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Coral Princess Panama Canal Review with Photos

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Pre-cruise

 

This is the first part of a review of the Coral Princess 11 day Panama Canal Cruise from April 17th- 28th. This was the last partial transit of the Canal prior to the Coral repositioning for the Alaska route.

 

Our trip actually started on the 16th, when we left at 4:30 a.m. to catch our 7:30 a.m. flight. We left 2" of snow we got overnight and 18 degree temperature for something much warmer. We made our own air and hotel reservations since we could get them for free with our points. We had enough Southwest points for three round trip tickets, and enough Starwood points for two rooms at the Sheraton. This made our pre-cruise costs minimal for us and our travel companions.

 

Our pre-cruise hotel was the Sheraton Ft. Lauderdale Airport & Cruise Port Hotel. They are located near the airport and offer a free airport shuttle. Our flight got in at 10:30, so we called the shuttle to take us to the hotel. Although it was early, one of our rooms was ready for check-in. There are no restaurants within walking distance and we didn't want to eat at the hotel, so we took a cab to Las Olas Boulevard and the Riverfront for some lunch and shopping. It is 6-7 miles from the hotel and the cab fare was $5 each for the four of us. It is a nice area to spend some time in.

 

When we returned from lunch, we signed up for the 11:00 shuttle to the port for the 17th. The hotel shuttle to the port is $10 each and can be billed to your room. The hotel points we used for our stay got us club level rooms with free snacks at night and free breakfast in the club lounge, so those were our meals for the remainder of our stay.

 

Below is a photo of Las Olas Blvd.

 

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Next is Embarkation and the Cabin.

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Embarkation

 

Our 11:00 shuttle to the port was nearly full, but most were sailing on the Ruby Princess that was also in port. With a Thursday departure, there were only three cruise ships in port, so everything moved quickly. The shuttle dropped the Ruby passengers at pier 2 and then us at pier 21. We dropped our bags with the curbside porters and went into the terminal to check-in. There were quite a few already in the terminal, but it was only about a 10 minute wait in the line to check-in. Liked the fact that Princess did not need to scan your credit card if you were using the same one you did your online check-in with. It probably speeds up the process.

 

After check-in, they sent us toward the rear of the terminal to wait for boarding. When we got to the back, we went right since there were some seats available, and as it turned out, this area was the first to board. We had about 30 pounds of liquids (water, beauty products, etc.) in a carryon and was surprised we did not get pulled to the alcohol check table. Everything must have looked okay on the scanners.

 

At Pier 21, the Coral had two gangways. They separated rooms below 400 to the first gangway, and 400 and above to the second. Once onboard the ship, they use handheld scanners to scan your cruise card and photograph you, then they direct you to a bank of elevators to get you to your deck. This is the first and only time we would use the elevators during our cruise. Our balcony cabin was on the Baja deck (deck 11) port side on the midship hump. It was convenient to the midship stairwell and bank of elevators.

 

The Cabin

 

We were in B426, and our traveling companions were in the adjacent B502 cabin which was a mirror image of ours. The cabin appeared a little larger than other balcony cabins we have had, but it is because there was no couch and only a chair. We liked the layout of the closet space which was across from the bath. There were plenty of hangers and there was also a closet with shelves that also contained the safe. The safe was just large enough to hold an iPad Air and our other valuables. It would not be large enough for a laptop computer.

 

There were two outlets at the desk. We have a Belkin mini-surge protector that has three outlets and two USB charging ports. This came in handy when charging a iPhone, an iPad, camera, and plugging in curlers and other things at the same time. There was also a spare outlet at the tv shelf, but this would be difficult to get to. The outlets under the beds were both used by the nightstand lamps.

 

The bath was no larger than you would typically find. Storage shelves in the bath were somewhat lacking with only three small shelves along the left side of the vanity. We had to use the shelf beneath the sink to store some bath items. One nice feature was the outlet in the bath was not controlled by the bath light. We always take a small blue LED night light, and this worked perfect here. The shower had a curtain that made getting in and out easy, but it is still a small space.

 

The balcony was covered by the Aloha deck cabin above. It had two chairs and a small table. We used the balcony less on this cruise than on any others, even though it was a longer cruise. Maybe we were just too busy to use it. We did find out that all the furniture in the cabin will fit on the balcony - more on that later.

 

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Next - the Horizon Court

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The Horizon Court

 

The Horizon Court Buffet is located on the Lido deck (deck 14) forward. We went here for lunch after embarkation, and had maybe one other lunch here the entire cruise. We did, however, have breakfast here every day. We found some of the meats to be a little dry and the other dishes to be your standard buffet food for the lunch choices. We pretty much stuck to the fresh omelet station for breakfast each morning. They did have a good bread pudding that we had to try after our table mates from Wales raved about it.

