Jump to content
Forum Maintenance: Wednesday March 20 @5:00 am ET Read more... ×
Cruise Critic Community

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

paulli

Coral Princess Review 12/10/2004

Recommended Posts

We recently returned from a cruise on the December 10th sailing of the Coral Princess to the Panama Canal.

 

I’ll start with a bit of background. We are a couple in our late 30s and this was our seventh cruise in ten years all with Princess. Our first cruise was on the Regal when it was the largest and newest ship in the Princess fleet. A couple years later we cruised on the Sun Princess when it was newest largest ship in the fleet. Then several years later we cruised on the Star Princess when it was the newest largest ship in the fleet. The next two cruises were also on the Star. Then several months ago we cruised the Diamond Princess which is not the largest nor newest ship in the fleet, it is still pretty new and pretty big. Before the Coral trip, I was curious about what I would think about it since it is relatively older and smaller than the last four previous cruise ships I have been on. Overall, I like the Coral Princess. I really like the Lotus pool area. I like the atrium although the tour desk is smaller than the tour desk on the Star and Diamond and was often backed up when it was open. I found the Coral Princess to be in pretty good but not perfect condition. I really like the teak decks on the promenade deck. Inside, the ship did not seem much smaller than the Star or Diamond.

 

We booked our own flights from our home city of Seattle to Fort Lauderdale. We booked a two night Princess pre cruise hotel and transfers to the Renaissance Fort Lauderdale Hotel. On arrival to Fort Lauderdale, we were greeted by a Princess rep who arranged a van to take us to the hotel. They loaded our luggage and took us to the hotel. We checked in and found our room. There are many restaurants directly nearby the hotel. We had dinner in an Italian restaurant which shares the parking lot with the hotel.

 

Our main goal for the vacation was to get as much SCUBA diving in as we could. Before we left home we inquired with a company in Fort Lauderdale about scheduling a dive the day before our cruise. They were full on that day but suggested we call the morning we wish to dive to see if they have any openings. We did as they suggested and sure enough two spots had become available. The dive boat would depart at 1:00 PM. We took a cab from the hotel to Pro Dive USA the dive shop and boarded the boat ready for our dive. That day the weather was kind of rough but we proceeded anyway. They took us to a dive site and we did a shallow reef dive just outside the entrance of Port Everglades. It was a good dive but the water was indeed rough. When we surfaced after our first dive, we were in a 5 foot swell and the boat was bobbing like a cork in the water. The boarding ladder would cycle from being three feet out of the water to the boarding platform being underwater. After boarding boat, I decided one dive was enough but my wife went back in the water for a second dive.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The next morning we were instructed to have our luggage outside our hotel room by 10 AM and checkout would be noon and we would be picked up by Princess at 1:00 PM. We placed our luggage outside our room and went downstairs for breakfast. I did mention to the bell station that I had placed my luggage outside our room and they went up to get it. The Princess rep did arrive a little before 1:00 PM and we were at the pier by 1:30 PM. When we arrived at the pier, they unload passengers at a different entrance than they use to unload the luggage. The registration line was long but moved along pretty good. The line for Platinum was shorter than the line for our deck so we used that line to register and get our cruise cards. A half hour later we were in our mini suite.

 

This is the first time we had a mini suite. We had cabin D726 which was the last cabin on the port side of the dolphin deck. It was nice to have a mini suite, the extra room was very nice especially when dealing with all our SCUBA gear. However there was definitely more vibration in the stern of the ship and the balcony was not covered. Also there was a public deck on the stern so anytime anyone was on the back and looking forward they would look directly on our balcony. Another issue was that every morning between 4 and 6 AM, a crew member would clean the public deck and the sound of them clanking around woke us up several days. On the positive side was not very many people used that deck and there was very little traffic walking past our cabin.

 

The first two days out were sea days. The first formal night was the first full day at sea.

 

The first port of call was Limon Costa Rica. The ship was at dock in this port. We took the rainforest tram tour. We boarded a bus for an hour and a half bus ride to the tram site. There, they loaded six people plus a guide in each tram that went out and toured the jungle canopy. After the ride, we boarded buses again and went to a local restaurant for an excellent lunch. On the way back to town, we stopped at a banana field to get a close look at a banana tree. We returned the pier and wondered around an adjacent flea market before boarding the ship. There was no SCUBA diving available in Costa Rica.

 

That night we ate dinner in the Bayou Café. It was quite possibly the best meal I have ever had on a cruise ship. I had the steak which was excellent. As an appetizer I had the alligator which tasted a bit like chicken along with excellent fries. The meal also included chicken jambalaya and for desert a chocolate pecan torte which was even better than the love boat dream.

