Number of Cruises: 10
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Coral Princess
Sailing Date: n/a
Itinerary: Panama Canal
Don and Veronica Taylor
10 previous cruises on various ships including Radisson Diamond, RCCI, Carnival,
Holland America, Costa, and this was our third Princess cruise.
It takes a long time to get to Ft. Lauderdale from Calgary and when we decided to book directly though Princess Cruises, we felt we would have the Company on our side. We dealt with several friendly and knowledgeable reservationists and one very unhappy soul who actually insulted me. I did suggest to Princess that perhaps this type of approach was not high on their list of hiring criteria but to date, we have received no response to further investigate and so it just affirms our decision in the future to perhaps try a competitor. Our request was simple….please provide us with the most direct, non-stop flight to Ft. Lauderdale that is in any airline’s system. This particular person told me outright, that we had picked the ‘cheapest’ routing and that convenience had nothing to do with it. My husband is a heart patient; convenience has everything to do with it. The Company has not responded to my inquiry.
After a full day’s journey through Toronto and then on to Ft. Lauderdale, we finally arrived and were met by a Princess representative who directed us to collect our luggage and then we were all to meet at the far end of the terminal….and wait for another 30 minutes. Then we physically schlepped our luggage outside, across the street and were to wait another 20 minutes before the bus finally arrived – with 6 passengers already onboard who were going to the Westin and we were going to the Sheraton Suites. And these passengers in the front seats got on where???? The bus also took them to the Westin first…..and then we were taken to the Sheraton afterwards…why? There were only 6 of them and several of us.
Room was clean and we quickly deposited our luggage and went next door to Benigan’s for fabulous crab cakes, Asian salad and unheard of for us Canadians; beer was 2 for 1. After breakfast the next morning just down the street at Moonlight Café which serves oversized versions of everything, we had the hotel concierge drive us to ‘Publix’ where we bought several bottles of wine, macadamia nuts, etc., to take onboard.
There were no problems taking this onboard in our luggage. However, if you forget to bring a wine opener, Princess has none in the cabins regardless they have wine glasses. You can buy one onboard for more than it’s worth, however after tipping a steward to come to our room to open a bottle, we decided to ask our cabin steward to open a bottle in the mornings when we knew we’d be enjoying a glass of wine or two. Problem solved.
Check-in at the ship was uneventful and we were shown directly to our cabin D328. The cabin itself was lovely. Lots of storage, large bathroom with tub/shower, queen size bed with television and then a sitting area with a sofabed and another television. Then on to the balcony and a table and 2 chairs seating area.
But, oh my, NO PRIVACY. I know we’re not supposed to write anything with capital letters, but THERE IS NO PRIVACY. Please, I implore any of you thinking about sailing with the Coral Princess…..DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY ON A MINI-SUITE OR BALCONY! I’m sure the other patrons laughed and laughed and laughed at the foolishness of those of us who paid mega bucks in purchasing a mini-suite only to have every single person above us look down and point fingers at how thankful they were that they didn’t waste their money! To step out on your deck, you had to be fully dressed and smile and wave at those above you ….several decks, in fact….and they’re all waving and smiling back, while they retreat into their own private cabins ABOVE you…and everyone can see what you’re doing. EVERYONE. And at a much lesser rate. Princess nicely avoids disclosure of how non-private these cabins are. They sell these cabins by telling the consumer that they will ‘get more sun.’ We had asked Princess representatives about these decks as the brochure outline was confusing. We were assured there was ‘lots of privacy’ and even put us on hold to double check. Couldn’t find an answer in Cruise Reviews or Cruise Critics, so we booked based on the assurance from Princess representatives.
The food was okay; not great, just okay. The Horizon Court had a lovely variety and we ate there daily bypassing the dining room for breakfast and lunch. With 10 days at sea, I personally had seafood in some form – 9 days, and all of it was deliciously prepared/presented. There were a variety of pizzas fresh out of the oven on one of the decks and on another deck there were hamburgers and grilled chicken burgers along with fries, salads, etc., and a variety of drinks. I truly do not understand why one has to pay additional for ice cream, pop, or specialty coffees. One evening we joined friends at the much touted ‘Sabatini’s’ and it was everything we anticipated. For $20 per person (however, it is $2 for a bottle of Perrier; and the cheapest wine is $49/bottle and there are no simple glasses of wine), the food was more than plentiful. Mussels, caviar, artichokes, cioppino, salad and finally the entrée, which was a complete and full entrée of either lobster, chicken, veal chops, beef tenderloin or Chilean sea bass. ‘Way too much food but it was fabulous. We did not try the other specialty restaurant serving alligator, etc., and spoke with some folks who did. They were not impressed with the food and said they had been approached by someone promoting the restaurant. This Bayou restaurant was not busy and perhaps it needed promoting due to what appeared to be a very successful Sabatini’s.