 

Princess was being proactive about sanitation, and you had to have your squirt of sanitizer before receiving your silverware here.

 

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Muster Drill

 

The muster drill was held at 3:15, and our muster station was the Princess Fine Art Gallery on deck 7. You have to take your life preserver from your cabin to the muster station and check-in for the safety briefing. No photos from the muster drill, but it was very crowded for space. We saw one lady who was having difficulty juggling her preserver and her martini. Maybe it was because by that time she already had ti many martoonies.:)

 

Next - The Ship Dining and Bars

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The Ship - Dining and Bars

 

Besides the Horizon Court Buffet, the Coral has the Provence Main Dining Room and the Bordeaux My Time Dining Room as the main dining areas. Other options for food include the Pizzeria and the ice cream bar on deck 14 and the Grill on deck 15, and a small International Cafe on deck 6. For fee restaurants include Sabatini's and the Bayou Cafe on deck 7.

 

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We did not use any of the specialty restaurants. Our lunch favorites was to get something from the Grill. Here, they offered cooked to order hamburgers, hot dogs, knock wurst, bratwurst, and chicken sandwiches. The Pizzeria usually offered a specialty pizza each day as well as plain or pepperoni. We had no complaints from anything we ordered at either place.

 

We had a table for 10 in the Main Dining Room at the early dinner seating, and we are all of our dinners there. Our table mates were all thoroughly enjoyable. The meal choices were usually six main entrees, four "always available" entrees, a couple of pasta choices, and three or four soup, salad and appetizer choices. Most of the food was good, but was not up to the same level we have experienced on other cruises. Maybe we just notice this more the longer we cruise. The meal choices seemed to be very similar, to almost repeat some options later in the cruise.

 

There are eight bars or bar/lounge areas, with some only being open if there are activities going on there. Most beers were 4.25 to 5.95 plus tip, and cocktails averaged 7.95 plus tip. Crooners had the best Dirty Banana. I guess all bartenders are not created equal.

 

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Next - Fitness Options

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Fitness Options

 

There is a small fitness center located on deck 14 aft with a number of treadmills, ellipticals, bikes and weight machines. We were typically at the gym early each morning. Others on earlier sailings indicated the gym was vacant, but on our cruise, it was packed. If you got there later than 6:30 a.m. All the machines would be in use. Deck 7 has a walking / jogging track that takes 2.8 laps to equal one mile.

 

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I don't know if anyone considers mini golf as a fitness option, but they do have the Princess Links on deck 15. It was a little hard to find. The basketball court, shuffleboard and the giant chess set are on the Sports Deck (deck 16) aft.

 

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Next - Easter Displays

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Easter Displays

 

Our Cruise was over Easter, so there was an elaborate display in the Atrium. It reminded me of the displays you would see when they still did the mid-night buffet on cruise ships.

 

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Next - Cruise Critic Meet and Greet

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Great review-nicely detailed and the photos are excellent.

 

Coral was my first Princess Cruise. A beautiful ship indeed.

 

Thank you, and keep it coming!

 

Norris

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Cruise Critic Meet and Greet

 

We had our Cruise Critic Meet and Greet on the first sea day at 11:00 a.m. Since we had a group of about 40, Princess opened up the Wheelhouse Bar for us and provided dry snacks and a bartender. Shelia, the Customer Relations Manager was there to greet our group, and Cruise Director, Daniel Falconer stopped by as well as others.

 

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Several from our CC group participated in a slot pull on the second sea day and a pub crawl on the third sea day. We had 21 for the slot pull at the Wheel of Fortune machine, and 20 for the pub crawl / poker run.

 

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Next - Aruba

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Aruba

 

Aruba was our first port of call, and we arrived there on Easter Sunday. We were the only ship in port that day, so there was some concern that most places would be closed. We scheduled the Snorkeling Cruise and Antilla Shipwreck excursion through the ship. We took all ship's tours this cruise and booked them long in advance of the cruise.

 

The first stop was at Boca Catalina for reef snorkeling. The reef and the marine life was not as colorful nor as abundant as other sites we have snorkeled. The second stop was at the "Antilla" shipwreck. A remnant of World War II, the "Antilla" was scuttled by its own captain, to prevent it from being captured by the Dutch Marines. The seas were choppy, and you needed to be a strong swimmer at the shipwreck site. The catamaran had 75 to 80 onboard for this excursion, so it was crowded. The crew did not offer any instructions for beginners, and they did not provide a guide in the water as many snorkeling excursions do. I would not recommend this excursion, since there are many better sites in the Caribbean.

