Number of Cruises: 18
Cruise Line: Princess
Ship: Coral Princess
Sailing Date: May 3, 2006
This cruise was actually 4 different cruises done one
after the other onboard the Coral Princess. At this point this was the longest
cruise we have ever taken. The first part of this cruise was the repositioning
cruise for the summer that went from Ft. Lauderdale to San Francisco. It then
did a 4-day cruise from San Francisco to Vancouver. This ended the repositioning
cruise and now started the 2006 Alaskan season for the Coral. The first Alaskan
cruise went from Vancouver to Whittier Alaska and the next portion was Whittier
to Vancouver. For the Alaskan season the Coral will continue these routes on a
7-day trip northbound then southbound. I will also mention that we had been to
most every place that this ship went with the exception of Astoria and Victoria.
This would be our first time on the Coral Princess. The Coral Princess is considered to be one of the Sun Class ships for Princess, however it is a little larger then the Sun Class ships. The Coral Princess was specifically designed for cruising the Panama Canal. This ship is considered an 88,000-ton ship, which by today’s standards is not considered the large ships.
In the past of the Sun class ships we have cruised the Sun and the Dawn Princess several times and really like these ships. We also cruised on the old Star Princess before it left Princess. The old Star Princess was and is the favorite of the Princess ships that we have been on. We have not been on any of the Grand class or bigger ships of Princess.
I will give you a little information on myself so you may be able to understand where I am coming from with my opinions of the Coral Princess. The truth is I prefer the old ships to the new floating resorts. I have cruised the SS Norway and I did cruise on the SS Independence a couple times. The last time on the Independence was on its 50th year of cruising. I am an easygoing type person and I do not go on a cruise to look for little things to pick apart and complain about. I prefer sea days to port days and many times I will not even get off a ship while in port. I look for the things I enjoy on any cruise and focus on that. I see no point in looking for something that will make me not enjoy a cruise. In other words I have never had a bad cruise. I have had a cruise or two that I did not like as much as some other cruises I have taken but I have never had a bad time on a cruise.
I will now try to give you my honest opinion of what I thought of the Coral Princess. I will start with a few things I did not care for about the Coral Princess.
One thing I am not impressed with is the exterior look of the Coral Princess. As I said I like the old ships that look like a ship and the fake jet engines on the Coral really detract from this looking like a ship to me.
Our cabin was cabin E619 an outside obstructed view cabin on the Emerald deck 8. The only complaint I have about this cabin is that it had the smallest shower of any ship I have ever been on including the Norway and the Independence. I am not a small person and I barely fit in the shower and I have never had that problem before on a cruise. Others told me the rooms with a tub and shower were not too bad.
One lounge that is used for entertainment, bingo and other things is the Universe Lounge. I may be wrong but I do think this is smaller then the same lounges on the Sun class ships. This lounge has a balcony and this balcony has a very poor layout. There are many pillars and metal railings, which hamper any viewing. The main floor has some good seating and viewing but there are a couple pillars to worry about.
The pictures taken are now digital. Due to this they put many of the pictures inside a border produced on a computer. What this does is make most pictures 8 X 10 however the actual picture is small and the rest is all border. These pictures all run about $20 unless you buy a package with photo albums. In my opinion this is much too expensive for these pictures. You can still get pictures from the dining room on formal nights that are just your picture with no borders and are a reasonable price.
Ok this is my last complaint; one that I am sure many would disagree with. In fact I know many people I met on the ship did disagree with me. Keep in mind this is my opinion and it is based on what I am used to. This complaint is about the buffet food. I will not say the food was terrible because it was not terrible. I did not think it was quite as good as buffet meals on other cruises and I did not find as good of a variety as I have found on other ships including other Princess ships. There was also one meal in the main dining room that I saw returned many times and that I did return myself. That meal was the so-called pot roast. The meat in this meal was like chewing rubber. In 33 days I saw this meal come up many times and as I said I saw it returned many times. Again this is my opinion based on my likes and the types of food I am used to.
Ok enough complaining, now for things I did enjoy on the Coral Princess. The majority of the interior of the Coral is the same as on the other Sun class ships. In my opinion there is a subtle elegance to the Princess ships. There was the very familiar atrium, Wheelhouse Bar, dining areas and cabin décor. These are all things I like.
