment was hit and miss but there were first-run movies daily in the Universe Lounge. We liked the Coral Princess as well as the Celebrity Infinity, which was the only other ship we had sailed on. I would recommend it without hesitation. Read Less
Sail Date October 2006
After much anticipation, my DH and I just completed our Alaskan cruise on the Coral. This is our 3rd Princess cruise, and our favorite ship so far. Previous ships include Sapphire and Dawn. The Coral is a perfect size with just enough ... Read More
After much anticipation, my DH and I just completed our Alaskan cruise on the Coral. This is our 3rd Princess cruise, and our favorite ship so far. Previous ships include Sapphire and Dawn. The Coral is a perfect size with just enough people. We never felt crowded except for a few mornings at the Horizon Court Buffet. The ship is nicely laid out, with plenty of areas to spread out. Because it was an Alaskan trip, I think the crowd was slightly older, so evenings were very quiet. Embarkation from Vancouver was smooth as silk. We arrived at the dock at 12:10 and were in cabin by 12:35 with kids in the pool by 12:36. No long lines or jams at the entryways. Our cabin was on the 12th floor, balcony (90% of Coral Staterooms have a balcony). It was standard. We had our 2 kids with us so we had a quad room. We aren't in the room a lot, so the size is adequate. Not many drawers, but closet holds a lot, and baggage storage under bed was adequate. My robe made it to the cabin that afternoon, and the egg crate mattress was on my bed that night as well. Our steward was fabulous. Kept our room tidy, which is quite a chore with 4 people. Our kids attended the Kids Zone. We have a 6 and 8 year old so they were in different areas. This Kids Zone was not as organized as the one on Sapphire, but had a nicer space. I felt the kids spent too much time in front of video games. But they did get outside to see whales and glaciers, and even the older ones played basketball and shuffleboard outside. Most important, the kids loved it and begged to go to it. Makes for a great vacation for mom and dad. Upon embarkation, the first thing I noticed was how incredibly flat the water was. This continued the entire way up the Alaskan coast, until we exited the inside passage. Then we hit a little chop. The second thing I noticed was the naturalist on board speaking over the overhead speaker. Our naturalist, Barbara Bennett, was phenomenal. She really made the trip. She was so very knowledgeable, with history, geology, oceanography. It was like a miniature course on Alaska. We attended two of her talks. They were really great, and even the kids enjoyed. Additionally, she would stand on the bridge and help us spot wildlife. While the cruise offered classes and lectures about Alaska from the naturalist, they also had other people such as a story teller, the first female winner of the Iditorod (Libby Riddles), and National Park Service Rangers in Glacier Bay, speaking at various various times. I didn't attend all but heard very good things about them. Shopping is not that important to me on a ship. The boutique was nice, and stocked with a nice selection of Alaska trinkets and clothing, albeit overpriced. The public rooms are very nice. I love the Wheelhouse Bar. All the leather and dark wood are very inviting. (plus a perfect place for hide and seek, per my kids). Crooners is nice, and Churchills, the cigar bar, was great if you needed a smoke. The Universe Lounge was beautiful and very well appointed. I repeat that the layout of the ship is excellent, with much thought put into avoiding that crowded feeling you could get on a ship with 2000 people. The food on this cruise was wonderful. We chose anytime dining since we had kids. The Horizon Court does a nice job with a great selection of everything for each meal. The service tends to be lacking in the Horizon court though, for beverages, etc. For dinner, we ate in the Bordeaux Dining room. The first night, the Maitre d' put us at this very quite table over in a corner. We were not at a window, but very close, and the privacy made up for it. At the end of dinner that night, we reserved that table for the remainder of the cruise, so we got to have the same waiter each night as well. Marvin was great. Very attentive. The food in the Bordeaux was excellent most of the time. We traveled with another couple, and one of them is a vegetarian. The selections for her got a little slim, and were very reliant on pasta. The made an effort to accommodate her, but could have been a little more creative. We also ate one evening at Sabatini's. The food was excellent and abundant. Worth the extra $20 per person. The pools and hot tubs are excellent. The lotus pool was perfect for Alaska, as it is covered. The overhead speaker is hard to understand, but still provides perfect place to view glaciers and wildlife, while in your bathing suit. The family pool at the back of the ship is very nice for younger kids, and a perfect place for Marco Polo. Because there are more older people on the cruise, I found that the hot tubs were seldom crowded. I also enjoyed an excellent massage although I hate how much Princess pushes the products. I continue to think the photos are overpriced, but the fact that cocktails are reasonably priced makes up for it as I tend to want more cocktails than photographs. The entertainment was fine. We didn't go to any of the big shows, but saw the comedian and magician. Again, the night life is pretty quiet. The casino was nice, roomy, and not smoky, with many slot machines, including 1 cent and 2 cent slots. The gym is excellent. We were up there a few times. It overlooks the bow of the ship and is well appointed. Additionally, they had a nice selection of class offerings, such as yoga, pilates, and spinning. I hate that they charge extra for these classes though. One negative I have regarding the fitness center is "seminars" they offer on "Detoxing" and "Weight loss", etc.. Having attended 2 of these, they are glorified sales pitches. I was very mad to have wasted my time being sold spa services and products. Our shore excursions were quite varied and with mixed results. In Ketichikan, we took the kids to the Lumberjack show. It was very touristy, but also very fun. We all enjoyed it. In Juneau, we went to the Mendenhall Glacier - a must see for all. The tram ride is overpriced and nothing great. The highlight of the trip was a float plane trip I made to the Taku Lodge. It was amazing. I can't say enough about that experience. We flew over 5 or 6 glaciers, landed on a river, enjoyed a salmon feast and some hiking around a beautiful lodge. Skagway meant the Mushers Camp with the kids and the White Pass Railroad. Both were fine, although overpriced and nothing great. I would not do them again. Glacier Bay and College Fjord were spectacular. The ship got very close to the glacier at both places. We love the Coral and Alaska. We are looking into a Panama Canal trip on Coral. It is a lovely ship, with an excellent, if not overly friendly staff. Debarkation was unbelievable. Last cruise, it took us 2 hours to get off ship and get a cab. In Whittier, we took the elevator from our room to the 5th floor. And 30 seconds later, we were off the ship. Amazing. Read Less
