Occupation:Federal Gov't Worker
Number of Cruises: 8
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Coral Princess
Sailing Date: November 4th, 2005
Itinerary: Panama Canal
My wife and I traveled to the Panama Canal, on a 10-night cruise round-trip from Ft. Lauderdale. The itinerary included stops in Panama (Colon), Jamaica (Ochos Rios), Costa Rica (Limon), Grand Cayman, and Costa Maya (Mahahual in lieu of Cozumel). Overall, the cruise was great.
We opted not to purchase Princess airfare and had no problem getting good fares. We flew Air Tran into Ft. Lauderdale from Baltimore. We got in a day early and stayed at the Bahia Mar Beach Resort and Yachting Center. We paid $75 + tax by booking through Priceline.com and bidding $75 on a 3-star hotel. The hotel was adequate but nothing special. We have stayed overnight in Ft. Lauderdale on three separate trips (twice at the beach and once opposite the cruise terminal). I don't see any added value in staying at/on the beach, especially if you don't have a car and need to walk to dinner, etc.
We arrived to the ship at 11:30am and got on very quick with almost no lines. We disembarked around 9:00am and were at the airport by 9:30am.
We had an outside view with balcony (Baha 418 - 10th floor). We were impressed with the rooms which we found to be large for a cruise ship and laid out well. There is adequate closet space. The room also has a hair dryer, a safe, a refrigerator, and television. Princess has finally picked up channels that broadcast football games. Also, I have read a lot of articles complaining that people can stand on the deck and look down at you sitting on your balcony. This is a fair comment especially if you are staying on the Aloha Deck aft but I didn't find it to be true for my particular cabin.
The Coral Princess is a Sun-class ship. We have previously stayed on the Dawn Princess which is also a Sun-class Ship on have been on larger Princess ships; the Grand, Golden (twice), and Sapphire. I thought that the Coral offered more or less what the Grand-class ships offered but with fewer people. The Coral had a lot more upgraded features than what I remember on the Dawn. I did notice that there were very few kids on board and that the average age of passengers was older than any other cruise I've been on (possibly due to being a 10-day cruise? or just because it was in November? Or a combination of factors?).
Overall, we enjoyed the food. We had traditional, first seating. We also ate in the Bayou Cafe which is a New Orleans style restaurant (that you pay separate for). It was ok but I wouldn't recommend it. Elsewhere, I thought the food in the Horizon Court (buffet) was good. The pizza was very good on this cruise as were the burgers. Room service was quick and had options that weren't available elsewhere on the ship.
What separated this cruise from the eight others I have been on was the service. The service was absolutely spectacular on this cruise. Our cabin steward, waiter, assistant waiter, and head waiter, all did fantastic jobs.
We did several excursions:
In Jamaica, we did the "Fine Food and Art Lovers" tour. This was ok. We drove through Fern Gully which is a nice drive. We stopped at a pottery factor at Wassi Arts which is mostly a gift shop, and we ate lunch at Toscanini Restaurant. Overall, the tour is ok if you are not looking for an active outing but it won't be a highlight of your trip.
In Panama, we did the "Old Panama" city tour. I thought it was ok but also found it be a bit pricey for what we did. The ruins of the old capital are interesting and you get a chance to walk around Panama City but there's not much there to do.
In Costa Rica, we did "Costa Rica's Favorites". This was expensive ($219) but well worth the price. The aerial tram through the rain forest was fun. You are not likely to see wildlife but the ride and the flora are worth the trip. The tour also goes through the Tortuguero Canals and that is a great trip. We saw monkeys, crocodiles, sloths, and a wide variety of exotic birds. You will also see much of the countryside (banana farms etc). Our tour operator was very knowledgeable and provided a lot of insight.
In Costa Maya (Mahuhual), we went to the Chacchoben Mayan Ruins. I thought this was a great trip. You will get out and do a good bit of walking (mostly on flat surface) and see a variety of ruins. I previously visited Tulum and preferred Chacchoben. Our tour guide, Tania, also did a good job of explaining what you were looking at. I've been to Mahuhual before and recommend a tour as there's not much else to do at this port. Without a tour, this stop isn't much.
Overall, I thought this was a great trip.