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Coral Princess Review and Thanks

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Just off the Coral Princess 11 day Panama Canal partial transit out of Ft. Lauderdale. First a sincere thank you to all the Cruise Critic members who provided valuable information as I prepared for this cruise. From the suggestion to read Path Between the Seas to the tip to stake out a spot early on the "secret" forward balcony on the Baja deck for the morning passage through the Gatun Locks, you're input made this wonderful cruise even more enjoyable.

 

Pre-cruise and Embarkation

 

We stayed in the Hilton Marina for the night before the cruise. A bit pricey at $210 but extremely convenient to the cruise port. We even saw a few cruisers walking from the hotel to the port. This would only be practical if you were on a Princess ship since their berths are the closest to the hotels on 17th Street. We took a cab from the hotel and it was actually similar in cost to shuttle tickets. Be aware, however, that friends staying at the Hyatt Pier 66 which is almost as close as the Hilton took 45 minutes to get to the Coral berth due to severe traffic and had quite an expensive cab ride. We were told there were nine ships in port on the day we left and even a town as experienced with cruise traffic as Ft. Lauderdale had a hard time handling it. For those intending to take their allotted wine quota on board there is a Walgreen's a block away and they have a limited selection there. Another positive is that the water taxi Stop Five is only steps from the hotel's property. Big City Tavern on Las Olas Blvd. was a great place for drinks and food and was only minutes from two water taxi stops.

 

We arrived at the port at 11:30, were processed very quickly, sat for about 15 minutes in the lounge, and were on board by 12:15.

 

Ship, Staff, Food, Entertainment

 

We were on deck 11/Baja in a forward standard balcony cabin. The Coral Princess is in great shape for her age. Although it is a large ship it has a small feel, perhaps due to the narrow width that allows passage through the Panama Canal. The casino is very small but the other public areas seem to be approximately the same size as other ships I have been on. I had read on CC that the showers in the standard balcony cabins were small but we were still surprised at the dimensions. Anyone who needs a shower of anything close to normal size should seriously consider looking a the mini-suites. Chair hogs were alive and well but lounge chairs could always be found in forward areas away from the pool. As would be expected on an 11 day itinerary, it was an older crowd on this particular cruise. We were told by many people that the shop was at full capacity but we did not experience lines or waits anywhere on board including the elevators. The port side of the ship seemed to have the best views as we entered four of the five ports. I found it interesting that on the third day of the cruise our cabin attendant told us that we were scheduled for carpet replacement the following day. She said it was completely up to us and when we declined it was not big deal.

 

Evaluation of food is purely subjective. For dinner we had traditional dining, late seating and I personally found the food to be consistently very good but not quite rising to the level of outstanding. The food was always hot and the portions were appropriate considering how many courses are offered. The vast majority of passengers followed the dress code on both formal and smart casual nights. Food in the buffet was fine. At breakfast there was never a line for the buffet or for omelets which is very unusual. The pizza is not only the best at sea, it is better than most on land as well. Ditto for the fresh rolls which I consumed at breakfast, lunch and dinner!

 

The only real negative for me on the entire cruise--and a change from past Princess cruises--was the constant attempts to sell water and beverages while we were eating meals at any time of day and at any venue. In the Horizon we were approached multiple times during breakfasts to purchase water for port visits or to purchase different varieties of mimosa type drinks. At dinner we were offered drinks of the day and specialty coffees while we were eating. Yes I know, all you have to do is say no, and I politely did so. But multiple times for the same product during the same meal is over the line for me.

 

Our room attendant (Marikris) and our head waiter (Christian) were outstanding. The entire bar staff at Crooners worked hard for us each evening and always had a smile even when things got hectic. I found it interesting that the cruise director (Susan) somehow found the time to lead the daily Zumba class in addition to all of her other duties. A clear majority of the staff were sincerely friendly, a minority seemed to want to be somewhere else.

 

The major production shows were the best I have ever experienced on a cruise. Do not miss Motor City, On the Bayou, and Dance. The singers and dancers were extremely talented and enthusiastic. I was very pleased to see that Princess still has a live orchestra and the costumes and sets were more like you might find in a land based theater rather than a cruise ship. The "pool band" was fine and played multiple venues throughout the day and night. If you are looking for a cruise with nightclub style dancing after 10:00, the Panama Canal itinerary will probably not suit you. The ship did a good job with the Super Bowl and MUTS seemed popular. No matter what was going on around the pool, you can always find a seat in the hot tub.