Sail Date August 2006
Embarkation in Whittier was smooth and easy. We boarded early, around 1230pm and had a late lunch onboard. Sailing was slightly delayed that evening while awaiting 600 delayed passengers. Nice that they were waited! Our balcony cabin ... Read More
Embarkation in Whittier was smooth and easy. We boarded early, around 1230pm and had a late lunch onboard. Sailing was slightly delayed that evening while awaiting 600 delayed passengers. Nice that they were waited! Our balcony cabin was mid-ship and perfectly located on deck 9. Our travelling companions were 3 cabins away and we met in the hall often to go places. All rooms onboard were beautifully and tastefully decorated. We did work out twice and enjoyed the fitness machines and fitness center. The two pools were beautiful, but it was much too cold for us to swim, even in the one pool that was almost indoors. Our waiters, Darwin and John, were absolutely wonderful and funny! We had late seating in the Provence dining room and loved the wonderful service and menu. Some things were pretty ordinary, but others were outstanding, particularly the lobster tails. We ate most breakfast and lunch meals in Horizon Court at the buffet and in spite of overeating, it was great food and a beautiful view. We saw a couple of shows and enjoyed them. The Discover Shopping Guide, Jen, was particularly helpful. The casino was our speed, too, with lower limits aplenty. Our room steward did a wonderful job, too. We had a champagne brunch which was supposed to be on the balcony, but it was rainy and cold most days, so we had ours in our cabin. Our travel agent set this up ahead of time to help us celebrate our anniversary and we loved it. In Skagway we simply walked and shopped and took loads of pictures. Such a quaint town! In Juneau, in spite of the heavy rain, we took the bus tour to Mendenhal Glacier and the Salmon Bake and had a great time. In Ketchikan I took a bus tour including the totem village, while my husband did the Harley motorcycle tour. This was our first dry day and the motorcycle tour was the absolute hit with the dry weather. Shopping was added on here, too, and enjoyed greatly. In spite of spending too much on shopping, it was fun to visit all the shops we could. Our days at sea were beautiful, even with rain and cold in College Fjiord and Glacier Bay. The last day was sunny and absolutely beautiful. We spent an extra day in Vancouver, at the Westin Bayshore, which is where we stayed 29 years earlier on our honeymoon. It was lovely, again, and the weather was in the 80's. We couldn't have ended our cruise any better! Prior to this 7 days we spent 6 days in Fairbanks, Denali, and Anchorage. We had wonderful adventures, but did miss McKinley due to a landslide that washed out the roads and railroad tracks. Princess took good care of us, but we missed two days of our tours and are disappointed. Mother Nature cannot be guaranteed, can she? The tours in Fairbanks were good and we even got to see some wildlife, in spite of the rain. This was a 13 day trip of a lifetime, our first cruise, and it has convinced us that we will cruise again. Maybe even, some day, we might return to try to see Mt. McKinley. I would recommend earlier in the summer to try to do this. The clouds would probably have covered it if we'd gotten there, anyway. We loved every minute! Princess does it right!! Read Less
Sail Date August 2006
Off to the Frozen Tundra  It all started as a surprise 20th anniversary trip. Before you knew it, we (Steve & Ruth) were planning the anniversary trip for Andrea & Steve. It sounded like fun, so we decided to join in. After all, ... Read More
Off to the Frozen Tundra  It all started as a surprise 20th anniversary trip. Before you knew it, we (Steve & Ruth) were planning the anniversary trip for Andrea & Steve. It sounded like fun, so we decided to join in. After all, it was an all adults trip to Alaska, and Steve K. didnt mind. We were joined by mom (Irene) and her friend. We spent countless hours investigating excursions, tours, weather and shopping. Before you knew it, July was here, and we left the 95+ heat wave of Philly, for our adventure to the 49th state. Our plans included 3 days on land at Denali National Park, a night in Anchorage, a 7 day cruise on the Coral Princess, and a night in Vancouver. First Class Flight, Second Class Food  It all started with the flight from Philly to Anchorage using American West (now owned by US Airways). For years, weve heard about how great it is to fly First Class  you get a menu & real dishes & sundae bar & your own bathroom. We anxiously anticipated this amazing experience. It cost $200 and 10,000 miles to upgrade (per person) for the two - 10 hour flights (roundtrip). It turns out, first class isnt such a big deal after all. Yes, the seats are roomier, and you get personalized attention from the flight attendant. However, the food reminded us of the food they served in Coach many years ago. First, theres the food selection. There are 12 seats in First Class, and they have exactly 12 meals  6 of each type. The first 6 people get a choice of meals  omelets or cereal, for example. If the first 6 people choose the omelets, then the last 6 get the cereal. Thats right, a box of Crispix cereal and milk. This is first class?!? You didnt even get a choice of boxed cereals. They alternated where they started to take orders  from the back traveling west and from the