262 Princess Coral Princess Cruise Reviews

This is a long review. Please forgive me for my wordiness but I'm a nooby cruiser who enjoyed reading all the details in the reviews I saw before we went on this cruise and I figure there are others out there who are like me. I ... Read More
This is a long review. Please forgive me for my wordiness but I'm a nooby cruiser who enjoyed reading all the details in the reviews I saw before we went on this cruise and I figure there are others out there who are like me. I created subtitles so if you wish, you can skip to the areas that are most of interest to you. Now I have to admit that because I follow a gluten free diet, I was a bit apprehensive about setting out on an 18 day cruise. We had only cruised once before, on the Diamond Princess in Alaska 2009 and although I was avoiding wheat back then, I didn't have the full GF dietary restrictions. Much to my delight, the Coral Princess Crew did everything right on this cruise. I was well taken care of and came home with a few extra pounds to prove it. I'm going to try to curb my enthusiasm and not go into too much detail about the gluten free side of things in this review, I just want to give my fellow cruise enthusiasts, an overview of our trip. If you're looking for more specific detail about the food, I am a gluten free food blogger and plan to post details (along with pictures) of my gluten free experience over on my blog. I'm not sure if CC rules allows me to include an external link, so if you're interested, I suggest you search "Cruising Gluten Free" and "Fox in the Kitchen" blog. Our Cruise... On September 25, we embarked on the Coral Princess from our home in the Port City of Vancouver, BC and sailed for 18 Days on a Panama Canal Grand Adventure (Full Transit) to Ft. Lauderdale, FL. We chose this Cruise to celebrate my husband's 60th Birthday. It ended up being a perfectly wonderful and carefree vacation for both of us. Embarkation... Our son dropped us off at the Cruise Ship Terminal around 1pm for embarkation. As soon as we parked, they took our main luggage off our hands. It took over an hour for us to get on board, where our luggage was waiting. The line ups were long but the Cruise Ship Terminal had things organized, so we kept moving steadily along. The time actually went by fairly quickly. We only had a carry-on bag and a bag with a few bottles of wine we were bringing on board with us. Tip: If you are taking wine on board, do carry it with you. Do not pack it in your suitcase. The Princess Crew want to see/know how much wine you're bringing on board. They told us to stop before Customs, at a table to declare our wine. We were glad we did because we heard of people being called after they were on board to go down and claim their luggage after x-rays showed contraband inside. The Stateroom... We booked a guaranteed MD Category Mini-Suite and were very happy with our assigned cabin D705 on Dolphin Deck 9. A typical mini-suite layout but it felt almost like a corner suite. The cabin is in an area where the hallway takes a bit of a jog. It has a fully covered balcony, is right next door to the full size suites, is close but not too close to the aft elevators and passenger laundry room. We wouldn't hesitate to book this stateroom again in the future. We were about ten doors from the aft deck. The ship wide aft deck is fully covered and nicely sheltered from the wind. There was seldom anyone else out there. With views from both the Port and Starboard sides, it had a rail from which we could get a close up view of the lock gates operating while we went through the Panama Canal. One passenger who was doing the Canal for a second time, said he actually enjoyed the aft view better than the view through the glass on the crowded forward decks. We found the aft deck with its wake views, was a great place for taking photographs. Tip: There is plenty of room under the bed to store your empty suitcases. The food... Something Princess has a favourable reputation for, is the food. On the Coral, it was consistently good. I can't say enough good things about Jose, the Head Waiter in the Provence Dining Room. I felt so very well taken care of by him. He arranged for a standing order so I could get gluten free pizza when ever I wanted it. The personal size gluten free crusts are always made in advance and usually you had to give the pizza guys 24 hours notice before you could get one. I ordered most of my gluten free meals the day before from the next day's menus. You can order on the spot from the current day's menu, as I did a few times for lunch but its harder and more confusing for the crew to manage. I found that when I didn't order in advance, I often settled for a salad or something I was confident was naturally gluten free. Less chance of a screw up. Last thing I wanted was to get sick on this trip. For Breakfast...on Port days, we ordered Room Service when all we needed was a quick bite before we got off the ship. The Room Service Menu is extremely limited but they would deliver early. The morning we were in the Panama Canal I wrote in a request to have an earlier than offered delivery. I wrote 6:00 am not knowing for sure whether they could accommodate my request and the guy was there at 5:50 am! Which was perfect for us to have our Coffee and Tea on the balcony while watching the sunrise. Most other mornings we had breakfast at the Horizon Court buffet. They had a large choice of different foods for my husband. He really enjoyed it. I stuck to fresh fruit and plain yogurt because I didn't feel like going through the bother of asking a supervisor to walk me through the buffet to point out what was gluten free and therefore safe for me to eat. Jose the Head Waiter told me that if I wanted, they could make gluten free French Toast, Pancakes, or special Muffins for breakfast in the main Dining Room but the one morning we went to the Dining Room for Breakfast, the waiter seemed to get flustered when I told him I was gluten free. He was getting people's food and drink orders mixed up. It wasn't the best experience for us, so we decided not to push it and stuck with Room Service and the Horizon Court for breakfast. For Lunch we mixed it up. Several times we ate at the main dining room where the meals were really good but could be a little drawn out. Horizon Court was an option my husband enjoyed because of the variety of food. Much the same as breakfast, I stuck to things I knew were gluten free, which was generally fresh salad and cheese. Princess Pizza, I loved their gluten free pizza. My husband said the regular pizza was just okay. It was like mall pizza by the slice and best if you could get it straight out of the oven before it sat under the heat lamps for too long. The pizza guys Constantine and Vito got to know me and usually a nod and a smile was all that was necessary before they got busy making a fresh GF pizza for me. The Grill, my husband tried their beef burger and chicken burger with fries. He enjoyed both. I never enquired about getting a gluten free lunch at The Grill. I was happy enough with the pizza I was getting right below them on the Lido Deck. For Dinner, we chose Traditional Dining, Early Seating (5:45pm) in the Provence Dining Room. I believe for someone with dietary restrictions, Traditional Seating is the best way to go because you have the same wait staff each evening. Almost all of our evening meals were in the Provence Dining Room. One night at dinner there, the wait staff placed a meal in front of me that had non-gluten free orzo pasta. Before I could to question them, Jose the Head Waiter, swooped in, said "that's not for you" and whisked the dish away. They replaced it a few minutes later with the pasta free version I had ordered. The Bayou Specialty Restaurant, after getting back late from an excursion one day, we dined there. It was a bit romantic to have a quiet dinner at a nice little table for two. The service and food were very good and we had a special bottle of wine that we brought from home and yes, we did pay a $15 corkage fee but that was something we budgeted for. We both ordered the filet mignon which at 10 oz was huge. Neither one of us could finish it all. Was it worth the extra $20 per person? I don't know, maybe but more for the experience and atmosphere than the food. After all, we already purchased a full complement of meals when we paid the fare for our cruise. Now here I am going on and on about food and my gluten free experience when I said I would save that for the blog. Oh well, I am a foodie and dining on the Coral Princess was a good experience for me. This Cruise, convinced me that Cruising is a great way for someone with food allergies to travel and see the world. I did have to do my homework before we booked but I'm already used to doing that when I travel. At least on a Cruise Ship I can communicate my needs in English and not struggle with a foreign language like I would have to do at Hotels and Restaurants on a Land Tour. Seasickness... This was not a concern for either of us. I do think of myself as someone who has a queasy stomach. Blame the gluten. On this cruise, the only time I felt woozy was on the morning before we got to LA. The Captain announced that they were changing course towards San Francisco because they had to meet a helicopter for an emergency evacuation of a very sick passenger. The ship started to rock back and forth after it came to a near standstill during the evacuation. We were walking down the stairs to our cabin when that happened and I must have turned three shades of green. You should have seen the look on my husband's face. I'm sure he envisioned having to carry me the length of the ship. Thankfully I made it back to our cabin without assistance. I laid down on the bed and was okay once the ship got moving again. That was it. I was good for the rest of the trip. Staying in touch...or rather, Not Staying in touch... This is about the only negative thing I have to say about our experience on this Cruise...the Internet was highly overpriced. It had a rack rate of 79 cents a minute and was slower than the squelchy old dial-up internet from back in the 80's. We decided before we left home to gift ourselves an Internet Package because we thought it would give us some bonus minutes. It was expensive for something we often get free when we travel. We budgeted for a meagre 10 minutes a day. I know we were on vacation, getting away from it all but it's still important for us to stay in touch with the kids and grandkids. Plus, I manage my website. The one with my gluten free food blog. Often it took at least ten minutes to log on and another 10 minutes or more to download email. I didn't dare sit down to fully read and answer emails. A quick glance at the Subject Line to make sure our world wasn't falling apart was all we had time for. My website? It was sadly neglected. After a couple of days, my husband gave up even trying to log on. I persisted but found that unless I logged on after midnight when everyone else was asleep, it was too painful to bother. The last few days at sea I was not successful at logging on at all. Even after midnight my mobile device would just time out. We paid over a $100 for 250 minutes but were only able to use about 215 minutes and not a bit of that was quality time. We were counting on having some internet access every day, so that was a big disappointment for us. Passenger Laundry Rooms... I'm including this info because I've had a few people say they were not aware that Princess Ships had Passenger Laundry Rooms. Those people must have been on cruises that were shorter than our 18 Days :-) On the Coral Princess the laundry rooms are all located aft on the passenger decks. On Dolphin Deck 9 there are 5 washing machines and an equal number of dryers. The laundry room on Emerald Deck 8 is smaller with only 3 pairs of each. The machines are coin operated and only accept American quarters. It's $2 per wash and the same to dry. It takes about 40 minutes for each. There was usually a demand for the machines, so I set the timer on my phone to let me know when the load was almost done. Also in the laundry room are a couple of Irons (free, but on timers) and Ironing Boards, a large sink, TV monitor, Coin Operated Soap Dispenser and a Coin Changer machine. I brought Tide Pods with me. They worked very well. Just tossed them into the machine along with my dirty laundry. I didn't pay attention to the Soap Dispenser but would guess it took quarters as well. If you forget to take US quarters with you, there is the Coin Changer machine but it only accepts $1 US bills and it cannot be relied upon. It was empty for the second half of our trip. Actually we found out the washers and dryers accept Princess Casino Tokens. We know this because we went to Customer Service and bought a roll of quarters. It was about half full of Tokens. The Itinerary... The 18 Day "Grand Adventure" Cruise is actually a 3 Day repositioning Coastal Cruise from Vancouver to Los Angeles, plus a 15 Day Panama Canal Cruise from LA to Ft. Lauderdale. In fact, the Princess Captains Circle reward program will give you credit for 2 separate cruises "upon request". In other words they don't do it automatically. You have to call them and ask for an extra credit. The Entertainment... With this itinerary, we had a total of 10 days At Sea. So I brought a few books. We were looking forward to just kicking back and relaxing on those days but most often, we got caught up in the events of the day. They had everything in the Princess Patter. My books went unread. We thought the Cruise Directors Staff on the Coral did a great job in keeping everybody entertained. The ship never felt crowded and there were always quiet spots available if you felt like having some down time but most of the time, we just felt like getting involved and did not want to miss a minute of anything. In the evening we enjoyed the Dance Productions in the Princess Theater. Our favourite show was The Bayou that was actually in the Universe Lounge. Our only complaint was that at 30 minutes the shows were too short. I think they were longer back when we cruised on the Diamond in 2009. We also enjoyed most of the comedians, instrumentalists, comedic magician, ventriloquist and singers who performed. Our favourite performers were Icon, the Coral Princess Party Band. We loved listening to them and dancing to their music. We ended most evenings in the Explorers Lounge with Icon. The Ports... Los Angeles - we didn't bother booking any tours here. The tours weren't offered on princess.com until about two weeks before the trip and by then we had already decided there would be enough to do in the immediate vicinity of the Cruise Ship Terminal. We walked off the ship around 8:30am and walked the Promenade to the Port of Calls Market. It was too early, the shops weren't open yet. We then walked up to a Starbucks in San Pedro where they had free WiFi and I was able to check in with the kids and see what was happening on my blog. We had a delicious lunch at the San Pedro Brewing Company which is about a 15-20 minute walk from the Pier. We found out later there is a free (I think it is the Red Car?) Shuttle that does a loop from the pier. It goes right past the Pub but we were already on our way back to the ship on foot before we found out about it. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico - this is a Port without a big enough dock for the ship. You have to take a Tender Boat to shore. It wasn't too bad but tendering does draw out the process of getting ashore. At the Marina after our excursion, the high pressure sales tactics we faced, where it was not enough to say 'no thanks' over and over, was a big turn-off. The tour operators and peddlers on the dock kept hounding us. There was a nice touristy gift shop there with a good selections of souvenirs. At least they left you alone to take your time and shop in there. If you're looking for free WiFi at Starbucks on the dock, they don't have it :( We faced a long line of people waiting for Tender Boats to go back to the ship but there were no Tender Boats in sight. We found out afterwards this was due to another emergency evacuation of a sick passenger. After standing there in the heat getting frustrated because we didn't know what was going on, a Tender Boat from the ship arrived and a passenger on a stretcher was taken from it to a waiting Ambulance. How heartbreaking it was to see that and the husband following along with a crew member who was carting all of their luggage. Sad. San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua - another Tender Port. Thankfully the last one on this itinerary. We had a long tour booked for this day. Actually I think almost all the tours for this Port are long because there's not much to see and do in San Juan del Sur. It just looks like a small village. We had to drive for an hour before we got to a larger sized town but the drive on a luxury bus was nice. We got to see a lot of the countryside and get a feel for the way people live there. It is a poor country with high unemployment and a very young population. Most of the people living in Nicaragua are under the age of 21 years. After our excursion, we shopped at the little market set up at the Pier. I picked up some little handmade leather sandles for $6 US to give to our granddaughter. Wish we would have had more time for shopping there but as it was, we were on the second to last Tender Boat going back to the ship. Puntarenas, Costa Rica - when we got to Costa Rica, we were pleased to see the tour buses lined up right on the pier next to the ship. After our excursion, we got back to the ship with plenty of time before sail away. There was a line of venders in tent awnings that we could see from the pier so we decided to wander down there. Soon after, it started to rain and the venders began to pack up their things, so we didn't get a chance to shop or see much. I loved Costa Rica. It's lush, tropical, modern and clean. The people we came into contact with there were very friendly and not at all greedy and pushy like we found in Cabo San Lucas. I could see myself returning for a vacation in Costa Rica. Panama Canal, Panama - was not one of the Ports we stopped at but this was it. The highlight of our Cruise! Someone on Cruise Critic had suggested going to different venues on board to see the locks from different perspectives and I'm so glad we did! After all, each of the locks look the same, and there is plenty of time to move about when the ship is between locks. It takes about 40 minutes to move the ship into position and close the gates behind it in the lock. The actual filling (or draining) of the water to lift (or lower) the ship only takes about 10 minutes. So why not get a look at the locks from all different angles? Moving around makes for some great photography. We took about 500 pictures that day. We started out watching from our balcony which was perfect because we entered in the locks on the left. With a perfect view from our starboard balcony, we watched a big container ship in the lock parallel to us. We also had a good view of the mules (electric trains), line handlers in the row-boat and the observation decks with the people waving at us as our ship went through. That reminds me, if you go through the Panama Canal and you have family at home who might be interested in seeing your ship transit the locks, they can watch live from home by going to https://www.pancanal.com/eng/index.html We had a few family members who watched as our ship went through. Anyways, we didn't stay in one place for long, we moved around the ship. We got a great view from the aft deck of the gates closing behind us. The forward Deck on Lido was pretty crowded with people three deep behind the glass at the rail. The big screen at Theater Under The Stars was showing the view from the Bridge Camera. One of the most interesting views we got was from inside a window at The Princess Patisserie down on Deck 5. We were down low, I think it was in the San Miguel lock, waiting for the Coral Princess to get lifted to the next level. The view outside the window from down on Deck 5 was of the concrete walls inside the lock. The wall was so close we could have touched it. The ship started to rise up and the concrete wall started to disappear below us. Slowly, the ship was lifted until we were above ground level and then we were even with the Electric Train. The driver was waving madly at us and then on up we went some more until we were looking down at him a couple of stories below us. That view, and connecting with family at home who we knew were at that moment watching us...those were my favourite moments of that day. The Panama Canal did not disappoint. It lived up to all the hype. It was fascinating and exciting. A real marvel to go through those hundred year old locks. Cartagena, Colombia - our time in Columbia was short. We arrived at 8am and departed at 2:00pm. It was very hot and humid on the day we were there. After our excursion, we went straight to our stateroom to shower and change. Then it was time for lunch where we indulged in a couple of much-needed cold refreshments. Aruba - another short Port Day. We didn't arrive until 1:00pm and sail away was at 7:00pm. As soon as we saw Aruba with the white sandy beaches, light blue water, pretty Resorts and sweet little one story island homes, we thought how beautiful! After our excursion, instead of returning to the ship, we wandered down the street from the pier where we found tons of shopping. Every second store was a Jewellery Store. We picked up some hats and t-shirts to take home and then found more souvenirs in the few shops that are inside the Cruise Ship Terminal. We both really liked Aruba and loved the happy islanders who had unusual accents and a wicked sense of humour. Would have loved to have had more time to spend on this little island. Disembarkation... Ft. Lauderdale, Florida - we had booked an excursion, so we were among the first to disembark from the ship. That part went quickly but going through Customs took at least an hour. It was frustrating because the line we were standing in was not moving. We saw the next two or three groups of people leaving the ship get directed to another line and watched them get processed and leave while we just stood there. We heard later there were problems because of the US Government shutdown. Because of the delays, some people even had to cancel their excursion tours at the last-minute and go directly to the airport. They shortened our excursion a bit but we still got all of it in so I guess we were lucky. We spent the night and then flew out of Miami the next morning. The Tour Bus dropped us at the Miami Airport where we got picked up by the Shuttle for the Hampton Inn & Suites Miami-Airport South-Blue Lagoon where we were staying. The Hotel was just okay. At most, maybe a three star? Paper cups, no glassware, that sort of thing. Being located so close to the Airport, I worried about noise but it wasn't a problem. We didn't know it at the time of booking but the Hotel is in an area they refer to as Little Havana. All of the Store Clerks in the shops we went into only spoke Spanish to us. Few seemed to understand English. We couldn't see any decent restaurants nearby, so we ended up getting fast food from Wendy's and eating it in our room. The Hotel's Shuttle to the Airport was good. It ran every half hour and only took about 5 minutes to get there. The Excursions... Note: we only booked excursions offered by Princess. I know people do book private tours that could be quicker with more customised sites squeezed in for less money, or there are people who just grab a taxi to drive them around but we've heard stories about people getting stranded and barely or **gasp** not making it back to the ship on time. If you book excursions through the ship, they will wait for you, or otherwise help you if things go sideways. We liked having that assurance and viewed the probable higher cost as if it were insurance. