This cruise began in Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida with a crescent moon and culminated in the Florida Straits with a total Lunar Eclipse. What happened in between is the substance of this review. There was nothing average about these ten days. From the first glimpse of the Coral Princess in port with her "gas turbine/diesel enviro engines installed above decks in the funnel, it is obvious that this ship is something different. When arriving in port our son Marcello asked, "are you sailing or flying?" This is an impressive, unique silhouette: polished steel structures, resembling jet engines, and steel stacks, perched atop a 15 deck tall ship!
This ship, built in Chantiers de l'Atlantique, St. Nazaire, France, is 964 ft. long, her beam is a Panamax 106 ft, her height is 204 ft. and with a draft of 27 ft, her maximum speed is 24 knots. There are 987 cabins including 20 wheel chair accessible (sq. footage between 217 - 374); 89% of all cabins are ocean view and 83% of these have balconies. Passenger capacity is 1,970 and the crew numbers 900. She is still in her inaugural year having been launched December 2002. Registry, of course, is Hamilton, Bermuda.
Since Princess is the union of two venerable lines: England's P&O (Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company) founded in 1840, and Italy's Sitmar Line established in 1913, her crews reflects these beginnings even today. When P&O purchased Sitmar in 1988, a new line emerged --- Princess. The Coral Princess' Captain Giorgio Pomata joined Sitmar in 1978, and has continued to serve on many Princess ships as Captain.
Crew members and customs reflect the Princess' origins. The serving of High Tea in the Bordeaux Dining Room every afternoon at 3:30 pm accompanied by the Delphinus Strings contributes to her very English atmosphere. The continental manners of the top Italian crew members, like Passenger Services Director Carlo Gunetti, from whom a formal greeting is customary (Ladies .."a kiss on the hand is quite continental"), and Maitre d' Generoso Mazzone, who overseas the ship's dining venues like a virtuoso conductor, generate an atmosphere of elegance and efficiency. Whilst the very British Cruise Director Trevor Bradford handles the passenger activities with great aplomb.
EMBARKATION Security was evident at Port Everglades when we arrived at 11:30 am. Embarkation started at noon. There were crew members on the dock to assist with the wheel chair and the pre entered data sheets helped to expedite the processing. The on board credit/cabin key card is a handy system. We were in our cabin within 30 minutes --- which is quite excellent.
The expansive "Welcome On Board" Buffet was appetizing; however, we tend to avoid buffets, so we ate on Lido Deck 14 at the Princess Pizza (very crispy, thin and excellent). During embarkation, personnel were stationed at all elevators providing directions and a welcoming atmosphere. Our luggage was in our room by 1:30 pm. Very efficient!
SHIP'S PUBLIC AREAS Passengers enter the ship on deck 5, into the Princess Plaza. The "Under the Seas " theme juxtaposes the Coral Princess' motto "Over the Seas." There are murals of crustaceans, black and white whales, and coral formations, as well as bubbling cylindrical glass fountains. A cascade of stainless steel flows down four flights from Deck 8, while an impressionistic stainless steel boat acts as a net for marine shapes and both are illuminated with changing colors. Each separate level of this four deck atrium affords areas for cocktails bars, coffee bars and entertainment.
Plaza Deck 5 forward is the Bordeaux dining Room. This walnut wood paneled room has several very nice paintings, square walnut columns with brass trim and a ceiling with white twinkling lights over head. The Fili D'Oro linens used in the dining rooms are a nice touch. Midship is the Passenger Service Desk, Tour Desk and the Patisserie Coffee Shop, serving specialty coffees, teas and pastries. Then, there is a series of mostly outside staterooms and just a few inside cabins.
Fiesta Deck 6 forward is the Provence Dining Room. Toward midship are the onboard shops and the entrance to the Princess Casino flanked by two red coated, beaver hatted, tall Buckingham Palace Guards. The Casino has carpeting depicting Beefeaters, Big Ben, among other London scenes. Among red painted telephone booths, passengers play Hyde Park Poker, Buckingham Palace Blackjack and other charmingly named games of chance. Going toward aft is the expansive Explorers' Lounge. It is off a wonderful corridor with windows to the sea and mosaic green, tan and white pillars forming a six arch arcade in front of the lounge. The carpeting depicts African animals, and the walls display several murals with exotic scenes (Asian, Turkish, Egyptian, Ethiopian, etc.).
All the way aft on Deck 6 is the Universe Lounge with its wide, wide, revolving and elevating stage, which is a fitting place for on board extravaganzas. However, the brass rails on its upper level obstruct the view of performers. These are soon to be replaced with glass. Look for the interestingly lighted two deck bar in the rear.
