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Pre-cruise Being from the UK we generally find that the Princess fly cruise deals are cheaper than we can arrange ourselves, and as they include an overnight pre cruise hotel there is some insurance against flight delays, and Princess seem to have listened to feedback from northern UK passengers about the poor experience of flying via Heathrow and now offer more flights via US hubs. This can make the outward flight longer but the benefit of finishing the homeward transatlantic leg at your home airport instead of at Heathrow, and then having to wait several hours for an off peak low price connection back north is well worth it. We flew Delta from Manchester via Atlanta to LA and found their coach class perfectly adequate, legroom on their 767's is good, unless you are over 6 feet, and on the international legs you are reasonably fed and meals do include wine or beer, all non alcoholic drinks are complimentary on both international and domestic flights, but food has to be purchased on internal US flights. The overnight accommodation was at the LAX Hilton, a good quality 4/5 star hotel with large rooms and huge beds, but you may prefer Denny's one block away for breakfast, rather than the fairly expensive buffet breakfast in the hotel. Princess's airport transfer could have been better, arriving late at night after a long day and then having to carry your own luggage to the hotel shuttle stand, was a bit fraught, and then needing to fight your way on when the bus arrived was not pleasant. The transfer to the ship the following day was delayed due to a lack of coaches, but this was because of an accident on the highway and not through any fault with Princess. As a result it was after 3:00pm when we arrived at the terminal, fortunately we have Platinum Captain's circle status so were able to join the very short preferred check-in line. Ship. Our first Princess cruise was on the Coral and our second was on the Island and we have always considered these our favorite Princess ships, they are an ideal size less than 2000 passengers; plenty of deck space and with all the same amenities as the Grand class. However our last cruise was on the Emerald and we may now be having a change of heart. Most of the differences are only minor, but they can help to make the cruise more enjoyable. We had forgotten just how cold the lounges can be on the Coral/Island, especially the Princess theatre and Universe lounge. As we shivered through the shows it brought back fond warm memories of how much more comfortable the temperature had been on the Emerald. We had also forgotten how shallow the seats were tiered on the Coral, which restricted viewing unless you could sit behind some little old lady; on the Emerald every seat gave you a good viewing position, and I think they were bigger and more comfortable as well. But more concerning was the overuse of pagers and the wait times for the PC dining room. We tend to eat at the popular time between 7:00pm and 8:00pm, and on Emerald this had never been a problem, but on this cruise we were always turned away with a pager and advised wait times up to 20/25 minutes, however the waits were often much less. As a consequence even though I dislike the use of reservations as negating the benefit of anytime dining, we were forced to use them on formal nights, and even here there were queues. But everything else was much as remembered and the ship is in excellent condition. Stateroom. We had a BD cabin just on the aft bump out section of Caribe deck, here the balcony is only about 7ft. deep compared with the 9ft depth of the BA Caribe balconies, but you still get 2 chairs and 2 recliners and enough room to comfortably enjoy a room service breakfast; and the balcony offers a split of two thirds covered and one third open, ideal for sunbathing or sheltering from the occasional tropical shower, of which there were very few on this cruise. The bathroom felt to be much smaller than I remember from the Emerald and I have one recommendation for you, do not drop the soap in the shower it is way too small to be able to bend down and retrieve it easily.. The soft furnishings were in excellent condition and the steward, as ever, kept it in perfect condition for us and kept us supplied with everything we asked for. I am always amazed that they can remember our names from day one of the cruise, even when we passed our steward away from our cabin he never got our name wrong. Other than wanting a 2 seater sofa in the Princess standard cabins, the only other nit picky issue I would have is about the electric sockets, although there are 2, for Europeans using adaptors you can only use one at a time, if Princess could separate them we would be able to make use of both together. Dining. I have already mentioned the delays finding a table in the Bordeaux dining room, unfortunately they did not end once you were seated; we sometimes sat for 15/20 minutes after being given a menu before our order was taken while other tables were being cleared and re-laid; there were also frequent long waits between courses, especially if you were on a larger table. The combination of all these delays resulted in us missing several shows and other planned activities; something we had never experienced before. This may all have been due to the fact that we seldom saw the Maitre D in the Bordeaux dining room and certainly were never approached by him to check if everything was OK; whereas on the Emerald we