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico - We booked tour number SJD-110 Scenic Drive, San José and Shopping Tour. We really enjoyed the visit to the Glass Blowing Factory and the views from the Sunset Point Restaurant but the rest of the tour was just kind of...meh. What they advertised as a stop at Cabo San Lucas Town Square, turned into a stop at Mia Casa Resaurant/Shop where we were given a teeny taste of tequila and then we were pressed by our Tour Guide to order lunch and a margarita. We didn't partake of either. They had some musicians playing who came around to our table and bluntly asked for tips and then gave us dirty looks after we gave them a couple of dollars. I guess we didn't tip big enough. San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua - We booked tour number SJ1-470 Mombacho Volcano 4WD and Hike, Vistas & Lunch. I worried about the 4WD because I had read reviews about a really, really steep mountain road. I envisioned hairpin cliff edge turns on a gravel road but there was none of that. The road was steep and the open bed trucks noisy as they shifted into lower gears but the road is cobble stone and really wasn't that bad at all. Each truck has bench seats in back with enough room for about 24 people. They went about halfway up and stopped for 15 minutes at a beautiful coffee plantation before heading up to the top of the dormant volcano. They list this excursion as strenuous because of the hike. We wore running shoes but hiking boots might have been more appropriate. The trail you hike down is very steep and slippery because you're in a lush tropical rainforest (they call it a cloud forest). We had a few people fall and get minor injuries. I fell myself but it was on soft grass, so I didn't get hurt. I could see why the guides carried first aid kits with them. The views of other volcanos and Nicaragua Lake were beautiful. It was a clear day and we could see far into the distance. We also got up close to some vent holes in the volcanic mountain where we felt the steam from Mombacho. The hike back up the steep trail was much harder than the hike down. I decided I need to start hitting the gym more often. It was back in the 4WD Jeeps for the drive back down the mountain where we boarded the bus for the drive to Granada, population 100,000. As soon as we got off the bus in Granada, people, mostly children surrounded us. The children would thrust a flower woven from palm fronds in our hands and then beg for "one dollar". It was hard to refuse them but I had heard that giving them money upsets their social economic structure because the children start to believe there is no need to go to school when they can make more money than their parents by begging rich tourists for money. Jobs are scarce and wages are low in Nicaragua. We were told the average wage for a school teacher is equal to about $300 US per month. From the bus we walked as a group surrounded by local kids and peddlers, about a block and a half to a restaurant where we had lunch. I wanted to step away to take some pictures but it was impossible. At the restaurant, we had a delicious meal. They were able to accommodate my gluten free dietary restrictions. I expected to eat only the snack bars I packed along but I think we lucked out with a guide who was well-informed and who spoke very good English. While we ate, we could see the children and peddlers waiting for us outside the Restaurant's open double doors. We had to walk through them and listen to the clamour as we made our way back to the bus which was thankfully parked closer this time. On the drive back to San Juan del Sur, the driver stopped so we could take pictures of Omentapie, an active volcano in Nicaragua Lake. There were skinny cows tethered on the side of the road. This was actually a pretty common sight in Nicaragua. Sometimes there were pigs and horses too. One of the cows broke its tether and walked in front of the bus. We had to wait for it to pass before we could drive on. Puntarenas, Costa Rica - We booked Tour number PA4-210 Coffee Plantation, Sarchi & Country Drive. The drive to the coffee plantation was beautiful. Costa Rica is lush and green with steep rolling hills. They have lots of volcanos just like they do in Nicaragua but Costa Rica is obviously in a better economic state and their lands are beautifully developed. Our first stop was at a Coffee Plantation. It was very pretty and reminded me of the vineyards in the Okanagan Valley where I grew up. We learned about their local farming practices, they're very eco conscious and use every part of the coffee plant as well as the beans. At this particular plantation they hand-pick the red beans before husking, drying and roasting them. It was a very enjoyable tour and we had a few minutes at the end to shop in their gift shop. We ended up with a couple of pounds of coffee to bring home. Next we drove to Sarchi, home of the world's biggest Ox Cart. The bus pulled around so we could take pictures and then it was on to the furniture store where they build and paint the beautifully decorated carts. The old work shed is water powered and still in use. One of the workers there gave us a brief tour and then invited us to enjoy some fresh fruit they had fixed for us. There was also a restaurant upstairs for anyone who wanted to get some lunch but the fruit was enough for me and my husband. The drive back to Puntarenas and the ship, took about an hour. It rained for most of the drive. It was a good time for a siesta. Cartagena, Colombia - We were on Tour number CTG-380 Old City Walking Tour & Los Bóvedas. The only part of this tour that we enjoyed was the Walking Tour in the Old City. It was very hot and humid. I advise you to bring water. On the Tour, they gave us a small bottle (about 250 ml) of water but it was not enough. For the most part, Cartagena's over zealous peddlers left our tour group alone while we were in the Old City. There were several people dressed as statues who would pose for pictures and we tipped some young men who did some amazing break dance moves on the street. I loved the old rustic buildings covered with greenery and hanging baskets. I could have spent days in the Old City taking pictures of all the old architecture and street life. Beautiful. We had a Photostop at the San Felipe Fortress but the aggressiveness of the peddlers was unbearable. You could not pause to take a picture of the Fort without them thrusting their wares into your hands and saying it was "almost free". After 10 minutes of it, I got disgusted and headed back to the bus. One of the peddlers followed me and continued to shout and tap his wares on my window until we drove away. Our next stop was at Las Bóvedas (the vaults) for shopping. Once again we faced some very aggressive peddlers. We ducked into one of the shops to get away but found the clerks inside were almost as persistent as the guys outside. Inside seemed the lessor of two evils, so we wandered through a couple of shops but didn't buy anything. The persistent shoving of items in your face is a big turn off. Aruba - The Tour we chose was number AUA-230 California Lighthouse, Ostrich Attraction and Shopping. Our Tour Guide/Bus Driver Eric Brown was the most entertaining of all the guides in the various ports. I expected him to have a pronounced Caribbean accent but it was more of a Caribbean/Dutch/Spanish accent. He had a great sense of humour and a wicked laugh. We thoroughly enjoyed this tour and he was a good part of the reason that we did. Our first stop was at the Casibari Rock Formations where you could climb a set of really steep stone stairs to a lookout of the island. Aruba is very desert like with lots of cactus. It's not all palm trees like some caribbean islands. In fact half of Aruba is inhabitable because of strong trade winds and dry conditions. Also, there isn't much for soil. It's mostly rock and coral that rose up from the ocean. The only grass we saw there was on the golf course. We went to the Ostrich farm which was interesting and entertaining. Big awkward birds who have the funniest expressions. I got to feed some younger Ostrich. It was surprising to find their necks are all warm and fuzzy like a puppy dog's. We visited the site of the Natural Bridge. It collapsed about a half dozen years ago but the smaller one they call the Baby Bridge is still there. The Baby Bridge has cracks in it and is expected to collapse also. They warn people to stay off but some people ignore the warnings. Loved seeing this side of the island with the waves crashing against the rocks and the barren landscape. Such a contrast to the pretty Resorts and white sandy beaches on the other side. California Lighthouse was our last stop. It is basically just another view-point. The lighthouse is not open. There is a fancy restaurant up there and a few venders selling refreshments. I caught a glimpse of some of the wild goats foraging in the shrubbery. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida - On the advice of our Travel Agent we stayed on in Florida and booked Tour number FLL-640 Everglades Airboat Ride and Eco Adventure. We were really glad that we did. It was a little rushed because it took so long to clear Customs after disembarkation but the tour was still worthwhile. The air-boats are loud. Like small airplanes I guess. We skimmed through the Everglades waterways and wondered that the guides don't get lost. Saw a couple of alligators in the wild and then watched "The Gator Boys" demo with some rescued alligators. For a $5 donation my husband got to hold a baby alligator while I took pictures. After the tour they dropped us off at the Miami Airport where we waited for a shuttle to take us to our Hotel. The Tips... Tipping is such a personal thing it's hard for me to make recommendations on it. Do be ready with smaller bills if you are going ashore. We went to the Customer Service Desk the day before a Port Day to get change. Don't wait until the day of because they do run out of the small stuff. They have to close the Casino when the ship is in port, so that won't be an option for getting change. If you are in a Mini-Suite on a Princess ship, they debit your account $12 US per person, per day to cover tips for The Crew. We always gave the room service guy a dollar or two and on the last day we gave cash tips (they leave out envelopes at Customer Service) to the Crew Members who we thought went above and beyond the ordinary. For me with my special diet, that was the guys at the Pizzeria, the Wait Staff and the Head Waiter in the Provence Dining Room. We also left a bit extra for our Room Steward. That's it. I hope you were able to find something of value in this review. In conclusion, I must say, my husband and I had an awesome carefree (and for me gluten free) vacation on the Coral Princess! Read Less
Sail Date September 2013
My sister and I went on this cruise, booking it about 1 month before departure. We stayed at the Hampton Inn near the airport and got the Vancouver shuttle to the cruise port which was very reasonable ($14 each), I was not impressed with ... Read More
My sister and I went on this cruise, booking it about 1 month before departure. We stayed at the Hampton Inn near the airport and got the Vancouver shuttle to the cruise port which was very reasonable ($14 each), I was not impressed with the Hampton Inn- stay at the Holiday Inn down the road instead. Embarkation was easy and painless. We got there early, so we had to wait about 45 minutes before boarding. We booked an ocean view cabin and they gave us a balcony which was wonderful!! However our bags didn't make it to the room and we had to hunt for them. Customer Service- I had $100 shipboard credit for military and $100 credit for stockholder, however they only had one, so I had to prove both. Food- The Horizon Court was crowded and didn't offer a lot of variety. There was not enough seating, so we ate in the regular dining room several times to avoid the herd. However, the salads were good. Food in the main dining room was ok, but not great. The service was quick, but the waiters were not real friendly. I've had much better service on the other cruise lines. Misc - Bring your own hairdryer as the one in the stateroom was old and slow! We attended the 7 am stretch several times and the instructor acted like he want to be someplace else. We talked to several couples doing the turn around (Whittier to Vancouver) and they got a real bargain! Entertainment - the productions shows were great and we enjoyed the first night of Bobby Brooks Wilson, but the second night was virtually the same show. The cruise director was the worse I have seen. Educational seminars - Material was good, but the expert, Dr. Ryan, couldn't stay focused. We were very disappointed in his presentations. He also pushed the ship's shore excursions until we were nauseous. Ship- Ship was spotless and the cabin steward was wonderful. Princess was always trying to sell you something, but that's fairly standard. Disembarkation - Smooth and painless. We took a shore excursion that also dropped us at the airport which was a good bargain.   Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
No one could be unhappy on this ship - clean; reasonable food (occasionally really salty but flavorful - as if someone got into the best cheese for cooking but forgot to adjust the salt; friendly staff, beautiful scenery. air travel - use ... Read More
No one could be unhappy on this ship - clean; reasonable food (occasionally really salty but flavorful - as if someone got into the best cheese for cooking but forgot to adjust the salt; friendly staff, beautiful scenery. air travel - use care with the Princess-associated air travel bookings. The ship times listed are for true departure; not last boarding. The air booking company treats the times as last boarding. The ship organizes various introductory contests in the hours before departure so it's best to get there several hours early. It wasn't pleasant being told by every check-in/security stop that we were too late and might not get on - as if we were bad - on the other hand, my husband was really pleased to miss the safety lecture. Check flight times carefully - I'm not really clear why a flight from anchorage to NYC through Texas - taking 4 extra hours and no savings over shorter 4-hour shorter flights would even be considered an option. Naturalist lecture - Dr. Ryan - I know it's hard to talk for hours on end about ice melting but saying things like "'supposedly' 9,000 people perished in the tsunami" and the current rate of glacier melt is nothing more than part of the natural cycle are a bit suspect. Bingo - turn up early to buy $20 (3 cards/game)forms. Later only $40 (9-card + 3-card bonus for snowball game) forms were available. Watch out for the fast reading of numbers for the snowball game. I caught a missed number while the winner was being checked. On the way out I said "that last round was fast' to my friend. A host of comments from people around us came back that it was and that the announcer had been asked to go slower yesterday but after a couple of numbers he/she had sped up again. We speculated it was a tactic to help the snowball last until the last bingo session. Pictures - The candid photographers definitely subscribed to volume over quality. If you want a candid photo be prepared to aggressively ask for a background of the glacier instead of metal dividers growing out of your head (College Ford)or a retake if they flashed before you were ready (dinner/embarkation/every disembarkation). Lines for a formal shot on the stairs were long. The photographer with the background that appeared black was really a very flattering blue. If you just want a portrait shot to update your Facebook be sure to try the shorter lines the first night & check out other people's shots from the first night. The photographer with the shortest lines took the most flattering shots (black/blue background). Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
Room (mini-suite) was very nice. Plenty of room, very nicely furnished and well equipped. The bed seemed larger than a queen and was very comfortable. Large bath and sitting area with sofa. On the negative side there was a lot of ... Read More
Room (mini-suite) was very nice. Plenty of room, very nicely furnished and well equipped. The bed seemed larger than a queen and was very comfortable. Large bath and sitting area with sofa. On the negative side there was a lot of vibration in the room, which made sleeping and relaxing somewhat difficult. I thought that being on the 9th level, there would be little or no effects from the engine room. Big mistake. The Princess agent that I worked with failed to mention the vibration throughout the far rear areas also. I rate the food between average and good. As I recall, the food on previous cruises was noticeably better in terms of variety and taste. However, there were a fair number on the cruise that rated the food as very good. The food on theme days such as Italian Night and Alaska buffet lunch was, indeed noteworthy. The itinerary and options were probably the best part of the cruise. Alaska is indeed beautiful. The stops along the inside passage were worthwhile and interesting. Cruising Glacier Bay and College Fjord was the true highlight as both were very scenic and would have been extremely difficult to see on your own. The disembarkation and reboarding process was relatively painless, with few long lines, which moved relatively fast. Other minor notes - poor lighting for makeup preparation (consider lighted makeup mirror), hot water could be a little hotter, no diet sodas in the refrigerator. There was lot of emphasis on shopping, especially for art, jewelry, clothes and souvenirs - no surprise. It was difficult to hear some announcements in our room and the photographers were everywhere - they slowed the disembarkation process at each port and were constantly present at many other functionsThe land tour portion gets mixed reviews. The lodging and restaurants ranged from OK (Denali and Fairbanks Riverside Princess lodges) to very nice (McKinley Princess and Captain Cook Hotel). The included tours were interesting but too commercialized. The visit to Denali was quite nice, but a 1-day stay is not long enough. Too often, we felt like we were herded and held captive by Princess at the lodges and on the tours. It definitely would not get a high rating. Limited free time in Anchorage. Train ride to McKinley Lodge was nice. Talkeetna stop OK but nothing special. Typical small touristy Alaska town with shopping, restaurants, and tour booking as its main calling. McKinley Princess Lodge is very spread out with older but nice lodge style rooms with attractive furnishings. Limited shuttle service. Denali Princess Lodge has much more in the way of stores and places to eat (both inside and outside the complex) and is much less isolated than the McKinley Princess. However, it does not have the charm or quaintness of the McKinley Lodge. There is extensive shuttle service at the lodge as well as in the park, which is not far from the lodge. Fairbanks Princess lodge was more like a large motel than a lodge. Rooms were decent but sort of plain. Least charming of the lodges. Poor lighting and no comfortable seating. Denali National Park is definitely worth the trip. Travel inside the park is by park or contractor provided school bus type coach. It took a long time to travel short distances in the park. We especially enjoyed the Ranger dog sled show and the movie in the visitors center. The natural history tour was interesting. All the Princess bus drivers/tour guides were very knowledgeable and interesting. Same for the park bus drivers/guides. Fairbanks is not a top attraction area and definitely not a "must see", although it is Alaska's 2nd largest city. There is small downtown, lots of larger stores and the airport are key reasons for going there. It is drier and warmer in the summer. The Discovery Riverboat cruise was interesting, but quite commercialized and somewhat contrived. The same for the Gold Dredging tour - longer than needed with way too much shopping time. Read Less
