This is a review of the Princess CruiseTour we took May 31 – June 14, 2014. The selected tour was a 7-day “Off The Beaten Path” land tour followed by a southbound “Voyage of the Glaciers” on Coral Princess. The selected tour punched our three buttons; Denali National Park, Alaska Railroad and Kenai Peninsula. A similar tour was offered as a Connoisseur tour. We decided the amenities offered were not worth the additional expense. The travelers were my wife and I (mid 50s) and two friends (mid 60s.) This would our first CruiseTour experience. My wife and I were embarking on our fourth Princess cruise, eleventh overall. Our friends were experiencing their first cruise. Overall impressions: Four thumbs up. I am so glad we went to Alaska and spent the time we did on land. Of the land based lodges our favorite was Keani. The best overall experience was at Denali lodge and then the train trip between Denali and Talkeetna. Wish we had given ourselves a little more time to go into Fairbanks. Seemedlike there was much to see there and we were too tired to take advantage of it. They told us there were such things as “sunset” and “sunrise” which may be true but it never really got dark, even when overcast, while with we in the Alaskan mainland. We did see dark again while cruising the inside passage. A word about logistics: We arrived at Fairbanks airport, collected our luggage (at least most of it) and reported to the Princess table next to the baggage claim. We were given an envelope with our room key, luggage tags, and information regarding our stay in Fairbanks. The information sheet had our room number, information about the lodge – map and restaurant hours – and information regarding booked tours, as well as meeting information for our next destination. While the key looks generic it is specific to each lodge, so leave them behind you. The luggage tags included a “meet me on board” tag for a suitcase that would be transported directly to the ship, and a “travel with me” tag for a large bag that would be moved from location to location. There was also a separate tag indicating our next location. As we arrived at each lodge we were met by a Princess employee with similar envelopes containing lodge information and luggage tags for the next destination. (I assume for post-cruse tours you receive your info for your first stop either at embarkation or arrival at the lodge.) I think this is going to be wordy. I have divided the review into four sections; Lodges, Land Activities, Coral Princes, and Bays and Ports. Feel free to skip past sections that are not of interest to you. Lodges: Each lodge had at least a coffee bar of some sort, a casual-ish bar & lounge and a nicer restaurant. There is no particular dress code. You are in Alaska, dress comfortably and warmly. Each lodge also has a tour desk. If you do not pre-book a tour you can work with the tour desk to set something up. Each lodge also had a gift shop, or shops, featuring Alaska snd regional souvenirs as well as warm weather gear for those coming from warmer climes that get taken by surprise that they may not be able work on their tans on this cruise excursion. The service teams were a mix of locals and summer workers – mostly from the US though some from overseas. Fairbanks Riverside Lodge is nestled nicely in a pine and beech grove along the Chena River. It is the most hotel-like of the four lodges described here. It is a single building with three wings. Our room overlooked the parking lot. While in the room we could have been in almost any hotel. The bar had a riverside deck that was not yet open when we were there. The restaurants were nice and service was good and friendly. We had coffee and pastries the first morning, dinner in the Edgewater Restaurant and buffer in Trackers Bar & Grill for breakfast the next morning. The lodge is in Fairbanks though is somewhat isolated. There are a couple of dining options within fairly easy walking distance. Princess also operates an hourly shuttle service for $5 pp. We stayed on site thought with a group of four I thought it might be a tossup whether the shuttle or a taxi would be less expensive. I would have liked to have gotten into Fairbanks but time just did not allow. After a late night arrival and an early morning tour we took a nap instead. I mentioned our room overlooked the parking lot. If you don’t have a good view take a walk around the property. In addition to the river there are a couple of small cabins and a cache on property that make for nice photo ops. Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge is a sprawling property along the Nenana River. The lodges consists of several two and three story buildings for lodging, a main lodge with gift shop, tour desk and coffee shop. There are a cluster of specialty shops among the “bunk houses” along with King Salmon Restaurant, Base Camp Bar & Grill and the Denali Dinner Theatre. Lynx Pizza is another Princess restaurant located at the north end of the property. There is another mini-lodge between the A and B buildings at the south end of the property with a morning coffee bar and evening wine bar. This mini-lodge has a wonderful deck overlooking the Nenana as does the Base Camp Bar & Grill. We had lunch at King Salmon – tasty but not cheap, and dinner at the pizza place which was okay. Princess operates a property shuttle from end to end as well as a shuttle to the Denali National Park visitors’ center. Across the Parks Highway, named for Mr. Parks not the national and state parks, are a string of restaurants and shops typical for a tourist area. If you are not out enjoying the wilderness these are worth a check. There are several tour operators located over here. If you do not have a trip booked with Princess and want to go independent, walk across the street and you can have your pick of hikes, flights, tours and rafting trips. We ate dinner the second night at the Salmon Bake. Which was an experience worth having. Mt. McKinley Princess Wilderness Lodge located to the south of Denali and provides an excellent view of the Great One (when weather permits) and it’s tall neighbors to the east and west. The lodge is spread across several buildings with the main lodge housing the fine dining restaurant, Mountain View Dining Room, a coffee bar, gift shop and tour desk. A large deck with plenty of seating and some of those mounted binoculars, a bar is nearby I’m sure. While we were on site a panoramic presentation on the Aurora was offered at night. It was enjoyable and worth the cost ($8 I think) though the venue was almost too small for the presentation. This show deserves to be seen on a larger screen though I wouldn’t expect Princess to create a new theatre for it. We ate at 20320 (for Denali’s altitude) Alaskan Grill. This venue also had a nice view of the mountains and the food was tasty if not a little expensive. (All the food in Alaska seems to be a little expensive.) The grill was in its own building away from the main lodge. Between the grill and the main lodge you will find the Fireside Patio an nice open air patio with plenty of fires to keep you warm. You can even buy a s’more kit. There are some nice but short hiking trails around the lodge area. We walked the Hill Trail which offered nice views of the mountains and creek below. It