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We hadn't really even planned a vacation, but following our younger daughter's early June wedding we decided to check into last-minute deals that were available during the time frame we had available. A cruise sounded like a perfect way to rest and relax following a very busy few months, and we'd never been to Alaska. I found a great price on a guaranteed oceanview stateroom on the Coral Princess and booked immediately. We also found decent airfare (there seem to be few real bargains in airfare these days) and in the space of about a half an hour had everything in place to leave in about a week! Temperatures here in the deep South were hovering near 90, so it required a total change in mindset to pack for the radical difference in climate we would experience in Alaska. The more we travel, the less disposed we are to over pack; knowing that the Coral Princess had self-service laundry facilities on several decks, we resolved to bring just one carry-on size suitcase each. As there were to be two formal nights on the seven-night cruise, my husband tried to rent a tux to be waiting for him onboard, as we have done in the past. However, as we were barely a week out, he was informed that it was too late, and brought a dark suit instead; I packed a long black skirt and two dressy tops and it turned out that this worked well for both of us. We flew into Anchorage the day before the June 16th cruise, spending the night at a Days Inn which was perfectly adequate and reasonably priced, though by no means fancy. Our older daughter had described Anchorage as looking like a town that "had the snot beaten out of it"; she was pretty much dead on in that description. However, she had also mentioned an excellent restaurant, Orso, which turned out to be just a few blocks from the hotel. It was a bustling, upscale place with an eclectic menu - an excellent choice, as my sirloin and hubby's rockfish (a new one on us!) were both simply divine. I had been uncertain about transfers between Anchorage and the ship; by booking so late we had no chance to book any Princess-sponsored transportation. As it turns out, this was serendipitous, resulting in my booking a trip on the Alaskan Railroad's Glacier Discovery train ($60/person, one way) which left at 10 am. The trip was utterly delightful, with comfortable, old-fashioned seats and great scenery, accompanied by commentary from a pleasant young woman who highlighted points of interest along the way. The train arrived in Whittier twenty minutes early - plenty of time to acquaint ourselves with this most peculiar little port where virtually everyone lives in the same high-rise building (a remnant of its days as a military base.) Embarkation was easy as pie; though we arrived earlier than planned, and expected a real crush of people, it never materialized. Within 5 minutes of entering the rather makeshift cruise terminal, we were on board. I knew that we were taking a chance when we booked an oceanview "guarantee" cabin; we ended up on Emerald deck, starboard side, in a cabin with what was described as a "fully obstructed" view (E317.) While our picture window did, indeed, open onto a lifeboat, we actually had a pretty decent view over the top of the boat. For what we were paying, combined with the fact that we planned to be on deck most of the time, I certainly couldn't complain. The cabin had superb closet space - more than plenty of room to hang everything, along with several shelves in a cabinet, and several small drawers in the desk. Our suitcases stowed easily under the twin beds pushed together. There wasn't much room to move about, but we managed. The bathroom was small, and the shower could only be described as minuscule. The grab bar was right at elbow height, further constricting movement. It was by far the smallest bathroom we've yet encountered on any ship. Our steward was an 8-year Princess veteran, delightful, efficient and unobtrusive. All in all, we were well satisfied with our accommodations, and with the service. A housekeeping supervisor saved my sanity by finding my "lost" passport, which had lodged itself inside an area of the small safe obstructed by its door. Apparently, it wasn't the first time this had happened. The ship is large, but not huge, and we found our way around fairly easily. The main dining rooms - Provence for traditional dining and Bordeaux for "anytime dining" were on decks 5 and 6. With our late booking, our only choice had been between the late seating for traditional dining, or "anytime dining", which we chose. Service in the Bordeaux dining room varied from inattentive to excellent; I wonder if the fact that there are not generally extra tips forthcoming, given that diners are not necessarily served by the same waiters each day, was the reason for this inconsistency. We found the meals (dinners only, in our experience) to be excellent, though portions were a bit modest (not necessarily a bad thing, given the buffets we visited for breakfast and lunch!) I had been apprehensive, having read some rather lukewarm reviews of the dining room, but we both agreed that the food was very, very good - inventive, well prepared and