 

The second port was the Panama Canal. She ship arrived early and was at the locks by about 7:30 AM. We watched the transit from the observation deck forward on the Baja deck. This deck as well as the one below is usually closed to passengers but they are open for the canal transit. After transiting the locks, the ship anchors in Gaton Lake and offloads passengers on tour. We opted not to do a tour in this port. After the passengers were tendered off the ship, the ship weighed anchor and transited the locks again. On the second transit, I watched from the Promenade deck. At times, when the ship was being lowered, the ledge of the canal was higher than that of the Promenade deck. Once though the canal, the ship docked in Colon where returning tour passenger re joined the ship. There was a flea market in the terminal that was OK. I think the market in Limon was better.

 

After another sea day, the third port was Grand Cayman where we had booked the north wall and sting ray city certified SCUBA dive. The weather as we approached Grand Cayman was a bit rough and windy. We woke up early in the morning as the ship was approaching the harbor. After breakfast in the horizon court, we returned to our cabin to collect our SCUBA gear and there was a notice on our door saying our excursion was canceled due to weather conditions but we could re schedule to another excursion by reporting to the Princess Theater. We quickly went to the theater and at that time, all excursions that had anything to do with water were canceled. We waited around for about an hour and it was determined that one SCUBA excursion would happen and it would be the reef/wreck dive. We were happy just to be diving and several minutes later we gathered our gear and headed to ships tenders. We were taken to the tender pier where we were loaded on bussed along with divers from two of the other three ships in port. We went to Don Foster’s dive shop to gear up those who did not have their own gear and sign waivers. We were then bussed back to near the tender pier and boarded a very nicely equipped dive boat. Both dive sites were about 45 minutes from the pier. We had two excellent dives. The first was an 80 foot reef dive and the second was a 60 foot reef and wreck. We saw a turtle, barracuda and many colorful tropical fish. The water was wonderfully warm and blue. After the dives they returned us to near the tender pier where we just walked to the tender pier for the return to the ship.

 

Our second formal night the same day we were in Grand Cayman.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The next day we awoke as we were approaching Cozumel. The ship docked at the international terminal. We were supposed to meet at the head of the pier at 8:20 but the ship arrived a few minutes late and it took time for the ship to be cleared by local officials. Once were able to disembark, we headed to the meeting site. Shortly after we left the ship, they stopped disembarking passengers for about 20 minutes while the Carnival Conquest docked at the same pier. Once we were all gathered together, we boarded the dive boat and headed south to the dive shop which was called Sand Dollar Sports. At the dive shop we geared up and headed further south to our first dive site. It was the Santa Rosa Wall and was an 80 foot drift dive. It was amazing, we saw barracuda, a nurse shark and many colorful tropical fish. We swam through a few overhangs and tunnels in the reef/wall. We boarded the boat and went to another reef where we did a 60 foot reef dive. Both dives had a pretty strong current so they made excellent drift dives we just rode the current. After the dives, we were taken back to the dive shop and they put us in taxis for a return to the cruise ship pier. They had an excellent videographer recording our dives so we decided to purchase a DVD that would be ready in a couple of hours. After we returned to the ship, we had a quick meal and went back ashore to explore the shops near the pier and meet the videographer to get the DVD we had purchased.

 

The next morning, we awake as were approaching Belize City. At one point, we stopped when we were still quite a way off shore and I was wondering what was going on. The dropped anchor and announced we had arrived. We were anchored seven miles offshore and they were bringing high speed tenders from shore to act as tenders to bring passengers back and forth. As instructed, we met in the theater at 7:30 and waited for awhile. Eventually we were loaded directly on the dive boat. The tours that involve snorkeling and SCUBA diving are met directly at the ship so you don’t have to go to town. We were brought to a private island where the operator had a dive shop and we were geared up. The name of the dive operator they used was Hugh Parkey’s Belize Dive Connection. After were geared up, we went on an hour trip to the dive site on the Turnif Atol. We had two excellent dives from a well equipped dive boat. Between dives, they provided local watermelon and pineapple as well as bread and chips/salsa. It was all very good. Just as the last two days, our first dive was an 80 foot dive followed by a 60 foot reef dive. The highlight of the dives was the eagle rays and sting rays we saw. After the dives we had a one and a half hour boat ride back to the ship.

 

We had dived three consecutive days and had six excellent dives. We developed a community of divers since most of the same people went on all three or two of the dives. The last evening of the cruise we met with a few of us met to exchange underwater pictures that had been taken and bid farewell.

 

The last day of the cruise was a sea day. We did as we had done on previous sea days. Wake up, have breakfast and head to the gym for a workout. The gym on the Coral Princess was the best equipped gym I have used on a ship even better that the newer Diamond Princess. In the afternoon, we packed and just enjoyed the ship. The last day the weather was getting noticeably cooler.

