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Miramar

Coral Princess Review 10/31/04 Panama Canal Sailing (Part 1)

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Just returned form the 10/31/04 Panama Canal sailing of the Coral Princess. There were 3 of us that went—myself age 29 and my parents mid 60s. As a general rule, the majority of passengers on this sailing were much older than myself. However, I expected this due to the length of the cruise and the itinerary. Children were not very prevalent on this sailing—I think I saw a total of 6 the entire cruise. Also of note was that in each port we were the only cruise ship in port that day.

 

Pre-cruise stay: we always fly down a day early before a cruise and this time we chose to stay at the Marina Marriott in Ft. Lauderdale. It was during the Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show, so was quite filled up. The hotel is right across the street from the pier and when we arrived we could see the Caribbean Princess getting ready to leave. Another thing we enjoyed about this hotel and it’s proximity to the pier was getting up early on the morning of embarkation (5am) and watching all the ships return to Ft. Lauderdale. It was fun to watch the Coral Princess return to port and made us even more excited to start our cruise. The hotel offers a courtesy shuttle to the pier so we made arrangements to take that. Just sign up with the bell captain’s stand. I should note that the first person we asked at the stand told us that they did not offer shuttle service, but we asked someone else again and they told us that they did have a shuttle; so it may pay to ask more than one person if they tell you they don’t offer one. We took the 11:40am shuttle time and were the only guests on it and arrived at the pier by 11:50am.

 

Embarkation: After arriving at 11:50am, the porters took our bags and we got in the line outside the terminal. Once we made it inside the terminal and everybody sorted into the various lines for check in according to deck etc, that part went fairly quickly and smoothly. After check in, the line through security went very slowly, and there was a bottleneck of people waiting to get their embarkation photo taken etc. I think the whole process took us an hour; this was the slowest embarkation I’ve experienced on Princess.

 

Cabin: we booked D421 a suite. We loved the size and layout of this room! For those who are familiar with the Sun, Dawn etc, the suites on the Coral are laid out almost the same as the minisuites on the Dawn etc, but are a bit bigger and include a wet bar. There was tons of storage space—drawers, cabinets, shelves. The balcony included 2 lounge chairs and a table and 2 chairs. I know there has been much discussion previously on which balconies on the Coral are covered/uncovered etc. Our room was located midship and the balcony was about 2/3 covered I would say—maybe a little more.

We did get most of the suite perks without having to ask. We got our welcome glass of champagne. Got the chocolate covered strawberries automatically delivered on both formal nights, got a corsage and buttonaire delivered on the first formal night. The free internet service was nice, as well as being able to order canapes any night free of charge. We also got the complimentary flower arrangement and it lasted the entire cruise.

 

Ship: when we got onboard, they had the ship decorated for Halloween. They had a carved pumpkin display in the atrium and spider webs and other decorations in the bars and restaurants. Later that night the staff- bartenders etc dressed in costume.

 

Dining: we elected to do Anytime Dining which is in the Bordeaux dining room on Plaza deck 5. The for and service were excellent. We did not make reservations, as they would only let you reserve for 6 or 8pm and we like to go in between. There were several nights that we had to wait and were given a pager. The wait was about 5- 20min and we took this time to get drinks in La Patisserie Bar. We had different servers most nights, except a couple of time we had the same; we especially enjoyed the service of Noli from Romania.

One night we choose to eat dinner in the Bayou Cafe and that was wonderful as well. The cheese biscuits and cornbread to start we quite tasty and were served with a cheese spread. I had the fillet of beef which was great and another one of our party had the catfish which he also enjoyed.

The food for lunch in the Horizon Court was fine. There was always ample selection and one could always find something to suit. They had the hand sanitizer stations outside the entrance to the Horizon Court and the majority of people seemed to use them. I thought this was great that they are trying to stop sickness from becoming epidemic before it even starts.

The order of the dinner menus for this cruise were as follows: Day 1 Sailaway, Day 2 Captain’s Welcome, Day 3 Caribbean, Day 4 Continental/French, Day 5 Princess Dinner, Day 6 Italian, Day 7 Captain’s Gala, Day 8 International, Day 9 Chef’s dinner, Day 10 Landfall. The only “problem” we found was that we wanted to find out the order of the menus for the entire cruise on the first day so that we could book our Bayou Cafe reservation accordingly. However, nobody seemed to know what the order would be. We asked in the Bayou when we made our reservation and he gave us one answer but did not seem sure, so we asked several people in the dining room (waiters and maitre d’) and nobody there could give us a straight answer either. However, I now have full copies of the dinner menus from this cruise, as well a few of the lunch and dessert menus, so if anyone wants to know if a particular dish was served or has any other menu questions, feel free to ask me.