front traveling east. Somehow, we only managed to get a choice on one of the 3 flights. We traveled on Airbus 319 and 320. There were no electricity ports at our seats, and no movie choices. We watched the same flip down screens as everyone else. The Anchorage airport was small and efficient. Note  we landed at the older terminal. We wandered around for a while before we realized that we had to walk or take a shuttle to get to the car rental counter at the newer terminal. It was about a 10-minute walk (felt great after the 10 hour flight!), and we even beat the shuttle passengers. A word to the wise  make sure you have enough time between connecting flights. After some schedule changes by US Airways, we had less than 40 minutes between flights (stopover in Las Vegas). Our take-off from Philly was delayed (due to birds on the runway  clean up required!). We arrived in Vegas with about 5 minutes to spare  just enough time to board the next flight. On the return flight, we left Vancouver on time, and had about a one-hour layover in Phoenix. Driving to Denali  What do you want to do after a 10 hour, multi stop plane flight? Thats right! Go for a 4.5 hour drive. We rented a mini-van from Avis and began the drive on the one road up Alaska. We made a pit stop at a great Wal-Mart in Wasilla (about 45 min out of Anch), allowing us to stock up on snacks and souvenirs. Once you pass Wasilla, though, you enter a long empty stretch. Still, the drive also had some great scenery. We saw a bear about 100 feet from the highway, and almost ran over a porcupine (we stopped in time). We arrived at the Perch Resort at about 10:00 pm. Of course, this was actually 3:00 am to us. Adding to the confusion was the fact that it was still daylight (overcast, but daylight) out. The sun set, sort of, around 10:55 pm that night, but it never really got dark in Denali. Even in the wee hours, it was always a weird sort of twilight. Cabin and Closet both Begin With "C" - We stayed at the Perch Resorts. Although it was close to Denali, and reasonably priced option for the area, I cannot really recommend it. The cabins are extremely small  3 full sized beds (one in a loft), and a small bathroom (the shower was smaller than the cruise ship shower!). There was no place to put our luggage, or to unpack our things. We had 3 people in the room  we used one bed to store luggage, and lived out of the luggage for 3 nights. The shower was tiny (smaller than the one on the cruise ship), and the water was either scalding hot or freezing cold. The included breakfast was ok if you like carbs  French toast, biscuits, and pancakes. No protein on the menu (not even cereal and milk!). If I were going back, I would look for a place in Healy, and pay a little more for a more comfortable stay. Denali National Park - This national park is 6 million acres. We spent two full days here  hiking the trails near the entrance and taking the shuttle bus 85 miles into the park to Wonder Lake. Some of the highlights included: a ranger led hike to Horseshoe Lake, driving 15 miles into the park and hiking around the rather calm and poorly named Savage River, and visiting the sled dog kennels within the park. We browsed the visitor center, which has life sized replicas of the Alaskan wildlife. We were also lucky enough to see great real wildlife  from the moose right next to the parking lot to the snowshoe hare next to the car, to the arctic ground squirrels scampering around Savage River, to the moose and her calf crossing the road. The weather in Denali was fabulous. Warn and dry for all three days. What to do if a bear crosses your path  RUUUUNNNN!!!!!! Just kidding. Our first morning hike would bring us the first of many lectures on what to do if you encounter a bear. We got the moose and wolf lectures here as well, but we had the bear lectures at least 5 times over the course of the trip. The information, which includes things like never run, gather together and make yourself look bigger, and speak calmly, would come in handy later in the trip. Telling you this now is a literary element is known as foreshadowing. Who said you cant get an education from a trip report? Is that brown fuzzy splotch really a far, far away animal?  On our 2nd full day at Denali, we opted to take the park shuttle to Wonder Lake. Since Denali is so big, there are no guarantees of seeing animals. We actually got pretty lucky in seeing quite a variety up close and personal. Of course, youre in a 6 million acre park, so close is relative. The bus pulled up right alongside a caribou standing around in the grass. Later, we saw a lone female alpha wolf roaming the wild. The best, however, was watching a mama bear forage for food in a beaver dam for her cub. We have to admit, it did get tiring trying to spot wildlife off in the distance through the binoculars. We did see some stunning scenery which can never quite be captured by a camera. We also got lucky and saw the elusive Denali/Mt McKinley Mountain, which is shrouded in clouds 75% of the time. Overall, this part of the trip definitely falls into the "experience" category. Were really glad we did it, but I'm not sure we'd do it again. Id still recommend that any first time traveler make the trip, though. Honey, I Have a Great Idea - It should be mentioned that it is ill-advised to bring small children on this trip. Yes, it is free for kids. However, most kids (especially those under 2 yrs old) get bored sitting on a bus for 11 hours (yes, we had breaks every hour or two, but most of the time was spent sitting on the bus). One family brought a small child, and she cried every time they put her in the car seat (there is a rule about children on the bus and car seats). She spent much of the day crying, much to the annoyance of the other passengers on the tour. Definition of Captive Audience  When youre deep into the Alaskan north, it costs extra money to ship food and supplies up there. That makes meals in the Denali area are quite expensive. Perch Pizza, for example, starts at $20 for a plain pie. The bagged lunch was $12 for a turkey sandwich, apple, bottle of water and a cookie. We were very glad we bought some protein bars and other snacks at Wal-Mart. On the 2nd day, we went into Healy, and ordered lunch from Subs. Even with the cost of a cooler and a bag of ice, it was a bargain compared to Perch prices. Welcome