presented beautifully. There are still some kinks to be worked out of "anytime dining". We had heard in advance about the possibility of making reservations for a table in the Bordeaux dining room at a particular time. We did this a few times and were immediately ushered to our table for two (we tend to eat fairly early, which likely helped.) It was clear, however, that many people had no idea that reservations could be made, and there was no indication whatsoever at the dining room entrance that the line on the left was for those who had reservations. Diners who had not called ahead tended to feel a bit like "second class citizens", and this was certainly understandable. The whole concept of "Anytime Dining" seems to be undermined by this growing tendency towards reservations; I honestly don't know what the solution may be, as it is clearly impossible to know exactly how many people will show up at any given time each evening. I think that we would opt for early traditional dining next time around. The Horizons buffet tended towards bedlam at "rush hours" for breakfast and lunch, with people often having to wander off to other Lido deck venues (near the pools, etc.) to find a place to sit and eat. Food was plentiful, varied, with excellent fruits and vegetables, and some of the best cookies I've had anywhere. There were always numerous elaborate pastries, many of which were simply too heavy to appeal to us. We were never disappointed in the selection of entrees and accompaniments, and the service was impressive; coffee, tea and juices appeared reasonably quickly at breakfast, tables were quickly cleared and utensils replaced, and there were frequent offers to get anything we needed. We had been apprehensive about the food in Horizons, having read a number of unflattering reviews, but we simply couldn't complain about any of the meals we had there. We also tried the separate pizza parlor - absolutely delicious, and they get the thin crust just right. The entertainment is always a question mark, as we have encountered everything from exceedingly bad to very professional on various cruises. We made a point of attending three shows and were fairly impressed with the high quality of the costumes and sets, and, for the most part, the dancing. Two male and female vocalists were also featured, and they were adequately talented. One unexpected pleasure was the hypnotist who appeared the last night of the cruise. We had enjoyed a little ballroom dancing (getting harder and harder to find on cruises, it seems) and decided to stay for the hypnotist's show. He put on a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining show with audience volunteers - several of whom who were politely "disinvited" from the stage when they showed clear indications that they were not susceptible to hypnosis. There was much good-natured laughter and lots of fun and no real embarrassment to the participants, except, perhaps for the young woman who leaped up and shouted to her husband "Holy s***, we won the lottery!" when so convinced under hypnosis. She also did a pretty good impression of a vacuum cleaner, as I recall... The scenic cruising was memorable and it was simply astonishing to get so close to glaciers...close enough to actually witness "calving" (a portion of a glacier sliding into the sea.) The ports were enjoyable, looking much as we expected they would. We had booked the cruise too late to sign up beforehand for any excursions, but we prefer to explore by ourselves, anyway. I had booked, independently, a whale watching trip out of Juneau through Orca Enterprises, on a jet boat with "Captain Larry" - a real whale-locating expert - at the helm. (I found it interesting that the Coral Princess's naturalist was on board with us, rather than the excursion sponsored by the cruise line.) I was astonished by the calmness of the water and thrilled that there was no hint of seasickness. Instead we had about 2.5 hours of terrific whale watching and saw plenty of humpback and killer whales, plus sea lions and many bald eagles. This was a real highlight of our trip and exceeded all expectations. Having packed lightly, we were in the first, independent group to disembark in Vancouver, a city we had visited before. I had been fortunate enough to book a room at the Sutton Court Hotel on Burrard Street; this is a truly outstanding hotel with excellent rooms and service. We presented our weary selves at 8 am, bags in tow and fully expecting to stow them until mid-afternoon when our room would be ready, but were gratified and delighted to be told that there were a few rooms available and we could check in immediately. I had made a point of mentioning that we were just off the Coral Princess, as I knew that this was one of the hotels Princess employs for pre- and post-cruise hotel stays; I figured it couldn't hurt. All in all, and especially considering the last minute nature of our plans, it was a thoroughly enjoyable week and I feel we more than got our money's worth. Of course, we tend to be the type of people who subscribe to the "we're on a cruise...how bad can it be?" school of thought, but it would have to be considered delightful by any standards.

Last minute luck!

