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Crzn-Life

Coral Panama RT 11/21 – 12/1/12

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We go on a Thanksgiving cruise every year and this time we were back on the Coral. We were on her inaugural cruise and it’s always fun to get back on board. We started this cruise with high expectations. For the most part, these expectations were met and often exceeded.

 

Thinking in terms of “The Good – the Bad – and the Ugly” here’s what we thought of the cruise.

 

The Good:

 

Embarkation: quick and easy. Arrived at the pier via the 10:00 a.m. shuttle from the hotel, walked right in, checked in and after a short wait in the general waiting area were sent upstairs to the elite/suites lounge and had coffee & pastries available. We boarded, took our things to our room & headed to the dining room for lunch. As is usually the case there was a waiter at the door who tried to tell us that the dining room was only available for a special group and we should go to the buffet (the ugly), but we told her that we preferred to eat in the dining room. The Head Waiter came by and of course there was no problem being seated (the good).

 

Our luggage was waiting for us (the good) after lunch. The beds had the new mattresses but the pillow top was missing because they only put that on when the bed is in queen configuration. Our cabin steward Noel was a gem. Really went out of his way to get us comfortable and situated.

 

We’d requested a table for 2, were assigned a table for 6, but met with Giuseppe, the Maitre'D and were assigned a 4-top set up for 2 in a perfect location (definitely “the good”). That meant no serving station or large table next to us. Of course it was easy getting the assignment changed because we had 2nd seating and that is never filled. Don’t understand why either since on the Coral the time is perfect, i.e. 7:45.

 

 

Officers and Staff: (the good)

  • Captain: Fabio Amitrano - Have sailed with him several times in the past & he remembered us. He’s very personable and we always look forward to sailing with him. He didn’t sing this time.
  • Cruise Director: Gavin Chandler: Funny and ran into him all over the ship. Walking down the stairs one day saw a woman stretched out, face down on the steps heading up. We hurried down to see if she was OK & it turns out she was having a meeting with Gavin who was standing on the landing below! She was talking to him through the risers. It was really funny.
  • Captain Circle Host: Heather Hutchinson – she’s fairly new to the job, but was great. She is friendly, pleasant, and does a really good job.
  • Future Cruise Consultant: Dicomes Olaru - One of the best. He’s a former CC Host. He’s the consummate professional.
  • Maitre’d: Giuseppe Franchina: - One of the nicest and friendliest Maitre d’s we’ve ever sailed with. He was the assistant maitre’d on the inaugural cruise so we had fun sharing stories.
  • Hotel GM: Karin Luppes: - Saw her around the ship a lot, except she was nowhere to be seen on the last day of the voyalge!

Dining Experience: (the good) We had excellent service. Our waiters were Katrina from Macedonia and Julian from the Philippines. Katrina was efficient, friendly and very easy to talk to. Julian was funny with his tricks and puzzles. Because there are fewer at the 2nd seating, it’s easier for the waiters to spend more time with passengers. Headwaiter was Yalcin from Turkey. Couldn’t have asked for a more attentive and positive person. As a vegetarian, bordering being a vegan (the creamy sauces & cheeses get old after a while...just give me the veggies) there wasn’t a lot on the menu for me, but I had some of the best meals I’ve ever had.

 

Having read about the new menus we were curious about how the food would be. Shouldn’t have worried because it was very good to excellent (the good). DH thinks the new menu is better than ever. We don’t miss the themed dinners because some of them were pretty bad. They kept the best, i.e. the Italian night and the Chef’s Special. BUT…they removed the cheese course of stilton balls with port wine reduction and leek hay.

 

Elite lounge in the Wheelhouse bar: They didn’t have the stilton w/port wine reduction either (the bad). Instead of the port wine reduction a gloopy grey mess of stilton mixed with port was spooned on the bread definitely “the ugly”). Other than that, the lounge service was nice & the hors d’oeuvres were good.

