Cruise Review Coral Princess April 8-18, 2007
This cruise was the 6th one for me. We are a group of 12 and all of them have cruised before. I have cruised with 3 of them several times.... One of them has cruised about 13 times. We've cruised with Princess, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and NCL. So it's an experienced group. We chose this cruise for a couple of reasons. First off, part of the group was a family of 4 (1 girl 12 y/o & 1 boy 7y/o) and their daughter was studying the Panama Canal in school. Also, the group had all wanted to cruise the Panama Canal at some point, whether it was a round trip (as we did) or a transition from the East coast to West coast or vice versa. We booked this cruise about 1 year ahead of time.
We all made our own flight arrangements. We did not use Princess air. Too many restrictions and too expensive. We all arrived on Saturday, April 7, the day before the cruise and stayed at the Ramada Inn Ft. Lauderdale. Very nice hotel. They have a center area where the pool is and it's landscaped like a tropical paradise. They also have a Tiki bar during the day. They don't have elevators so take that into consideration if any of your party is disabled. One of our group members had a stroke several years ago and requires a wheelchair for distances. Luckily, we were on the ground floor. Had we not been, I would of requested it as I was the first to arrive. The Ramada does have shuttle buses from the airport to the hotel and from the hotel to the pier. They also have a restaurant on the premises and it has great food....
On April 8th we boarded the shuttle bus @ 11:30 a.m. for the approx. 15 min drive to the pier to board our ship. Embarkation was pretty easy. Our only hold up was the line we chose for our deck. There were 2 passengers that had a problem due to the computer not having all the correct info. It held up the line for about 30min. They should have taken them out of the line and not held everyone up. We finally got into a 2nd line and got through our processing. We had our sign/sail card and off to board the ship.... We were embarking by about 12:30-12:45 p.m. Went right to our room and dropped stuff off to go eat.
We had 2 sea days which were thoroughly enjoyed poolside. FYI, the pool on the Coral Princess is a deep one. Never experienced this before. It goes from 5'2" to 7'2". It was great but surprising. It is also fresh water and I love that. On our 2nd sea day we had rough seas and the pool became a wave pool..... Literally! It would go down/over on the water from 3"-4-5".... It was wild. Very warm and had a great time.
Our first port was the Panama Canal crossing. I had scoped out what I thought would be a great spot after being on the Caribbean Princess and finding a private area that most people don't know about. Luckily the Coral Princess had the same spot. I knew I wanted to be in the front going through the first time. I did not want to be up on the decks with a 1000 other folks fighting for space and trying to see through the glass panels. I found my spot, told my group and planned to be up early to get that spot saved. Which I did. All 12 of us were out there along with maybe 10 others but mostly all by ourselves. My plan worked.....lol.... It was awesome. They have these little train engines (several of them) that hook up to the ship to help guide it through the Canal. It's mainly to keep it straight as there is about 5-6" each side to not scrape. Ship is under their own power but does need to be guided. You have 3 locks for the Gatun Locks. You go in, the water fills and you go through. We all did feel the rise and descent going the other way.. It's quite fun. On the way back through, we got our prime spot in the aft of the ship and watched a cargo ship coming through behind us. It was awesome. We even had room service delivered to our aft spot. It was great. After coming back through, we docked in Cristobol. You can disembark for some shopping. And those that did excursions, getting off in the Gatun Lake to do Panama Canal excursions, boarded back on here. They have a warehouse there for vendors. Some cute things. Two things to beware of regarding this port. One is that it is VERY HOT in Panama. Make sure you have water, a hat and sunscreen. Second, if you go to the warehouse for shopping, there are some local, native vendors that are almost naked. Mainly the women are topless but the guys aren't wearing very much either. So if you have kids, be aware. So off to Costa Rica.
