The following review is an account of our cruise January 12, 2004 on the Coral Princess sailing from Ft. Lauderdale Florida for 10 days in and out of the Panama Canal. My wife and I are Platinum members of the Princess Cruises repeaters program, as we have sailed on Princess seven times including this sailing. There were some good things and some bad things of which we shall attempt to point out and hopefully give you future cruisers something to think about, look forward to and avoid in your future travels. This was sailing number 33 for us.
Our trip started January 12, 2004. The embarkation process was very swift and pleasant. Our travel to the ship was by Cruise Connection Bus from Ft. Myers Fl. We boarded the bus at 8:00 am and arrived at Port Everglades at around 10:15. The building was not open for check in until about 11:00 am, so we waited outside in line for about an hour and a half. Once we got inside, it was very smooth. Lines moved fast and before you know it we were aboard. We were assigned cabin # A312 a verandah cabin located on Aloha deck. We had signed up for PERSONEL CHOICE dinning, as we had excellent experience on the Grand Princess, just a few months before. In fact this was the third sailing in which we taken PERSONEL CHOICE dinning. In reviewing the information in the cabin, we found a precautionary health advisory regarding Norwalk Virus. Our luggage came rather quickly and we were able to get unpacked and settled early in the day. So we then proceeded to the Horizon Room for lunch. The next thing on the agenda was the safety boat drill. We were assembled in one of the show rooms with life jacket in hand. The entire exercise took only a short time. Sail Away
That evening we went to a bar before dinner to have a drink. As we entered the dinning room, we were greeted by on of the staff. We requested a table for two. We were seated in a most uncomfortable table that had another table for two only 6 inches between them. The people at that table were looking for privacy, as were we. But we found none that evening. We did find a most attractive ship, well appointed and very elegant.
Day Two. Nassau
The day started of good, We had breakfast in the Horizon Court. While waiting for the ship to be cleared, we did a little more exploring. We found ourselves in the forward enclosed pool area. A really beautiful space on the ship. I also noticed a bar selling $3.00 Bloody Mary drinks. After about 15 minutes a young waiter stopped and asked if we wanted a drink. I said yes, we would like two of the $3.00 Bloody Mary drinks. He then asked what kind of vodka we wanted in them. I assumed we had a choice so I said we would take Stoli or Absolute. After a 30 minute wait, he returned with the drinks and I signed the ticket without looking, While drinking the drinks I reviewed the ticket and noticed they wee much higher about $6.00 each. I then went over to the bar tender, ticket in hand and asked her to explain, as there was a misunderstanding. She did explain that when you order a " called liquor" in a drink, it is much higher. I explained what had happened and what I had ordered, and she advised to come to her in the future. That evening we went to the Bayou Restaurant, one of the select extra cost dinning rooms. The meal was OK, until the desert came. The waiter brought my wife's desert and told me it would be a minute before mine came out. After a 30-minute wait and after my wife had finished her desert, and we did not see one waiter person, we left the restaurant, rather disappointed. We had paid $10.00 extra each for the dinner, plus $10.00 each for the day's tips. All in all, not a great experience.
Day Three and Four at Sea.
Days at sea were very pleasant, for the most part. We did experience two run ins with the Dinning Room Staff in our table selections for dinners, The second night a young fellow seated us next to the kitchen door, no doubt to retaliate for our complaining about the seating situation the night before. Again on one evening we went to the Martini Bar and requested two vodka martinis on the rocks made with absolute vodka. We got two gin martinis on the rocks made with bar gin, but charged extra for the called liquor. The second evening we went to the Explores Lounge to watch passengers Jeopardy show. We again ordered two drinks and mine was ok, but my wife's drink was again not what she had ordered. At that point, we gave up. It did seem the problem was a staff of waiters that were inexperienced and had a problem with the English language.
Day Five. Panama Canal
What an experience, We would recommend to everyone who has not seen it to do so. Additionally, we took a tour to Panama City. It was without a doubt, one of the most informative tours we have taken. This did make the trip worthwhile. It is a true marvel. One that each person should experience. The people are very friendly and the guides are really caring and informative. Well worth the money. When we returned to our cabin, again there was a new warning about Norwalk Virus from the Ships Doctor.
Day Six ,Limon Costa Rico
We had booked an early morning tour through and around the city of Limon. We had an early breakfast in the Horizon Court and made our way to the mustering area for the tour. We boarded a large bus, which ended up only half full. Our guide was a local female, who was not fluent in English. The bus pulled out and truly there is not much to see in this port. We stopped along the roadside to look at bananas with plastic bags covering them. And to look for monkeys in the trees at another location along side the road. Then all HELL broke loose. My poor wife had contracted the Norwalk Virus and lost everything from breakfast and likely dinner from the night before. We received little aid from the tour guide , And had to pay for a cab to return to the ship. The ship did send an ambulance to meet us in route back to the ship. The medical staff was very accommodating and provided us with medication and a list of do's and don'ts regarding the virus. The rest of that day we spent in our room. Food and drink were not issues
Day Seven, at Sea.