 

Ports

 

Aruba--we spent the day on Palm Beach. The city bus terminal is directly across the street from the cruise port and fares are $2 each way and run every 15 minutes. This is far cheaper than a taxi and the buses are clean and convenient. We took a one mile walk on the beach starting at DePalm pier. We found a nice section of the beach where we could sun and swim. We then walked back stopping at the Moomba Bar for a drink and then the Bugaloe Bar on DePalm Pier for lunch and drinks. Bugaloe is a great bar!

 

Cartagena--we did the Princess excursion, "Old City On Your Own." The bus stopped briefly at the fortress for pictures and then gave us a 45 minute guided tour of the Old City. We then had approximately 1 1/2 hours to explore further on our own. We could have saved a little by using a taxi here and doing it on our own but due to the limited time in port we opted for the security of an excursion.

 

Panama Canal--Up at 5:00 and on the forward viewing area on deck 11 by 5:15. The door is marked "No Admittance" but a room attendant assured us that the area was available on the day we were visiting the Panama Canal. We were the only people there for 15 minutes or so but the area gradually filled and by 6:15 it was shoulder to shoulder. It is magical approaching the canal from miles away in the dark. By the time you actually enter Gatun Lock the sun is up. By 8:30 or so we were in Gatun Lake and hustling to eat breakfast with everyone else prior to going on an excursion. After much deliberation (and with the help of multiple CC posters), we decided to take the full transit by ferry. We experienced all of the positives that people told us we would and none of the negatives that we were warned about. The experience in the locks is completely different in a small vessel as compared to a cruise ship. The ferry features seating that is 95% covered or enclosed so heat was not a problem for us. The lunch was much better than the "bag lunch" we had been warned about and the wait to enter the locks was minimal. I asked one of the guides on board if I could get some pictures from the top of the ferry and he took us to the bridge where we met the captain and the canal pilot. The view of the Pacific and Panama City is very impressive. We were back on board by 5:00 or so.

 

Costa Rica--We did the Princess excursion to the Veragua rainforest. This is an educational excursion that is $129 but well worth it. The only negative is the road that must be used to get you there. If you get motion sickness or have a bad back that is aggravated by a very bumpy ride you might want to think twice about this trip.

 

Jamaica--We hired a private tour through Marvyn's Paradise Tours. Marvyn (you will get to know him on a first name basis if you use him!) quoted a price of $60 apiece to visit Blue Hole, a gated beach, and Scotchies for lunch. We also had to pay the $10 entry fee to Blue Hole and buy our own lunch. You really cannot get a feel for Blue Hole without visiting it. It is basically a beautiful waterfall with four or five small but deep pools of water downstream. A guide helps you to the falls and then gives you the option to jump into the pools from ledges of varying heights above the water ranging from maybe five feet to thirty feet. If you do this, try to get there as early as possible. We were the second car there and it was peaceful and private. With thirty people there the experience would not have been the same. The road to the falls is barely a road and will test your nerves as much as the jumps! Our driver gave us a tour of Ocho Rios on the way to the beach where we stayed until we got hungry for lunch. Then on to Scotchies for lunch--jerk chicken or pork for $4.50 and Red Stripes for $2.00. This place has been featured on the Cooking Channel and should not be missed. The nice thing about this itinerary is that all three venues are within thirty minutes of each other so you really never worry about getting back to the ship. Marvyn was highly recommended on Trip Advisor and our experience was very positive as well.

 

Random thoughts

 

I found this itinerary to be one that provided a wide variety of experiences. It is educational and features a great deal of history. You can visit beaches and rainforest. You visit another continent. You can cross the continental divide. It is a Caribbean cruise but much more.

 

I have posted this before but I continue to worry that these ships are just getting too big. Multiple ships visiting small Caribbean ports are changing the very nature of these beautiful islands.

 

I once again learned a great deal by simply engaging the staff of Coral Princess in conversation. I have found that asking crew members about their home countries, their families, their experiences on board almost always leads to an interesting exchange. Invariably they have personal stories that are amazing and sometimes heartbreaking when you consider the sacrifices they are making for their families back home.

