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We returned a few days ago from a 10-day Panama Canal cruise on the Coral Princess. I know that the ship is relocating to Alaska now so I won't bother with specific details of the itinerary. But I do want to give some impressions of the ship, based on the questions we had and questions I saw posted before we left on our cruise.
First, the ship is really wonderful. It's a very nice blend of the Sun Class ships (such as the Dawn or Sun Princess) and the Grand Class ships (such as the Grand and Golden Princess). The following were things that seem worth noting:
1. On this ship, the Deck 7 Promenade Deck does have the outside wraparound deck with the wonderful large teak lounge chairs. This is very similar to the Sun Class ships. The difference on this sailing was that rarely did people use this area, and lounge chairs were always available here. Honestly, we just assumed people didn't realize there were actually lounge chairs outside on this deck!
2. The layout of the shopping area in the center of the ship seems much less crowded than the Grand Class ships. While I know many people love the Grand Princess and its sisters, we found those ships to be a little more commercial than other ships, meaning you practically had to walk through shops to get anywhere. The Coral Princess has a better layout---of course this is just our opinion!!
3. The Pizzaria is different here than the Sun Class ships in that it is located on the upper pool deck near the Burger Bar rather than a separate eating area in the middle of the ship. Both the Pizzaria and Burger Bar are only open until 6pm. There is an alternative Italian restaurant on this ship but there is a $10 cover charge if you choose to dine there.
4. The casino on the Coral Princess has many more nickel slot machines than the previous ships we have been on. Plenty of quarter machines too. There are also several penny slots, which were always very crowded. And there were many dollar slot machines, most of which were not being played. But this casino is laid out very nice, with a London theme throughout. The one slight downside seemed to be less ventilation in the casino, and the cigarette smoke would get pretty bad for those who don't smoke.
5. We had a mini-suite on the Caribe deck (Deck 10). C229 to be exact. I had seen postings referring to possible noise troubles in this area of the ship before we left on our cruise. Additionally, we had friends directly across from us (via a small hallway) in C228. Both rooms were extremely quiet, except for the normal creaking sounds of a ship during rougher sea days. I can't speak for other rooms around us; however, I never heard anyone complaining about noise nearby and we did speak to others that were in rooms near us. Also, this front part of the ship is very convenient to the Horizon Court (3 floors up), as well as having easy access to other public areas.
6. The mini-suite balconies in our area on the Caribe deck were a bit larger than the regular balconies we have had on other Princess ships, and most all the balconies from C231 forward were completely covered. The only drawback with these balconies is that the two connecting panels between the neighboring balconies on either side had a couple of inches of spacing between the two side panels. This made it only slightly less private as you could easily tell whether people were on their balcony next to yours and it was very easy to hear others talking while outside. Still, the larger balcony was great...and in this area of the ship, you cannot see up or down into balconies above or below you, which was nice.
7. Even though we were toward the front of the ship, there was no noticeable difference in rocking motion when the sea was rough.
8. The Internet Cafe was very nicely laid out, with 10 to 12 computer stations. You just swipe your stateroom card at a terminal and it automatically opens up Internet access and charges it to your account. There was no need for personnel to be there to check you in and out as on older ships. And as Princess Platinum members, it was even better when our Internet charges were credited back to us each evening for the free Internet access!
9. We did use the laundromat facilities at the other end of our floor. I believe there were five washer/dryer combos in this room. We never saw it crowded, and the washers and dryers worked really well. Each washer has a timer which tells you how much longer it will be, so you know exactly your load will be done. I assume other floors had a similar set up.
10. We've never had problems with food on Princess ships, and this was no exception. Actually, we found the desserts on this ship (at the buffet specifically) were better than any previous cruises we have sailed. The Horizon Court (buffet) could get pretty crowded at peak times during breakfast and lunch, but the lines rarely backed up at all. One thing we noticed that was different on this ship was fewer tables for 4 in the Horizon Court area. Most tables were for 6 people which made for lots of wasted space when only 2 to 4 people were eating together!
11. While I know it can be a hot topic here, there seemed to be a few more people NOT dressing up for dinner on both "formal nights" and "smart casual nights." We saw more people in shorts and more casual attire throughout the ship during the evenings. For us, this was not a problem. If we like to dress up, that's all that matters to us! If others want to be more casual, it's their vacation too. And while it might have upset some, I never heard others complaining about people being too casual at night.