Sail Date July 2013
Just back from (10) night cruise on the Coral Princess which included a partial transit of the Panama Canal. This was our 11th cruise (3rd on Princess ships)Prior to booking, I read lots of Cruise Critic Member reviews of this ship and I ... Read More
Just back from (10) night cruise on the Coral Princess which included a partial transit of the Panama Canal. This was our 11th cruise (3rd on Princess ships)Prior to booking, I read lots of Cruise Critic Member reviews of this ship and I have to wonder if I was on the same Coral Princes ship as some of the other reviewers. We were more than pleased with the condition of the ship and the service received from all crew member. No, the ship is not new (launched 2002), but it is well maintained. It is small by today's standards, with just under 2000 passengers. We (wife and I) booked an Inside Cabin, but were upgraded to a obstructed view Outside Cabin #E520. The cabin was small, compared to other larger ships we've been on, but big enough for two people with ample storage space. Self service laundry facility available. We had an unusual event of a MAN OVERBOARD experience one afternoon during our cruise. A woman either fell or jumped from the 10th deck of the ship into open waters. Someone saw her fall and tossed an orange colored lifesaver overboard to try and mark the spot close to where she went into the water. There was an immediate "Man Overboard" announcement by the Captain. The crew immediately initiated the drill required for this emergency and the ship was turned around and search boats were launched. After locating and retrieving the orange life saver, the search began in that area, with the search boat going back and forth in a grid pattern. All passengers were asked to return to their cabins so that they could do a cabin by cabin visit to determine the missing person. After searching for over two hours the Captain announced that the body had been located and retrieved. The performance by the Captain and all Crew members during this somber emergency was exceptional. The past detailed training of the Crew was very evident in the professional and serious attention to the duty at hand. Can't compliment them enough. The Coral Princess Captain and Crew proved to be up to handling any emergency. The Itinerary for this cruise included (1)Aruba, (2)Cartagena, Columba, (3)Panama Canal (partial transit), (4)Colon, Panama, (5)Limon, Costa Rica, (6)Grand Cayman and four days at sea. The stop in Aruba was disappointing in that we were there only 7 1/2 hours (7 AM to 12:30 PM). By the time we got off the ship and the time we had to re-board, it didn't allow enough time to fully enjoy Aruba. Our past cruise stops here were much longer. In Cartagena, Columba we took a taxi into Old Town section and visited two very old cathedrals. Advise here would be to stick with the Yellow Cabs, they are much newer and cleaner. Four people into Old Town and back to port cost $5.00 per person each way. We then sailed partially through the Panama Canal to Lake Gatun. We took a five hour excursion to observe and learn about the canal and locks and how they operate. Also visited an Indian Village and re-boarded the ship in Colon, Panama, which was not a very pleasant city for site seeing. The stop in Limon, Costa Rica did not offer much either. Grand Cayman is a very clean and more modern port and city area if you like shopping. The food in the main dining room was very good and the selection was adequate. Our waiter (Francisco) and Asst. Waiter (Faye) were very attentive to our needs and requests and made the dining experience very enjoyable. The food in the Horizon Grill (buffet) was also good and we never had trouble finding a table or being attended to. We would definitely sail on the Coral Princess again. Read Less
Sail Date March 2013
We left from Los Angeles on our adventure aboard The Coral Princess on February 21, 2013. The boarding process was pretty uneventful and quick. We were able to go to our rooms as soon as we boarded and our luggage arrived not much after ... Read More
We left from Los Angeles on our adventure aboard The Coral Princess on February 21, 2013. The boarding process was pretty uneventful and quick. We were able to go to our rooms as soon as we boarded and our luggage arrived not much after that. As to the general impressions of the cruise: The ship was well cared for and kept in beautifully clean shape throughout the trip. All of our staff, from room steward to waiter, were excellent. The food...great! Our only concerns were as follows: The use of tenders at two ports (Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua) ate up several hours of our time in port. The way the line handled it was to have everyone go to the formal dining room and wait around (sit) for hours until all the "Princess Cruise Excursions" and "preferred" passengers were tendered. Then (after two hours in Cabo and an hour and a half in San Juan Del Sur) the remaining passengers who wanted to go ashore were taken in small groups (depending on the number on a ticket you were given when you entered the dining room). You were unable to wander around the ship while you waited. You had to sit in the enclosed dining room on a beautiful day and wait. Very disappointing. We had scheduled a tour in Nicaragua and because of this missed two hours of it! Also, when we did go on Princess tours, which we did in Costa Rica, Columbia and Aruba, we were usually herded into jewelry stores even when those were not on the tour. We all felt like we were constantly being "sold" things while on board the ship and while on the tours organized by the ship. While in Costa Rica we went on the "Rainforest Canopy" tour from the ship. Immediately we were told by the tour guide that although the tour states that you will be hiking to 5 bridges through the forest canopy, we will only be including 3 today. No refund, just a shorter tour. The tour took a turn for the worst when we got to the hiking trail and one of the men on the tour (who clearly should not have been there) collapsed and couldn't walk any further. So for the next 2 hours our tour guide and driver along with two of our fellow passengers helped this man make the "hike" though the rainforest. All of us had to wait and the entire tour was altered. He was fine but I wonder why the ship doesn't make it clearer that those who can't walk very far shouldn't be signing up to go on a "hike" through the forest. We went on another tour in Columbia where the tour guide rushed us up and down the beautiful streets of the "old city" at breakneck speeds so that he could try and force us all into, what I'm sure was, a "friends" jewelry store. Those of us who simply said "no thank you" went on about our tour of the streets but he went inside with the others and was none to happy with us. More of a variety of musical entertainment on board the ship in the evening would have been nice. Honestly unless you wanted to listen to one of the "oldies" bands you didn't have much to chose from. I admit the crowd was mostly older but there should be some variety. How much can you play trivia games and do the Foxtrot? There were younger people (say 30's, 40's & 50's) on board and they had nowhere to go for fun music at night. The one exception was the "deck party" at the end of the cruise. Another problem is the lack of any snacks in the lounges at night. When you go for a cocktail before or after dinner shouldn't there be some offering of chip, nut, snack...anything on the tables in the bars. We asked one evening and were brought a little container of peanuts that was mainly dust from the bottom of the bin. When we asked if there were any more the waitress reluctantly said "no" but must have felt badly about it because she went over to the "preferred" (there's that word again) cocktail party and brought us back a few shrimp from their table. Also, the drinks leave a lot to be desired. They are not made well. In the two weeks we had very few that were actually good with the exception of a couple of martinis. The others were either terrible or void of alcohol. There are no drink specials, ever. Princess does a good job but they seem to be going the way of the "nickel and dime" lines. Suggestion: Charge a decent price and don't try and open the passenger's pocket the entire time they are on their trip. Read Less
Sail Date February 2013
My husband and I spent a very relaxing 14 day tour of the Panama Canal and ports on Coral Princess's sail of Central and South Americas. We chose a balcony stateroom, anytime dining and purchased excursions for stops at Cartagena, ... Read More
My husband and I spent a very relaxing 14 day tour of the Panama Canal and ports on Coral Princess's sail of Central and South Americas. We chose a balcony stateroom, anytime dining and purchased excursions for stops at Cartagena, Columbia, Puntarenas, Costa Rica, and San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua. We used public transportation for our short visits to Cabo and Aruba. Positives: Coral Princess pays heavy tolls to go through the Panama Canal. They also provided an excellent historian to explain everything as we sailed through the locks and lakes. We also followed up with the historian's lectures throughout the two weeks. Again, it was an excellent way to understand this part of the world.The people we met were mostly retired and well traveled. We did not hear, for the most part, complaints or negative comments even though the heat and poverty in some of the countries was overwhelming. We have cruised with Princess three times before and found the food to be good and the crew helpful. The entertainment was fine with the exception of the illusionist and hypnotist. The cruise director and staff tried their best to give us a good time. Most importantly, we had good seas and wonderful weather!! I slept exceptionally well on this cruise. Negatives: We would have liked to have stopped at more ports. There were too many sea days for us. We also felt that Princess hires too many attendants to hawk drinks in the pool area. The pool area could use more attention to cleanliness!! How about giving us a place to put dirty dishes? We also do not like the entire stern end of the ship used for a pay-to-use SANCTUARY!! Our stateroom shower was too small for the length of the trip(should have gone to a mini-suite). The $40 per couple to use the specialty dining did not impress us. Both seemed underused! Summary: We traveled to the Mediterranean on Celebrity last fall. We do prefer Princess. The Panama Canal is indeed a wonder not to be missed! Read Less
Sail Date October 2012
The Coral Princess is a nice enough ship - smaller, which I like. For my age I don't need rock climbing, ice skating, etc. I want a relaxing comfortable cruise. This was not what I wanted nor what I expected. Right away it was ... Read More
The Coral Princess is a nice enough ship - smaller, which I like. For my age I don't need rock climbing, ice skating, etc. I want a relaxing comfortable cruise. This was not what I wanted nor what I expected. Right away it was hot all over the ship. Granted Los Angeles was hot that day and our cabin was in the sun, but it didn't cool down so I called A/C engineering to check it. It was adjusted and was much better. (But as the cruise continued, the A/C was still "spotty" around the ship, i.e., one elevator very warm, others comfortable; some areas of ship very warm, others more comfortable; cabin sometimes not very cool and had to call A/C engineering twice more.) Now it wasn't as if we would be traveling to the North Pole; we were headed for the tropics! So it would make sense, at least to me, that the ship would be prepared for very hot and very humid temperatures and in accordance with that keep the ship very cool. But No-No that was not the case. Also the water in the cabin was never cool--impossible to get a cool shower after being out on a shore excursion. This area of the world, being so near the Equator, tends to be very hot and very humid! In Fact I had read the Cartagena is so hot and humid that many reviewers could enjoy any shore excursions, so we cancelled that one. In Costa Rica we took the Aerial Tram over the Rain Forest. Worthwhile even though it was hot and humid. The lunch that was served was typical of the region and I classified as "Fair." At the Miraflores Locks we took the excursion describing the locks, a museum of artifacts, and a view of the working locks from a veranda at the locks. This I found very enlightening. It is recommended to read David McCullough's Book "The Path Between the Seas" before cruising the locks for a complete understanding of this undertaking. The food on board, either the buffet or dining room (we chose "anytime" dining) was only "Fair." Menus repeated; flavor bland; menu items chosen were not what I expected. (I refuse to pay extra for the specialty dining options.) I couldn't wait to disembark to get a good meal. Saying this, the best meal on the ship was the English Pub lunch in the Wheelhouse. Fish and Chips were very good. All other aspects of the cruise were fine: Embarkation, disembarkation, shows, etc. One of our favorite places was La Patisserie. We bought a coffee card and found the lattes delicious--used very good quality beans. Servers were helpful, happy and prompt. This review does not constitute that I will never cruise Princess again. I almost certainly will, but not to any place hot. I will not expect much in the quality and flavor of the food. As we all know quality of middle-class cruise companies has gone down-hill for a long time. Nothing can be done about that except take a more expensive cruise line--so one gets what one pays for. The CEOs of the companies are the only one that make the money; it certainly doesn't go to the staffs. P.S. Comedian Doug Funk very good; completely different type of comedy. Really enjoyed him. Would like to see him again. Some people went the second night he performed and it was a bit different. Read Less
Sail Date September 2012
Being first time "big ship" cruisers, and avid travellers, we spent 2 years researching Alaska cruise info before booking our trip. So, we were able to book exactly what we wanted, and were very pleased with the size of the ... Read More
Being first time "big ship" cruisers, and avid travellers, we spent 2 years researching Alaska cruise info before booking our trip. So, we were able to book exactly what we wanted, and were very pleased with the size of the ship, layout and size of our cabin, location of our cabin, and our excursions. We booked the train from Anchorage to Whittier on our own, and were on the 9:30 am train. A pleasant ride. NOTE: most hotels offer free shuttle from the airport to the hotel, and then to the train station. Don't hire a cab without checking this out. We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn - which was fine. Nothing fancy, but we were there for only overnite. At the train station, we checked our bags straight through to Princess and never saw them again until we got to our cabins. When the train arrived, it was a short walk across a parking lot to the ship terminal to fill out health forms and check in. We got there around noon. Chose to walk into town to buy bottled water, and then checked in around 1:30. Our cabin was ready, and our luggage was delivered. As opposed to recent complaints I had read - we found the staff of Coral Princess to be friendly, helpful, energetic, with happy attitudes. Yes, it was hard to understand some of them, as it is an almost entirely non-American crew. Sometimes we had to ask a question repeatedly in order to understand the answer. Our cabin was clean, and our beds were comfortable -no need for the egg carton cushion. Only complaint - too few plugs that you could use because of their placement on the walls. Several of our electronics didn't fit the space specifically at the desk location. The locations behind the 2 tv's was difficult to reach.. Bring a multi-plug strip or extension cord ( I had one with me but it somehow didn't get unpacked and I thought I hadn't brought it!). Also, it was hot with the duvet. There were no other covers, and so we requested a top sheet and a blanket. Well, the top sheet was torn, and dingy, and we chose not to use it. However, the blanket came in handy to wrap around as we sat on the balcony when sailing in Glacier Bay! Also, a few extra pillows for the sofa and the bed had to be requested. All of our clothing and items had a place to be stored - and we had 4 suitcases and 2 carryon bags!!! We chose a mini-suite that had a tub/shower so that my 6'4" hubby would have room in the shower. It was really nice!! We had anytime dining and found the food to be pretty bad. Clearly the chefs were trying to prepare dishes that were too complicated to be served on such a large scale. After a couple of nites we went to the Horizon Buffet and found the food flavor and quality to be much better. Not fabulous, but better! Of course, Sabatini's and the Bayou Cafe were very good (don't get steak at Bayou Cafe - stick with Cajun dishes - poor meat grade). We had room service for breakfast 2 mornings that we were in a hurry. It was fine. Note - any beverage you buy has an add-on gratuity, so those latte's at the Patisserie not only had an added-on gratuity, but the ticket you must sign doesn't list the gratuity, yet is has a line for you to (foolishly) add gratuity). We saw a few show - they were pretty good. Not Broadway, but fine. The crew show on the 2nd to last nite was great. The naturalist, Kathy, was outstanding. After crowding on the front deck when we arrived in Glacier Bay, we chose to do the rest of our glacier viewing from our balcony. We just turned up the volume on the TV, and easily hear her narration while having space all to ourselves. Also, the Park Rangers that came on-board to narrate were terrific as well. Ports/excursions: Skagway - took the Chilkoot Charters' excursion on the train to White Pass/Yukon. Loved it - especially since on the van ride back our driver could make any stops we wanted to see sights and take photos along the way. Juneau - Harv & Marv's whale watching. Captain Sean was terrific. Saw LOTS and LOTS of humpback whales. Stopped at Mendenhall Glacier on the way back. Wish we had more time in Juneau. Ketchikan - Seawind Aviation floatplane to Misty Fjords. Pretty views. Included a stop in a beautiful cove. Smooth flying. Then on our own took the town's free shuttle to the Totem Pole Center - very interesting. Then walked back to the heart of town. We arrived in Vancouver around 6 am. Since we were staying on in Vancouver on our own for a few days, we selected a late disembarkation. We put out our bags at 10 pm the nite before. We had to vacate the cabin at 8. Went to breakfast, and then to our waiting area for our 9:50 disembarkation. It went very swiftly and smoothly. And there were a lot of Princess staff on hand to help out if needed. Our bags were waiting for us. Lucky us it was sunny and fairly warm most days. Never had rain in a port - just one afternoon at sea. All in all - a great trip!!! Read Less
Sail Date August 2012
I will start by saying that we were really looking for a cruise to Europe but with flights so expensive to basically everywhere is Europe this summer when Princess dropped their prices to Alaska a few weeks ago, we decided to give it a ... Read More