to Alaska  When driving back to Anchorage, well, let me just say that there is a speed trap zone between mile 70 and 80 on Parks highway. The officer was very polite, though, and welcomed us to Alaska (along with a speeding ticket). Arctic Fox Inn  We stayed at this lovely bed & breakfast for our one night in Anchorage. What a difference! Here, we had a full apartment with 2 bedrooms, and a full kitchen. Judy, the onsite manager, was very welcoming and helpful. The B&B was very clean, and is highly recommended. Although a little further off the beaten path, it is within walking distance of downtown Anchorage. We spent the evening visiting souvenir shops (there are lots of those!). We had lunch at Humpys, which was a very nice, although quite smoky. We elected to eat outside on the patio, which was much better for those of us disturbed by the cigarette smoke inside. If the weather permits it, we recommend it. We had dinner at the Snow Goose, as recommended by Judy, and thought it was very good. We could have easily stayed in Anchorage another night or two. Arriving in Style  If you have a group (we were now six) that needs to make the 90 minute trip from Anchorage to Whittier, there isnt a better way to go than by stretch limo. We booked Alaskan Splendor limos ($320 total). They were perfect  right on time and everything they said theyd be. They included a stop at the Big Game reserve. The animals might have been more intriguing if we didnt have torrential downpours, but it was still nice to get close up views of bear, moose, and other wildlife. It wouldnt be our last. The trip wound up costing us about the same as a bus or train would have cost the six of us, but was far nicer. Isnt Alaska a Rainforest? - We had almost no rain in Denali. The weather was great the whole way . . . until the cruise. The rain began as we started our drive to Whittier, almost as if Alaska remembered it was supposed to rain on tourists. We had rain for the first 3 days of our cruise, but Whittier was by far the worst of the downpours. However, we had purchased a whole set of gear to prepare. The rain didnt interfere with our trip at all, and it cleared up for most of our excursions. Go Here to Check In. No, I Mean There. No, Here. - The Princess / Whittier check in process was laughable. Although everyone was very nice, no one seemed to know where to go or what to do. One person told us we could check-in and carry our bags onto the ship. Another told us that our bags wouldnt fit on the x-ray machine, so wed have to wait until 1 PM when the longshoremen arrived to check our bags. The scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz gave more clear directions (maybe you should go this way? Or maybe that way?). We wandered around the terminal trying to figure out where to go and what to do. Finally, one of the agents said, the tour bus is arriving now; you should get in line to check in. That was the best recommendation we had all day! We checked in  now what? We returned to the front of the terminal to wait to check in our bags. After 15 minutes, we noticed that everyone else that arrived with us seemed to be gone. No one else was waiting with their bags. Hmmmm&. Finally, we decided to try the boarding line. Voila! Our bags DID fit on the x-ray machine, and we were allowed to board. Although we had to drag our luggage onto the ship ourselves, it was much nicer than waiting in the terminal for hours, and we had all of our luggage with us  no waiting for them to deliver it to our stateroom hours later. We were on the ship in our cabins by about 12:40. For future reference in Whittier: Put your luggage on a cart and get in line at the cruise check in, even if they arent open yet. As long as you dont mind carrying your own bags, proceed to the security x-ray after you receive your cruise card. The Cruise - The ship is long and skinny in order to fit into the Panama Canal. That means that it isn't hard to find your way around, but it can take a little time to get from one end of the ship to the other. The ships itinerary was: Mon Depart Whittier, Alaska 9:30 PM Tues College Fjord, Alaska (Scenic Cruising) 6:00 AM - 9:00 AM Wed Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska (Scenic Cruising) 10:30 AM - 8:30 PM Thurs Skagway, Alaska 5:30 AM - 8:15 PM Fri Juneau, Alaska 6:30 AM - 4:00 PM Sat Ketchikan, Alaska 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM Sun At Sea (Last day at the buffet  eat your moneys worth) Mon Vancouver, British Columbia 7:30 AM Overall, we liked the layout of the Coral. It wasnt hard to find anything. We didnt have problems getting around. There was rarely any place that got too crowded to move around. The Solarium pool always had space. The bars were plentiful, and the informal food choices were pretty good (burger grill, pizza, 24 hour buffet). The gym was above par for a cruse ship, and gave us a great view of Alaska while working out. Overall, we feel that the Coral was a fine choice for our cruise. The True Purpose of Cruising  Destinations? Excursions? Relaxation? Adventure? Pools and hot tubs? HA! All wrong. As many know, the true purpose of cruising is to eat. Eat often, and eat a lot. After all, you paid for it. Cruises revolve around the meals. This ship was no different. The breakfast buffet was disappointing, but the sit-down breakfast was very good. Lunch was decent at the buffet. We never made it to a sit-down lunch, since we were always busy on excursions or activities. The average buffet was balanced out by the best pizza weve had on a cruise ship. The chefs kept cooking them all day. We wished it was open a little later, but we were happy to have it (pizza hours were from noon to 6:00 pm). Dinner was good to excellent. The meat eaters in the group tried out the Creole style Bayou cafe one evening ($15 pp). We were glad we tried it, but didnt feel the need to go back. Knowing we werent going back, the three of us made sure that we wouldnt miss anything. This created such lines as: Bring us one of every dessert, or We want one of every appetizer, except we want two gator ribs. That was a fun night.. One more word on the seating issues at the buffet. I suppose that in the Caribbean, many people will sit outside. When it is 60 degrees and raining, everyone wants to sit inside. We often had difficulty finding open tables around lunch time. One