There are also a few other areas I have never seen before that I thought were very nice. One of those was the Explorer Lounge. I found this to be a very nice lounge. Early in the evenings this lounge would have a live band and then later in the evening there would be karaoke in there. During the day the art auctions would be held there. The thing I liked about this lounge was the décor and comfortable seating.
Another place I really liked was the Bayou Café. This is a pay restaurant and I did not eat here, however it also had a small dance floor and music. The area was very beautiful and also comfortable for sitting and enjoying the music. You did not have to eat in this area to sit and listen to the music or to dance.
The Crooners Bar is on deck 7 in the atrium. This is decorated with pictures of the Rat Pack and is considered the martini bar. In the evenings there is a piano player who plays requests. For those that may wonder there is one area in here that is smoke free and one that allows smoking.
They do take pictures onboard the Coral just as they have on every cruise I have ever been on, however they did not take as many as in the past. They also were not as intrusive and would move on without problems if we declined a picture, like when leaving the ship or near the glaciers. Seeing we were on the ship so long the photographers would just say hello to us and it was up to us if we wanted them to take our picture.
Deck 6 and deck 7 both had a walkway from front to back of the ship that was easy to use. Deck 7 had the walk around deck on the outside of the ship that was 2.8 laps for a mile.
There are two main pool areas on deck 14. One had a roof that could be opened or closed. The whole trip the roof was closed while we were onboard. This pool had an excellent area for sitting. The lounge chairs were wood with padding. There were also plants that provided some privacy as well as the nice smell of the outside.
One of the best things about this ship was the staff. As I said I was onboard for 33 days so I did get to know a lot of the staff quite well. I will be keeping in touch with some of the staff and do hope that at sometime I will see them again on another cruise. Our room steward was Lucas and he left the ship the same day we did. He did an outstanding job and there were a few minor problems in the room, such as the refrigerator was not working, and he saw that it was fixed immediately. When we asked for extra pillows and the egg crate foam cushion it was taken care of promptly. If he thought he might get to our room for cleaning late, such as the days new passengers would board the ship, he would find us and ask permission to be late or would we rather be up early and have him clean the room first. We allowed him to do the room last and we always found a little extra something in the room from him because he did do the room late.
Our wait staff for traditional dining was Orlando and Renaldo. Renaldo always told people to just call him Ronald McDonald. They were both from the Philippines. Our headwaiter for the first 15 days was Mauro from Italy. He was transferred to the PC dining room for the rest of our trip, however because we had struck up such a friendship with him, he came to our table every night to make sure things were right. We do have to adjust our diet due to medical problems and he made sure he came to us to take our order a day in advance and have it prepared just right. There were a few things not made to our liking and these things were made right without any problems and were taken care of immediately. Several times we got to meet these people while they were on break and got to know them quite well. They made us feel very special and like we were family. We did meet our assigned headwaiters for the rest of the trip but they said Mauro wanted to take care of us, so we did not interact with them much.
Some of the other memorable staff were various bar staff. Like I assume most people do, there was my favorite areas to go to at various times of the day. The most likely place to find me during the day would be the La Patisserie Bar in the atrium. Here the usual bartenders were Charlie and Albert from the Philippines. Albert left the same day we left. These two bartenders were very good at their job and very efficient. During their slow times we got to discuss many things and learn about each other. They always had a smile and good conversation for me and if I was involved in conversations with other passengers they made sure we were taken care of but did not interrupt our conversation. They would add to the conversation if we would bring them into the conversation.
I made some great friends with some of the bar wait staff also. The bar wait staff would get moved around each section of the cruise so I would move around to keep in touch with them. My favorite bar wait staff would have to be Maria and Noel from the Philippines, Lilly from Bulgaria, Natsuda from Taiwan and Gabriel from Romania. Lilly, Maria and Natsuda became like daughters to me. I looked forward to seeing these people every day.
There are many other crew members I got to know and talk with, the ones I mentioned are the ones I spent the most time with. By the end of the cruise I had spent a lot of time getting to know many of the crew. I figure some of the crew must have let others in the crew know about me because it seemed that several crew knew me before I knew who they were and they seemed very comfortable talking with me.