I will start by saying that we were really looking for a cruise to Europe but with flights so expensive to basically everywhere is Europe this summer when Princess dropped their prices to Alaska a few weeks ago, we decided to give it a try. Neither of us had ever been to Alaska and yes, we both wanted to go but we were planning to wait a few years. However since we really wanted to go on a cruise...off we went. We flew into Anchorage Saturday night, embarkation was Monday. We stayed at the Embassy Suites in mid-town. Very nice hotel, close to a few places to eat and a grocery store with a liquor store if you want to carry on a couple of bottles of wine with you. They offered a free shuttle which we took advantage of to pick us up at the airport and to take us downtown. Breakfast was really good but the lines to eat were a bit crazy. Between all the people who acted like they have never eaten breakfast in a hotel before and only one person cooking omelets it was at best slow. Ultimately I think I would stay downtown if we did it again. Close to the market, restaurants, activities, etc. Embarkation went smooth. We opted to buy transfers from Alaska Cruise Transfer. Went smooth, they picked us up when they said, had some narration on the ride over, Whittier tunnel was neat to see and all at half the price of the cruise ship transfer. We walked on the ship just after 3pm and everything was ready. Our bags showed up very soon after we got to our cabin. Cabin A306. Small but worked. To be fair we usually choose at least a mini suite as we like the space they provide. It was quiet had a covered balcony, was close to forward stairs and elevators. Very small shower but great water pressure. Cabin had enough storage and the refrig kept things pretty cool. Beds were horrible in our opinion. Hard...very hard. Oh yes, not one single towel animal either. We opted for the Horizon court the first night for supper, other than that we only ate breakfast at the buffet two other days and that was it for the buffet. Not that it was bad, we just didn't eat there much. We went to the welcome aboard show the first night, in fact we basically went to all of the shows that were offered. Sarge the comedian, the illusionist, the hypnotist, and production show Motor City. Yep we went, but basically thought they were all very unimaginative. After looking at scenery all day and having basically nothing else happening on the ship we went for lack of something better. In fact it was very strange. I don't know if it was the type of crowds that generally go on this cruise or what, but there was not a lot of activities to choose from. Stuart the cruise director did not seem to be engaged in the passengers at all. Hubbard Glacier did not get visited due to weather and too much ice. Glacier Bay was nice and we saw a few glaciers, whales, dolphins, birds. Basically everything you were supposed to see. Commentary from park ranger was fine. Skagway was an okay stop. We chose to ride the train which was a very nice ride with a lot scenery but looking back at 119 dollars each it was pretty high priced. I would recommend finding something to do that takes you out of town as there isn't much there and you can pretty much see walk it quick. Would also be a good day to see it and then head back to the ship for a massage. We enjoyed Juneau. We bought through the cruise ship the Taku River Lodge and flightseeing excursion. Fly in a float plane, see several glaciers from above, land on the Taku river, eat fresh grilled salmon, experience a historical lodge, fly back to Juneau. If you are wanting to see some whales this is a good stop to sign up for some whale watching as well. Ketchikan was our only really rainy day. Other days had a little bit of drizzle at times but also times when it was sunny (Hubbard Glacier day it was very thick fog). We walked around town a bit, did a little shopping, had lunch, bought some canned salmon, a t-shirt, etc. then back to the ship. You can easily walk to the salmon ladder and fish hatchery if you don't want to buy an excursion. The meals were good, they still had lobster tails one night in the main dining room. Most were the size of a jumbo prawn. We ate at the Bayou Steakhouse one night. Very good and a nice change from the main dining room. 5 extra dollars over the cover charge for a lobster tail but you got a great lobster tail for the money. Yes as other people said, they were always trying to take your picture. We didn't buy any but thought it was fun to let them take them and look at them later. I always have though if they would lover the price they would just about sell all the pictures they take. As it seems they must throw a lot of them away. Pub lunch occurred twice during the cruise and we went both times. Fish and Chips were very good. It was a great lunch that I don't think a lot of people knew about because it wasn't busy at all. We signed up for the ultimate ship tour. We enjoyed this very much. Three hours of going everywhere on the ship you can't normally enter. Bridge, Galley, Engineering, Laundry, etc. If you are interested in the "How" then this is a good tour. If you only care that things just get done and don't care about how it gets to that point, I wouldn't sign up for this. Disembarkation went very smooth. They do a great job and has to be one of the best we have experienced. Conclusion, this was our 9th cruise and 2nd with Princess (first on the Crown) and I would rank this toward the top of the bottom third (we are in our mid 30's). For Princess the Crown is still keeping them in the running with us for future cruises. We still have had much better experiences with RCI. We did get a relaxing vacation. I however was also in the mood for a great cruise ship experience and what we really got was a great tour of Alaska instead. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
We embarked and disembarked from Vancouver on this back to back Alaska cruise, our first cruise together. Both my wife and I had taken independent cruises earlier in our lives. Embarkation process was very smooth and fast, took less ... Read More
We embarked and disembarked from Vancouver on this back to back Alaska cruise, our first cruise together. Both my wife and I had taken independent cruises earlier in our lives. Embarkation process was very smooth and fast, took less than 30 minutes from our drop off at the port. We both use C-PAC for our sleep apnea and had been told to bring an extra extension and power bar. That and our four suitcases easily left space in the closet and left room for other items we bought on board and on the excursions. Service was attentive and very good at all venues. We had the late dinner booking and was set with two other couples who were fantastic and hopefully will be life long friends. We ate one night at the Italian restaurant and did not feel the quality was any better than the regular restaurant. We did some Princess excursions and some with others from cruise critic. The ones we arranged with others on Cruise Critic were much better. The glaciers were unbelievable good, but it was cold doing the watching from the top decks, on the return trip we found it better on the 7 deck walk around was better for watching. We had an inside cabin and it appeared for others who had balconies that it was a better choice for sleeping if you are easily waken by light as the nights are very short. Visually we would rank this cruise a 9.5 out of 10 for the scenery. Read Less
Sail Date July 2012
My husband and I just returned from our first Alaska cruise! For anyone unsure about visiting Alaska via a cruise ship-I high recommend it as this is a good way to see the area and you may get to see sights you wouldn't get to see ... Read More
My husband and I just returned from our first Alaska cruise! For anyone unsure about visiting Alaska via a cruise ship-I high recommend it as this is a good way to see the area and you may get to see sights you wouldn't get to see easily by any other travel method. Embarkation: We left from Vancouver, and embarkation was handled very efficiently. The ship did not leave until 5 p.m. but we had to check out of our hotel by 12 noon so we headed down to the port. We dropped off our luggage and wandered around the port area in Vancouver for a couple of hours before actually getting on the ship. A lunch buffet was served for those that got on the ship early. Our luggage was delivered to our stateroom by about 4:00. Safety Drill: You will have a safety drill as the boat is leaving. This safety drill was a little different than on previous cruises, as our muster station was actually a lounge and not outside. It was handled very well but I heard some later complaints that it took place during sail away, and no announcement that we actually WERE sailing away was made. Dining: We chose the Any Time dining option. If you do chose this option, you will have a separate dining room (Bordeaux) from those that chose Traditional dining(Provence). The menus are identical so you are not missing out on anything. Since we were a party of two, we often were asked if we minded sharing a table with others. We didn't mind this, as we met lots of people that way. If there is a wait, which there will be if you choose to eat from about 6:15-8:00, it is usually no more than 30 minutes and you are given a beeper which works anywhere in the atrium area. Your wait is usually less if you choose to share a table. You can also make a reservation for a specific time if you call them before 5:00. The dining room is open from 5:30-10:30. Note that the dining room is only open for dinner. You will eat breakfast and lunch either in the Horizon Court or one of the other eating options. I would rate the food as good, but not spectacular or as elegantly presented as I have had on other cruise lines. You have to remember--they are cooking for 3000. Think high end banquet food. I need to compliment the dining room staff, as they were always very welcoming and willing to go above and beyond to serve every one's needs. One night we ate with a woman who had numerous food allergies. The wait staff would let her order her meals a day ahead and even went so far as to make her special mayonnaise and salad dressings. Dining Attire: Princess states that "smart casual" is the attire for non- formal nights, but I saw plenty of jeans and shorts. I think that Alaskan cruising is very casual in relation to other parts of the world. On formal nights (you will have two on a 7 day cruise) we saw everything from long dresses and tuxedos to what I would consider church attire. My husband wore a sports coat and tie and fit right in. Other Dining: The Horizon Court is open 24 hours and has a buffet of hot entrees, salads, desserts, and depending on the time of day, a custom omelet and pasta station. This is the only place to eat breakfast so it gets very crowded during peak times. They also had two specialty buffets on days we were at sea--an Alaskan seafood buffet and a dessert buffet. We also sampled the Outdoor Grill area which serves burgers and hot dogs, and the pizza kitchen; both were good. There is also free soft serve ice cream. Specialty Restaurants: There are two specialty restaurants on board--Sabatini's and Bayou Cafe. You must pay a charge of $20 per person and make a reservation. We did not go to either but heard good comments from those that did. They did not seem to ever be crowded. Stateroom: We chose a balcony stateroom on the Emerald Deck. It was small but functional and we really did not spend much time there. I would definitely spring for a balcony on an Alaskan cruise because if you are going to see the glaciers, this is positively the best place to see them and get good pictures without 2000 other people jostling you to get pictures also. If you have never cruised before, you will be surprised at how small the showers are--be prepared if you are a large person. Your bathroom if about the size of an airplane bathroom. Our cabin was cleaned twice a day by a polite but not overly talkative cabin steward. No towel animals, although one of the staff told us that some of the cabin stewards do make them. My only complaints about the stateroom were the lack of electrical outlets (one in the bathroom and a double one near the desk, but configured where you could only plug in one item at a time)and the built in hair dryer, which sparked like it was going to catch on fire at any moment. Ladies--bring your own hair dryer from home! Internet/Cell Phone Service: If you want Wifi while on board, you need to purchase a package. There is an internet cafe and also wifi in your stateroom if you purchase it. I have T-Mobile and had service while in every port, but not while we were at sea. Beverages: The only beverages you can get free of extra charge are coffee, tea, iced tea, water, and lemonade. You have to ask a waiter for the lemonade, but everything else is at the buffet or bars. You can buy a soda stamp for $7 a day. If you think you will drink a lot of soda, this is probably the way to go, but if you purchase a can of soda it is $2.25, so only worth it if you are going to drink 3 sodas a day. No matter where on the ship you sit you will find a bartender and wait staff happy to provide you a cocktail! Drinks were on average about $7 a piece. You can purchase a bottle of wine and if you just like to have a glass or two at dinner, they will keep the bottle for you and retrieve it when you order another glass. For the cheap-look for activities where you get a free cocktail (we went to a couple of art auctions that included free champagne). Your bar tab can really add up quick, since you use your stateroom card for all onboard purchase, you might be surprised by a hefty bill at the end if you are not careful. Entertainment: We saw all but one of the onboard shows, which included an illusionist, a dance review, and a very funny comedian named Sarge. All were okay, but don't expect Broadway. There are usually two shows a night. If you didn't want to go to the live shows in the evening there was always a movie option. The Coral Princess has movies under the stars outside by the pool--but a bit cold for that in Alaska! There was usually an indoor option as well. The "entertainment" that should NOT be missed are the presentations by the naturalist, Kathy Stamp. Kathy is a 70 something retired school teacher who lived in Alaska most of her life. Beside being a great speaker she knows EVERTHING you might ever want to know about Alaska. Her presentations are invaluable if you have gone on this cruise for your first time in Alaska. Pools/Sports: There was an indoor pool and an outdoor pool. Not too many swimmers except for kids; this is Alaska after all. The hot tubs got a lot of use. I heard there was a golf simulator on the top deck but never actually saw it. Not much else in the way of sports activities, except for shuffleboard. Other Programs/Activities: We also enjoyed the cooking demonstration and a tour of the galley. There was bingo and art auctions every day and also a Casino, which is only open when you are sailing. Not as much shopping as I have seen on other ships, two small stores and a fine jewelery store. However, be prepared that many programs are an opportunity to SELL you something. The first day at sea EVERYTHING was a sales pitch--and much worse than I have experienced on other cruise lines. If you don't want a sales pitch--don't go. There is also a nice exercise facility with a good number of machines--it did not seem overly crowded--and exercise classes were offered for an additional fee. I also took advantage of the spa--HINT--go the last day when they have a "sale" and some treatments are up to half price. There are children's programs and teen programs, but can't speak to them since we travelled without children. We were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary and had a sign and balloons on our stateroom door, and the waiters also sang to us. You could get married our renew your vows on board if you wanted to. A shameless plug for one prgram in particular--the Princess Pop Choir. I participated in this--we had several hours of rehearsals and then sang in the atrium on the last night. Just so much fun! Remember the age of the cruisers. Pop music was Tom Jones/Neal Diamond variety. Age Range: I had to include this because you need to know that the average age on this cruise is going to be older than most Caribbean cruises. We are in our late 40's early 50's but felt very young! There were a handful of families with young children on board, and a small group of teens, but it appeared that most of those were there as part of large family groups celebrating, say grandma or grandpas birthday or 50th wedding anniversary. Be prepared to hear about every one's grandchildren and health problems. That being said, the cruise ship staff seemed VERY patient about dealing with some of the older folks and was very accommodating to those who had a hard time getting around. Because of the older demographics, this was a QUIET ship. Not a lot of late night action or crowded cocktail lounges. That was fine by us but I wouldn't advise it for the 20 something crowd. The point of this cruise is to experience ALASKA, after all, the ship just happens to be the vehicle to get there. Ports: Our cruise was the Inside Passage Northbound--we made stops at Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, and ended at Whittier(Anchorage). We did not do the interior trip to Denali. Between Skagway and Whittier you will have two days at sea--the first day you will cruise Glacier Bay and the second afternoon you will cruise College Fjord. We took a shore excursion at each port. Ketchikan: We opted to take a nature walk excursion to a wildlife refuge. Many people also went to this preserve to do zip lining. We were extremely fortunate to have BRIGHT SUNSHINE which everyone kept explaining was rare--Ketchikan receives 300 days of rain a year so be prepared. The ship docks right downtown so it is a very walkable cute town. We saw lots of bald eagles here. You are only in Ketchikan half a day, so back on the ship by lunch. Juneau: The thing to do in Juneau is to go whale watching. We took a whale watching, glacier visiting trip from 8-5 that included lunch out on a little island. We saw LOTS of whales, and if you really want to see whales, this is the port to do it. You will probably also go to mendenhall glacier--but be forewarned that you will see TONS of glaciers on day 5 and 6, so if you have to miss this one it is OKAY. Also visit the Red Dog Saloon in town--even if there is a line! This was probably my favorite port. You don't have to be back on the ship until 8:00 p.m. so plenty of time to shop in town and you can walk from the dock. Skagway: This was the only port day it rained (again--unusual and the ship's crew said it had been raining for three solid weeks prior to our trip). We took a bus up to the Yukon (you need your passport--this is in Canada) and then rode the narrow gage railroad back. Unfortunately, we couldn't see much of anything due to heavy fog. We did get to see some bears by the side of the road. We visited a tourist center in Carcross--if you want to see some sled dogs in summer training this is a good place for it. Skagway is TINY. There are only 800 permanent residents. One grocery store, one post office, one school--and 17 jewelery stores for the cruise ships. Glacier Bay: Be prepared to be outside today and dressed warmly--and I do mean hats, gloves, and winter coats. You see two very large glaciers up close and personal and lots more from a distance. Again-blessed by sunshine--and I got a very nasty sunburn, so don't forget sunscreen either. College Fjord: So named since all the glaciers here are named after Ivy League schools. You don't get her until about 5:30, and stay about 2 hours. At one point, you can see 8 different glaciers at once. You will leave here either in love with glaciers or never wanting to see another one. I was pretty much glaciered out at this point, plus this is when you have to get packed. Whittier: Whittier is where you disembark. You will either take a bus ride of about 1 1/2 hours to Anchorage or a train or bus if you are going on to Denali and Fairbanks. Don't expect to do anything in Whittier--it is a town of 160 people with NOTHING there except boats. Disembarkation: Disembarkation was handled very smoothly-we were separated in to groups depending on whether you were going to Denali/Fairbanks or to Anchorage and assigned a specific lounge to wait in and a time to disembark. Everything went right on schedule. You do not have to worrry about claiming your luggage as it is transferred to the airport or your destination for you. Be prepared that you have to have your luggage out by dinner the prior night, and not midnight as on other cruises. We were a little worried about the luggage as our flight back to Houston did not leave until after 8 p.m. that night, but the airport holds them in a special room for the cruises and it was very quick to claim them before we checked in to our flight. We were dropped off by the bus at a downtown visitors center in Anchorage about 12:00 noon. there are free shuttles to the airport every hour, but you have to claim your luggage before the room closes at 7 p.m., so 6:00 p.m. shuttle at the latest. the visitors center will also store your carry on luggage for you so you do not have to haul it around all day in Anchorage. Overall Impression: I would categorize this as a mid-range cruise aimed at an older clientele. The ship serves as the vehicle to get you to your destination and your real source of entertainment, which is Alaska in all its glory. This is not for the luxury cruisers. The food is adequate, plentiful, and fairly typical, but not elegant. The entertainment is about what we expected. The naturalist was a great asset, and if you missed her programs you really missed what was going on each day. GO TO HER PROGRAMS. Would I do it again? Absolutely. In fact, we plan on going again and taking our sons with us at some point. 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Sail Date July 2012
Princess does an excellent job at the Vancouver embarkation port. Our cab pulled in to Canada Place underground facility for cruise ships, backed in, and our baggage was unloaded and placed for delivery to our room. After going through ... Read More
