I guess I laid that groundwork to explain that being as huge a fan of Princess' largest ships as I am, this cruise for me was facing my darkest fear... the dreaded Coral Class (shudder).
I expected to come back with my first flaming posts about the cramped feeling on the slimmer ship and the lacking nightlife.
But, honestly, this three day cruise may have been one of my best cruises yet. I was in D725, the furthest aft mini on the starboard side. These rooms (on all the decks) are incredible, because the curved aft facing part of these balconies are glass... unlike the minis on the Diamond class(and I think the Grand) where they are steel. Note: I believe the furthest aft room on Emerald deck is a regular "Balcony" cabin, NOT a mini.
The square footage of the balcony may be (a bit) less than the other balconies on the deck, due to the curve... but the view is worth it. To be able to face your chair backward and watch the wake of the ship and the big sky... just amazing.
Our steward, Brando, was efficient and invisible mostly. Not to say he didn't do his job, he just seemed to know when we were gone and service the room when we were out. We were never pressured to give him time to clean.
The food in the Horizon Court was disappointing the first day, but seemed to improve. The dining room meals were wonderful, room service was lightning-fast (except one messed-up "afternoon tea" order, which they apologetically sent club sandwiches, canapes and chocolate covered strawberries to make up for... which was quite nice), and the entertainment was incredible. You have GOT to see Brendan Jones in Crooners from 9-midnight. Even if you're NOT a Piano Bar type of person... he's that good. I only saw one production show this trip ("Piano Man" which I have seen about six times) and it was well done. But the comedians were hysterical (side-splittingly funny), the bands were classic (check out the fat blues guy in The Wheelhouse... he's great), and the DJ in the Explorer's Lounge made me forget all about my beloved Skywalkers.
I'm rambling, so let me clean this up a bit:
- The pools were heated, like bathwater, from Vancouver to LA. Never closed during the entire three days. The Hot Tubs would be closed sporadically for cleaning. Fresh water pools make all the difference.
- The gym has good Cybex equipment, but doesn't have locker rooms with Steam and Sauna. There's a changing room, with showers, but you have to enter the spa for the sauna and the (co-ed) steam room.
I don't know if I was just allowed into the spa because I'm Elite, but I made it in, and I thought it was relaxing... but I really think a non-co-ed steam room would have been a nice touch. Less reason to keep checking your terry cloth.
Speaking of terry cloth (nice, huh?)... my sailing was three weeks into September, when the new Mini perks were supposed to kick in...one of them being the new towels for those who didn't follow the "terry cloth" segue... and here's my two cents:
-Welcome champage, check. Brando asked us upon arrival if we would like one, and we accepted. He returned with two already poured glasses.
-Improved mattress... check. I THINK. I'm kicking myself for not pulling the sheets off to look... but the mattress felt different to me. Firm, but comfy. But I loved the old mattresses too, so I'm not the best judge.
-Pillow menu... check. Kinda. There were feather pillows on arrival (which I love), but my companion asked for foam and got it. No "menu" really... but it was available. I think 'foam' was the default pillow on arrival in the past... so that worked to my advantage.
-Massage shower head... check. But I think they've had these on some ships for a while now.
-Luxury 100% Egyptian cotton, high-thread count ivory satin striped bed linens... no, not so much. The sheets were the same as I've had before. Fine though, just no satin stripes involved, and they weren't new.
-Fluffy European duvets... nope. Same old blankets...which I never complained about... so I ain't whining.
-Luxury Towels... absolutely not. This is one thing I actually looked forward to. The towels were fine, same as always, but definitely NOT new and improved.
But, these benefits may be getting phased-in (my cruise WAS in September, and THAT's the month they said they'd take effect, so I'd give them a pass on ALL of the above)
Back to my main theme of this post...
This ship is incredibly well-managed. The hotel management is obviously concerned with passenger satisfaction, and the person I was traveling with noted how genuinely friendly the crew seemed. Waiters, pursers, room service people, bus boys. Everyone seemed happy, and glad we were onboard. There was the occasional rolled eye when I'd flip over my black card to show my drink-sticker... but that happens on EVERY ship. (So I love soda... sue me!)
Well I just realized I've written an epic... when I planned a memo. I just changed "Mini Review" to just "Review" in my headline.
Bottom line... Grand and Diamond class lovers... don't fear the Coral Class. It's still Grand... and it still sparkles. (Oh, God... I'm embarassing myself now)
An incredible ship (feels brand new after her early September drydock, by the way), with great management and food. Felt like a five-star ship to me... if not more.
If you're on the fence... jump off. This ship is one of my favorites!