 

Again, thanks to the Cruise Critic community for the assistance that you provided that helped to make this cruise a success.

 

js

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wonderful review--the Panama Canal is definitely on our bucket list and hope to go in 2016. How was your weather? We love the Island Princess and would enjoy Coral as well. Great forward viewing with those not so secret viewing areas! Thanks for sharing your experiences--it sounds like a great cruise.

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The weather was not nearly as hot as I had feared. A mixture of sunny, partly cloudy, and cloudy days with temps in the mid-80's. Humid but not unbearably so and only one true downpour while on the ferry excursion in the Panama Canal.

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We are sailing on the Coral Princess on March 10 for the same itinerary. Thank you for taking the time to give such a great review! We are going to the Blue Hole and Scotchies in Jamaica as well and are glad to see you enjoyed it - did you jump? Not sure if we will, but will be glad to experience it nevertheless!!!

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Just off the Coral Princess 11 day Panama Canal partial transit out of Ft. Lauderdale. First a sincere thank you to all the Cruise Critic members who provided valuable information as I prepared for this cruise. From the suggestion to read Path Between the Seas to the tip to stake out a spot early on the "secret" forward balcony on the Baja deck for the morning passage through the Gatun Locks, you're input made this wonderful cruise even more enjoyable.

 

Pre-cruise and Embarkation

 

We stayed in the Hilton Marina for the night before the cruise. A bit pricey at $210 but extremely convenient to the cruise port. We even saw a few cruisers walking from the hotel to the port. This would only be practical if you were on a Princess ship since their berths are the closest to the hotels on 17th Street. We took a cab from the hotel and it was actually similar in cost to shuttle tickets. Be aware, however, that friends staying at the Hyatt Pier 66 which is almost as close as the Hilton took 45 minutes to get to the Coral berth due to severe traffic and had quite an expensive cab ride. We were told there were nine ships in port on the day we left and even a town as experienced with cruise traffic as Ft. Lauderdale had a hard time handling it. For those intending to take their allotted wine quota on board there is a Walgreen's a block away and they have a limited selection there. Another positive is that the water taxi Stop Five is only steps from the hotel's property. Big City Tavern on Las Olas Blvd. was a great place for drinks and food and was only minutes from two water taxi stops.

 

We arrived at the port at 11:30, were processed very quickly, sat for about 15 minutes in the lounge, and were on board by 12:15.

 

Ship, Staff, Food, Entertainment

 

We were on deck 11/Baja in a forward standard balcony cabin. The Coral Princess is in great shape for her age. Although it is a large ship it has a small feel, perhaps due to the narrow width that allows passage through the Panama Canal. The casino is very small but the other public areas seem to be approximately the same size as other ships I have been on. I had read on CC that the showers in the standard balcony cabins were small but we were still surprised at the dimensions. Anyone who needs a shower of anything close to normal size should seriously consider looking a the mini-suites. Chair hogs were alive and well but lounge chairs could always be found in forward areas away from the pool. As would be expected on an 11 day itinerary, it was an older crowd on this particular cruise. We were told by many people that the shop was at full capacity but we did not experience lines or waits anywhere on board including the elevators. The port side of the ship seemed to have the best views as we entered four of the five ports. I found it interesting that on the third day of the cruise our cabin attendant told us that we were scheduled for carpet replacement the following day. She said it was completely up to us and when we declined it was not big deal.

 

Evaluation of food is purely subjective. For dinner we had traditional dining, late seating and I personally found the food to be consistently very good but not quite rising to the level of outstanding. The food was always hot and the portions were appropriate considering how many courses are offered. The vast majority of passengers followed the dress code on both formal and smart casual nights. Food in the buffet was fine. At breakfast there was never a line for the buffet or for omelets which is very unusual. The pizza is not only the best at sea, it is better than most on land as well. Ditto for the fresh rolls which I consumed at breakfast, lunch and dinner!