Promenade Deck 7 forward is the Princess Theatre. This simple, open room has a perfect view of the stage from every seat. Its walls are covered in gold and maroon suede. Go early or you may not get a seat. Walk toward midship to see the Wheelhouse Bar, a beautiful dark walnut paneled room with a huge brass and copper light as a centerpiece. The tables are drop leaf with brass fittings, brass wall sconces and dark green and brown leather furniture complete the decor. The carpeting is blue depicting continents, oceans and sailing ships. The walls hold many ship memorabilia and paintings of ships like the 1950 "Chusan" of P&O.
The Wheelhouse corridor entrance is flanked by two wooden ship's figureheads: One a female in a black sarong and the other a naval officer with gold epaulettes. These evoke images of the South Seas.
Mid ship is the Crooner's Lounge with pictures of the "Rat Pack" (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. etc...). Here you may purchase a martini in a Sinatra souvenir glass. There is also the Churchill Lounge where cigars and spirits can be enjoyed. Mid ship, on the port side is a beautiful wedding Chapel where couples may be married in international waters by the Captain.
Going toward aft is Sabatini's, the upscale Italian restaurant, which in this class ships is larger and more elegant than the "Sabatini's Trattoria" of the Grand class ships. Then, there also is the Bayou Cafe with its brick walls, New Orleans Jazz and Cajun cuisine. All the way aft, on this deck, is the balcony of the Universe Lounge. Outside is the wrap around Promenade with lounge chairs for reading or watching the waves.
Emerald Deck 8 has the Library, the Card Room and the Internet Cafe with world stock trade information, all of which are clustered around the central elevators. Then, both forward and aft are staterooms, some categories with balcony and some with obstructed view.
Dolphin Deck 9, Caribe Deck 10, and Baja Deck 11 are all staterooms and suites, mostly with balconies and some inside cabins.
Aloha Deck 12 is mostly staterooms with balcony and a few inside cabins, except for aft, where are located the Pelican Children's Pool & Playhouse (ages 2-7 yrs), the Fun Zone (ages 8-12 yrs) and the Off Limits Teen Center (ages 13 -17 yrs). As you can see the young people have their own well supervised facilities.
Lido Deck 14 forward has the Horizon Court (24 hr) Buffet Restaurant seating 386, which is quite crowded at peak times. Outdoors are the Princess Pizza, Lido Bar, Lido Swimming Pool, three whirlpools, and the Haagen Daz ice cream bar. Towards aft is the Solarium Lotus Pool area with its retractable dome and a swim-against-the-current pool and two small whirlpools. Excellent before 9:30 am, when you may have it all to your self. The decor is relaxing: a statue of a young Buddha overlooks the pool and there is a white gazebo on the end. Aft is the Lotus Spa and the Fitness Center.
Sun Deck 15 has a Princess Link mini golf course and the Golf Simulator with some of the world's most renown courses featured. It also holds the Outdoor Grill serving hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, etc....
Sports Deck 16 has a Splash Pool, a Center Court for sports with space for spectator seating, Shuffle Board and the Deck Chess Set.
FOOD & SERVICE Passenger Services Director Carlo Gunetti has this ship running like a precise time piece: The service is fast and friendly. For instance, a screw broke on Vincent's wheelchair during boarding and Ronan Amaral, Jr. Asst. Purser, supplied us with a temporary wheelchair while he had Vincent's fixed over night. He was very helpful, and we appreciate his thoughtfulness. Throughout the ship we always received courteous and prompt service with a smile!
The "Anytime Dining Program" means that there is more to do for the Maitre d' Generoso and the Head Waiters, since there is no longer a fixed time and table for many cruisers: thus, reservations and seating is an ongoing activity. We happen to recognize Head Waiter Pasquale Marino from previous cruises, but on the Coral he was magnificent. Generoso and his staff pleasantly greeted the passengers at the dining room door and outdid themselves in accommodating everyone's request in the best possible way. Moreover, the Maitre d' himself went from table to table assuring that everything was perfect.
At Table #20 for two, we enjoyed some of the finest meals. At lunch, our waiter, Elisa Dumitrescu was always cordial and efficient as was the asst. waiter Sandor Lorincz. Every evening our waiters Gerardo De Leon and his Asst. Larry Gutierez were top notch. We know this wonderful service is mainly due to the instructions of Generoso and Pasquale. We surely received special attention. They helped us in selections from the kitchen and their recommendations were always excellent. Thank you for the many great delicacies. Bravi! The International Menu offers splendid choices; there is a lot of reading. We thoroughly enjoyed this Gastronomic Tour. Executive Chef Michael Borns, his Sous Chef Giuseppe and the Pastry Chef Cosimo (Sicily) did three "Culinary Demonstrations," two of which we attended. Princess Lines has three Corporate Executive Chefs, and seventeen Executive Chefs, thirteen of which are Italian, including our old friend Antonio Cereda. The gustatory delights we sampled were outstanding and here are some of our recommendations:
SAILAWAY DINNER: Shrimp Cocktail; Cream of Porcini Mushroom Soup; Watercress and lettuce salad, and Nebraska Prime Rib.