Princess does an excellent job at the Vancouver embarkation port. Our cab pulled in to Canada Place underground facility for cruise ships, backed in, and our baggage was unloaded and placed for delivery to our room. After going through customs we went to a staging area where we waited for our group to be called to go to our room. At the staging area we were handed our room packet with keys. Within one hour of our cab arriving, we were in our room and unpacking. After unpacking we hooked up with our friends staying in the balcony cabin next to ours, and we had lunch on the Lido Deck at Horizon Court buffet. The buffet was very good but not excellent. Had to ask for lox and cream cheese for example. A touch below what we were used to on Holland America. Also the Coral Princess seems to have a stange layout where it is difficult to get to Lido Deck without going outside, and walking through common areas. A minor complaint however. Our cabin on the Emerald deck had a balcony and while we did use it, it was too cold to stay out for long. It was not as useful as it would be if one were going on a Panama Canal Cruise for example, where you could stay out on the balcony for hours. We could have saved ourselves some money by booking an outside stateroom. Alaska also does not have the magnificent ports like those cruising southward. Ketchikan, Juneau, & Skagway are underwelming as ports, so no need to be on your balcony as you come into port like one does on a Panama Canal cruise. The other downside of our cabin was it had no sofa, so all we had were two chairs that were no comfortable to just relax for awhile. But we didn't book a cruise to sit in our cabins. Coral Princess is a nice ship and has all of the ususal amenities one would expect including shopping and gambling venues, many quiet spaces, a coffee bar, and multiple cocktail lounges where the drinks were excellent and not too pricey. We had drinks in the Crooners lounge, named after the Rat Pack, and the bartender made our drinks perfectly. We chose the 5:30pm seating at a table for eight and we met up with four new dining companions that made for fun conversation. Our waitstaff was courteous and professional, and went out of their way to ensure we had a pleasant dining experience. The food was good but not great, a notch below Holland America. The variety was good and wine selection was adequate. We had two formal nights but not many wore black tie, mainly sports coats and suits for the men. Don't know why the first seating was at 5:30 instead of 6:00pm. We had dead time between the end of our dinner and the start of the evening entertainlment. If we travel on Princess again we would probably opt for the anytime dining, which we did use one night, when we got back late from our stop in Skagway. Also when we arrived at College Fjord, it was right at 5:30pm so we skipped our sit down dinner and opted for the buffet once we were out of the Fjord. It would have ruined our trip had we missed College Fjord since that was a major highlight. Princess charges for lattes, so if you want upgraded coffee, it would pay to get one of their coffee cards which can be used on other Princess ships too. Didn't take advantage of that but I should have. Did not drink any soda's so did not need the soda card. Had the tea service one day in the Provence dining room and it was ok but not up to the standards of a real real British tea shoppe. They used whipped cream rather than clotted cream for example. Still it was worth trying one time. For breakfast we went about half the time to the buffet and the rest of the time to regular dining room. Preferred the regular dining room where you get waited on and it is more relaxing. The buffet is crowded and hectic but does have a lot of breakfast options. Ask for the lox and they will get it for you. We shared tables with other people in the buffet but that is part of the fun of cruising. Cruisers are very friendly people. The excursions we booked through Princess were good. The whale watch in Juneau was excellent in that we saw humpack and orca whales. The salmon bake was forgettable (don't bother), and the Mendenhall glacier has receded to the point where it is no longer a spectacular venue, especially compared to College Fjord. In Skagway, the White Pass railway trip to the border between Alaska and the Yukon was amazing. A lot of spectacular scenary long the way and a fun train trip. That was my wife's favorite excursion. In Ketchikan we just walked around town and looked in gift shops. Our friends did pick up a couple of nice jackets for only 20.00 each and supposedly they are the best selling jackets in Alaska because of the price. Go to the Tongass shop. And be prepared for rain. Ketchikan is one of the rainiest prices on earth supposedly. We made good use of our rain gear. Our ship cruised Glacier Bay and it was nice but not as spectacular as College Fjord or last stop. College Fjord was my favorite sight and of course it is the place featured on all of the Alaskan cruise brochures. We arrived right at dinner time so we skipped our regular dining and went to the buffet later. When we disembarked at Whittier our train was awaiting us to whisk us on a leisurely 10 hour trip to Denali National Park. Princess was well organized throughout the cruise and as long as their baggage tag instructions were followed, baggage handling was a breeze. We would use Princess Cruises again if the price were right. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
I'm a geezer. I'll be strictly objective, but my perspective is perhaps unlike many others. I also tend to seek more active pursuits, so probably not the best candidate for cruising. With those caveats, here are my ... Read More
I'm a geezer. I'll be strictly objective, but my perspective is perhaps unlike many others. I also tend to seek more active pursuits, so probably not the best candidate for cruising. With those caveats, here are my impressions of the good and bad, with particular focus on Princess: Our cruise was the inside passage departing Vancouver June 25 2012, ports being Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and finishing in Anchorage. The sights are every bit as impressive as they say, and more. The experience is not to be missed. The cruise lines (and others) offer every imaginable excursion activity. We took the zip line tour to Grizzly Falls in Skagway (Probably the best & the longest zip lines for the money). This was the absolute highlight of the adventure for me. You'll have to book Grizzly directly. The cruise lines don't list it. (We also happened to get very lucky indeed with weather: blue sky, sun and not a drop of drizzle.) The landscape here is simply stunning. In Juneau we took the float plane ride over the glaciers. (Booked through Princess.) Wonderful, wonderful experience. Much better than the helicopter that just dumps you on the glacier to walk around on the ice. Onboard, the cabin stewards generally live up to their reputation for being very friendly, attentive and helpful. This adds greatly to the level of comfort. The staterooms are lovely and due to the reduced level of bookings we got easily upgraded to a balcony a week or so ahead of sailing. If you're looking to get away from the maddening crowds, cruising is the last choice for you. Modern cruise ships are enormous & the carriers work diligently to put a paying passenger in every available square foot. If you're looking to find a comfy seat in a quiet spot to read or relax, you'll almost certainly find a body already in it. If you head to the gym at typical times, you'll find it fairly well equipped, but a body occupying every station much of the time. (A real zoo.) If you want to pay even more money than you forked over in advance, Princess has a few premium relaxation areas you must pay to enter ($20 a day) where (hopefully) you'll find a spot. Like timeshare locusts, they seem to hawk overpriced premium items (photos, bottled water, wine, soft drinks, etc) more or less constantly, which is truly annoying. The spa services are priced at roughly 4-5 times the going rates elsewhere. Our cruise happened to have a very talented comedian-musician ("Sarge") who was clearly well above cruise ship caliber. Very funny and the crowd loved him. Much of the other talent also seemed generally well above what one might expect. The serving & other staff is spread thin & it shows. The buffet food is, well, buffet food. If your thing is force-feeding yourself an endless variety of mediocre-at-best, nutritionally questionable calories, you'll love it. The emphasis on economy is everywhere: in the powder mix iced tea, the heavily watered-down sauces, soups, etc, as well as the dreary attitude of some staff. At times, you'll wait far longer here for a coffee or water refill than you would in your local Denny's. In fairness, service in some areas of the buffet is much better than others. The dining rooms offer better fare, but nothing you'll rave about. Cheap cuts of meat, very small portions. Same watery sauces, soups (ugh!), etc. I got a lobster tail that looked more like a large shrimp, and it was just too scary-looking to eat. One of our party complained bitterly about having notes to the cruise director simply ignored when she sought help with onboard activities. No response. Zippo, nada. There is fastidious attention to cleanliness and disease prevention. I saw nothing anywhere that raised any concerns. Bottom line, it was about equal to my expectations. The total cost was about as budgeted. For extras, expect to pay at least a thousand or two over & above your cruise & air fare. (Excursions, tourist crap, drinks, ship gratuity & other charges, gambling, etc.) Would I do it again? No, but then it was always something I thought should be done at least once, and I still do. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
We have just returned from a southbound Alaskan cruise on Coral Princess from Whittier to Vancouver from June 18 -- 25. This was our 12th cruise, and the fourth one with Princess. We live in Vancouver, and have been to Alaska 2 times ... Read More
We have just returned from a southbound Alaskan cruise on Coral Princess from Whittier to Vancouver from June 18 -- 25. This was our 12th cruise, and the fourth one with Princess. We live in Vancouver, and have been to Alaska 2 times before, but never been to Glacier Bay. We picked Coral Princess because of its itinerary and timing. Turned out to be a good decision. The following is a brief review of Coral Princess: Embarkation/Disembarkation Very easy and efficient. We arrived at the Whittier pier at 3:30 p.m., and was on board in half an hour. I saw many Princess buses arriving later in the day -- must be other passengers arriving from other part of the country. In Vancouver our disembarkation time was 8:25 a.m. We arrived at the designated area at the time indicated, and was told to follow everybody else to leave the ship. Went through customs and picked up our baggage, and was outside Canada Place at 9 a.m. waiting for our ride. Cabin We had an inside cabin on the Plaza deck. The size was more than enough for 2 people, with plenty of storage space. The shower was a little small, but you get used to it. I wore ear plugs every night, so I had no idea whether it was noisy or not. Of course it would be nice to have a window and balcony, but I found it was a much better experience to be on the open deck while cruising Glacier Bay because you can absorb scenery on both sides of the ship. Food We opted for any time dining. With the exception of first night where we ate at the Provence dining room, we always ate at the Bordeaux dining room for dinner. Normally we went to dinner around 5:45 p.m., and requested a table for two. There was no problem every night, but beware sometimes they have 2 tables adjacent to one another with only a small gap in the middle. Effectively that is a shared table if that is what you want to avoid. We ate all our breakfast and lunch at Horizon Court Buffet. In general the food was good, but not exceptional. No comment on specialty restaurant as we did not go to any. There were always food at the horizon court, so you would never be hungry. The soft ice cream tasted artificial, but was refreshing. The pizza was ok. My wife said the coffee tasted watery, so you may have to purchase the specialty coffee. Entertainment At the Princess Theatre there were 2 production shows, one magic/illusion show, one comedy show, and one hypnotist show. We went to every show with the exception of the last one, but saw the re-run on the following night in another venue. There was no show on the last sea day. There are always seats available inside the theatre, as opposed to the Caribbean Princess when we cruised last Sep that you have to arrive half an hour early to get a decent seat. We also went to the production show "On the Bayou" at Universe Lounge. Not sure why it wasn't held at the Princess Theatre. These were all typical cruise ship shows. Cannot be compared to Las Vegas, but good enough to keep you entertained. Fitness Center It has about 10 treadmills, 5-6 elliptical machine, 3 stationery bikes, and weight lifting equipment. All are in good condition. With the exception of the first sea day, the center was never very crowded. We spent more than an hour everyday there (to burn off the calories). I did not gain any weight after the cruise! Miscellaneous I would guess the average passenger age was over 60, with a small number of children. There were also a handful of younger people. I was told the ship was full, but I never felt too crowded. The TV channels were limited, and I was disappointed I missed the NBA finals. But you are not on a cruise ship to watch TV, no big deal. There is coin laundry facility: $2 for either washing/drying. I did check out the secret public aft decks (Emerald/Dolphin/Caribe/Baja) just in case it was raining and windy, but it was not necessary. Couldn't find the public forward decks. Final Thought In conclusion it was a enjoyable trip, and I would not hesitate to recommend Coral Princess if your expectation is not too high. In the future I would like to try a bigger and newer ship as I imagine it will have more facility and better entertainment. See http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1659614 for the trip review and pictures. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
If you plan to drive in Alaska on your own, I strongly recommend getting the Milepost. It provides info on lodging, food, fuel, and items of interest for all of the major Alaskan roads. Also, reviews of the lodging and tours in the land ... Read More
If you plan to drive in Alaska on your own, I strongly recommend getting the Milepost. It provides info on lodging, food, fuel, and items of interest for all of the major Alaskan roads. Also, reviews of the lodging and tours in the land portion of the trip can be found in the Review section of Tripadvisor. I especially want to thank all of folks that post in the Alaska section of the Tripadvisor forum. Without the forum, I would have had a very difficult task to determine an itinerary (special thanks to Manitoba Maple for the itinerary suggestions) and decide on attractions, restaurants, and lodging. The search engine on works great and helped me locate past posts that provided a wealth of information and answered my questions. I also wanted to thank the posters at Cruisecritic. I wanted to especially thank Budget Queen for her suggestions on the Denali summit flightseeing tour and using the shuttle bus in Denali NP. I also wanted to thank Cruising Goddess for her Alaska website. Her packing list was invaluable to developing our Alaskan wardrobe. We loved the convertible pants! The posters at Cruisecritic also provided good info on Alaska, as well as, helping with cruise and cabin selection. I fall in the category of a severe planner and try to tie down as many loose ends as possible, so the information on both sites is a valuable resource. Day 1- Travel day We landed in Anchorage in late afternoon. We pickup our rental car from Alamo. It was a Nissan Altima which is considered full size. We were able to stow our three pieces of luggage and the two day packs in the trunk. (Following advice on the TA forum, we booked a rental car through Alamo about a year earlier for eight days for a total cost of $366.) It was raining when we left the airport, but that ended quickly. The sun came out, and we got our first views of the mountains surrounding Anchorage. After a full day of flying, we had enough energy to shop for groceries, deet, the Milepost, and sundries at the Wal-Mart on Dimond Blvd and get sandwiches from the nearby Subway. We headed to our lodging at the Girdwood Guest House. It was still a sunny day, and the heavily snow-covered mountains along the Turnagain Arm were an unexpected surprise. Pat and Judy at GGH were great hosts. They told us there was more snow on the mountains this late in the year due to the heavy and prolonged winter and spring snow falls. We were able to sleep well because our bedroom at GGH has no windows. Day 2-Girdwood to Homer Day 2 starts with our first wildlife sighting. While fixing breakfast, my wife spotted a black bear across the street. He was about 20 feet away. He moved away before we could get to a camera. We did the Glacier Dog sledding tour with Seavey Iditarod/Alpine Air. Alpine Air runs the airport location and operates the helicopters, and Seavey runs the dog camp. The day was overcast, but no rain, so we were good to fly. They fitted us with fleece gloves and waterproof jackets and pants in addition to the glacier boots. Since I saw glacier dog sledding on an RCL commercial in the early 2000's, I had always wanted to do this tour, and I was not disappointed. They land you onto Punchbowl glacier. During the helicopter trip, we saw blue ice pools. While we were on the glacier, I noticed all the footsteps made in the ice reflect a slight blue tint. The dogs are only 30 to 40 lbs, but they are incredibly strong. I did not realize how eager they are to pull the sled, and they will do it with or without a musher aboard. We got to hold the 8 week old puppies who were so cute. The view of the surrounding mountains around the glacier was spectacular (sorry if I overuse this word in my report, but this vacation was incredible). I got to ride in the co-pilot seat on the way back. Because of my height and weight, this was an unexpected thrill. The scenery in the mountain valleys was beautiful. We wish the helicopter ride could have been longer than 10 minutes each way. After the helicopter trip, we decided that the Alyeska tram would be a letdown, so it was on to Homer. We made several photo stops along the Turnagain Arm and Portage area. We took several minutes at each stop just to admire the incredible views of these snow and ice covered mountains. Along the drive to Cooper Landing, we noticed the beautiful green colored water in the streams. The scenery after Cooper Landing to Soldotna is not as spectacular since it is mostly trees, but we were rewarded with great pastries at The Moose is Loose bakery in Soldotna. After Soldotna, the scenery improved. We had views of the Cooke Inlet. Along the Sterling Highway between Ninilchik and Anchor Point, we made several stops to admire the mountains across the Cook Inlet. I read reviews talking about an impressive view as you enter Homer; they were right. That view of the town, the bay, and the mountains was awesome. We stayed in the Compass Rose Quarters at the Alaska Beach House. Doug and Sue were great hosts and provided good information. The cottage is a stand-alone building which has a balcony overlooking Kachemak Bay. There was an amazing view of the ice-covered mountains across the bay. Upon our arrival, there was a bald eagle perched in a nearby tree. Apparently, there was a bird turf battle for the tree. The eagle was being strafed by 3 crows. I expected the eagle to strike back, but I guess it figured it wouldn't be worth the effort with so many surrounding trees. It flew off and yielded the tree to my least favorite birds. We spent the evening admiring the view from our balcony and the comfortable recliners inside the cottage. Even with overcast skies, the views of the mountains are so striking. Day 3 - Homer Originally, we planned to go to Seldovia on the Kachemak Bay ferry since this would only take about half a day. This would have still allowed about a half day to explore Homer. However, the ferry company changed the schedule, and we would have spent an entire day in Seldovia. We wanted to see Homer as well, so we opted to spend the day in Homer and were rewarded for that decision. The day started out overcast with a low cloud deck. We decided to start with a visit to the Island and Oceans museum. This museum has pretty cool exhibits on the people, history, geography and fishing of the area. While in the museum, blue skies and the sun appeared. We walked the museum trail through Beluga Slough to Bishop's beach. The view from the beach was gorgeous. The beach consists of a dark grey colored sand from the granite mountains which I had never seen. There were posted alerts about a moose being spotted near the trail, but we did see any moose. We then decided to drive along East End Road. We found out that buildings and trees block the view across the bay. To view the beautiful scenery, you need to travel on the interconnecting Old East End Road and the small public gravel roads. We couldn't get enough of staring at the scenery on both sides of the bay. At the end of the paved portion of East End Road, a young woman in a colorful long Russian dress and bonnet was caring for her two children in the front yard of their house. We turned around and headed back to Homer. Since we're fans of the Deadliest Catch, we had to go to the Time Bandit store. We found out the Time Bandit was in port at the Spit, so we rushed to go there. We found the TB. In real life, the ship looks small. I know it is only 109 feet long, but on TV it appears to be larger. It really takes a special kind of courage to take a ship this size into the Bering Sea during winter. We went to the Land's End which has a lounge that has an outdoor area with nice views of the mountains. We ended the day by driving to Skyline Drive. This required driving on East and West Hill Roads. These roads had some turns with steep drop offs that were sort of challenging to this flatlander. On Skyline Drive, there is a pullout that provides a fantastic view of Homer, the Spit, and Kachemak bay especially on this sunny day. Day 4- Homer to Girdwood It was a cold, overcast day, but I wished we could have stayed another day in Homer. I really recommend spending two full days in Homer. We really enjoyed the views from balcony. During our stay at the cottage, we had numerous eagles fly over us. On our way out of Homer, a moose cow and calf were grazing about 20 to 30 feet off the highway. The moose is an unusual looking animal. It looks like it has parts from other animals and was obviously the product of a design by committee. Even though it was overcast and occasionally rainy over the Kenai peninsula, it was sunny across the Cook Inlet, and we were treated to outstanding views of Mts. Redoubt and