 

Day 2: this was a sea day. I took advantage of the scholarship at sea program and signed up for a pottery wheel class. It is $20/half hour and you can throw as many pots as you want. Then you may choose the one or ones you want to keep and the instructor will set them aside to dry and you can return a few days later and paint them. I thought this was a great way to pass the time on a sea day and would definitely do it again. There is also a $15 firing fee for the pots you keep.

Day 2 was also our first formal night.

 

Day 3: another sea day. Again, I took advantage of one of the activities offered onboard and did the wine tasting in the Provence dining room for $7.50 The price included a souvenir cordial glass and if you buy a bottle of wine following the event, you will receive a portion of your fee as a credit.

 

Day 4: Limon, Costa Rica. This was a lovely and very worthwhile stop in my opinion. I took the Sloth Sanctuary Tour. On the drive to the sanctuary we pulled over and saw howler monkeys in the trees. When arriving at the sanctuary, we assembled in an open air pavillion to watch a short film about the sloths and the sanctuary. After that, there was a photo opportunity with Buttercup, one of the original sloths there and chance to view some of the other residents. Then, they broke the group in half and half went on a canoe ride and the other half went on a nature walk (and then you switch). On the canoe ride, we saw lots of different birds, more monkeys, an iguana. The nature walk we observed all the different types of plants that the area has. It was quite pretty I thought. My parents did the Jungle Eco- Adventure boat trip and they loved that as well—saw an anteater, monkeys, birds.

 

Day 5: Panama Canal. Today we got up at 5am to watch our ship make it’s approach to the canal. Near the entrance, there were tons of other ships (tankers, cargo etc) waiting to enter as well. I believe we approached the first chamber around 6:45am. Going through the canal was real treat. It was fun to watch the ship beside us go thorough as well, because you could really see more of what was happening by watching them. The photographers were on the ground as we went through to take pictures of everyone out on their balconies. They also circulated the open decks to get your picture there. Once we entered Gatun Lake, those of us on tours were tendered ashore. My mother and I did the Deluxe Train dome train car tour. We enjoyed this tour—learned about the history of the canal etc. The description of the tour indicated that we would only go one way on the train—this turned out to not be true. We ended up going both ways on the train (with a motor coach tour in between), which was fine with us.

My father took the Ocean to Ocean tour and he really liked that as well.

 

I have to post this in 2 parts, as it's too long to be posted as a whole. part 2 to come.

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part 2

Day 6: Another sea day. Took advantage of the sea day to paint the pots I had made on the pottery wheel. Also did the Maitre D’ Wine Tasting for $25.

 

Day 7: Grand Cayman. Much to our delight we did stop at Grand Cayman. The tours were not able to be booked prior to getting on board the ship and there was an abbreviated listing of available tours due to damage to some of the boats etc etc. We booked the Stingray Sanbar Snorkel- snorkel boat. The tour was nice and we had a about 50 min to interact with the rays.

On the drive to pick up the boat and as we were going out to the sandbar, there was destruction evident, but the clean up appears to be well under way and continually occurring. We were just happy to get to go there and they seemed happy to see us come as well.

This was our second formal night and night of the champagne waterfall.

 

Day 8: Cozumel. My father and I had signed up to snorkel at Palancar reef and my mother was to to Chankanab park. However, due to pretty rough seas that day (was very windy), many of the water related tours were canceled. We ended up shopping at the pier (Puerta Maya) in the morning and taking a cab to the downtown pier in the afternoon.

 

Day 9: Belize. I did the Belize Zoo and city tour. All the animals in the zoo are animals that you would find in the country of Belize. None of the animals were captured from the wild—they are all animals that were injured and can not longer fend for themselves in nature or are being rehabilitated to be eventually set free. In Belize the ship must anchor very far out in the ocean and then the tender ride is about 10-15 min. There are some shops at the pier, but it this is an emerging port so is not as developed as many others.

This afternoon, I went to tea in the Bordeaux dining room. I had never been to tea on Princess before. I loved the scones with jam and clotted cream. They also served cookies, pastries and finger sandwiches. They seat you at tables and white gloved servers circulate the tables to serve you. They also have a musician perform during the event.

 

Day 10: At sea. Our final day of the cruise was a sea day. Sitting by the pool was the order of the day. Apparently it was what every one else wanted to do as well. It was a little tricky to get a chair in the afternoon and I noticed that there were chair hogs out in force. Today was also the last culinary demonstration and galley tour, which we did. I thought it was very interesting to see all the different stations in the galley and it was impressive to think about what the galley must look like at dinner with everyone bustling around and doing their jobs.

