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Coral Princess photo and video review

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As the Alaska season has begun and some of you may have booked the Coral for the first time or may be thinking about doing so I thought it about time that I share my experience of the Coral in Alaska while it is still fresh in my memory despite having taken place way back in August 2011. The ship may have changed since then, with upgrades, but the ports and the excursions should still be relevant.


The Coral is a ship we don't see enough photographs of and video is also a bit scarce so this may be of interest to some of you out there.


The Coral was my (our) first Princess experience, conjured up on a whim when we cancelled a planned trip to Munich as our favorite hotel there was fully booked as Oktoberfest was coming up at the time. "Let's take a cruise to Alaska!" said Carol, my TC (Traveling Companion) out of the blue and immediately I set about researching cruise lines with itineraries there in August of 2011. This process was launched in March 2011 and my head was aswim in possibilities. I considered HAL and RCI and was attracted to Rhapsody of the Seas as the HAL decor (Zuiderdam) was a bit of an explosion in a paint shop for my taste. Also the ship was a rather boxy design which I even now haven't warmed to. Maybe someday....


We thought we would need a travel agent so made an appointment with one in Chicago. On that morning I was still surfing the possibilities when I came upon an unknown quantity (to me) which was Princess and long story short saw an itinerary that knocked the Rhapsody's Inside Passage round trip from Seattle out of the ring- Voyage of the Glaciers Southbound from Whittier to Vancouver!


Carol gave two thumbs up and off we went to make a booking with the agent.


Long story short the agent wasn't bringing his A game and booked us a cabin on Caribe without a balcony (A204) which was our priority #1. He said there was no more suitable inventory so at home I used the PCL site and tapped in some cabin numbers which I thought would be good for us. Some were taken but I found C210, right up near the bridge with a big balcony. Search engine said it was available so I reserved it and called Princess to make sure it was available and it was. I booked it.


I sent an email to the agent and thanked him for his services and he suggested I now transfer the booking to him but at this point I felt I would be better doing it myself.


Where are the damned photos and videos, Norris? I hear you cry. Yikes- simmer down, all in good time. I have stooges, er, I mean valued assistants preparing them as we speak.


Coming up in the weeks ahead.....


Anchorage, a pretty little town

Coral Princess from stem to stern including the Sanctuary

Golden Princess, Celebrity Summit and Zuiderdam in Alaskan ports

Photo/video excursion on the White Pass and Yukon Railroad

Photo/video excursion Era Helicopter landing on Taku Glacier near Juneau

Photo/video excursion Harv 'n Marv Whalewatching in Juneau

Photo/video excursion Island Wings flight over Misty Fjords in Ketchikan

Yakutat bay

Glacier Bay


Coral interiors/meals (Bayou cafe,Sabatini's MDR etc)

Arrival and day spent in Vancouver

Butchart Gardens in Victoria (via float plane from Vancouver)


and whatever else I pointed the camera/camcorder at that week.


It will be written in chronological order so it may take a while to get to the bits that interest you most, but bear with me if you can.



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It was a 7 hour flight from Chicago to Anchorage on August 19th 2011 and it's probably the same today unless some pilot has found a short-cut. It was drizzling as we took a taxi in from the beautiful Ted Williams Airport. A flock of geese guided us from the gate to Baggage Claim....




We were soon checked into the Cook, a suite on a high floor in one of the three towers. It's a big hotel with some cosy sitting areas.




Captain Cook reading his charts in the hotel lobby....




His ship



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A high floor room with windows on more than one side afforded us views of the city of Anchorage. It's different! We are used to downtowns being a thicket of skyscrapers but in Anchorage the tall buildings (hotels and oil company offices) sit side by side with one story homes and wide-open spaces. Plenty of parking!







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I think it was around two when we checked in. After a nice lunch in Fletchers -one of the casual eateries in the Cook, we set out for a stroll around town.

It was warm-high 60's but there was a soft refreshing drizzle.


Just outside the hotel were some old cruise ships from Captain Cook's time




And we saw our first whale!




Carol finds a bench outside the Visitor's Center



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Just arrived in Anchorage and within hours Carol is attacked by a bear! I would have wrassled the beast but was wearing a new shirt and didn't want to get blood stains (Carol's) on it.