Iliamna. At one pullout, there were roadside signs describing the volcanoes. Mt Redoubt last erupted in 2009, but it was quiet today. We also saw eagles. While driving down the gravel road to the Russian Orthodox church in Ninilchik, a moose cow crossed the road. The moose walked to our right side, and we saw that the calf had preceded her. We watched them feed on the trees. We proceeded to the church. The inside of the church was closed for the day, but it was a treat to see the outside of the little church. We stopped to see the Princess Wilderness Lodge at Cooper Landing. That area has great scenery especially with the green colored streams. Though it was raining, there were quite a people fishing in the river. We arrived at Girdwood where we again stayed at the Girdwood Guest House. Soon after we arrived, the bear we saw on Day 2 came back to tell us hello. We ate at the Silvertip Grill. I had the reindeer lasagna which was delicious. They also had great beer from an Alaskan microbrewery. The grill is frequented mostly by locals, and they made us feel at home. Girdwood is a cool little town. We were again able to take refuge from the white nights in our totally dark bedroom. Day 5 - Homer to Matanuska It was overcast, windy, and cold as we toured the Turnagain Arm area toward Anchorage. The weather did not detract from the spectacular scenery along the arm. We stopped at Windy Point (it earned its name that day), Bird Point, Beluga Point (did not see any whales), and Potter Marsh. We saw lots of birds at Potter March. We even saw Canadian geese with gosling. Some birds like the songbird were at the railings of the boardwalk, but for most, it helps to have binoculars. During our travels along the Turnagain Arm, we did not try to view the bore tides since they were predicted to be very low height or non-occurring. Due to the low cloud deck, we scrubbed going to Independence Pass and Hatcher Mine, and we opted for the Musk Ox Farm. This is a good side tour especially if you have children. The tour guide was very enthusiastic and knowledgeable. The musk ox which is actually a goat looks like a throwback to the Wooly Mammoth days. They even let the children feed wild dandelions to the young musk ox. We continued our drive on the Glenn Highway. I found out the hard way that the road to Matanuska was in the mountains (probably foothills, but to this flatlander they seemed like mountains). We got a good view of the Matanuska glacier. At 26 miles long, it is impressive. We stayed at the Majestic Valley lodge and ate at the restaurant at the Sheep Mountain lodge which had good food. Day 6 - Matanuska to Talkeetna It started out as a foggy morning, but the clouds began to lift. It was a sunny day as we did our 3 hour walk on the Matanuska Glacier with MICA tours which we booked the previous day. I really enjoyed the glacier walk, and hopefully I will be able to do at least another one in the future . We got to see the deep crevices and holes in the glacier. We saw the small greenish blue kettle ponds. The snow-capped, surrounding mountains and glacier were absolutely gorgeous. The trip was harder on my wife who has a bad knee. We mistakenly thought that glaciers were relatively flat with some gradual changes in elevation. Wrong, silly flatlanders. There is a somewhat steep change in elevation. We wished we brought her knee brace (which she has not had to wear in over ten years). It would have also helped if she had a hiking pole. The MICA guides were absolutely fantastic about assisting her. We felt bad that we held back the two much younger people in our tour. Needless to say, this was her first and last glacier walk. We drove to Talkeetna. On this sunny day, the scenery along the Glenn Highway was beautiful. Mountains are on both sides of the Matanuska river with the road cut into one of the mountain (yeah I know, foothills). We spent a lot of time stopping and viewing the scenery. After Glenn Highway, the drive from Wasilla to Talkeetna is a bit of a letdown. To quote a line I previously read on Tripadvisor, it was trees, trees, and more trees. When we got to Talkeetna, we spotted Denali (McKinley) from a pullout on the Talkeetna Spur road. The mountain was in a full view! We tried to get a summit flightseeing tour for that evening, but were not successful. We stayed in the downstairs lodge room at the Susitna River Lodging which has a good view of the adjacent Susitna River. From the lodge grounds, you can see some of the Alaskan Range, but not Denali. Later that evening, a couple of large raft tours on the river passed by the lodge. We really enjoyed our short stay at the lodge and at Talkeetna. We ate at Twisted Creek; great service and beer (brewed onsite) and good food. On this Alaskan trip, I verified that halibut is not my favorite fish, but I like how it is prepared at Twisted Creek. Day 7 - Talkeetna to Healy It was an overcast day at Talkeetna, but the skies were clearing over the Alaskan Range. We booked a mid-morning summit flightseeing tour with K2 Aviation. There were some low clouds on the west side of Denali, but were able to get full views of the mountain on the east, south, and north sides. The skies continued to clear as the flight progressed, and we got beautiful views of Denali, Foraker, Hunter, and the surrounding areas. This area had gotten a fresh dusting of snow the previous night. As with other areas of central Alaska, the mountains had much more snow than usual due to the heavy winter and spring snow falls. On a clear day, I highly recommend this tour. It was exhilarating. I was also fortunate to sit in the co-pilot's seat. Ed was our pilot who provided great narration. We did a final drive around Talkeetna (such a cool little town), and it was on to Healy. The scenery improved as the Alaskan Range began to poke above the trees. We also had a black bear cross the highway about 50 to 100 feet in front of us. I was getting sleepy during the drive, so my wife took over the driving. While I was napping, she said she saw a bull moose on the side of the road (I snooze, I lose). We stopped at the Wilderness Access Center in Denali National Park to pick up our prepaid tickets for the 6:15AM shuttle to Wonder Lake. We also watched the short film which was about the early history of the park and construction of the park road. We then headed to our lodging at the Denali Lakeview Inn which is on the shores of Lake Otto. We stayed in the Alaska Room which has large vertical windows providing spectacular views of the mountains and lake. We also had a shared balcony with two other units. We ate at the nearby Black Diamond Grill. The food was very good. I had an Alaskan King Crab leg and salmon. The beer was from the Glacier Brewhouse in Anchorage. We went back to the inn and stared at the scenery from the comfort of the wrap around couch. The white nights are tough on sleeping, but great for viewing scenery. Day 8 - Denali NP We woke up at 5AM to another sunny day! We drove to the WAC and boarded the shuttle bus. The seats on the bus were surprisingly comfortable, and there was an overhead storage rack with ample room for our day packs. Our shuttle bus driver was Wendy who was fantastic. She gave a great commentary on the history, wildlife, and geology, and geography of the park. She also had fantastic vision at detecting wildlife. Because of Wendy, we saw moose, brown bears and cubs, loons, willow ptarmigan (Alaska state bird), dall sheep, and caribou. She stopped for all wildlife sightings. For some of the bears and caribou, Wendy stopped the bus and waited patiently. She said the animals would get nearer to the bus, and she was right. The caribou crossed the road in front of us, and the bears approached close enough that they could be easily seen without binoculars. We also saw a red fox walking along the road. At the Eielson VC, we ate the sack lunches that were prepared by the folks at the Lakeview inn. The lunches were good and must have smelled good because it interested a ground squirrel who we thought was going to leap onto the bench. I told him know "no" repeatedly, and he kept faking a leap. Apparently, the back and forth between the squirrel and I must have been entertaining enough to draw a crowd snapping photos. Eventually, he got bored and left. He must have put the word out on me to his other squirrel buddies because they scurried when they saw me. From the park entrance to one of the stops, we got full views of Denali! By the time, we got to Eielson, some clouds were at the base of the mountain, but you could still see about 80 to 90% of the mountain. We rode the bus to Wonder Lake, but could only see the top of the mountain at that point; we did see the red fox during this trip. The bus ahead of us saw a wolf pack, but we did not. The mosquitoes at Wonder Lake were numerous but not swarming, but we were glad we had head nets and Deet. 100% deet works great at repelling mosquitoes, but it takes quite a few hand washes with lots of soap to later get rid of the smell. We considered ourselves lucky to get a great bus driver/tour guide, plenty of wildlife sightings, numerous Denali sightings, and a sunny day. We ate at the 49th State Brewery in Healy. The food was OK, but the beer was good. They only brew one beer, a golden ale. The other draft beers are from breweries in Alaska and Washington. Day 9 - Healy to Anchorage It was a fairly uneventful trip to Anchorage. The day started out overcast, but became sunny by afternoon. We did see the top of Denali at a road side pullout. We stayed at the Ship Creek Comfort Inn. We chose this location because it was within walking distance from the train station. We had reserved tickets to Whittier on the Alaskan Railroad for our cruise tomorrow. The inn borders the Tony Knowles trail and Ship Creek. At the creek, there were a lot of people fishing for salmon. We stayed a while, but no one hooked a fish while we were there. Our room was on the creek side of the building, so it was not directly facing the train tracks. We heard, but were not bothered or awakened by train whistles during the night. Day 10 - Anchorage to Whittier Comfort Inn had a great breakfast which we needed since we wound up having a full day. We checked our bags except our daypacks with the railroad employees at the large white tent that is adjacent to the railroad terminal. They had a special section for Princess Cruise luggage. We were told that the bags would be checked all the way to our stateroom on the ship. We then got our ticket from the counter inside the building. We were told that boarding would begin about 20 minutes prior to departure, so we were able to go back to our room at the Comfort Inn for about an hour. The train has very comfortable seats with a lot of legroom. There was ample space in the overhead storage rack for our day packs. We had another sunny day. This afforded great views of the Turnagain Arm and Portage Glacier. After we came out of the second tunnel, we saw Whittier, the Coral Princess, and sunny skies! When we departed the train, I immediately called Major Marine and was told they had about 100 available seats for the 4-1/2 hour tour to Blackstone Bay. We did not opt for the salmon and prime rib buffet. We were still full from breakfast and knew we would eat on the ship that evening. We got an assigned table to ourselves on the first level. We spent most of our time on the open decks on the first and second level. The views of the snow capped mountains and waterfalls were spectacular on this sunny day. The tour has a Park ranger on board who provided great commentary. We saw otters and harbor seals in the bay. We stayed at the Blackstone and Beloit glaciers for about 20 to 30 minutes each. We were within 1/4 mile of each glacier. There was quite a bit of cracking and some large chunks of ice fall from the glacier. I don't know if they would count as calving. One piece seemed small, but sound like a gunshot when it hit the water. We saw quite a few waterfalls, and stopped close to a large one for pictures. We enjoyed the boat ride to and from Whittier. This was a great tour especially with the great weather. We returned to Whittier and boarded the Coral Princess. On our past Caribbean cruises, we had booked inside cabins. For this cruise, we splurged and booked a mini suite, and we are glad we did. When we opened the door, great views and our luggage were awaiting us! We loved this stateroom. We spent a lot of time on this cruise looking at scenery from the balcony or the full size sofa in the stateroom. Day 11 - Hubbard Glacier It was an overcast day with a very low cloud deck when we got to Yakutat Bay. The onboard Princess naturalist said not worry. She said there was a 90% chance of seeing the glacier, and she was correct. We were only able to get within 8 miles of the glacier because of the floating ice. The glacier is the largest in the world and it was impressive. En route to the glacier, we did see the tail of a humpback whale. Day 12- Glacier Bay National Park A sunny day in Glacier Bay! We viewed Reid, Lamplugh, and Margerie glaciers. In addition to the onboard naturalist, we had Park rangers on board to provide commentary and respond to questions. One of the rangers told me that there was more snow on the mountains than in past years. We were about a mile from Margerie glacier. We saw quite a bit of ice fall from the glacier. We saw an eagle floating on an iceberg close to the ship. Day 13- Skagway It was a sunny day in Skagway! Not all was perfect, I started with a head cold. We went on the Emerald Lake-Carcross tour with Dyea Dave. We also had reservations for the WP&YR train from Fraser Meadows to Skagway. Shelby was our tour guide. Our experience with her was the opposite of Wendy with the Wonder Lake shuttle. The tour seemed rushed, and compared to other tours, we got minimal informative narration. That day, she seemed to view herself more a bus driver than tour guide. I had read great review about Dyea Dave, but it seems if you don't get Dave then the quality of your tour may be luck of the draw. With that said, the scenery to Carcross is pretty. We saw a group of vehicles stopped on the side of the road. Most on our bus saw a bear. We saw a lake that was so still that it mirrored the surrounding land. When we encountered that lake, I thought it was part of the land. We also saw Emerald Lake which gets its color and name from the algae growing in it. We visited the Carcross Desert which is the world's smallest desert. Carcross is a quaint, tiny town, and the water around Carcross also appeared to have an emerald color. The train ride from Fraser to Skagway was great. The allure of the train is not so much the scenery which is pretty, but that the tracks are cut into the side of a mountain. One thing we would have done differently was to not bring both daypacks on the Skagway bus trip. We typically carried the small camera, water, some snacks, and the rain jackets and rain packs in the day packs. Since we had room, we probably included other stuff that I can't recall now. The small bus used by Dyea Dave did not have an overhead storage rack. (I had previously asked them if it was OK to bring day packs which they said would be OK, but neglected to ask if there was storage for the packs.) There is very little room under the seats for day packs. (This was also true of the shuttle bus used by Orca Enterprises.). The smaller day pack was able to be put on the floor and shoved a little under the seats in from of us. We had to carry the 20 inch long day pack on our lap for the duration of the bus ride. For the Orca trip, we learned our lesson and crammed the above items into the smaller day pack. That worked well for the shuttle bus ride and most importantly, the boat trip. On the WP&YP train ride, there are overhead storage racks. Looking back, the only bus or boat trip where we needed 2 day packs was on the 11 hour Wonder Lake shuttle bus where we also had to carry lunches, snacks, and additional water. Another thing that surprised me was that there was more leg room between the seats on the old passenger cars on the train than there was on the small bus. Even with the limited legroom, I would still use one of the tour companies to travel to Emerald Lake and back to Fraser since the bus does stop for photo ops along the way. Day 14- Juneau Another sunny day! We did the whale watching tour with Orca Enterprises. The entire experience was great. The driver who drove us to and from the docks provided a lot of information on the sights we saw on the way. On the boat, Jeff was the tour guide, and Josh was the captain. They were great. Jeff gave an informative talk about the humpback whale especially their feeding habits and behavior. Josh was adept at finding whales. We saw plenty of backs and tails. Josh also told us to watch the eagles. He pointed out how one would scoop the fish out the water, and another eagle would try to steal it. The fish was usually the winner because it would fall back into the water during the aerial scuffle. It was fascinating to watch the eagle acrobatics. We had about 15 passengers on the boat, so everyone got ample time to go up on the upper deck for whale watching. You can only be up on the upper deck when the boat is stopped, and they limit 6 passengers at a time. We got to see Mendenhall glacier from the boat. We were a bit tired from our travels and decided not to visit the glacier. Since it was a sunny, cloudless day, we took the tram up to Mt. Roberts. We had great views of the surrounding area from the top. We saw an interesting short movie about the Tlingit people. There are quite a few walking trails and one that goes down the mountain. There were still mounds of snow on the mountain. The tram was a good alternative to the glacier. Day 15 - Ketchikan This was a sunny day in normally rainy Ketchikan. We were scheduled for the Misty Fjords/Glacier flightseeing tour with Family Air. Gretchen picked us up on the street in front of our cruise ship. We chose Family Air because they were the only company that would do the glacier tour without having at least four people booked. I guess this is because Dave's plane is a Cessna bush plane and normally seats four. The other companies used a slightly larger DeHavilland and seat six. Dave is the owner and the pilot. He told us that the great weather had some drawbacks. On an earlier flight, there was quite a bit of turbulence. He said that the glacier portion may be too rough, but it would be our choice whether to proceed. This was our first flight on a seaplane, and I really enjoyed the experience of taking off and intentionally landing on water. As we had seen elsewhere in Alaska, there was more snow on the mountains than normal. We enjoyed flying through the fjords. Dave is very personable and gave a good description of the area. There was quite a bit of turbulence. We heard other pilots saying they were turning back because their passengers were getting queasy. The turbulence prevented us from landing in the lake and getting off the plane onto land. We did land in the water near a boat owned by a friend of Dave's. They had just caught a 50 lb fish. We were able to stand on the pontoons which was still a cool experience. Because of the turbulence, we decided not to proceed with the glacier tour. After the flight, Gretchen dropped us off at the Creek Street area at our request. She directed us to the salmon ladder, but said it might be too early to view salmon. She was right. The salmon ladder is pretty neat to see, and it would be great to visit it in July and August during the salmon runs. We walked down Married Man's trail which is what men used to sneak down to the brothels on Creek St. It is a scenic walk down the trail. We took the funicular from Creek St up to the Cape Fox Lodge. Going up the hill gave us a nice view of the area. We had lunch at the Heen Kahidi Dining Room which has nice views of the dock area. We enjoyed the open face sandwiches. I had the Bear lunch which consisted of salmon and cream cheese on flat bread and a yogurt topped with raspberries. My wife had chicken, green onions, and havarti cheese on flat bread. Just outside of the inn was a collection of totem poles. After enjoying the view from atop the hill, we took the funicular back to Creek St. Ordinarily, you would pay the attendant $2.00 pp at the lower level. For this trip, there was no one there. I had read that this does occur frequently during the summer, and you just operate the funicular yourself by pressing the up/down button. We walked along Creek Street to Steadman's bridge. Creek St now contains shops and restaurants. The buildings are on the water and supported by pilings. There are informative signs on the buildings that were brothels. At Dolly's house, a young woman in 20's garb appeared at the door and gave us a funny double entendre sales pitch for the tour. She had a lot of enthusiasm. At this point, it was late afternoon, and I was getting tired from the head cold. We passed on the tour, but in hindsight, wished we had taken the tour. Days 16 and 17 - Sea Day and Vancouver It was an overcast day and visibility was limited. The sea day allowed us the opportunity to crash. We slept most of the day. We disembarked in Vancouver, we took the City HIghlights/Stanley Park tour through Princess. This was the only tour we booked through Princess since it included a transfer to the Vancouver airport. The tour guide was very good. The bus was very comfortable with overhead storage for the day packs. We had a 3:14 PM flight, so this tour was a great alternative to sitting in the airport. The tour included a 20 minute stop at Stanley Park. They have a very impressive display of totem poles. From the park, there is a scenic view of downtown Vancouver and a final view of the cruise ship. Thankfully, the trip home was uneventful. Misc. Lessons Learned and Conclusion: Food: Someone in a recent trip report stated that they found the fish to be overcooked. With exception to the Twisted Creek restaurant in Talkeetna, I would agree. I did enjoy items such as the reindeer lasagna at Silvertip Grill. This is something that I cannot get back home. Customer Service: I had read posts in Tripadvisor that gave the impression that personnel at the lodging and restaurants might be apathetic regarding the patrons. We were fortunate. All of the hospitality personnel that we encountered were very friendly and accommodating. Sleep: I wish I had worn the sleep masks at home well before the trip to get used it. During the trip, it made it a challenge to get used to sleeping in near daylight conditions with a mask. Energy: I was surprised how taxing this trip could be at times. Even though I'm nearly 58 years old, I had a lot of energy during our trip last year to the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas. Quite a few times during the land portion of the trip, I found myself tired around 6 or 7PM at night. Conclusion: This trip had been my dream vacation for a while, and it met my expectations which were high. We enjoyed our stays at the various accommodations and would do so again. With exception of Dyea Dave, all of our excursions were a lot of fun. Hopefully, my first trip to Alaska will not be my last. Read Less
