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If you like smaller older ships with a full promenade deck, service with a smile, and a full transit of the Panama Canal this is the cruise for you. We chose this itinerary as it left from Los Angeles, a direct 2 hour flight on Southwest Airlines from El Paso for us. I cannot compare to the itinerary that begins in Fort Lauderdale but we loved this one that visited Fuerte Amador at the Pacific end of the canal, a full day transit through the old locks, and Cartagena after the transit; for us the other ports were "icing on the cake". On arrival in LA we had a smooth journey, using Execucar, to San Pedro where we stayed overnight at the Doubletree Hotel. The hotel food is enjoyable and they provide a shuttle to the port. Our shuttle was at 10:30 am and we quickly gave luggage to the porters, checked in at the cruise terminal and were through security and onboard before noon. On boarding we were given a list of places open for embarkation dining with their times -- it included one of the main dining rooms! We chose the International Cafe then headed for our mini-suite cabin D711. Robert, our cabin steward, arrived with the sparkling wine, and the cruise began! I located the Maitre D' and ensured that we had a table for two. We use early traditional dining, on this ship it was at 5:15 pm in the Provence dining room. After our first dinner we met with the head waiter to request low sodium meals. He provided us with the menus for the next day, we made our selections for the starter and main course, and he delivered them to the galley where the chef's worked their magic. All our dinners were delicious. Lunch for us was usually at the International Cafe or the wonderful freshly made individual pizza at Sabatinis. Pizza and a Grolsch beer became a favorite treat. We had two pub lunches on this cruise. I will not review the enjoyable varied evening entertainment as it was as described in Princess literature. On sea days we really enjoyed the port and enrichment lectures. The port lectures were invaluable to visualize how we would get off and back on the ship and gave glimpses of Princess excursion sights. The enrichment lectures on this cruise were on the History of Medicine and Surgery -- fascinating! On the first sea day at 10:30 am we had our Cruise Critic meet and greet with about 50 members attending. Several of the senior officers welcomed us including the Captain, Maitre D', Executive Chef, Entertainment ,Hotel and Bar Directors. They were all very gracious and obviously worked as a good team. This was reflected in all the crew members that we had contact with. Part of the fun at this Meet and Greet was a gift exchange of items that represented us in some way. For the first time we used shorter Princess excursions in all ports except for Cartagena. As the ports were new to us, and we have joint issues, we decided to mostly do bus tours in Mexico with short stops to see sights and buildings. People were on time when getting back to the bus and the excursions went smoothly and were as described. We live near the Mexican border in southern New Mexico so the culture and foods in Puerto Vallarta and Huatulco were not new to us. What was new was the tropical setting! Due to the unrest in Nicaragua we decided prior to the cruise not to do an excursion but went to the San Juan Del Sur Victoriano Hotel for coffee, use their internet, and view the bay. Many locals were using the beach as it was a Sunday. Choosing an excursion in Costa Rica was a challenge for us as we had both spent several weeks there independently. We eventually decided to do the very enjoyable Macaw Sanctuary and mangrove boat ride; the guide was excellent and we felt we had experienced Costa Rica in a new way. In Fuerte Amador we wanted to visit the colonial part of Panama City and could not locate a local guide. The Princess tour took us on a bus ride through the city to the old city (Panama Viejo) and then back to the colonial part (Casco Viejo) that is undergoing restoration where we had a walking tour. It is always fascinating to see the history of modern cities and how they are restoring areas. We had chance to do a little shopping, pick up a cold soda at the farmacia, and visit restrooms in shops ($1 pp) then back to the ship. Next morning we were up at 6 am to begin the canal transit. I highly recommend you read or watch videos on the history of the canal and attend the ship lectures to put the transit into context. We had a perfect sunny day with a slight breeze in the mid 80s. The locks are fascinating and an engineering marvel. We had a map of the canal from a guide book that was very helpful and another I had downloaded from the internet. I found it to be an exciting day. Cartagena was our last port. I had arranged for an 8 person tour with Dora a year in advance and it exceeded our expectations! http://www.cartagenatour.com I had requested a tour for slower walkers and we had the humorous and highly knowledgable Mercedes as our guide. What a great day as we began at the monastery La Popa overlooking the city, had short visits to the fort and old dungeons that have been converted to artisan stores, then a stroll around the old town and it's churches and plazas. I had the most blissful iced coffee from a jeep at the dungeon area (they use purified water and ice) as it was very hot. One of those memories that stick with you while on a fabulous tour. Two days later we were in a cold (46F) Fort Lauderdale. Debarkation was very easy as we were on a debarkation tour to the Everglades and had used Easy Check valet service for our bags. We were first in the US immigration line and also had a Global Entry card so it was very quick. It was interesting to see the Everglades from an air boat but the reptiles were well hidden due to the unusually cold weather. In all it was a great cruise!