 

Captain’s Circle Party: This is the first time we’ve sailed since they started having separate parties for gold and platinum/elite. That turned out to be a real plus. Cut down on the confusion and the number of parties. Also for those interested, the MTP days were 688 for 1st, 681 for 2nd and 3rd was 670 something. Never saw it that close before, but you never know. On the last Princess cruise we were on in May, the MTP had over 1200 days.

 

Itinerary: Itinerary certainly qualifies as “the good”, but the weather made it “the bad” to ”the ugly”. It was a little rough on the first night; actually it was probably in “the ugly” category. We bounced around a lot. We were in an aft mini and a couple of times thought we would be bounced out of bed!

 

Aruba was wonderful, as always. We didn’t do any tours because two weeks before the cruise we returned from a two-week stay in Aruba. Only thing we did was head out to get Balashi and cokes. Absolutely do not understand why this itinerary has such a short stay in Aruba.

 

Cartagena is a nice stop but we did no tours because we have been there so many times. We just walked around the pier area then went back to the ship to enjoy being on our “private yacht”.

 

Panama Canal the major point of the cruise was as always a thrill to go through. BUT…the weather was horrendous. We had torrential rain and all tours were cancelled because of flooding and mudslides and the buses couldn’t get to the area of Gatun Lake to pick us up. The photographers never made it from Colon to the locks to take pictures of the 1st transit. They took some fantastic pictures of the flooding in Colon & were actually able to get some shots of the ship going back through the locks. Colon was an empty, flooded city. No vendors, very few cars and lots of rain and standing water. Felt badly for the 1st-timers but at least they went through the canal. This was our 8th canal cruise and the first time we’ve encountered foul weather.

 

Limon as usual was nice. We didn’t take a tour again because we have been there many times. However, we still enjoy walking through the vendor stalls at the pier. The first-timers at least had good weather for their tours and could enjoy the beauty of Costa Rica.

 

Grand Cayman: Another beautiful day, but there were 5 ships in. That’s a lot of people for such a small island. It was also the day the maintenance department decided to test the “balcony drenching system.” The stewards had to bring all the balcony furniture into the cabins. After the system was tested and water was sprayed all over the balconies, the stewards had to clean up the balconies and return all of the furniture back to the balconies. It was not one of the best days for the cabin stewards because of the extra work, but it’s a good safety check.

 

As far as “the bad” goes, there weren’t too many things that fell into that category. For us not having lunch in the dining room is bad, but the pizza on the Lido deck was good. Hopefully after dry dock, the Coral will have an IC so that will help. The buffet definitely falls into “the bad”. We are not buffet fans to begin with, but this one seemed to be worse than usual. On port days, we would check to see what they had, but the food looked so unappetizing, we opted for the pizzeria or the burger place on 15. We realize that were in the minority because a couple of times when we went through to get tea or milk, there were throngs of people with heaping plates going through.

 

Sadly, there were also some “ugly” times on board, but all of them were interactions with Passenger Services. We had issues with not getting the Shareholder benefit applied. The issue was finally resolved on the 8th day of a 10-day cruise when the benefit was applied.

 

There was also an issue with them when DH was literally soaked by a deluge of water from the area of the tenders while he was sitting on the promenade deck. It’s too crazy and lengthy to go into here, but this was the nadir of customer service. We had fantastic service from stewards, dining staff et al. Actually we had great service from everyone on board except those whose title had “Passenger Service” in it. Promises to check things out and get back to us were never followed through on.

 

I wonder if service at the Front Desk would improve if they depended on tips for their pay instead of being salaried. It boggles the mind that the only staff on the ship who don’t seem to be trained to deal with customers are those in customer service.