saw the Maitre D virtually every night and he was always interacting with the passengers. Interestingly, one of our shipmates who dined in the Provence traditional dining room and has posted his review on our Roll Call had exactly the opposite view which is perhaps why he felt their service was good. Regardless of the above the food was excellent, we have had some better on other cruises but there was never any need to send anything back; maybe I should have done then I would not now need to diet so desperately. The buffet serving area is smaller than I remember, as is the side seating area, but again this comes from comparing it with the much larger Grand Class. We mainly sampled the lunch menus and one or two breakfasts; here the quality was perfectly acceptable even if the variety could have been better. However for lunch we mainly chose the grill or pizza station and ate mainly where we were sunbathing. We normally chose chicken breast from the grill, but whether it was any less fattening than a burger I would doubt. Both venues provided excellent quality and the portion sizes were perfectly adequate for us; since food is available 24/7 you are not going to starve on a cruise. The Coral has our favorite Princess speciality restaurant, the Bayou Cafe and steakhouse, this latter name is a recent addition, fortunately it does not seem to have resulted in a change in menu, and of course it has not changed the style, dEcor or ambiance of the restaurant. Entertainment. This is a matter of personal taste, we always enjoy the Princess production shows and this cruise was no exception, the singers and dancers were excellent. However we generally find that Princess's choice of celebrity entertainers is below average, P&O, Celebrity, Thomson and Star cruises are our only other experience but all of these were far superior to Princess. The other musicians were of varying quality, Opus were the standout performers, an African American group with a very wide popular music repertoire, but the Delicia Duo, two attractive east European girls were also very good, playing mainly classical music on piano and violin. Crooners was also worthy of several visits, but just occasionally the smoke from the Churchill smokers lounge seemed to drift across the atrium. As usual the cruise director's staff put in a super performance organizing everything from trivia quizzes, through pool games to some excellent evening entertainment. Canal Transit. This was of course why most people had booked this cruise and it did not disappoint. We were up at 5:45am to watch the pilot boarding while it was still dark. I went for a quick exploration, as far as Horizon court for a couple of coffees, and it seemed that nearly everyone was already up and about, having a rushed breakfast or establishing a prime viewing position. Of course being a switched on Cruise Critic member I knew that the best viewing places were all the way forward on Baja and Caribe decks, or all the way aft on any deck from Emerald upwards; and we were not disappointed. We went up front on Baja as we approached the Bridge of the Americas and stayed until we were nearly through the Miraflores locks; we then alternated between here and an aft deck, or our balcony as we enjoyed a champagne breakfast. All these locations give you an uninterrupted view without those rather annoying bluish tinged glass panels getting in the way of your camera; and what cameras there were on view. I felt that my simple Sony wide angle digital compact was rather overwhelmed by some of the digital SLR's with their monstrous zoom lenses, but I was still pleased with the outcome of my pictures. Shore excursions. Only 3 full day and 3 half day ports on this itinerary and Cartagena, one of the half day ports, was dropped because of a turbine problem. In Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, we did the Antigua on your own tour and then picked up a walking tour guide for only $10 per person which we felt worked out very well. He was able to take us into Hotels, Churches and guest houses where we would probably have stayed outside, and his local knowledge enhanced our visit, we were even able to watch a wedding at the main cathedral. Antigua is a World heritage site and tries to reflect a typical colonial city of the 18th century, most of it was destroyed in an earthquake in 1773 but it is being carefully restored, and although mainly a tourist attraction it does have a population of 30,000. The only other shore excursion we took was the Tree top canopy walk and Pura Vida gardens in Costa Rica. A good tour but in the dry season during late morning do not expect to see many animals. We saw a few birds and plenty of ants, and termite nests in the trees during our canopy walk; where you cross three swaying cable style suspension bridges, a bit wobbly but although I suffer from vertigo, even watching TV, it did not present a problem. We saw more birds at the gardens and then crocodiles on the way back at a bridge over a river. In the other ports, we walked ashore in Huatalco and Aruba, and both towns are easily seen on foot. If you wanted to explore further there were private tours you could pick up in the resorts. In Puerto Corinto we did not bother going ashore, those who did said the town was a typical third world shanty type with not much to see or buy, but you could get a rickshaw ride round the town for only 1 dollar per person. Service. Here, other than the dining room issues, we had no cause for complaint, the