was good to get out moving about. There is a complimentary property shuttle and a scheduled shuttle to Talkeetna. The lodge is quite isolated – about 50 minutes from Talkeetna. If you want to do a tour or just look around town I would recommend stopping in Talkeetna when your transportation gives you a chance. Those using Princess transportation are able to take the shuttle from town to the lodge for free (as best as I remember it.) Keani Princess Lodge in Cooper Landing was our favorite of four Princess lodges (We didn’t see Copper Mountain.) The property is spread across the hills of the Keani overlooking the river. Each building had about eight to twelve rooms each having a deck looking downhill so there wasn’t much man made in sight. Cooper Landing is somewhat in the middle of the peninsula so you want to be on the coast this may not be the location for you. The lodge is about two miles up hill from the little town. There is a property shuttle but I don’t remember a shuttle to town. The main lodge hosts Rafters’ Lounge and Eagle’s Crest Dining Room for a nice meal. We enjoyed both. You can also sit on the beautiful deck and enjoy appetizers or a dinner from Rafters. There is a significant downhill path to the river from the main lodge. You can climb back up, I did, or you can use the courtesy phone at the bottom of the hill and have the shuttle pick you up. Another reason this was a favorite, the rooms themselves. These were the largest rooms we had and they included a pot bellied stove and a little table to enjoy the room a little. Activities and transitions: Day 1 - Fairbanks: Our package included the Riverboat Discovery / Gold Dredge 8 excursion and believe me I was not enthused. However, the excursion far exceeded my admittedly low expectations. We had a beautiful morning on the Chena River on the sternwheeler Discovery 3. The narrator was both informative and engaging. On board there was adequate indoor and outdoor seating for our group so you could sit pretty much anywhere you liked. Shortly after leaving the dock we had a bush pilot demonstrate a water take off and landing. A little further down the river we stopped mid-river at the dog camp started by late Iditarod champion Susan Butcher. One of the dog handlers, who will be competing next year, gave us demonstrations of how they begin training the pups and then took a more mature team for a short run around the property. It was amazing to see how those huskies took to the harness. We cruised almost to the confluence of the Chena and Tanana rivers. Our one stop was at a recreated fishing camp. Young Athabaskan Indians provided interpretive lessons on camp and village life. I had to laugh a little, apparently learning about creating house and a village from white man is considered an improvement and the young people had no problems with the terms Indian or Eskimo. So much for my PC fretting. Those interested could also visit with our trainer from the dog camp. After a family style lunch and shopping time at the “Discovery Center” we were bussed up to the Gold Dredge 8. We began with a discussion of the Alaska Pipeline as we had to pass under it to begin our tour. Portions of this “train” trip were informative and others were cheesy. We rode by live demonstrations of early prospecting techniques. Finally as we approached the area of the dredge we began to learn about the hydraulic methods used in and around that area. Very destructive but pretty effective. I’m not sure if the land will ever recover. After an explanation of how the dredge operated we disembarked our train and tried our hand at panning for gold. The place was swarming with helpers and everyone seemed to find a few flakes of gold. I know at least one person who didn’t find any and was given more pay dirt until they struck it rich. Well not very rich. My wife and I had a combined $11 worth of gold. They would have been glad to sell us a $29 trinket to display our gold flecks. Day 2 - Fairbanks to Denali: We took a bus ride from Fairbanks to Denali. The ride is about 4 hours with a snack/potty stop about half way down. You should arrive in Denali by lunch – or at least a late lunch. We stopped in Nenana, home of the Nenana Ice Classic where folks wage when the ice will break up each winter. It is a big fund raiser for the area. Our driver pointed out some white dots on the hill that he said were Dahl Sheep. That seemed to be a trend in Alaska, Dahl Sheep are white dots on the mountain. We arrived at the Denali lodge in the early afternoon. Our buildings were at the south end so we shuttled down there. We found our rooms and then headed out for lunch. The grill was not yet open so we ate in the King Salmon restaurant. In retrospect we should have gone across the street and had a less expensive lunch. I guess that was our splurge here. It was a little drizzly and we had nothing scheduled so we just nosed about the compound, enjoyed some wine while watching the scenery and eventually got some pizza later in the evening. Day 3 - Denali: We awoke this morning to a phone call from the upgrade fairy. Our balcony cabins had just been turned into mini-suites. A nice way to start the day. After a little more sleep we embarked on our Natural History tour in Denali National Park. This five hour tour included a film at the DNP visitors center, a ranger interpretation at a cabin and a talk by an older Athabaskan Indian at Primrose Point. We saw many caribou and moose and we travel. Some folks said they saw a bear way up the hill, though I didn’t see it, I think they skipped the talk, and more dots on the hill. As we didn’t see any sheep up close, and I doubt many do without climbing the mountain, our driver stopped at a point and walked around the bus with a sheep skull complete with horns. It was a bit weird . When at the further point into the park, Primrose, we saw a sliver of white above the closer mountains and below the clouds. We were told we were in the lucky 3 in 10 and that sliver was Denali. I was never quite sure what I was seeing or whether I could count myself lucky. Looking back at photos I can tell where that sliver is and identify it. We had the option of upgrading to the Tundra Tour which is a couple hours longer and goes deeper in the park. After taking to other passengers I would recommend this upgrade. If we make it back to DNP that is the path we will certainly take. Day 4 - Denali to McKinley: Today’s itinerary was; bus, train, bus and the sun was shining. After a short bus ride we arrived at the Denali train station. There we were assigned a car and table number. Each train car was two levels where passengers were assigned a table in the upper domed level. Our car was the caboose which provided some great photos ops off the rear platform. It was sunny so instead of the little sliver we saw in DNP we have clear views from the north, east and south sides of the mountain. It couldn’t be much better without climbing the beast. Each train car had a host letting us know what we were seeing and a steward keeping beverages filled. Of course, Princess had souvenirs to sell. Those who wanted to have lunch in the lower dining car section were assigned a time. After the first couple of groups went they encouraged us to head downstairs. The food was good and actually fairly