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Coral Princess - Panama Canal Transit - 9/20-10/5
Because this cruise was leaving out of LA we didn?t have a pre-cruise. We cruised with my brother and his wife, who flew in a few days earlier from Georgia. We had a great time reminiscing and visiting with our kids.
We stayed overnight on board the Queen Mary prior to boarding the Coral Princess. It was an interesting experience, but it does make you realize how far cruise ships have pushed the state of the art. The QM is not in really good shape, it has management problems and is deeply in debt. Haven?t spent a night on board I?m not surprised. Food prices are very high. A simple breakfast, two eggs, bacon, hash browns, toast and coffee was $15.50 per person. We enjoyed the stay and would probably do it again as it was convenient.
The following morning the weather was terrible, raining really hard. It was the first rain that we had seen since April. We got a taxi to the dock around 11 o?clock. Dropped off our luggage and checked in. We had Platinum priority check in, but even so everything was so well organized it was a breeze. We sat in the Platinum Lounge for about 15 minutes and then we were escorted onto the ship, This was about 45 minutes after leaving the QM. Our rooms were ready. We dumped our hand luggage and went into the Horizon Court for lunch.
We had a category AB mini-suite on Dolphin deck. It was outstanding. Not only was it spacious, it was very well designed and nicely decorated. The bathroom was quite large and contained a full size tub. The main area of the room had two TV?s and lots of large mirrors. Ample closet space, lots of drawers and a nice sized refrigerator. Room service started at 2:00 pm, so we ordered a bottle of champagne and a liter bottle of Absolut and toasted to a great cruise. The cabin steward was excellent. He was both personable and very efficient. Our room was made up very promptly and any extras we wanted were available immediately. We are always early risers. The steward remarked to us that early risers make his job easier and late risers sometimes cause his day to drag out.
As always a personal thing. The food was overall fair. There seemed to be less choice. Lamb was on the menu six times in the 15 days. I like lamb, but I?ve definitely had better than was served. There was lobster on two occasions and my Princess favorite, king crab legs once. The appetizers were excellent as was the soups. The desserts looked very good, but I always had the sorbet, Princess has the best sorbet. Food in the Horizon Court was quite good, with a wide choice. We enjoyed the afternoon snacks. We would get a plate of cheeses, cold cuts, etc and have them around 4:30 on the balcony. We had the ?Balcony Breakfast? as we sailed through the Panama Canal. It was delightful. Princess really outdid themselves. It cost $25 per couple, but was worth twice that. If you get a chance to do this breakfast, don?t hesitate. In the dining room we had a table for eight and we had the company of two delightful couples. Everyone was so compatible and dinner was always enjoyable. Our waiter and assistant waiter were very good, very efficient and quickly learned our likes and dislikes. I kept them busy with wine service and they never faltered.
We expected this cruise to be fairly dressy. It wasn?t. We had three formal nights and the rest were smart casual. Princess?s idea of smart casual is slacks and collared shirt for men and dress or pant suit for women. On the formal nights, I?d estimate about 40% tux?s for men. The rest being suits or long sleeved shirts with and without a tie. There were some men in sports shirts on formal night. On smart casual night there was the whole range from suits to jeans and sleeveless tee-shirts. For the men, ?joiner? pants, the ones with lots of bulky pockets, were quite prominent. For the women, there were a lot of capris. We dressed for dinner on four smart casual nights in what used to be semi formal, suits and tie for men and cocktail dresses for the ladies. We were definitely in the minority, but we enjoyed it. I did not see any shorts in the dining room at dinner. One reason I took special note of what people were wearing was because of all the controversy on Cruise Critics about dress code in the dining room.
We did only one organized tour, in Puerta Caldera, Costa Rica. In all the other ports we just walked around, sampled the local food and brews, and did some shopping. Most unusual for us, but we decided to spend our time with my brother and his wife and they are not big tour people. We had a lot of fun, however. In Acapulco, the ladies decided they wanted to buy some clothes and shoes. Acapulco has some really nice dress shops and every other store is a shoe shop. It rained very heavily in Acapulco and we got soaked, but had fun imitating Gene Kelly in ?Singing In The Rain?. Huatulco is the new gem of the Mexican Riviera. It?s a beautiful little town and is growing very fast. Had a great time shopping and sitting on the beach eating pulpo (octopus) cerviche. Aruba is fast becoming one of our favorite ports. My wife especially likes the jewelry stores. She bought a beautiful gold bracelet, probably not a bargain, but very different to anything you see in the US.
For once I thought that the entertainment was above average. One thing that I like about Princess is the piano music that is available around the ship. We especially enjoyed David Juneau playing in the Atrium every night before dinner. The big production shows were well done and very entertaining. We thought that ?Tribute? was well scripted, choreographed and very well performed.
The Coral is a very spacious ship, lots of public areas and it was in immaculate condition. The pool area was very spacious with lots of empty deck chairs, no hogging. The four story Atrium is very attractive and well laid out, lots of room and plenty of seating. We were so impressed that we booked on board to sail on Island Princess, Coral?s sister ship, next March. One thing that was very obvious was the attitude of the crew. I can?t remember a cruise where every single person that we met/saw was so upbeat. It was quite amazing. Even the two mechanics who came to fix a minor problem in our cabin were so pleasant and polite.
Debarkation was a breeze. We walked off the ship, picked up our luggage, cleared Customs and took a taxi to the airport. We did curbside check in and in less than 40 minutes from leaving the ship, we were having a cup of coffee in the airport. That included paying for the overweight luggage that belonged to you know who. Inside the airport, we had a little excitement. We had to evacuate the terminal because of an emergency situation. It lasted about a half hour. Never did find out what it was. When we arrived home, we found American Airlines had lost my garment bag. It took three days to get it back and I had to drive 130 miles round trip to pick it up.
Overall, an excellent cruise. I?ve tried to find some faults, but I can honestly say that I can?t complain about anything, well maybe the 130 mile drive to pick up my luggage.