Coral Princess Cruise Review by dixieagle

Trip Details
  • Sail Date: June 2008
  • Destination: Alaska
We hadn't really even planned a vacation, but following our younger daughter's early June wedding we decided to check into last-minute deals that were available during the time frame we had available. A cruise sounded like a perfect way to rest and relax following a very busy few months, and we'd never been to Alaska. I found a great price on a guaranteed oceanview stateroom on the Coral Princess and booked immediately. We also found decent airfare (there seem to be few real bargains in airfare these days) and in the space of about a half an hour had everything in place to leave in about a week!
Temperatures here in the deep South were hovering near 90, so it required a total change in mindset to pack for the radical difference in climate we would experience in Alaska. The more we travel, the less disposed we are to over pack; knowing that the Coral Princess had self-service laundry facilities on several decks, we resolved to bring just one carry-on size suitcase each. As there were to be two formal nights on the seven-night cruise, my husband tried to rent a tux to be waiting for him onboard, as we have done in the past. However, as we were barely a week out, he was informed that it was too late, and brought a dark suit instead; I packed a long black skirt and two dressy tops and it turned out that this worked well for both of us.
We flew into Anchorage the day before the June 16th cruise, spending the night at a Days Inn which was perfectly adequate and reasonably priced, though by no means fancy. Our older daughter had described Anchorage as looking like a town that "had the snot beaten out of it"; she was pretty much dead on in that description. However, she had also mentioned an excellent restaurant, Orso, which turned out to be just a few blocks from the hotel. It was a bustling, upscale place with an eclectic menu - an excellent choice, as my sirloin and hubby's rockfish (a new one on us!) were both simply divine.
I had been uncertain about transfers between Anchorage and the ship; by booking so late we had no chance to book any Princess-sponsored transportation. As it turns out, this was serendipitous, resulting in my booking a trip on the Alaskan Railroad's Glacier Discovery train ($60/person, one way) which left at 10 am. The trip was utterly delightful, with comfortable, old-fashioned seats and great scenery, accompanied by commentary from a pleasant young woman who highlighted points of interest along the way. The train arrived in Whittier twenty minutes early - plenty of time to acquaint ourselves with this most peculiar little port where virtually everyone lives in the same high-rise building (a remnant of its days as a military base.)
Embarkation was easy as pie; though we arrived earlier than planned, and expected a real crush of people, it never materialized. Within 5 minutes of entering the rather makeshift cruise terminal, we were on board. I knew that we were taking a chance when we booked an oceanview "guarantee" cabin; we ended up on Emerald deck, starboard side, in a cabin with what was described as a "fully obstructed" view (E317.) While our picture window did, indeed, open onto a lifeboat, we actually had a pretty decent view over the top of the boat. For what we were paying, combined with the fact that we planned to be on deck most of the time, I certainly couldn't complain. The cabin had superb closet space - more than plenty of room to hang everything, along with several shelves in a cabinet, and several small drawers in the desk. Our suitcases stowed easily under the twin beds pushed together. There wasn't much room to move about, but we managed. The bathroom was small, and the shower could only be described as minuscule. The grab bar was right at elbow height, further constricting movement. It was by far the smallest bathroom we've yet encountered on any ship. Our steward was an 8-year Princess veteran, delightful, efficient and unobtrusive. All in all, we were well satisfied with our accommodations, and with the service. A housekeeping supervisor saved my sanity by finding my "lost" passport, which had lodged itself inside an area of the small safe obstructed by its door. Apparently, it wasn't the first time this had happened.
The ship is large, but not huge, and we found our way around fairly easily. The main dining rooms - Provence for traditional dining and Bordeaux for "anytime dining" were on decks 5 and 6. With our late booking, our only choice had been between the late seating for traditional dining, or "anytime dining", which we chose.
Service in the Bordeaux dining room varied from inattentive to excellent; I wonder if the fact that there are not generally extra tips forthcoming, given that diners are not necessarily served by the same waiters each day, was the reason for this inconsistency. We found the meals (dinners only, in our experience) to be excellent, though portions were a bit modest (not necessarily a bad thing, given the buffets we visited for breakfast and lunch!) I had been apprehensive, having read some rather lukewarm reviews of the dining room, but we both agreed that the food was very, very good - inventive, well prepared and presented beautifully.
