Coral Princess Cruise Review by kitkat343
- Sail Date: May 2010
- Destination: Alaska
I would highly recommend requesting an eggshell crate mattress, which made a huge difference in the comfort level of the bed. The faxed request that we sent before the cruise was lost, but the room steward was able to quickly obtain the mattress for us on the first day of the cruise. You should request this mattress quickly, as previous reviews have noted that they can run out.
Embarkation was an unmitigated disaster, but this was not at all due to any negligence on Princess' part. Port screening took 2-2 1/2 hours to clear due to a lack of availability of customs and security agents. Once customs was cleared, Princess quickly and efficiently processed its passengers for embarkation.
The glacier viewing was excellent, and we loved seeing the calving at Glacier Bay.
The food in the dining room was generally quite good, and some dishes were outstanding. On two days there were special seafood buffets, and both were excellent. Our waiter was highly knowledgable, and very efficient.
The most significant area that Princess needs to improve is the buffet. The food in the buffet is more limited than previous cruises (both Holland America, and surprisingly even Carnival had more buffet options). Most importantly, the cruise often chose to close half the dining room (leaving only either the food options on the port or starboard side open). This led to very long and frustrating lines to obtain food. Once you finish standing in line, it was then very difficult to find a table since there is not enough seating available inside. This may be less of an issue on the Panama trips, since is will be warm enough to eat outside. But on the Alaska cruises, it is often a bit too chilly to eat outside comfortably, and so there is a significant shortage of seating. I was also surprised that the doors leading from the buffet to the outside tables had handles that you need to turn to open. There are sliding glass doors elsewhere on the ship, so I was surprised that they did not chose to incorporate this design feature between the buffet and the outside tables. It is quite difficult to open doors when you are carrying food (and impossible if you have one plate of food in one hand, and a drink in the other). I hope that sliding glass doors will be utilized in new ships between the buffet station and outside tables.
The ports were excellent, and we had adequate time in all of the ports to enjoy many activities. In particular, we loved the Bering Sea Crab Fishermen's Tour in Ketchikan (which is fascinating and great for families), and the Temsco helicopter to Dog Sled camp in Skagway (please note that Temsco is the subcontractor for the helicopter tours for the cruise ships, and you can save 10% by booking directly through their company. Also, if you choose to visit a dog sled camp, please make sure you do it in Skagway, not Juneau since the weather is a bit more stable in Skagway. Also, please try to book your helicopter tour in the morning, since helicopter tours are often cancelled due to inclement weather. If your helicopter is scheduled for the morning, you will have a better chance of it being rescheduled for the afternoon, instead of the tour being cancelled outright. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that you will be able to participate in this amazing activity due to the unpredictable Alaskan weather).
I encountered some difficulties in trying to book a cruisetour. The website stated the A La Carte cruisetour was available on our intended travel date for $1800 per person, but when I called Princess to book the tour, I was told that the tour was sold out and that I could be put on the waiting list, but that we might be charged $2200 per person. The Princess phone representative stated that Princess did not know exactly what price it would be charging for wait-listed customers on the A La Carte Tour, and so they needed to quote the $2200 price even thought it was possible that the actual price of the tour would be less. I was surprised to learn that the tour was sold out, since other dates said Please call for pricing and availability instead of having a price listed, and I assumed that a date with a price would be available at the listed price. I was also surprised that Princess could not quote me an exact price for the tour, especially since their website listed a specific price for that exact date. Since we found the Princess' cruisetour pricing a bit confusing, we decided to travel to Denali on our own, and we really loved our independent tour.
We took the Alaskan Leopard Comedy Tour from Whittier to Anchorage, which stopped at the lovely Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center along the way. In Anchorage, we picked up the Alaska Park Motorcoach to take us from Anchorage to Denali. Please note that if you want to arrive in Denali on the same day you disembark from your cruise, your only option besides a Princess tour is to take the afternoon Alaska Park Motorcoach bus to Denali. It is a very long travel day, but you may prefer this to spending a night in Anchorage. In Denali, we stayed at the McKinley Chalets, which had very good food (including excellent pizza), is in a great location, and has adequate rooms. The hotels in Denali are only open 4 months a year, so they are all significantly more expensive than a comparable hotel in the continental US.
In Denali, we took the National Park Service's shuttle bus to Eielson Visitor Center, where we had a very lucky day and we were able to see a family of grizzly bears with cubs, a lynx, a family of gray wolves sleeping, a red fox, caribou, moose, Dall sheep, snowshoe hare, and a golden eagle. You might also consider taking the shuttle bus to Wonder Lake, which is supposed to be lovely and offer more wildlife viewing opportunities along the way. But we arrived in Denali one day before the bus to Wonder Lake started (which is June 8th in 2010). Please be very careful with checking the park services bus schedule, as you may be disappointed if you arrive in Denali before the buses are running (they generally begin shorter routes on June 1st, and add longer routes during the month of June). Private vehicles are only allowed partway into the park, so it is important to be aware of the bus schedule. Denali also has some very lovely hiking trails, and beautiful views of Mt. Mckinley (Denali) if you are lucky.
On the way back to Anchorage, we took the Alaska Railroad GoldStar train back, which was lovely and had an open air platform on the back of the train. They also have less expensive seating, but the views are not guaranteed. You can also save money by booking a ticket on the cruise line's trains, which will guarantee you a seat in a domed railcar. They will sell any extra railroad tickets they have, after seating the passengers on their cruisetours. Holland America's trains were less expensive than Princess', and you also might want to check with Celebrity, since I think that they have a new train car on the Alaska Railroad.
Overall, it was a lovely cruise, and we greatly enjoyed our time in Alaska. We would cruise again with Princess if we can find another cruise with a strong itinerary.
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