The next day we arrived in Limon, Costa Rica. My dad had told me that if we did any excursion, do the San Jose one. But everyone on the boards disagreed with that. Plus it was very early in the a.m. and very far away. So our group decided to do the Eco/Countryside tour. It included a tour of a Banana Plantation (very interesting), a river tour (very cool) and saw a sloth, birds, a gecko and a native kid was in a boat shoreside holding a small crocodile or alligator. Not sure which it was. Then we did a ride on a train over the countryside. There is alot of impoverished folks in that area but they seemed friendly and happy to see us. Then back to the ship... We had a sea day between Limon and our next port. Spent it poolside as usual.....
The next port was Ocho Rios, Jamaica. I loved this port. Loved the area and the people were very nice. Our group did many different things here. I did the Chukka Cove Horseback Ride/Swim along the beach... Absolutely loved it. I have had horses/ridden for over 30 years but recently had a scare that almost made me cancel this excursion. Glad I didn't. We did about a 30-40 minute ride along the beach and trails. Then got to this cove area where they took off the saddles, put on bareback pads and we rode the horses in the ocean for about 10-15 minutes. I loved it.... I stressed a little wondering how we would not float off the horses back.. But the bareback pads have breast collars that keep them on.... It was tons of fun... They do have people there that take photos of you while you ride in the ocean. The cost is 6 photos for $20.. They have a computer there so you can view/pick the photos and then they put them on CD for you.... It was cool. My horses name was Volcano..... And he did well......
Next port was Grand Cayman. Again, our group went in different directions. I'm the only diver of the group and chose the 2 tank dive for adv. divers through Princess. I had tried to do Stingray City in Dec. on another cruise but it had been canceled. This dive did a dive of the North Wall first and then included a dive at Stingray City. The dive shop Princess used was Resort Sports who is associated Spanish Bay Resort. They took us by van to the dock. We did the first dive and it was great. But the Stingray City dive was the highlight. You get to feed the Stingrays and just watch them. They are so graceful.. And very large..... You do have to be careful if feeding as they are like dogs that got the first taste and want to come back for more. They didn't believe I didn't have more and ended with 2 hickies from these creatures. One is a golf ball size bruise/hicky.... They have very strong suction. Then back to the ship... It was a short port day leaving at 3pm so once back at the dock, I shopped a little then back on the ship.
Then next port was Cozumel. I was supposed to dive this port too. I had booked privately with Scuba with Alison but had to cancel. I had bad allergies and should not have dived in Grand Cayman but thought I was fine. I wasn't. More detail in the review of Grand Cayman that I'll put in the Scuba Section. Not only was Alison ok with the cancel but gave me advice on what happened. Also, the Noreaster that came through the U.S. affected Cozumel as well. The day I was in G.C. the harbor master canceled all boats from diving in Cozumel. And the next day, the day I was in Cozumel, they did the same. So I couldn't have done dives anyways. So our entire group went off to Nacchi Cocum for a beach day. It's a private excursion that is along the beach. The day started out cool but then got nice & hot. They have a pool, hot tub and provide lunch as well. The pool however, was ridiculously cold. I couldn't use it. The hot tub was warm but warmed up more as the sun came out. They have lounge chairs, some shade areas. FYI, the give you alot of food for lunch. The appetizers alone filled almost all of us up. They also have wave runners & snorkel equipment avail. The ocean was cold to the first toe touch but quickly warmed up.... So off to snorkel I go.. Found some little reefs with lot's of fish.... Very cool. We were there from about 11:30 to 5 p.m. We got back to the ship and did some shopping in a little mall area. The next day was a sea day.... And our last sea day...... Spent poolside of course.. And packing.....
Then we arrived back to Ft. Lauderdale. We all had flights after 1 p.m. so none of us were in a hurry to leave the ship. We got up at 9 a.m. and then had breakfast relaxing until they made us leave. We found a van right outside the port and off to the airport we went.
Ports- I liked all the ports. My least favorite was Costa Rica. Though our excursion was great, the way people live there is depressing. Costa Rica needs to upgrade some areas if they want cruise ships to come back. My favorite ports were Jamaica and Grand Cayman.