There are still some kinks to be worked out of "anytime dining". We had heard in advance about the possibility of making reservations for a table in the Bordeaux dining room at a particular time. We did this a few times and were immediately ushered to our table for two (we tend to eat fairly early, which likely helped.) It was clear, however, that many people had no idea that reservations could be made, and there was no indication whatsoever at the dining room entrance that the line on the left was for those who had reservations. Diners who had not called ahead tended to feel a bit like "second class citizens", and this was certainly understandable. The whole concept of "Anytime Dining" seems to be undermined by this growing tendency towards reservations; I honestly don't know what the solution may be, as it is clearly impossible to know exactly how many people will show up at any given time each evening. I think that we would opt for early traditional dining next time around.
The Horizons buffet tended towards bedlam at "rush hours" for breakfast and lunch, with people often having to wander off to other Lido deck venues (near the pools, etc.) to find a place to sit and eat. Food was plentiful, varied, with excellent fruits and vegetables, and some of the best cookies I've had anywhere. There were always numerous elaborate pastries, many of which were simply too heavy to appeal to us. We were never disappointed in the selection of entrees and accompaniments, and the service was impressive; coffee, tea and juices appeared reasonably quickly at breakfast, tables were quickly cleared and utensils replaced, and there were frequent offers to get anything we needed. We had been apprehensive about the food in Horizons, having read a number of unflattering reviews, but we simply couldn't complain about any of the meals we had there. We also tried the separate pizza parlor - absolutely delicious, and they get the thin crust just right.
The entertainment is always a question mark, as we have encountered everything from exceedingly bad to very professional on various cruises. We made a point of attending three shows and were fairly impressed with the high quality of the costumes and sets, and, for the most part, the dancing. Two male and female vocalists were also featured, and they were adequately talented.
One unexpected pleasure was the hypnotist who appeared the last night of the cruise. We had enjoyed a little ballroom dancing (getting harder and harder to find on cruises, it seems) and decided to stay for the hypnotist's show. He put on a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining show with audience volunteers - several of whom who were politely "disinvited" from the stage when they showed clear indications that they were not susceptible to hypnosis. There was much good-natured laughter and lots of fun and no real embarrassment to the participants, except, perhaps for the young woman who leaped up and shouted to her husband "Holy s***, we won the lottery!" when so convinced under hypnosis. She also did a pretty good impression of a vacuum cleaner, as I recall...
The scenic cruising was memorable and it was simply astonishing to get so close to glaciers...close enough to actually witness "calving" (a portion of a glacier sliding into the sea.) The ports were enjoyable, looking much as we expected they would. We had booked the cruise too late to sign up beforehand for any excursions, but we prefer to explore by ourselves, anyway. I had booked, independently, a whale watching trip out of Juneau through Orca Enterprises, on a jet boat with "Captain Larry" - a real whale-locating expert - at the helm. (I found it interesting that the Coral Princess's naturalist was on board with us, rather than the excursion sponsored by the cruise line.) I was astonished by the calmness of the water and thrilled that there was no hint of seasickness. Instead we had about 2.5 hours of terrific whale watching and saw plenty of humpback and killer whales, plus sea lions and many bald eagles. This was a real highlight of our trip and exceeded all expectations.
Having packed lightly, we were in the first, independent group to disembark in Vancouver, a city we had visited before. I had been fortunate enough to book a room at the Sutton Court Hotel on Burrard Street; this is a truly outstanding hotel with excellent rooms and service. We presented our weary selves at 8 am, bags in tow and fully expecting to stow them until mid-afternoon when our room would be ready, but were gratified and delighted to be told that there were a few rooms available and we could check in immediately. I had made a point of mentioning that we were just off the Coral Princess, as I knew that this was one of the hotels Princess employs for pre- and post-cruise hotel stays; I figured it couldn't hurt.
All in all, and especially considering the last minute nature of our plans, it was a thoroughly enjoyable week and I feel we more than got our money's worth. Of course, we tend to be the type of people who subscribe to the "we're on a cruise...how bad can it be?" school of thought, but it would have to be considered delightful by any standards.
dixieagle’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Cabin E317
"Fully" obstructed view; lifeboat outside, but there is actually plenty of room to see out over the boat. The bathroom and shower are minuscule, but there is great closet space. This cabin has moveable twin beds, and can accommodate a third and fourth person in upper berths. The cabin was fairly close to elevators, the internet cafe and cozy library.
  Coral Princess Deck Plans