At the end of the day they was a champagne party for people who had made or painted pottery to go and pick up their pieces in the pottery studio. You could then go and see what everyone else had made during the cruise.

 

Disembarkation: went pretty smoothly and timely. We were off the ship by about 9:30am and were about the 4th group called. Once we found our luggage and got a porter we were able to easily get a cab to the airport. Since we docked at a different terminal for disembarkation, i belive they offered shuttle service to the other terminal to people who had driven and parked at the pier to embark.

 

Additional Information that some people may want to know;

Cruise Director: David Cole

Captain: Giorgio Pomata

Maitre D’: Rui Pereira

 

Overall, I thought this was a great cruise. I had never done a 10 day itinerary before and it was the perfect amount of time. I can only hope that now 7 days won’t seem too short to me! If you have any questions feel free to ask me and if I think of anything else I’ll post that too.

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Great review. We are going on the 12/28 cruise and can't wait! I would like to do the pottery class too as it sounds like fun. Did they have the comptuer classes too? How was the entertainment? How was the food? We do want to go to Sabitinis one night and have traditional late seating.

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Llund: yes, I believe they did have some computer classes as well. I don't remember which ones exactly, but I do know that some were offered. Most of the classes were offered on sea days, with maybe 1 or 2 things offered on port days. I do recommend the pottery wheel class-- it was alot of fun.

The food was good-- nice presentation too. I don't eat seafood, so I mostly stuck to beef dishes, but my father who does like seafood enjoyed all of those offerings.

We didn't go to any of the shows-- mostly did our own thing in the evenings. The band that played in the Explorers Lounge, Emerald City was pretty good I thought.

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Do you knowwhat time the pottery classes are offered? We are having a cruise critic meeting at 1:00 in the afternoon on our first sea day. I am hoping that it isn't at the same time.

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Miramar - Thanks for the taking the time to post a great review. I'm sailing on the Coral in February and appreciate any information I can get. A few more questions:

Where did you watch going through the canal? Was it from your balcony? Anywhere you can recommend?

Can you give any specific details on the Ocean to Ocean tour your father took.

What time did you usually go to the dining room? We also have anytime dining because we usually eat between 7 and 7:30 pm. Also, we will probably want a table for two - are we in for a long wait every night?

What was the difference between the Wine tasting at $7.50 and the Maitre D' Wine tasting at $25?

Thanks again!

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Llund: I'll have to check my scholarship at sea brochure to see when the pottery class was offered. I think the first sea day it was 3pm-5pm and the second sea day it was 1pm to 3pm. I'll check and post back this weekend.

1st cruiser: we watched the canal passage from deck 14 for the first lock and then when down to our balcony for the other locks. We went through the left side of the canal and another cargo ship was going through the right side at the same time, so we watched over the right/starboard side of the ship. The view off the back off the ship was also great and there were not as many people there-- the front was pretty full.

Will have to check on the Ocean to Ocean tour.

We usually went to the dining room between 6 and 6:45pm. The times we had to wait were the times we were there closer to 6pm, as the people who had made reservations for that time had preference obviously. If someone did not show up for there 6pm reservation, we were given their table. The wait was never terrribly long though.

The $7.50 wine tasting just offers cheaper wines. The one for $25 offers higher end wines including Opus One. I actually preferred the wines in the $7.50 tasting.

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Thanks for the review. . .we are thinking of possibly doing the Coral to Panama Dec 2005. What was the weather like?

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Doreen: the weather was overall okay. It was quite windy though-- seemed windier than I remember on my other caribbean cruises that I've done the same week each year. Maybe this year it was extra windy--or maybe the other years I've just been lucky. In fact, there were several days that our balcony and the promenade deck were bathed in sea spray and were quite wet. One sea day it did rain and was pretty choppy. But overall, the weather was okay.

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A couple of questions:

How was the Maitre d' wine tasting?

What time did tendering start when you ahd anchored in Gatun Lake at Panama?

Is there a bar or lounge area at the Bayou Cafe for those who just want to hear the jazz and have a cocktail?

 

Thanks, Lynn

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Thank you so very much for your Ship and Tour review. I plan to go this coming March. You chose the tours I am interested in myself. Sounds like they were excellent. Can't wait to see Panama Canal. I am interested in the Ocean to Ocean tour that your Dad did. If you can give me and others any details, would appreciate it. Do you remember the cost of the tours? So happy you enjoyed and had a great cruise. Ike

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A couple of questions:

How was the Maitre d' wine tasting?

What time did tendering start when you ahd anchored in Gatun Lake at Panama?