 

Disembarkation also falls into the “ugly” category. However, this was absolutely not Princesses’ fault. We opted for a little later disembarkation because we were in no hurry to get off the ship. We learned a valuable lesson and will never do this again. Things were going fairly smoothly until Princess stopped the disembarkation around 9:00 a.m. and just before we were scheduled to get off. The reason: US Border Patrol and Customs! The lines were backed up all across the terminal. The agents were scanning every passport and looking carefully at something. We don’t know if they were checking sales reports from the ship and matching them with names, looking for illegal aliens or what, but it was S L O W. At 9:30 we decided to go ahead and leave the ship and get in the long lines in the terminal. We got our luggage & for over an hour we were in a slow moving line. Once we got to the checkout point we were lucky to get an agent that quickly processed us.

 

Then we ended up in a horrendously long line for taxis. We finally got a taxi at 11:35. That’s an hour to get through US customs & an hour in line for a taxi! Good grief. At least when we got to the hotel where our car was parked, it was an easy drive home.

 

It was an important lesson learned. We will NEVER again opt to leisurely hang around the ship. We’re going with self-help to get off first before the lines becomes unmanageable and while there are taxis available.

Was it a good cruise? You bet. We loved it (well, not the passenger services part) and it would have been nice to have had better weather. We’d booked the tour at the canal that took us to the observation point for the new construction. We’re sorry we didn’t get to see it, but it’s a reason to book the cruise again next year. The construction will still be going on.

 

So we now have Panama on our cruise schedule for 2013

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Thank you for the review.

 

Just a couple of comments: the Coral is not getting an IC due to physical limits in the Atrium. My other comment is that if a ship arrived in port after a trans-Atlantic or other repositioning cruise, US Customs and Immigration are tightened and it's not the usual walk off On my repositioning cruise last March on the Star, the first people off the ship, particularly the walk-offs, were individually searched. I would have been much better off disembarking late.

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Thanks for your report. The taxi shortage is due to all the construction slowing down traffic in and out of the airport. As I will be on the Grand from the 15th to the 22nd (returning the Saturday before Christmas) I will show this review to my cabinmate who disagrees with my inclination that leaving my car at the port could be quicker than waiting for a taxi.

 

The Coral is not getting an IC due to physical limits in the Atrium.

 

There have been multiple reports--though no official release from Princess--that during Coral's drydock from Jan 18-Feb 6 the Casino Bar on Deck 6 will be replaced by the International Cafe. Perhaps the OP can confirm hearing this from someone in-the-know onboard.

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Thank you for taking the time to write your review. We are doing this itinerary next year for our honeymoon. You will be happy to hear that some PT cruises next year will have a full day in Aruba (8:00 AM to 7:00 PM) with a day at sea added between Aruba and Cartagena. Not sure if it is all the PT cruises and if it is only a trial run, all I know is that we are getting a full day in Aruba and an extra day at see :D.

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Thank you for the review.

 

Just a couple of comments: the Coral is not getting an IC due to physical limits in the Atrium. My other comment is that if a ship arrived in port after a trans-Atlantic or other repositioning cruise, US Customs and Immigration are tightened and it's not the usual walk off On my repositioning cruise last March on the Star, the first people off the ship, particularly the walk-offs, were individually searched. I would have been much better off disembarking late.

 

Darn...was really hoping there would be an IC added. Perhaps we misunderstood when we were told by one of the staff that there would be an IC added. Could have been wishful thinking that made us hear that. We did find out for a fact that the "turbine or jet engines" on the top of the ship are just decorations.

 

We've experienced Customs issues on the west coast, but this wasn't a repositioning cruise. It was just a routine RT 10-day canal cruise. We've disembarked in Ft. Lauderdale on 23 cruises in the last 10 years and this was absolutely the worst back-up created by Customs agents we've experienced. Also the first time we've had such long lines for a taxi.

 

While waiting in the taxi queue we had a long conversation with the couple ahead of us that had disembarked the 4-day cruise on the MSC ship docked by us and they didn't experience delays going through customs. As a side note, however, they absolutely hated the ship (her description). They said the food was awful even in the pay-extra restaurants and service was very bad.