Captain assured us at the welcome cocktail party that the Coral had a great crew dedicated to making our cruise unforgettable, and he was right. This cruise had a lot of sea days and the busiest sections of staff were the deck attendants, constantly clearing up and tidying the mess we were making, and the deck waiters keeping us topped up with cold drinks, even if a lot were only via soda cards. The maintenance level on this cruise was also impressive, fresh paint or varnish was being applied to just about everything, even if it did not look as though it was needed, and lots of the ships rails were being taken off and stripped back to bare wood ready to accept ever more coats of varnish; and of course the daily cleaning of all the public areas resulted in a dust and stain free environment that would be the envy of most shore based hotels. Disembarkation. This was probably the fastest and most efficient disembarkation we have experienced, the ship docked at 7:00am and the first passengers were waiting to disembark as we went for breakfast at 7:40; we were then among the last group to disembark and we were leaving the ship before 10:00am. It did get a bit protracted at immigration since all the end groups were British; and the loading of the coaches could have been improved. However Princess do take good care of their UK passengers, we were bussed to the Intercontinental hotel in Miami where we were provided with a very nice buffet lunch, and then whisked off to Miami International shopping mall to part us from our last few remaining dollars; before being taken to Miami airport for our flight home which again was with Delta via Atlanta. Summary. Overall the cruise certainly met our expectations and while I have made a few criticisms of my old favorite the Coral Princess, she is still a very fine ship and a wonderful floating hotel from which to view the world. One point that did stand out for me was the number of British passengers on board, over 500 in total which at over 25% of the total number of passengers was the largest group of Brits we have encountered on a Princess cruise, and this cruise does not have the special charter flights that are offered on some Caribbean sailings. When it comes to my next Princess cruise would I choose Coral again, quite possibly but I think I might be more likely to try another of it's big sisters, if only to enjoy a warm, comfortable and guaranteed good view in the Princess theatre; and by 2014 when the new bigger locks are in operation it might be time for another trip of a lifetime through the Panama canal.

Trip of a lifetime Panama Canal cruise

Coral Princess Cruise Review by terrierjohn

Trip Details
Pre-cruise
Being from the UK we generally find that the Princess fly cruise deals are cheaper than we can arrange ourselves, and as they include an overnight pre cruise hotel there is some insurance against flight delays, and Princess seem to have listened to feedback from northern UK passengers about the poor experience of flying via Heathrow and now offer more flights via US hubs. This can make the outward flight longer but the benefit of finishing the homeward transatlantic leg at your home airport instead of at Heathrow, and then having to wait several hours for an off peak low price connection back north is well worth it.
We flew Delta from Manchester via Atlanta to LA and found their coach class perfectly adequate, legroom on their 767's is good, unless you are over 6 feet, and on the international legs you are reasonably fed and meals do include wine or beer, all non alcoholic drinks are complimentary on both international and domestic flights, but food has to be purchased on internal US flights.
The overnight accommodation was at the LAX Hilton, a good quality 4/5 star hotel with large rooms and huge beds, but you may prefer Denny's one block away for breakfast, rather than the fairly expensive buffet breakfast in the hotel.
Princess's airport transfer could have been better, arriving late at night after a long day and then having to carry your own luggage to the hotel shuttle stand, was a bit fraught, and then needing to fight your way on when the bus arrived was not pleasant.
The transfer to the ship the following day was delayed due to a lack of coaches, but this was because of an accident on the highway and not through any fault with Princess. As a result it was after 3:00pm when we arrived at the terminal, fortunately we have Platinum Captain's circle status so were able to join the very short preferred check-in line.
Ship.
Our first Princess cruise was on the Coral and our second was on the Island and we have always considered these our favorite Princess ships, they are an ideal size less than 2000 passengers; plenty of deck space and with all the same amenities as the Grand class. However our last cruise was on the Emerald and we may now be having a change of heart.
Most of the differences are only minor, but they can help to make the cruise more enjoyable. We had forgotten just how cold the lounges can be on the Coral/Island, especially the Princess theatre and Universe lounge. As we shivered through the shows it brought back fond warm memories of how much more comfortable the temperature had been on the Emerald. We had also forgotten how shallow the seats were tiered on the Coral, which restricted viewing unless you could sit behind some little old lady; on the Emerald every seat gave you a good viewing position, and I think they were bigger and more comfortable as well.