12. The Lotus Pool area at the back of the ship has a retractable roof that they open in nice weather. This pool was designated for "Adults Only" which was very nice for those of us with no children. Even when there were lots of people in this area, it never seemed too crowded. Also, there is a very nice area at the very back of the Caribe Deck (and I assume other decks as well) with a number of pool-type lounge chairs that was a great private area for being outside, and for seeing where the ship has been!
While I know the Coral Princess is no longer in Fort Lauderdale for the season, I do want to mention that the embarkation and disembarkation processes were nearly flawless at Port Everglades. Something new since our last cruise was not having to stand in a long line on board ship to go through Immigration on our return. The line would always snake its way down the entire ship, causing lots of stress for those who don't like to wait in lines. The new procedure has Immigration checking your passport once you are off the ship and in the terminal building, which makes so much more sense. You then proceed to get your luggage, then on through Customs and on to your taxi/shuttle/car. It took less than 5 minutes from the time we left the ship, found our luggage, went through Customs, and were in a cab to the airport. We were at the airline terminal before 9am.
Hopefully, this will answer a few questions that people might have about the Coral Princess. But keep in mind, it's all relative. Others might have different opinions than ours, which is not a bad thing!!
Jack, thank you so much for this post! We are going on the Coral July 10 for an Alaska cruise, and many of the items you mentioned are of interest to me. The laundry, for instance: we are hoping to get by with a few fewer items in the suitcase by using the laundry. (I understand it's $.75 per load, right?)
Your report gives us even more confidence that we chose the right ship for us. Thanks!
Stella Solaris '80
Carnival Celebration '92
RCCL Majesty of the Seas '01
Coral Princess '04
Thank you very much for your review. I'm on the same repositioning sailing in 2005 that the Coral is doing right now, so my one year count down for all my excitement has started with your excellent review. Thanks again
Sky Princess - 1997 West Coastal
Sea Princess - 2001 Western Caribbean
Sea Princess - 2002 Alaska
Reposition Cruise - Transcanal
Coral Princess April 27, 2005
Thanks so much for your informative review. We will be on the Coral in August and, in fact, will have the same stateroom as you! We will be traveling with our college aged sons and we are hoping that the mini-suite will be comfortable for the four of us.
The balcony is of interest to me. I was glad to hear that it is covered. That may be a plus in Alaska. I was wondering if you thought 4 chairs would fit out there? We were thinking that we would probably ask the steward to bring a couple extra chairs so that we could all sit out and watch the scenery if we wanted to.
Loved your review. We will be on the Coral for New Year's Eve. We will be on Baja deck, pushed out section in the middle. I know that there is the Italian restaurant that is extra, but what other extras do you pay for? (I am not talking about the stores, photos etc, but more about food and drinks). I have heard that ice cream in the afternoon is a separate charge. Is this true? I would like to hear your thoughts about the ports too.
12/04 Coral Princess
4/09 Monarch of the Seas
6/03 Carnival Conquest
3/03 4/02 Carnival Ectasy
8/02 Radisson: Paul Gaugin
8/01 Rhapsody of the Seas
6/00 Carnival Fascination
We will be on the Coral on her 26/6 sailing. There are a few things that I wanted to know:
- How much are the coin-operated laundry, & how much are the washing powder/softening agent?
- How much does internet access cost, & the bandwidth of the service?
Glad my review is helping a few people. Let me try to address some of the new questions...
1. The balcony had two chairs and a nice-sized round table. Two more regular chairs could fit although it could be a little tight. I think you would still be comfortable though. Again, I can only speak for the balconies in the area of the ship where we were located. If you have C229, you will love it!
2. Laundry costs....gosh, it's been less than a week since we did it yet we've already forgotten the costs! I believe the washer cost was $1 a load....the detergent and softener boxes are also a $1 each. I know the dryer was no more than $1 but I am not sure if might have been 50 or 75 cents! Just know it is no more than $1! We packed WAY TOO MUCH stuff...ended up washing the things we enjoyed wearing the most and not even using half our packed clothes! I had to write down what I actually wore so I will believe it next time I am packing for a 10-day warm weather cruise! Again, the washer and dryers work great...fast and efficient. Also there is a change machine in the laundry (at least on Caribe deck) so you can get quarters if you need them. Also, the quarter sized tokens from the casino work--actually the change machine gave us a couple of them. Not a problem.