priced. The train arrived in Talkeetna. Those with prescheduled excursions left there. We were offered the chance to look around town and then take the hourly Princess shuttle later. If you want to do anything in the area take this option. It is almost an hour and ten bucks to come back. Folks disembarking in Talkeetna were able to take the shuttle up to the lodge without additional cost. Day 4 (cont’d) - McKinley: With a mid-afternoon arrival and early morning departure we did not do much here. We took a short walk on the Hill Trail and attended the show on the Aurora. The view of Denali from the south was breathtaking and I think I would have been happy to sit out on the patio grill with an adult beverage and maybe a s’more to enjoy the evening. Day 5 – McKinley to Kenai: We were up and out quickly with a juice and muffin and on the long bus ride to Kenai. We made a short stop somewhere about halfway to Anchorage. We made a short lunch stop in Anchorage. We were pretty much downtown so there were several dining options though not much time to look around. Back on the bus we made the final two hours down to Cooper Landing. We spent quite a bit of time driving past Turnagin Arm and heard about Captain Cook’s failed attempts and finding the elusive Northwest Passage. Our bus driver was pretty entertaining. He was a student at Utah Valley and didn’t get my joke when I asked if they were the UV Rays, oh well maybe I’m the only one who gets it. On arrival at the lodge we learned they did have plenty openings for the cruise through a portion of Kenai Fjords National Park. We were waitlisted for this excursion on the Princess website for months. Ultimately we decided against it. We had enough bus time behind us. We learned this might have been a good choice the waters were pretty rough the next day and many folks got a little green around the gills. We enjoyed the deck and views from the main lodge much of the evening. Day 6 - Kenai (Cooper Landing): Instead of the fjords tour we booked a rafting trip. We spent an nice couple of hours on the Kenai River with someone else doing all the work. The wildlife view was excellent though the salmon were about a week away from beginning their run. I suppose this created a calmer river though it would have been fun to have seen the salmon doing their thing. Rapids were categorized up to Cat 3 though I think that might have been pushing it. We had some rushing water. No one should shy away from this trip for fear of the water. Now if you are looking for a little more action that could be another story. Day 7 - Kenai to Whittier: A largely uneventful bus ride. Your departure time will be designated by an assigned time to pass through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel aka Whittier Tunnel. This could the highlight of the trip. The tunnel is a single lane highway where the road bed is shared by the railroad tracks. The tunnel is over two miles long and connects Whittier with the larger peninsula. When you pass through the tunnel your ship will be in view. Our driver entertained us with the Indiana Jones overture followed by the Love Boat theme as we can to the end of the tunnel and saw the ship. The Cruise begins: Embarkation went smoothly, at least for us. Somehow we got separated from our travel companions. After waiting a while on the other side of security we went ahead and boarded Coral Princess. We had time to enjoy a tasty adult beverage while we waited for our friends to board. Because of the late sailing time and subsequent late muster drill we were assigned an early dining time. Because of our late arrival and lunch buffet we passed on that assigned time and ate dinner for the first time ever on the Horizon Court after we set out. One slight hiccup, our friends “Meet Me Onboard” bag was delivered to our old cabins and I had one that was completely AWOL. Coral Princess, general impressions: Coral Princess is one of two ships built for Princess expressly to be used to transit the Panama Canal. As such she has a narrower beam than other ships we have sailed. For the most part this difference was not noticeable. You could tell the dining rooms, atrium, and big show lounge were a little narrower than the larger Princess ships. This lead to a few interesting navigation challenges. The forward elevator only goes down to deck 7 (to the main theatre) to go down to the promenade you need to go back to the atrium. Likewise, glass elevators in the atrium only go between decks 5 and 8. Our staterooms were aft. The aft elevators go to the Lido deck, but you must either go through the spa or outside to move forward. A nice matter of flow was decks 6 and 7 both went fully fore to aft meaning all passengers weren’t trooping across the same passage. This was the first time we had stayed in a mini-suite. We enjoyed the extra space and the tub. The extra seating was especially nice. I find standard Princess staterooms a little snug. There are two TVs almost back to back. If you are not careful with the remote you might find yourself operating both sets inadvertently. (One TV is angled at the bed, the other towards the couch.) We ate in both the Bayou Café & Steakhouse and Sabatini’s. The service at both restaurants. We all ordered steaks at the Bayou, all were a little overdone. We were offered new steaks but none of us wanted to wait for a new steak. There is a small lounge next to the Bayou that had a really good jazz singer. That made the experience very pleasant. Sabatini’s was excellent all around. Unfortunately, on this trip I became “that guy” who had to make multiple trips to Passenger Services. I won’t go in to the details here. While all associates were pleasant their abilities were certainly varied. They were not very good at following through. There were some items that they were not able to resolve while I was at the desk, no problem there. The problem is they did not reach out to me to let me know the resolution of any issue. I had to return to the desk to follow up. Princess had a naturalist on board throughout the cruise. She did a couple of presentations in the theatre, later shown on TV and provided narration throughout many key portions of the cruise providing insight both the natural beauty that surrounded us as well as life in Alaska. While on board we bought the Alaska Cruise Companion for about $20. This is written very much to go along with a Princess Alaska cruise. There were times it was very helpful and other time it seems to lack the information I was looking for. It is not a very good port guide, it is much better at sea. The book came with a route make with a few insets. The clerk provided us with a second map so we didn’t fight over the map. We gave the second map to our companion and slipped ours into the picture frame nearest the balcony. We generally do not attend the big production shows though we did see Dancing and On the Bayou. Both were very well done and entertaining. One of the singers was particularly excellent and expressive. There was excellent music throughout the ship. It was a bit chilly or Movies Under the Stars though they were shown. I just didn’t think they would have enough blankets up there. Day 8 - Yakutat Bay (Hubbard Glacier): The day began as a typical day at sea, lots of activities scheduled. We