But more concerning was the overuse of pagers and the wait times for the PC dining room. We tend to eat at the popular time between 7:00pm and 8:00pm, and on Emerald this had never been a problem, but on this cruise we were always turned away with a pager and advised wait times up to 20/25 minutes, however the waits were often much less. As a consequence even though I dislike the use of reservations as negating the benefit of anytime dining, we were forced to use them on formal nights, and even here there were queues.
But everything else was much as remembered and the ship is in excellent condition.
Stateroom.
We had a BD cabin just on the aft bump out section of Caribe deck, here the balcony is only about 7ft. deep compared with the 9ft depth of the BA Caribe balconies, but you still get 2 chairs and 2 recliners and enough room to comfortably enjoy a room service breakfast; and the balcony offers a split of two thirds covered and one third open, ideal for sunbathing or sheltering from the occasional tropical shower, of which there were very few on this cruise.
The bathroom felt to be much smaller than I remember from the Emerald and I have one recommendation for you, do not drop the soap in the shower it is way too small to be able to bend down and retrieve it easily..
The soft furnishings were in excellent condition and the steward, as ever, kept it in perfect condition for us and kept us supplied with everything we asked for. I am always amazed that they can remember our names from day one of the cruise, even when we passed our steward away from our cabin he never got our name wrong.
Other than wanting a 2 seater sofa in the Princess standard cabins, the only other nit picky issue I would have is about the electric sockets, although there are 2, for Europeans using adaptors you can only use one at a time, if Princess could separate them we would be able to make use of both together.
Dining.
I have already mentioned the delays finding a table in the Bordeaux dining room, unfortunately they did not end once you were seated; we sometimes sat for 15/20 minutes after being given a menu before our order was taken while other tables were being cleared and re-laid; there were also frequent long waits between courses, especially if you were on a larger table. The combination of all these delays resulted in us missing several shows and other planned activities; something we had never experienced before.
This may all have been due to the fact that we seldom saw the Maitre D in the Bordeaux dining room and certainly were never approached by him to check if everything was OK; whereas on the Emerald we saw the Maitre D virtually every night and he was always interacting with the passengers. Interestingly, one of our shipmates who dined in the Provence traditional dining room and has posted his review on our Roll Call had exactly the opposite view which is perhaps why he felt their service was good.
Regardless of the above the food was excellent, we have had some better on other cruises but there was never any need to send anything back; maybe I should have done then I would not now need to diet so desperately.
The buffet serving area is smaller than I remember, as is the side seating area, but again this comes from comparing it with the much larger Grand Class. We mainly sampled the lunch menus and one or two breakfasts; here the quality was perfectly acceptable even if the variety could have been better. However for lunch we mainly chose the grill or pizza station and ate mainly where we were sunbathing. We normally chose chicken breast from the grill, but whether it was any less fattening than a burger I would doubt. Both venues provided excellent quality and the portion sizes were perfectly adequate for us; since food is available 24/7 you are not going to starve on a cruise.
The Coral has our favorite Princess speciality restaurant, the Bayou Cafe and steakhouse, this latter name is a recent addition, fortunately it does not seem to have resulted in a change in menu, and of course it has not changed the style, dEcor or ambiance of the restaurant.
Entertainment.
This is a matter of personal taste, we always enjoy the Princess production shows and this cruise was no exception, the singers and dancers were excellent. However we generally find that Princess's choice of celebrity entertainers is below average, P&O, Celebrity, Thomson and Star cruises are our only other experience but all of these were far superior to Princess.
The other musicians were of varying quality, Opus were the standout performers, an African American group with a very wide popular music repertoire, but the Delicia Duo, two attractive east European girls were also very good, playing mainly classical music on piano and violin. Crooners was also worthy of several visits, but just occasionally the smoke from the Churchill smokers lounge seemed to drift across the atrium.
As usual the cruise director's staff put in a super performance organizing everything from trivia quizzes, through pool games to some excellent evening entertainment.
Canal Transit.
This was of course why most people had booked this cruise and it did not disappoint. We were up at 5:45am to watch the pilot boarding while it was still dark. I went for a quick exploration, as far as Horizon court for a couple of coffees, and it seemed that nearly everyone was already up and about, having a rushed breakfast or establishing a prime viewing position. Of course being a switched on Cruise Critic member I knew that the best viewing places were all the way forward on Baja and Caribe decks, or all the way aft on any deck from Emerald upwards; and we were not disappointed. We went up front on Baja as we approached the Bridge of the Americas and stayed until we were nearly through the Miraflores locks; we then alternated between here and an aft deck, or our balcony as we enjoyed a champagne breakfast. All these locations give you an uninterrupted view without those rather annoying bluish tinged glass panels getting in the way of your camera; and what cameras there were on view. I felt that my simple Sony wide angle digital compact was rather overwhelmed by some of the digital SLR's with their monstrous zoom lenses, but I was still pleased with the outcome of my pictures.