 

The only real negative for me on the entire cruise--and a change from past Princess cruises--was the constant attempts to sell water and beverages while we were eating meals at any time of day and at any venue. In the Horizon we were approached multiple times during breakfasts to purchase water for port visits or to purchase different varieties of mimosa type drinks. At dinner we were offered drinks of the day and specialty coffees while we were eating. Yes I know, all you have to do is say no, and I politely did so. But multiple times for the same product during the same meal is over the line for me.

 

Our room attendant (Marikris) and our head waiter (Christian) were outstanding. The entire bar staff at Crooners worked hard for us each evening and always had a smile even when things got hectic. I found it interesting that the cruise director (Susan) somehow found the time to lead the daily Zumba class in addition to all of her other duties. A clear majority of the staff were sincerely friendly, a minority seemed to want to be somewhere else.

 

The major production shows were the best I have ever experienced on a cruise. Do not miss Motor City, On the Bayou, and Dance. The singers and dancers were extremely talented and enthusiastic. I was very pleased to see that Princess still has a live orchestra and the costumes and sets were more like you might find in a land based theater rather than a cruise ship. The "pool band" was fine and played multiple venues throughout the day and night. If you are looking for a cruise with nightclub style dancing after 10:00, the Panama Canal itinerary will probably not suit you. The ship did a good job with the Super Bowl and MUTS seemed popular. No matter what was going on around the pool, you can always find a seat in the hot tub.

 

Ports

 

Aruba--we spent the day on Palm Beach. The city bus terminal is directly across the street from the cruise port and fares are $2 each way and run every 15 minutes. This is far cheaper than a taxi and the buses are clean and convenient. We took a one mile walk on the beach starting at DePalm pier. We found a nice section of the beach where we could sun and swim. We then walked back stopping at the Moomba Bar for a drink and then the Bugaloe Bar on DePalm Pier for lunch and drinks. Bugaloe is a great bar!

 

Cartagena--we did the Princess excursion, "Old City On Your Own." The bus stopped briefly at the fortress for pictures and then gave us a 45 minute guided tour of the Old City. We then had approximately 1 1/2 hours to explore further on our own. We could have saved a little by using a taxi here and doing it on our own but due to the limited time in port we opted for the security of an excursion.

 

Panama Canal--Up at 5:00 and on the forward viewing area on deck 11 by 5:15. The door is marked "No Admittance" but a room attendant assured us that the area was available on the day we were visiting the Panama Canal. We were the only people there for 15 minutes or so but the area gradually filled and by 6:15 it was shoulder to shoulder. It is magical approaching the canal from miles away in the dark. By the time you actually enter Gatun Lock the sun is up. By 8:30 or so we were in Gatun Lake and hustling to eat breakfast with everyone else prior to going on an excursion. After much deliberation (and with the help of multiple CC posters), we decided to take the full transit by ferry. We experienced all of the positives that people told us we would and none of the negatives that we were warned about. The experience in the locks is completely different in a small vessel as compared to a cruise ship. The ferry features seating that is 95% covered or enclosed so heat was not a problem for us. The lunch was much better than the "bag lunch" we had been warned about and the wait to enter the locks was minimal. I asked one of the guides on board if I could get some pictures from the top of the ferry and he took us to the bridge where we met the captain and the canal pilot. The view of the Pacific and Panama City is very impressive. We were back on board by 5:00 or so.

 

Costa Rica--We did the Princess excursion to the Veragua rainforest. This is an educational excursion that is $129 but well worth it. The only negative is the road that must be used to get you there. If you get motion sickness or have a bad back that is aggravated by a very bumpy ride you might want to think twice about this trip.

 

Jamaica--We hired a private tour through Marvyn's Paradise Tours. Marvyn (you will get to know him on a first name basis if you use him!) quoted a price of $60 apiece to visit Blue Hole, a gated beach, and Scotchies for lunch. We also had to pay the $10 entry fee to Blue Hole and buy our own lunch. You really cannot get a feel for Blue Hole without visiting it. It is basically a beautiful waterfall with four or five small but deep pools of water downstream. A guide helps you to the falls and then gives you the option to jump into the pools from ledges of varying heights above the water ranging from maybe five feet to thirty feet. If you do this, try to get there as early as possible. We were the second car there and it was peaceful and private. With thirty people there the experience would not have been the same. The road to the falls is barely a road and will test your nerves as much as the jumps! Our driver gave us a tour of Ocho Rios on the way to the beach where we stayed until we got hungry for lunch. Then on to Scotchies for lunch--jerk chicken or pork for $4.50 and Red Stripes for $2.00. This place has been featured on the Cooking Channel and should not be missed. The nice thing about this itinerary is that all three venues are within thirty minutes of each other so you really never worry about getting back to the ship. Marvyn was highly recommended on Trip Advisor and our experience was very positive as well.