3. Cruise Director was Brian Price....his assistant's name was Martin.
4. While there is a separate ice cream bar near the Lotus pool that you pay for ice cream, the Horizon Court offered "free" ice cream during the afternoon "snack" time...I believe after 3pm until around 5pm. There was always two choices of flavors, along with several toppings.
5. In addition to the Italian restaurant, there was also a cajun place, the Bayou Cafe, that required a $10 per person charge. You can get a "soda card" at the beginning of the cruise for $25 each, and have all the sodas you want throughout the cruise. Otherwise, sodas cost a couple of dollars each. Alcoholic drinks are of course extra....typical "bar" prices. Just know that if you order "LARGE" drinks, the prices do get steep. I think a large rum punch (and I am talking about a huge iced-tea type of glass) would cost around $9. Beer and wine were anywhere from $3 to $6 each, depending on what you ordered.
6. The Internet Cafe charges 35-cents a minute for access. The bandwidth varied because it is obviously a satellite connection. There were times it was reasonably fast, while other times it would crawl. I must admit that we didn't pay close attention to the price or whether it was slow since we are Platinum Princess members and the Internet was free for us. Although signs say that Princess is not responsible for any slow connection speeds (as the clock ticks at 35-cents a minute!), I did hear a few people say they got the Passenger Services Desk to refund them if a connection was not working for them and they immediately signed off.
If I missed any questions, feel free to ask again. Otherwise, hope this helps! It's nice to have an idea of what to expect once you get there!
Jack - just wanted to add my appreciation for your review. We will be in C227 next Feb for our 1st Princess cruise and really looking forward to it. Would also like to request that you please give us a little info on the Ports in the Canal. Thanks.
USS Oriskany CVA-34 1972-1975
Grandeur of the Seas '00
Brilliance of the Seas '03
Brilliance Feb '04
Coral Princess Feb '05
To answer the itinerary questions.....this was the 2nd time we had cruised to Panama Canal; however, the first cruise to the canal was a complete transit from Puerto Vallarta through the canal and to Fort Lauderdale rather than from Fort Lauderdale, a partial transit, and then back to Fort Lauderdale.
Regardless, this was a good itinerary. We did the following stops:
2. Panama Canal
4. Grand Cayman
Belize was originally on this itinerary when we first booked last summer, but was removed at some point and Nassau was added instead. I have no idea why they switched but it didn't affect our decision to go.
It's all personal preference, but we could have missed Nassau and Cozumel as we had been to both before and didn't find the tours/excursions of too much interest. In Nassau we tried the Glass Bottom Boat tour of the harbor, but the boat ran over a tire halfway out and we ended up with a canceled tour (although we did get a nice short ride through the harbor for free!).
The various Panama Canal excursions offered made it hard to decide, as so many looked good. We took the "aerial tram rain forest" tour which consisted of a bus ride to the rain forest and a trip in an incredibly silent aerial tram above and through the trees of the rain forest. It was magnificent! Honestly, it was one of the best tours we have ever done on a cruise.
Then, in Costa Rica (Limon), we chose the "eco-jungle river cruise" which was an hour ride to an incredible jungle area, with a huge river that we boated up and down, seeing all sorts of jungle creatures along the way. It was also one of the better tours we have done on a cruise.
We'd been to Grand Cayman before, so we opted for an "island highlight and stingray snorkel" tour. We learned the stingray snorkel was canceled once we got on the bus (rough sea), which was the main reason we had chosen the tour. So we did the island highlight tour and were refunded half our money. We spent the rest of the day on a local beach instead.
Then in Cozumel, we were planning to do the "Atlantis Submarine" tour and learned it was postponed for a couple of hours due to high winds...they gave us the option to get a refund if we didn't want to wait. We took the refund and went to another local beach!
So three out of our five tours had some sort of trouble that prevented us from doing them! Yet, it was not a big deal for us to miss them....we always found something else to do instead. Besides, when the final stateroom bill came, it was pretty nice to see those refunded tour amounts show up!
To give an opinion to "cruisingw/mom" regarding the choice for your cruise next February....coincidentally, we did an eastern/southern Caribbean last year on the Dawn Princess (identical to the Sun Princess which we have also been on). Between the two choices, without hesitation I would choose the Sun Princess and eastern/southern Caribbean over the Panama Canal partial transit on the Coral! Just a personal opinion of course, but for us those islands seem so much more interesting than the western Caribbean islands. And while the Coral Princess is an incredible newer ship, the Sun Princess is one of our old favorites. Plus if you have any inclination towards a mini-suite, do it on that ship! The mini-suites on the Sun & Dawn Princess ships are the same layout as the REGULAR suites on the Coral & Grand Princess type ships! What a huge difference it makes!