Anchorage street scene




Alaska Railroad building




Mists hung over the city, draping the mountains that almost circle it. One side is open to the sea and there is a harbor there where tugs tow great container barges up from Seattle and points south. There is also a huge UPS presence at the airport as it is a UPS shipping hub. The streets are wide and kept clean and flowers are everywhere to be found. It is a very pleasant walking city and we spent a nice afternoon strolling.


Later that evening we went to dinner in the Crow's Nest restaurant high atop one of the other hotel towers for a slap-up feed. I had booked a table for two by a window several months before but they had "no record" of it. They rustled up a table for us anyway.




The chef sent out an "amuse" of crisp French bread and butter and I attacked it like a starving badger, leaving none for Carol who had to suck on a napkin while waiting for her King Crab legs-when they arrived the portion was lumberjack-sized. She was happy.


I ordered a filet mignon medium but upon chewing the first bite found that although it had been nicely seared on the outside, the inside was actually raw as in cold and un-cooked. I sent it back to be re-fired and it came back perfect.

Anyone can make mistakes,especially in a busy kitchen and as long as they are willing to rectify it I let it slide. All in all we had a fine meal up there and look forward to eating there again. It can be a bit noisy as there are no walls between the dining area and the bar which was hopping on a Friday night. We were excited to be in Alaska, filling our stomachs after a nice long walk, looking out over the mountains on a long summer evening, with the prospect of joining the Coral Princess the following day.

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We woke to a misty morning with the clouds laying low over Anchorage.




We had complimentary hot breakfast in a high room which gave us a view of the estuary and the harbor.




We had to pack up our things to get ready to make our way to the Egan Center where Princess stages their passengers for the drive to the ship, 65 miles away.




Captain Cook Hotel




There is a liquor store on this side of the street where cruise pax can get their wine and sodas before heading to Whittier. I just got some cokes for Carol.

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While having a cigarette outside the hotel I noticed a big truck had arrived from Coral Princess, bearing luggage from the cruise just returned and I asked the hotel staff if I could send my luggage on ahead, rather than schlepp it to the Egan Center. Sure, no problem-so I had the bellman bring our suitcases down and got them loaded up. I strolled to the Egan Center to get the lay of the land before the crowds arrived.





The Princess mustering hall





It was here that I discovered we would have to have our passports to show when boarding the Coral and that I also discovered Carol had packed her passport in her suitcase which was now trundling down the highway towards

Whittier and wouldn't be seen again until it was in our cabin. A Princess rep assured us that she could fill in a form at check-in and produce the document soon after she boarded. Phew! I thought I'd have to board and get the passport from the suitcase and come off again to give it to her to embark. Lesson learned-no passports in suitcases-ever.

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We returned to the Egan at 11 am to wait for the noon coach to the ship.

It left on time and headed south on the 65 mile trip that would take 1hr and 25 minutes including a short wait to get through the mountain tunnel at Whittier.


As well as the driver there was a young man giving a narration. It was a beautiful drive, despite the drizzle. At one point the bus slowed so we could watch some white Beluga whales swimming close to shore. A nice bonus!


The tunnel is long and very narrow but is the only way through to Whittier and soon we emerged into daylight on the other side and through the raindrops on the windows of the bus saw the Coral at her berth-waiting for us.


Within 15 minutes we had received our key cards, filled in a Passport not present form and were through security to walk the ramp up into the ship where we boarded in the atrium to be welcomed and shown to the elevators by one of the staff. At Caribe deck there was another crew member to point us in the right direction-port, forward and we were soon in C210 where our luggage was waiting. Carol retrieved her Passport and took it to Passenger Services to show them.


Within a few minutes our steward Rodney (Philippines) was there to introduce himself and to offer champagne. We asked him to bring it at sailaway instead.


First stop was the Sanctuary to book our places for the week (weather optimists) and we booked a couple of loungers under an overhang out of the drizzle. The staff introduced themselves.