entered Yakutat Bay in mid-afternoon. The sky was misty giving the bay an ethereal feel. Soon we were sailing through lots of little ice chunks. Our naturalist was on the loudspeakers and TVs providing commentary as we sailed to the back of the bay to see the Hubbard Glacier. The sun came out as we came to the Hubbard Glacier. Hubbard is rather rare as it is still advancing. It stretches about 76 miles back to its main source and is joined by other smaller glaciers on its way to bay, some of this can be seen from the ship. Its face is several miles wide. The glacier was fabulous. The captain brought the ship parallel to the glacier for about half an hour and then brought her around so the other side of the ship sat parallel to the glacier for the same period of time. Day 9 - Glacier Bay National Park: Glacier Bay was a good day to have breakfast on the balcony. We pulled into the bay around 7:30 and our naturalist began her commentary as we looked for whales (didn’t see any) and other wildlife. About 9:30 we were boarded by two park ranges and a representative of Alaska Geographic. They did presentations for adults and children and then took over commentary duties from the bridge. They also set up an information station in the covered pool area. We received a map of the park in our rooms with the Princess Patter. We spread ours out on the table on the balcony. We sailed past the Reid and Lamplugh Glaciers, were we saw the only other cruise ship in the bay (the Park Service only allows two cruise ships in the bay at a time) as we sailed back to the face of the Grand Pacific Glacier and neighboring Margerie Glacier. The Grand Pacific is the marvelous beast that created Glacier Bay – its face is not very pretty but it is magnificent. Margerie was the star of the show. It is an absolutely beautiful glacier and it put on a show for both sides of the ship calving several times. From our aft balcony we and several others camped out while the captain faced the port side of the ship towards the glacier and returned to our cabin when we were starboard facing. Next we sailed back to Lamplugh to spend a little more time in from of it. Lamplugh had receded a little more and we didn’t seem much in terms of calving. We did see several kayakers in and among the ice floes. We had a bear sighting down on the shore line when transiting between glaciers. Later we sailed back past Reid, returned our rangers and headed off to Skagway. Day 10 - Skagway: It is a short hop from Glacier Bay to Skagway so we were docked by 7AM. We found ourselves looking at the graffiti on the side of a mountain as we began to stir to life. We had no specific plans in port so we took our time this morning. Many of our fellow passengers headed out for a variety of excursions, we heard a lot of positive feedback for the Yukon Railroad trips. After a leisurely breakfast we ambled out to nose around town, basically acting like cruise ship passengers. We watched a short film on the gold rush at the visitors center run by the park service and poked our heads in to the restored saloon, but skipped the Red Onion. We sought out a place known for their “wildlife buffet.” I forget the name but that goes for the meal also, it was largely forgettable. At least it got us away from the crowds for a while. We did see many crewmembers with boxes from Sugar Mama’s. So if you have a sweet tooth you might want to stop there – hopefully security will let you pass with them. Day 11 - Juneau: We had booked a whale watching excursion with a trip to Mendenhall Glacier with Dolphin Jet Boat Tours, through Viator. We were up and out and walked quickly and with purpose to the Roberts Tramway. (If you have not booked a tour in Juneau or want to play it by ear, there are several tour companies with booths either side of the tramway.) From there we bussed up to the bay with an Alaskan version of a “good old boy” providing narration as we went. The whale watching was just what the doctor ordered. We were on a smaller boat with fewer than 40 passengers and three naturalists. We had plenty of time to view the whales, and a group of sea lions hanging around a buoy. We saw several humpbacks showing their flukes as they dove for food. The only disappointing part was none showed off with those spectacular breaching maneuvers. After another short bus ride we had about an hour at Mendenall Glacier. The Parks Service had a nice setup there. There was just enough time to take a brisk hike out to the falls just next to the glacier. I would have like to have spent a little more time on site to explore but I think the time was just right for our friends. Day 12 - Ketchikan: We had a later arrival in Ketchikan, joining three more ships there. Again, we had nothing scheduled but in retrospect I think I would have liked to have done a flight-seeing trip to Misty Fjord. Ketchikan is a picturesque little town, especially around the old Creek Street area. We were about a week ahead of the salmon so Creek Street was not as lively as it could have been. The only jumping we saw was a local young man who decided it was too warm that day, lower 60s, and he needed to jump into the creek from the top of the bridge. Unlike those who do this for touristic purposes he didn’t try to raise any money or a crowd. He just did it because he was young and he could. His buddy did not join him. Again there were several tour operator booths near port and they were offering some pretty good bargains to fill those last trips of the day. Day 13 - Inside Passage: On sailaway from Ketchikan and the next full day on the ship we saw a variety of sea life and had our on-board naturalist provide narration at several points. We had an enjoyable time on our balcony watching this beautiful world pass. We saw a few more humpbacks and our travel partners saw some orcas but I missed them. It was fascinating to pass the big container ships loaded with not just containers but school buses and RVs. Day 14 - Vancouver: We had booked a post cruise excursion we gathered in the explorers lounge with several other groups. Disembarkation went smoothly, gathering luggage and clearing customs until we reached the next step. We did the hop-on hop-off bus with a transfer to the airport. After we cleared customs we stood in a long disorganized line to turn our luggage over to a local company. It didn’t seem like we had enough tags, though in the end it all worked out. We stayed at an airport hotel so our bags were transferred directly to the hotel, waiting for us when we checked in. After turning over our luggage we took a long hike through the terminal/convention center until we reached the beginning of the bus tour. There was a long line and the weather was rather drizzly. This led to a group of concerned passengers. Ultimately we boarded our bus with the freedom to get off and see what we wanted and enjoy our day. The full route included a separate hour tour of Stanley Park. There was only one real stop on this part of the trip, and if you hop off in the part it might be a little tough to hop back on. One key stop for us was the beautiful Chinese Garden. Completing our tour we took the convenient train transfer out the airport. We were all pretty well at the end of our trip so we ate food court food for dinner and called it a vacation.