 

Back ashore, the open air market was open, but many of the restaurants and other shops were closed, or had closed early, so we did not get to enjoy all that Aruba has to offer.

 

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Next - Ship Pools

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Ship Pools

 

The ship has two main pools and a couple smaller pools. The main outdoor pool is the Lido Pool on deck 14. There are three hot tubs around this pool and this is where the Movies Under the Stars screen is. Princess shows "almost first run movies" at night, as well as some older ones. They also have concert videos at various times. This was the most popular pool where everyone was " watchin' the sun bake; All of those tourists covered with oil." ( with apologies to Jimmy Buffett for use of his Margarittaville lyrics).

 

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The second main pool is the Lotus pool which is covered. This was our favorite, and we never had trouble finding lounge chairs regardless of what time we came here. This pool is 6'-7" deep, so you should be able to swim before venturing in here. I had to pull someone out the first sea day who got in over their head and was struggling to get to the edge.

 

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There is also a small splash pool on the 16th deck that is about 15" deep. Never saw anyone using this pool.

 

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The Sanctuary also has a small pool. Not sure what people find as the attraction here. The area was small with most loungers in the shade. Given the ease in finding empty loungers in the lotus pool area, we were content there.

 

Next - Cartagena

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Cartagena - Part 1

 

Our stop in Cartagena is a short one. We are here from 7:00 until boarding time of 1:30.

 

Entering Cartagena Harbor

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The Virgin Carmen Statue in the harbor is the patron saint of navigators.

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If one word describes Cartagena, it is HOT. The temperature listed in the cruise summary said it was 83, but the one website we checked said it felt like 130 degrees with the heat index. After a long cold winter, we had no complaints about the heat.

 

On the way to our first tour stop, we saw that DMV's must be run the same way everywhere.

 

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Next - Cartagena Part 2

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Great review so far! We are considering Princess for a Panama Canal cruise in 2016 so look forward to more of your impressions AND great pics!

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Excellent review with wonderful photos. We were on the Coral two years ago, before the drydock. Nice to see some of the upgrades in your pictures.

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Thanks for all the pictures. We will be on the Coral for the first time on the 24th. Was there a coffee bar next to the international cafe? We love to get a coffee with a treat from the IC.

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Thanks for all the pictures. We will be on the Coral for the first time on the 24th. Was there a coffee bar next to the international cafe? We love to get a coffee with a treat from the IC.

 

Yes there is a coffee bar there. There is a charge for all coffee at the I.C., even a cup of regular coffee.

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Cartagena - Part 2

 

We were on tour 100A in Cartagena along with 500 others. The excursion guide said it was the most popular tour. Lots and lots of busses. This tour included the Highlights of Cartagena, the Fortress, and Las Bovedas. Our guide was Matorel, and although he knew his history of each place well, it was too much information for anyone to remember. Our first stop was the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas ( Fort of San Felipe ). Construction of this fortification began in 1536, and it is alway amazing that they could build such massive structures given the tools of the time period. As soon as we got off the bus, there were many street vendors hawking their wares as you walked up to the fort.

 

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Four hundred year old La Popa Monastery is on a 500 foot hill overlooking the fort.

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After a walking tour of the fort, we stopped at Perino Gallo Plaza. Here again, there were more street vendors and only a few shops. Within the Plaza there was a gentleman offering you an opportunity to hold a sloth while you had your picture taken for $2. I always said I would like to do this if I had the chance.

 

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Next - Cartagena Part 3

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Really enjoying your review. We sail to Panama on the Coral next Feb. 5th. Love all the pictures.

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I too am enjoying your review. We will be onboard the Coral in January. I love the photos.

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I am eagerly following along. We will be doing this same itinerary on the Island Princess in December. I'm looking forward to the rest of your review!

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Thank you so much for the very interesting review and photos. We will be on the Coral in September for a full Canal transit from L.A to Fort Lauderdale and after seeing your review I am even more excited about our cruise. Thank You

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Cartagena - Part 3

 

After the brief stop at the Plaza, we went to the Old City, which is a walled city with narrow streets and Spanish Colonial buildings. We had stops at the San Pedro Claver Sanctuary, the Palacio de la Inquiscion, and the Navy Museum.

 

 

San Pedro Calver Sanctuary

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San Pedro Claver Sanctuary

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Old City

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Architecture in Old City

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Guillotine at Palacio de la Inquiscion

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Statue of Simon Bolivar in Bolivar Plaza

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It would have been nice to spend more time in this Port. We would have liked to wander around the Old City some more and had more time for shopping, but with just a short time, it is not possible.

 

Next - Panama Canali

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Enjoying the review of your cruise, great photos! Looking forward to the rest!

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