Yes I met a lot of crew and spent a lot of time talking with them, however I did meet a lot of very nice passengers onboard the ship. I had gone to several meet and greets with people from one of the cruise board web sites. I also met with a lot of people who were just cruising and not affiliated with cruise boards. I am a person who enjoys meeting people from all walks of life and from all different life styles. My wife says if she doesn’t see me she knows I met someone to talk with. Seeing our cruise was actually 4 different cruises we met a lot of different passengers. There are many passengers I met that I would enjoy keeping in contact with or cruising with again. I will also admit there are a few passengers that I do not care if I ever see again. I am sure they may feel the same about me.
Some of you may want to know about the entertainment. I personally do not care for the big production shows so I do not go to them, however my wife does enjoy the big production shows and saw all of them at sometime over the 33 days and thought they were some of the best she had ever seen. She especially liked the show called Dance and the show called Tribute.
For me I enjoy comedians, magicians, ventriloquists and the jugglers. These change frequently. I will say that they had very good ventriloquists. One of them I had seen before and has been on TV and around for years. That was Willie Tyler with his dummy Lester. He always does a great show. Some of the comedians were good some were not so good. They had one juggler who was a good juggler but his sense of humor needed a lot of work. I love magicians and I have to say with all honesty that the three different magicians they had were not very good. The final one they had just plain stunk. Myself, as well as many others walked out on his show and there was no way I was going to his second show. The guys timing and his patter were just terrible.
People wonder about what kind of shape the ships are in. While on the Coral they were doing painting and cleaning constantly. I saw several areas where they changed the carpet. I saw them sand down and varnish many of the railings while I was onboard. I saw them take apart the bar equipment, clean it and put it back together. I saw them constantly changing lights that may have burned out in many areas. I saw them remove and change lounge cushion covers. Does this mean everything was 100% perfect? No of course not. The Coral is a large ship and there are many passengers and crew onboard. This means things get worn, dirty and broken. What it does mean is that they are constantly trying to clean and fix what they can during a cruise. Lets face it people are hard on furniture, carpet, walls and equipment. I believe they are doing an excellent job and are keeping this ship in just as good if not better shape then any ship I have been on regardless of the cruise line.
Obviously this was a back to back to back to back cruise, which will bring up the question of what do you have to do between each cruise. There is no one answer for this. The customs people in the ports of change set the rules of what you do. Did we have to leave the ship? Yes we did have to leave the ship in San Francisco and Vancouver. No we did not have to leave the ship in Whittier. Did we change rooms? No we stayed in the same room the whole cruise. We had booked an inside guarantee and tied the cruises together. They upgraded us to the same room for the entire cruise. Did we turn in our tickets all at one time? No we would turn in our tickets for the next cruise at the purser’s desk a few days before the cruise changeover. Did we use the same sail and sign card for the entire cruise? No we received different sign and sail cards for each portion of the cruise and those cards were used starting at 10:00 AM the first day of each section of the cruise. We did have to login at security for entering the ship with the new card including in Whittier. We did not leave the ship in Whittier. Did we have to fill out customs papers for the change of each cruise? No but we did have to fill out customs papers in San Francisco and Vancouver and turn them in. We did not have to fill them out in Whittier. How do you know what to do for the changeover day? They send a letter to your room a couple days before the change over and that letter tells you what the process for change over is. Do you have to go through immigration on each cruise? Yes you do just like everyone else. When you are on a back-to-back, Princess will also give you a yellow card that states you are a passenger in transit. What this does is if you leave the ship you get to bypass some of the lines for boarding the ship. You will still go through normal securities you just don’t have to stand in the line of new passengers that are checking in.
This is getting quite lengthy but I know some may want to hear something about ports we stopped at. I will let you know of some of the things we did in some ports, however as I mentioned sometimes I don’t get off the ship in port so I did not do tours in every port.
The first port we got off the ship for a tour was after we went through the Panama Canal. We tendered in to do a tour of Panama City. The tour was listed as a lighted tour of the city at night. The tour was supposed to start at 5:30 PM. We did not arrive until almost 7:00 PM. If the tour had started at 5:30 we would have had some daylight. The tour guide was very informative. The so-called lighted areas were lit very poorly so even with a camera with flash you could not take any pictures that were worth anything. They did open a museum for the tour, which was good. The heat, humidity and bugs were a killer. Would I recommend this tour? Absolutely not. It was not worth the time or the money.