This our first cruise on Princess thru the canal. We have done four other cruises on Holland America (x2) and Royal Caribbean (x2) . being our second cruise thru the Canal we were interested in seeing the changes for the new locks. We are in our mid to late fifties . I suffer from very bad knees that restrict how much Walking I can do.
Princess Cruise Air and Transfers: We selected this option as it was the cheap airfare and a hotel was included at Fort Lauderdale. We are going to take this option with Princess transfers again. The only problem with their flight schedule was that if a flight was late you had to Quickly run or jog to your next flight. On arrival in FLL we where met by the Princess Rep and transferred directly to the hotel . We where impressed as how Princess handle Delayed or lost luggage . The transfer to Port Everglades was very smooth and on time as scheduled or a little earlier..
Embarkation: What impressed us most was how quick we went thru the pre-boarding lines And onto the ship. The totaltime from getting of the bus to being in our cabin was less The 30 min. The cabin was ready and the cabin steward introduced himself with 30 min. HAL and RCI could learn on how to do embarkations this fast.
Accommodation: We originally where got a price from our TA for BH Balcony on Dolphin Deck . Before we even put A deposit down we were upgrade to a BA cabin on Aloha deck under the Adult’s only Pool ??? The layout of the cabin was the best we have ever had. Ther was no wasted space with a couch and Coffee table . The closet was more adequate for my wife’s clothes . Most of my cloths were On the shelves except for my formal outfit.
Ports: The scheduled port s where Aruba, Cartagena, Fuerto Amador , Puntarenas , Huatulco Acapulco and Cabo san Lucas. The only ports we went ashore Cartagena, Huatulco and Acapulco. Huatulco we went ashore to see the Pink Church on the beach . Acapulco was to visit the fort overlooking the harbor. The rest of the time we just stayed on the ship and relaxed in different quiet spots on deck and around the Wheelhouse Bar.
Food: We ate most of our breakfasts in the Horizon Court on Lido deck. We normally had lunch and diner In the dining room. We had chosen “Anytime Dining” . We normally had supper at 5:30 with MDR opening at 5:15 . I noticed that if you waited until 6:30 you could have a long wait. The wife found the fish cooked to perfection even in the Horizon Court. The only problem we found was with the smoked salmon that was served . It had a tendency to soft and watery . This might just be a personal preference as we both grew up wild smoked sockeye salmon (Pacific Salmon)
Ship in general: The ship was very good condition. Everything was well laid out and in good shape. The only issue we had was that teenagers would run up and down the halls until all hours and the parents didn’t seem to care or notice . A couple of times we saw toddlers crawling on the floor of the MDR as stewards were trying to serve tables and carry large trays of meals.
Weather: The weather was usually sunny (85 gegrees) with high humidity (90-100%) . The first sea day after leaving FLL we were in a Force 7 sea and wind condition. They closed the promenade deck for walking during the short period. As we left Cabo the temperature started to drop and sea fog formed for a few hours . The temperature dropped to the high 70’s as we approached San Pedro Pier.
Disembarkation: Again Princess was well organized and disembarkation was a efficient as embarkation. The only hold up US Customs in processing the passengers. We used the Princess transfers to LAX . With a 9AM disembarkation we be late getting to LAX . We disembarked 15min early and arrived at LAX within 45 min.
Misc items: We saw whales as we left Cabo . Between Panama and Acapulco we saw two sea turles. Numerous dolphins and flying fish where observed.
Five of us (2 brothers and their wives, and a sister) travelled together -- between us we had 2 balcony mini-suites next to each other, and an interior cabin. The former were spacious, clean, had ample storage space, and a very generous balcony which easily sat all 5 of us. Service in our cabins was excellent and we really enjoyed being able to place a fruit order each day, which was delivered to our cabin (however the interior cabin suffered from lack of attention in this regard).
The whole ship seemed clean and well cared for and the staff was friendly and helpful. We particularly appreciated our 2 servers in the Provence dining room where we had the "late" seating.