Is there a bar or lounge area at the Bayou Cafe for those who just want to hear the jazz and have a cocktail?

 

Thanks, Lynn

The bar in the Bayou has a seating area... In fact, you can dance there if you like.. KKORMAN is an expert on the Bayou. I think he had a bed there.. :D :D

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Miramar, thanks for the review, especially the rundown on the menu order. I want to try the Bayou and this will help me decide when we go. We are on the the same cruise as llund so there may be a slightly different order, due to New Year's eve but it should be close enough.

 

Did you just ask to keep the menus? I have always wanted to get copies to post on the web, but wasn't sure how to go about it. Before each cruise I always like to see the menus, so I only feel if it is fair if I return the favor for someone else.

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llund: I checked the scholarship at sea brochure and the pottery wheel classes were 1st sea day 3-5pm and 2nd sea day 1-3pm. They also offered handbuilding classes 1st sea day 10:30-1pm, 2nd sea day 9-12pm and 3rd sea day 9-2pm. They offered a paint a preformed ceramics (tile, cup, bowl etc) on days 2-9 of the cruise. I believe you were also interested in computer classes. For those they had powerpoint, excel, word, photoshop and an intro to computers class.

 

1st cruiser and ike: for the ocean to ocean tour they were bused to Gamboa to board the boat. It is a 2 level boat with an indoor portion and an open air deck. The commentary that was provided as they went through the canal was excellent. They ended up going through the locks with a cargo ship. Then they docked on the pacific side of Panama and were bused back to Cristobal where the Coral was docked. It is a pretty long day. The tour met in the Princess theater around 8:30am and they got back sometime between 4 and 5pm I believe.

 

tarheelbelle: the maitre d' wine tasting was held in Sabatini's and I believe we sampled 6 wines. I actually enjoyed the wines in the $7.50 tasting more, but of course everyone's taste is different.

I think the tendering in Gatun Lake started around 9-9:30am. The first tour (ocean to ocean) met in the princess theater around 8:30, but they waited there a while before tendering.

Yes, as mentioned by Largin there is a separate bar area in the Bayou for those who want to hear the music.

 

Gatour: we didn't ask to keep the menus. They were automatically delivered to our suite as a big bunch toward the end of the cruise. But I believe others in the past have asked to keep them and some have been given the menus. It probably depends who you ask.

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Thanks. Hmm, I wonder if that is a perk for being in a suite. I guess I will have to ask once I get aboard since we will be in a mini-suite which doesn't count for the suite perks.

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Miramar,

 

Your review was much appreciated. Usually I go to the Caribbean in November or December. Since we are going to the Panama Canal this year on Dec. 10 I was wondering.....is it still warm enough for shorts during the day?

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The review was great, can't wait for my trip, you have made the Coral even more interesting.

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The DH and I are considering the April 3, 2006 trip but I wondered if it truly makes a difference aside from the obvious if you take a partial or transcanal cruise? Did you feel as if you missed something? This is a cruise for my 4/4 birthday so the timing is perfect and the itinerary sounds great. Which side should we book? Do they play Zydeco in the Bayou? Thank you for your review, which really helped, sell this ship and the trip to me.

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Thanks for the great review. Our next cruise is on the Coral through the Panama Canal and we are enjoying all the good information that is posted.

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Hapinowagain: I would think it would still be warm enough for shorts in December. We had temperatures in the 80s each day (except maybe 1 or 2 days), so with only a month difference I can't believe the temps would be much lower.

 

Linda the book lover: I haven't taken the full transit (yet), but I don't feel like I missed out on that much by only doing partial. I'm sure someday I will end up doing a full transit just to get to some other ports, but for now I'm happy I did the partial.

The music in the Bayou was called out in the Princess Patter as Jazz and Blues. In additon to this group, they also had a pianist earlier in the evening. I don't think I've ever experienced Zydeco music, so I'm not sure what it would be. I'm guessing what was in the Bayaou was not it, but could be wrong.

What side to book? Do you mean which side of the ship? I have always had a starboard room and been very happy with it. On the cruises I've been on the starboard side is the side that is up against the dock for embarkation/debarkation and is often the side that is against the dock in ports as well (on this trip starboard was against the dock in Limon, but not Cozumel).

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Hi Linda the book lover,

 

The Bayou was Jazz not Zydeco. I have taken the full transit going east to west 3 times, and found it more enjoyable mainly because of the Culebra Cut (It's very nice when a large ship cruise into small places). That being said, I believe the full transit cruises are usally longer than 10 days, so if time is a problem... Also, after you go through the first lock, the other locks get alittle time consuming. Just my opinon. Have fun!

 

Harvey

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