The next port we did a tour of was Acapulco. We did a tour of the city. This tour included many beautiful sites and local tourist traps. We did see the cliff divers, a beautiful chapel with incredible views and the fort. This was quite interesting. We also went to the Flamingo hotel, which was famous during the 50’s. As far as I was concerned they could have left off the Flamingo. The Flamingo just looks like an old run down hotel to me. Was the tour worth it? Yes considering the price of the tour I think it was worth the money and was interesting.
The next tour we took was in San Francisco. This was a tour of the city. Part of the problem with this tour was the fog. This hampered many views but there is nothing you can do to change Mother Nature. We did go to the Presidio, the conservatory, city hall, Twin Peaks, Fisherman’s Wharf and a trip over the Golden Gate. It was obvious it was one of the first tours the guide had ever done and he did a lousy job. The guide would only go by his script and could not adapt to questions. He also was having trouble with the microphone and would not just talk louder so we could hear him. The fog did lift as the day went on so viewing did get better. Was the tour worth taking? The tour would have been much better if we had a better guide and the fog had lifted earlier, so yes it is worth taking if you get the chance, just hope for a better guide.
Our next time to get off the ship was in Astoria. This was not an organized tour. In Astoria they have shuttle buses come to the ship area. For $5.00 you can get on and off as often as you like and see the whole area. We did this and looked around the town and also took a bus up to a high column for views of the area. The column has 164 steps to walk up to get to the top. You can see a long way from here. The town is small and very pretty. The people there go all out for the people on the ships yet they do admit they don’t want to expand or have outsiders move in.
We took two short tours in Victoria. Both covered the city and one went farther out for sightseeing and to see a so-called castle. Both tours were very interesting and quite informative. They were very reasonably priced and worth taking. I just did not need to do two tours of the city, however we were not expecting a tour of the city with one of them. One tour of just the city was by double Decker bus. The other tour that went to the castle, I would not call a castle. It is a large manor type home and is very interesting and historical but I could not call it a castle.
The only other tour we took was in Juneau both northbound and southbound. This tour was with Captain Larry for whale watching. This is something we do every time we go to Alaska. Yes we did see whales and had a fantastic time. We always see the whales do something different every time we do a whale watch. I am always amazed when I see whales. We did two whale watches with him northbound and one southbound. His price is about the same as the cruise lines, however he has a much faster boat and takes a lot less people so you have more room to move around and view whales in comfort. Captain Larry designed the boat he uses now specifically for whale watching.
While in Alaska did we see any calving of glaciers? Yes we did. On the way northbound we saw small calving. On the way southbound we saw some extremely large calving in Glacier Bay. We did see a section I would estimate at least a quarter mile wide fall off the face of the glacier. This is one reason Alaska never is the same twice. With the changing of the glaciers it always looks different. Alaska is extremely beautiful.
There is a lot of information here and yet I am sure I did not cover everything that people want to know. We did get off the ship more often then it looks but the other places we got off we mostly did shopping for the kids and grandkids or we just walked around. Some of the other ports were Aruba, Punteranous, Hualtalco, Cabo San Lucas, Ketchikan and Skagway.
A few last comments. Was 33 days to long to be on a cruise ship? No not for us, it was not long enough. Would we cruise the Coral Princess again? Absolutely. We did like this ship a lot and would have no problem being onboard again. Would we do the Panama Canal again? This was our second full transit of the Canal and even though we find it extremely interesting, it is just to hot and humid for us and it will be a long time before we go back if ever. In fact we were booked to go through the Canal with some friends in 2007 but have canceled that cruise. I don’t take the heat and humidity very well but I would recommend others to cruise a full transit of the Canal at least once, it is worth a trip through the Canal. Would we cruise Alaska again? Absolutely, Alaska is our favorite place to cruise. We have been there many times in the past and plan to go back many more times. Is there anything that disappoints us in Alaska? Yes there is. The same shops you see in the Caribbean are showing up all over Alaska and as far as I am concerned they are ruining the small towns of Alaska. An example is there are now 69 jewelry stores in Ketchikan and the majority are owned by the same stores that own those in the Caribbean. They are talking about going up to 150 jewelry stores in Ketchikan. That is insane if you ask me.
There are also many other areas on the ship that people may want to know about. Yes I did see pretty much every area on the ship over the 33 days I was onboard and I have only mentioned some of my favorites. If anyone would like more information I would be glad to try and answer any questions if you wish to email me at email@example.com. Please put Coral Princess in the subject or the email may get deleted.