Food onboard was excellent, considering the huge amounts the kitchens had to produce. With the Provence, the Horizon buffet, and room service we never went hungry. We tried the "specialty" restaurant Sabatini's one night and enjoyed the quiet ambience and incredible attention. However, the food was not especially better than what we had in the Provence. So for $20 each extra, we weren't sure it was really worth it.
Every deck seems tohave its own laundry room with about 8 washers and dryers and 2 irons. Soap is for sale and is not too expensive, and neither are the machines. Mornings are a busy time for laundry -- late afternoon is better.
The library is so well stocked that we all regreted lugging books from home in our suitcases.
Internet service is excellent with about 12 stations in all.
Our best shore excursion was "Costa Rica's Favourites with Lunch," with a knowledgeable, enthusiastic guide in a beautiful country.
We found Princess to be as efficient and competent as any well run hotel and as good as any other cruise line we've traveled on. We wouldn't hesitate to recommend either Princess or the cruise through the Canal (from LA to Fort Lauderdale).
That being said, there were a few areas that concerned us:
Shortly after we boarded we realized that our 2 balcony cabins were on the "smoking" side of the ship. Nowhere in the literature had we noticed that Port side is "smoking." Fortunately for us, neither of our immediate neighbours were smokers, but we did meet another passenger who had a rather unpleasant altercation with the smoker in the cabin/balcony next to his. Next time, we will ensure we are on the non-smoking side of the ship.
Princess offers a variety of shore excursions for each port varying from the sedentary to the energetic. Three of us opted for the more energetic ones and we had issues with some of them. Princess, who seems very safety conscious as far as the ship goes, seems unaware of the laxity of standards on some of their excursions.
The "Huatulco river float" warned of the necessity of our donning life jackets and helmets, so one of our party didn't bring his sun hat, thinking it superfluous, only to find that just the life jackets were distributed and consequently he had to spend an hour or so on the river in the hot sun, hatless.
"Colonial Leon and Bubbling Mud Pots" resulted in our being let loose in a field of hot springs erupting through a layer of mud with the only supervision being 10 year old local children who spoke only Spanish. One of our group received a bad burn to one foot when it sunk into super-hot mud where the group was walking. This resulted in several trips to the ship's well-equipped and staffed medical centre. Although the usual medical fees and costs were waived, the injury had a serious dampening impact on the rest of the cruise for those involved.
The tour through the "Mangrove Tunnels" in Cartagena meant that we were punted (4 to a canoe) around a mangrove swamp (from which all the birds and beasts had fled) in a very decrepit, leaky, tippy, dug out canoe perched inches above the filthy water, by a guide who spoke not a word of English.
Princess needs to send its staff out to re-check some of the excursions it offers!
Princess movies offered in the large theatres were a disappointment in both the selection (too many chick flicks) and the timing (usually middle of the day when we are either at lunch or just returning from a shore excursion). Given the number of "at sea" days, better movie entertainment would easily be possible.
We only went to one of the "Scholarship at Sea" lectures and were treated to a dull lecture, read off a power point display, that was far too reminiscent of my grade 10 geography class.
The ship's photographers, while professional in their finished product, were often intrusive to the point of harassment.
We would have preferred more time in each of the ports -- some of which we were only docked at for half a day -- which was not enough time for sightseeing as well as shopping.
And finally, our shipboard account -- delivered to us on the day before departure -- was full of unexplained "codes" and was almost incomprehensible. It might save frustration in the long run to stop by the passenger service desk every day to check the account and verify all the entries.
This was a cruise/land tour combination. The cruise was really wonderful. The ship is very well done, great service, good food, lots of options. Shore excursions were super. Only problem...this ship was always the farthest away from town when it docked in all three cruise ports (Juneau, Skagway and Ketchican). That was a real big drawback for us.
The land tour was quite different. Princess Lodges are very nice and comfortable. However, the food is the same at all their lodges (with few exceptions), and it is just satisfactory. And it was extremely expensive! Like eating in the Hamptons (where I'm from). That was disappointing to say the least. Excursions from the lodges were quite varied, and most were really wonderful.
I'd recommend the cruise very highly and the land tour as quite good. However, find a grocery store and stock up for the land tour.
We've been on numerous cruises on many lines and this is our second Christmas (2006 & 2007) cruise on the Coral. It was a repeat booking due to complete satisfaction.
Met some good friends (R&A) on first cruise on the Coral, who also joined us on this 2007 trip.
Everything was great. The entertainment (Denise Canby Trio) was with us for both trips. We spent seven nights enjoying both their music and company.
We will definitely book on this ship again.
Beautiful Ship. No complaints in this department.
Everything very clean and in top shape.
Food Buffet was good to excellent. Fruit was always fresh and items were plentiful. Pizzaria we ate at once. The pizzas and salads were good. We chose personal choice dining and it was very good. All meals and appetizers during meals were very good. I had a crayfish gumbo, which was very good and the crab legs were delicious. My only complaint in the food and drink department was I wish more iced tea and water stations were put out on different levels. The only place I could get tea and water was the buffet or restaurants.
Entertainment Music Shows were good. The comedians and variety shows were great.
Cabin Rooms were nice. We had three in our room. My husband, son, and I. They made a bunk for our son. The beds were comfy. It was an inside cabin and Lou, our room attendant, was polite and only took care of the room "okay." We left obvious dirty dishes on the table and came back to beds turned down and still dirty dishes. We left them outside ourroom and they eventually disappeared. Fruit in our room was only filled once and never refilled. Lots of storage space for all our clothes, and suitcases fit under the bed fine. TV choices were good, CNN, Cartoon network, travel, and lots of movie choices. My only complaint, no clock in the room. We brought our own, from previous history, but not sure why this isn't a staple in the room.
