Princess Cruises - Cruisemates Reader's Cruise Reviews
CruiseMates' Readers Cruise Reviews
Princess Cruises

Coral Princess
by TravelBugs
Panama Canal
February 7, 2007

Since all aspects of cruising is based on personal preference, and everyone has varying expectations, you should take every review with a grain of salt. Overall, we enjoy Princess cruises for the value, knowing that there are no luxury accommodations, gourmet meals or well-known entertainers. But, there is the enjoyment of being on vacation, doing as much or as little as you wish, getting a flavor of different countries/islands and enjoying the travel to each new port while the captain and his bridge crew are responsible for getting us there safely, meeting and enjoying the company of fellow passengers and enjoying all the onboard activities - the Princess Patter was a guide to planning our daily activities. Our vacations have not always been on cruise ships, and there will always be aspects of travel that will be unpalatable, but none so horrible as to keep us from cruising again. Even the incessant barrage of sales tactics can be easily ignored or politely refused.

10 night Itinerary: Ft Lauderdale, At Sea, Cozumel, Grand Caymen, at Sea, Limon, Panama Canal/Cristobal, at sea, Montego Bay, at sea, Ft Lauderdale

Ship
The ship was beautiful and had an impressive atrium. It was a nice size ship and well maintained. We stayed in D206 (Forward, Dolphin Deck, port side). The room was adequate for us. We had plenty of space for our belongings. Room safe was useful. The bathroom was very small. The shower, with humor, is tolerable - don't drop the soap! The balcony was fully covered and had a "partially obstructed view." There was a partial wall which blocked half of the balcony. But, it still allowed us to stand and view the trip through the Canal. It also afforded some shade from the sun.

We saw a beautiful Valentines Day display in the atrium and outside the Horizon Court.

They took hygiene seriously and were constantly pushing the use of hand sanitizer and telling us to frequently wash our hands, use our cabin bathroom whenever convenient, etc. Thankfully, there were no outbreaks of Noro viruses. I'd like to sail the Coral again to enjoy the things we missed.

Entertainment/Onboard Activities
We attended a comedy magic show in the Universal Lounge (Greg Moreland) and two comedians in the Princess Theater which were very funny (Billy Vader & Scott Wyler). I enjoyed Dr. Lawrence Hall's lecture "The Incredible Mayans." We attended two cooking demonstrations by onboard chefs in the Universal Lounge. The second was more of a comedy show. The chef demonstrated his skill rolling out dough with a wine bottle. We took a tour through the galley. We would have enjoyed it more if smaller groups were taken through at a more leisurely paceóbut, at least we got a peek of what goes on behind those shiny revolving doors! We attended a wine tasting (about $10 per person) which was held in the Bordeaux dining room. I thought it was very nicely done, but a bit rushed. We enjoyed Greg Watson, the piano entertainer in Crooners Lounge. If you meet Philip bartending in Crooners, ask him about his first day as a cruise ship employee. He had us in stitches! We watched a martini-making demonstration and the Mr. was a participant in the festivities! We tried our luck in the casino. The Mr. broke even and I left my deposit. I'm not a big gambler so it wasn't much of a loss. We enjoyed the pool & spas. Also enjoyable were our gatherings on the Lido deck with fellow passengers to shoot the breeze, have a cocktail or two and share a few laughs.

Dining
The Bordeaux dining room was very spacious and the seating at even the largest tables was comfortable. Service was better some nights than others. The food was good with a decent variety each night. It was our first time with "anytime" dining. We like the concept and enjoyed meeting new people every night. We experienced long waiting lines on three occasions, but once we got inside the door and said we'd like to be seated at any open table, we were seated immediately. The staff sporadically checked diner's cards to ensure they were "anytime" diners. We never made reservations. We thought it defeated the purpose of the concept. Reservations are allowed, which some passengers used to their full advantage at the expense of other "anytime" diners. We heard a group made multiple reservations at various time intervals for the same night under each of their cabin numbers, but only used the reservation at the time that was most convenient for them. I did mention this in the end-of-cruise questionnaire and hope Princess finds a way to eliminate multiple reservations and only accept diners who have signed up for "anytime" dining. But, until they work the "kinks" out of "anytime" dining, we will use the late Traditional seating for our next cruise.

We usually had breakfast in the Horizon. Lunch either in the Horizon, the grill or pizza, dinner in the Bordeaux dining room or the Bayou (one night).