Ship- I do love the ship. It's really nice. Staff very friendly. One of my roommates had to use the medical facilities and said they were great. The Dr. was wonderful. Our waiters, Tomas and Nicky were awesome. Remember, one of our group was in a wheelchair. I have to say, Princess was wonderful about that. Between our waiters helping to seat her, to their room steward looking out for her. No one made her feel inferior that I saw. Very accommodating on the excursions too. Amazing. I do have issues with our room steward and our room. It was a mini suite w/balcony. FYI, I was in D616 but the balcony was not covered. Some are, some aren't. We were open to the world above. The first day, the hinge on the closet door was almost off. Finally fixed on day 6. I had asked online for bathrobes for all 3 of us. Didn't get them until day 7 or 8. The couch bed had a horrible mattress. Our roommate had to get an eggcrate mattress as she could feel the bar under the mattress. We got those quickly but the room steward felt very put out by having to remove them daily to make the couch as the couch would not fold up with them on. Did he really think we wouldn't want to use the couch for visitors? Then after Panama, we had a bunch of bugs in our room. In the afternoon we killed 3-4 flying mosquito type bugs. But that night, they were all over the couch bed. Our roommate refused to sleep in the bed. We killed them and got her a roll away type bed. The next day they fumigated and bugs were all gone. When we told the steward, he asked if we had the balcony open. Well duh!! Did they think we would pay extra for a balcony and not use it??? I did not hear of anyone else having a bug problem. So that was weird.
Excursions- I liked all of them. The only complaint I had is that when I questioned the excursion desk about the Jamaican excursion and belongings, she obviously had not been on it or knew anything about it to guide me. FYI, on the horseback riding excursion, you can bring a bag. But wear shorts with pockets or a small fanny pack that you can put your money or valuable in. They will bring your bag to you at the cove so you can dry off or change clothes after the swim and then take it back to the stables where you will ride back too.
Food- At first, to me, it was not very good at all. It got better after Panama. We kept joking that they must have put the Chef overboard at Panama and got a new one. It was just weird, fancy stuff that wasn't that appealing. I kept going to the "always available" section for steak or salmon. And the deserts were odd too..... I just didn't care for it. I thought the food on the Carnival Valor in Dec. was far superior.... As did 2 members of our group that were on the Dec. cruise as well. Buffet was good.. Big variety. But they don't know Mexican food. They need education there. There was always pizza available and the hamburgers and such. I loved their chicken breast sandwich on the grill. Very good. The ice cream you have to pay for. Ridiculous I say. But each day from 3-4pm or 3-5pm they have ice cream for free in the Horizon Buffet.
Spa- I used it on the last sea day for a massage. I still feel they are very pricey but the massage I had which was a deep tissue massage, was one of the best ever. Ask for Juan P. from Mexico. He was excellent. Still tried to sell me stuff but not a hard sale and when he saw I wasn't interested, he backed off.
Gym- Never used it. Wanted to but never did.
Entertainment- Didn't like the comedian. Can't remember his name. Saw 3 shows. The first, the beach scene one was horrible. Couldn't tell you the story line and didn't care for much of the music. And to me, Jason Chow is not a good singer. Didn't like him at all. The next 2 shows were very good to me inspite of Jason still singing. They have 4 lead singers. The other 3 are good. Enjoyed the last 2 shows.
Photos- What can you say about this. I would like to run the photo dept. of all cruiselines. They are way too expensive. There is not enough variety. They have a fairly large photo area and obviously do all their own printing. Yet they continue to offer only 8X10's of formal night. All photos taken should be available in a variety of sizes. Some of us who do scrapbooks or photo albums, don't want 8X10 sizes. The staff was nice, accommodating. They are able to download your memory cards to CD's. And you can print your own photos there too.
Overall I really enjoyed the cruise as it takes more than these little issues to ruin a vacation for me. I would do it again in a heartbeat. You get a wide variety of ports and things to do. Very enjoyable. Any questions, feel free to ask.......