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This was our first cruise with Princess and our first cruise over 7 days in length. We found Princess to be gracious and comfortable. The embarkation at Port Everglades was quick and efficient. The days at sea were relaxing and ports were interesting to us for the most part. We chose a partial transit of the Panama Canal because the extra days of the full transit would not fit in our schedule. A partial transit gives enough of the feel of the experience to satisfy the curiosity. The Coral is a mid-sized ship and was almost full for this cruise. There were less than ten children on board as this was early December when schools were in session. The “Anytime Dining” experience was confusing. On other lines, any time meant any time. We found one entrance to the dining room to be for “reservations”. When we call to inquire about reservations, we were either told they weren’t making reservations or the only times available were after 8pm. A few times we had to wait for a table. They use a pager system. As this was an anniversary trip for us, we preferred a table for two but only were able to have one about half the time. Tables for two were often so close together, it felt like shared table for four. It was not what we had in mind. However, on our actual anniversary, the maître d Alejandro took us upstairs to the Provence dining room so we could have a private table. We often ate breakfast and lunch in the Provence dining room. We enjoyed the service. For breakfast trays of pastries were offered. I had the chocolate croissant every morning. It was so delicious. The menu was not extensive but had all standard breakfast items. Each day there were two specials for the day, one entrée and one started of some kind. The lunch menu was like it with standard items every day and special items each day. Service was quick and efficient. The Horizon Court buffet was not huge. It had stations for breads, fruits, salad, and sandwiches at lunch. Breakfast buffet offered unusual items such as rice and other entrees that I would consider lunch or dinner fare. I guess this would appeal to cultures were eggs and bacon are not the standard breakfast. I didn’t try any of these. Breakfast and lunch seemed to be mostly the same daily, although I didn’t check it every day. I did enjoy the afternoon snack. Fresh guacamole and chips were available by 2 each afternoon. The biggest surprise to me was the International Café on deck 6. At first I thought it was only a coffee bar, but I soon learned that the food offered was complimentary. In the morning, sweet treats and breads were offered, but the rest of the day, sandwiches and salads were available. The service here varied by individual. We found that coffee to go was cheaper than coffee in a cup to dine there. The location, near our stateroom and the casino, made this a favorite spot. Although we did not dine in the evenings at the specialty restaurants, we did take advantage of the lunch offerings that were complimentary. Sabatini’s offered pizza at lunch a couple of time. It was excellent pizza, completely different than the pizza offered pool side. Only two other couples were there when we were. We also did the “pub lunch” at the Bayou Steakhouse choosing, as most did, the fish and chips. It was extremely crowded and we had to sit at the very small bar. Go early if you want a table. I think this was only offered once. The main activity we enjoyed was trivia. This was held in the Wheelhouse Bar. At first glance, this is a huge space, but since after trivia occurred just as Happy Hour was ending, there were often no seats left. We made a group of friend who liked to play too and struggled to find six chairs together. Morning sessions were not at crowded. Questions varied between the easy and truly challenging. Prizes consisted of key chains usually. The casino was very small. There were smoking and non-smoking areas. On several nights, the entire casino was non-smoking which I appreciated. I found the Princess Theater to be very congested as the only entrances were on deck 7. I’m used to theaters with multiple entrances on several decks. It seemed claustrophobic and almost hazardous. I only attended two events there and preferred the Universe. It had more comfortable seating and entrances on both decks 6 and 7. There was a variety of entertainment. We don’t care for magic so we didn’t attend those shows. We enjoyed the Bayou show and the comedian. We did not purchase a shore excursion for Aruba. We were only in port for a few hours. We walked down the main street and visited a casino. We were not impressed and headed back to the ship. In Cartagena, we took the City Highlights tour. It was oppressively hot that day and the climb to the fortress was very challenging. Vendors were very aggressive. The area was very crowded (two other ships in port that day) and I could not hear our guide very well. Las Bovedas was simply a shopping stop and should be described that way. Most goods were too expensive anyway. The walk through the old city was beautiful but again, very crowded and hot. I felt as if I spent the entire tour trying not to lose my guide in the press of people. I did not learn much, but I would love to go back and spend more time on my own. We tendered in Gatun Lake to go to Panama City and the Miraflores Locks. The drive was quick and comfortable. The “snack” provided was a chicken sandwich from Subway, just meat and bread. There was another shopping stop before going to the old city. It was uncrowded and two guides split our group so it was easier to hear. However, guides need to judge their groups to take it slower when elderly members cannot walk as fast as they would like. I found this almost disrespectful. Free time was welcome and no vendors harassed us. The visitor’s center at Miraflores was a nice new facility. It was interesting to see ships passing through that part of the canal. When we arrived back at the ship, I was glad I had bought my souvenirs already instead of having to go into Colon. In Costa Rica, we took the Animal Planet recommended tour of the sloth sanctuary. It did not disappoint. The bus ride was not long and we got to see the animals right away. The tour was given in rooms where the sloths were. The guides were informative and passionate about their work. The boat ride in the canal behind the sanctuary was not explained so we just got in the small aluminum boat and paddled away. Our boatman did not speak English so we just drifted along in silence until we encountered wildlife. Fortunately I speak enough Spanish to translate for the others. He pointed out iguanas and then we arrived where the howler monkeys lived. He positioned our boat where we could watch them for a substantial time. We also saw sloths in the wild. It was a great look at the rainforest. Our regular tour guide taught us a great deal about his country and also showed us how banana plantations worked which was a bonus. I found the craft market at the dock the best opportunity for shopping on the trip with genuine crafts, nice vendors and reasonable prices. As we are going back to Grand Cayman next year, we chose not to get off the ship.