The weather was absolutely beautiful on all days but the last coming back into San Diego. It was cool and windy. A little cool the first day as we departed San Diego area, but not as cool as last day at sea.
Childcare Program I had an 11 year old, and he didn't care too much for the children's program. They had an interesting program set up, but he didn't give it much of a chance. He hung out with us at the pool and went with us to ship events.
Spa and Fitness Lots of equipment. I went in the afternoons a couple of times and equipment was always available. Didn't try the morning. Didn't try any spa services.
Shopping Gold bracelets and watches were available in the sidewalk sale. No big sales in this area.
Art Auctions They had a few, but I didn't attend.
Ports The ports were great. First stop was Cabos San Lucas. We rented a "water taxi" boat and took a short 45 minute tour of the bay area. Then he dropped us off at "The Office" (Mexican bar/restaurant) on the beach. We caught a water taxi back to the cruise boat area to catch the tender. Cost was $12 a person, and my son was free. Second stop was Mazatlan. We caught an open air taxi and went to the gold zone. There we went to the beach and caught a catamaran over to Deer Island where we swam about an hour and then took the catamaran back to the mainland. It was $30 for all of us. The last stop was in Puerto Vallerta, and we took a Haciena, Tequilla, Tile Tour. It was okay. I'm glad I got to see all of Puerto Valleera, but wouldn't take it again. Too much shopping for me. I'm not a fan of shopping.
All in all, a great cruise and I would do again in a heartbeat.
This is only to inform you that the Coral Photo Mugs we got in the Calypso Cove leak liquids through the sides of the mugs. This could be dangerous. They leak at a rapid rate and are not useable.
We cruised to the Panama Canal, departing and returning from Ft. Lauderdale, accompanied by another couple. We did not utilize any ship-sponsored tours and have no comment on them.
We had a balcony stateroom, ample room to move about and excellent storage; service to our room was top-notch; we could leave for a short time and the room would be clean, beds made, by the time we returned.
Entertainment was generally very good with the exception of one comedian who "bombed". We played bingo every day (tip: bring your own bingo daubers, they don't supply). The jackpot starts out at around $1100 and increases $150/day until won, but the game is arranged so that it won't likely be won until the end of the cruise. Tip: wait until the last day, play then and make off with the jackpot.
The ship's crew and staff were fantastically friendly, smiles all the time even when confronted with some trying guests (not us, of course!).
Only one disappointment: The FOOD. It was not quite as good as we have experienced on other cruise ships; strange, exotic combinations of dishes but without a great deal of flavor. Wefound much of it to be bland, especially the coffee. Also disappointing: They charge for soft drinks, water, coffee service if requested in a lounge, etc. At current cruise prices, we felt these should be "no charge".
Princess has "anytime dining" which is great, but reservations need to be made because everyone wants to eat around the same time to save time for the shows.
CASINO was just "OK"; not many big winners, few newer video machines, many older 25-cent and $1 mechanical reels. The "cash out" feature in the casino allows you to transfer $$ in and out of a machine on your room/account card; very neat and handy.
All in all, we enjoyed our cruise and we felt that Princess gives good value and a pleasant experience for the money. Another tip: if you take this cruise to the canal, read David McCullough's "The Path Between the Seas" beforehand and buy Anne Vipond's "Panama Canal by Cruise Ship" -- you won't be disappointed.
On October 31, 2007 we sailed on the Coral Princess to the Panama Canal. Due to a storm we had to rearrange our route. We went to Grand Cayman instead of going to Aruba first. Grand Cayman was not one of the ports we were to visit, so it was a pleasure to get this port. All the other ports, including our last which was Aruba, followed the route.
Our cabin was terrific. We had the best cabin steward (Samuel Bernardino). He was great.
We ate most of our meals in the food court because we didn't always want to get dressed up. The food was terrific. The crew we had in the food court for breakfast was great (we had Maynard Ron, Carlos and Mark). Their service was the best we had the whole cruise. Sorry we didn't have them for all the meals, but they were only there during breakfast. The evening service in the food court for dinner was the worst. Not enough help to handle what needed to be done. But the food was good.
The entertainment was outstanding. Did not see one show that was not great.
Theboarding and embarking was handled the best of the many cruises I have been on. The only drawback was that 10 cruise ships arrived in Fort Lauderdale on November 10th so the airport was a total mess. We got to the airport at 9:00 A.M and our flight was at 2:32 P. M. They would not let us check in until 11:30 A.M. so we had to lug our luggage at the airport while we waited. Not enough seats to sit down. Our airline was Air Tram.
Other than the airport, it was a great cruise. Coral Princess was one of the cleanest ships I have cruised on. We were a group of 8 people. I would highly recommend this cruise.
This was cruise number two for my wife and I and our best friends. If we weren't hooked on cruising after our first sailing, we're definitely hooked now. We can only compare it to our initial cruise on the Costa Classica. Our itinerary this time took us return from Ft Lauderdale directly to the Panama Canal; Colon (Cristobal), Panama; Limon, Costa Rica; Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; and Cozumel, Mexico. This was 10 days of absolute pleasure followed by 4 days of relaxing in Ft Lauderdale to round out the two weeks.
