I took a Coral Princess Panama Canal cruise December 28 to January 7 with my daughter, son and daughter-in-law. We had a blast.
We were on Baja Deck (519), and my son and his wife were in the cabin next to us. They opened the partitions on the balcony for us, which was great. The cabin was spacious and beautiful, with more than enough storage space for two women. I do wish the shower had been larger; if you dropped the soap you would bang your head on the wall. It was like showering in a locker. The real trick was leaning against the wall to shave your legs -- it was quit comical.
One drawback to the cabin was the wind: If you opened the sliding door, it was like a wind tunnel when you opened the cabin door; everything would blow all over the room. One other thing -- there was a drainpipe on the balcony and it would flush very loudly occasionally or just trickle with water all the time.
The food in the Province Dining Room was outstanding; the desserts were not. Our waiters, Miguel from Mexico and his assistant Nikusur from Romania, were adorable and entertained us every night. If I started to order something and Miguel's eyes didn't sparkle, I knew better than to order it. Against all the advice not to give Christmas gifts, we did present them with NYC T-shirts and they were so happy and pleased.
Miguel ran down to his cabin and presented me with a beautiful hand-painted ceramic trinket box to show his appreciation. He said he has been cruising for 14 years, and it was the first gift he had ever received, and he was extremely appreciative. We also tipped above the automatic deduction. (We also presented a T-shirt to Jose, who took care of our cabin, and he too was grateful. He was so smitten with my daughter he would put two chocolates on her pillow every night.)
The food at the Horizon Court left a lot to be desired, but the desserts there were better. Pizza and hamburgers were great and so was the ice cream bar.
We had an outbreak of Norwalk Virus on our cruise. 50-plus people came down with it; the next morning the count was up to 60, and by the end of the cruise it was 90 or so. One elderly person was taken to the hospital. When you entered the buffet or dining rooms, you had to use an antiseptic hand wash and there was no longer any self-service in the buffet; you were not allowed to touch anything. Ship rails were wiped down constantly to sanitize them. The infected passengers were quarantined in their cabins. The last three nights of the cruise, we were not even allowed to have a bread basket on our table. And they stated that the next cruise was going to be the same -- no self service.
The cruise was pretty rough, with 12-foot waves and extremely high winds. My bed would vibrate and shake all night long on the windy days. One day they had to close the pool because the water was sloshing around so much. Speaking of the pools: Twice they had to be shut down and drained, because some thoughtless parent allowed their darling child in the pool and they had left floating specimens. And we wonder how viruses get started.
Ports of Call
Limon is poor and dirty, but the market by the ship had a lot of interesting things for sale. We did the Flores Tropical Garden tour; it was pretty nice, and at the end everyone was presented with a beautiful bouquet of native plants. We were also treated to a roadside stop for baby bananas that were out of this world.
New Years Eve was exciting. The atrium was filled with people on the stairs and halls waiting for the balloon drop at midnight. Some people got in the glass elevators and just rode them up and down until midnight. Out on deck they had another party; they wanted to have a huge streamer throw at midnight, but once the kids found the boxes of streamers – let's just say they were all tossed before midnight. And there was a huge downpour, but it didn't really bother the dancers. They only left the floor for about five minutes, then went back out and danced in the rain.
The Panama Canal was outstanding - I managed to be right in the front of the ship to watch everything. I don't think the experience would be the same from your balcony; you would miss the narrative and couldn't appreciate it as much. We did the Locks tour and eco-cruise, which I don't think was worth it, although the Chagris River is gorgeous. The town of Colon, where the ship docks, is dirty and poor just like Limon. The marketplace has lots of interesting things. My son and his wife did the Emberia Indian tour and raved about it.
Grand Cayman is still pretty devastated from the recent hurricane. You can see all the houses getting new roofs. Our tour guide said the locals who lost everything were given new furniture and appliances to get them back on their feet. One local I talked to said he still didn't have electricity. We did the submarine, rum cake factory, turtle farm and Hell tour. The sub was the best. Then we got a cab for $3 and my daughter and I went to Seven Mile Beach for a couple of hours. The beach is gorgeous and the sand is incredible.
Next we went to Cozumel - I loved it there. We did the Passion Island tour; I would suggest finding a cab and going the beach. It was a ride of more than an hour to get there, so we only had two hours to sit on the beach and eat lunch. When we got back to town we walked up and down streets and came across a beautiful market place. We didn't make Senor Frog's, but my son did and he could not believe what a party place it was. We had to leave Cozumel way too soon. The ship's departure was delayed for an hour because some passengers couldn't seem to make it back. So we were late the next morning docking at Belize.
Belize was just OK. I stayed around the port. My daughter did the Xunatunich Ruins tour and Marimba lunch at a hotel, and she loved it. My son and his wife took a water taxi for what they thought was a five-minute ride to the beach; it was actually a speedboat to some island. It took forever to get there and then it rained. They weren't happy about that, but they said the speedboat ride was crazy.
We experienced both rude and pleasant passengers. One teenager wanted a deck chair and the only one left was broken -- so he screamed at the deck attendant, "You work for me; just get me a chair." We had a couple at the next table who complained that the light over their table was out on the second formal night; the grumpy passenger said they were not going to sit down until the light was fixed. So there was our Miguel up on a chair trying to get a light bulb out of another socket to give them light. He couldn't get the light bulb out so the couple stormed out.
The people at the next table were extremely rude to Miguel. One young girl was always late; she expected to be caught up on the courses so she could eat with the rest, and they would keep Miguel in the dining room until after 11 p.m. On the last night, they wanted two more people to join their table but there really wasn't room, so they were not very pleasant. But overall, the other passengers were wonderful human beings, and we enjoyed talking to them.
That was our wonderful cruise - I hope you all enjoy reading it.