CAPTAIN'S WELCOME DINNER: Crab Quiche with jalapeno chili salsa; Capon broth, tortellini with minced chives; Mixed salad with arugula; Lobster Thermidor or Royal Pheasant with shallots and Parisienne potatoes.
PRINCESS DINNER: Cold water Lobster & Crayfish Cocktail with sun dried tomatoes; Chilled Cream of Zucchini with William pear and blue poppy seeds; Endive salad with mushrooms and shallots; Roast Buffalo slowly cooked in Napa Valley Red Wine sauce with potato pancake and baby vegetables.
FRENCH DINNER: Pate de fois de Strassbourg; Escargot Bourguignon (cooked in Bourdeaux wine); French onion soup; Mixed garden greens and radicchio with vinaigrette; Caneton Roti a` l'Orange (Roast duckling glazed with Orange Curacao sauce).
ITALIAN DINNER: Prosciutto di Parma with melon; Eggplant Parmigiana; Pasta e fagioli; Salad of baby spinach, crispy bacon, pine nuts and Pecorino cheese; Pappardelle al Sugo di Lepre (Flat egg noodles with rabbit sauce).
INTERNATIONAL DINNER: Baby leeks with smoked salmon in Champagne sauce; Won Ton soup; Salad of lettuce, tomato, avocado and red onion; Penne pasta with calamari; Surf & Turf of Filet Mignon and Jumbo grilled shrimp.
CHEF'S DINNER: Green asparagus spears in warm tarragon butter sauce under puff pastry; Lobster bisque with Cognac; Salad of field greens, cherry tomatoes and shredded carrot; King crab legs or Rack of Lamb Dijonaisse with Brussels sprouts and garlic mashed potatoes and mint jelly.
These menus do not list the "piece de resistance" DESSERT. There is such a variety, that we will only name a few of our favorites:
* Swan puffs on a heart shaped lake of melted chocolate. * All of the Soufflés, vanilla, chocolate, raspberry, hazelnut and their accompanying sauces. * Almond mousse with custard -- ooh la la! * Sorbets, sherbets and ice creams are all made on board and are delicious. * Pecan pie, apple pie, and pear tart --- do not miss them. * Dark chocolate mousse, heart shaped with Lady Godiva liqueur, Tiramisu and NY cheesecake are served every day. * Many fruits, international cheeses and delicate petit fours are served daily.
The dining room staff are beautifully dressed every night: Nile green dinner jackets, Red, White & Blue cummerbunds with stars and matching ties. The Maitre d' Generoso looks spiffy in his pin stripe trousers and black cut away. Head waiter Pasquale was sharp in the white tuxedo with shawl lapels. What more can we say? As Executive Chef Borns said, "Food is a feast for the eyes as well as the palate." The English Rose dinnerware was the palette for the plating of excellent culinary masterpieces.
We also dined in Sabatini's whose decorations were refined and lovely. The long parade of antipasti made the main course seem anticlimactic; however, we still managed to enjoy the veal chop and the fritto misto frutti di mare (mixed seafood, langostino, shrimp, scallops etc., etc...). This made for a very enjoyable evening, overlooking the sea with wonderful background music.
CABIN Our Stateroom # C627, wheelchair accessible, has a double wide door and when entering on the left there is a triple armoire with two closets, and a third with shelves, and a personal safe. Next, there is a TV, and a desk/mirrored vanity with hair dryer, and two chairs. When entering on the right there is a huge bathroom with 5x5 ft. shower and many safety rails in the proper places. The triple mirror is nice, but the shelves are small. There is a queen bed, two four drawer night stands and an end table.
The far wall is glass with the ramp and door to the double balcony. There was a large table and two chairs to which our terrific Steward Henry Sebastian added a chaise for Vincent. Henry was excellent in every way. Accommodations Supervisor Dorota Bak (Poland) visited us just to check if we needed anything. She was very courteous and we appreciated it. Thank you.