lunch saw about 30 cruisers doing what looked like a zombie buffet shuffle, wandering back and forth past full tables holding full trays of food. We wound up outside in a covered corner out of the wind, since that was the only place we could find a seat. There isnt anything the Coral can do about this, and it wasnt that big of a deal, but be prepared if you go to the buffet during normal lunch hours. Should iced tea ever really be refilled? (Anytime Dining)  We love the flexibility of anytime dining, and we needed it with the different port times. We had some issues, though. The service was mixed. Sometimes, it would be great. Other times, it was below average. The second day, it took us 30 minutes after ordering to get appetizers. The service was never really bad, but weve had better service not only on Royal with traditional seating, but on NCL with freestyle dining. We were a group of 6 adults, so it wasnt a very big group. The biggest issue seemed to be refilling iced tea and water. Glasses would be empty for long periods of time. Sometimes, a waiter would take an empty iced tea glass, and then never return it. We wondered if the service was lacking since we didnt order wine (wine is ordered from your waiter  no sommelier). We think it was a staffing shortage. Any waiter we had always seemed to be running his rear off, but would take a long time to serve us. We can assume only that he had too many tables. Do You Have Reservations? Yes, but Were Eating Here Anyway - Ha, Ha. With anytime dining, you could make reservations before 6 PM or after 8:30 PM  not really anytime dining, is it? If you arrived between 6:30  7:30 pm, it was impossible to get a table. They gave some people pagers, and told others to just come back in half an hour. Ive experienced freestyle dining on NCL ships, and was always able to make a reservation for any time. Princess really needs to do a better job of scheduling anytime dining. If you have trouble calling the direct reservations line (which rarely worked for us), try calling the pursers desk  they always managed to get through. Sure, Well Take Your Money  We only had one gambler in our group. She spent some $$ on the slot machines and the roulette wheel, but didnt win anything. Of course, a few of us were really excited when we found out that the ship had a Texas hold 'em table. We talked to a dealer, and found out that the house take: 10% rake (10% of each pot, up to $5 per pot), and the stakes (2-4 1st night, 3-6 rest of cruise). If youve ever been to Vegas, you know that the rake is usually used to create bonus prizes for exceptional hands (i.e. $500 for 4 of a kind). On the ship, there was no such bonus. Alas, we decided it favored the house too much, and wasnt worth it to play. We did see a full table on a few nights. Drink Up and Itll Cost You - All right, we expect alcohol to cost a bit on a cruise, and we certainly dont mind buying a few drinks (see the martinis, below). However, Princess seems to work extra hard to part you from your cash. Hot drinks are pushed everywhere, since youre in Alaska. Okay, fair enough. How about a fresh squeezed orange juice station at breakfast, charging $2.00 for a glass of OJ? Thats just obnoxious. If you are in the sit down breakfast, you get your choice of juices: orange, pineapple, cranberry, grapefruit, and tomato. Up at the breakfast buffet, anything by cranberry or OJ concentrate will cost you. Excuse me? You charge money for the same canned/boxed juice that is free 4 decks down? Im all for making money, but this is getting really petty. How long before a burger is free, but the bun costs $1.00? (If it happens, I want credit for the prediction). Coffee, Ambrosia of the Gods  As is typical for a cruise ship, the coffee is made from syrup, and is truly awful. Even the coffee at La Patisserie is made from syrup, and is very bitter. Princess offers a coffee card ($24 for 15 coffee drinks) similar to the soda card. This is simply a business card with 15 spots for punching. Since coffee drinks are $2 EA, you save $6 if you buy the card (and drink 15 coffee drinks). Since I usually only drink one coffee per day, I choose not to buy the coffee card. By the end of the week, I bought 4 coffee drinks on the ship (yummy cappuccinos!). On port days, I was able to leave the ship and purchase from a local coffee shop. In Skagway, the local shop serves Starbucks! Unless you drink several cappuccino/espressos each day, the coffee card is not a bargain. The Martini Bar - A special mention has to go out to the Crooners martini bar staff. They had lots of top shelf martini choices, and they served a large martini for $8.50 each. Ruth was very happy with the 20 or so chocolate variations. We didnt come close to sampling all of the choices, but we enjoyed the ones we did try. Ruth and Andrea even entered a Martini shaker shake-off during the week (Andrea won). This contest is where we found out that they cant give out alcohol samples in Alaska (which is why we got there early and chose the front row), but Andrea did win a very nice martini glass. We Are NOT the Target Audience  We quickly learned that this cruise was not geared to our generation (mid 30s). The aerobics schedule was filled with low-impact classes. The activities were low key (golf, bingo). As a family, we have enjoyed the scavenger hunts on past ships. There was none on the schedule, because they had trouble getting participants in the past. We requested it from Shawn of the cruise staff, and he managed to get it added to the schedule for the last day at sea. On another night, we attempted the Broadway tribute show, but left early after hearing tunes from older shows we didnt recognize. (and we're B-Way fans. We even won the B-Way trivia contest). We chose to skip the other shows that week. The disco was empty most of the time. The bars were mostly empty as well. The clincher for the target audience was a family feud game (you know, 100 people surveyed  guess the top answers). One category was Top Cartoon Characters. Mickey Mouse? SpongeBob? Nope. A survey of passengers listed Tom & Jerry as the number one most popular cartoon character. Come on. Tom & Jerry! They were dated when we were kids 30 yrs ago! Clearly, this cruise was geared to an older audience. On the bright side, the ship was pretty empty late at night, and late seating dinner meant there was no wait for tables. This is just what we noticed, and YMMV. Bikinis and glaciers. All the cool kids are doing it.  