Then to the Horizon Court buffet high above the bow of the ship with great panorama views. It was not busy as in Whittier the passengers arrive throughout the day from just after noon to 6.30 or so, so arrivals are well spread-out. Due to this there was just one dinner seating-at 8.30 as the ship set sail but we had Anytime Dining and had planned to miss the crush by booking a table for two at the Bayou Cafe for 9 pm.


We had a leisurely afternoon of unpacking and then roaming the ship to get our bearings before lifeboat muster prior to sailing. We bought a Coffee Card and an Ultimate Kid's Package-soft drinks for Carol.


Muster drill took place in the Princess Theater a few decks under us and was very civilized-no standing on deck en masse. We felt we were in good hands with the Professionals of Princess.


Once that was over we went to the cabin and Rodney delivered the champagne.

A toast- to great spur of the moment ideas and flawless execution!


Suddenly we realized that we were moving slowly and made a bee-line forward to the "secret" (LOL) deck below the bridge....


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Looking forward to reading the rest of your review. I enjoyed your last photo review here, and I expect this one will be just as informative and entertaining. My wife and I sailed through the Panama Canal on the Coral last year, and it is a beautiful ship.

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Thanks for the feedback folks! Much more to come of course as I find the time.

I actually made some daily notes on the Coral trip and with the photos and videos should be able to keep it interesting.


More soon!


Norris, working my research team like dogs!

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This was Carol's first-ever cruise and I had waxed eloquently about cruising over the past few years by the fireside and piqued her interest. I had 46 cruises under my belt but 44 of those were as a musician on RCI's venerable Song of Norway in the mid 80's, followed by a couple of cruises as a passenger with Carnival.


She was all smiles on the first day once we boarded the ship and unpacked.


Now we were sailing along just before dark, through Prince William Sound and we were at a window table in the Bayou Cafe. There were only two other occupied tables, one of which was feeding Ship's Officers. There was a fine little jazz trio playing in the background.


The waiter Vaughn (South Africa) was the first Princess employee we really interacted with and he was a genial fellow and a great conversationalist. We were in no hurry and we chatted to him between courses of peel and eat shrimp, Jambalaya, lobster for Carol and a NY Strip for me. The food was good enough although I don't see the attraction in fried green tomatoes as they are rather flavorless and totally the wrong color for a tomato, if you ask me. Like a bright green banana. Portions were huge which is not something I look for when dining but I may be in the minority. I believe it was $20 a head for us to eat in this Specialty Restaurant, found only on the Coral and Island sisters.


The wine, the music, the great company and the sea passing by the window-a heady combination and we realized with a sigh that we were actually here, on vacation, with nothing ahead but pleasure and excitement for the next 7 days.

A feel-good moment!


A walk on deck and it was time to enjoy a nice firm Princess bed and the motion of the ship. Tomorrow we would see glaciers for the first time and also had a CC Meet and Greet to attend in the Wheelhouse bar. Yes I had joined a roll call set up by Gwenintx. I was up for new experiences.


I told the bedside phone to give me an alarm call at 4.30 and my head hit the pillow with a vengeance.

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I was indeed up at 4.30 and showered in the mini-suite bathtub and was in the Horizon Court by 5 for a cup of coffee syrup. The ship was riding some fair-sized waves but I have sturdy sea-legs (son of a ship's captain) and was in my element having a quiet ship practically to myself.


On promenade deck I met a man who told me that there had been a fatal car crash near the Whittier tunnel some time before the ship sailed and that his (and about 80 other people's ) luggage had been unable to get past the accident and so he was sailing with what he had been wearing when he met the ship.

Some passengers had got stuck behind the accident and were not onboard.

He was understanding about it and showed a true Cruiser spirit.


Some early morning ship shots...









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We're on this cruise as the second half of our b2b in August - Northbound/Southbound. Can't wait for our first cruise of more than 7 days. Looking forward to more of your review in anticipation of what we will see - and to hear more about the Coral.

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I had a buffet breakfast in the HC around 5.30, looking out over the bow.

I like the table service where the waiter takes your drinks order and clears plates away when you are done with them.


The sea was calming down as I went back to the Promenade deck with some more coffee from the atrium Patisserie-fresh brewed using my Coffee card.