Sail Date June 2012
First time Princess cruiser; started off on the right foot by receiving an 8-category upgrade to a balcony after having purchased a very inexpensive guarantee. (Also, our on-line TA booking came with a bonus shore excursion credit which we ... Read More
First time Princess cruiser; started off on the right foot by receiving an 8-category upgrade to a balcony after having purchased a very inexpensive guarantee. (Also, our on-line TA booking came with a bonus shore excursion credit which we used to purchase a private limo transfer from LAX to San Pedro - very nice!). Value for the Price: 4/5 Embarkation on Wednesday was unbelievably quick and hassle-free. Including travel time we were no more than 35 minutes from airport luggage carousel to gangway. (Mind you, this was 12:30 p.m. - peak boarding time.) This part of the process couldn't have gone better. Excellent luck with everything from our transfer arrangements to the curbside porters. Embarking onto Deck 7 rather than the Atrium though, lacked a certain WOW factor, and I was disappointed for my sister, who is a first time cruiser (who fortunately didn't know what she was missing!). Travel & Embarkation: 5/5 Our cabin was ready when we boarded, which I understand is the standard for Princess. Our BE balcony was located way too far aft for my preference, and actually we under-utilized the balcony due to the weather and having so much else to do. Even so, never look a gift-balcony in the mouth (or something like that...). The cabin itself was very spacious, but dated in decor and somewhat ill-kept with stained and worn furniture. Storage was strangely lacking other than the large, open closet (one cabinet with shelves and only bed-side table drawers). The beds were INCREDIBLY UNCOMFORTABLE - I slept poorly and rose early as laying there too long was actually painful. Our cabin steward was perfunctory - not a super job, but adequate. Robes from our Personalizer requests were delivered the second day. Accommodations: 2.5/5 The ship is clearly not new or particularly modern in decor, but is very tasteful and not garish in any way. Clean and tidy, with everything one could ask (children's facilities, bars & lounges, a very impressive library, showroom, shopping, giant movie screen, golfing, spa, salon & casino). We took advantage of almost everything on offer, including the Sanctuary and the Lotus Thermal Suite. (These facilities were completely under-subscribed on this trip and by the end of the second day aggressive "salesmen" were roving the ship trying to get people to sign up. While we really enjoyed both of them, I must say I am a little resentful of having to pay for what used to be included in yester-year cruising). A FEW WORDS TO SMOKERS: There are outside smoking areas along the starboard side of the walking track on Deck 7 and in the open space on Deck 15 forward. There is no smoking at all allowed at the tables or loungers around the pool on the Lido or that I noticed in the Casino, although I was not in there much. There is an indoor facility (Churchill's Cigar Lounge) that is so oppressive and horrible it was more like free smoking-cessation therapy! I did not notice any conflict whatsoever between passengers over smoking on the Coral Princess. Public Spaces: 5/5 Dining was uniformly disappointing, perhaps the worst food I've ever been served on a cruise in every venue. (I had fully intended to enhance this review with "Food Porn", but honestly, there was nothing worth photographing.) Main dining menu selections were not tempting, presentation was not creative and taste and temperature were unsatisfactory. Our table request was not accommodated and we were seated at an 8-top. Two of the other couples had been on the ship since Ft. Lauderdale and had developed a real rapport with the wait staff. We actually felt a little ignored (by the wait staff, not our tablemates), which was a weird experience although I suppose we could have complained if it was that big a deal. Service in Horizon Court was better, but buffet choices were unappealing and deteriorated quickly under intense heat lamps. Cold selections of meats, cheeses, fruit and salad were better, but really, how can you mess those up? In desperation we ate at one of the specialty restaurants (the Bayou Cajun Steakhouse). It was way better, but only as good as main dining should have been - nowhere near as outstanding as the high-end restaurants I've been to on other ships. Dining: 1/5 Service was efficient, polite and professional, but rarely personable. Just O.K. in every way, but O.K. is good enough isn't it? We wanted for nothing, and if we had we were more than capable of seeking out assistance. I'm beginning to believe that we've all developed a mythology around cruise ship crew. They are there to do their jobs, and for the most part are very adequate at it. Few genuinely desire to "be friends", but then again, why would they? (FYI for anyone that's wondering - yes, we did leave our auto-tips in place, which I consider part of the cruise fare. Almost nobody warranted additional cash tips except the sweet staff in the Sanctuary). Service: 3/5 Activities and Entertainment provided by Princess blew me away!! Incredible array of opportunities on the roster each day - I consistently had to miss something in favour of something else. Never before have I been confronted with this happy dilemma! Two shows each evening (one on the main stage and one in a cabaret setting) and each performer was GOOD, really good! Any of you who have seen Steve Moris over the years will understand the caliber of the talent. I do regret that "On the Bayou" was not performed as it was highly recommended, and weather conditions precluded watching an evening movie outdoors. I think in hindsight I would trade better entertainment for better food again anytime. Entertainment & Activities: 5++/5 Itinerary was lovely, we had unbelievable luck with the weather in San Francisco, Victoria and Vancouver, although the winds on board were FIERCE and the seas rough while underway. Ship sponsored excursions were limited as this trip was the first of the season for each port. We toured independently in San Francisco (google GoCar dot com - you won't be sorry!!) and took Princess excursions in Victoria & Vancouver (Butchart Gardens & City Tour/Canyon Walk respectively). Both were very good quality and we were satisfied. I highly recommend taking an excursion on disembarkation day - it allows you to be escorted off the ship past the other 2000 people waiting in line! Ports of Call: 5/5 All in all, we had a wonderful vacation and I'm very pleased with the experience I was able to offer my DSis, who was a cruise newbie. I still have not found my elusive "Absolute Favorite Cruiseline". More and more I'm convinced that I never will, as the offerings of each of them are quite diverse and really serve different, equally worthy purposes. I will confidently recommend Princess when appropriate and look forward to sailing Princess again myself when the circumstances are right. Please feel free to ask any specific questions! Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
This was my 3rd Princess cruise (sailed on the Grand out of Galveston in 2006 & Emerald out of Ft. Lauderdale in 2010) and it was great! This was my second time to Alaska (sailed on the Carnival Spirit in June 2007). Cabin: My ... Read More
This was my 3rd Princess cruise (sailed on the Grand out of Galveston in 2006 & Emerald out of Ft. Lauderdale in 2010) and it was great! This was my second time to Alaska (sailed on the Carnival Spirit in June 2007). Cabin: My husband and I had a Balcony cabin on the Caribe deck (C612). The room was plenty spacious for us although it was the smallest shower I have ever had on a cruise (17 cruises) but it really wasn't a big deal. The balcony in this room was great!! It was larger the the balconies on the decks above us and was half covered (unlike the balconies on the deck below us). I'm glad we had some covering since we had rain several days. You could still have your balcony door open or sit under the covering to enjoy the scenery. We had friends in the 3 cabins next to us (C614, C616 & C618)and our room steward opened up our balconies so we were able to go back & forth between very easily. Food: I am a very picky eater but was able to find food to my liking every night. There was a lot of seafood but that is probably pretty standard for an Alaskan cruise. The cold soups were really good - they served them in drink glasses! The lunch buffets always had a great salad bar but the main entree always seemed to be Mediterranean/Middle Eastern. Desserts at dinner were wonderful. I thought that they were trying to sell the soda card, specialty restaurants, and wine tasting way too hard on this ship. When eating in the buffet several people would stop at our table and try to sell us something, it was quite irritating. Shows: We only attended the comedian (2 nights) and the Illusionist. We really enjoyed the comedian both nights, he had 2 different shows. The Illusionist was good but I think the show was somewhat racy for the older audience on board. A lot of people got up and left. Anchorage: We spent 2 days in Anchorage before our trip before heading to Whittier. We attended the Anchorage Market & Festival that had a lot of shopping & food vendors...great for locals or tourists. We went to the Earthquake Experience Theater and also watched another film on Alaska there. We rented a car so we went out to the Hotel Alyeska in Girdwood. It's Alaska's most popular ski resort. It was a beautiful hotel and we took the tram ($20) up the mountain and enjoyed the views and watched the skiers. It was also a pretty drive (even though the weather wasn't great). We also went to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Girdwood that you can drive around and view the animals. Ate at some nice restaurants while in Anchorage: Humpy's, Glacier Brewhouse, Snow City Cafe. Whittier: We took the train from Anchorage to Whittier and really enjoyed the ride. It was a really nice day and the train ride was fun. Not much to do/see in Whittier so we got straight on the boat and embarkation was a breeze. We were like the 5th couple in line and it took about 5 minutes to check in and go through security. They took our luggage before we boarded the train and we didn't see it again until they delivered it to our room that night. It was really nice to not have to lug it from the train to check-in. Sea Day: Our first sea day was fairly rough. I anticipated it might be rough because we had some rough cruising on our first Alaska cruise. I took some motion sickness pills and had no problems (other than wanting to sleep even though they were no drowsy). Yakutat Bay (Hubbard Glacier) Scenic Cruising: The weather was rainy but we still enjoyed seeing the Glacier. They were giving facts and talking about the glacier as we were cruising and we could hear from our balconies (they had speakers up on deck). They also had it on the t.v. so if you didn't have a balcony or couldn't hear you could turn it on. Glacier Bay (Scenic Cruising): Pretty much a repeat of the review above. Weather was about the same and the glaciers were very neat. We didn't get to the main 2 glaciers (Margerie & Johns Hopkins) until about 2pm. 6 of us decided to go in the hot tub up on deck after we got all of the glacier pictures we wanted. It was hard getting in and out because it was so cold outside but the hot tub felt great...and we couldn't ask for better views! Vancouver: After our 2nd sea day we arrived in Vancouver. Very rainy and dreary day. We chose to do the latest disembarkation because we were not flying out until the next day and had a private tour booked at 1145. Unfortunately the latest disembarkation time was 9:30 but you had to be out of the staterooms at 8. They seemed to have disembarkation nailed down because there weren't tons of people waiting around everywhere. We waited in the lobby by the coffee bar until we were allowed to go to our designated lounge. Once disembarking, going through customs, and claiming our luggage - we waited in the hotel that is attached to the cruise terminal for our private tour (Shore Trips). There were a total of 16 people on the tour (8 from our group) and it took us to Stanley Park, Capulano Supsension bridge, Granville Island, and Gastown before dropping people off at their hotels or the airport. It was a great tour to get a taste of Vancouver. We had a wonderful time in Alaska, and although I have been twice, I wouldn't hesitate to go back. There are so many different things to do and experience in all of the ports. Read Less
Sail Date May 2012
Our cruise on the Coral Princess through the Panama Canal started on 2/14/2012 at Los Angeles and ended at Fort Lauderdale on 2/28. We had port stops in Costa Rica, Panama, Columbia, and Aruba. We enjoyed the cruise very much. We had a ... Read More
Our cruise on the Coral Princess through the Panama Canal started on 2/14/2012 at Los Angeles and ended at Fort Lauderdale on 2/28. We had port stops in Costa Rica, Panama, Columbia, and Aruba. We enjoyed the cruise very much. We had a room with a balcony where we spent a lot of time. I would recommend to anyone going through the Panama Canal to have a balcony. Our room was on the left side of the ship so we had a view of the shore when we were close enough. The first 5 days were at sea except for a brief stop outside the harbor of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico where we saw a Disney cruise ship go by. During the days at sea, we explored the ship and watched the birds and fish from our balcony. We had anytime dining for the dining room (Bordeaux Room). This dining area was only open during the evening (5PM to 10PM) and required smart casual dress (business casual) on all but 3 formal dress nights on the cruise. We tried the formal night once and were not impressed by the food or the service. The waiters seem to be irritated that we did not order wine with our meals (we don't drink). We also did one night with business casual and most of the same food on the menu was also available in the buffet dining area (Horizon Court) which is open most of the time and the dress is casual. The assigned dining room (Provence Room) was open for lunch (casual dress) on all days except the days we were stopped at one of the ports and the food was good but menu items here are also available in the buffet most of the time. There is also a grill on the Lido deck that served hamburgers and hot dogs and a pizza place that served good pizza. Don't eat the hamburgers in the dining rooms; they are not very good (hard as a hockey puck). The hamburgers at the grill were good meat and had a good flavor. Soft serve ice cream was available at an ice cream bar from 11AM to 11PM on the Lido deck and the ice cream was good. The ice cream is made on the ship. Unless you really feel you need the extra attention from the wait staff in the dining rooms, eating evening meals at the buffet, the grill or the pizza place is very enjoyable. I don't feel the dining room is worth the several minutes required to wait for a table. Eating in the dining room for lunch occasionally was enjoyable for us. The ship desalinates the sea water as it is needed and the water tastes good. Soft drinks and bottle water are not free on the ship and Dr. Pepper is not available on the ship and we did not find any at any of the ports on the cruise. On our 6th day, we stopped at Puntarenas, Costa Rica. We did not do any of the ship sponsored tours. There were local vendors at the end of the pier and we walked through and picked out some souvenirs. We departed for our next port around 7PM. We were at sea on the 7th day. On the 8th day, we anchored around 7AM near the entrance of the Panama Canal at Puerto Amador, Panama. We took a small boat (tender) to the dock. We did a boat excursion (the boat had about a 400 person capacity) that was supposed to go through the first set of locks of the canal. When we arrived at the entrance to the locks, there was a problem that made us miss our time slot. We had a good view of the entrance to the canal and the structures along the shore and the tour guide gave a good commentary, but we were disappointed that we were unable to go through the locks. We returned to the dock and took a bus tour of part of the city and a section of the canal which we enjoyed. Since we did not get the tour we signed up for, Princess Cruises refunded all our money. The tour we had was free. On the 9th day, we pulled anchor and began our entrance into the Panama Canal about 4AM. By the time we entered the first lock, the sun was beginning to come up. The view was great from our balcony and well shaded (deck 12). We could see the west bound locks as we passed through the east bound locks and the new construction for the third set of locks (for wider ships) that is projected to be finished in 2014. We could also see a partial view of what we were approaching at the front of our ship. After passing through the first two sets of locks, we entered the lake and cruised toward the Atlantic side locks. We passed several ships that were heading west as we headed east. We arrived at the Atlantic locks about 4PM and passed through the locks into the Atlantic (Caribbean Sea) and sailed towards our next stop. Passing through the canal was the highlight of the cruise for us. The views along our route were great. On the 10th day, we arrived at Cartigena, Columbia about 7AM. We did a ship sponsored tour of the old part of the city. At the dock, we took a tour bus to the old city. Out tour guide (Willy), gave us a description as we were passing the sites. Our first stop was an old fort that dated back to the time of the early Spanish explorers. Street vendors were everywhere. If you don't want to buy from them, it is best to not speak to them and don't make eye contact. Our second stop on the bus was a small shop that sold tourist items. The rest of our tour was on foot and there was a lot of interesting buildings with a history behind them which Willy gave us a running story of. He was a very good tour guide. Our walk took us about 1 hour and included stops at three jewelry stores which I could have done without. Street vendors were everywhere along our route and occasionally beggars. When our walking tour ended, the tour bus took us back to the dock. We really enjoyed the tour and gave Willy a good tip to share with his driver. Tipping is not required, but it is very much appreciated by the tour guides. Our ship departed about 2PM and sailed towards our next stop. On the 11th day, we arrived in Aruba about 1PM. The ship was to sail again at 7PM, so we just did a little shopping at the local stores that were located within easy walking distance of the dock. Several people from the ship went to the beaches, but we had no interest in that. We live in Galveston, Texas three blocks from the beach. We spent about 2 hours off the ship. We sailed at 7PM and headed toward our final stop in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The next two days, we were at sea. We spent that time watching movies in the theater and just enjoying the activities on the ship. We were given the chance to sign up for a program to make an easy transition to the airport after we arrived in Florida. For $20 per person, the ship contacted the airline for us and obtained a tag for our checked luggage and boarding passes for us which we received around 6PM the last night of the cruise. We tagged our checked luggage and put it into the hallway before 9PM. Our luggage was picked up by ship staff and was ready to go to our airline at the Airport. Our luggage was already checked to our destination. The airlines also charge a fee for the checked luggage ($25 for us) and that was added to our bill for the service. We did not need to deal with our checked luggage again till we arrived at our destination. I think this is a good service to take advantage of. We filled out a simple declaration form for customs. We spent less than $800 out of the country, so we just breezed right through customs. It only took us about 15 minutes including the time standing in line. We arrived in Fort Lauderdale on the 14th day around 7AM. We left the ship in groups so that the departure process was faster. We were on our way to the airport in just a few minutes from the time our group started to leave. The cruise was a fantastic trip. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