The first two days were spent sailing through various glacial areas  College Fjord (CF) and Glacier Bay (GB). We sailed through CF early on the first morning. By 10 am, we were on our way to GB. The tour of GB, on the other hand, lasted all day (10  6). While sailing in GB, there were very few scheduled activities, as directed by the park rangers. GB is a National Park and several park rangers boarded the ship and described the glaciers we saw. Each day, we put on all our layers, made a cup of tea (in the insulated mugs we brought along), and went out to the front of deck 10 for the hidden viewing area. Okay, other people were there on occasion, but for the most part we had it all to ourselves. We were right under the bridge, and the onboard naturalist lecturing over the PA system would make references to the intrepid souls braving the rain. Heh. Were intrepid. The glaciers were simply stunning. We saw some calving (pieces of glacier breaking off), but no big chunks during our viewing. We did see a sea lion or two, mainly way off in the distance. Ruth even managed a few glacier bikini pictures before heading to the hot tub for some much needed warmth. No Dogsleds Today (Skagway) - Raining and overcast weather canceled all helicopter tours, including our scheduled tour for a dogsled ride on a glacier. Fortunately, we had a backup plan, as the dogsled tour is one of the most commonly canceled tours in Alaska (or so we read before we left). We made our way to the National Park office, where we picked up tickets for the 11 am ranger led tour of Skagway. It lasted about an hour, and we saw quite a bit of the small town. We heard tales of the infamous Soapy Smith, and visited an exact reproduction of the Mascot Saloon. The tour lasted about an hour or so and we recommend it. Be sure you pick up tickets early, as tours fill up quickly. We returned to the ship for lunch, and made our way back into Skagway for one of the ranger-recommended hikes. Hiking can be fun. Rock climbing disguised as hiking, not so much fun - We used the ranger literature and took a self guided hike to Lower Dewey Lake. This was a very nice, moderate hike (at least, for the first half). Trails were marked with big arrows so you knew you were staying on the right path. We took some pictures at the lake and continued to the end of it. From there, we chose to follow what the info suggested was a "rougher path" back along the other side of the lake, rather than turn around. Halfway back, we're in a forest with almost no path, and then encounter stretches of huge sloped rock walls that had us climbing 40 feet across at a time. Eventually, the trail ends, and we have to make our own way -- through the bush, cross a river on a thin 2 ft wide plank of wood, and finally get back to main path. "Rougher path", eh? Well, it was an interesting adventure, but not exactly a fun one. I should explain that we are both in good shape but are not the outdoorsy type  we do not go camping or hiking in the woods. Our suggestion - do the hike, if you're in good shape, but turn around at the end of the lake. Even the first part of this trail included hills with 60+ degree slopes, so it can be a real workout. What's that big bright orangey ball in the sky? (Juneau) - Yes, it's the sun! Today was our hectic double-tour day. Internet research led us to reservations for a helicopter ride to a glacier and a one-hour guided trek on the glacier with NorthStar Trekking. We met the Northstar van in a lot just a short walk from where the ship was docked. We arrived at the Northstar office and suited up for our trek. This included pants, boots, jacket and a waist belt with a granola bar, tissues and a bottle of water. We left all of our other stuff in the office, and went outside for our safety briefing. We met our pilot and our guide, and were on our way for an amazing ride. With a group of 5, we had the helicopter to ourselves (plus the pilot and the guide). After a 20-minute flight, we landed on Mendenhall glacier. The pilot left, and we made our way to the Northstar tent for a short briefing and to get the rest of our gear (crampons and walking poles). Once he put the crampons (spikes) on our boots, we were able to walk normally on the ice. He showed us the different features of the glacier, and we had plenty of time to walk around. We even filled a few water bottles with the wonderfully cold, refreshing glacier water. It was absolutely stunning and we wished we could stay longer (they offered 2 and 4 hour options as well), but we took the shorter one in order to get back for our 2nd tour. I cant say enough good things about Northstar  they were very professional and accommodating  always on time picking us up and dropping us off. Everyone was friendly, and treated us extremely well. This is not simply a pilots choice helicopter landing  it is much more, and well worth the money. My hump, my hump, my hump (Apologies to the Black Eyed Peas) - Northstar returned us to town, and we made our way across the street to Orca Enterprises for Capt Larrys Whale Watching Tour. Many, many people on the Cruise Critic boards recommend this tour  as usual, they were right. We were driven to the boat dock (approx. 30 minutes away), where we met Capt Larry and Shawn the naturalist. There were about 25 people on our boat  not too many considering the size of the boat. We were very happy that there was enough space for everyone to have a great view. There is comfortable seating inside with lots of windows. When the boat stops, they allow you to climb up top (by ladder) or stand out back on deck for better viewing. We saw other boats in the same areas with people standing 5-6 deep at the railing (probably 100 people on board). Shawn, the guide, was a great personality. He was informative and funny, and obviously loved what he did. The staff served salmon snacks midway and took great care of everyone. Since it was feeding season, Shawn warned us that we wouldnt see any whales breeching. We saw about 10 humpback, but none very close. We saw some humps in the water from far away, saw some blow from the spouts, and then the tail as they dove. Then, we waited 4 to 8 minutes for them to surface again. There were no Orca. There was no breeching (jumping out of the water). And none got close enough for great viewing. Capt Larry also took us past a buoy where sea lions sun themselves. Capt Larry and his staff were very friendly and answered all of our questions. Although we wished we could see more of the whale, we understood that this is real life, not Sea World. Save the best for Last  Anan Creek bear watching (Ketchikan) - Our last port day was in Ketchikan. Although we were delayed leaving the ship, we had no problems meeting up with the Southeast Aviation representatives in the welcome center tour office. A van arrived quickly to take us to the airfield. I finally met Jim Kosmos, manager of Southeast Aviation, and of the nicest tour operators Ive dealt with! He gave us another bear briefing, and reminded us that we couldnt take any scented items with us  we left our bags in the office. We grabbed our cameras, and off we went for a 45 minute sea plane flight to Anan. Although we were only scheduled to stay at Anan for 1.5 hours, Jim offered to let us stay longer. Even though it cut into our Ketchikan shopping time, we eagerly agreed. We were *really* glad we did! Anan (pronounced Anne-Anne) Creek (in the Tongass Nat'l forest) is simply amazing. Upon landing, we met with a park ranger that explained that wed be walking on our own along the 1 mile trail to the viewing area. He also gave us yet another bear lecture (still foreshadowing), and we began our journey. The Key To Good Training is Repetition - The walk was easy, and gave us glimpses of the many bald eagles we'd be seeing all day. These were the first eagles we'd seen all week, so we spent some time taking pics. As we neared the platform, it finally happened: we turned a corner, and a bear was on the path, walking directly towards us. We had enough training sessions to know just how to handle this. Mom was in the lead, and reacted in perfect accordance with all of our training. She screamed Bear! Bear! and started backpedaling at full speed, which is exactly what each ranger warned us NOT to do. Of course, sometimes instinct just takes over. A few of us stopped her, and proceeded to follow the ranger instructions. We spoke loudly (Hey bear), and stayed close together to look like a bigger animal. After a minute or two, the bear made its way into the woods. We watched for a minute, and then continued on the path to the bear platform. It was really an exciting encounter, and it drove home the fact that we were in their world, as opposed to seeing bears at the zoo. Salmon for Lunch - From the platform, we watched as a large black bear snagged a salmon from the water and tore into it. This was a particular bear, and he ate just a little, and threw the remainder back in the water. The ranger explained that when food is plentiful, as it is now, the bears can be picky. This bear preferred brains and egg sacs (highest protein content)  thats all he ate. The leftovers made the eagles and ravens quite happy. The entire time on the platform was spent being fascinated by the sights. We saw perhaps 20 different bears that day  both brown and black. We saw them feeding, fighting, and teaching cubs. We cannot recommend this excursion highly enough. Notes: Anan Creek is in a National Park, and only 60 visitors are permitted each day. Make sure you make reservations WELL in advance, as these go very quickly. Time to Head Home - Debarkation in Vancouver was very smooth. The last morning, we were able to eat a sit-down breakfast and hang out in our rooms for most of the time. After that, we breezed through customs, picked up our luggage and were on a taxi to The Westin Bayshore Resort and Marina. We booked 3 rooms using Hotwire - got a great deal of $104 per night (before HW fees). Since we did not have a car, we wanted something close to restaurants and the airport. The Westin did not disappoint! It only took 10 minutes by taxi from the Canada Place cruise terminal ($6) Unfortunately, the rooms were not ready when we arrived around 10 am. It was understandable since it was way before check-in. The only complaint we had is that the clerk didnt even check for availability. He just said no, check is at 3. Nothing is available now. We were skeptical since he didnt even check the computer. Anyway, we checked our bags with the Bellman and explored the city. Stanley Park is right there at the Westin, and is a beautiful park. We walked about 1.5 KM, and then hopped on the free shuttle through the rest of the park. We returned to the hotel around 1, and our rooms were still not ready. We left 1 member of our group resting in the lobby (not feeling well), and walked to Robson Street and Gastown. Both were interesting for window shopping and last-minute souvenir shopping. We returned to the Westin at 3:30. Finally, our rooms were ready. We had 3 rooms next to each other on the 8th floor of the North Tower (801, 802, 803). Not a good view (overlooked the roof of another building), but the rooms were spacious and comfortable. The beds were VERY comfortable, and we were very happy to have nice robes in the room. We looked at the pools (one indoor and one outdoor) and the gym. Both looked very nice, but we were too tired to use them. We arranged with the bellman to have van taxis at 5:15 the next morning (our flight was at 7:30 am). The taxis showed up at 5:10, and we were at the airport by 5:40 am ($30). We highly recommend the hotel  it was within walking distance to lots of nice places, and is a beautiful (albeit expensive) hotel. Note: It was not necessary to exchange US dollars for Canadian dollars. Taxis accepted US dollars, as did every shop we visited. Change was not available in US dollars. Thats a Wrap  We all enjoyed our trip to Alaska. Princess treated us just fine, but it is a distant 3rd in our cruise preferences, behind RCCL and NCL. We were used to Caribbean trips, so Alaska was very different for us, but we consider it an amazing experience. We wont be going back every year, but a trip that combined wildlife, hiking, helicopters and glaciers was a great adventure that we wont soon forget. Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
We (husband, 18 year old son and I) just returned from our journey on the Coral Princess, traveling from Vancouver to Whittier. Weve been on two other cruises: RCCLs Enchantment to the Western Caribbean and Celebritys Galaxy to the ... Read More