 

The next morning we arrived at Port Everglades at sunrise. We arrived, noticed the new QM2 was also in port. It was an impressive site all lit up. We gathered our hand luggage and headed to the Horizon Court for breakfast. Our flight was not until 4 PM so we were in no hurry. After we ate, we sat around an empty lotus pool area until our disembarkation color/number was called. It seemed like we were the last people on the ship until we reached the Promenade deck where most people were gathering. We disembarked and quickly went through customs/immigration, collected our luggage and found the bussed for Fort Lauderdale airport. We were at the airport by 10:30 and managed to get on a earlier flight. The airport was very crowded since there four ships in port. It took us about 45 minutes to go through security. They were only letting you pass security if you had a flight in the next 2 hours to help reduce lines. Some people were trying to check in who had flights at 6 PM but the airline would not let them check in that early.

 

Overall it was an excellent trip. The Coral Princess is a very nice ship and the itinerary was amazing. We had personal choice dining and never had any problems waiting to be seated. On day four of the trip, we met another couple and dined with them for the remainder of the trip. On a few days we had tables for four and other nights we joined a table for eight. We tended to dine early between 5:45 and 7:00. It was harder to find a table for four when we opted to dine later.

 

The onboard entertainment was very good. They showed four production shows. They were all excellent. The cruise director was David Cole who did an excellent job.

 

The pre cruise hotel, embarkation and disembarkation was very good and stress free.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My parents want to take this cruise next year. They love Princess (Grand, Caribbean and Star) Did you find the average age to be older? They like a lively ship at night, music going on in lounges etc.

thanks

Suzanne

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for an informative review. We are looking forward to our time on the Coral. We also have a mini, after enjoying the space on the Golden this summer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We found the average age of this 10 day cruise a bit older than the 7 day Diamond trip we recently did. I suspect it was because of the length but someone in our dive group asked a member of the cruise staff and they said that the Panama Canal attracts an older crowd than standard Caribbean cruises.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The DH and I are planning an April 2006 trip on the Coral but there is a stop in Jamaica and not Belize. Did your trip have changes or was Belize always part of your itinerary?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
We found the average age of this 10 day cruise a bit older than the 7 day Diamond trip we recently did. I suspect it was because of the length but someone in our dive group asked a member of the cruise staff and they said that the Panama Canal attracts an older crowd than standard Caribbean cruises.

Usually the longer the cruise, the older the average age of the passengers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Of all the Princess cruise ships I have been on - the Coral Princess is my favorite. I am glad you enjoyed the ship also.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Paulli for the excellent review. We're also divers, from Seattle and not too far from our late 30s ;-) so your experiences on the Coral were helpful for us. We leave four weeks from Sunday for the same itinerary and can't wait!

 

Kathi & Leo

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You will have a great time. Have you booked your dive in Grand Cayman yet? Princess offers three dives in Grand Cayman, a sting ray city only, a north wall and sting ray city and the west side reef dive. We had originally booked the north wall and sting ray city dive and that one was canceled. However when I asked the dive operator about the north wall, they said they don't do that dive in the winter. I wonder if that dive ever happens this time of year. It will be interesting to hear your experience.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We are diving with Neptune's Divers in Grand Cayman and they generally do a wall and then a reef dive on their morning trips. Since they only take eight or fewer divers at a time, they can tailor their trips to the level of experience of each group. We've done a few dives in GC before and are interested to see what Hurricane Ivan has done to the sea floor. I understand the hurricane pretty much devastated Georgetown.

 

In Cozumel we're diving with a friend who's a dive instructor. We've never dived in Coz before so we're looking forward to it.

 

Like you, we're not diving in Costa Rica. We made some inquiries and learned that the good diving there is on the Pacific, not Carribbean side of the country. We also decided to skip diving in Belize in favor of making a dedicated dive trip there sometime soon.

 

This will be the first time we are not using the ship's diving excursions. We've always had good experiences with the Princess excursions but the price of booking independently is about 1/2 what Princess charges. We'll see if the hassle of arranging our own transportation, etc. outweighs the benefit of the lower price and greater ability to customize our dives.

 

We'll post a report either here or on the scuba board when we return.

 

Kathi & Leo

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Forum Jump
    • Categories
      • 2019 Cruisers' Choice Awards
      • NCL Sail-Away Giveaway Sweepstakes - Win a 7-Day Cruise on Norwegian Joy!
      • Forum Assistance
      • New Cruisers
      • Community Contests
      • Cruise Lines “A – O”
      • Cruise Lines “P – Z”
      • River Cruising
      • ROLL CALLS
      • Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
      • Member Cruise Reviews
      • Special Interest Cruising
      • Cruise Discussion Topics
      • UK Cruising
      • Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
      • North American Homeports
      • Ports of Call
      • Cruise Conversations
×