Embarkation/Disembarkation: Very professional and seamless. Cabin: towards aft on Caribe deck on a "bump out;" no significant movement of ship was noted and gentle rolling in high-ish seas assisted in sleep; cabin was smallish ... Read More
Embarkation/Disembarkation: Very professional and seamless. Cabin: towards aft on Caribe deck on a "bump out;" no significant movement of ship was noted and gentle rolling in high-ish seas assisted in sleep; cabin was smallish but well laid out; shower was okay except for "amorous" shower curtain which kept wanting to wrap itself around you! Good space for clothes; liked the mini-fridge but not the lack of a coffee/tea maker; balcony seemed larger than some with two chairs and loungers with a small table while the lack of complete overhead cover was actually more enjoyable; Cabin Steward: A great disappointment as her first words to us were to apologize for not completing our roomn upon embarkation - some magazines were missing - and stating that as she had 19 cabins to clean twice a day, she might be a little late on some days getting to ours - unlike previous cruises, we had no relationship with our cabin steward who seemed totally exhausted whenever we saw her; CruiseAdvice indicated that as our cabin was next to two suites, we would enjoy the cabin services of a the steward assigned to them NOT! Room service: We enjoyed breakfast on a few days and found the service very speedy and professional; it would have been nice had we been able to order more than just a light continental breakfast. Entertainment/shipboard activities: without doubt, the highlight of the cruise for us - very professional and with great variety. Cruise Director and staff brilliant and omnipresent; good interaction with passengers. Dining: "Anytime Dining" resulted in meeting many interesting and entertaining fellow passengers - another highlight of our cruise. Horizon buffet restaurant small with crowded serving lanes; sun was very hot on some tables; food was of a high quality with good variety. Formal dining room fare was surprisingly "average" and was served in smallish quantities; plating was excellent and wait staff always willing to provide additional orders upon request, such as steamed vegatables. Table staff from bussing to waitering was almost universally professional, warm and sincere - well done! Princess needs to address their two specialty restaurants which were mostly deserted after 8:00 p.m. each night; not sure if the $20 per person charge or the menus are to blame; lunch in the "Pub" was a blast and very well attended - good grub as well! Ship design/amenities: we echo other past passengers observations of "where were all the people?" our cruise was sold out yet many areas of the ship seemed deserted. "Coral" is a very well laid out ship replete with lovely bars, meeting/entertainment places. Shore excursions: we only chose a shiop excursion on disembarkation day to a0 use up some time as we were taking a late-afternoon flight to Arizona, and b), to reduce the hassle of geting our luggage out of our rooms and to the airport; we opted for the Fort Lauderdale bus tour and boat cruise of the canals - a very good choice as the scenery was fantastic and it was interseting to see the monster houses and yachts on the canals. We used "my friend Mario" for our Panama shore excursion and "Odessey Tours" for Costa Rica; we were not overy impressed with either company as they seemed to have "cobbled" together their tours with little attention being paid to content; we can provide more details upon request. Ports of call: adequate time for Costa Rica and Panama but Princess needs to re-evaluate only spending a few hours in Aruba and Cartegena; heard many passengers complain about Princess shore excursions for these two ports being rushed. Annoyments: It seemed that the higher up the staff chain one went with a complaint or interface, the less likely one was to receive a sincere response; it seemed that a glazed look comes over some staff members' faces when they actually have to address a passenger concern - the major complaint we had was in the allocation of mini-suites for which my wife and I were 3rd on the wait list pre-sailing; I phoned Princess 48 hours before the sailing date and was told that there was now availability and that I should check with the ship upon embarkation; this we did at Guest Services and we were met with one officious reply after another culminating with an officer who said that it was her job to allocate all passenger cabins; we never did receive a satisfactory answer and this experience on the first day of our cruise left a sour taste in our mouths. Finally: We did enjoy our Princess experience on "Coral" enormously and loved the ship; not too keen on the constant badgering for "add on" expenditures but we just tuned them out and didn't sweat the small stuff. Read Less
Sail Date February 2012
On the 6th of January 2012 we flew to miami and boarded the coral princess the following day in fort lauderdale to do a back to back cruise for 2 weeks in the western carribean. We have cruised this region twice before with Thomson also ... Read More
On the 6th of January 2012 we flew to miami and boarded the coral princess the following day in fort lauderdale to do a back to back cruise for 2 weeks in the western carribean. We have cruised this region twice before with Thomson also on back to back cruises. I have cruised before on the Golden Princess to hawaii. As usual the ship was excellent the food wonderful and the entertainment of west end standard. I could not fault any of the facilities However we had one major dissappointment on the 2nd day we were informed by another British couple who had been there a week already that we were going to get the same entertainment itinerary and the same menues in the restaurant the 2nd week as we would have the 1st week. True to this on our 2nd week of the cruise we did indeed have the same entertainment everynight except for the visiting comedians who changed. Also the menue in the retuarants was exactly the same as the week before. We were sold this in the uk as a 14 day holiday. Now we knew this was a back to back, but other cruise lines we have been with on back to back cruising always make a point of rotating the entertainment and menues on a 3 week rotation so that people who are stopping longer than a week have a better experience. This took the shine off our cruise as you can imagine, one night there was nothing for us to do but sit in a bar, and the food I was deciding what to have from the menue before I got there. Part of the excitement of a cruise is to look forward to the entertainment and to wonder what you will have to choose from for dinner. This should be made clear in Princess advertising that if you book this as a back to back cruise you will get exactly the same the second week. The only difference was the ports of call. Also princess what has happened to your standards it is only 18 months since we went to Hawaii, and these other points came to our attention People were allowed in the restaurant wearing shorts. The deck attendants are suppossed to remove towells of sunbeds if they are reserved for a certain amount of time. This did not happen, some seemed to be reserved all day with no one in them. also we found on this trip that the on board photographers were, more in your face, all the time they seemed to mobbing you for photos, but worse than that princess prices have got extortionate I had 4 x A4 photos taken on my ruby wedding night and they wanted $100 unframed just in one carboard frame! The waiter service in the restaurant was not up to par they seemed to have a lot who didnt quite know what they were doing, and one night we spent over 45 minuites between courses and missed the evening entertainment completly and had to ask where the wine was and what was happening to the food we were one of the last tables in the retaurant with people on it and yet we got there at 7.30pm I will be going with princess again as once again I must reiterate the ships are great the staff friendly and the service on the whole is good,but not on another back to back cruise.They must review this back to back cruising, come on princess us brits., travel a long way for a 2 week cruise to have the 2nd week the same as the first!, you must tell us at booking also you must let 2 weekers know that on the change over day in the middle you really must leave the ship as immigration has to have the ship declared empty know one told us luckily we went on an excurion, but those on board had to muster in one of the lounges to be inspected by immigration , great in the middle of your cruise. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
We knew that the four ports of call for our January 2012 cruise through the Panama Canal would be hot and humid, and we were not interested in paying for ship excursions, particularly the "adventure" ones. Our goal was just to ... Read More
We knew that the four ports of call for our January 2012 cruise through the Panama Canal would be hot and humid, and we were not interested in paying for ship excursions, particularly the "adventure" ones. Our goal was just to walk around and try to get a feel for each port. You can easily walk from the dock to the port town in Aruba, but there isn't much to see there beyond the usual souvenir shops. However, Cartagena (pronounced cart-a-hay-nya) has a brand new catamaran service from the end of the dock to the "old town," with its narrow streets and Bouliva Plaza with its free gold museum. The trip costs $5 per person round-trip and takes about 15 minutes each way. An excellent independent excursion. Fuerte Amador is a great disappointment. If you don't want to take a cab to Panama City (and note that museums usually close on Mondays), you can take the tender to the dock and walk a little. The docking point is at the end of a 5 km sea wall constructed at least a hundred years ago to protect the Pacific entrance to the Canal. There isn't much of anything to see there except a few run-down shops and restaurants. Puntarenas, Costa Rica, has a mile or so of shops and stands, the people are extremely friendly, and there are actually some bargains to be had. (Note the beautiful rosewood bowls and boxes!) The dock is perhaps a hundred yards long, and the stroll along the main street is interesting. If you are used to finding internet cafes to check email at reasonable prices, be advised that ones with computers to rent are getting hard to find. We did find ones in Aruba and Puntarenas, but generally you'll have to bring your own and use a cafe or other place with "hot spots" that allow you to connect to the internet. Read Less
Sail Date January 2012
For the second consecutive year I decided to spend the holiday season on board a cruise ship. What a great way to get away from it all - no email, no email and guess what? no email. It was relaxing and all that I hoped. This was my 7th ... Read More
For the second consecutive year I decided to spend the holiday season on board a cruise ship. What a great way to get away from it all - no email, no email and guess what? no email. It was relaxing and all that I hoped. This was my 7th cruise with Princess and I generally travel alone. This time a friend decided at the last minute to join the cruise. Although this was my third time through the canal I booked a balcony stateroom so that I did not have to crowd the decks to watch the transit. The stateroom was very nice, although Celebrity's Concierge class are nicer, but there is good value for the money paid. I had been upgraded to a stateroom with a large balcony and I was surprised that a ship that had just been refurbished was in need of more work. The paint was pealing around the outside light fixture and the metal rims of the chairs were also pealing. I thought it a bit odd, especially since the category I was in should have had relative perfection given the price that I might have had to pay. Pealing or not I did not allow this imperfection to dull my senses or detract from my much needed R & R. I have noticed that the quality of the meals has not been kept up to the same standards that I recall from my first trip onboard Island Princess back in the late 1980s. One night the steak was so bad that everyone at the table left it. We did the Chef's Table and the food was incredible. Along with the wine parings it was well worth the $95 surcharge that we paid. We also had dinner at Sabitini's one night and the food was excellent. We had planned to go to the Bayou Steakhouse on New Year's Eve for dinner but cancelled after having looked at the menu and the environment. I thought it would be more like the Stirling Steakhouse on Golden Princess but alas it was not. We found the menu to be too fussy and the restaurant and accompanying bar too big and too loud. Although the majority of our meals were good we found the meals we paid extra for were exceptional. I also noticed that the selection in the buffet is getting smaller and smaller. Now on saying that I only had 3 breakfasts and 1 lunch in the buffet as I found the food selection not to my liking. We ate breakfast every morning in the restaurant and I did order room service for lunch twice because all I wanted was a simple tuna fish sandwich. The entertainment was very good on the ship and there was only one show that I can recall that I saw the previous Christmas and it was well worth seeing again. All in all Princess continues to offer a good value for the dollars spent. They also have an excellent variety of destinations to chose from. Read Less
Sail Date December 2011
Panama Canal cruise, October 25, 2011 to November 8, 2011. Let me start out by saying, my husband and I are not seasoned travelers. We save for several years to take a special vacation. The Panama cruise was our 5th cruise in about 20 ... Read More
Panama Canal cruise, October 25, 2011 to November 8, 2011. Let me start out by saying, my husband and I are not seasoned travelers. We save for several years to take a special vacation. The Panama cruise was our 5th cruise in about 20 years time. Our group turned out to be 5 couples, all in our later 50's to mid 60's. We were on a Princess ship back in 2002, so were prepared for the small bathroom ( especially the shower ), and the limited drawer and shelf space. Our room had a balcony, located mid ship. We were next to 2 other couples, so we opened our balconies up to enjoy the bigger space. We printed the sign provided by Cruise Critic with our internet name and taped it to our door. This turned out to be a great sign for knowing if you were headed for the stern or bow. All and all this was a wonderful vacation. Embarking went very smooth and once on the ship, we were able to graze on the lido deck and found our luggage, within a few hours, in our room. As mentioned above we were a party of 10. We had late traditional seating, and were able to be together at a large table. Initially, we were disappointed with the food portions in the formal dinning room. When we think of a fillet of beef we do not think it would be 3 inches in diameter and less than ½ inch thick, but the portions were small through out the cruise. On the up side- you eat all day and have multiple choices, so by the time dinner comes, the small portion turned out to be enough. Maybe they do this to decrease food waste. We had no complaints. On the subject of food- another disappointment was going to the special restaurant. One evening, while at sea, we booked dinner in Sabatini's. We thought the portions were the same size as the dinning room, we felt the selection really was not anything special and the experience took over 3 hours, which was way too long. Only three other parties were in the restaurant that night. I would not recommend spending the extra money to eat there. We communicated with Cruise Critic members prior our trip. A meet and greet was arranged along with a cabin crawl/poker run. We had the best time with those activities, and enjoyed meeting some new people. Two excursions were arranged by a CC member. We participated in one, and should have participated in the second one because the ship excursion was not that great. Our Cost Rice tour with Okey Dokey was very good, but could have been better, if we would have left on time and lunch arrangements were organized better. We did see a variety of sights and did more up close and personal activities then the ship's excursions. We did the ship tour in Cartegena and were stuck in traffic most of the time. As a result, limited time was left for our stops. I mainly wanted to shop, and felt that we were rushed to make decisions about purchases. The CC tour left early and had more flexibility. The entertainment was wonderful. Because we ate late, the last show in the auditorium was never full. The only time we could not see a show, was when the crew put on their talent show. There was only one performance, at 10pm. By the time we got to the auditorium, it was more than full. I did have a massage in the spa one time. The treatment was wonderful. The therapist was running about 40 minutes late, but I was not shorted on time and she let me use the thermal room afterwards. The price was extremely expensive which is why I only used the service once. Our favorite activity was wine tasting. We bought the wine card, which saved us money for wine with dinner, plus we got to try many wines at the tasting, so we were better prepared with choices when it came time to make a selection. Most of the wines on board were California wines. We would have like other countries wines, but the selection and quality were good. Not sure when or where our next cruise will be. Princess did a good job overall. We seem to prefer the smaller ships. Read Less
Sail Date October 2011
We booked a 10 day cruise tour through Princess. We flew into Anchorage 2 days ealier to see Anchorage on our own. We loved having a rental car and some time to let our bodies adjust from the time change, before meeting up with our tour ... Read More
We booked a 10 day cruise tour through Princess. We flew into Anchorage 2 days ealier to see Anchorage on our own. We loved having a rental car and some time to let our bodies adjust from the time change, before meeting up with our tour group. We met at the Anchorage airport, and took a bus to McKinley Wilderness Lodge. We were there 2 days,and went flight seeing and visited a dog musher camp. Then we went to Denali Princess Lodge. (very nice) We took the Natural History Tour in Denali, and went to the dinner theater. Then we took the Denali Express railway from Denali to Whittier, where we boarded the Coral Princess. We loved coming into Whittier on the train! The domed train was a wonderful way to spend the day in Alaska! So our land tour was the highlight of our trip! The Coral Princess is pretty, but very hard to navigate. Because of the centrium, you have to learn which elevators take you to the level you are trying to go to. We were on Dolphin Deck 9. Coming to our stateroom, the hall smelt like a nursing home. (urine smell in the carpet) That was not a great first impression! But our mini-suite was very nice and spacious. But be aware that if you get a mini suite on the Dolphin level, your balcony is not covered. It was raining on our embarkation day, so we couldn't get out and enjoy our balcony like others could. Our furniture was wet-and we didn't want to stand out in the rain. I wish the balcony had been covered, as they were on other decks. We signed up for traditional dining-which I though was at 6:00 pm and had requested a table for 2 by the window. We were given a table in the middle of the room and our assigned time was 5:30. We thought that was too early. So we met some couples on our land tour-and went to anytime dining with them. But the Coral Princess is very inflexible about the dining rooms. Traditional seating only in one and anytime dining in the other. We liked the freestyle with NCL better. The food was not as good as NCL or Royal Caribbean. But the service was great on Princess. The front desk was very rude. Someone had entered an incorrect number and our credit card was denied. We kept getting letters in our stateroom, telling us our credit card had been denied. It took us 4 days to get that straightened out-and my husband was the one who discovered that the cruise line had entered the wrong number. They were very indifferent about the fact that they were the cause of the credit card problem. But once the correct number was entered- there were no more problems with our credit card!The entertainment was good. We enjoyed the comedian and the singers and dancers were great! It was too cool to use the pool or hot tub, but the pool deck was very pretty. We got a drink card for $9 a day, and it was well worth the money. I loved the virgin pina coladas and their hot chocolate! We loved the pizza and soft serve ice cream on the pool deck! We often took snacks back to our room. We enjoyed the enclosed area on level 15. That was a good place to enjoy the scenery in the rain and wind. We chose Sept. because of the price, but I wished we had gone in May-for about the same price. I heard there is more snow in May and the weather is better. We had a lot of rain and wind. In fact, when we were out in the Pacific we were in 80-100 mph winds (hurricane force wind). Half of the ship, including me- were sea sick. But when the ship got back in protective waters and the waves calmed down, everyone felt better. Alaska is beautiful! If you haven't been you need to go. June, July, and Aug. are the most crowded and most expensive months. If we ever go again, I would like to go in May. Read Less
Sail Date September 2011
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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