Partial Transit of the Panama Canal and Area

Coral Princess Cruise Review by lwall8

12 people found this helpful
Trip Details
This was our first cruise with Princess and our first cruise over 7 days in length. We found Princess to be gracious and comfortable.

The embarkation at Port Everglades was quick and efficient.

The days at sea were relaxing and ports were interesting to us for the most part. We chose a partial transit of the Panama Canal because the extra days of the full transit would not fit in our schedule. A partial transit gives enough of the feel of the experience to satisfy the curiosity.

The Coral is a mid-sized ship and was almost full for this cruise. There were less than ten children on board as this was early December when schools were in session.

The “Anytime Dining” experience was confusing. On other lines, any time meant any time. We found one entrance to the dining room to be for “reservations”. When we call to inquire about reservations, we were either told they weren’t making reservations or the only times available were after 8pm. A few times we had to wait for a table. They use a pager system. As this was an anniversary trip for us, we preferred a table for two but only were able to have one about half the time. Tables for two were often so close together, it felt like shared table for four. It was not what we had in mind. However, on our actual anniversary, the maître d Alejandro took us upstairs to the Provence dining room so we could have a private table.

We often ate breakfast and lunch in the Provence dining room. We enjoyed the service. For breakfast trays of pastries were offered. I had the chocolate croissant every morning. It was so delicious. The menu was not extensive but had all standard breakfast items. Each day there were two specials for the day, one entrée and one started of some kind. The lunch menu was like it with standard items every day and special items each day. Service was quick and efficient.

The Horizon Court buffet was not huge. It had stations for breads, fruits, salad, and sandwiches at lunch. Breakfast buffet offered unusual items such as rice and other entrees that I would consider lunch or dinner fare. I guess this would appeal to cultures were eggs and bacon are not the standard breakfast. I didn’t try any of these. Breakfast and lunch seemed to be mostly the same daily, although I didn’t check it every day. I did enjoy the afternoon snack. Fresh guacamole and chips were available by 2 each afternoon.

The biggest surprise to me was the International Café on deck 6. At first I thought it was only a coffee bar, but I soon learned that the food offered was complimentary. In the morning, sweet treats and breads were offered, but the rest of the day, sandwiches and salads were available. The service here varied by individual. We found that coffee to go was cheaper than coffee in a cup to dine there. The location, near our stateroom and the casino, made this a favorite spot.