Not that I am against doing the Panama Canal cruise on the Coral Princess, because it was great. Yet if we can swing it, we hope to do one of the 10-day cruises on either the Dawn or the Sun Princess again next year.
We are on the same cruise of 4/27/05 and didn't realize it was a repositioning cruise. I have heard the term but just what will it mean to me as a passenger?
Thank you so much for the review, I love hearing that we made a good choice of the Coral.
Note to JCH, hello from a "to be" fellow passenger.
Thanks for your great review and tips! I am in the same situation as "cruisingw/mom", deciding between the Coral Panama Canal vs. the Sun 10 day for Presidents day week in February. Our big concern is which ship is more kid friendly, as we will be traveling with our three daughters (ages 10, 7 and 2). Any opinion on this issue?
Belize is scheduled on our trip too and I really hope that it isn't changed. My husband is looking forward to scuba diving there. We have been to Nassau, Grand Cayman and Cozumel so we were looking forward to Belize. Did you notice if they had the "ocean to ocean" trip at the Panama Canal. It isn't on their schedule of shore excursions, but I had heard that they do offer it on the ship. Also, did you have alternative dining or traditional? Thank
12/04 Coral Princess
4/09 Monarch of the Seas
6/03 Carnival Conquest
3/03 4/02 Carnival Ectasy
8/02 Radisson: Paul Gaugin
8/01 Rhapsody of the Seas
6/00 Carnival Fascination
Since we don't have kids, I cannot say with any certainty about which ship might be more "kid-friendly." It did seem that the Coral Princess, being newer and larger, had a nicer "kids only" area (at the back of the Aloha Deck) but to be honest, we see fewer kids on Princess than most other cruiselines. It could be that the "kids only" areas are so great on Princess, the kids like to stay in those areas!
Repositioning cruises are part of moving the ship from one area of the world to another...such as the Coral Princess moving from the Caribbean/Panama Canal area up to Alaska for the summer season. As a passenger, the only real difference should be that you fly into one city and fly home from another! The cruise experience itself shouldn't be too much different. Typically, a repositioning cruise is longer than a normal cruise, simply because of geography in relocating the ship.
llund, I heard a number of people on our sailing discussing an "ocean to ocean" tour in Panama, so I don't know why it isn't listed in your future shore excursions. It was on the original list of excursions for our cruise. I heard it was a great tour.
One thing about the Panama Canal tours is that most all of them are very long, meaning you leave as soon as you get to the canal, and spend most or all day on the tours, meeting up with the ship after it has come back out of the canal itself. The rain forest tour we did was one of the shorter excursions that day, which was part of the reason we originally chose it. We personally enjoy down time on the ship more than being on a lengthy tour.
Along with our friends, we did the "alternative/anytime dining" which we prefer to the traditional seatings. As the alternative dining has gained in popularity, I am noticing that more and more people are making "reservations" for dinner now. Several cruises ago when we first did the alternative dining choice, we would just show up (like at a local restaurant) and we'd get seated very quickly. On this Coral Princess cruise, it wasn't quite as easy for us to just show up and get seated quickly. The dining staff recommended that we make a standing reservation (same time each night) to ensure us a table without a wait. It seemed to us that this somewhat negated the whole purpose of "anytime dining!" We did call for reservations a couple of times, and because others already had their reservations scheduled, we were typically told a specific time they could accommodate us rather than just choosing a time of our liking.
Again, we prefer the alternative/anytime dining choice over traditional, but we ate in the main dining room less this time because of the reservations situation. For us, the "first come, first served" idea makes more sense for the alternative/anytime dining. Or perhaps they should just add a third dining room on the ships and have one for traditional, one for reservations, and one for true anytime dining!! (somewhat kidding here although it might make sense!)
To sum up again, this was a great cruise on a great ship.
Sorry Carol....we didn't spend any time dancing or at the shows while on this ship so I cannot really comment on any of that. And we did not try the alternative restaurants either (gosh, we sound pretty boring!). Yet we had a great time!!
The average age was probably mid-50's....there were a number of people who were younger and plenty who were older, and not too many kids around. We are in our mid-40's and found the age variation to be just about right.