Great ship for a Panama Canal cruise

Coral Princess Cruise Review by Alaskanb

3 people found this helpful
Trip Details
If you like smaller older ships with a full promenade deck, service with a smile, and a full transit of the Panama Canal this is the cruise for you. We chose this itinerary as it left from Los Angeles, a direct 2 hour flight on Southwest Airlines from El Paso for us. I cannot compare to the itinerary that begins in Fort Lauderdale but we loved this one that visited Fuerte Amador at the Pacific end of the canal, a full day transit through the old locks, and Cartagena after the transit; for us the other ports were "icing on the cake".

On arrival in LA we had a smooth journey, using Execucar, to San Pedro where we stayed overnight at the Doubletree Hotel. The hotel food is enjoyable and they provide a shuttle to the port. Our shuttle was at 10:30 am and we quickly gave luggage to the porters, checked in at the cruise terminal and were through security and onboard before noon. On boarding we were given a list of places open for embarkation dining with their times -- it included one of the main dining rooms! We chose the International Cafe then headed for our mini-suite cabin D711. Robert, our cabin steward, arrived with the sparkling wine, and the cruise began! I located the Maitre D' and ensured that we had a table for two.

We use early traditional dining, on this ship it was at 5:15 pm in the Provence dining room. After our first dinner we met with the head waiter to request low sodium meals. He provided us with the menus for the next day, we made our selections for the starter and main course, and he delivered them to the galley where the chef's worked their magic. All our dinners were delicious.

Lunch for us was usually at the International Cafe or the wonderful freshly made individual pizza at Sabatinis. Pizza and a Grolsch beer became a favorite treat. We had two pub lunches on this cruise.

I will not review the enjoyable varied evening entertainment as it was as described in Princess literature.

On sea days we really enjoyed the port and enrichment lectures. The port lectures were invaluable to visualize how we would get off and back on the ship and gave glimpses of Princess excursion sights. The enrichment lectures on this cruise were on the History of Medicine and Surgery -- fascinating!

On the first sea day at 10:30 am we had our Cruise Critic meet and greet with about 50 members attending. Several of the senior officers welcomed us including the Captain, Maitre D', Executive Chef, Entertainment ,Hotel and Bar Directors. They were all very gracious and obviously worked as a good team. This was reflected in all the crew members that we had contact with. Part of the fun at this Meet and Greet was a gift exchange of items that represented us in some way.

For the first time we used shorter Princess excursions in all ports except for Cartagena. As the ports were new to us, and we have joint issues, we decided to mostly do bus tours in Mexico with short stops to see sights and buildings. People were on time when getting back to the bus and the excursions went smoothly and were as described. We live near the Mexican border in southern New Mexico so the culture and foods in Puerto Vallarta and Huatulco were not new to us. What was new was the tropical setting! Due to the unrest in Nicaragua we decided prior to the cruise not to do an excursion but went to the San Juan Del Sur Victoriano Hotel for coffee, use their internet, and view the bay. Many locals were using the beach as it was a Sunday. Choosing an excursion in Costa Rica was a challenge for us as we had both spent several weeks there independently. We eventually decided to do the very enjoyable Macaw Sanctuary and mangrove boat ride; the guide was excellent and we felt we had experienced Costa Rica in a new way.

In Fuerte Amador we wanted to visit the colonial part of Panama City and could not locate a local guide. The Princess tour took us on a bus ride through the city to the old city (Panama Viejo) and then back to the colonial part (Casco Viejo) that is undergoing restoration where we had a walking tour. It is always fascinating to see the history of modern cities and how they are restoring areas. We had chance to do a little shopping, pick up a cold soda at the farmacia, and visit restrooms in shops ($1 pp) then back to the ship.

Next morning we were up at 6 am to begin the canal transit. I highly recommend you read or watch videos on the history of the canal and attend the ship lectures to put the transit into context. We had a perfect sunny day with a slight breeze in the mid 80s. The locks are fascinating and an engineering marvel. We had a map of the canal from a guide book that was very helpful and another I had downloaded from the internet. I found it to be an exciting day.

Cartagena was our last port. I had arranged for an 8 person tour with Dora a year in advance and it exceeded our expectations! http://www.cartagenatour.com I had requested a tour for slower walkers and we had the humorous and highly knowledgable Mercedes as our guide. What a great day as we began at the monastery La Popa overlooking the city, had short visits to the fort and old dungeons that have been converted to artisan stores, then a stroll around the old town and it's churches and plazas. I had the most blissful iced coffee from a jeep at the dungeon area (they use purified water and ice) as it was very hot. One of those memories that stick with you while on a fabulous tour.

Two days later we were in a cold (46F) Fort Lauderdale. Debarkation was very easy as we were on a debarkation tour to the Everglades and had used Easy Check valet service for our bags. We were first in the US immigration line and also had a Global Entry card so it was very quick. It was interesting to see the Everglades from an air boat but the reptiles were well hidden due to the unusually cold weather.

In all it was a great cruise!
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