The first formal night we had dinner in the Bayou with our delightful dinner companions we met the first night of the cruise. The ambiance was nice and the meal was decent.

Ports
We only did shore excursions in two ports. The other port days we spent relaxing in the lounge chairs,near the Lido pool, which are scarce when all passengers are on board. We enjoyed the swimming pool and spa and enjoyed time with other passengers we met on deck.

Cozumel, Mexico: Our shore excursion was a Mexican cuisine cooking and tasting. We took a short bus trip to Playa Mia, where we were paired up with a nice couple, Chuck & Diane. An entertaining young chef guided us through our edible creations, as we sipped our margarita. During the cooking class, a heavy rainstorm passed through, but we stayed dry as we were under their new pavilion. We enjoyed eating our culinary delights with a glass of wine. We were also impressed that cleanliness and hygiene were stressed before starting the cooking class. They had a portable sink where everyone washed their hands before the class began. The portable cooking stations were immaculately clean. They also had a buffet and beach bar which was available to us during our stay. We brought our swimsuits and towels and had a bit of time to enjoy the beach before we had to catch the bus back to the ship. We really enjoyed the day!

Grand Cayman: We booked the "Island Highlights & Stingray City" shore excursion. We were disappointed that the Stingray City portion of the excursion was cancelled. But, they credited our account for one-half the cost of the shore excursion. We got conflicting stories from the Princess excursion staff why it was cancelled. It was beyond our control and didn't spoil our day on the island. We boarded a bus and rode around the island as the bus driver pointed out various places and a bit of the island history. We stopped briefly at 7-mile beach. Next we stopped in "Hell" which had a gift shop with the proprietor behind the cash register dressed as a devil. In the back of the property is black coral in jagged shapes. It looked like rock formations that would be found in hell. A popular picture opportunity was standing next to a wooden statue of the devil. You can send mail from "Hell" which will bear the postmark from "Hell." The bus driver explained there was major damage from Hurricane Ivan. The side of the building in "Hell" indicated how high the water became from the flooding. Our bus driver said that he is thankful to be alive because he spent a night hanging onto a tree. Next was a stop at the Tortuga Rum Factory store which was very crowded. We relaxed on the back porch while the crowd thinned and then sampled some rum and rum cake. Yes, I bought some delicious rum cake! Our last stop was the turtle farm. Our bus driver gave us a nice tour around the turtle farm explaining the history, purpose, and improvements being made to the facilities. Everyone was able to hold a turtle. Our guide said that if they start flapping their flippers to just rub under their chin and they will settle down. It worked! Another nice day, and an island we hope to enjoy again in the future. Maybe next time we'll take a cab to 7-mile beach.

Panama Canal Transit
This is the main reason we chose this itinerary. We were up early and enjoyed the transit through the locks into Gatun Lake from our balcony. We watched our transit from Gatun Lake back to the sea from the Horizon court. We were fortunate to share a table with one of our previous dinner companions. We had a great view and kept cool while we indulged in some excellent desserts. I did get a few good pictures of the canal from one of the side staircases, without the blue windshields blocking the view. We enjoyed the history & marvel of the canal. This trip was another travel wish of ours fulfilled!

Embarkation/Disembarkation
Embarkation was a breeze until we were halfway up the gangway. There was some sort of snafu where folks with blue cards weren't being accepted by the scanner. We were asked to move back down the gangway. Not too long of a wait before we were told to proceed up for boarding.

Disembarkation is a bit slower, but part of the cruise experience. After we located our bags in the sea of baggage---shame on us, only one of our bags had a special identifying "dohickey"---, we had a porter take our bags to our waiting bus. A few dollars for the porter services is well worth it!

Princess Air
We opted for the convenience of having someone else take care of the reservations. The trip down was fine. The scheduled return trip was a bit convoluted: bus from the shipin Ft. Lauderdale to Miami Airport, Miami to Orlando on American, switch to Delta in Orlando to Atlanta, Atlanta to Myrtle Beach. Our flight out of Miami was delayed two hours and 15 minutes, causing us to miss our connection in Orlando. We were booked on another airline through Charlotte and touched down in Myrtle Beach sometime after 11:30 pm. We put in a claim for our missing luggage and received it two days later. But, we are counting our blessings that the luggage wasn't lost on our way to the ship! We've booked our own flight arrangements for our next cruise.

Conclusion
We love cruising and are doing it all over again on the Emerald Princess next Valentine's Day!