ENTERTAINMENT The Coral Princess has many venues similar to the larger Grand class ships, but it is smaller and carries fewer passengers. The Princess Theatre Production shows were nicely staged, (but could use a sound check, since the decibel rate was too high at times). We preferred the Universe Lounge, where the Premier Season of "Tribute" was performed on the extra wide stage, while making good use of its rotation and elevation capabilities. The show was dedicated to music legends such as the following: the Beatles ("Hey Jude"), the Beach Boys ("California Girl"), The Rat Pack (Frank, Dean and Sammy were all highlighted), and finally Cher's "Believe" was saluted. The singers were terrific and the Princess dancers were energetic. The same cast performed "Da Beat" a Jazz/Swing piece.
Most shows were staged twice to give cruisers a chance to see them. We especially enjoyed Tony Cherry, a singing impersonator, who did a memorable Tom Jones and other imitations.
The "Princess Patter" lists all daily activities, plus has a column from the Ship's Navigator which is informative both historically and geographically. It also gives the current ship's position. Other activities were Trivia, at which we each won 5 gold medals and 6 silver for Mary and 7 silver for Vincent. There is also line dancing, Bingo, horse races, and daily movies (i.e. "Bruce Almighty," "Alex and Emma," "Plots with a View,"), etc. The Princess Scholarship Program is new and offers the following classes: Pottery, Digital Photography, Building Wealth Investing, and the Princess Grapevine wine tasting.
All of the above is under the stewardship of the affable Cruise Director Trevor Bradford, and he is up to the task. Princess also has a Captain's Circle Program which has many benefits for repeat cruisers. On board Host Nicola Fisher was helpful and explained many of the perks: a Quarterly, preferential pricing, stand by, platinum check in, on board events etc. It pays to return to Princess. We expect to return soon, since we have booked on board three future cruises!
PORTS OF CALL
Oct. 30, 2003 Port Everglades, Ft Lauderdale, Florida, Depart 5:00 pm Oct. 31, 2003 At Sea Nov. 1, 2003 Cozumel, Mexico -- Arrive: 6:59 am Depart: 4:26 pm Some of the available shore excursions: Tulum Mayan Ruins, 7 hrs, $94; New Waves Scuba Diving, 2.5 hrs, $75, for beginners. Nov. 2, 2003 Grand Cayman -- Arrive: 10:00 am Depart: 6:36 pm Island Highlights & Stingray Sandbar Snorkeling, 4.5 hrs, $64; Atlantis Submarine Odyssey, 1.5 hrs, $86. Nov. 3, 2003 At Sea Nov. 4, 2003 Limon, Costa Rica -- Arrive: 6:27 am Depart: 6:56 pm The Jungle Train, 3.5 hrs, $49, a ride through the lush rain forest; River Rafting, 7.5 hrs, $99. Nov. 5, 2003 Panama Canal -- Arrive: 5:46 am Depart: 7:26 pm One hour and 42 minutes to traverse the Gatun Locks; Cruising in Gatun Lake (the world's largest man made lake), There was a a perfect rainbow off starboard side, which we saw from our balcony as we ate breakfast; We arrived at Colon's Cristobal Cruise Terminal at 4:06 pm, but were not allowed into the city because of political demonstrations. There is great shopping on the pier (coffee, T-shirts, Panama hats, etc...) Nov. 6, 2003 At Sea Nov. 7, 2003 Ocho Rios, Jamaica -- Arrive: 12 noon Depart: 4:18 pm Prospect Plantation & Dunn's River Falls, 4 hrs, $62; River Tubing Safari, 3.5 hrs, $69. Nov. 8, 2003 At Sea Nov. 9, 2003 Port Everglades -- Debarkation: 9:00 am
SUGGESTIONS 1. During the Welcome Aboard Buffet, at the Horizon Court some crew should direct the passengers to the various food stations thus minimizing the long line formed at the first station near the entrance. This long line occurs mainly on the first day, when new passengers are unaware of the several food stations which can be accessed independently.
2. At the Princess Theater the last row of seats and the area behind it should be reserved for people with wheelchair and those with limited mobility as well as the persons accompanying them. The reserved area should be supervised by a theater attendant before the beginning of shows.
CONCLUSION Princess remains one of our favorite cruise lines. We are now Platinum Members of the Captain Circle, the Princess "Frequent Floaters" Club. We have already booked with Princess three future cruises; however, before we'll be back on a Princess ship, we must complete the next three cruises in the near future: The Southern Caribbean on the new Serenade of the Seas, Dec. 6 - 13, 2003; the Western Caribbean on the new Costa Mediterranea, Jan. 11 - 18, 2004; and the W. Caribbean again on the new Mariner of the Seas, Feb. 22 - 29, 2004. As you may have noticed we love cruising and we especially favor new ships, which we can first explore and write about. We plan to write reviews of our next cruises, so look for them at the appropriate time. We wish you Great Holidays and Happy Cruising