Although we did not dine in the evenings at the specialty restaurants, we did take advantage of the lunch offerings that were complimentary. Sabatini’s offered pizza at lunch a couple of time. It was excellent pizza, completely different than the pizza offered pool side. Only two other couples were there when we were. We also did the “pub lunch” at the Bayou Steakhouse choosing, as most did, the fish and chips. It was extremely crowded and we had to sit at the very small bar. Go early if you want a table. I think this was only offered once.

The main activity we enjoyed was trivia. This was held in the Wheelhouse Bar. At first glance, this is a huge space, but since after trivia occurred just as Happy Hour was ending, there were often no seats left. We made a group of friend who liked to play too and struggled to find six chairs together. Morning sessions were not at crowded. Questions varied between the easy and truly challenging. Prizes consisted of key chains usually.

The casino was very small. There were smoking and non-smoking areas. On several nights, the entire casino was non-smoking which I appreciated.

I found the Princess Theater to be very congested as the only entrances were on deck 7. I’m used to theaters with multiple entrances on several decks. It seemed claustrophobic and almost hazardous. I only attended two events there and preferred the Universe. It had more comfortable seating and entrances on both decks 6 and 7. There was a variety of entertainment. We don’t care for magic so we didn’t attend those shows. We enjoyed the Bayou show and the comedian.

We did not purchase a shore excursion for Aruba. We were only in port for a few hours. We walked down the main street and visited a casino. We were not impressed and headed back to the ship.

In Cartagena, we took the City Highlights tour. It was oppressively hot that day and the climb to the fortress was very challenging. Vendors were very aggressive. The area was very crowded (two other ships in port that day) and I could not hear our guide very well. Las Bovedas was simply a shopping stop and should be described that way. Most goods were too expensive anyway. The walk through the old city was beautiful but again, very crowded and hot. I felt as if I spent the entire tour trying not to lose my guide in the press of people. I did not learn much, but I would love to go back and spend more time on my own.

We tendered in Gatun Lake to go to Panama City and the Miraflores Locks. The drive was quick and comfortable. The “snack” provided was a chicken sandwich from Subway, just meat and bread. There was another shopping stop before going to the old city. It was uncrowded and two guides split our group so it was easier to hear. However, guides need to judge their groups to take it slower when elderly members cannot walk as fast as they would like. I found this almost disrespectful. Free time was welcome and no vendors harassed us. The visitor’s center at Miraflores was a nice new facility. It was interesting to see ships passing through that part of the canal. When we arrived back at the ship, I was glad I had bought my souvenirs already instead of having to go into Colon.

In Costa Rica, we took the Animal Planet recommended tour of the sloth sanctuary. It did not disappoint. The bus ride was not long and we got to see the animals right away. The tour was given in rooms where the sloths were. The guides were informative and passionate about their work. The boat ride in the canal behind the sanctuary was not explained so we just got in the small aluminum boat and paddled away. Our boatman did not speak English so we just drifted along in silence until we encountered wildlife. Fortunately I speak enough Spanish to translate for the others. He pointed out iguanas and then we arrived where the howler monkeys lived. He positioned our boat where we could watch them for a substantial time. We also saw sloths in the wild. It was a great look at the rainforest. Our regular tour guide taught us a great deal about his country and also showed us how banana plantations worked which was a bonus. I found the craft market at the dock the best opportunity for shopping on the trip with genuine crafts, nice vendors and reasonable prices.