Edited by Crzn-Life
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Thank you for taking the time to write your review. We are doing this itinerary next year for our honeymoon. You will be happy to hear that some PT cruises next year will have a full day in Aruba (8:00 AM to 7:00 PM) with a day at sea added between Aruba and Cartagena. Not sure if it is all the PT cruises and if it is only a trial run, all I know is that we are getting a full day in Aruba and an extra day at see :D.

 

 

The time in Aruba differs on several of the cruises. On the full transits it can be the the 7 a.m. -12:30 or 1:00 - 7:00. But the RT cruises seem to have changed from 10 to 11 days and just as you said, there is now a sea day between Aruba and Cartegena which allows for a full day in Aruba. Wish we'd had this itinerary. You're lucky to have a full day in Aruba plus another day at sea!

 

It was also a little annoying that before Aruba, ship time was changed to Aruba time, i.e. moving the clocks forward an hour. When we left Aruba clocks were set back an hour, then set back another hour for Costa Rica then forward an hour the next day. Lots of time changes for such a short period of time.

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It was also a little annoying that before Aruba, ship time was changed to Aruba time, i.e. moving the clocks forward an hour. When we left Aruba clocks were set back an hour, then set back another hour for Costa Rica then forward an hour the next day. Lots of time changes for such a short period of time.

 

But much less confusing than having ship time being different from port time.

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But much less confusing than having ship time being different from port time.

 

Actually we don't find it confusing to have different times. We find the changes annoying but we understand why the ship does it, i.e. because some passengers find it confusing and return to the ship late thus delaying departure. It also makes it easier for passenger who have private tours and they don't have to worry about ship time vs port time. However, we still find the frequent changes annoying:D.

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Thank you for your review. I really enjoyed reading it. I have not cruised the Panama Canal and would like to do so in the next year or two.

 

Sorry to hear about your disembarkation. Yikes!:eek::eek::eek: That is alot of time you had to go through!

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Thank you for the review.

 

Just a couple of comments: the Coral is not getting an IC due to physical limits in the Atrium. My other comment is that if a ship arrived in port after a trans-Atlantic or other repositioning cruise, US Customs and Immigration are tightened and it's not the usual walk off On my repositioning cruise last March on the Star, the first people off the ship, particularly the walk-offs, were individually searched. I would have been much better off disembarking late.

 

Pam, does this mean that the Coral and Island will most likely never get the IC?

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Y'know, my friends are always accusing me of talking to myself alot. I guess that is what I was doing in Reply #3...

 

There have been multiple reports--though no official release from Princess--that during Coral's drydock from Jan 18-Feb 6 the Casino Bar on Deck 6 will be replaced by the International Cafe. Perhaps the OP can confirm hearing this from someone in-the-know onboard.

 

...which Crzn-Life confirmed in Reply #7

 

Darn...was really hoping there would be an IC added. Perhaps we misunderstood when we were told by one of the staff that there would be an IC added. Could have been wishful thinking that made us hear that.

 

You heard correctly! Don't know why the naysayers on this thread persist.

Edited by fishywood

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Thank you for the review.

 

Just a couple of comments: the Coral is not getting an IC due to physical limits in the Atrium.

Pam, When we were on the Coral, we were told that the plan was not to put the IC in the Atrium, but rather on Fiesta deck. The IC would take part of the Casino bar and underutilized space near by. That was as of September 18th. Drydock plans have changed even after construction had started. I haven't seen any recent announcement of current plans for the drydock.

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Thanks so much for posting your review of the Coral Princess! We will be sailing on Coral to Alaska, so I love reading any review I can find about her. I especially look forward to reviews after her dry dock.

 

Good to hear that the menus have changed. One thing our TA stressed to us, (in trying to convince us to go with Celebrity instead of Princess), was that the food was not good. We have resolved that the food will most likely be similar to banquet food, and we are fine with that because we chose this ship based upon itinerary and scenery viewing reputation. So it's encouraging to hear the menus have changed. We generally avoid buffets, so that should not be an issue for us.

 

Thanks for your review!

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