We spent day seven in our cabin and again, no interest in food. Surprisingly, we never heard from anyone in the Medical Office after our initial encounter.
Day Eight, Grand Cayman
We were again pretty much confined to our cabin, Our ship stopped in the harbor, but were called off. The Captain reported over the public address system, as the ship was sailing off, That the seas in the Harbor were too rough to unload passengers. I found that interesting, as at least one more ship was there, that did not sail away. Others reported that there were three ships in the harbor.
Day Nine, Cozumal
Finally, we were able to eat again and did take a cab downtown to do some shopping and get some air. Cozumal is a neat island and one of the best for anyone on a Western Caribbean Cruise. That evening at dinner, we were fortunate enough to meet some really nice passengers from New Jersey. We did end up in the dinning room and as luck would have it, we were seated at one of the 6-inch separated tables and they at the other. A most fortunate peace of luck for us.
Day Ten, at Sea.
We were instructed by the Medical Department not to eat in the Horizon Court on Lido Deck, as that invorment is conducive to the Norwalk Virus. The ship had the wait staff getting the food for you. All you did was walk around carrying your tray. The first day out they had positioned a device at the entrance and stationed an employee there to instruct all who entered to wave there hand under this bowl and a spray of some type disinfectant would drop. This you were to rub your hands together, and it would eliminate the virus from you hands. It probably worked well, but it was a bit too late to help most passengers who contracted the virus. In any event, the last day on board was a most pleasant one for us, although we were both quit wore out from the previous several days and the virus.
Day Eleven, Ft. Lauderdale
Our arrival at Port Everglades was welcome; we had really had enough at that point. The debarkation was smooth as usual with Princess Cruises. We were off the ship by 9:30am. We waited for over an hour before the Bus came and loaded us for the return trip to Ft. Myers. We finally arrived home in the afternoon.
The illness was just one of the many things that we experienced on this trip. I failed to mention that we had taken a seven-day cruise on the Grand Princess in September of 2003. That trip was altered by an approaching Hurricane. We had purchased the trip to go Eastern Caribbean and at the last minute the itinerary was switched to Western. This cruise was sold with the first port being Cartagena Columbia and it was dropped because of a restaurant bombing. I had called the Captains Circle Club just after I found out Cartagena had been dropped and spoke with a young lady who advised me that if I had a problem I should write a letter to Customer Services. I called my travel agent and she suggested and provided a telephone number for me to call. I did call and spoke with a nice young man. I explained that we had suffered disappointment when the Grand had to be re routed to the western Caribbean and now this one was already changing a port. He was very asymptotic and told me that all he could do was get us a cabin change and that we should expect to see the change come across the internet in about 7 to 10 days, We told him that would really be nice as we really enjoyed Princess Cruises and it would relieve some of the disappointment. We did not get the change in cabins. We did however, decide that we were not going to let that ruin our trip. It seemed to us that everything that could go wrong went wrong. From the Bar service, to the alternate dinning experience, to the Personal Dinning aggravation, and then topped off by the Virus and missing three days of our vacation. When we arrived home, I wrote a letter to Princess Cruises Customer Services Department explaining our concerns. It took one month to get a reply, and the Customer Services Representative said in the letter that they regret to learn of our illness and that it was an unfortunate situation caused by a very common illness currently prevalent in many areas and beyond the control of Princess Cruises and while they sympathize with our unfortunate experience, they find no negligence on the part of Princess Cruises and cannot offer compensation. We were flabbergasted, We had NOT expressed a desire for any compensation, and rather we were upset and disappointed do to the dropping of Ports of Call. The fiasco in Personal Choose Dinning, The desert situation in the Bayou alternative dinning room. The Bar Waiter Service that screwed up so many drinks and now the total lack of customer service when you have a problem or complaint. We also told him that we would likely not take Princess Cruises again, if a sincere apology were not forth coming. We also sent a letter to the CEO of Princess Cruises, to date, no apology has not come nor even an acknowledgement of receipt of our latest letter has surfaced. It has been almost 6 weeks. We can say that we enjoyed the first five cruises on Princess Cruises. And as long as things are good on board and you do not have a problem they do a very good job. But God forbid you have a complaint or problem, they will not deal with it. We are still waiting to hear from them. Likely, we will be a lot older and a lot grayer before we do. Also, They will be a lot older and grayer before we go on their lines again. It is a real shame that one or two representatives of an organization can totally turn a formerly great product into such a distasteful experience. We have very fond memories of our past accounts with Princess Cruises. It takes years to build a reputation and moments to destroy it.