As we are going back to Grand Cayman next year, we chose not to get off the ship.
lwall8’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Oceanview
Cabin OE P619
Our stateroom was on Plaza deck 5. We did not have to take stairs or elevators to get to “any time dining” in the Bordeaux dining room or to go to the atrium for activities or customer service. Also the location of our room was directly across from the self-laundromat which was essential on a longer cruise. Often, the gangway for ports was either one deck below or one deck above which we could easily access by stairs and not have to wait for elevators. There was a little noise as the gangway was set up but it did not disturb us greatly. Being towards the aft, we were also one deck and a few steps away from the Universe Theater where many events were scheduled. It was nice to exit the event and be in our room quickly.
We found our stateroom to be comfortable and spacious with ample storage. There were two nightstands with two drawers each. The desk also had three drawers and three curved shelves at the end. The closet space did not have doors and it ran the length of the wall behind the desk/bar area. We did not use all of the wooden hangers provided. There was a full length cabinet with about five shelves, one containing the safe. We used some of this space to store toiletries because the bathroom only had three small shelves. There was a small area for hanging clothes next to the cabinet and the floor space below made a nice cubby for a dirty laundry bag. Also there was a shelf above the closet area. A full length mirror was on the entry wall to the left of the door adjacent to the closet area. We moved a small round table in the room to the closet area so we wouldn’t run into it. We did not need the table.
The bathroom was a standard cruise ship bathroom but the shower was extremely small. Great care had to be taken with the shower curtain to avoid getting water on the floor. The quality of towels was subpar, very thin, and old. We were never given extra towels but we did not ask for any either.
We chose the queen bed arrangement, however, the combining of twin beds was obvious if one moved to the center of the bed. The bedding was of nice quality. Four very large pillows were quite comfortable. In general we slept well. Our cabin steward, Jiwa, was affable and efficient. He, as far as we could tell, did not have an assistant and did the job on his own effectively. We were celebrating an anniversary and he prepared our room with balloons, towel “swans” and a card while we were at breakfast. It was a lovely touch.
Emerald Deck Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins, Balcony Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Aruba
    We did not purchase a shore excursion for Aruba. We were only in port for a few hours. We walked down the main street and visited a casino. We were not impressed and headed back to the ship.
    View All 1,635 Aruba Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Aruba Cruise Port Review
  • Cartagena (Spain)
    This in Colombia, not Spain. In Cartagena, we took the City Highlights tour. It was oppressively hot that day and the climb to the fortress was very challenging. Vendors were very aggressive. The area was very crowded (two other ships in port that day) and I could not hear our guide very well. Las Bovedas was simply a shopping stop and should be described that way. Most goods were too expensive anyway. The walk through the old city was beautiful but again, very crowded and hot. I felt as if I spent the entire tour trying not to lose my guide in the press of people. I did not learn much, but I would love to go back and spend more time on my own.
    View All 428 Cartagena (Spain) Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Cartagena (Spain) Cruise Port Review
  • Panama City
    We tendered in Gatun Lake to go to Panama City and the Miraflores Locks. The drive was quick and comfortable. The “snack” provided was a chicken sandwich from Subway, just meat and bread. There was another shopping stop before going to the old city. It was uncrowded and two guides split our group so it was easier to hear. However, guides need to judge their groups to take it slower when elderly members cannot walk as fast as they would like. I found this almost disrespectful. Free time was welcome and no vendors harassed us. The visitor’s center at Miraflores was a nice new facility. It was interesting to see ships passing through that part of the canal. When we arrived back at the ship, I was glad I had bought my souvenirs already instead of having to go into Colon.
    View All 31 Panama City Reviews
  • Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades)
    Excellent embarkation process
    View All 1,922 Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades) Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades) Cruise Port Review
  • Sloth Sanctuary
    In Costa Rica, we took the Animal Planet recommended tour of the sloth sanctuary. It did not disappoint. The bus ride was not long and we got to see the animals right away. The tour was given in rooms where the sloths were. The guides were informative and passionate about their work. The boat ride in the canal behind the sanctuary was not explained so we just got in the small aluminum boat and paddled away. Our boatman did not speak English so we just drifted along in silence until we encountered wildlife. Fortunately I speak enough Spanish to translate for the others. He pointed out iguanas and then we arrived where the howler monkeys lived. He positioned our boat where we could watch them for a substantial time. We also saw sloths in the wild. It was a great look at the rainforest. Our regular tour guide taught us a great deal about his country and also showed us how banana plantations worked which was a bonus. I found the craft market at the dock the best opportunity for shopping on the trip with genuine crafts, nice vendors and reasonable prices.
    View All 11 Sloth Sanctuary Reviews