The wide Promenade deck on the Coral- I wish all the Princess ships had this much space and didn't realize they hadn't until I sailed on the Crown 4 months later. I am not a walker, other than to get somewhere but many took advantage of this to power walk in the morning. Unlike the Grand Class ships the deck doesn't lead up to the bow (via stairs to Emerald deck) but comes to a bulkhead and continues through a tunnel to the other side of the ship where you see the sea again.





The aft section of Promenade deck




The mesmerizing wake



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On this first cruise, future patterns were established. I get up early as I like to see the sun come up and have an uncrowded ship. I don't really have a fixed plan for the day, unless there is an excursion.


Carol sleeps later and has already mapped out her day using the Princess Patter the night before. We had brought a highlighter for this purpose.

These differing styles have held true through our first 4 Princess cruises.


Today, Sunday August 21, 2011 Carol had a lecture to attend in the Princess Theater. Kathy Slamp, the onboard lecturer whose voice was heard in the short sailaway video clip was going to be talking about Alaskan history: The Gold Rush years. Before that we had a CC get together in the Wheelhouse Bar where we expected to meet the 20 people on our roll call at 11 a.m. We had a Pub lunch to look forward to in the Wheelhouse later on.


I went to breakfast with Carol in the HC around 8 a.m- I know this was my 2nd breakfast of the morning but that was just another future pattern forming and I take what I know I can eat as I hate to see food wasted, unless it is unpalatable

The HC was very busy and noisy and we had to share a table and we have shied away from it since at peak times.


The CC group of 20 turned out to be just 6 of us and Gwen had made a full complement of sticky name tags. We had a nice time talking to our fellow CC members and were joined by Cruise Director Brett Siborne and an English lady from Passenger Services. It was a good excuse to have a cocktail at 11 a.m

but we haven't had anymore CC meets on subsequent cruises but we have the Royal and Ocean to look forward to within the next 16 months so never say never.It was nice meeting Gwen and her husband Gerry.


Carol went to her lecture while I visited my new favorite haunt Churchill's Cigar bar to have a cigarette and a beer- a waiter pops in from Crooners every so often to take orders and Vinny (from India) already knew my name and which beer I liked (Becks by default). I spent many hours in here meeting new friends from all over the USA. It has comfy chairs which look out over the promenade deck.





The photo was taken at 5 a.m. Often all the seats were taken but that was ok as I prefer smoking outdoors anyway when it is not raining.

There was rain aplenty though in Alaska, in August, but it was a soft drizzle which fell straight down so the appropriate rain gear made it a non-issue.

The air was damp though which made the Sanctuary less perfect than it normally is. The staff had to be there and were excited to see us anytime we popped in. Our loungers were always ready. We were on the lower deck of the Sanctuary and were the only people down there to book for the week.


The Sanctuary pool




We had loungers on the covered deck below




The Sanctuary cost was $105 each for the week, booked on site on the first day onboard.

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Thank you for posting your review! I will be doing this same cruise and most of your shore excursions. Looking forward to reading the rest of your review.


Did you book your transfer from the cruise line? If so, did you have to walk to the Egan center? Or, did the bus pick you up from the Hotel?

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We booked the transfer from the Egan to Whittier via Princess and made our own way to the Egan-a short walk without luggage. The bus didn't stop at the Captain Cook once I was onboard.



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Thanks for a quick response. Did you book the Hotel Captain Cook through the cruise line as well? When I booked I thought I was told that the bus would pick up guests who booked the hotel & transfers directly from the hotel and they would also pickup our luggage from the Hotel.


Just trying to get my ducks in a row for planning. Your review is a great walk through of what I expect and it is really appreciated. Thanks again!

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This is the TC as Norris is at work. I am very particular about hotel rooms and using my hotel memberships so I booked the Captain Cook on my own. We could see from our maps that the distance was quite short to the Egan and it was a cheap cab ride with luggage or an easy walk without. Let me take this opportunity to sing the praises of the Egan with Princess. It is very well organized and staffed with friendly, helpful folks. If you are not staying in a hotel but want to sightsee a bit you can check your luggage there. It is a great base camp for the day with capacious clean bathrooms and a Starbucks nearby! Plenty of service to the airport too which adds to the flexibility.



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