We (husband, 18 year old son and I) just returned from our journey on the Coral Princess, traveling from Vancouver to Whittier. Weve been on two other cruises: RCCLs Enchantment to the Western Caribbean and Celebritys Galaxy to the Southern Caribbean. We arrived a day early in Vancouver, a gorgeous city. This gave us time to walk around town, bike around Stanley Park and sit by the pool at the Westin Bayshore. The Westin is a lovely hotel that is convenient to the port area and Stanley Park. Paying only $60 + $15 taxes through Priceline, you couldnt beat it! Embarkation went smooth as silk. We did get there early, so Im not sure if it goes as smoothly when more people inundate the lines. The Coral is a beautiful ship. I love the lines of the ship much more than Celebritys ships. The dEcor is softer than the Celebritys ship wed been on& but similar to the Enchantment (from what I recall). We had a minisuite with a balcony on the Aloha deck (A429) which was WONDERFUL! The balcony on that deck is smaller than those on some others, but it is on the bump out portion, and ours was on the end, so we had a spectacular vantage point which I preferred to a larger balcony. The cabin itself was fantastic! Wed only had regular cabins before, and having the sitting area with the couch was the best! The shower in the tub was great too& so much more room than in an ordinary shower! Entertainment on the ship was fine. In the Caribbean, you have much more of a party atmosphere by the pool, etc., but this was Alaska, and I didnt expect that. There were PLENTY of things going on at all times, however. If you cant find something to do, youre probably just a putz! The crew, as so many have reported, is extremely friendly and accommodating. The Naturalist, Barbara Bennett is a sheer delight, as she is bubbling over with information and the need and desire to share it with all who want to know! We loved her!! The Food is just okay. We opted for the anytime dining and ate in the Bordeaux dining room several times. We found the service to be a little slow, and the food so-so. I know a lot of people that cruise think that the food on these large ships is like gourmet fine-dining, but I disagree. I think it more like a chain restaurant that just serves more unique fare. I believe when some people hear that escargot or caviar or goose liver pate is on a menu, they just assume it is fine-dining. WRONG! It does not mean it is of great quality, or put together as a chef in a little fine-dining bistro would do. It kind of reminded me of PRETEND FINE-DINING. It is put together for the masses- more akin to a nice bar-mitzvah or wedding for 2000 people. For instance: my husband ordered their international cheese platter w/ crackers for an appetizer and the crackers, which were very ordinary, were still in their plastic wrapper. Another example was my Seafood Turnover with Lobster Sauce  it had no discernable seafood in it other than a few tiny bay (not sea) scallops& and there was certainly no lobster in the sauce! One other tacky thing was that the waiter gave a sales pitch to buy a gift set of wine  and later that same meal, tried selling us a liquor in a cheesy special shot glass. You dont find that in a fine-dining restaurant. But thats okay, we still enjoyed  lovely, interesting people to talk with, some fun new things to try. The food choices in the Horizon Court were far better (yes, of course, it is a buffet), and at least there, you had the chance to view the food before taking it. We actually preferred dining in there anyway as it was less pretentious and we loved the light airy atmosphere with the great view! The only downfall was that we usually overate in there because we just wanted to try a little of this, and a little of that. As Id first said, the food on Princess was just so-so. There were some okay things, but some very yummy things too! PORTS: Ketchikan: We were lucky enough to have Michelle from Island Wings secure permits for us to go to Anan to view bears! This was the highlight of my trip! I was quite fearful of going in a 6-passenger float plane, but my fears evaporated the second I sat in the plane  mostly because of Michelles stellar reputation. The flight was more relaxing than a massage, and the views  so spectacularly awe-inspiring!& (Misty Fjords is supposed to be even more dramatic  It must be UNBELIEVABLE ). The Bear watching was spectacular too& our guide, Matt, was sweet and very knowledgeable& This was unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience!!! Juneau: Went with Captain Larry from Orca Enterprises to watch whales. This was as great as everyone says. Informative, exciting and we saw bubble feeding! 2 whales went under our boat -- it was a must do! After the whale watching, we got the bus to Mendenhall which was beautiful and really neat to see! Skagway: We rented a car from Avis (great service, great price, great vehicle) and drove just a bit past Emerald Lake. It was also awe-inspiring, to say the least!!! Caribou Crossing is a hokey cheesy little place to stop and go to the bathroom& its so cheesy its almost quaint. Glacier Bay and College Fjord  what can I say  Theres been so much discussion about which glaciers are the best, the most beautiful, the most active& how can anyone compare? Theyre all so beautiful, the water color to rival the Caribbeans (I never thought Id see water as beautiful as the water in St. John, but Id found it here)! We loved Marjorie in Glacier Bay; Harvard, Smith & Bryn Mawr  in College Fjord. Marjorie and Harvard calved a lot! I dont know if others at other times calve more& but who cares  our experience at those was fantastic  I dont know if more calving would have made us more excited than we already were! Thats pretty much all I have to say. Our journey on the Coral Princess was a trip of a lifetime. We all had experiences and memories which we will keep with us forever  we would not have changed a thing!! Next trip for us however,& back to St. John for the WARM BALMY WEATHER & Alaska is a bit cold for me. Read Less
Sail Date July 2006
Coral Princess Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 4.0 4.3
Dining 4.0 4.0
Entertainment 4.0 3.9
Public Rooms 4.0 4.5
Fitness Recreation 4.0 4.0
Family 5.0 4.0
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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