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Bill & Val

Age: 55

Occupation:Fire Official

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Princess

Ship: Coral Princess

Sailing Date: March 24th, 2006

Itinerary: Panama Canal

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

One big suggestion I make, and it probably has been made before, is to ask what specifically is involved in an advertised service if that service is part of what makes your decision to take the cruise.

We have a full circle of family and friend travelers who contact each other when traveling via internet cafes and we enjoy sharing the holidays with each other in real time.
When Princess offered an internet cafe in their advertising, we believed we would be able to do so as well. (More on this below)

Arrival - After a lenghthy self-arranged trip from Victoria and overnight stay in Ft Lauderdale, we had a pleasant shuttle ride to the Cruise Ship dock.

Embarkation
Embarkation was very professionally handled and we received courteous and quick service to our room, as well as our luggage arrival in quick order.
Our room steward introduced himself and it seems he was always outside our door. We were only a few steps away from the Casino and restaurants and most times, even with a quick trip, it seems that our room was made and/or towels replenished within minutes. Excellent service.

Rooms
We stayed on the plaza level and even with the smaller room we had nothing to complain about, having stayed in some timeshare condos in other parts of the Caribbean made this quite pleasant.

Dining
We opted for the anytime dining and per some previous reviews, we were a little surprised that there were significant waits if you wanted your own table, otherwise you shared with up to 8 other people.

We found all the couples friendly and mostly enjoyed our conversations but we did have some age gap conversational issues twice when all the other couples at our tables were in their mid 80's rather than a mixture as on the other nights.

The food was excellent on all nights but we were not happy with the waits when we were the first couple at a table and had to wait for the table to fill up before we could order anything.
We probably could have waited a shorter time for our own table on those nights.

Beverage service
This was a sticker shock and we suggest that anyone that likes to have alcoholic beverages or juices or pop by the poolside, reading on deck, during the entertainment, or just sitting at the bar, should be prepared to ante up approximately $50 to $100 per day per person for drinks.
Bar drinks are very watered down and cost $5 to $7 plus tips. Most people drinking bar drinks were ordering doubles and we interacted with one honeymooning couple with quadruples in their hands whenever we saw them. $25 a glass.

Some experienced cruisers told us that they always bring their liquor aboard in water or other containers to lessen the exorbitant liquor, juice and pop costs. Remember, the cruise ships do not pay taxes on their liquor so they are making approximately 2000 percent profit on their drinks.

On Board Services.
We pre-booked all of our shore tours on-line so we did not use the desk tour personnel. The room steward was top-notch as previously mentioned and the reception desk staff was so-so. (more later)

Generally, there were more than sufficient staff to cater to your needs in most of the areas but we had to get our own food or drinks if we sat in the less traveled areas, such as the rear pool area.

The ability to communicate with our friends and relatives was the biggest disappointment of our cruise. Despite the advertising that an internet cafe was on board, and even an internet cafe sign, all that was offered were some dumb terminals with very limited text message capabilities and some web surfing, geared to what a six year old may be given. This set a very sour mood on our enjoyment of the cruise. On every port stop there was a rush of cruisers to the nearest internet cafe in port.

When we tried to see if we could use other resources, or if they knew where internet cafes were located in port stops, the desk/reception staff suddenly seemed to lose their ability to communicate in English, instead telling us that "yes, internet cafe, deck 8" was about all we could get out of them.

The ballroom dance instructor was superb, there were about 40 to 50 people taking the course on 4 afternoons during the sail days, for an hour each day. We hardly ever went on a dance floor before, but by the time we finished we could do the waltz properly, the rumba, the cha cha cha, and variations to be able to dance to just about any modern music.

The laundromats were not the best. Remember to take lots of quarters if you need to use one part way trough the cruise. The money machine was broken in the one we tried, (a long walk back to reception for quarters) the soap dispenser took your quarters and did not provide the soap, (I thought I was playing a slot machine, and another long walk back to reception)

Entertainment
The live shows using ship entertainers and other acts were spectacular and received standing ovations constantly.

If you do plan on attending a live show, you will miss some however if you have formal dining rather than anytime dining. The Princess theatre would generally fill up a half hour to 45 minutes before the show.

Other entertainers, in the atrium and including ships personnel organizing interactive pool deck games and events were as expected and did not disappoint.

Port Tours
Having previously done the usual garden, catamaran, sea world, shopping tours in other parts of the Caribbean, we tried for some different events.

Ochos Rios
Tubing down the White River - a great event for all ages. The worst part was the drive up to the Spanish Bridge on a one lane road with two way traffic. This truly was a blind corner honk and brake ride. On the river, there were more than enough float tube guides to get you through some of the gentle rapids of the river and the 45 minute trip was over too soon for most people.

Panama Canal
Three ships were going through, one beside us and one directly behind, so it was quite an event to see all of the locks in action at various stages.

Panama
Embera native village.
We enjoyed this one as well but could not understand comments from some of our fellow cruisers about the lack of clothing on the natives. It was fully advertised and if you are offended by partial nudity, don't go. The trip was eventful as there was a flash flood and the dugout canoes were dodging trees and all sorts of debris in the very fast flowing and muddy river. In fact, a tour group from a different cruise ship had turned around part way up the river due to the debris. They eventually joined up with us.

Limon
Rained out.
We were the third group to go out and reached the end of the dock before all tours were cancelled. There was severe torrential rain, thunder and lightning and I wonder what took them so long to make the decision. The first tour turned back after one hour due to two road washouts. While Princess refunded all the money for the tours, the alternatives were totally unacceptable.

Princess knew the weather forecast and should have had alternative preparations made. As it was, an hour after we came back on board with very little to do, an announcement was made that due to the tour cancellation, the ships computer instructor was offering a special 4 computer courses for the price of 3. An hour later, a bingo game was added to the itinerary. Wow!

Grand Cayman
We did the "Jolly Roger" pirate ship tour and had a lot of fun. We sailed around the 4 cruise ships in the harbour and fired the cannon at each one, probably waking up any late sleepers. Afterwards, anchored off seven mile beach there was diving off "the plank" and it was hilarious when anyone under 12 years old was made to scrub the deck. The kids generally took it in stride and the parents absolutely enjoyed it.

Cozumel
We did the Tulum Ruins which we enjoyed but the trip to the mainland from the Ship via tender was very poorly organized. It should have started an hour earlier and we should have been back to the ship in time for some sightseeing in Cozumel. As it was we had to wait in Playa Carmen for the tender in order to get back to the ship, wait to get on, wait an extra half hour (no reason given) and wait for two other tenders to offload at the ship. Over two hours wasted so we never did have time to go into Cozumel.

So for those wanting to see Cozumel, do not go on a mianland tour, even for an hour as there is only one tender there and one back, killing the whole day and wasting any extra hours you think you may have.

Summary
We all go on these cruises for different reasons, maybe the reader may decide to ask more questions on what they want to get out of the cruise. We enjoyed the tours immensely, we were disappointed with the cruise ship services and the constant overpricing.
In discussions with others, it seems that

If we go cruising again, it will probably not be with Princess but with a Cruise line that guarantees that the services advertised will be the services provided. More likely we will go back to time share all inclusives spreading them between Islands and/or using mini-cruises between Islands.

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