The Princess performers were among the best we’ve seen at sea. They were multi-talented and so very entertaining. The worst was a faux comedian/guitar player who relied on insulting the audience and appeared surprised at his minimal response. And these entertainers get their cruise free. Previously, on a Dawn Princess cruise, we were subjected to a woman who was such a joke in her presentation of ‘business practices’ that I’m sure everyone in the audience complained. But her cruise was free. However, it was pleasant, after a full day in the sun, to get a glass of wine and go to the Princess Theater to see a first run movie of ‘Ray’ or ‘Being Julia’ etc., and beside every seat was a little tray you could rest your drink upon. We visited the Casino rarely but deposited the obligatory few dollars in the slot machines and moved on. The ‘Island Night’ was filled with dancing, great food, games, fun and the weather was fabulous. Strolling the deck in the late evening was delightful with the sound of the sea and a sky filled with stars. We were pleased with the cleanliness of the ship – everywhere.
The wine and cocktails onboard are very pricey. If this is indicative of duty-free, then it’s right up there with the very expensive sodas that are so overpriced. Additionally, there is a tip included in every drink whether you enjoyed their service or not. Speaking with an employee I was told one of the best jobs was to be a cabin steward which is understood by the amount you are ‘encouraged’ to tip at the end of your journey.
First tour was Costa Rica and our tour guide was Jorge who was studying for his Masters Degree in Biology and was a wealth of information. We saw sloths, crocodiles, howler monkeys and lots of birds. Next was Panama Canal and while we had made no previous arrangements, there are several tours you can book at the last moment on Princess. When we discovered that you could not leave the ship when it transited the Canal unless you had a tour booked, that was our incentive to book immediately. No difficulties.
We thoroughly enjoyed a visit to old Panama City and saw unforgettable sights. Next stop was Grand Cayman and took the tour out to Stingray City which was just THE best of all the tours. Swimming with these incredible creatures was such an unforgettable experience that the fee paid to have a video sent to your home, was more than worth the money spent. Next stop was Cozumel and we were told that Princess supports the businesses trying to lure you through their doors and that if you have the piece of jeweler appraised when you return stateside and it’s worth less than what you paid, then Princess will support your efforts in retrieving the lost monies. I was more than surprised to find that the diamond/emerald ring I purchased (after much bartering) more than tripled its price value when I had it appraised for insurance purposes in Canada. Belize was the final stop and it was hot but enjoyable…again, sloths, termites, etc., and I highly recommend the tour on the air boat.
One night we were awakened by the sound of hail on our balcony table. I ran outside and looked up only to see an arc of icy material showering downward and …’into’ my eye. Next morning, I immediately went to see the front office attendants and they were puzzled as to where it was coming from. However, they assured me it would not happen again. Next night; same thing. Wide arc of icy ‘something’ sweeping downward from above and again, because I was looking upward, into my eye. Following night; same occurrence and again front office staff assured us of getting to the bottom of this dilemma. Not so. Wasn’t until after the third night of icy material being flung from the 14th deck, that it appeared anything was done. Appears the bar area on the 14th deck was cleaning out their fridge and flinging it overboard – but not quite.
We had selected Personal Choice Dining and it has worked well on our other Princess Cruises but we did not understand the rules with Godwin from India who was the Maitre d’. The concept of ‘anytime dining’ is to arrive for dinner in the assigned dining room whenever you felt like having dinner. However, almost everyone who passed through his portals, knew beforehand that one had to make a reservation or else, would you please step aside for the folks who knew these never-before-mentioned rules but learned quickly about this Godwin Reservation System. Consequently, there was never a table for 2 or 4 but always, we had to be seated at tables of 8-10 or wait at least 30 minutes for a smaller table to be available. There is nowhere in the brochure/cruise information that states you have to make a reservation prior to being seated with Personal Choice Dining. Please, be prepared, otherwise Godwin and staff will seat you wherever it pleases them – not you the paying customer because it is his Personal Choice – not yours.
The cruise was good, the food was okay, the ship is incredibly clean, the tours were good and the clientele onboard the ship were for the most part, elderly. Perhaps it was due to an ecological type of tour versus the more conventional Caribbean frequent on/off destinations. With this type of clientele, it made for slower lines in the buffet food areas and definitely the transportation areas.
We will be trying other ships in the future. Cruising is wonderful. We have been to several land destinations around the world and we keep returning to the cruise experience because it is truly a relaxing way to travel.
Should you have any questions or opinions, we would be delighted to hear from you.
Don and Veronica Taylor