 

Random thoughts

 

I found this itinerary to be one that provided a wide variety of experiences. It is educational and features a great deal of history. You can visit beaches and rainforest. You visit another continent. You can cross the continental divide. It is a Caribbean cruise but much more.

 

I have posted this before but I continue to worry that these ships are just getting too big. Multiple ships visiting small Caribbean ports are changing the very nature of these beautiful islands.

 

I once again learned a great deal by simply engaging the staff of Coral Princess in conversation. I have found that asking crew members about their home countries, their families, their experiences on board almost always leads to an interesting exchange. Invariably they have personal stories that are amazing and sometimes heartbreaking when you consider the sacrifices they are making for their families back home.

 

Again, thanks to the Cruise Critic community for the assistance that you provided that helped to make this cruise a success.

 

js

Thank you for your incite and review of the Coral Princess. We will be taking this cruise at the end of October. We can not wait to experience this phenomenal itinerary.

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Hi JS10!

 

Terrific review! We will be on the Coral in less than three weeks now and this gave us some great information. Many thanks for taking the time to share your experiences!

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Great Review - Thanks! :)

Especially liked that you included what you did in each of your ports of call!

LuLu

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When on the Coral Princess, to get great views of the Canal locks do as “js10” said in their review. You can go forward on either deck 10 or 11. After you have gotten to the second lock and have seen what you want, go directly to the back of the ship to get great views from a different perspective. There are multiple decks with balconies at the stern that allow you to look straight down onto the gates of the locks.

 

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Cindy&Craig--Yes, we did make several jumps. It does not look very high until you get to the ledge! The guides claim the water is 15+ feet deep and we never hit the bottom. They will caution you to jump out so you avoid the rocks. There is no pressure and a couple of people stepped back from the ledge after looking down. At the very least you can sit at the base of the waterfall, jump from the lower rocks and swim in the pools. We are each 64 years old so it is certainly doable! BTW, pool shoes, secure sandals or an old pair of tennis shoes are a must.

 

Denise--US dollars were taken at the bus terminal and everywhere else on the Coral Princess itinerary. At the terminal you actually purchase a computer card that is scanned by the driver--very modern technology.

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Thanks for the stellar review. Great itinerary on a great ship!

 

Norris

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JS10:

Thanks for your review. We're looking the same cruise, but wondering about the short time in so many ports. It looks to me as if Aruba, Cartagena and several other ports give you only a few hours. Did you feel limited by this?

 

Jim

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Jim--concerning the amount of time in ports, I only found the stop in Cartagena to be somewhat limiting depending on what you want to do. In the immediate area around the port, the Old City and the fortress are by far the most visited sites. They can easily be done on your own or on a relatively inexpensive ship excursion. I was so impressed with the Old City that I would probably go again if I returned to Cartagena. As I noted in my review, all of the most popular sites in Ocho Rios are clustered together near the port. We were back on board by 2:30 and turned down the opportunity to tube that our guide offered. Coral Princess alternates each cruise between Ocho Rios and Grand Cayman. I do not know how much time is available in GC but I do know that excellent snorkeling is available just a few hundred yards from where the tenders dock.

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Hi JS10. Thank you for a great review and taking the time to write it and ans., everyone's questions. We're looking into this cruise, Dec 7th. For my hubby's 80 B/D. Will keep the "secret door" a secret.

Thanks again

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Thank you so much for your review. We are going next March and I am having a difficult time deciding which excursion to take while in Panama. Your review has been very helpful.

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Really enjoyed your review and your tips...BTW, do you know what the charge is for any of the specialty dinning restaurants?

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Really enjoyed your review and your tips...BTW, do you know what the charge is for any of the specialty dinning restaurants?

 

Same as on the other Princess ships. $25/person for Sabatini's and for the steakhouse.

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