We flew from Toronto to Ft Lauderdale, one day in advance of our cruise and stayed at the Hyatt Pier 66. Our room in this hotel was a little dirty and noisy and definitely not worth the price we were charged. I complained (which I rarely do) but it didn't make any difference, as there were no other rooms. We returned to this hotel after our cruise and did not fare much better, but the room was cleaner. Keep in mind I expect a lot for $350.00 US per night, but I also understand that "reasonable ratesin Ft Lauderdale" is an oxymoron.
Now for the cruise. Embarkation was quick and efficient. There were gates for each deck level and this really sped things up. If you're traveling from Canada with non-Canadian citizens or landed immigrants, you must surrender your temporary visitors' visa until you leave the ship. Upon entry to the ship a quick photo is taken for which you'll pay later, of course (who can resist?). We were greeted by staff and directed to the elevator. I had expected to see the main atrium/lobby but that is not where we entered. After finding our way to our cabins (D415 and D417) on the Dolphin level, we immediately checked out our mini-suite. It was a nice size with a double bed, sofa, chair and coffee table. A mini bar, desk area and two televisions rounded out our needs for the next 10 days. The washroom was large with a tub and shower and the storage closet was plenty. A foam eggshell mattress cover was already installed, but if you don't get this I suggest you ask for one. The balcony was much larger than we expected and was quickly opened up to join our friends next door. We used these balconies every day for morning coffee, and afternoon cocktails, and they were well worth the upgrade. D415 had an open view above and D417 was partially covered by the balcony above. This combination was excellent for giving us sun or shade whenever we wanted it. After the mini-suite inspection we set off to tour the ship and to find out where everything was.
We found the Coral to be beautiful. The Princess Plaza is a 4-story atrium with splendid spiral staircases, flanked with palm trees. The glass elevators with sparkling lights zoom up and down the atrium from the Plaza to Emerald level. Most of these levels are filled with bars, lounges and shops. Forward, off the atrium, are the restaurants. The Provence Dining Room is on the Fiesta level where the first and second seatings take place. Down one level on the Plaza is the Bordeaux Dining Room where we ate. This is an "anytime" dining room and proved to be excellent. We did not reserve a table, although it is possible. We just showed up and usually got a table for 4 right away. On a couple of occasions we sat at larger tables and met different people each time. The service was good, but some of the waiters were better than others. Our second formal night was lobster night and I've never eaten so much delicious lobster at one time. I'm not sure if it was our timing or if they do that for everyone, but after our plates were delivered to us, a second platter of lobster tails was placed on our table. After that we were asked if we wanted more. "Who ever heard of all you can eat lobster tails?" The following night it was the same, only with King Crab. We also tried out the two specialty restaurants, The Bayou Café and Sabatini's, located on the Promenade Deck. The food at the Bayou Café was outstanding, however, the constant vibration under my feet was annoying. Sabatini's was also good, however, it was way too much food for us. For a $15.00 surcharge, you should definitely do the Bayou Café.
The rest of our meals (breakfast and lunch) were eaten at the Horizon Court Buffet on the Lido deck. The selection was excellent and there were frequent changes so as not to get bored. The Horizon is on the very front of the ship so it is pleasant to watch the sun come up as you eat breakfast. It is a little bouncy though, so if motion bothers you, head for the back. Up one more level, off the center pool, you can hit the burger grill or pizza stand for the best pizza I have had in a long time.
The ports on the cruise were very nice, but if I did it over again I may select different activities. We like to go to the beach and do a little shopping so that is what we aim for at most ports. Of course, Panama is all about the canal and the locks. We reached Panama after two days at sea. This was a fascinating day that began at 5:00 am with room service. The ship arrives very early and almost in the dark. It's a slow trek into the canal and very quiet and peaceful. As daylight appears you realize you are being escorted into the entrance of the first Gatun Lock. The journey through the locks is just over an hour, and by the time we reached Gatun Lake the temperature was very hot. Here you can depart for Panama City or many other excursions. We chose to stay on the ship and go back through the locks a second time on our way to Cristobal, Panama. We were greeted by the native Embera Indians singing and dancing dockside. Shopping for native crafts and art was available dockside as well.
The next port was Limon, Costa Rica where we took a canal boat ride through the Costa Rican rainforest. Here we saw a lot of wildlife including sloth, birds, lizards, and even bats. The bus ride back was also entertaining as our bus driver and tour guide stopped each time they saw something of interest. Later we arrived at a banana plantation where we saw the entire process including picking, washing and packaging. It was a very enjoyable tour and I highly recommend it.
After another day at sea, we finally reached Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and for us this was a beach day. We walked to the beach from the dock and enjoyed the sun. If you take the tour with lunch, the food and service is never ending. There was some musical entertainment on the beach and massages were available at a fraction of the cost of the ship. The water was warm, but watch for the jellyfish. We also did a little shopping about a block from the pier.
Next it was on to Grand Cayman and another beach day. Seven-Mile Beach was very nice, but the wind was real strong that day. There wasn't very much shade and the drinks that came with our package were all gone before we each got one. A $5.00 taxi ride to the beach would have been a smarter move considering this package cost around $30.00 per person. The sand and water were beautiful.
The next port was Cozumel and we also took a beach day and expected to do some shopping. The chairs we were given were molded fiberglass and stuck in the sand. This is not good if you want to roll over and lay on your stomach. They were crazy and not worth paying for. The beer was included though, and this softened the blow. (Beer or wine solves most problems -- lol.)
In conclusion, we had a very memorable trip. From the nightly chocolates on our bed to the platters of deserts on the buffet, we thoroughly enjoyed every minute of our Princess cruise. This cruise will be a tough one to beat. The ship, the staff, the food and the adventure itself all exceeded our expectations.