Shore excursions.
Only 3 full day and 3 half day ports on this itinerary and Cartagena, one of the half day ports, was dropped because of a turbine problem.
In Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, we did the Antigua on your own tour and then picked up a walking tour guide for only $10 per person which we felt worked out very well. He was able to take us into Hotels, Churches and guest houses where we would probably have stayed outside, and his local knowledge enhanced our visit, we were even able to watch a wedding at the main cathedral. Antigua is a World heritage site and tries to reflect a typical colonial city of the 18th century, most of it was destroyed in an earthquake in 1773 but it is being carefully restored, and although mainly a tourist attraction it does have a population of 30,000.
The only other shore excursion we took was the Tree top canopy walk and Pura Vida gardens in Costa Rica. A good tour but in the dry season during late morning do not expect to see many animals. We saw a few birds and plenty of ants, and termite nests in the trees during our canopy walk; where you cross three swaying cable style suspension bridges, a bit wobbly but although I suffer from vertigo, even watching TV, it did not present a problem. We saw more birds at the gardens and then crocodiles on the way back at a bridge over a river.
In the other ports, we walked ashore in Huatalco and Aruba, and both towns are easily seen on foot. If you wanted to explore further there were private tours you could pick up in the resorts. In Puerto Corinto we did not bother going ashore, those who did said the town was a typical third world shanty type with not much to see or buy, but you could get a rickshaw ride round the town for only 1 dollar per person.
Service.
Here, other than the dining room issues, we had no cause for complaint, the Captain assured us at the welcome cocktail party that the Coral had a great crew dedicated to making our cruise unforgettable, and he was right. This cruise had a lot of sea days and the busiest sections of staff were the deck attendants, constantly clearing up and tidying the mess we were making, and the deck waiters keeping us topped up with cold drinks, even if a lot were only via soda cards. The maintenance level on this cruise was also impressive, fresh paint or varnish was being applied to just about everything, even if it did not look as though it was needed, and lots of the ships rails were being taken off and stripped back to bare wood ready to accept ever more coats of varnish; and of course the daily cleaning of all the public areas resulted in a dust and stain free environment that would be the envy of most shore based hotels.
Disembarkation.
This was probably the fastest and most efficient disembarkation we have experienced, the ship docked at 7:00am and the first passengers were waiting to disembark as we went for breakfast at 7:40; we were then among the last group to disembark and we were leaving the ship before 10:00am. It did get a bit protracted at immigration since all the end groups were British; and the loading of the coaches could have been improved. However Princess do take good care of their UK passengers, we were bussed to the Intercontinental hotel in Miami where we were provided with a very nice buffet lunch, and then whisked off to Miami International shopping mall to part us from our last few remaining dollars; before being taken to Miami airport for our flight home which again was with Delta via Atlanta.
Summary.
Overall the cruise certainly met our expectations and while I have made a few criticisms of my old favorite the Coral Princess, she is still a very fine ship and a wonderful floating hotel from which to view the world.
One point that did stand out for me was the number of British passengers on board, over 500 in total which at over 25% of the total number of passengers was the largest group of Brits we have encountered on a Princess cruise, and this cruise does not have the special charter flights that are offered on some Caribbean sailings.
When it comes to my next Princess cruise would I choose Coral again, quite possibly but I think I might be more likely to try another of it's big sisters, if only to enjoy a warm, comfortable and guaranteed good view in the Princess theatre; and by 2014 when the new bigger locks are in operation it might be time for another trip of a lifetime through the Panama canal.
terrierjohn’s Full Rating Summary
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Cabin
Shore Excursions
Service
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Cabin Review

Balcony
Cabin BD 639
Quite a good location, near the aft stairs but noise free. Short walk to the Atrium for the dining room, but a bit longer for Horizon court. Good sized 7ftX9ft balcony with 2 recliners, 2 chairs and table. Short walk to the aft Caribe Laundromat.
Baja Deck Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins