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Princess Cruises: Coral Princess

Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating
  • New

Jan 15, 2017

Review of Coral Princess

Lou Age: 60 Occupation:Self employed Number of Cruises: 3 Cruise Line: Princess Ship: Coral Princess Sailing Date: 2016-03-15 Itinerary: Panama Food and wine were poor at best. The wine selection was very limited and they must store the wines poorly as several had turned bad. The shore excursion to the Indian Village in Panama was a joke and very fake and staged. Would not return to this ship or this cruise line. There are others that are better

Poor food quality in my view. Fine cabin and cabin service. Poor shore excursions and activities.

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By Lou_CR

  • New

Mar 27, 2016

Panama

Food and wine were poor at best. The wine selection was very limited and they must store the wines poorly as several had turned bad. The shore excursion to the Indian Village in Panama was a joke and very fake and staged. Would not return to this ship or this cruise line. There are others that are better Poor food quality in my view. Fine cabin and cabin service. Poor shore excursions and activities.

  • New

Feb 18, 2016

Aruba-Columbia-Panama Canal-Costa Rica-Grand Cayman Island

This Cruise was our first on Princess. We've traveled on Royal Caribbean and Carnival previously and had absolutely fantastic voyages. Knowing that the Princess "Coral Princess" had just come out of dry dock we felt all would be wonderful. When I heard of the Zeka Virus we were concerned because wife and I have auto immune disorders and were apprehensive. Vacations to Go told me to get doctors note and they would present it to Princess.

Next day I heard back. No refund, but a credit would be offered for another cruise i the future which I accepted. The NEXT day another phone call from travel agent to advise me NO credit will be offered! The Princess lines agent was no where to be found. I in turn called Princess customer relations and wanted manager, but denied. Moral to the story "take the cruise or loose your money"! On February 5, 2016 we boarded to Ship. Immediately smelling sewage. The ship had it's maiden voyage after dry dock just prior to ours. A shake down cruise for seven days. In that time the drive shaft to one of the screws broke so the ship cruised in a 360 degree pattern for two days. They had broken or backed up sewage and water lines also. Sub contractor plumbers hired on for four months to repair as it sailed! We had to smell sewage for ten days. The Atrium was awful as well as our cabin and glass elevators. This ruined the whole trip. I need to use a C-pap machine and that made the odor direct and worse. I am a 100% disabled Combat Vietnam Veteran and have had to smell this odor many times before, but never expecting to suffer on our Anniversary voyage. There is no excuse for this type of nonsense. We arrived in port and it sailed once again to the surprise of the new passenger list. The Captain and crew were no where to be found on deck. I believe they were avoiding the issues and should be called to task. Princess Customer relations were the worst I have ever had the dis pleasure of dealing with and will never recommend or sail with them again. When you loose respect for your passengers health and welfare and look at the bottom line only it will eventually catch up to you. We were told that our cruise sailed minus 600 passengers. Possibly the word is spreading? Toilets would not flush at times, No hot water in shower, first four days buffet very bland, Lost our port of call in Costa Rica and should have other ports to substitute rather than another day at sea and less than $4.00 credit. I feel the cruise line should offer passengers another cruise for all the negative issues on a supposed dream cruise! Many of us save our money for the big event only to be let down by poor management and disregard for passenger satisfaction. I have never had a negative cruise experience and after this voyage will look for other ways to vacation. Definitely not PRINCESS CRUISE LINES!!! Food in main dining was fantastic State room was fine except for the sewage odor and no hot shower water Activities on board was acceptable, but geared to a geriatric community Excursions were great and well planned. I started with excitement , but discouraged by the disregard for passenger health and welfare.

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Feb 18, 2016

Panama

This ship shouldn't have left the port. Our cruise set sail to Panama on February 5th, the sewage smell was horrible, crew members were in the hallway constantly on ladders which made moving around unsafe. Our suite had problems and it took seven days to get repairs, most important was the shelf in the shower that was reported first day, on second day fell out again and cut my foot. Don't try the spa, spa crew doesn't have passengers interest

at heart suppose to have 55 minute massage ended up being 30 minutes because she was having an off day I am a vegetarian and they wanted me to eat pasta every day. Very hard to get them to understand I would rather have some vegetables. One waiter finally on the six day of 10 day cruise found a way to get me some We had a suite and couldn't get hot water, air conditioner didn't work correctly. Repairs were needed Not a lot of activities unless you are willing to spend money at art auctions, casino, or stores This was the worst cruise we have ever been on, it is our 11th with princess and our last. Going back to celebrity

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By John_CR

  • New

Feb 13, 2016

Caribbean

They ship was launched from being in dry dock for the first 2 days the pools were empty and filthy and the hot tubs were also empty and filthy (they took the ship from dry dock in the Bahamas to Fort Lauderdale but never filled the pools or hot tubs. After many complaints they got some tubs working and one pools after 4 days the second pool. The ship thrusters did not work right or the steering so we did not get to Cozumel until the 2nd day after

we were supposed to have arrived they fixed what was wrong with the propulsion and then the weather did not allowed entry to the next port we were already behind schedule BUT THEY ALWAYS ANNOUNCED SAFETY FIRST HMMM. HOW ABOUT BEFORE THEY LEAVE PORT NOT AFTER. But as we cruised on our six day three stop cruises that allowed one stop we found the hot water in the room did not work they fixed on the fourth day it quit working on the fifth day again. The heat and air conditioning did not work in the room and repaired but still did not work but they had to shampoo rug from the mess left. Staff was great they did not prepare the cruise ahead of time they should be ashamed of treating customers in this manner this is our 5th sailing on princess which is usually great this they should learn by and never ever sail again with out being prepared. ps Ship staff had buckets to catch water leaks in their quarters in some areas and many areas had a Lot of sewage orders thru out the ship. I have lots of photos if princess would like to see them Good food but used to be better. Hot water worked one day out of 6 and room temperature was either very hot or very cold and repairman fixed it he said and left a mess so bad they had to shampoo the carpet and it never worked after he repaired it. Ok We missed tow of the stops we were supposed to take out of the three scheduled See my narrative Princess should be ashamed to ever sail any ship in their fleet in the. Manner in which they sailed this cruise from Fort Lauderdale on Jan. 30th on the Coral Princess and for the Captain to approve th sailing he never could have looked at or test sailed the ship after dry dock or he never would have sailed with the pools and hot tubs empty and filthy and the ship broke down on the cruise and many things onboard did not work they were replacing much of the water lines as we left the ship.

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Sep 20, 2013

Alaska

Let me start by stating that I am a platinum member on Princess Cruises due to the number of times I have cruised with them ( I think its 10 times at this point). I have also cruised on Carnival, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean. While it is definitely an older crowd, we have enjoyed Princess in the past. However, we have had our last run-in with the customer service department and will not cruise with them again. While I could write a book

about our latest experience, let me just say that you had better not have a problem because they are NOT going to help you. We actually ended up missing our cruise due to poor information given to us from the Princess customer service department and were stranded in Canada. They didn't help and they didnt care. They simply transferred us from representative to representative on the phone with 20 minutes "on hold" between each person. And we got a different story from each representative. The last one promised to stay in touch with us over the next couple days to make sure our family of four (including two young children) got on board a later cruise and got home (our return flight was out of our destination port). We never even heard back from them. In fact, months went by after our return home and the only time they knew my family and I were back home safe was when I called them recently to express my frustration. And this is how they treat a platinum member. Imagine how you are going to be treated. For all they know, my family and I remain stranded in Canada! We actually ended up booking another cruise (on Celebrity) to get to our destination port to be able to get home. It was a complete disaster. And this is not the first time we have run in to a customer service problem with princess. DO NOT CRUISE PRINCESS!!! And if you do, I hope you do not encounter a problem because they really just do not care.

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Aug 2, 2013

Alaska Northbound

We have been extremely apprehensive about cruises and finally decided to try one. This was one of the best adventures we have had in years and look forward to our next Princess Cruise. We were overwhelmed by the organization and the welcoming attitude of ALL the on board employees. The food was excellent and if there was anything negative about the food it would be that there was too much however, all delicious. We commend Princess for providing

such a well planned, well organized trip. We will return and look forward to another adventure. Over the top - EXCELLENT food ! Excellent cabin. It was always maintained and kept well for us. Fun and entertaining shows. Many tours from which to chose. The hikes and float trip was good as well as others. We traveled from Vancouver to 4 ports in Alaska then trained to Denali. It was an excellent trip and introduction to Alaska leaving many memories and a list of things to see if we return again.

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By Ken_CR

  • New

Sep 15, 2010

Alaska Northbound

First let me say that our previous experience was on a smaller ship and although economical turned out to be more of a luxury adventure cruise than Princess delivered. While the Coral Princess is a well maintained and precisely captained and crewed ship I didn't come away feeling that I had experienced all that a cruise can and should be. The arrivals at each port were spot-on and as smooth and flawless as the seas could permit... and the seas were

very kind to us for this trip. If that were the total measure of the cruise experience it would have been a 5 star cruise. For us, the cruise experience it rates somwhwere in the 2 - 2 1/2 star rating. We were greeted upon our arrival at the departure greeting hall with a warm glass of watered-down orange juice substitute. Turns out this is what was served along with the watered-down apple juice, iced tea and an instant coffee-like drink at all meals. Real Coffee, soft drinks and of course alcoholic beverages are cost-add-ons. Calibrate your expectaions on this first impression and you won't be disappointed. The offered optional (cost add-on) tours were satisfactory and equal to the shorside offerings as they were the same but with a small princess commission. The tour that the onboard Naturalist/Historian tried to steer us away from turned out to be the best of the trip. Constant commercials for future cruises, spa treatments and of course shopping for jewelry and diamonds served to further tarnish the experience as you were forced to the "Princess Commercial Sales" channel at high volume when the cabin TV was turned on. This hardly fit in with our expectation of enjoying the relaxation of a cruise between opportunities to explore and discover all that Alaska has to offer. I've heard the cruise referred to as the "Spa/Shopping/Jewelry Cruise"... a fitting description. The best part - ALASKA itself. Fortunately, it's essentially impossible to spoil the phenominal experience of the wilderness, sights,sounds and beauty of Alaska. As others have commented, the presentation exceeded the quality of the offerings. The entre's were at most average both in the dining rooms and the buffet. The desserts looked great but were disappointing... The best part of the meals were the fresh fruit offerings. The stateroom was fine. everything worked and was spotless when we arrived and was maintained to that standard by the steward throughout the cruise. If you don't care for rock-hard beds you may not cre for the stateroom sleeping accomodations. I recall sleeping on a similarly hard bed (a barely padded mat) in India... and like the india mat, it was merely rock-hard and did not include the feared "bed of nails" Like most of the standard class staterooms on the ship, it was "compact" The on-board historian was apparently most interested in pushing the shopping and jewelry sales downtown. While the meager offering of pre-arrival port and tour descriptions were generally adequate, they were hardly stellar. The few shows we attended were well done and entertaining. Beyond the ship's library most activities outside the sales presentations, cruise hype and the above mentioned Naturalist/Historian briefings were again cost add-ons. We didn't take the 2 hour flight to the fjord from Ketchikan... we may have missed a good one there. The 8 hour combo Photo and Train tour from Skagway to the Yukon Territory was amazing, excellent background by our Driver/Guide and a chance to get the real flavor of Alaska. Do spend the $7pp each way to visit the Mendenahll Glaciar... Alaska is Amazing, we'll be back... but I doubt we'll be aboard the Coral Princess again. Having experienced what a cruise can be we found this cruise to be lacking in what makes a cruise a wonderful experience...

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By Ken_CR

  • New

Sep 15, 2010

Alaska Northbound

First let me say that our previous experience was on a smaller ship and although economical turned out to be more of a luxury adventure cruise than Princess delivered. While the Coral Princess is a well maintained and precisely captained and crewed ship I didn't come away feeling that I had experienced all that a cruise can and should be. The arrivals at each port were spot-on and as smooth and flawless as the seas could permit... and the seas were

very kind to us for this trip. If that were the total measure of the cruise experience it would have been a 5 star cruise. For us, the cruise experience it rates somewhere in the 2 - 2 1/2 star rating. We were greeted upon our arrival at the departure greeting hall with a warm glass of watered-down orange juice substitute. Turns out this is what was served along with the watered-down apple juice, iced tea and an instant coffee-like drink at all meals. Real Coffee, soft drinks and of course alcoholic beverages are cost-add-ons. Calibrate your expectations on this first impression and you won't be disappointed. The offered optional (cost add-on) tours were satisfactory and equal to the shorside offerings as they were the same but with a small princess commission. The tour that the onboard Naturalist/Historian tried to steer us away from turned out to be the best of the trip. Constant commercials for future cruises, spa treatments and of course shopping for jewelry and diamonds served to further tarnish the experience as you were forced to the "Princess Commercial Sales" channel at high volume when the cabin TV was turned on. This hardly fit in with our expectation of enjoying the relaxation of a cruise between opportunities to explore and discover all that Alaska has to offer. I've heard the cruise referred to as the "Spa/Shopping/Jewelry Cruise"... a fitting description. The best part - ALASKA itself. Fortunately, it's essentially impossible to spoil the phenomenal experience of the wilderness, sights,sounds and beauty of Alaska. As others have commented, the presentation exceeded the quality of the offerings. The entre's were at most average both in the dining rooms and the buffet. The desserts looked great but were disappointing... The best part of the meals were the fresh fruit offerings. The stateroom was fine. everything worked and was spotless when we arrived and was maintained to that standard by the steward throughout the cruise. If you don't care for rock-hard beds you may not cre for the stateroom sleeping accommodations. I recall sleeping on a similarly hard bed (a barely padded mat) in India... and like the india mat, it was merely rock-hard and did not include the feared "bed of nails" Like most of the standard class staterooms on the ship, it was "compact" The on-board historian was apparently most interested in pushing the shopping and jewelry sales downtown. While the meager offering of pre-arrival port and tour descriptions were generally adequate, they were hardly stellar. The few shows we attended were well done and entertaining. Beyond the ship's library most activities outside the sales presentations, cruise hype and the above mentioned Naturalist/Historian briefings were again cost add-ons. We didn't take the 2 hour flight to the fjord from Ketchikan... we may have missed a good one there. The 8 hour combo Photo and Train tour from Skagway to the Yukon Territory was amazing, excellent background by our Driver/Guide and a chance to get the real flavor of Alaska. Do spend the $7pp each way to visit the Mendenahll Glaciar... Alaska is Amazing, we'll be back... but I doubt we'll be aboard the Coral Princess again. Having experienced what a cruise can be we found this cruise to be lacking in what makes a cruise a wonderful experience...

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By chip_CR

  • New

Aug 22, 2010

panama canal

great ship and service. food very good. though they still chage for their ice cream bar which i think is very bad very good very good varied and good 10 days long, loved it favorite stop was Cozamel, mexico- should be a 2 day lay over,

By Myla_CR

  • New

Jun 21, 2010

Alaska

I'm 28, and took this Alaskan cruise with my parents, who are in their mid to late 60's. Most reviews state that the Alaskan cruise is more suited for Seniors. I found that to be true, but I also saw a lot of children and larger families on this cruise. This was my 5th cruise, my previous 4 being in the Caribbean and Mexico. This was also my first Princess cruise. While Princess is great in most respects, there were a few moments that made my

vacation less than perfect. I'm a trained chef, so the gourmet aspect of a cruise is very important to me. By far, Royal Caribbean has had the most impressive culinary quality out of all the cruise lines I have been on. As far as the Dining Room goes, Princess seems to be more about plate presentation than about the actual food quality. For example, my sea bass with risotto arrived stacked beautifully on the plate, with perfect lines of sauce artfully drawn across the plate, but the fish was overcooked and dry, and the risotto was undercooked and hard. The service in the dining room is also very good, but the wait staff appeared to be exhausted. Not surprising, since we would often see the same servers in the Horizon buffet at 6am, and then at dinner at 6pm. We mostly ate breakfast and lunch in Horizon Court, the 24-hour buffet that has basically replaced the extravagant midnight buffet traditionally found on most cruises. The food at Horizon Court is very diverse- think fried rice and curried eggs served right alongside bacon and pancakes at breakfast. Food quality here was generally good, but nothing to write home about. The worst part about Horizon buffet is that it's convenient. As in EVERYONE eats there, and there are not enough tables to accommodate everyone. It also provides a beautiful panoramic view, which means the people who feel it is too cold to go outside will continue to camp out at their table, while you shuffle around with your plate looking for a place to sit. This was absolutely the worst part. We chose an outside, obstructed view cabin on the Emerald deck. Just after booking, we were given a website that had a 360 degree view of our chosen stateroom, which clearly showed 2 twin beds and a pull-out sofa. The location was convenient to the Atrium, and the view of a lifeboat was certainly expected. What was not expected, however, was a bunk bed instead of a pull out sofa. Now, picture yourself in a cabin the size of a dorm room that has a large metal bunk bed dropping from the ceiling, and you are sharing the cabin with your 6'3" father. It simply was not going to work. Upon complaining to the hotel staff, their first solution was to put a mattress on the floor of our current room. When the man who claimed he was the "Manager" came in and saw the mattress on the floor, he showed us another cabin on a different deck that he claimed "had more real estate." His plan was to move the 2 twin beds into 1 queen bed, and then put a third temporary bed directly next to it. So, at 10:00pm on the first night of our vacation, we packed all of our things and carted them up to this new "larger" stateroom. When we got there, we found the manager and a very confused steward staring at a temporary bed that obviously was not going to fit. We took our bags BACK down to our original room, unpacked AGAIN, and never received an apology from said manager. My father spent all 7 days of our LUXURY cruise sleeping on a mattress on the floor. Completely unacceptable and Princess should be embarrassed of this situation. However, I do want to mention that our room steward, Hector, was very friendly and amazingly reliable. Often, after leaving for breakfast for about half an hour, our rooms were cleaned by the time we returned. He was also nice enough to leave a little towel animal in our room every night, and I had a little zoo by the end of the cruise. Onboard activities are without a doubt catered to Seniors. Bingo, Bridge Club, 50's and 60's music trivia, a ship-wide jigsaw puzzle, and a seminar on Jackie O's jewelry are some of the examples. I enjoyed watching the fruit and vegetable carving demonstration, but annoyingly many of the demos were in the Atrium, which has no seating. The staff would insist that everyone sit on the stairs, so people would stupidly still try to walk up the stairs even though they were packed with people. I wonder why, with so many lounges and theaters available, they chose not to hold demos in those locations? The evening entertainment was pretty good. We saw 2 comedians who were hilarious, and even the Cruise Director was a very funny guy with a great singing voice. There were also 3 Production shows featuring the Coral Princess Dancers and Singers. The Dancers are amazingly talented. The singers, well, they can sing, but they seem to try way too hard. Also, in all 3 shows the 2 female singers always acted like they were competing with each other. This was obviously scripted, but it got old after a while. One of the shows featured Adrian Zmed, who I had never heard of but apparently he was in Grease 2. Honestly, I found him a bit annoying as well and thing the show would have been better if the singers and dancers were allowed to go it alone. One thing about the 2 days at sea that was surprising was how rough the waters were. I have never, ever been prone to motion sickness, but on the first day at sea I took dramamine, had accupressure bracelets on both wrists, and constantly sipped ginger ale. Many people on the ship told me this was normal for an Alaskan cruise, so be prepared even if you don't normally get seasick. Bring all your winter gear with you: winter coat, hat, gloves and a scarf and make sure you get outside for the Glacier Bay and College Fjord cruising. Also, bring a good camera and binoculars. I did not think I would need binoculars but I really did miss out on seeing some wildlife because of it. If you are going for the shopping, be aware of 2 things: 1. Many of the "recommended" businesses in the ports actually travel with the cruise ships and shut down when the season is over, this includes the 29 or so jewelry stores you will find in all 3 ports. Many of the Local business owners have signs in their shop that tells you they are local, so support them if this is important to you. 2. There is a Shopping Consultant on board who hosts information systems that strategically steer you toward those recommended businesses. Think hard about what you really want/need and try not to get sucked in. Do you really want to pay $200 for bamboo sheets just because you're on vacation? By the third port, you will be tired of seeing the same stuff (Ulu knives, Russian nesting dolls, smoked salmon, and Northern Lights Topax to name a few). We did not go on many shore excursions and preferred to explore ourselves on foot, but I heard good things about the crabbing boat tour in Ketchikan and the Wildlife cruise in Skagway. Also, the Coral Princess is often in port in 3 or 4 other cruise ships at the same time, so be prepared for crowded sidewalks and stores, and book your tours online early to avoid competing with the other ships. While the trip started off rocky, this cruise was still amazing. It is amazing that this beautiful un-touched land is part of the US. I would definitely go again, but most likely on a different cruise line.

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Nov 11, 2009

Panama Canal

Overall, Princess gets many things right, but it is not the cruise line for me. 10-day cruises or longer generally attract a much older crowd and that was certainly the case on our voyage. I would say 98% of the passengers were over 55 years old and over half of them were over 65. And Princess seems to cater its activities more to them. It was the most boring ship I've ever been on and IF IT WERE NOT FOR "Island Night" and guest comedians by the name

of Fred Klett & Tony Daro I would have jumped overboard! Where Princess really shines is the cleanliness of the ship, movies, and their shore excursions. My only complaint with the ports of call is they need to stay in Cabo San Lucas for the full day and skip either Puerto Amador or Acapulco. Average for a cruise ship. I was told this was an area that Princess shined, but my expectations must be too high. Carnival has been the most enjoyable food of all the cruise lines we have vacationed with, in my opinion. Our stateroom was an inside cabin on the 10th floor (Caribe) and it was very small, but functional. Princess did a good job with storage design and we were able to put away 3 suitcases of clothes/shoes and one carry-on of toiletries with no problems. The ship was recently dry docked and all the linens/carpets were updated. Our only complaint would be the comfort of the mattress. I think I may need surgery after sleeping on them for two weeks. Your only concern will be the lack of activities Princess gives for entertainment. I was 40 during this '09 cruise and found the ships entertainment very boring and geared to a much older crowd. Nobody makes it fun and entertaining like Carnival and nobody has the amount of on-board activities like Royal, but Princess has the best shore excursions. Our cruise took us from Ft. Lauderdale to Aruba, Colombia, The Canal, Panama, Costa Rica, Huatulco, Acapulco and Cabo San Lucas. I recommend The Ostrich Farm tour for Aruba, Aerial Tram for Panama, and Dolphins in Acapulco (you will get a ton of time with the Dolphins here and it includes a photo AND video). Acapulco is very crowded and the other tours are less than satisfying. You'll pay dearly to see the Cliff Divers (which isn't that great)... so my suggestion here is to walk around or stay on the ship. Do anything in Colombia that will keep you from the local areas. Otherwise you will be mobbed by street vendors every 5 feet who won't take NO for an answer. We did the Fortress tour in Colombia and it was hotter than Hades at 9am. Others had a blast touring the Mud Volcano. In Costa Rica, I would use Ricky Ricardo Tours and customize my tour. Ricky is the best private tour guide you can get for your money - honest, clean, knowledgeable and has great air conditioning! You can get a local boat taxi in both Huatulco and Cabo to see the bays and Arc's and spend less than $10 each. Cabo has a great beach area and the Dolphins are also within a few feet of the Pier. Hope this helps. We just returned from a relaxing trip on the Coral Princess with a full transit through the Panama Canal. We started in Ft. Lauderdale and visited Aruba, Colombia, transited the Canal, Puerto Amador (Panama city), Costa Rica, Huatulco, Acapulco and Cabo San Lucas before completing our cruise in Los Angeles. The Ship was beautiful and modern and the gym, spa and eating facilities on-board were wonderful. The food at the buffet on the Lido deck was not much different than the food in the main dinning rooms, so it was an easy choice on many days to just relax by the poolside instead of getting dressed for dinner. We enjoyed one dinner at the Bayou Cafe (which has a $15 cover charge) and boy do they want to serve you there. Our waiters brought out almost EVERYTHING on the menu for us to try. I was so stuffed with goodness that I nearly needed to be wheel chaired back to my cabin. Service in the main dining room and buffet were not what I expected. The servers were not rude, but they were not welcoming either. Many times in the buffet it seemed like a hassle for them to refill your drink, which I think Princess would do better if they had self serving juice stations. Overall, dinning was about average in taste and selection. I enjoyed visiting every port of call for the experience, but was disappointed with a few. Aruba has amazing water and beach areas, but was surprised that it is mostly desert. There areas where the Hotels were location was of course the most beautiful, but definitely worth the visit. Colombia has too many aggressive street vendors who want to sell you everything (especially t-shirts) and won't take 'NO" for an answer. Since they wouldn't leave me alone, I decided to reverse the psychology and told them the only way I could buy their products was if they bought my camera for $2000 and baseball cap for $50. I even offered them a 20% discount (which they refer to as "promotion"), but they kept declining me... go figure. That actually was very fun and other tourist had a blast watching me harass the vendors and follow them until they started running from me. The Canal was amazing, but not very beautiful. It took 10 hours to pass from ocean to ocean and nearly 5 hours of it was in the three different locks. One time for the experience is enough for me. Puerto Amador (Panama City) has very little to do near the pier and you must taxi into the city to enjoy any time here. Problem is that downtown is very busy and "old town" is unbelievably poor. I would recommend the Mall near the pier or the Mall downtown if you want to walk and shop or people watch and sample local food. Costa Rica is AMAZING, beautiful, clean and very friendly. I could live here and definitely plan to return. The ship had many great excursions, but we choose Ricky Ricardo Tours who was waiting outside the side and boy are we happy we did!!! Go to Trip Advisor for my full review, but bottom line. It was the best time we had in any of the countries visited. Huatulco is a secret gem of a place. Take advantage of the local boat taxi's and spend less than $10 to visit 5-7 of the bays. This is a snorkeler or divers paradise, but they also have several private little beaches with little to no crowds. We stopped at a beach that seemed to have no tourists; only locals. It was like we were celebrities because everyone was smiling and kids were crazy happy to see visitors. All the restaurants lining the beach share the same grass covering that stretched for about 400 feet. After looking at a few menus we settled down at Mely and La Escondida. We chose it based on one local families food order that walked by our noses. We had a great meal. Acapulco was too crowded, but the Dolphin experience here was every bit worth the money! Plenty of time with the dolphins and included a photo and video. My wife swam with them while I was a spectator taking pictures. She had the time of her life being pushed and pulled through the water, giving hugs and kisses, and having the dolphins dance as the group sang "la cucaracha". After their singing, the trainer asked the dolphins if they enjoyed the singing and they nodded "NO," then returned to the group and started singing (in dolphin dialect of course). And they were actually better singers! Cabo is simply the best place on this plant and will forever be a yearly destination for my family. It was THE most balanced place for beauty, activities and relaxation. Don't book any excursions here, just venture out and enjoy. We visited Cabo Wabo, the beach, a few resorts and the Shrimp Factory for lunch. I love this place. Our final experience was disembarkation and this was the only REALLY bad experience of the trip. It was a nightmare and completely unorganized. People were confused over where to go, what line to be in, who was in charge and what exit was available. Friends we met on the ship emailed us that several altercations almost turned physical because tension was so high. We were smart enough to sign up for express walk-off and arrived at the immigration room 45 minutes prior to our scheduled time. We experienced some delay, because immigration did not release anyone to leave the ship for over 1 hour past scheduled time, but it was not nearly as bad for us as others who came on time or late. Princess told every passenger on the ship to meet in the Universe lounge to pass thru immigration @ 7:15am and from there you had times allocated according to your cabin/travel. Problem with that is the lounge is small and located at the back of the ship and 2,000 passengers showed up. lines were at best ridiculously long and many had their luggage also. Big thumbs down to Princess for this fiasco.

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Oct 30, 2008

Panama

My wife and I embarked on a ten day cruise to Panama aboard the Coral Princess on October 12,2008. It was a cruise to celebrate our FIFTIETH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY. After not recieving our luggage by 9 pm I inquired at the purser's desk I was informed that all luggage had been delivered. I believe at this point the individuals did not know what to say . Instead of seeking the advice of a supervisor one of them asked "Did you look under the bed?" The

most asinine question I have ever been asked. The only clothes we had was what we were wearing, T'shirts and shorts. As I stated before this cruise was to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. I had arranged and paid for the Renewal of Vows ceremony conducted by the Captain. Without our clothes we cancelled. The first of many disappointments. The story only gets worse as the days pass. There are certain milestones in every ones life to be enjoyed and remembered certainly our 50th will not be one of them. The cruise line lost our baggage and did not care. The crew showed total lack of compassion. I will NEVER board another PRINCESS cruise ship again. THEY DO NOT CARE ABOUT THEIR PASSANGERS even after they caused the problems. It was a disaster.

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Aug 23, 2007

Vancouver

This was a first big cruise for the two of us and our sixteen year old son. We had read extensively, both material from Princess, and other information that's available on the web. Menus are available online, and seem to be accurate even from several years ago. We made our decision to take a cruise relatively late, but lucked into what seems to be one of the best of the Princess ships, and an excellent cruise overall. We booked our cruise

through a travel agent, which turned out to be a good thing to do as she was able to negotiate with Princess in a way that would have been tough for us to do as civilians. We ended up booking one of the mini suites, but one of the odd ones (B201) at the very front of the ship. Although a mini suite would normally have a balcony, this configuration does not because of the extra support needed for the front of the superstructure (our cabin was directly beneath the starboard bridge wing). Instead the cabin had a picture window. We wondered about the wisdom of forgoing a balcony. People we'd talked to said that balconies were not useful space on Alaska cruises, because it was too cold to spend time on them. We're still debating whether this is true -- people we talked to on the cruise used their balconies, although when there were things to see, these were often on both sides, so you certainly give something up by staying on a balcony. The cabin was about 300 square feet, about the size of a reasonable hotel room, but quite long and thin. Our son slept on the pullout couch, and we had what was effectively a king-sized bed (because it's two twin beds joined together). Our bed was fine, but the pullout had the usual problem of a thin mattress. The space is well thought-out, much better than a hotel room, with decent bedside tables, a credenza, a central unit with a fridge, and a small table near the door, handy for keeping things that need to go with you out of the cabin. There's a large well-organized storage space between the bedroom part and the bathroom, and the bathroom was also well-arranged. In mini suites, the bathroom has a bathtub as well as a shower. The main benefit of this seems to be that the space for showering is a little larger, although the headroom is poor -- only six feet to the ceiling, with the showerhead lower than that. We flew from Vancouver to Anchorage, arriving early afternoon on the Monday that the ship sailed. There were Princess people with large luggage trolleys waiting at the luggage carousels, so luggage got picked up in the usual way and then handed over to them. The Princess luggage tags only need to be put on bags at this point. We were then sent down to the end of the terminal where people were accumulated into bus loads. As soon as a group of perhaps 40 people were ready, the next bus was dispatched. The drive from Anchorage to Whittier takes about a hour, but is vastly complicated by the tunnel that connects Whittier with the rest of the world. It's a rail tunnel that was only recently improved to take road traffic as well -- but it's only single lane and quite long, so southbound traffic is allowed from half past the hour for about 20 minutes, and northbound traffic on the hour for about 20 minutes. We had left the airport about 2:30 so we would have missed the 3:30 window. As a result, we dawdled along the way, looking at one or two not very inspiring sights, including some special kind of sheep that looked pretty much exactly like sheep. Whittier, at the southern end of the tunnel, is a dock, and an apartment building where cruise company staff live. We pulled into the embarkation area along, of course, with several other buses, and it looked as if it might be a long time before we actually boarded the ship. However, there were a lot of people checking us in, and it only took ten minutes or so before that was done. We had registered a credit card beforehand, so it was mostly a matter of checking who we were and giving us our cruise cards, a combination of room key and payment mechanism. We then had to stop and have a picture taken with some plastic palm trees before we could actually go onto the ship. This is the first example in the What Were They Thinking department. At this point, everyone is tired and not looking their best, and anxious to actually get on the ship. Why Princess would imagine that anyone would want a picture of this moment, especially with fake palm trees (!!) is beyond me. This was a comment we heard from other people on board too. Princess tries hard to control any gastric outbreaks, and so asks everyone as they arrive whether they've had any symptoms of anything in the preceding 24 hours. This is a good idea but doesn't achieve much. I heard one passenger saying that someone on the bus had thrown up, but had blithely ticked the "no symptoms" box anyway. At boarding, we inserted our cards into a box which also took our picture. This picture was used whenever we came back aboard during the cruise to validate who we were -- a nice way to avoid the problem of adding a picture to the cruise card. We had looked at the ship's layout beforehand, so we had no trouble finding our way to our cabin. Our cabin steward appeared quite soon (in general, he always seemed to be aware of whether we were in or out, and tended to pop out and greet us). We asked for the terrycloth robes that, for some mysterious reason, are only provided on demand, and which we used to go to and from the pools. We also asked for a fruit plate for the cabin, since our son will eat fruit if it's there. This turned out to be a waste of time -- it didn't appear until late the next day, and we quickly figured out that it was better to bring fruit back from the Horizon Court as we needed it. The fresh whole fruit wasn't great -- the apples were varieties that keep well rather than tasting nice, and many were bruised a bit. There was a good selection of other fruit in the HC, for example melon. The cabin TV gets a few channels, about evenly divided between news and sports channels, and cartoon channels, including Boomerang which carries Hanna-Barbera cartoons, most of which I hadn't seen for forty years (Top Cat, anyone?). Having two TVs in the room is of limited usefulness, except that the bridge cam channel is silent except when announcements are being made, so it's a way to hear them when you ordinarily wouldn't. We had four hours of jet lag to cope with, so we didn't do much the first evening. By the time we were settled, we were ready to eat and went up the Horizon Court (24 hour buffet). There was dinner in the two dining rooms, but allocation the first night was based on when you boarded the ship (people were handed slips as they came on board giving them time and place). The Horizon Court is a typical buffet, with typical food. There's a huge variety: salad stuff, breads, hot food, usually of 15 different kinds, and a range of desserts, usually one hot and the rest cold. As you might expect, there was a constant problem with keeping food hot, and much of the "hot" food was lukewarm when served, and so quite cold by the time we started eating. There was also, by the end of the week, a certain sameness about the food: breakfasts didn't change much from day to day, and all the fish dishes tasted the same (bland). The other strange thing is that all the plates are plastic, and so a coffee mugs.  This really does create a cafeteria ambience. There's a deal where you can pay an up-front fee and get unlimited sodas for the week. This is priced extremely carefully -- to cover the cost you have to drink more than two sodas a day, which many people probably don't think they will do; but many probably end up spending more than they would have paid. OTOH the soda in the HC and bars comes from one of those nozzles where the soda is (a) flat, and (b) different tasting. In the dining rooms, and cabins, sodas are served from cans. The six for the price of five for sodas in cabins is probably a good deal. Coffee, a decent range of teas, juices at breakfast, and iced tea at all meals is free, as is plain water all the time (although the restaurants and bars will happily sell bottled water). The coffee was decent, although the strength tended to vary from moment to moment. In the HC, staff came around supplying drinks at the tables, but this was often quite slow and it was easier to get drinks ourselves. There's also pizza and burgers available during the day; and ice cream available for a charge as well. There are two specialty restaurants where you can eat for an extra charge, one Italian and one Cajun. We didn't try them, and nor did too many other people since they always looked rather empty when we went past. Despite the reputation of Alaska cruises as being for old people and their parents, there were people of all ages on board, except perhaps for the age group between 20 and 35.  There were a number of three-generation groups of families traveling together, with perhaps 50 kids all together. Emergency drill is required on the first evening, so we went down to our muster station in the Princess Theatre to learn how to put our lifejackets on. This lasted about half an hour, most of it spent waiting to get out of the theatre. I don't think a space holding that many people with only two exits would be allowed on land -- it also always took a long time to get out whenever a show finished. Our luggage took a long time to arrive, perhaps until around 9 p.m. which we didn't mind, but could perhaps be a problem for some people. Certainly, it wouldn't be wise to assume that you'd have access to a change of clothes in time for dinner. Although there was an entertainment program on the Monday evening (sailing day), we were too tired to be interested and went to bed early. The first interesting sightseeing is College Fjord, starting from 6 a.m. on the Tuesday morning, so we were glad to be able to get up early. Although the nights are quite short, four to five hours, we didn't really get to appreciate this because there was almost constant low cloud cover, so it seemed normally dark, at least from late evening on. On Tuesday morning we arrived in College Fjord, which is not very far from Whittier. It's a long, narrow fjord, ended with a number of glaciers, which have been named after U.S. Ivy League schools. The weather was overcast, with cloud cover at about 4000 feet, but visibility was good (although it looks really dark in our photos). Part two of What Were They Thinking was the commentary from the ship's naturalist, which continued throughout the cruise. She had to read her material which meant that (a) she talked much too quickly, making her unintelligible in many places on the deck (fix those speakers on the Promenade Deck, Princess); (b) she included far too many details: "this mountain is 3285 feet high" and "this ship was 325 feet in length" which obscured the big picture of what she was trying to communicate. Plus, of course, she was unable to look out for wildlife and read simultaneously. The ship was parked in front of the two biggest glaciers and turned every so often so that the views could be seen from both sides of the ship. The captain, a bear enthusiast, saw a bear on the shore, but nobody around us could find it. We spent our time on the top two decks looking at the view. This is somewhat spoiled by the blue-tinted plastic sheets that extend upwards from the railings for another four feet or so. There are gaps between them, so photos can be taken, but it's hard to take in a scene. By nine we were on our way south, for what turned out to be a fast run across more or less open sea to the interlocking fjords where we would spend the next four days. The weather forecast was poor, so we went more quickly than usual over this part. Although the swells increased, it wasn't ever very rough -- the ship acquired a slow roll but not much more. I saw some dolphins close to the ship on this run. We also passed the commercial ferry that serves the towns along the coast going the other way extremely fast. One of the dining rooms opens for breakfast and lunch, but they didn't seem to be much used -- most people seemed to eat in the HC. The lunch buffet today included a Taste of Alaska, with things like reindeer sausage, which was interesting but it's clear why chains of fast food Alaskan restaurants haven't sprung up. There's a decent library on the ship, which is staffed for a couple of hours morning and afternoon. Books are not signed out, just taken, so it's not really clear why it isn't just left unlocked. There's also an Internet Cafe and wireless access, but this is priced ridiculously (another example of trying to recoup capital spent on a depreciating asset) and was hardly used. My wife went to the afternoon tea this afternoon, which was indeed a typical English formal tea. However, we discovered that the same food was available in the HC from 3 to 4, so we went there instead on other days if we hankered for scones, jam, and cream. It's also kept fairly quiet that ice cream is free in the HC during the afternoon tea slot. Princess advertises "almost first run movies" on board. What they mean by this is "movies that have been out on DVD for only a few weeks" -- in our case movies like "The Queen". This seems like a waste. Tuesday night was the first of two formal nights, when a certain amount of dressing up is required for the dining rooms. Some people didn't want to bother and ate in the HC. Princess uses a two dining room set-up: in one there's an early and a late sitting, and the other is called anytime dining. This is a bit misleading. The real difference seems to be that in the scheduled dining you sit with the same people at the same table with the same waiter each night. In the anytime dining room, there's a little more flexibility in timing (but not much) but you either have to make a reservation each day, if you want to sit at a particular table or with a particular group, or you show up and share a table with whoever arrived at about the same time as you did. The meals are good, but not spectacular, with a possible four courses, and a selection for both healthy eating and for vegetarians. The menus were more or less the same as those posted online by others, so it seems that meals are the same across all ships, all cruises, and across the years. I enjoyed king crab legs and lobster tails; my son tried frogs legs and pheasant and enjoyed them too. The service was variable because of being at a different table each night, but very good on the whole. Anytime dining also meant that we met different people each night, although the ship was big enough that it was easy never to see someone again, and I was still thinking that I had never seen some people before on the last day. We had photos taken before dinner, since it was one of the few times that all of us get dressed up. Unfortunately, the photos were awful, with elementary composition mistakes. In my opinion, Princess would do better to have fewer, more professional photographers taking fewer photos, sold at lower prices. Overall, more money would be made, and many fewer passengers irritated. After dinner we went to see a comedian in the Universe Lounge, a nightclub-ish sort of venue. It's not clear to me what the senior entertainment staff do, because the only time we saw them was on stage spoiling the mood of the entertainment by trying to milk yet one more round of applause from the audience than they were willing to give after every entertainment. The rest of the entertainment staff were excellent: Tracy was friendly to everybody, Mark was good on stage and in person -- he taught a juggling class throughout the cruise, and by the end my son had become a good juggler and my wife and I had made a reasonable start. Wednesday was the highlight of the trip: Glacier Bay. We arrived fairly early because of the fast run the previous night and so went slowly in towards the bay itself. The sea was very calm and we started seeing humpback whales spouting in large numbers. Unfortunately very few actually came out of the water so we didn't see much of backs or tails. They tend to dive deeply when the ship is close so it's hard to predict where they might come up next. At the entrance to Glacier Bay itself, the ship put down one of its tenders and went to fetch the park naturalists who stayed on the ship for the day. Then we cruised slowly north up the bay. The weather lightened through the day, so we had almost-sunshine for much of the time.  The water is the characteristic color of glacier melt. We saw several puffins floating quite close to the ship - there is a colony near the glaciers but we weren't close enough to see exactly where it is. The bay ends at the Grand Pacific glacier, which is very wide but heavily covered with rock. The other glacier is the one that appears on all the brochures, the Margerie glacier. It flows about five feet a day, and so is always calving and stays fairly pristine white. We were parked in front of it for about an hour, with the ship being turned every half hour or so; but we, and many others, stayed on the promenade deck so we could keep watching it. At one point, a gush of pressurized water opened up and burst out of the middle, and as we were leaving it obliged by calving two house-sized chunks from the front. We then went back to one of the side inlets to look at the Lamplough glacier, which is also quite impressive. The captain spotted a brown (grizzly) bear with two cubs on the opposite mountain, and once the naturalist figured out the proper direction, lots of people tried to spot them. The mountain was a perfect distance-free illusion: it looked as if it was about 2 miles away and covered with scrub, but was really 10 miles away and covered with trees. Once I worked out the scale, I was able to see the bears, but even with binoculars they were not much bigger than dots. One of the pools is closed in and the other is not, but both areas were warm enough that we went and sat in the hot tub for an hour on several afternoons. I don't know how this would work on a Caribbean cruise, because neither of the pools is large, but they were never to busy on this cruise. There's also a family pool at the aft end of Aloha deck which is pleasant, although the edge is too high to be able to look out and enjoy the scenery. We wanted to see both shows that evening, so we had an early dinner (still jet-lagged) in the HC, and went to see the Coral Princess Dancers in a tribute show: Sinatra and the Rat Pack, Beatles, and Beach Boys. The show was very good, with high-quality singing and dancing and sophisticated staging and lighting. Unfortunately, two of the four lead singers are much stronger than the other two, which left the show a bit unbalanced. Most of the shows run about an hour. We then went to see a Las Vegas magician, Garry Carson, which was also great. On Thursday we arrived in Skagway. Shopping is evidently a very big deal for many of the people on the ship, and also for the cruise line. Skagway has a permanent population of 800, and on the day we arrived there were four cruise ships in port, so about 8000 people plus staff. Skagway only has one main street, about four blocks long, and divided almost equally between jewelery stores and purveyors of Chinese-made junk: t-shirts, souvenirs, and so on. The cruise line offers many shore options at each port, and these are also evidently a major part of the experience for many people, including pricey options such as helicopter and float plane trips at $500 per person and up. Getting off the ship required another photo, this time with a moth-eaten bald eagle stuffed toy. I don't think they sold many of those either. A humpback whale and its baby spent the day in the harbor right by the ship, so there was plenty of opportunity to watch them. There were also a pair of harbor seals hanging around the breakwater, as well as the usual traffic of a working harbor, and another of the local ferries coming in and out. We took the three-hour White Mountain Pass train ride in the afternoon, having been advised (correctly) that the clouds tend to lift in the afternoon so the views are better. The track runs all the way to Whitehorse, but the trip only goes up the Canadian border and then back down again. Five trains go up in a wave, and then come back down in roughly reverse order, three times a day: morning, just after lunch, and around 4:30. I can't imagine that these ever sell out, and it's possible to buy tickets locally if you want to wait and see what the weather is like. The trip itself is interesting, with good views of the mountains, back down to the town twice, and a 6000-foot set of waterfalls. Thursday evening we went to see a performance by an Australian, Greg Bonham, who normally performs in Las Vegas, a kind of Celine Dion type of show. He had an excellent voice and was a more than excellent trumpet player, but the show somehow fell a bit flat. Evenings were a good time to get some exercise walking round the promenade deck, about three round trips to the mile. Unfortunately, some problem with the garbage system means that the aft lee side of the promenade deck always smelled strongly of garbage, which rather spoiled the walking. Surely this is a fixable problem? On Friday we were in Juneau, the capital of Alaska. Photo with two poor crew members dressed up as a moth-eaten moose and a moth-eaten bear. The cruise dock is in the older part of Juneau, and there's a much larger part, and a substantial airport out of sight around the corner. More shopping! We took the tramway that goes up around 2000 feet right by the cruise ship dock to the top of the ridge where there's a chance for a walk (didn't see any animals except for a couple of red squirrels and a caged bald eagle). It's possible to buy tickets for this through Princess, but there's absolutely no need to, as they can be bought easily on the spot. The tickets allow unlimited rides. It's also possible to climb up to the top and ride the gondola down for $5. On the ride down, the attendant said that she had seen a baby black bear halfway up the slope on the previous run; and she showed us a bald eagle nest in which we could see the babies (full-sized but still brown) flapping and the mother in the next tree. Friday evening we went to see Dan Bennett, an extremely impressive juggler, all the more so as we were learning to juggle. He has a clever way of using his name as an expletive when he drops things, so that everyone goes away remembering who he is. Leaving Juneau, the water was dead calm and glassy and we passed through several groups of humpback whales, perhaps thirty all together. One group at least was hunting, with the matriarch diving deep and then coming up below a school of fish, forcing them to the surface for the others to eat. This happened well behind the ship, but it was possible to see the huge splashes. On Saturday we arrived in Ketchikan for, you guessed it, more shopping. The airport at Ketchikan is on an island opposite the town and is unusual because the terminal area is below the level of the runways, so planes have to go up and down quite a steep slope between runway and terminal. Ketchikan gets a lot of rain and was the only time that we encountered serious rain -- but it only lasted half an hour or so and then the weather improved. We had a quick look around the town, but the only interesting area is along a creek not far from the cruise dock where houses built out over the water have been converted into shops and connected together by wooden walkways. There is also a taxidermist's shop with stuffed animals, and many different skins that can be bought. Saturday evening was the second formal dinner, and this time we managed to get some decent pictures for our families. After dinner we went to see Scott Wyler, a standup comedian. We liked him so much we bought his CD afterwards. Clocks go forward on Saturday night to move from Alaskan time to Pacific time. Sunday is spent at sea, first heading out into the open sea and then working our way back in, ending up in the shelter of Vancouver Island. There were 2 meter swells for part of the evening and night, and it was extremely windy, but the ship didn't really move. Incidentally, the different track followed on this leg in southbound voyages seems to be the explanation for why traveling southbound is more expensive than traveling northbound. We started seeing orcas (killer whales) on this stretch, and also porpoises surfing in the ship's bow wave. There's one critical part of the strait between Vancouver Island and the mainland that can only be safely passed through at slack tide, so the timing of this leg is completely determined by that. There were a few places, also, where tides coming in from different directions meet and where the bottom is uneven, creating large whirlpools (say 20 feet across). These bring up fish from deeper down and so attract all the predators. In particular, we saw a pair of bald eagles hunting across the largest whirlpool, and taking a fish. There was a culinary demonstration in the morning, followed by a tour of the kitchen. This wasn't made very clear in the announcements, so if all you want to do is see the kitchen you don't need to sit through the demo -- just hang around outside about 45 minutes after the starting time. The lunch today included the Pastry Extravaganza, a table covered with cakes and other similar desserts in the HC. This looked impressive but I suspect that most of them tasted more or less the same. The evening featured Scott Wyler and Dan Bennett in an encore, but new, show. We must have arrived near Vancouver a little early because by the time the show was over we were heading north -- made obvious by the fact that a full moon was rising to starboard! All the men who were out on deck were looking puzzled, and all the women were asking how they knew :-). We were given a schedule for disembarking, color-coded, with the people getting early flights first. These came with matching color-coded luggage tags, and the request that we have most of our bags outside in the halls by the end of dinner. Staff gradually removed these to somewhere below. We were told that there would be no problem leaving one last bag until late evening, so it wasn't particularly difficult to wait more or less until we went to bed to put the last bag out. We got up at 6 a.m. on Monday to watch the ship coming in to Vancouver harbor, and take some photos. We were tied up at the wharf by about 7:30, causing some rerouting of the sea bus along the way. We then had breakfast and did the last few things in the cabin, from which we were supposed to be out by 8:00. The HC remained open until 9:30 and lots of people obviously waited until after they were finished in their cabins to eat breakfast. We watched the unloading, which was remarkably low-tech: both bags and supplies for the kitchen were taken on and off using small wire cages handled by cranes. The contents of the these cages were handled by forklifts on the wharf (and presumably on board as well). Disembarkation was well-organized and went fairly smoothly, except that lots of people hung around the disembarkation points long before they would actually be called, and made it difficult for other people to get off. Also the elevators opened right into the middle of the disembarkation lines, which caused some confusion. Announcements cannot be heard in cabins, unless the right TV channel is on, so some people obviously missed their disembarkation group because they didn't hear at the right moment. On shore, customs and immigration was very fast because only small groups went off at a time. Luggage is simply piled up in rows, but wasn't too messy because each color-coded group was handled separately. We only discovered on the last day that there's access to the front of the ship from decks 9-11. This is evidently allowed because these areas are visible from the bridge, and the naturalist even mentioned people on those decks, but they can only be reached through doors that are labeled "Crew Only". This should be clarified -- a lot of people missed some great viewing because they didn't know about this possibility. Overall the cruise was excellent, and Princess has obviously put a lot of thought into making things both efficient and fun. There are a few places where it would improve the experience for Princess to realize that less can be more.  

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Feb 7, 2007

Panama Canal

We chose this cruise for two reasons: the itinerary and the price. Of the four of us, three had never been through the Canal before. I had found an excellent price online in March, 2006 so we booked 2 balcony cabins amidships on the Aloha Deck. This was our first time on Princess. Our companion couple was my cousin and her husband who have been cruising since the 70’s. It was their first time on Princess also. Doing some research online,

we had decided upon the Holiday Inn Express on SR 84 for our one night pre-cruise stay. We had booked this hotel about 8 months in advance. Because it was Super Bowel week, hotel rooms were at a premium and considered ourselves lucky to get this location. The hotel turned out to be an excellent choice and our timing couldn’t have been better. The free shuttle from the airport pulled into the parking lot just as our cousins were getting out of their car. The hotel looked to be newly refurbished and painted. The beds were very comfortable and the room was clean with all the amenities you could want, including a coffee maker and hair dryer. Also included in the price was breakfast the next morning. We did some shopping at the mall across the street for liquor to carry on board, the allowed 2 bottles of wine and some vodka which we put in our checked luggage for late evening drinks on the balcony. Al was smart and even had some Rose’s Lime for gimlets. We weren’t smart enough to buy a couple of limes. It was a nice day to do a drive by the port to familiarize ourselves with the layout and then we went to a cute vertical mall by the beach for a little last minute shopping and to soak up the atmosphere. I had heard about the water taxi ride in Fort Lauderdale. It takes you by the millionaires’ mansions and lets you gawk at all the fabulous yachts. After a little misdirection by the bartender, we did find the “stop” and waited a half hour for it to come by. A word to the wise; try this during warmer weather or in the middle of the day. The sun is starting to go down by 4 PM and the ride in an open boat without windows got mighty chilly. This cost us $18/pp for seniors (over 65). Karl & I fudged a bit on our ages for that one. By the time we got back to our starting place, we had had plenty of fresh air and were thinking about dinner and bed. Our alarm had gone off @ 3 AM-Chicago time that morning and we were starting to feel it. It was so nice having the use of a vehicle to get around. The hotel was on a very busy street and you could walk to several restaurants but with a car we could go anywhere. Passing by an Outback, it got our vote for dinner and we were able to get right in. We were surprised it was so busy for a Tuesday evening but the waitress said that a lot of people had come down for the Super Bowl the previous weekend and had stayed for the whole week. Check out time the next morning was 11 AM and we really didn’t want to go to the port to stand around for a few hours so we elected to find a movie theater to kill a couple of hours. Here again, having the car was so nice. Got to the port around 2 o’clock and dropped our bags with the porters. Al went to park the car at the very spacious garage and we just walked in to check in for the start of our vacation. The charge for the garage was $12/day. There were no lines for check in so we waltzed up to the sign for Aloha deck, handed over the boarding passes we had printed up at home, swiped the credit card, received our room cards, through security and off we went to board the ship. There were people directing you to the elevators and someone on the elevator to direct you to your room. As I said, we were in the middle of the ship just off the elevator lobby. There was a privacy wall between the rooms and the lobby so as to cut down on noise. We never heard any real noise in the hall unless someone was yelling outside our door and that only happened once. The room was lovely. I was surprised at how spacious it seemed. There was a very large, open closet with lots of hangers and a cupboard which contained the safe and shelves for our clothes. There were drawers in the nightstands and in the desk. The hairdryer was next to the desk which was pretty convenient. I did find the dryer to be woefully under heated. I have very fine, thin hair and at home it takes about 30 seconds to dry my hair. There was a lot of air blowing, it just wasn’t very warm. The bathroom was very small with a small shower. Not as small as RCCL, but close. (No pun intended) After 6 cruises with Celebrity, we were making a lot of comparisons. The bathrooms on Celebrity were bigger with showers that were more rectangular in shape and height adjustable shower heads. Celebrity also had dispensers on the walls in the shower with shampoo and conditioner. Princess had all the bath amenities in cardboard containers on the vanity. Celebrity had robes in the room. We had to ask for them on Princess. There was bottled water to purchase in the room and an ice bucket in the small fridge but no pitcher of ice water changed twice daily like on Celebrity. We had 3 sets of towels in the bathroom on Celebrity but only 2 sets on Princess. The trash baskets had plastic liners on X but not on Princess which made you hesitate to throw anything messy in the container. But these were comparisons we made among ourselves since our last cruise had been on Celebrity to Hawaii. Our cabin steward, Anthony was very efficient and took care of any special requests. There were no announcements on CP as well as X. If you wanted to know what was going on, you looked in the daily paper, the Princess Patter. The freshwater pools were great with plenty of deck chairs. Only one day did we have to go searching for a place to stretch out in the shade. We liked the unlimited pool towels on X. These towels were placed in your room doubled as your beach towels. Beach towels were separate on X and were bigger and thicker. The ship had a 4 deck center atrium from deck 5-8 with 4 glass elevators. This was a lovely area with the shops (deck 6) and passenger services (deck 5), the library, internet café & card room (deck 8) and a couple of bars (deck 7). It was done in brass and chrome with twinkling lights and metal sculptures. It was a very attractive part of a very attractive ship. The art work was very nautical and consisted of several old portraits of dead English aristocrats in the halls on the way to the Princess Theater. But it had a downside too. Because the two restaurants were stacked on top of one another, this made it difficult to walk from one end of the ship to another without having to go up or down a deck. I think we were more than halfway through the cruise before we finally figured out to walk out of the restaurant, walk up one deck and go forward to the theater. For some reason, we never could get our bearings and constantly had to use the map to acclimate ourselves. I thought the food on Celebrity was more upscale. I was surprised to see plain white rice served with some of our entrees. This was not something you would ever see on Celebrity. I wonder if this is a new development since Carnival bought them. It seemed to cheapen the meal. We liked that the alternative selections were printed on the menu and you did have your option of white rice, French fries or baked potato with your choice. On Celebrity you have to depend upon your waiter to mention them to you and he usually only does it once at the beginning of the cruise. The salmon in butter sauce was excellent and we all had more than one shrimp cocktail. Sharon & I LOVED the dessert soufflés. Even if I was stuffed, I managed to choke down a few tastes of those. Had to try the Princess Love Boat Dream after reading about it and it was almost too pretty to eat. The service is more formal on X. If my DH chose not to order an appetizer or soup, they brought his salad out while we were eating the other items. On X, he would be served the same course with everyone else. The bus boy acted as your wine steward, no sommelier making suggestions. The wine list on X is much more extensive. Our itinerary was 10 days with 4 sea days: Sea Day, Cozumel, Grand Cayman, Sea Day, Panama Canal, Limon, Sea Day, Montego Bay, Sea Day, and Fort Lauderdale. We were glad to be cruising with our cousins as they are active cruisers who like to get out and do something at every port besides shop. Booking excursions online prior to leaving was very easy and they were billed to our room account once we were on board. Leaving Florida was smooth sailing and the seas stayed that way for our entire trip. The temperature gradually warmed up as we steamed south so by the time we reached Cozumel, it was in the low 80’s. On this part of the experience, Princess really shines. The shore excursions were many and varied, with some unusual choices. You could be as active or sedentary as you liked. Celebrity’s excursions are rather humdrum with more of an emphasis on shopping. Coming back from shore excursions on Celebrity though, there would a tent set up on the dock for X where you can get cold water and/or fruit punch and a cold cloth for your fevered brow when you are coming back from excursions. Nothing like that on Princess. In Cozumel we had booked the snorkel/lunch excursion so we had to be ready to be off the ship by 8 AM. Princess had the early departees meet in the Princess Theater and we were separated into groups by the signs on the walls. Very efficient and easy as pie since we were docked at the pier and could just walk off the ship. Met our group at the end of the pier and then walked back to the ship as our excursion boat was parked right there. Sharon and Al had boarded the boat early to allow Sharon to get off her feet as her back was bothering her. The rest of us stood transfixed as the Costa Mediterranean was backing up to berth right where our little excursion boat was parked. It looked like a Mexican standoff as the excursion captain was not making any move to get out of the way. In a move worthy of David and Goliath, the Costa ship stopped several feet short of the end of the dock (although it looked a lot closer) and dropped its lines. Only then did the rest of us get on board. The ride to the other end of Cozumel Island took about an hour and included soft drinks and water (no beer until after snorkeling) and instructions on the use of the snorkel equipment. We dropped anchor over a reef and either jumped in or used the “chicken stairs” (my choice). There weren’t too many fish but what we saw were very interesting. A new development since the last time I went snorkeling is that someone takes your underwater picture and then they sell them to you for $5 back on board. It’s unbelievable how they try to get every dime out of the tourists by any method. One of the group got stung by a jelly fish and his arm was not pretty. There were a lot of jokes about the best way to treat it, all of them involving various mild acid solutions, i.e. vinegar. Those of us who had opted for the lunch portion of the excursion were dropped at a great beach area with loungers in the sun and a huge tent with lots of tables and chairs. The lunch consisted of salad, fish, chicken fajitas and assorted relishes. There was also fresh fruit for dessert. Our wristbands also entitled us to free drinks at 2 designated bars so after our soft drinks with lunch, Karl & Al wandered over and got us a couple of pina coladas while they tried the Mexican beer. There were some vendors selling trinkets and also a nice fresh water pool. We were glad to get out of the sun and to use the clean restrooms. Several of the people had been brought there by bus or taxi off our ship and the other ships in port just for the beach. This was the only time we had rain the whole trip and it was just a brief shower. It wasn’t until much later in the cruise that I was kicking myself for not shopping in Cozumel for some vanilla to take home. It is dirt cheap there and a great take-home gift for friends and family. The next day we were in Grand Cayman and had booked the tour to swim with the stingrays. We tendered in and were met by our tour guide who got us on a bus. There were about 10 of us. The driver took us on a short ride to where the catamaran was docked. He gave us a brief history of the island while we traveled and pointed out different landmarks and how much of the island had been damaged by Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Arriving at the boat, we had to shed our shoes before boarding. It was about 40 minutes to the sandbar where the rays awaited us. I got a great picture of them swimming towards us while we docked. The crew stated that we were lucky to be the only boat there at that time and have the stingrays all to ourselves. Contrary to all the bad press they have received since Steve Irwin’s death, the stingray is actually a very benign creature unless it feels threatened. They swam all around us looking for the squid we held in our fists for them to suck up. It felt like a big vacuum cleaner taking it out of my hand. They let you pet them and the guides held them for us to “kiss” and they took pictures of us doing it. They put all of your pictures on a disc for only $55. Sharon & Al did buy it but Karl & I decided against it since I was taking pictures of my own. After we got back to the dock, we wandered around downtown Georgetown for an hour or so checking out the souvenirs and didn’t see anything we couldn’t live without. Our next day was a sea day and we took advantage of the pool, finding chairs in the shade to relax. We had decided to try Sabatini’s, the specialty restaurant that night for dinner. After reading so much about it, I was really psyched up for the tremendous meal we were going to receive. People had raved over the 16 courses and how great everything was. We were all very disappointed. Certain items were good, like the pizza and the salad, but after eating in Celebrity’s specialty dining room, it did not measure up. We were asked if we wanted caviar which was on the potato pancake and when we declined, they just skipped that course. Everyone else raved about the minestrone soup. I had the cioppino (fish soup) and while the broth was excellent, the seafood was so chewy it was inedible.  I can’t even remember what I had as an entrée. And yet a year later, I can still recall my dinner in the Normandie dining room on the Summit. What a difference between food that is cooked to order and dishing up the same meal day after day. Some other differences we noticed was that hot cocoa was free on Celebrity whereas you pay for it as a specialty drink on Princess. Of course it is served in a tall glass with whipped cream and sprinkles on top. You also had to pay for ice cream when you finally found the counter by the Spa pool. I had read somewhere that it was free at certain times in the buffet but we never found it. Karl liked the dispensers for the hot beverages which came out very hot. This made for a nice cup of tea. The cups were also bigger than on Celebrity which offers a barely 4 ounce cup. Princess had a decent sized cup for coffee or tea. Celebrity does have nice trays with cloth placemats in the buffet and waiters to carry it for you instead of just large platters that you have to juggle with your drink. They also have a sandwich station all during lunch but Princess only had it from 3-4 PM in the buffet. I didn’t see it as a food option in the Princess Patter. Maybe it was only for those coming back from a late shore excursion. We had early seating so never would have used it anyway. The pizza on the Coral Princess was very good with an excellent crust. I do have to hand it to Princess for the continuous buffet even if I don’t see the need for it to be 24 hours. Celebrity would shut down breakfast an hour before lunch where on Princess they would close one side of the buffet to get ready for lunch and continue serving breakfast on the alternate side until lunch was up and running. We never tried the buffet for dinner as we really liked the dining room experience for that meal. We also never made it to any midnight buffet or even the island deck party or the champagne fountain they had for Valentine’s Day. The production shows were terrific on Coral Princess and except for the "banjo guy" most of the entertainment was very good. But the theater only had a capacity of 600 on a ship with 1980 passengers. The sightlines were excellent but this was not set up as a "show lounge" like the Universe Lounge. If you were not sitting on the aisle, you could forget about that after-dinner drink as the theater was stadium seating and the poor drink servers would have to crawl over several people to serve you. Because we had early seating and the age demographic of this cruise was leaning into the high 80's we found ourselves racing to the theater if we wanted to get 4 seats together. This was a 1/2 hour before the show time. We finally decided to hit the casino after dinner and go to the late show which was definitely less attended. Say what you will about X having an older demographic, it all depends on time of year and length of the cruise. I think I was the only passenger who was still gainfully employed besides the crew. The next stop was the main reason for the cruise, the Panama Canal! We had been informed by the cruise director that we would be entering the Gatun Locks about 6:30 AM. Like everyone else who had a balcony, we ordered room service breakfast for the first serving of 7:30. Those poor guys and gals were really humping all those trays to us lazy people sitting on our verandas. We kept the TV turned up loud so we could hear the commentary on what was happening. A word to the wise; as it is very close to the Equator, Panama is pretty warm, even at 7AM in February. We had a port cabin and had the sun rising right in our faces. After a few cups of hot tea, I thought I was going to have heat stroke. I went inside to cool off and my face was as red as those Valentine balloons. I took a shower to cool off and watched the rest of our progress on TV with the bridge cam. The process was very interesting as the captain only used the side jets to maneuver the sip into the lock. Then the “mules” or railroad engines took over by dragging the ship in by the front and back docking ropes. Once the lock is closed and the water rushes in and the ship rises 23 feet to the level of Gatun Lake. All the traffic on both the Atlantic and Pacific sides is incoming from daylight to noon. The ships that are traversing the rest of the isthmus continue on to the other 2 sets of locks (going west) and the ones going east come to the Gatun locks. After noon, the ships start going in the outgoing direction as we did after they took off all the passengers by tenders who wanted to take tours. We remained on board to enjoy the mostly empty pool and have our choice of deck chairs. We docked at Cristobal and the souvenir hunters got off to check out the local wares at the pier. We were warned not to leave the area as it was not safe. There were several young native boys and girls dressed in lovely costumes posing to take pictures and I think there was no charge. There was a group of older women doing a tribal dance to drums performed by the men. Here was a real cultural clash. The men were barely clothed in loincloths and the women were bare breasted. There was nothing salacious in it, just a surprise to see it. The only other ship docked there was a Fred. Olson liner and I have to say that the Coral Princess put it to shame. I managed to get away with only spending a few dollars on a couple of Christmas ornaments to add to my vacation collection. Panama is known for its straw work and we saw some magnificent bowls and of course Panama hats. Knowing the limitations of my luggage, I restrained myself from buying a lot of “stuff”. Our next port was Limon, Costa Rica. We really liked the way this itinerary was broken up with the sea days. It gave you a nice break from the hectic pace of the ports. Limon was the first port where we had booked our own tour online with Charlie Soto’s OkeyDokey Tours. We decided on the “A” tour for $49/pp. We were met at the end of the dock by a representative holding a sign with our names on it. Charlie himself stopped by to introduce himself, shake hands with each of us and thank us for booking with him. Our tour was to include a trip to the a farm to see the local flora and fauna, a Del Monte banana plantation, a boat ride down the canal to look at the rain forest, a stop at the beach and some shopping. Our van was just for the 4 of us, our driver Reynaldo and our guide Ed. Reynaldo only knew a few words in English but Ed was a university student on semester break who spoke excellent English. The van was spotless and came with a cooler stocked with beer, water and Coke. He started out giving us a history and geography lesson of Costa Rica which we were glad to hear since we were all pretty ignorant about the country. A neutral country since 1954 (like Switzerland and Sweden); Costa Rica has no standing armed forces. They put their GNP into health care and education for its citizens. Its primary export is bananas. Our first stop was on the side of the road to look at the howler monkeys who resisted all our calls and showed their disdain of us by voiding their bladders from the tops of the trees. Good thing we were a safe distance away! We then went to a private farm to try some fresh mango, local bananas and some other fruit fresh from the trees. While we were there, Reynaldo spotted a baby sloth on the ground and gave it to Karl to hold so we could all touch and pet it. First time we had ever seen a sloth, much less hold one. Reynaldo and Ed then took us on a walking tour of the farm to look at the different vegetation. Reynaldo cut some sugar cane for us to chew and this was a first time experience also. This was an easy walk on flat ground and mostly even surfaces, which was a concern for us since Sharon has back issues. But she did fine through this and the whole cruise. There were bathroom facilities w/flush toilets at this farm also. Next stop on this tour was the Del Monte banana plantation. We got a real lesson in third world economics here. We saw how the bananas grow very rapidly on stalks and how they are harvested green and placed on a conveyer that goes from the field to the processing area. Here all the work is done by hand to cut the large bunches down to a manageable size. They are washed several times and put on another conveyer where someone’s job is to put the sticker on each bunch and then they are hand bagged and loaded into crates for shipment. We asked Ed how the Costa Ricans liked this job and he said that Costa Ricans would not take these jobs as they were too low paying! The people doing all this work were imported from Nicaragua and were “guest workers” who lived on the plantation. My cousins who had both worked in a factory environment all their lives were commenting about how all of the work done could be mechanized. I guess it was cheaper to hire the help than bring in the machines. These people worked 12 hrs a day, six days a week and were happy to have the jobs! The housing was nothing to write home about either. We decided that even in our rooms on the cruise ship, we still had a lifestyle that was 1000% better than most of the people in that country. Wave that Red, White and Blue because no one has it better than we do! The rest of the tour was taken up with a boat ride which was actually pretty boring. There were some kids with turtles to look at and not much else. How many times can you look at the same type of bird? Then we went to a very nice beach but we were not dressed for swimming. We did not want to sample the local cuisine or buy any of the souvenirs there. What we really wanted to do is to go to a local supermarket and purchase some 1820 coffee which I had read about on the cruise sites. They did this for us and Sharon and I found exactly what we were looking for. They use the metric system so 500 grams of coffee is about 1 lb, 2 ounces and cost about $2.62 each package. We loaded up to bring this home for our kids since they are too big for t-shirts. Reynaldo then took us to an overlook to take a picture of the bay and our ship and then we were back to the dock. I think we were gone a total of 5 hours. No problems whatsoever but if we were to ever go to Limon again, I don’t think we would even bother to get off the boat unless there was some great snorkeling there. It was after we got back that the incident with the Carnival passengers occurred. Our third sea day was Valentine’s Day and our second formal night. Karl & Al had decided to wear a tux for formal nights as they had for our cruise the previous year to Hawaii. There had been 3 formal nights on that 14 day cruise and quite a few of the passengers had elected to go “black tie”. There were not many who did that on this cruise. Karl likes to rent the tux so as to cut down on the amount of clothing he has to bring. We did like the Princess dress code of Smart Casual most nights. Since Celebrity has an “informal” night, it requires the men to bring a sport jacket. It was very nice having Valentine’s Day as a formal night. Our dear spouses purchased corsages for us and they were waiting at our places when we went in for dinner. Princess had set up a display of large heart cakes in the atrium on deck 5 at the base of the glass elevators and had a large heart made of red, pink and white balloons that stretched the height of all 4 decks! There was some form of decorating in all the public rooms. It was all nicely done and made a lovely acknowledgement of the day. In Montego Bay, we had reserved a van and driver with Barrett’s Adventures. They offered several tours but we were not interested in tubing or climbing Dunn’s River Falls or to take the all day drive to get to Ochos Rios. Chester was our driver and he was more than willing to give us a tour of his home town. We booked Barrett's Adventures because of all the recommendations on the cruise site. We decided to just to see Rose Hall (this was our 3rd time in Jamaica and none of us had never seen it) and wherever our whim took us. Our choice was the 6 hour private tour for $35/pp. There were 4 of us. We were late getting into the receiving building because we had to tender in instead of docking. (Freedom of the Seas took that spot. What a huge ship!) Chester was waiting just were they said he would be holding a paper with our names on it. He was courteous, informative and the van was spotless. My cousin asked that he show us Montego Bay since Al had only been to the Sandals resorts there and had not ever seen the town. Chester showed us the real Montego Bay where rich, middle class and poor lived. We never felt threatened or unsafe. People waved at us all the time. We saw the oldest church in Montego Bay and new housing under construction. The road construction for a new road between MoBay and Ochos Rios is very slow going. We estimated that it would probably take 5 years to complete as there were very few road graders and truckers doing the work. Not like we are used to seeing in the States. Before we got to Rose Hall, we stopped at the Ritz Carleton White Witch golf resort for a bathroom break. This place was absolutely gorgeous! We really had to admire the manicured grounds and the view of the sea. I’m sure it costs a bundle to golf there. Rose Hall was beautiful but with a creepy history. They say Annie Palmer’s ghost still walks even if her tomb is in the garden. They had a newspaper in the gift shop for free which showed the stages of reconstruction and I am sorry I did not pick one up. They also had several “ghostly” photos which people had sent which purported to show faces in the mirrors and other apparitions. The former dungeon is now the gift shop with an adjacent bar and restaurant. It was educational and interesting. After Rose Hall Chester asked if we would like to stop for an authentic Jamaican "jerk" lunch. We all kind of hemmed and hawed as we were not sure if it would be to our liking, but Al jumped and said sure, why not. I thought Sharon was going to kill him. We stopped at a place called Scotchie's and it had a dirt floor and a food counter. Sharon and Al had the chicken and pork 1/4 lb each, yams and breadfruit and something I can't remember the name of but was like a doughnut. We had the 1/4 lb pork and the other stuff too. It was delicious. Karl bought Chester's lunch and we all ate together. It was spicy but not too hot. I was thinking I was going to have to take a Zantac when I got back to the ship but I was fine. He also took us to a place called Strawberry’s for some shopping but it was very high pressure and the prices were not cheap. We bought some Jamaican coffee there. You would probably be better served going to a supermarket if possible. We also stopped at the Taj Mahal shopping mall for a short time but then headed back to the ship. You had to show your cruise card to get back into the port. There was lots of security with locked gates and armed guards. Chester told us that you had to be smart in MoBay and not go into the bad areas, which he obviously avoided. We bid Chester goodbye and thanked him for our lovely day. We felt we had gotten our money's worth and seen some of the real Jamaica. Getting through security to get back to the dock was a mess with very long lines and only 2 people manning the scanners and actually frisking you before they let you through the door. There were shuttle vans waiting to take you over to the dock where our tender was but after sitting all day, it felt good to walk a bit. We actually were on the last tender to the ship. Glad to be “home” and back on board. The last sea day was real low key. We played bingo for the last time and did not win the big prize. The gambling on this ship was a big contrast to our previous cruise where I had won $1400 playing 3-card poker and split the big bingo prize the last day. Here I reverted back to my normal losing pattern in the casino. I finally switched to playing Blackjack and started winning some small amounts but too little, too late. They had the usually “tournaments” for slots, Blackjack and 3-card poker. They might have had one for Texas Hold’em also but I wasn’t paying attention. Sharon and I did some last minute shopping in the boutique shops buying identical shirts to wear to the next family outing, but other than that we didn’t see anything that really floated out boat. Dinner was “American” night and there were crab legs on the menu which were outstanding. It was the first time in 8 cruises that I had seen those on the menu. Not even in Alaska. We had done the automatic tips on our account so there was nothing to be done for that except to say good bye to our waiter and busboy. On Celebrity they gave you a little card to hand to your waiter and busboy indicating that you had added the tips to your account. Here I guess they had to wait to find out if we stiffed them or not. The last day, we had breakfast and cleared out of our rooms with our carry-on's and waited in the place of your choice for your number to be called. Since we were leaving on deck 6, we waited in the lounge adjacent to the casino and had a table and four comfortable chairs to relax in before our color was called. We had no early plane to catch so we could care less when we finally disembarked. A big surprise when we walked off the ship as Fort Lauderdale was a chilly 55 degrees. Al and Karl had to catch a shuttle to the other end of the port to get the car since we were only one of several ships docked there on a Saturday. It was interesting seeing people arriving so early to get on the ship when we were not the last ones off. They were going to have a long wait. Sharon & Al dropped us at the airport and continued back to Fort Myers to continue their vacation while we settled in for a long wait for our flight home. All in all it was a very nice cruise. Princess did a nice job with the shore excursions and the rooms. The ship was lovely and comfortable, except for the theater which was too small. We would definitely consider Princess again if the price and the itinerary were to our liking.  

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Jan 18, 2007

Panama Canal

My wife and I booked our cruise last year in order to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary at sea this year. We thoroughly enjoyed our 10-day cruise aboard the Coral Princess. The crew and staff were the friendliest people we have ever encountered aboard a cruise line before. They did everything imaginable to make you feel at home and comfortable aboard the ship. We opted for the anytime seating for dinner, which was much more relaxed.

We met many more people aboard the ship that way. The food choices were varied, well prepared, and delicious. The buffet was open 24 hours for those who could afford to eat to their heart's content and offered a wide menu of food choices. The Cruise Director, Brett Sibord, and his entertainment team did an excellent job of scheduling activities aboard the ship. Liam, Melissa, Rebekkah, Patrik, and the rest of the gang did a great job with the activities. The bands were super. The singers and dancers who put on the revues were outstanding. These performers did a fabulous job throughout the cruise, staging Vegas-style revue shows. The comedians, Billy Vader, and Carl Strong were hilarious. Juggler/Comedian Nick Pike was great. The other headline talents were equally great. The excursions were well planned and organized. They also had plenty to choose from. The tours got back in time to allow plenty of time for shopping at the port of call. One bad side note: Jamaica, the constant demand for tipping and harassing by the merchants. Be advised. Watch out for scamming tactics by merchants. They will definitely try to scam you out of money. Be aware: do not allow them to carve your name into anything prior to agreeing to a price, etc. Panama, Costa Rica, and Grand Caymen are beautiful with a lot to see and do. On Grand Caymen be sure to visit HELL and say Hi to Hurricane Ivan. What a Character. Also enjoy the Tortuga Rum cake samples and rum samples. Very nice. The Tulum ruins in Playa del Carmen Mexico were beautiful, but the 40 minute water taxi ride from the ship left a lot of passengers seasick from a very rough passage from the ship to the shore. This was a rough ride on a water taxi going 25 MPH in 25 ft swells. The crew did pass out distress bags to passengers who wanted/needed them. Definitely not a highlight of the tour. Disembarkation was well planned and organized by the crew of the ship. Tours were planned for people who had later flights from Ft. Lauderdale, to help fill in some of the time. All in all it was a great cruise, on a great ship, with a great crew. On board we booked another cruise to Alaska for next year, on board the Coral Princess. We would heartily recommend Princess Lines, and the Coral Princess to family and friends who are looking to plan a cruise.  

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Dec 27, 2006

Panama Canal

Just back from a 10 day Panama Canal cruise on Coral Princess. A beautiful ship but showing signs of wear. We were a party of 15 family members, so many experiences to draw on for this review. I hope to give you an accurate summary which will help with your decision making, whether choosing a cruise or whether helping you to make the most of your cruise on this ship. Cabins: Cabins were roomy, as cabins go. The balconies are not private

on this ship. They jut out and everyone above can look out over on you. We had Aloha deck 12 cabins 629 and 631. (adjoining door) This balcony was relatively private as we were the top most cabin deck but had a walkway over our heads! (Thump, thump, thump until the wee hours) If you are a light sleeper beware; the halls are noisy. I am not sure the crew expects anyone to sleep. Vacuuming at 8 am or earlier, moving furniture or equipment overhead in the salon and gym at 3am?? My parents had a handicapped cabin and found it very roomy and convenient. However, my sister, who had a quad occupancy mini suite, opened the sofa bed to discover it was a single. So the room slept three of them uncomfortably and four…? We couldn’t figure out how two adults would share that sofa bed! It’s sagging mattress slept one uncomfortably. Pillows are two inch thick slabs of foam and mattresses are camp cot quality. I do not exaggerate. I don’t know what the beds in full suits are like. Room service was very efficient and don’t forget that you may request fresh fruit and robes in your room if you wish. You may also request a top sheet and feather pillows. Your mini fridge is empty so feel free to bring some soft drinks, wine or beer on board for consumption in your room. Food: Plentiful and always available. The dinning room service was very good and the food standard cruise fare. Chicken choice, beef choice, fish choice etc. Some very good seafood. It was hard to get a steak cooked to order. Med was sometimes well, sometimes rare. Send it back. I didn’t and I should have. It is not impolite, and I should have realized this. Horizon Buffet was small but efficient and seating was never a problem. The food was unexceptional. Lots of choice and international cuisine days kept the buffet from becoming monotonous. Desserts were never a disappointment. The soufflés were very nice. But just plain old chocolate chip cookies were amazing! You may bring your own wine to the dining room and a $10 corking fee will be charged. The wine list has a reasonable selection and pricing. However, I am used to Canadian alcohol prices. Shore Excursions: If you are a nervous traveler, book through the ship. Otherwise, go your own way! Use the internet before you go. Panama: Note: You will not go ashore at the Panama Canal unless you book a ship tour. You will be allowed to disembark at (Colon) Cristobal for a very short time. You enter a warehouse of shops and stalls for souvenirs or a beer. Native dancers are on hand to give a small show. Kind of like visiting “Panama in a box”. It is worth a look around. Don’t buy in the first shops, go to the far end of the building in the “flea market” area. Prices for the same items are much less. Costa Rica –use the internet and book a driver and guide for the day. Very good value. Tell the driver what you want to see and they will give you good advice. The ship does not have a tour to Cahuita National Park. Check it out online it is well worth seeing. We swam on a deserted beach, with howler monkeys sleeping in the trees over our heads. There are full facilities, well groomed nature trails and sand, jungle and sea all in one spot. Mexico: Just get a cab and choose your beach! Cayman Islands: book ahead on line for a dive trip or take the local bus to any of the beaches. Jamaica: If you want a beach with no vendors, or hair braiders, or hassles grab a cab to Turtle beach (5min drive) or Island Village (walk or 3min drive). Shows/entertainment: It’s all a matter of personal taste. ‘Nough said. Go, enjoy, and don’t take it too seriously. The main show room fills up quickly and has limited seating. Go early but don’t reserve seats; it is not allowed and not tolerated after the second day or so by other passengers. Things can get ugly. Kids Club: We traveled with children 7 and 11. They 11 year old says the club was “boring”. The 7 year old loved it. However, activities were sparse compared to what we have had on other lines. I noticed movies were a frequent “activity”. Tipping: Princess bills $10.00/day per person to your account unless you remove it from your bill. The Crew was one of the friendliest and most helpful we have had the pleasure of sailing with. If it’s not right, don’t whine about it to one another, just ask to have it fixed. You paid a lot for this cruise, I know, but tipping is not part of that initial cost. Please don’t short these hard working people by canceling the tipping plan and giving less in those little white envelopes. It’s cheap and it’s tacky. Summary: We had a great time and enjoyed our stay with Princess. However, I would not book again on this ship but would consider a larger Princess ship. It always felt crowded in the public areas, never enough seats at the pool, or shows or activities… average food, average entertainment nothing over the top or exceptional. The crew was great but they can only work with what they are given. (that includes the dances and singers) BON VOYAGE  

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Dec 12, 2006

Panama Canal

It was a wonderful feeling walking up the gangway of the beautiful Coral Princess. It was like going back to the old neighborhood to visit some old friends. We have sailed the Coral on two previous occasions and it’s our favorite ship of the Princess fleet. We look back on our sailings with fond memories of two of our favorite people, Maitre d’hotel, Generosa Mazzone and someone very special, our new/old friend Melania Parsinari. It

is because of them, and the TLC of the crewmembers of the Princess ships that we are so passionate about cruising. We had such a wonderful, enjoyable cruise we booked the Coral again for February 17th for our Valentine cruise. Cruising has added a complete new dimension to our lives and I believe it has added to our longevity. As you can see in this photo, taken at Mary’s birthday dinner, we are two happy campers. In 1996 when we were in our seventies, never in our wildest dreams would we have imagined, that when we were in our eighties, we would be on our 41st cruise celebrating Mary’s birthday. Important Information About Pricing and The New Princess eTicketing Program: As I have said, this was our 41st cruise. We write reviews to share our experience with our fellow cruisers, especially those that are new to cruising. We receive a great deal of e-mail. More than 12,500 cruise enthusiasts have read our June 6th posting of our Caribbean Princess review. Mary & I spend our retirement mornings answering e-mails from all over the world. The number one question we are asked is about pricing. We were overwhelmed with the number of readers that responded to our offer to send them our suggestion on, “How to Get The Best Price When You Book a Cruise.” We’re happy that so many of you wrote us, that our suggestion saved you a tidy sum. If you would like to receive our suggestion, we would be happy to send it to you. Send an e-mail to [email protected] and write ‘Best Price’ in the subject box. We will get it off to you as soon as possible. Write us and let us know how it worked for you. Driving to FT. Lauderdale: We live in New Smyrna Beach, FL; it takes 3½ hours to drive to the Port Everglades Terminal. Mary as usual, selects the CD’s to be played during our drive to Port. This time she chose our collection of CD’s of the groups that we danced to on our previous cruises. As I listened to the recordings, I thought of our many cruises and the wonderful moment’s my Mary & I shared while dancing. I once heard a phrase that perfectly describes those moments; ‘Dancing is Love Set to Music.’ There is something very special about weaving your way around the dance floor, while holding your sweetheart tightly in your arms, as the combo plays one of your favorite romantic ballads. Mary noticed that as Tom was listening to the sultry tones of Shelly Cafaro, the magnificent vocalist we heard on one of our RC cruises, she saw his Wimpy persona begin to materialize, and Macho Man began to slowly fade away. By the time we reached the terminal, Mary knew the transformation was complete. She could see by the smile on Tom’s face and the way he squeezed her hand that the Wimpy persona had now taken hold and he was in full cruise mode. Embarkation: Princess Introduces New All-Electronic Tickets Princess is the first in the cruise industry to convert completely to electronic ticketing. If you have a computer you will be able get your cruise tickets on their web site. Princess has adopted the eTickets program. It is very simple. After you have booked your cruise, you go to the Princess Home Page and go to the Cruise Personalizer. Enter your booking information. Then fill in the information requested and complete the Immigration form. After you have completed both forms, you can print your Boarding Pass and your Cruise Summary. That is the only paper work required. The embarkation was very smooth. At the terminal there are a few short forms to be filled out and you’re ready for the check in counter. Within 20 minutes we were aboard the Coral making our way to the Horizon court for lunch…. Our Balcony Cabin Caribe 535, Was Wimpy’s Base of Operations: As usual Wimpy (Tom) attended to Wimpanizing the cabin. This time he brought with him the new double aromatic dispenser put out by Glades. Within moments of plugging it in, you could smell the fragrance of Gardenias, Mary’s favorite essence, wafting through the cabin. No sooner he had finished doing that, there was a knock on our cabin door and an attendant handed Mary a beautiful arrangement of exotic flowers. When Mary read the card, she let out a little gasp, “Can you believe it, it’s from Melania.” Just then another knock on the door and another arrangement, and I bet you guessed who it was from. Your right, it was from yours truly.Since this is our third cruise on the Coral, we won’t be giving you one of those nuts and bolts reviews. We have enjoyed all our cruises but this one goes to the very top of our all-time favorite list. I wanted Mary’s birthday celebration to be something very special and I am so happy to tell you, it far exceeded my expectations. We will be telling you about the many things that made this cruise so special. The Ship is Immaculate: The Coral Princess went into service in 2003, but from her appearance you would think she had just left the Fincanteri shipyard. It is in immaculate condition. Every place we looked we would see someone cleaning, polishing or painting. The Coral had a real festive air about her, being partially decorated for Christmas. The final decorations were going to be done when we returned to port on the 22nd. Our Dining Experience; When we learned that Franceso Ciorfito was our Maitre d’, we were going to have a wonderful dinning experience. We had sailed with Francesco on the Dawn in 2004, and had one of our better dinning experiences. Francesco and executive chef Martial Diffor make a great team and are doing a superlative job. The food is excellent and the service is impeccable. Having retired from the restaurant business I know the time and effort it takes to have a staff perform at such a high level. I take my hat off to both of them, they have produced a wonderful result and they should be proud of what they have accomplished. We had a very nice table for two in PC dining, with two of the best servers we’ve ever had, Irina Taman and Florenta Grecu from Romania. Not only were they professional in every respect, but they also had the sweetest, charming personalities, that added immeasurably to our dining experience. We were completely taken by them. Toward the end of the cruise we kidded them, that we were going home and have our lawyer draw up adoption papers. Then we learned that this cute assistant server Florenta, who looked like a teenager, was married to another server aboard ship, and had a little 4-year-old boy. One day we had lunch in the main dinning room and Florenta and her husband were our servers. Irina continues to keep in touch with us by e-mail and we send her our ‘Teaspoon of Spiritual Nourishment’ each morning, so she can start her day with an inspirational thought. We are anxiously looking forward to seeing them again in February. Catlin, a very handsome young man, is Francesco’s assistant and the maitre d’ of the PC dining room. He’s a charming young man with a low key, infectious personality. People are gravitating to PC dinning because they like the idea of being able to dine when they want too, instead of having a set time. That’s the major reason it’s become so popular. . Pancho’s Backyard--Cozumel: Whenever we sail the Western Caribbean, and Cozumel is one of our ports, having lunch at Pancho’s Backyard is a must. It is part of a complex of three entities; La Cinco Solos, our favorite store of the entire Caribbean, a fabulous women’s boutique, and Pancho’s Backyard, voted one of the outstanding Mexican Restaurants of the Northern Hemisphere. It’s indoor dinning room opens on two sides to an outdoor courtyard of beautiful flowering gardens and lush towering palms. While your having lunch you will serenaded by two Mexican men who play the Marimba’s, and have been there since the inception of the restaurant. It’s a very romantic setting, and take our word for it, you will love it. Over the many years we have been going to Pancho’s, we have become close friends with Manuel Hernandez the manager. He is a great fan of our reviews and four years ago, wanting to do something for us, he offered to give a free Margarita to anyone that told their waiter “Tom & Mary sent me!” We had lunch with Manuel on our recent cruise and he told us they are still getting people that tell them, ’Tom and Mary sent me.’ He told us it was good idea to remind our readers that he will continue doing that, but he told us to make sure to tell you that when you ask for the free Margarita, and the waiter gives you a blank stare, tell him to check with his Mgr. Manuel. We always look forward to visiting Manuel and having lunch at this fine restaurant. We have enjoyed every one of our visits and we look forward to many more. In fact we are going to take our two servers, Irina and Florenta for lunch at Panchos when we cruise in February. We Made Many New Friends: Dr. Catriona Johnstone; On the sixth day of our cruise Mary told me she was experiencing pain in her lower abdomen and she thought it might be serious. Mary had a similar problem last summer. We went to the sick bay and she told the nurse at the desk what was troubling her. In a matter of minutes she was ushered into a room, where we met Dr. Catriona Johnstone. She proceeded to ask Mary some questions and then had her lie down and to be examined. Knowing Mary’s past problems, she was concerned she might have an infection and ordered a blood test. I said to myself, this is going to take at least a day or so. It wasn’t twenty minutes and the lab had the results. I couldn’t believe it. It was another twenty minutes and she received three prescriptions, with the instructions how to take them. Mary and Dr. Johnstone made an instant connection and I could feel the genuine concern she had for Mary. She had a gentle bedside manor and told Mary she would soon be feeling better. She asked Mary to come by in the morning so she could see how she was doing. The following morning we stopped by sickbay and had a very pleasant conversation with her. I took a picture of her with Mary, and somehow our ‘Teaspoon of Spiritual Nourishment’, came up in our conversation and Dr. Johnstone is now receiving it. No one should be concerned about medical care if they are cruising on the Coral. We look forward to seeing Catriona in February. Kasia Kowalska-Room Service Manager: This young lady is in charge of room service for 2000 guests and is doing an unbelievable job. Room service aboard the Coral is the best we have ever had. We normally order coffee and croissants on an order form the cabin attendants leave in the cabins. I filled it out and left it on the door handle. For some reason the card didn’t get to the galley and we didn’t get our order. I called room service and told them we didn’t receive our order. The girl that answered the phone was very apologetic and assured me it would not happen again. It seemed like moments when there was a knock on the door and we had our order. I was surprised when she called and asked if I received our order, and could she do anything else for us. We had several conversations and on our last day of the cruise, we had occasion to meet her. Luncheon With the Captain and His Officers. We were pleasantly surprised when we were received an invitation to have lunch with the Captain and his officers in Sabatini’s, one of the Coral’s alternative restaurants. Before we entered, a photographer took pictures of the Captain with each one of the 20 couples that were invited. The guests were seated at six round tables, with an officer at each table. The table settings were very tastefully done with beautiful centerpieces. The preparation of the food and the way it was presented was a thing to behold, as you can see by the pictures. There is no doubt that Martial Diffor is at the very top of his profession. This luncheon showcased his extraordinary abilities. It was without a doubt the finest luncheon we have every attended. (appetizer-entrée-dessert) A One of a Kind Culinary Demonstration; We have seen a number of these culinary presentations but we have never seen one like this, it was a riot. Seeing him in the dining room and then seeing him stage during the presentation, Francesco took on a completely different personality. I am not going to spoil it for you by telling you what he did, but suffice it to say, seeing him cooking pasta, was like watching Sid Caesar in one his hilarious comedy skits. You many not learn the best way to cook Pasta but you sure will have plenty of laughs. Our Wonderful Romantic Dinners: I want to, once again, tell you how much we enjoyed the food and service. I have been telling you what an exceptional Executive Chef Marital Diffor is, now I want you to see an example of the way some of his entrée’s looked as they were placed before us. I have also included a picture of our favorite dessert, a Soufflé.  Another display of chef Diffor’s talented staff’s Sushi buffet served in the Horizon court: Once again, Mary & I had a wonderful cruise and we collected a lot of wonderful memories that will line the walls of our hearts forever. Although we have made 41 cruises, we still find ourselves talking about our upcoming February 17th cruise on the Coral with as much interest and excitement as if it was our first. The reason is always the same. It’s because Mary and I can’t think of a more romantic, intimate, exciting way of spending quality time with the one you love then when cruising. Thank you for reading our review. We share our cruise experience with you, hoping some of our thoughts and ideas might be of help to on your next cruise. We would be happy to answer any questions you might have, especially those from first time or new cruisers. May your next cruise be your best, Our warm regards, Tom & Mary [email protected] Bits & Pieces: As we previously stated, our review would be about the highlights of our cruise and not the Nuts & Bolts. For those of you who would like to read a more comprehensive review of the Coral you can read our 2003 review: http://www.tomandmaryscruisereviews.com/CoralPrincess.htm  

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May 21, 2006

Alaska

Itinernary: Alaska - Vancouver to Whittier First Alaskan cruise after two Caribbean trips. TERRIFIC! In so many respects. We went almost 1800 miles, and I'd say at least 90% of the way we were passing snow capped mountains, often on both sides. The ride was incredibly smooth, not surprising with the "inner" channels predominant. Even the windier days with choppier waters had us with a VERY smooth ride - NO rocking. This ship rides so

smooth.  It is also one of the prettiest ships I've seen, so nice with the wood, marble and brick effects. The shops were fair, but we shop offship mainly anyway.  The embarkation was quick, though they really needed better signs to direct traffic. We were on by 12:30 and were eating lunch immediatly. FOOD: Quite good. The 24 hour buffet was terrific, sometimes with choices like Mahi-Mahi, Grouper, a big bowl of peeled shrimp, beef, chicken and more, all at one time! The pastries were a little weak for my style (I like the sugary ones like doughnuts). But the fruits and veggies seemed quite fresh. My wife just oozed over the cantaloupes. So, the 24-hour buffet gets high marks. The formal dining room was good, and the portions were larger than the last two cruise lines we've been on. The beef was variable, but the rest was quite good. More "anytime" dishes always meant they have something we like. At least the dining room wasn't over the engines like on the Celebrity Century. Never got to the Lido grille because everything else was so good, but people raved about the pizza. SHOWS: Quite good. This ship has TWO auditoriums in a sense, though one is more informal, but still large. That means many show choices. ROOM: Mini-suite, because, it was only about $50 more than a regular balcony. This ship has almost all balconies anyway. B431 is the perfect room, because the balcony rail bends around to the front allowing a view FORWARD! (It is on the end of the section).  It really was a dream. The mini-suite (1st one we ever had) is the most reasonably priced that can be imagined, especially compared to other lines. EXCURSIONS: Ketchikan - took float plane to a lodge for meal and then back. WONDERFUL. There are longer flights possible. Shopping was almost the best of all ports there to me, though Skagway wasn't bad, it seemed that there were just almost all jewelry stores out there. Did Salmon Bake and Mendenhall Glacier at Juneau - very nice. Train to White Pass at Skagway. A long but scenic ride. Since it was May, the snow was incredible up at the top. Very deep. They even had an avalanche the week or so before and they had to stop the runs until it was cleared. SERVICE: Room steward - okay, not remarkable. Dining waitress - outstanding. I guess it just depends on who you get. Did NOT constantly have people selling drink or taking pictures. Not bad. TRIP TO ANCHORAGE - you have to get a ride from Whittier to Anchorage, a significant trip. Princess will bus you there for about $55, but I can't imagine why anyone wouldn't rather take the Comedy Tour bus by Alaskan Leopard - http://www.alaskanleopard.com/Tours/ for about the same amount or less, and get a tour of Portage Glacier, Portage Lake, an animal reserve, and more, in a quite small but nice vehicle (water and snacks included). The video show and humor was great. I am glad we discovered this alternate transportation. FINAL: The weather was strangely good - fair and mild with little rain (mainly overnight or early on). Temps were in the 50s, 60s, and even 70s the farther we went. Take your binoculars. If you're looking for the big Carnival "festive" atmosphere don't do this, but if you want and wonderful, scenic ride with an older group of travelers, then this is it. I could hardly take in all the constant beauty during the trip. I imagine a bit of this would be weather dependent, though. We had incredible visibilities - 50 mile views at times. Princess did well. The ship never seemed crowded, and even the buffet never had long lines. I'm trying to think of complaints, but they must be so small, I can't remember them now. Well, I think they should've had more chocolate, but that's just me. Happy cruising!

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Mar 24, 2006

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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Dec 24, 2005

Panama Canal

The ship was stunning (decor was well thought out, beautiful, roomy) and I believe the most comfortable and nicely appointed ship we've been on yet. The staff was superb (room steward and dining room). This is one cruise I could do again. But, I won't. There are creeping trends that are straight from Carnival that seem to be marring the cruises. The food does not have the exquisiteness it had several years ago. It IS decent and good,

but much blander. I suppose this is a natural result of having the cruises slowly change from that of a high class endeavor to something that is now open to anyone breathing while simultaneously holding a credit card. Despite that, only one thing really ruined our cruise: the balcony room next to ours was occupied by teenagers and they sat on their balcony at all hours (all day, all night) playing rap through a boom box, smoking pot, and drinking until they got sick. Many people complained, including us, but Princess simply shrugged it off by saying that they did not sell the room to teens but to their parents and it was the parents responsibility. End of story, no further help. In a way, I understand their spot - but it completely ruined our cruise and my wife was in tears more than once at 2am when the kids started threatening her because she had asked them to turn their music down. Again, Princess would do nothing about the reported threats. Frankly... and I'm being brutal here, cruising has lost its charm almost completely. This is not a complete result of the cruise lines, rather cruises are now plagued by ill-behaved teenagers, bratty children, and idiot parents straight from every walk of life. Sadly, what was once a relaxing and classy vacation is now marred by cruise lines that have been letting their quality of service decline while trying to corner every market segment (The Carnival Syndrome). Add to that the loss of manners, courtesies , and considerations that people used to try to extend to one another. And finally, the universally idiotic, thoughtless, and self centered behavior of most parents now days really gets amplified onboard a cruise ship out at sea for 7-10 days. We're done cruising, it's no longer what it used to be.

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Dec 4, 2005

Panama Canal

We have just returned from a wonderful cruise to the Panama Canal aboard the Coral Princess. Our party consisted of me, my husband, my daughter and son-in-law. The itinerary included stops in Panama (Colon), Jamaica (Ochos Rios), Costa Rica (Limon), Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. Overall, the cruise was great. Arrival: We parked our car at the Ft. Lauderdale airport in the Park-N-Fly lot. They offer a great price for parking and a free

shuttle to the cruise port. Literally minutes after parking the car the shuttle was there to take us to the port. The driver helped us get our bags from the car and loaded them onto the shuttle for us. It was a very short ride to the port and they drop you at the pier where your ship is docked. I highly recommend this to anyone sailing from Port Everglades. Boarding: The process of boarding the ship was very easy and did not take long at all. A porter meets you at the area just outside the building and takes your luggage for you. We entered the building and went to the Dolphin check-in desk and were given our Cruise Cards. After that it was just a walk down the gangway to the ship, a stop at security to swipe your card and be photographed and you are on board. Cabins: We were quickly directed to our cabins, D617 and D619. We opted for mini-suites on this cruise and we loved having the extra room. The bathroom is adequate. The closet space was good. There was plenty of room for all our hanging clothes and with the shelves in the cabinet we had more than enough room to unpack. The safe is great but if you have much more than passports and wallets to store in there they are a bit small. We asked the cabin steward to open the connecting door between our two cabins which he cheerily did. It was a bit disappointing, though, because on our last cruise aboard the Dawn Princess they actually removed the partition between the 2 decks so we had one large deck. On the Coral Princess they only opened a small door that we could pass through to visit between the cabins but it really didn’t afford us enough room for all of us to sit together on the deck. There are 2 drawers on each nightstand that also allow for good storage of items. The desk was a good size and gave plenty of space for writing, etc. There were 2 tv’s in the cabin which was great, but if both of us wanted to watch different programs it was difficult because the sets are placed right next to each other with one facing the bed and the other facing the sitting area. There is also a small refrigerator and lots of space on the bar above the fridge for glasses, bottles of water, sodas, etc. Dining: We opted for the Personal Choice dining option. I feel that this gives you a lot more flexibility in when and where you eat. We had breakfast and lunch most days in the Horizon Court just because it was quick and easy. The food was good and there was always a lot of variety on the buffets. After about the 7th day, though, it all starts looking the same. We ate dinner in the Bordeaux Dining Room and had fabulous food and excellent service. We tried to have the same waiter, Hector, every night. Hector is from Mexico and is a very attentive waiter and a lot of fun. He really made us feel special and wanted to make sure we had a pleasurable dining experience. There was a night we were not able to sit at Hector’s table. We were seated at Marvin’s table and he was also a wonderful waiter and we enjoyed that as well. One night we opted to try Sabatini’s. Oh my! What a meal! The food was excellent. All you have to choose is your entrée and the rest is brought out by courses. There is a lot of food! I’m sorry to say I cannot remember our waiter’s name but he was excellent. We were there for nearly 3 hours and had one of the most enjoyable evenings we had on the cruise. We felt it was well worth the additional charge. There is also a pizza bar (excellent pizza!), an ice cream bar, and a grill where you can get hamburgers and hot dogs. The hot dogs are huge and are really good. The burgers, though, are very dry and not good at all. They must be standard issue on Princess because they were the same way on the Dawn Princess on our last cruise. We only ordered room service once but it arrived quickly. Our daughter and son-in-law ordered a lot of room service and had great experiences as well. Spa: The Lotus Spa is on deck 14. It is a nice facility and the folks there are nice enough. The first sea day my husband had a massage and said it was wonderful. It is a little bit expensive- $109 for a 50 minute massage (we can get them at home for $60) but the pampering was worth the extra expense. I had the reflexology treatment and it was equally good, not great but relaxing. My daughter and I also had massages that were very good. I do have a little criticism, though. They really push their products and they are very expensive. Beware or they’ll have added another $200 to your bill before you know it for a couple of bottles of creams that you can buy at Bath and Body Works or The Body Shop for $15-20. The other thing that I am very disappointed about was that there is a steam room and a hot rock bed that is available to spa guests on the days that you use the spa facility. No one ever told me I was able to use these areas and it would have been nice at the end of the treatments to be able to relax a while longer. Neither my husband nor daughter was told of these areas when they went for their treatments either. Entertainment: There are a lot of shows on board the ship. The Broadway type shows are always excellent. Be sure to get there early to get a good seat. There was a comedian on board, Sarge that was really funny. The Tribute show was fabulous. The best entertainment on board, though, was Barrington “Barty” Brown. He was in the Crooner’s Lounge nightly and we got there early every night to ensure a good seat. The theme of the lounge is the “Rat Pack” and Barty sang a lot of tunes from the Sinatra, Dean Martin era as well as lots of show tunes. Not only did he sing, but talked with the audience as well and he has a wicked sense of humor! I just hope that when we take our next cruise Barty is on board! Shore Excursions: Ochos Rios, Jamaica: Hubby and I went to Dunn’s River Falls. The Falls themselves were beautiful. The big downside to this trip was the vendors all around the entrance to the area and at the shopping area inside the facility surrounding the falls. They are very pushy and will not leave you alone trying to hustle you to buy some of their wares. The stuff is mostly junk and not worth much but they try to pawn it off on you for $25 and more. They were very annoying and really put a damper on seeing the falls. Daughter and son-in-law did the ATV excursion and had a wonderful time. Got to see lots of scenery an overall thought it was a lot of fun. They had a few folks bugging them to buy things but not nearly like we did. We heard from several people on board that they were accosted like us at every turn. Panama Canal: We entered the first of the 3 locks. It was quite amazing to watch the process of going through the locks. Even if you are not an early riser, make sure to get up to see this! As you go through there is a commentary by a Panamanian official describing the system, etc. Make sure to be where you can hear this. After getting through the canal we were tendered to buses for our excursion. We all chose to take the tour of Old Panama. Don’t waste your time. It was $89 per person and consisted of riding around the town in a tour bus and looking at slums. Literally, slums. It was filthy and the few historical buildings we were shown were actually falling in. After about 2 hours on the bus the guide finally let the driver stop so we could get out and walk around. A few people got off but most, including me, stayed on the bus. I would not recommend this excursion at all. I talked to several other passengers that did the Aerial Tram and the Highlights of Panama tours that really enjoyed them. Limon, Costa Rica: What a beautiful place! There were definitely some areas that were less than inviting as you drove through, but for the most part it was very scenic. Hubby and I went on the Sloth Sanctuary tour. It was really good. The sloth is a really interesting animal and this place is a rescue facility for injured and orphaned sloths. They rehabilitate the ones that can be and send them back to the wild. Others are kept there and taken care of for the rest of their lives. The people that run it are very nice and are passionate about the sloths. Well worth the money for this one ($96 per person). Daughter and son-in-law opted for the Old Banana Route Railway Journey ($69 per person). They loved it. They saw a lot of the area and had a great trip. We highly recommend either of these excursions. Grand Cayman: This was the highlight of the trip. Even with the damage from the hurricanes, the area was beautiful and clean. The excursion chosen for this port was the Island Highlights & Stingray Sandbar Snorkeling. What a day! The water was gorgeous and the stingrays were magnificent. By far the best excursion of the whole cruise. At $69 per person this was a bargain. Cozumel: We were unable to dock at the piers in Cozumel because the hurricanes had destroyed most of them. We were tendered in on very nice vessels. The area right by the piers has mostly been built back since the hurricane but there are a few places that are still damaged and you can definitely see the destruction that was there. The shops that are there are some of the nicest port shopping I saw. Some of the prices were a little steep but they were definitely willing to bargain with you. Daughter and son-in-law chose the Deluxe Playa Maya beach Break ($66 per person). This includes a bus ride from the pier to the beach, drinks and a buffet lunch. Complimentary non-motorized activities such as an iceberg water mountain, kayaks, pedal boats, Hobie Cats, floating mats are included. There is also a mini-zoo. Hubby and I had planned to take the tour to Tulum, but it required a lot of walking and hubby’s back was bothering him so we cancelled that one. Instead we rented a jeep at the area just outside the shopping area at the dock. We paid $44 with tax for a jeep for the whole day. We drove around and saw a lot of sights, including ruins, beach, and the town of Cozumel. The Mayan ruins were very interesting. The town of Cozumel was desecrated by the hurricane and there was still a lot of destruction. Some Suggestions before you go: Pack a small bag that is easy to carry with your bathing suit, sunscreen, maybe a book and anything else you might like to have while you are waiting for your luggage to be delivered to your cabin. Use this same bag to take your things off the ship at the end of the cruise. You have to have your bags outside your cabin by 8:00 pm the last day at sea. You will need a bag to pack whatever you wear the last nigh as well as your toiletries. I have found it’s nice to pack this bag as you are packing to go- if possible wear the same clothes back home you wear to board the ship. There are laundry and dry cleaning facilities on board and this saves space. Also put in this bag travel sized toothpaste, deodorant, etc. for the last night and morning. To make sure you get the times you want at the spa, book your treatments on line before you leave home. This is especially important if you want to go in the first couple of days. Also, be sure to ask the spa staff about the steam room and the hot rocks bed available to you after your treatment. Beware of sales pitch about spa products! If you are new to cruising or just don’t want to try booking things yourself, be sure to reserve your shore excursions on line as early as possible after booking your cruise. Some of the excursions are extremely popular and book up very quickly. If you are adventurous and feel comfortable doing it, a more economical and personal way to see the sights is to arrange the excursions yourself. Most of the ports are serviced by taxis and the fares are very inexpensive. If you just want a “sightseeing tour” you can always get a taxi at the pier and for around $50 you can have a “personal guide” that will take you wherever you want and will stop at whatever sights you want to see. Don’t worry about taking books. There is a very adequate library on board with great comfortable chairs to sit and read. Summary: A great trip. Really good itinerary. Coral Princess is like being on a Grand Class ship but without as many people. A wonderful experience and well worth going on this cruise. We have had great experiences with Princess and will definitely cruise again with them.  

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Nov 14, 2005

Panama Canal

We chose this cruise as our honeymoon, our first real travel adventure, and for the itenerary. We loved it! In comparison to another cruise we've been on, this is our favorite so far. It was a nice older crowd, few children, the ship was clean and nicely decorated. The staff was very helpful and handled our every request. The ports were all a great time. Cozumel-we did the underground caverns, we were surprised to find that it also

included a visit with the cutest baby monkeys, and afterwards a nice lunch on a beautiful beach. I would highly recommend this tour. In Grand Cayman we did the Jolly Roger Pirate ship, don't do it unless you have kids. It's not really geared towards adults. In Costa Rica we went river rafting, the best time we had on the trip by far. Anyone that is up for a little adventure should try this without a doubt. We enjoyed the Canal and did the train over to the other side to the Pacific. This was nice and relaxing as it was the 4th port day in a row, opting for the deluxe one as opposed to the regular one was nothing special. In Jamaica we did the canopy tour. For those wanting to adventure out but are afraid, try it. It was not as 'extreme' as you think it would be...quit slow, easy, safe, and fun. We had very few complaints on our trip of any significance and we would do this same itenerary on this same ship all over again...and try other fun excursions at the port that we didn't get to do. If you are young and looking for a buise cruise, this one is not for you. But if you are looking for a relaxing, fun, older crowd, dressing up 'every night', and great food...then give this one a try!

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Nov 4, 2005

Panama Canal

My wife and I traveled to the Panama Canal, on a 10-night cruise round-trip from Ft. Lauderdale. The itinerary included stops in Panama (Colon), Jamaica (Ochos Rios), Costa Rica (Limon), Grand Cayman, and Costa Maya (Mahahual in lieu of Cozumel). Overall, the cruise was great. We opted not to purchase Princess airfare and had no problem getting good fares. We flew Air Tran into Ft. Lauderdale from Baltimore. We got in a day early and

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

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Nov 30, -0001

Southbound Alaska

A year ago my mother proposed taking me, my two sisters and brother on a cruise to Alaska. We “kids” are all forty-somethings and my mother is 72. We were very fortunate to have chosen the Coral Princess. I have been on more than 10 cruises representing half a dozen different cruise lines and this was the best ever. We booked the southern trip through the Inside Passage from Seward to Vancouver, BC August 9-August 16, 2003.

We made our own arrangements to fly to Anchorage the day before sailing and to spend the night. The next day we took a bus chartered by Princess from the Egan Convention Center to Seward. The 3 ½ hour bus trip to Seward is the only complaint I have concerning our whole trip. Be sure to bring something to drink since it is not provided. We stopped along the way briefly at a little store/tourist trap where there were already three other busloads of people waiting to use the port-a-john toilets and waiting in long lines to buy a drink. I recommend looking into taking the 1:00 p.m. train from Anchorage to Seward. I only found out it was available when we checked in to get our reservation on the bus, which we had already paid for. The drive to Seward was breathtaking. We were entertained too by our young bus driver and his corny Alaska jokes. Example: You might be an Alaskan if: Your second freezer is your car trunk. In reviewing this ship, I’ll cover it in two parts: 1) The Coral Princess 2) The Ports 1) The Coral Princess Once we arrived in Seward, the boarding of the ship went very smoothly. There were no long lines and the staff was very cordial. When you first stick your boarding/credit card in the slot your picture is taken so that every time you reboard the ship security has a picture of how you looked when you first came aboard. The tropical flower arrangement and chocolate covered strawberries we ordered for my mother’s were in her room and were just as the brochure pictured them. She was delighted with them. My mother had a room with a balcony which was big enough to have a table and three chairs around it. There were sliding glass doors leading out to the balcony, so there was a magnificent view from the room. My room was an inside cabin. I prefer being able to sleep in total darkness anytime of the day. It was a decent size room. There was a nice area to hang clothes and a locker with shelves where the safe was located. The safe was very easy to program to your own four digit number. There is a TV which had several stations available. We were able to watch CNN’s coverage of the blackout which occurred while we were cruising. We went upstairs that first night to the Horizon Buffet to eat since we didn’t want to wait for late seating n the formal dining room. We had requested first seating but were not given it. I immediately went to the Maitre’d and put in our request. I don’t think I’ve ever been called madam so many times. The next afternoon we all had notes in our staterooms of our new table number and the change to first seating. The ship itself is beautifully and tastefully decorated. There is an inside and outside pool area. The atrium area is four floors where you find stores, glass elevators, the two internet areas, the coffee shop, lounges, a library, the dining rooms and a card room. It has a beautiful staircase where we had our formal family portrait taken the first formal night. The Captain’s Party took place here the first formal night. Waiters circulated with hors d’oeurves and cocktails. The second formal night a waterfall was made with champagne glasses and champagne was also here. Champagne was passed out and live music was played for people to dance. Unfortunately, I missed that evening as I was too tired to stay up. The casino is located off to the side on one of the decks. If you do not want to go to through it, you can avoid it. All other ships I’ve been on, you have to go through the casino to get to other public rooms on the ship. Since I’m a non-smoker and non-gambler, this has been an irritant in the past. There is a fully equipped gym on the back of the ship. I did not use it, but my brother and sister did. They said you had to reserve the treadmills ahead of time. I did go in there to take pictures. The treadmills were situated so you can walk on them while looking out big glass windows to the outside. Each afternoon I made a point of going to the La Patisserie (the coffee shop) to have a cappuccino. There is a charge of $2.30 which includes the tip but pastries are provided at the bar gratis. My sister went with me a couple of times and ordered hot chocolate for the same charge. When we were there one afternoon, a school of dolphins went swimming by. When we were in Glacier Bay, I enjoyed viewing the glaciers from my bar stool while sipping my coffee. Now that’s my idea of how to view nature. The Horizon Buffet is open 24 hours. This takes the place of the midnight buffet. There were no fabulously decorated buffets on this cruise. However, I didn’t miss them or the long lines that accompany them. I only went there late one night. That night I had salmon Wellington and some fruit. I believe they served up there many of the same things found on the menu of the formal dining rooms. The food was excellent and was not at all like cafeteria food. I could have happily eaten there all the meals for the week. I did eat breakfast there half the cruise and a couple of lunches. The dining room, however, was fabulous. Our waiter went beyond the call of duty in providing excellent service and entertaining us. In my opinion, any night was equal to the farewell dinner on the other cruises I’ve been on. For example, one night Alaskan king crab legs were on the menu. My family all ordered them except me since I’m sensitive to shell fish. They were given all the crab legs they cared to eat. The legs were already split so there was no messy cracking to do. Another night they ordered lobster. Our waiter brought them all a couple of lobster tails. But it wasn’t that the food was mass quantities. all the courses were excellent. Sometimes the food on cruises, especially the desserts, looks good, but doesn’t taste as good. That wasn’t the case on the Coral Princess. The wait staff also was excellent. I asked the head waiter of our section for a sample menu of the cruise for my mother and he offered to get me all the menus. My mother was thrilled. The entertainment was first class. We enjoyed the ventriloquist/comedian twice and a couple of other comedians. We went to a big band tribute one night. The lounges had live music if one wanted to dance. My husband and I are dancers, so it was frustrating to me to not have a partner since he wasn’t along. I enjoyed, however, going and having a drink in one of the lounges and listening to a dance trio each night before bed. The dance floors were big enough to dance on. They were not huge, but much bigger than the postage stamps I’ve danced on on other ships. I didn’t go to one of the dance review type shows, but my sister said it was good. Many passengers dressed for the two formal nights. I saw many tuxedos and long gowns those nights. Many men also wore dark suits, as did my brother. However, if a person did not want to dress for dinner, the option of eating at the Horizon buffet was available. I did not see people going to the formal dining rooms at night in casual clothes (jeans and shorts) as I have seen on other cruises. The crowd was mature, but not ancient as I had expected. Many appeared to be middle aged children with their parents like us. There were also younger families with young children and teenagers. There were activities provided for children of different age groups. My brother’s 11 year old daughter participated in some of the program, but preferred hanging out with her aunt’s and grandma. When we disembarked the ship, I forgot one of my bags. A Princess representative willingly went back with me through customs and helped me retrieve it without having to go through the long line. She also enthusiastically recommended restaurants in Vancouver for us. When we got out to the waiting taxis, another representative helped us get a taxi even though we were arranging our own transportation. I have never been helped after a cruise by the line’s personnel once I was off the ship. 2) The Ports Anchorage-It wasn’t a port, but where we started out and where many will end their trip to fly home. We enjoyed the Downtown Saturday Market that is held every Saturday from mid-May to mid-September. It was a farmer’s market/craft fair/food tents/live entertainment venue. Also we bought many of our souvenirs in Anchorage. An exceptionally helpful lady at the Once in a Blue Moose Store sold my sister and I the majority of our gifts to take home. There is no sales tax in Anchorage so I would recommend buying them here. I bought my husband a beautiful ulu knife with a caribou antler handle and stand made in Anchorage for half of what they wanted for similar ones in Juneau. I also bought a nice Alaska photo album there. We went to the Visitor’s center where a nice lady gave us suggestions on what we might want to do with our couple of hours before boarding the bus for Seward. Since we arrived in Seward too late to go into town, I have nothing to relate about it. It was also foggy as we sailed out that evening, so I didn’t even get a good look. College Fjord and Glacier Bay—These weren’t ports, since we didn’t leave the ship, but I want everyone to know this was the highlight of the destinations. I can’t begin to describe the majestic views we had. We sailed down waterways surrounded on both sides by green mountains with glaciers, which are like rivers of ice, between them. In the distance were more snow covered mountains. We were so fortunate to have beautiful, clear days. Skagway—I walked the short distance into the little town to use the phone to call my husband. It was quaint and probably what you would expect of a touristy mining town. I didn’t look around in the shops as I needed to get back to the pier to catch the White Pass Train at 12:30. We booked this through Princess ahead of time. I highly recommend taking this excursion. Two trips are offered, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. You have more of a chance of encountering fog with the morning trip. You can go online and read about this train ride that took miners to the Yukon gold fields. A guide speaks through a loud speaker explaining the hardships in building the railroad and the terrible things endured by people trying to get to the gold fields before the railroad was built. The scenery, of course, is fabulous along the way. It took about 3 hours to make the round trip. You do not get off the train, but each car has a nice restroom and they provide bottles of water free. Juneau—I went to a salmon bake offered as an excursion. Although there was a slight drizzle of rain, it didn’t matter. There was a shelter built over the outdoor tables to keep the rain off the diners. We were taken there by what appeared to be a repainted school bus. The drivers to and from the bake provided interesting information about Juneau. At the bake, we had a buffet of coleslaw, salads, cornbread, ribs, chicken, and, of course, salmon. For dessert there was blueberry cake. I elected to forego the cornbread, ribs, and chicken since I’m from Georgia and can get them anytime. I had two filets of salmon, one with the sweet sauce and one without. While we ate, we were entertained by a woman who sang and played the guitar. She sang folk songs and some she composed. One song I especially remember because it explained the five different kinds of salmon. She had written it as a memory aid for the second graders she teaches as a school teacher. Afterward I walked the short distance on a trail into a lush rain forest next to a salmon stream. It was something to see the salmon dying there at the end of their journey, although a little smelly. At the end of the trail was a beautiful waterfall and old mine entrance. I took some pictures there that look like postcards. On the way back, I had the bus driver let me out at the Mount Roberts Tram. I decided to go there on my own instead of booking this excursion through the cruise line. It costs the same (around $22) but the weather in the morning was foggy and I didn’t want to go to the top of the mountain and not be able to see anything. It had cleared some so I took the tram and was treated to a beautiful view of Juneau, the inside passage and my cruise ship. At the top, there is a nice gift shop which carries many native Alaskan crafts since the tram is owned and operated by a native Alaskan corporation. You can also go online and read further about all there is to do on this mountain. There is a restaurant, movie theater and hiking trails, for instance. You can ride the tram all day for the ticket price. Although, the ride is a little pricey, I feel the view was well worth it. I was also able to buy a couple of nice items in the gift shop on clearance that probably paid for my ticket. Ketchikan—We had to take a tender from the ship to town. When we landed, however, we were there. This day it was raining. This is not unusual since Ketchikan gets 200+ inches of rain per year. I had seafood chowder and homemade bread for lunch at a nice little restaurant, Annabelle’s, called my husband, and did some shopping. My brother, his family and my sister went snorkeling. He hired an outfit before the cruise to meet them at the dock. They had to wear wet suits because of the cold water, but said they had a great time in spite of the rain and cold water. Vancouver—We loved this city. We stayed two nights after the cruise. If you can, arrange to stay on. Try to stay somewhere near Robson Street. We took the trolley tour for $25 Canadian the first day to become acquainted with the city. The next day we went to Granville Island to the farmer’s market and ended the day in Gastown. I want to go back someday with my husband. Summary: In my opinion, this cruise was perfect. The ship and crew were exceptional. The destinations also were so much better than the Caribbean ports I’ve been to in the past. It was a dream-come-true for my mother. She had never been on a cruise. She and my father were going to go on a cruise to Alaska for their 50th anniversary since Alaska was the only state she had not visited. He died four months before their anniversary two years ago. I am so glad she decided to treat us all to this vacation. There is only one negative to it all. She is now talking of taking another cruise. It will be hard to duplicate such a wonderful experience.

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Nov 30, -0001

Panama Canal

This cruise began in Port Everglades, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida with a crescent moon and culminated in the Florida Straits with a total Lunar Eclipse. What happened in between is the substance of this review. There was nothing average about these ten days. From the first glimpse of the Coral Princess in port with her "gas turbine/diesel enviro engines installed above

decks in the funnel, it is obvious that this ship is something different. When arriving in port our son Marcello asked, "are you sailing or flying?" This is an impressive, unique silhouette: polished steel structures, resembling jet engines, and steel stacks, perched atop a 15 deck tall ship! This ship, built in Chantiers de l'Atlantique, St. Nazaire, France, is 964 ft. long, her beam is a Panamax 106 ft, her height is 204 ft. and with a draft of 27 ft, her maximum speed is 24 knots. There are 987 cabins including 20 wheel chair accessible (sq. footage between 217 - 374); 89% of all cabins are ocean view and 83% of these have balconies. Passenger capacity is 1,970 and the crew numbers 900. She is still in her inaugural year having been launched December 2002. Registry, of course, is Hamilton, Bermuda. Since Princess is the union of two venerable lines: England's P&O (Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company) founded in 1840, and Italy's Sitmar Line established in 1913, her crews reflects these beginnings even today. When P&O purchased Sitmar in 1988, a new line emerged --- Princess. The Coral Princess' Captain Giorgio Pomata joined Sitmar in 1978, and has continued to serve on many Princess ships as Captain. Crew members and customs reflect the Princess' origins. The serving of High Tea in the Bordeaux Dining Room every afternoon at 3:30 pm accompanied by the Delphinus Strings contributes to her very English atmosphere. The continental manners of the top Italian crew members, like Passenger Services Director Carlo Gunetti, from whom a formal greeting is customary (Ladies .."a kiss on the hand is quite continental"), and Maitre d' Generoso Mazzone, who overseas the ship's dining venues like a virtuoso conductor, generate an atmosphere of elegance and efficiency. Whilst the very British Cruise Director Trevor Bradford handles the passenger activities with great aplomb. EMBARKATION Security was evident at Port Everglades when we arrived at 11:30 am. Embarkation started at noon. There were crew members on the dock to assist with the wheel chair and the pre entered data sheets helped to expedite the processing. The on board credit/cabin key card is a handy system. We were in our cabin within 30 minutes --- which is quite excellent. The expansive "Welcome On Board" Buffet was appetizing; however, we tend to avoid buffets, so we ate on Lido Deck 14 at the Princess Pizza (very crispy, thin and excellent). During embarkation, personnel were stationed at all elevators providing directions and a welcoming atmosphere. Our luggage was in our room by 1:30 pm. Very efficient! SHIP'S PUBLIC AREAS Passengers enter the ship on deck 5, into the Princess Plaza. The "Under the Seas " theme juxtaposes the Coral Princess' motto "Over the Seas." There are murals of crustaceans, black and white whales, and coral formations, as well as bubbling cylindrical glass fountains. A cascade of stainless steel flows down four flights from Deck 8, while an impressionistic stainless steel boat acts as a net for marine shapes and both are illuminated with changing colors. Each separate level of this four deck atrium affords areas for cocktails bars, coffee bars and entertainment. Plaza Deck 5 forward is the Bordeaux dining Room. This walnut wood paneled room has several very nice paintings, square walnut columns with brass trim and a ceiling with white twinkling lights over head. The Fili D'Oro linens used in the dining rooms are a nice touch. Midship is the Passenger Service Desk, Tour Desk and the Patisserie Coffee Shop, serving specialty coffees, teas and pastries. Then, there is a series of mostly outside staterooms and just a few inside cabins. Fiesta Deck 6 forward is the Provence Dining Room. Toward midship are the onboard shops and the entrance to the Princess Casino flanked by two red coated, beaver hatted, tall Buckingham Palace Guards. The Casino has carpeting depicting Beefeaters, Big Ben, among other London scenes. Among red painted telephone booths, passengers play Hyde Park Poker, Buckingham Palace Blackjack and other charmingly named games of chance. Going toward aft is the expansive Explorers' Lounge. It is off a wonderful corridor with windows to the sea and mosaic green, tan and white pillars forming a six arch arcade in front of the lounge. The carpeting depicts African animals, and the walls display several murals with exotic scenes (Asian, Turkish, Egyptian, Ethiopian, etc.). All the way aft on Deck 6 is the Universe Lounge with its wide, wide, revolving and elevating stage, which is a fitting place for on board extravaganzas. However, the brass rails on its upper level obstruct the view of performers. These are soon to be replaced with glass. Look for the interestingly lighted two deck bar in the rear. Promenade Deck 7 forward is the Princess Theatre. This simple, open room has a perfect view of the stage from every seat. Its walls are covered in gold and maroon suede. Go early or you may not get a seat. Walk toward midship to see the Wheelhouse Bar, a beautiful dark walnut paneled room with a huge brass and copper light as a centerpiece. The tables are drop leaf with brass fittings, brass wall sconces and dark green and brown leather furniture complete the decor. The carpeting is blue depicting continents, oceans and sailing ships. The walls hold many ship memorabilia and paintings of ships like the 1950 "Chusan" of P&O. The Wheelhouse corridor entrance is flanked by two wooden ship's figureheads: One a female in a black sarong and the other a naval officer with gold epaulettes. These evoke images of the South Seas. Mid ship is the Crooner's Lounge with pictures of the "Rat Pack" (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. etc...). Here you may purchase a martini in a Sinatra souvenir glass. There is also the Churchill Lounge where cigars and spirits can be enjoyed. Mid ship, on the port side is a beautiful wedding Chapel where couples may be married in international waters by the Captain. Going toward aft is Sabatini's, the upscale Italian restaurant, which in this class ships is larger and more elegant than the "Sabatini's Trattoria" of the Grand class ships. Then, there also is the Bayou Cafe with its brick walls, New Orleans Jazz and Cajun cuisine. All the way aft, on this deck, is the balcony of the Universe Lounge. Outside is the wrap around Promenade with lounge chairs for reading or watching the waves. Emerald Deck 8 has the Library, the Card Room and the Internet Cafe with world stock trade information, all of which are clustered around the central elevators. Then, both forward and aft are staterooms, some categories with balcony and some with obstructed view. Dolphin Deck 9, Caribe Deck 10, and Baja Deck 11 are all staterooms and suites, mostly with balconies and some inside cabins. Aloha Deck 12 is mostly staterooms with balcony and a few inside cabins, except for aft, where are located the Pelican Children's Pool & Playhouse (ages 2-7 yrs), the Fun Zone (ages 8-12 yrs) and the Off Limits Teen Center (ages 13 -17 yrs). As you can see the young people have their own well supervised facilities. Lido Deck 14 forward has the Horizon Court (24 hr) Buffet Restaurant seating 386, which is quite crowded at peak times. Outdoors are the Princess Pizza, Lido Bar, Lido Swimming Pool, three whirlpools, and the Haagen Daz ice cream bar. Towards aft is the Solarium Lotus Pool area with its retractable dome and a swim-against-the-current pool and two small whirlpools. Excellent before 9:30 am, when you may have it all to your self. The decor is relaxing: a statue of a young Buddha overlooks the pool and there is a white gazebo on the end. Aft is the Lotus Spa and the Fitness Center. Sun Deck 15 has a Princess Link mini golf course and the Golf Simulator with some of the world's most renown courses featured. It also holds the Outdoor Grill serving hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, etc.... Sports Deck 16 has a Splash Pool, a Center Court for sports with space for spectator seating, Shuffle Board and the Deck Chess Set. FOOD & SERVICE Passenger Services Director Carlo Gunetti has this ship running like a precise time piece: The service is fast and friendly. For instance, a screw broke on Vincent's wheelchair during boarding and Ronan Amaral, Jr. Asst. Purser, supplied us with a temporary wheelchair while he had Vincent's fixed over night. He was very helpful, and we appreciate his thoughtfulness. Throughout the ship we always received courteous and prompt service with a smile! The "Anytime Dining Program" means that there is more to do for the Maitre d' Generoso and the Head Waiters, since there is no longer a fixed time and table for many cruisers: thus, reservations and seating is an ongoing activity. We happen to recognize Head Waiter Pasquale Marino from previous cruises, but on the Coral he was magnificent. Generoso and his staff pleasantly greeted the passengers at the dining room door and outdid themselves in accommodating everyone's request in the best possible way. Moreover, the Maitre d' himself went from table to table assuring that everything was perfect. At Table #20 for two, we enjoyed some of the finest meals. At lunch, our waiter, Elisa Dumitrescu was always cordial and efficient as was the asst. waiter Sandor Lorincz. Every evening our waiters Gerardo De Leon and his Asst. Larry Gutierez were top notch. We know this wonderful service is mainly due to the instructions of Generoso and Pasquale. We surely received special attention. They helped us in selections from the kitchen and their recommendations were always excellent. Thank you for the many great delicacies. Bravi! The International Menu offers splendid choices; there is a lot of reading. We thoroughly enjoyed this Gastronomic Tour. Executive Chef Michael Borns, his Sous Chef Giuseppe and the Pastry Chef Cosimo (Sicily) did three "Culinary Demonstrations," two of which we attended. Princess Lines has three Corporate Executive Chefs, and seventeen Executive Chefs, thirteen of which are Italian, including our old friend Antonio Cereda. The gustatory delights we sampled were outstanding and here are some of our recommendations: SAILAWAY DINNER: Shrimp Cocktail; Cream of Porcini Mushroom Soup; Watercress and lettuce salad, and Nebraska Prime Rib. CAPTAIN'S WELCOME DINNER: Crab Quiche with jalapeno chili salsa; Capon broth, tortellini with minced chives; Mixed salad with arugula; Lobster Thermidor or Royal Pheasant with shallots and Parisienne potatoes. PRINCESS DINNER: Cold water Lobster & Crayfish Cocktail with sun dried tomatoes; Chilled Cream of Zucchini with William pear and blue poppy seeds; Endive salad with mushrooms and shallots; Roast Buffalo slowly cooked in Napa Valley Red Wine sauce with potato pancake and baby vegetables. FRENCH DINNER: Pate de fois de Strassbourg; Escargot Bourguignon (cooked in Bourdeaux wine); French onion soup; Mixed garden greens and radicchio with vinaigrette; Caneton Roti a` l'Orange (Roast duckling glazed with Orange Curacao sauce). ITALIAN DINNER: Prosciutto di Parma with melon; Eggplant Parmigiana; Pasta e fagioli; Salad of baby spinach, crispy bacon, pine nuts and Pecorino cheese; Pappardelle al Sugo di Lepre (Flat egg noodles with rabbit sauce). INTERNATIONAL DINNER: Baby leeks with smoked salmon in Champagne sauce; Won Ton soup; Salad of lettuce, tomato, avocado and red onion; Penne pasta with calamari; Surf & Turf of Filet Mignon and Jumbo grilled shrimp. CHEF'S DINNER: Green asparagus spears in warm tarragon butter sauce under puff pastry; Lobster bisque with Cognac; Salad of field greens, cherry tomatoes and shredded carrot; King crab legs or Rack of Lamb Dijonaisse with Brussels sprouts and garlic mashed potatoes and mint jelly. These menus do not list the "piece de resistance" DESSERT. There is such a variety, that we will only name a few of our favorites: * Swan puffs on a heart shaped lake of melted chocolate. * All of the Soufflés, vanilla, chocolate, raspberry, hazelnut and their accompanying sauces. * Almond mousse with custard -- ooh la la! * Sorbets, sherbets and ice creams are all made on board and are delicious. * Pecan pie, apple pie, and pear tart --- do not miss them. * Dark chocolate mousse, heart shaped with Lady Godiva liqueur, Tiramisu and NY cheesecake are served every day. * Many fruits, international cheeses and delicate petit fours are served daily. The dining room staff are beautifully dressed every night: Nile green dinner jackets, Red, White & Blue cummerbunds with stars and matching ties. The Maitre d' Generoso looks spiffy in his pin stripe trousers and black cut away. Head waiter Pasquale was sharp in the white tuxedo with shawl lapels. What more can we say? As Executive Chef Borns said, "Food is a feast for the eyes as well as the palate." The English Rose dinnerware was the palette for the plating of excellent culinary masterpieces. We also dined in Sabatini's whose decorations were refined and lovely. The long parade of antipasti made the main course seem anticlimactic; however, we still managed to enjoy the veal chop and the fritto misto frutti di mare (mixed seafood, langostino, shrimp, scallops etc., etc...). This made for a very enjoyable evening, overlooking the sea with wonderful background music. CABIN Our Stateroom # C627, wheelchair accessible, has a double wide door and when entering on the left there is a triple armoire with two closets, and a third with shelves, and a personal safe. Next, there is a TV, and a desk/mirrored vanity with hair dryer, and two chairs. When entering on the right there is a huge bathroom with 5x5 ft. shower and many safety rails in the proper places. The triple mirror is nice, but the shelves are small. There is a queen bed, two four drawer night stands and an end table. The far wall is glass with the ramp and door to the double balcony. There was a large table and two chairs to which our terrific Steward Henry Sebastian added a chaise for Vincent. Henry was excellent in every way. Accommodations Supervisor Dorota Bak (Poland) visited us just to check if we needed anything. She was very courteous and we appreciated it. Thank you. ENTERTAINMENT The Coral Princess has many venues similar to the larger Grand class ships, but it is smaller and carries fewer passengers. The Princess Theatre Production shows were nicely staged, (but could use a sound check, since the decibel rate was too high at times). We preferred the Universe Lounge, where the Premier Season of "Tribute" was performed on the extra wide stage, while making good use of its rotation and elevation capabilities. The show was dedicated to music legends such as the following: the Beatles ("Hey Jude"), the Beach Boys ("California Girl"), The Rat Pack (Frank, Dean and Sammy were all highlighted), and finally Cher's "Believe" was saluted. The singers were terrific and the Princess dancers were energetic. The same cast performed "Da Beat" a Jazz/Swing piece. Most shows were staged twice to give cruisers a chance to see them. We especially enjoyed Tony Cherry, a singing impersonator, who did a memorable Tom Jones and other imitations. The "Princess Patter" lists all daily activities, plus has a column from the Ship's Navigator which is informative both historically and geographically. It also gives the current ship's position. Other activities were Trivia, at which we each won 5 gold medals and 6 silver for Mary and 7 silver for Vincent. There is also line dancing, Bingo, horse races, and daily movies (i.e. "Bruce Almighty," "Alex and Emma," "Plots with a View,"), etc. The Princess Scholarship Program is new and offers the following classes: Pottery, Digital Photography, Building Wealth Investing, and the Princess Grapevine wine tasting. All of the above is under the stewardship of the affable Cruise Director Trevor Bradford, and he is up to the task. Princess also has a Captain's Circle Program which has many benefits for repeat cruisers. On board Host Nicola Fisher was helpful and explained many of the perks: a Quarterly, preferential pricing, stand by, platinum check in, on board events etc. It pays to return to Princess. We expect to return soon, since we have booked on board three future cruises! PORTS OF CALL Oct. 30, 2003 Port Everglades, Ft Lauderdale, Florida, Depart 5:00 pm Oct. 31, 2003 At Sea Nov. 1, 2003 Cozumel, Mexico -- Arrive: 6:59 am Depart: 4:26 pm Some of the available shore excursions: Tulum Mayan Ruins, 7 hrs, $94; New Waves Scuba Diving, 2.5 hrs, $75, for beginners. Nov. 2, 2003 Grand Cayman -- Arrive: 10:00 am Depart: 6:36 pm Island Highlights & Stingray Sandbar Snorkeling, 4.5 hrs, $64; Atlantis Submarine Odyssey, 1.5 hrs, $86. Nov. 3, 2003 At Sea Nov. 4, 2003 Limon, Costa Rica -- Arrive: 6:27 am Depart: 6:56 pm The Jungle Train, 3.5 hrs, $49, a ride through the lush rain forest; River Rafting, 7.5 hrs, $99. Nov. 5, 2003 Panama Canal -- Arrive: 5:46 am Depart: 7:26 pm One hour and 42 minutes to traverse the Gatun Locks; Cruising in Gatun Lake (the world's largest man made lake), There was a a perfect rainbow off starboard side, which we saw from our balcony as we ate breakfast; We arrived at Colon's Cristobal Cruise Terminal at 4:06 pm, but were not allowed into the city because of political demonstrations. There is great shopping on the pier (coffee, T-shirts, Panama hats, etc...) Nov. 6, 2003 At Sea Nov. 7, 2003 Ocho Rios, Jamaica -- Arrive: 12 noon Depart: 4:18 pm Prospect Plantation & Dunn's River Falls, 4 hrs, $62; River Tubing Safari, 3.5 hrs, $69. Nov. 8, 2003 At Sea Nov. 9, 2003 Port Everglades -- Debarkation: 9:00 am SUGGESTIONS 1. During the Welcome Aboard Buffet, at the Horizon Court some crew should direct the passengers to the various food stations thus minimizing the long line formed at the first station near the entrance. This long line occurs mainly on the first day, when new passengers are unaware of the several food stations which can be accessed independently. 2. At the Princess Theater the last row of seats and the area behind it should be reserved for people with wheelchair and those with limited mobility as well as the persons accompanying them. The reserved area should be supervised by a theater attendant before the beginning of shows. CONCLUSION Princess remains one of our favorite cruise lines. We are now Platinum Members of the Captain Circle, the Princess "Frequent Floaters" Club. We have already booked with Princess three future cruises; however, before we'll be back on a Princess ship, we must complete the next three cruises in the near future: The Southern Caribbean on the new Serenade of the Seas, Dec. 6 - 13, 2003; the Western Caribbean on the new Costa Mediterranea, Jan. 11 - 18, 2004; and the W. Caribbean again on the new Mariner of the Seas, Feb. 22 - 29, 2004. As you may have noticed we love cruising and we especially favor new ships, which we can first explore and write about. We plan to write reviews of our next cruises, so look for them at the appropriate time. We wish you Great Holidays and Happy Cruising!

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Nov 30, -0001

Panama Canal

Booking: We booked this cruise in the spring of 2002 with our local travel agent and selected the mini-suite because we liked the balcony and size of the cabin, which was similar to what we had on the Rotterdam a few years ago. We were confirmed in that cabin in a few days and did not change or allow an upgrade. We completed the online registration on Princess.com web site as soon as we had our booking ID and we also booked all of our

excursions online prior to sailing. We had also registered our credit card for onboard purchases. Our tickets and “express check-in” designation arrived about one month prior to sailing. Travel to ship and embarkation: We chose to handle our own air and hotel since we were sailing from and returning to Fort Lauderdale. The price Princess wanted for the air and a night in the hotel prior to sailing was about two to three times what we could book ourselves. We got round trip air on US Airways direct from Philadelphia to Ft. Lauderdale for $194.00 apiece, booked about 6 months prior to the cruise. We used some frequent flyer miles to upgrade to first class, so it was an effortless flight for us. We also had our TA book a room at the Marriott Harbor Beach resort for one night at a rate of $239. Princess wanted over $300 apiece for us to stay in the same hotel for one night. We flew to Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday, February 1 and arrived around 4:00 P.M. We had our luggage in a matter of minutes and took a taxi from the airport to the Marriott and were in our room around 4:45 P. M. The cab cost us $10. We had dinner in the hotel and after walking on the beach awhile, we were in bed early. In the morning we had breakfast in the hotel and then gathered our suitcases and got a taxi to Port Everglades. We arrived there around 11:30 and turned our 4 bags over to the waiting porter. There was no line for checking in and there were deck designations over the counter where about six representatives were waiting. We handed in our tickets and signed one document and were given our room cards. These cards had our names, our room number and listed our dining as personal choice. We headed up the escalator into a waiting area where about 100 other people were already waiting. At about 12:00 noon they began allowing us on board and after the stop for the photo, we were on the gangway. Our picture was captured as we entered the ship and swiped the cruise card, and there were agents at the elevators escorting people to the appropriate floors. We were taken to deck 9 (Dolphin) where another representative pointed us in the direction of the room on the port side, but did not escort us any further. Cabin: Our cabin was a mini-suite and was over 300 square feet in size. It was larger than the one we had in the Rotterdam in 2000. The bathroom entrance on the right as you enter the cabin is also the entrance to the closet. It is sort of a ‘walk in’ affair with a closet at one end, with open shelves from floor to ceiling. The safe is in this closet, and we found it adequate to hold our passports, some cash and travelers checks. There is a shelf along the top of the closet. The closet is probably about 6 feet long. The bathroom in the mini-suite has a full size tub with shower. The countertop where the sink is was about 4 feet in length. There are glass shelves (3) above the counter, and a mirror is behind the counter for the full length. There are also two glass shelves in the corner of the bathtub. Under the sink/counter, there is a shelf that runs the full length. The beds were placed in the king arrangement as we had asked, and there are night stands with lamps on either side of the bed. There are two Televisions, one that is viewable from the bed and one from the sitting area. Next to the bed there is a desk with four drawers on either side. There is a hair dryer in the wall next to the desk and there are two electrical outlets on the desk top. There is a full mirror on the wall behind the desk. Across from this desk is a counter with shelves and a small refrigerator is behind a door. Inside we found a bucket of ice already waiting. There are glasses on the shelves as well and there are more shelves above this cabinet. In the seating area there was a full size sofa that could be opened for an additional bed. There was also an upholstered chair and a coffee table. The balcony doors opened to a balcony that had a round table suitable for eating and two chairs that were adjustable. Our housekeeper was Edwin and he showed up just a few minutes after we arrived. We asked for robes and he promised to get them immediately. He also told us how to request a bowl of fruit and showed us how to use the phone, thermostat, television, and breakfast order form. The TV showed CNN, CNBC, ESPN, TNT, and had several Coral stations showing the web cam, the bridge report, and information on the Princess station that covered port talks, and other information. The Ship: We saw no luggage yet, so we took off to explore the ship and make spa appointments. I knew from experience that often spa appointments are fully booked on the first day, so I headed there first. It took us awhile to figure out how to get into the spa. It is in the aft of the ship and we took a mid-ship elevator, so it was confusing. We did not find anyone at the main desk when we did find the spa, but after wandering around I ran into someone who worked there and she agreed to find the appointment book and make appointments for me. So, I got the first appointments of the cruise, and scheduled a massage, manicure and pedicure all for the next day, our first sea day. Then we kept exploring. On the same deck as the spa we found the Horizon Court, the buffet. This buffet advertises that it is open 24 hours a day. It was already busy with folks who were eating lunch. We took some fruit and coffee and kept exploring. There are two pools on this deck: the Lido pool is outside the buffet and has glass walls along the sides, but an open air top. There is another deck running around the sides of the pull, and you just walk up stairs at the end of the pool to reach this area. On the main area of the pool there is a bar and the pizzeria. On the next level up, there is the Princess grill that serves hamburgers, hot dogs, fries, etc. There were hundreds of lounge chairs with blue and while striped pads on the chairs. From this deck you can also walk up to the sun deck and there is a small “splash” pool there. It’s just a tiny pool that is only about 8 inches deep. There are lounge chairs up there as well, and it’s the only place you can look out over the bow of the ship. Heading toward the aft past the lido pool, you come to the Spa Pool. This pool has a retractable cover, and also has a lower and upper seating area around it. Both of these pools also have several hot tubs on the sides, if one prefers the warmer water. All pools have fresh water only. Past the spa pool is the spa and the fitness center. Further past the fitness center there is a children’s area and the Pelican pool. We kept exploring. Below the Lido deck there are four deck that house only staterooms (Aloha, Baha, Caribe, and Dolphin). The Emerald deck has about half of the deck for staterooms, but there is also a library, card room and the internet café there. This is the top deck that also has a view of the atrium. The atrium runs from deck 5 to 8 and there is also a glass elevator running between these floors only. The atrium was beautiful with winding staircases and little lights along the entrances to rooms and lounges. The lights changed colors, and it was all very beautiful. The wood used throughout the ship made it appear very warm and the carpet was all coral and turquoise colors. Continuing down from deck 8 we saw there were two large boutiques, as well as one that only sold fine jewelry (Facets). There were several very unique lounges: Churchill’s is a cigar bar. This lounge is completely closed in by frosted glass walls and doors and I can honestly say I never smelled any cigar smoke coming from there. There is Crooners which specializes in martinis. There is La Patisserie that specializes in coffee drinks of all types. They also serve cookies and pastries free of charge throughout the day. There are two large lounges: Explorers lounge and the Wheelhouse Lounge. Explorers had leather furniture and murals on the walls showing big game and African grassland. The Wheelhouse also houses a sort of maritime museum with items from ships past and the P&O history. There are beautiful wood furnishings in this lounge, as well as beautiful mermaid statuary. There was also the casino, which is made to look like London, complete with wax figures of the Grenadier guards outside, and double decker bus replicas inside. Two huge theaters were also in the public areas, the Princess Theater and the Universe Lounge. The theater was simply theater seating with a large stage at the front. But it was huge, and could seat about 800 I’m sure. The Universe lounge was truly unique. There are three stages and they rotate. They also have several screens that can be used on these stages. There are cameras that can be used overhead, and show demonstrations. This lounge was filled with small sofas and upholstered chairs and tables, and there are additional seats on a second level around the edges of the theater. This theater also has a bar. Two dining rooms are also in the public areas, one on the 5th floor and one on the 6th. The Provance dining room is used mostly for folks who had been assigned traditional early or late seating. The Bordeaux dining room is for those who selected personal choice dining. The 7th floor is the Promenade deck and we saw there was a teak deck and additional lounge chairs here. This is a nice walking area, but the life boats also hang overhead around the whole deck. After this tour and a little snack, we decided to head back to our room again, and when we arrived back there, around 2:00, three of our four suitcases had already been delivered. We spent the remainder of the afternoon getting unpacked. Shortly after we started putting things in drawers the fourth bag also arrived, so we were fully unpacked prior to dinner. Personal Choice Dining: We like to sit alone when we cruise. Or, I should say, my husband likes to sit alone. He considers himself an introvert, and doesn’t want to be rude and ask to change tables if he doesn’t like someone, so he prefers that we just sit alone. So, we though Personal Choice would be good for us, as we would not be forced into a specific time and could try different waiters too. The first night we showed up around 7:00 for dinner and there were a couple people already in a short line. We asked for a table for two when we got to the front of the line about five minutes later. The head waiter, or whoever he was, told us he was not sure one would be available very soon, but said he would check. When we asked, we were immediately escorted to a table for two. Total wait time, 7 minutes. The waiters were not memorable that night. The next night was the first formal night and the captains welcome aboard cocktail party. We did not go to the party, but when we arrived at the dining room at 6:45 we saw that everyone else had just come from there and were now in line for dinner. There were around 10 people in line. We waited about 10-15 minutes and when we got to the front of the line it was just like the night before. At first we were told we would have to wait if we wanted a table for two. We said ok, and within a few seconds we were escorted to one. We did not remember those waiters either. On the third day, I called early in the afternoon about a reservation for 7:00. I was told the earliest reservation I could get was 8:00. We decided to just go wait at 7:00, and we did. That night we had almost no wait and we ate at table 10 where our waiter was Fernando Ruiz and the assistant was Makko. They were a wonderful team. Both were from Mexico and were just delightful. They were friendly, funny, and service was excellent. We decided to ask for them again the next night and we liked them that night too. So, on the 5th day we asked for a reservation for table 10 in their section. We were told that table was already reserved at 6:00 each evening and we could not have it until 8:00. So, we took that reservation. However, the maitre’d told us that if it was ready early, we could have it early. So, every night after that we showed up between 7:15 and 7:30 and it was always ready. In fact, Fernando told us that many nights the other people did not even show up so it was empty until we showed up at 7:30. I wonder how many other tables were reserved but then the passengers didn’t come, and the dining staff still held the tables open for them, causing others to have to wait longer? Food: We enjoyed the food on the cruise. I would not say that it was spectacular, other than maybe the soufflés they had for dessert. My husband ate beef about 8 of the 10 nights and he enjoyed it always. I had lobster that was very good, and also had grilled chicken, shrimp cocktail several times, and pasta on a few occasions. We also ate most lunches and breakfast in the dining room. We did not find the Horizon Court worked well for us. We found that the food was good, probably as good as in the dining room. But, the people crowding the serving areas and serving themselves were not always courteous to others. They were sometimes just slow, sometimes sloppy, and sometimes just rude in bumping into others and not even excusing themselves. I also found it difficult to balance a plate full of food and a drink while circling the dining room for five minutes or more looking for a table. Also, the Horizon Court seemed to always have the air conditioning running on frigid. The few times we did get a snack from there, we usually took it outside near the pool where it was warmer. We often went there in the afternoon or evening for a snack or cup of coffee. It was very convenient for that and was not crowded at all other than at the main meal times. On one occasion we left really early for an excursion in Costa Rica and we ate breakfast there. Because it was 6:30 AM it was not crowded at all and the food was good. The variety was vast there. They usually had everything the dining room served, and then some. There were lots of fresh fruit and salad selections, as well as many hot and cold desserts. There were plenty of sugar-free desserts as well, I noticed, but I never found any sugar free yogurt, which is what I prefer for breakfast. We ate one lunch at the Grill on the Lido deck and I had a hamburger and Larry had a beef hotdog. Both were excellent. We also ate Pizza one day and it was great pizza as well. We often got cappuccino or latte from the La Patisserie bar. It was really good, although you could also get these free of charge in the dining room after dinner. On several occasions we had room service for breakfast. There is an order form to hang on the door when you go to bed at night. It has “continental breakfast” type items such as cereal, yogurt, breads, Danish, fruit, coffee, juice. On the message boards I had been checking I heard you could write it other items and they would bring them. On all days we ordered room service I wrote in Fried Egg and bacon and they always delivered it all. The room service food always arrived at the time we specified and it was always hot. We could not have asked for more. It was especially great to eat on our balcony while transiting the Panama Canal! Tours: We booked all of our excursions online at the Princess Web site. We considered booking some independently, but we haven’t had good experiences doing that so stuck with Princess. When we got on the ship, our tickets for all excursions were in our cabin already, so we never had to visit the tour desk. However, we also had a letter in our mailbox stating that our first port call was changed from Ocho Rios Jamaica to Montego Bay. Our excursions had been cancelled, and we were given a credit for them. We also had a list of excursions we could book in Montego Bay. The destinations and prices of these excursions were listed, but there was no description anywhere or what they included. We had wanted to go to Dunn’s River Falls, but the price for that from Montego Bay was significantly higher and it did not seem to include a Plantation tour. We could not find anyone who could tell us about these tours. When we went by the tour desk it was crowded or not open. We decided to just take a cab into town that day. Later when I had my spa appointment I noticed that nail technician (Simone) was from Jamaica. So, I asked her about Montego Bay. She told me there is nothing to do there, and that to go from there to Ocho Rios was about a two hour trip one way. So that explained why the price went up and did not include a Plantation tour. When we were called for our tours, we were asked to gather in the Princess theater at the time designated on our tickets. This worked fairly well. We were sent to places in the theater where a member of the tour office held a sign designating our tour number. We would wait there until called to head out for the gangway or tenders and then we would meet up with the tour guide and get on buses. The tour office handled this very well until we hit Cozumel. For some reason, the tickets for Cozumel excursions had us meeting our tour on the pier, rather than in the Princess Theater. We were going to Tulum that day and we knew it would be one of the first tours out as we had to take a ferry to the mainland. We were to meet the ferry on the pier at 9:20 AM. The ship was scheduled to dock in Cozumel at 9:00. So around 9:00 we headed for the gangway area on deck 5, even though we had not yet heard an announcement that the ship had been cleared. When we got near the deck and lobby where the gangway was we saw hundreds of others also waiting there. It seems that everyone going on a tour was told to meet on the pier. Even though some were not going on tour till 10:00 or later, they were all waiting to go down the gangway and perhaps do a little shopping first. There were also many who were not going on tours at all but just wanted to go out and shop. Plus we began noticing that there were many from the crew who were obviously not in uniform and had the day off and were also waiting to leave the ship. By the time the gangway was opened, around 9:30, it was a mad house in this hallway, stairwell, and foyer. The elevator doors could not even be opened as so many people were jammed up against them. We were afraid some of the elderly were going to be trampled. It took us about 15 minutes after the gangway opened before we could get to the pier. They only had one person checking people off the ship. We asked a member of the tour staff why they had done it this way, rather than use the theater which had worked well in all other days. She told us there would not have been a problem if the ship had not been late docking. I’m not sure I buy that answer. Excursions: We had some wonderful excursions on this cruise. In Jamaica, we had our only bad experience. The nail technician was right in telling me there is nothing in Montego Bay. We did take a taxi to “town” for about $3 apiece each way. The port “expert” on the ship, Elizabeth, did a port talk the day before and told us that there are 80,000 people in Montego Bay and 79,000 of them are taxi drivers. She was close. These taxis are actually 12 person vans in most cases. And they don’t like to take trips unless they are full. So we had to sit at the terminal building until they got 12 of us to go to town before leaving. It’s only a few miles to “town” which is really sort of a strip of small stores on two floors in a severely congested area. The shops sell coffee, jewelry and t-shirts predominantly. The shop employees loiter in the doorways and on the sidewalks and follow the tourists down the streets begging you to come to their shops. There are a few residents who are willing to pose with baskets of fruit on their head in hopes you will pay them to take their pictures. The whole thing was very sad. After walking the length of the twenty or so shops, we had enough and decided to return to the ship. There were hundreds of taxi drivers soliciting us to take us on a tour or back to a ship. We saw one van with already about 6 people in it, so we joined them. We still had to wait another 15 minutes or so until the driver solicited another 5 or 6 before he finally started out down the narrow streets and returned us to the dock. In Panama the most thrilling part of the tour is going through the locks themselves. In our case we were up at 6:00 AM to be ready. But, we did not really enter the first lock until around 7:30 AM. We were finishing our breakfast on the balcony while we were watching the process. Lots of others were also on their balconies. In fact, they offered us a $25 Panama Canal breakfast that included champagne, but we opted for the regular stuff. While we were in the locks, some ships photographers were down on the lock itself and they took pictures of all of us on our balconies. Those were interesting pictures, and of course we took the bait and bought them later! We really enjoyed seeing the canal process from all areas of the ship though, so we wandered up on to the top decks to see from there, and also went to one of the lower lounges on the 5th floor where we could actually see the inside walls of the lock when we first entered it, and then watch the wall ship away as the ship rose when the water entered underneath us. That was really neat to watch from that perspective. When we completed the Gatun locks we sailed into Gatun Lake. We dropped anchor there and those of us on excursions were taken off the ship on tenders. We met up with out tour guides there and got onto buses. Our tour was the train trip from the Atlantic to the Pacific on the Panama Canal Railroad. We had booked the Deluxe Executive Dome car. We rode about 15 minutes on a bus to the Train Station at Colon and we boarded the restored train car. It had booths with tables in between and each booth would seat two people on each side. There were booths on both sides of the aisle. The side windows and the ceilings were one continual piece of curved glass. The upholstery had obviously been restored recently. It was very pretty. Our tour guide was Marty, a man in his late 50’s with no Spanish accent that was noticeable. In fact, we thought he was American, but he did say he was from Panama. He told us later that he’d gone to Prep School in Minnesota for many years as a young man, and he’d also worked for Braniff Airlines in Miami for about 20 years before retiring back to Panama a few years ago. He was very knowledgeable about Panama, the people and culture, and the canal and its history. He kept us entertained and informed. The train heading toward the Pacific Ocean side of Panama and paralleled the canal as it went. We saw the lake formed when the dam had been built to create the canal waters. We saw wildlife and old military bases that the Americans had used prior to turning the Canal Zone over to the Panamanians on December 31, 1999. The train stopped in Mira Flores and we again boarded buses. These buses took us to the Mira Flores locks. There we were able to climb about 20 steps to a small observation platform where we were able to look down on to the lock. A ship was going through this lock while we were there so it was quite interesting. We also entered a small museum there and were shown a short film on the canal. We had another few minutes to walk around this observation area where one of the “mule” locomotives is on display. Then we were back on the bus. We then drove on to the Pacific Ocean near Panama City. We could see the Bridge of the Americas that crosses the canal and the skyline of Panama City, which looks like any modern city with sky scrapers. When we returned to the train, we went back to our domed car and there were box lunches for each of us. We had a sandwich, chips, banana and we were offered coffee or lemonade to drink. When we returned to Colon, we again boarded buses and were taken back to the ship where it was docked in Cristobal. At the pier there was a small group of shops in a mall area where many Panamanians and some of the native Embrea Indians were set up selling crafts. There were also Panamanian dancers performing there. After shopping a few minutes we went back on the ship. In Costa Rica our excursion left around 7:00 AM for a long bus ride to the Rainforest. The bus ride was made interesting by Gloriana our tour guide. She is a Marine Biologist by education, and also has a master’s degree in wildlife management. She is very proud of her country and shared a vast amount of information with us. Costa Rica is a beautiful, lush country that grows a great deal of fruit and flowers for export to the rest of the world. We passed many fields growing bananas, coffee, chocolate and ornamental flowers. She had our bus driver stop and buy a bunch of “finger bananas” to share with us. They were much sweeter than regular bananas we were all used to. When we got to the rain forest we divided into groups of 5 and boarded the gondolas of the aerial tram. These tram cars go through the tree tops on cables. Many times we were over 45 feet off the ground. The trip is about an hour and a half in length, and we saw many types of trees, flowers, birds, butterflies, snakes, and insects. At the end of the tour we only had a couple of minutes to look in their gift shop and we were off on the buses again. We stopped at a place where we ate a catered lunch under a canopy. The food included some tough beef steak, chicken, fish (all grilled), rice, plantains, squash, and some coconut flan for dessert. There was also Costa Rican coffee, which was quite strong in my opinion. We were there less than an hour and then back on the bus for about a 90 minute ride to some canals and rivers close to Limon. We boarded a long boat with a canopy top that held all 45 of us in low seats. We cruised along the canals and rivers for about two hours. We saw much more wild life here, like crocodiles, egrets, monkeys, iguanas, sloths, and many other birds and butterflies. It was a great trip. Upon returning to the dock, we were only about 30 minutes from the pier where the ship was. We had about an hour to visit the craft area near the terminal and we shopped for some Panamanian wood items, and some clay vases and pots. This was our favorite excursion. In Grand Cayman we were only in port about six hours and it was a Sunday. We did the 100 foot submarine dive and that was interesting, but very short. Then we took the trip to the sandbar on a catamaran where we snorkeled and swam with the stingrays. That was great fun as we had never done that before. It should be done by everyone at least once. However, I will remark that although the water is shallow there, I was not prepared for how strong the waves are, and as a fairly light person, I was continually knocked over by waves. Other small women also commented that they were surprised how hard it was to keep on your feet. I was not so concerned with falling down, but they warn you not to step on the stingrays and I was afraid I was going to do just that. But it was a great experience. In Cozumel we rode the ferry to the mainland and took another one hour bus ride to Tulum to see the Mayan ruins there. It was fascinating, but we really only had about an hour by the time we got there. It was over 90 degrees that day, and not a cloud in the sky. It was also quite humid. I cannot imagine being there in the summer. We really enjoyed seeing the Caribbean from the cliff that the temple is built on. Our guide, Enrique, was very knowledgeable of the history and showed us all of the features of the ruins. After the trip back on the bus, and again on the ferry, we also walked around Cozumel for about an hour and bought some T-shirts for our grandchildren. Here’s another town where the shop employees will accost you on the street begging you into their store. I’m just not into that type of scene, so we did not stay long in town but returned to the ship about 90 minutes prior to sailing time. Miscellaneous: As a new ship we had been somewhat fearful that things might not operate well on the Coral, especially since it had been delayed at the ship yard and two cruises were cancelled. However, there was very little evidence to us that things were not at 100%. One thing we noticed is that if you are in your cabin there is no way to hear the announcements over the PA system. We asked about this, and supposedly we should be able to hear them on one of the TV channels if you want to, but that was not yet operational. Some early cruisers had said that the air conditioning or water temperature were faulty. We did not notice that at all, although some public rooms were too cool for me. We did not notice any problems with stabilization and in fact even when the seas were a little rough, the ship seemed to ride fine to me. We did feel vibration in the Universe Lounge one night, but never in our cabin or other public areas. Every morning the cruise director and assistant conducted a “morning show” that was broadcast on the Princess channel. It mostly consisted of them reading through the Princess Patter and outlining what was going on for the day. Sometimes another member of the staff was shown visiting an area of the ship, such as the spa or casino, and once he interviewed the Captain. It was something to listen to while getting dressed in the morning, but it was not important information that wasn’t already covered elsewhere. The “port expert” Elizabeth provided talks prior to each port call, but these were primarily advertisements for stores that Princess endorses. We had never experienced such blatant selling on any other cruise line. She actually had products displayed from the shops and went on for an hour about them. We had gone to many port talks on the Rotterdam when we cruised in the Mediterranean and there the expert spoke only about the countries and cities we were going to visit, the culture of the people, and he often mentioned the types of products that might be a good buy in that country, but there was never any showing of goods or suggestion that we should use a specific shop. After the first talk, we tuned her out and didn’t go to any of her presentations. The new Universe Lounge is truly a state of the arts multi-media center. We attended shows there that were excellent, and we also attended two food preparation presentations by the Executive Chef and Maitre’D. The cameras they have there show the food preparation projected onto large screens from above the work surface. There is a complete kitchen on the stage with a working stove, refrigerator, and it was excellent. I felt like I was watching “Emeril” on the Food Network. We also went on a Galley tour at the end of the last culinary presentation. The kitchen is spotless and enormous. The kitchen on the 5th deck provides food for both dining rooms, with an escalator for use by the waiters who are serving in the 6th floor dining room. My husband attended several photography classes that were offered as part of the Scholarship at Sea program and he found them to be very informative for him. They were presented by photographers from the ship and also by a computer expert. There were other classes on navigation, communications, and computer applications, as well as daily programs on pottery making. There is a working kiln on the ship and an expert on board to assist those interested. We did not participate in these so I cannot comment. There were fees associated with these classes. Disembarkation: We had booked an 11:30 flight out of Ft. Lauderdale and during the first week on the ship we were asked to complete a form outlining our plans since we did not book transfers or flights with Princess. Because of our early flight we were then issued Red 1 tickets for disembarkation, which was scheduled to be the first group off the ship. It was planned for 8:00 AM, but we did not actually get cleared by customs and start disembarking until about 8:45 AM. We were waiting in the hall way near the gangway when they started calling folks so we were about the 10th and 11th people off the ship, literally. We barely stopped at immigration and arrived in the luggage room where about ten porters were waiting for us to arrive. We quickly found our 4 bags because of the hints we had picked up on the internet message board to put yellow duct tape on our luggage. The porter had our four bags on the cart in less than five minutes and we did not really stop at customs at all. We were out the door and into the first taxi waiting and heading down the road before 9:00 AM. It’s just about 15 minutes to the airport, so we were there before 9:30 and had plenty of time to drink coffee and moan about having to fly home to the snow! Summary: All in all this was a great cruise. We were tentative about trying Princess because we really loved HAL’s Rotterdam. I would have to say that most things about Princess are comparable. Where I think HAL has the edge is that the service is more personal and the staff are more friendly and cordial overall. On the Coral our waiters were wonderful, once we found them. But some of the others we encountered were just “ok.” Never rude but not overly friendly either. Our housekeeper was just great, too, but others often did not even speak when you passed them in the hallway. We also found that tour office, purser, and other staff were “ok” but nothing special. I think having the person with the white gloves escort you to your cabin when you first arrive on a HAL ship just set the tone for the whole cruise, and on Princess we had someone (who was not even smiling) just point and say “go down the hall that way and it’s on the right.” Also, we like the size of the HAL ship better. The Rotterdam was made to hold about 1,000 passengers, and there were 1,900 on Coral. That in itself means more crowded conditions. We stood though one show on the Coral, and I can’t see doing that ever again. However, the mini-suite was considerably larger on the Coral, and we really enjoyed that extra space. The closet was also bigger, so if the suite is important, then Princess gets the edge. The food was comparable, as were the tours. The shows were much better on Princess, both in variety and the quality of the performances from the on board staff. I hope this is helpful to those who might be considering cruising of the Coral. It’s a beautiful ship and well worth the cost we spent for the ten days in the sun!

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Nov 30, -0001

Gulf of Alaska

We are 50 year old’s, this was our 6th cruise, 3rd on princess. This is only my opinion, hope you enjoy. I am doing a day by day review, ( land first then the cruise). Day 1- 7/7. Flight- Northwest NY to Minn.- Minn. to Fairbanks. The flight left on time landed at 1:45PM local time, connection left at 2:30PM, ran across the terminal about 8 miles (felt like it). Had Just enough time to grab food from Burger King and take it on board.

Plane left on time. Can’t believe there was no movie on a 5 hour flight. Arrived Fairbanks on time. Met the princess person and was given information envelope with room keys, etc. Took the bus to the Princess Riverside Lodge. All luggage was delivered to the room, we went to eat at Trackers grill, very good then to sleep. (Note: It never got dark. We knew about midnight sun and all, but it says sunset at 12:30 am and sunrise at 3:40am. But it NEVER got dark. The sun goes just below the horizon and the sky still is bright, like just at dusk. Strange. Day 2- 7/8. Woke up early (very), took a walk and a few pictures. Beautiful day, sunny going to be in the 80s. We ate in the Edgewater restaurant for breakfast, (OK). Off to the riverboat Discovery. It’s a nice trip quiet and calm with beautiful scenery, Had a look at Mt. McKinley from 200 miles away. Saw dog sled exhibit from Susan Butcher, the dogs are real funny. Bus back to the hotel for lunch. Now off to the Gold Mine, to pay for the trip. LOL. Well back from the gold mine, I will have to go back to work after all. They said we had $24 worth of gold, they sell jewelry to put it in if you want, had a good time. Stopped at the Alaska pipeline, amazing. Then went through downtown Fairbanks. Time to shower and eat. We went to Pikes Landing for dinner, just down the road from the hotel. Sat on the deck overlooking the river. The food was very good, nice and relaxing. Went back to the room repacked all luggage, sent 2 bags direct to the ship, others to Princess Mt. McKinley Lodge. Had to have luggage outside room by 5:30 am. Time to sleep again. Day 3- 7/9. Woke up early, (beginning to see a pattern here). Bus leaves at 7:15am to the Midnight Sun Train. Again expecting a beautiful day. We are on the train now, it left right on time. There is a tour operator on the train to book for next lodge. We then went to the dinning car for breakfast, it was very good. Great looking train cars. Not really much to see, lots of trees, trees and then some more trees. Towards the end of the ride (last hour or so) the view gets better with high mountains, a river, got some nice shots. Finally arrived at Denali Princess Lodge, we had about 45 minutes to eat lunch (we ate Lynx Pizza, so-so). Then we boarded school bus for the Denali tour. Great scenery, go to a zoo if you want to see animals. We saw 1 carabu at about 100 yards, 1 snow hare. Back to Denali lodge to pick up our coach to Mt.McKinley lodge. Nice looking lodge with large deck, great room. Ate at Grizzly’s Bar, on deck, good food. You could just see the mountain, hopefully better tomorrow. Bedtime. Day 4-7/10. Woke up to cloudy sky and drizzle. Had a good breakfast at the lodge, waiting to see if the summit flight tour would be cancelled or not. Not cancelled yet so we took the bus to Talkeetna (1hour plus). Went to K2 Aviation and were told it was cancelled. Walked around downtown Talkeetna, not much to see. Waiting for the bus back to lodge. There was a large female moose on the side of the road. Cloudy all day with no view of the mountain. Just hung out for the rest of the day. Getting ready for dinner with another couple we met (nice people). We ate at the Mountain View restaurant, wonderful food and company. Very strange, 10:30pm and still light. Day 5- 7/11. Woke up to rain. We have the Jeep Safari booked for today, so quick breakfast and pack bags again. They had to be outside the door before we go on the tour. The Jeep tour was great, lots of fun. Now bus to the train again, Midnight Sun to Anchorage. No problems, got to the hotel about 8:00pm and went to our room at the Hilton. Took a stroll around the area, pretty with lots of flowers and gift shops. Sleep time. Day 6- 7/12. Woke up early, had to have luggage out by 8:00am.Went downstairs for breakfast, very good but expensive (what else is new). The bus to Seward is very nice, pretty views with a few stops for pictures. (Tip- sit on the right side of the bus, you see the water most of the way). Can’t wait to unpack on the ship and leave it for a week. We arrived about 1:00pm, picked up cruise card and was onboard in 15 minutes. Eating in 10 minutes.l ol. Tip. If you go off the ship again in Seward, be sure to take cruise card and picture ID to get back on , you have to go through security again. Thats it for the land portion of this, if you have any questions about lodges, tours or whatever ask away. Thanks for reading this, the cruise is next Mark This is part 2, life on the ship, Coral Princess 7 night southbound Alaska. Day 1 Seward. We went to the horizon buffet to grab lunch. The food was very good, it was nice to eat and not get a bill after (like on the land). We did laundry as we planned. The bags we sent from Fairbanks came first, unpacked them, then, headed into town for some soda. The rest of our bags were delivered, so now we were free. Went exploring the ship, it’s very nice looking and clean. The first night onboard everyone has to eat 1st or 2nd seating dinner (no PC). They give you a ticket as to which seating to go to. They handed my wife one for early seating, she asked for late seating. It took them a while but finally got the right one for us. The reason for no PC dinning is Safety Drill (muster) is at 8:15pm. By the time we finished the drill and returned life vest to the room, it was after 9:00pm. We went to eat, I was mad that the ship sailed while we were still eating. After we finished we went up on deck, WOW. We enter College Fjord at 6:30am, so off to bed we go. Day 2 College Fjord. Woke up very early (5:00am), it’s a beautiful sunny day. It feels cold, of course I’m in my underwear on the balcony, lol. Waiting for 6:00am room service. Food came right on time, a quick cup of coffee and bagel and off the see the show. What a show it is. It was quite cold, so I put on several layers and off we went. Sailed up College Fjord, just amazing. The Glaciers are coming down from the mountains to the water. (Tip- Get the highest magnification binoculars you can. With my zoom lens on my camera, the ice looks like a carpet but with the binoculars you can see the rows of ice). After a while the ship turns around and goes out the same way it went in, so you don’t have to be there at 6:30 if you don’t want to see everything twice. Saw a few otters from a bit of a distance. Going to get a real breakfast now. Spent some time in the sun looking for wildlife, saw a whale but again far away. Went to bingo (lost), went to the casino for a while (lost) see a pattern here (lol). Later today we sailed into a fog bank and the temp. dropped and was cloudy the rest of the day. We made dinner plans with the couple we met on the train, Very nice English couple now living in Orlando Fl. Tonight is the first formal night, Captain cocktail party at 7:45pm then dinner. After dinner we went to the show Dance. Typical cruise show, good music, dancing and costume changes. Went back to the casino, won a little of my money back. Sleep. Day 3 Glacier Bay. Slept in today, 9:00am. Buffet breakfast, as we are starting to sail into Glacier Bay. It is very cold out, gray, cloudy low 50sand windy. We got dressed, I was wearing long sleeve t-shirt, sweatshirt, waterproof jacket with fleece lining, hat and gloves. We got 2 lounge chairs right in the front of the ship up on deck 15 and watched as we sailed into the bay. After a while my wife went and got 2 blankets (the ship had these on deck 14 at the pool, which you sign out then return, free). We viewed a few glaciers as we sailed up the tar inlet, now the sun started to break thru the clouds. As the sun got stronger, the layers started coming off. The temperature must have risen 20 degrees at least. Anyway back to the glaciers. At the end of the tar inlet is the Margerie Glacier. This is the one you see in all the TV and ads, very high, with white and blue ice. Just as we approached it a piece broke off (calved) but we were still pretty far away. The ship stops right there nice and close. There were 2 small calving, not much but better then nothing. After a while the ship turns so the other side balcony’s can view it. My Balcony was on this side so I ran to my room to watch it. All the balcony’s on this side were full (hope the ship doesn’t roll over, ha ha). Just as the ship started to leave we said it’s now or never. And as if on cue we heard a crack and a large piece fell right in front of us, awesome. This is what everyone came here for. I had called room service as soon as I got to the room, ordered 2 hot dogs and french fries. So I ate lunch watching the glacier as we sailed away. My wife and I went up to the hot tub for a while, (very nice). Went to dinner, and the show, comedian Sarge (he was pretty funny). Hit the casino again (broke even) and now time to sleep. Day 4 Skagway. Had room service breakfast, we had the Yukon bus and White Pass Train tour. Today is a mix of sun and clouds, we started up the mountains and it was very foggy for a while. There is some very nice scenery, large drop off the side of the road, lots of lakes and mountains. We go to Carcross (could have skipped this) for lunch, which is 2 little pieces of chicken, bread and coleslaw. There are some live animals in pens and 2 plastic doll sheep in the mountain behind everything (tacky). Back on the bus after lunch and then down to the train. Right at the train depot we saw a large bear in the grass at the end of the parking lot. We were about 100 feet away or less, got some good pictures. We though it was a grizzly but the train conductor said it was a cinnamon black bear. Took the train back to Skagway, great views on the train. Did a little shopping and back to the ship for FOOD, I was as hungry as a bear, Lol. Just relaxed on the balcony for a while looking for whales. Time for dinner and the show, (Curtain Up) enjoyable like the other one. Stopped at the casino (lost) and bed. Day 5 Juneau. Woke up and called the tour desk to check about helicopter dogsled tour, (foggy out). They said go to the pier and see, we did and they cancelled it (S#+T). We were able to get on the 11:30am whale watching tour so we did it. My wife went to get a manicure while we killed time. I went to the tour desk and switched our Ketchikan tour as we had booked a boat tour there. (didn’t want to do same thing). Had late breakfast and off to the whales, I hope. Well we did see whales, actually 6 humpbacks were doing what is called bubble feeding, very cool. We saw a few harbor seals and eagles. So it wasn’t a waste of time, (still would have rather been yelling mush mush, lol. Going to dinner soon and the comedian Scott Wyler, he was very funny. Went to the casino and made another deposit. Bed time. Day 6 Ketchikan. We had changed our tour yesterday from boat cruise to a seaplane to Misty Fjord and cruise. I like to do different kinds of things on these trips, and had never been in a small plane. The plane ride was really fun beautiful area, we landed on the water and transferred to the boat. It was OK, we saw lots of working fishing boats. Returned to the ship, tonight is the captain’s club cocktail party. So were getting ready for dinner early also the 2nd formal night. Had the usual lobster tails tonight. Off to the show Tribute, very good music (beatles, beach boys etc.) After the show I’m planning on going to the casino to get all my money back, didn’t happen. See ya. Day 7 At Sea. Had a very sunny and warm day, Slept in late 9:00am. Also turned the clocks ahead 1 hour during the night. Had the casino tournaments today (slot and blackjack, I know I will get my money back now, lol) didn’t win. We ate lunch and sat by the pool for a while. Went to the BIG BINGO game, $2000 prize (by now you know what’s going to happen) right I didn’t win. HAHA. We also packed all our bags during the slow time this afternoon so we wouldn’t have to rush tonight. There was a pre-dinner comedy show with both comedians, a riot. We had dinner a kind of sad time, as you know it’s all over. One last time to see my money, waved goodbye and back to room to sleep. We also put all of the luggage outside our door at 8:00pm. Day 8 Disembarking. Woke up early had breakfast in the horizon court, packed our carry on bags and said goodbye to our friends, and waited to leave the ship. We had a 10:30 am flight to Toronto on Air Canada. We had to get all of our bags and go to customs, they sent us the wrong way out and had to go back to find a bus to airport. The bus didn’t leave till almost 9:00 am, the airport is about a half hour away from the dock. Getting short on time. Arrived at 9:30, got bags from the bus, got a cart and into the airport we go (a mad house). People everywhere. They tell you to use a machine to get your boarding pass, but the machine said see attendant. Wait no another line, finally there and the person is typing like I am now. (thought, she was writing a book). Checked bags, went to another machine to pay leaving tax $10 PP (?), now to security line. Of course they had to open all carry on bags, look at camera binoculars etc. At last we get to the gate and they are already boarding the plane. But this is the way to fly, a nice new big plane with a movie and free headsets. Landed on time in Toronto and this place is nuts too. Because this is an international flight, we had to get all our luggage (another cart), go to US customs, long line and go to security again. Re check luggage in and go to gate. Of course they stopped my wife and went through her carry on and purse. They wouldn’t let her take the can of bug spray on board. (a gift to the inspector) and off we go. Arrived on time and our son was there to take us home. Day 9 Laundry HA HA. Hate this part of vacation. General Information and Opinions : I now know why Northwest is called northworst by people on these boards. The land tour is exhausting. Beautiful land and a great way to see much of it, glad we booked it with Princess for our first visit. If I go back I will do my own thing. Princess does an amazing job of moving you and your luggage all over the place and on schedule. The cruise was great, the ship is beautiful, I like this size ( I have been on smaller, Dawn and larger, Grand). All the entertainment on the ship was very enjoyable, good music and dancing, the comedians were very good too. The food was good in the dinning room and horizon court. Breakfast has the same food everyday, lunch buffet was very good. Pizza was OK, hot dogs had a funny taste to me, burgers were all overcooked for my taste. Dinner was a little to fancy for my taste (as are most cruises). But they always had steak or chicken available. I was very disappointed in the animal viewing, I know it is very hit or miss but I kept missing. Weather is unpredictable, the two tours we really wanted to do were both cancelled due to weather so keep an open mind and be flexible. All the Princess staff, bus/tour guides, hotel staff, cruise crew etc. were top notch and very friendly. We will cruise with Princess again, and again. Overall we had a wonderful trip, met many nice people and you can’t believe the land of Alaska. If anyone has any questions about specific things, just respond to this and I will try to answer them as best as I can. Thank you for taking the time to read this, I know it was long but I felt that I couldn’t get enough information before I went. Thanks and happy cruising Mark

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Nov 30, -0001

12 day Cruise

We returned from our 12 day cruise and land tour on July 16, 2003 on the very pleasant new Coral Princess. Of all the ships we traveled on, this was the smoothest and quietest of them all. It was also the skimpiest on cabin room. We had a veranda room on the Baja deck and there was nothing generous about it. The shower was extremely small and the support handle was placed so that you couldn’t avoid hitting it with your elbow. My elbow

still hurts. When we arrived in Vancouver, we spent a good part of an hour trying to locate our luggage. After asking several people, we were told that our luggage was taken to the ship. Only five months earlier, on our Mexican Riviera cruise (Star Princess), we were required to pick up our luggage. No one told us any different and consequently, we lost valuable time and missed our luncheon aboard ship. Prior to boarding the ship, we went through pre-boarding and went directly to the area for Captain’s Circle Platinum Member’s Check-In. No one present. Got in line with the rest of the people. Bad vibes. Went directly to our room and decided to wash up a bit after a long day of travel. No soap in the bathroom. More bad vibes. After safety session and life preserver orientation, we went back to room to change for dinner. No luggage, went to dinner in our wrinkled traveling clothes. Luggage didn’t arrive until after dinner. Went to bed early and hoped for a fresh start the next day. We had requested early dining with a table for eight. When we approached the dinning room, we could not be seated because they told us we had open dinning. That was news to us. So we were directed downstairs to the other dining room and the first thing they asked was, “Do you have reservations?” Of coarse we didn’t have reservations, however, after a few moments; they obligingly found us a table. About this time, we felt like second class citizens rather than guests. The following morning turned out to be the beginning of a very enjoyable cruise. The scenery was spectacular and the various places we stopped at; Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway were everything we had expected. We have found over time that we like to be a little adventuresome and find our own entertainment when going ashore. At Ketchikan we found a young pilot with a bright yellow Piper Super Cub on floats that took us for an awesome plane ride for the most reasonable sum of $30.00. What a bargain! At the other stops, we fared almost equally as well. After our recent Mexican Riviera cruise, we had decided that we would not go along with automatic tipping ($10.00 per person, per day). So on our second day aboard ship, I went to the purser’s desk and informed them not to apply the automatic tipping to my bill, but rather I would tip according to services rendered. The day before departing, I picked up gratuity envelopes and passed them out as we saw fit. It didn’t cost us much less, but we made sure that those people, who deserved a tip, got it. Just before departing the ship we received our itemized bill which included $140.00 for gratuities. If there was any discrepancies in your billing, they must be corrected before leaving the ship. So a mad dash down to get this correction made before departing. When waiting at the lower deck before departing the ship, all Captains’ Circle Platinum Members were instructed to wait in the theater lounge, where coffee and beverages would be served. A nice departing touch but no one there. Just empty urns and cups covered in plastic on a tray. Other than a luncheon with the Ships’ Captain (who wasn’t present) the Captain’s Circle Platinum status is of little importance. We departed the ship at Seward at 6:00 AM, so we didn’t get to see hardly anything of the town. We were bussed to Whittier for a boat trip to Valdez. The boat was a very enjoyable catamaran that was fast and smooth. We were fortunate to see a whale and hundreds of sea lions. This was definitely a nice way to cross that expanse of water. The personnel were very courteous and served a nice breakfast. A very enjoyable trip. Valdez is an enjoyable town and has some interesting history. After about one hour, we left for the Copper River Lodge and arrived there early in the evening. Unless you sign up for the tours they offer, there is little else to do. We didn’t have an option to be adventurous, nor did we have an option to eat at any other place but their pricey dinning room. I guess we haven’t gotten used to paying $10.00 for a hamburg, and especially when we didn’t realize beforehand that meals were not included with the land tour. Our trip from Copper River Lodge to Denali was a long and uneventful one. We saw great scenery but nothing else. Rough gravel road most of the way with three stops of minimal interest. We arrived at Denali late in the day and received our packet for room assignment and instructions for our short stay. Anyone who signed up for a tour had to pack up and be out of their room very early. Arrangements for bag storage were provided and you had to check them in before departing on the tour. Most of the tours ended around noon and upon returning, you had to just hang around for the 3:30 PM bus to the train depot. Our experience was very unpleasant as we were cold and wet and no place to go. The main lobby was packed with people, leaning against walls and sitting on the floor. Surely, they could have made some accommodations for all these people (like a movie theater, game room, etc.) The common question was, “why hasn’t Princess made some kind of provisions for their “guests” after such a long period of time?” Our train trip from Denali to Fairbanks was an enjoyable experience. The people in charge were friendly and very accommodating: Something we had learned not to expect. They served complimentary beverages and narrated interesting facts about the trip. This was definitely one of the high points of our trip and we would recommend it highly. When we arrived at Fairbanks it was late in the day and we had time only to grab a bite to eat and hit the sack for an early departure to the airport the next morning. The only part of Fairbanks we saw was on our trip to the lodge and across the road to the airport. Not much planning on this stop either. In conclusion, I must say that for the cost that we incurred for this cruise/tour, we were treated more like baggage than tourists. The tour is definitely something you want to avoid. A better alternative would be to get off the ship at Seward and plan your own excursions to the places you want to go and to stay for the amount of time you chose. After taking several cruises with Princess, we can’t help thinking that the ships keep getting better and the services keep declining. Listed below are several suggestions that they could make without breaking the bank or re-inventing the wheel: Deliver Champagne with glasses. Don’t charge for bottled water in rooms ($2.95 per bottle). When calling Room Service, someone should be there to answer the phone. Wake up calls in the morning should wake you up (ours didn’t) Television reception should not be seen as a snow storm. Horizons Court (24 hr. eatery) should concentrate on service, not selling booze. Servers in Horizons Court should step aside in aisles for guests rather than the other way around. Platinum Membership should have some benefits rather than just promises. Don’t charge for juice that is delivered to your room. And…. Treat us as guests, not baggage! Our next cruise? I think we’ll check out other cruise lines.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

This cruise was the best of all cruises I have taken. The ship is new and beautiful. The food was outstanding. The service was excellent. The shows were of Broadway quality. The canal was very interesting. The ports we visited were, Cristobal, Aruba, Limon. Sadly we were not able to dock in Montego Bay due to bad weather. I would suggest that if you are interested in the Panama Canal, you book this ship as soon as possible.

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Nov 30, -0001

Pacific Coastal

Coral Princess 2-Day San Francisco to Vancouver May 8, 2003 I took advantage of some great pricing to take a two-day relocation cruise on Coral Princess from San Francisco to Vancouver, BC from May 8th to 10th. My partner couldn’t go, so I convinced a good friend of mine to join me. Bob enjoys sailing but had never been on a large cruise ship before, and was dubious about whether he’d enjoy it. I thought this might be a good way

to win another convert to cruising, and I was right. This was my 7th cruise, having been on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity (three times), NCL and Princess once before. I’m partial to Celebrity for their high level of service, sophisticated clientele and their generally excellent food. My only previous experience on Princess was on a similar 2-day relocation cruise on Sun Princess two years before, and I enjoyed this trip on the Coral much more than my previous experience. Still, this trip confirmed my impression that Princess targets the middle-of-the-road, middle-America traveler who doesn’t want too much creativity or challenge. It also reinforced for me that the choice of ship can make almost as big a difference as the choice of cruise line. I’ll organize this review by topic rather than itinerary, since this 2-day trip is only repeated twice a year. I’ll try to give some detail about the ship and make comparisons to other ships I’ve been on to help you get a sense of what the Coral is like. Boarding: San Francisco doesn’t have a proper cruise terminal, and until it does, boarding here will not be very pleasant. The cruise lines use Pier 35, which is a working pier from the 1920’s, and is basically a large shed. There is no separation between the passengers waiting to check in and the forklifts loading baggage and supplies for the cruise. There are no seats and no refreshments. I did see that Princess was taking care of passengers who needed wheelchairs, and they also allowed Platinum members to go to the front of the line. I’m sure Princess did the best they could, but it took 1 ½ hours from when I got in line out on the sidewalk until I was boarding the ship. For such a short cruise, that’s about 1 ½ hours too long! I understand that contracts have been let for a beautiful cruise terminal right beside the Bay Bridge, but construction is delayed because of allegations of corruption. Welcome to life in San Francisco! Cabin: We had booked a mini-suite, B223 at the very front of the Baja deck. My only previous cruise on Princess had been in a regular balcony cabin on Sun Princess, which was the smallest cabin I’ve ever been in, as they took the space for the balcony out of the cabin itself. By contrast, the mini-suite had a bathroom with full-sized tub and large countertop, an open closet by the bathroom that they call a “walk-in”. It’s more like a “walk-past” closet, but it is larger than regular ship closets, and there’s a separate set of shelves with the safe beside the bathroom door. There were two single beds that could make up into a queen and two nightstands followed by a decent sized desk. In the middle of the room was a unique feature: a semi-circular built-in cabinet with a mini-fridge in the bottom (not stocked) along with some shelves, granite counters, and two TVs on the top. One TV faced the beds and one faced the sitting area. There was one remote control for the two TVs, and if you stood in the wrong place you might change the channel on the wrong TV. The TV cable system has several movie choices, CNN, two Princess channels one of which showed continuous Princess ads and the other showed information about the Coral, shore talks, etc. There’s also a bridge-cam (for inside cabins – been there) and a channel that continually scrolled, showing maps of the ship’s position, the temperature, wave height, etc. Finally, there are several music channels. The sitting area was what made it a “mini-suite”, and it consisted of a full-sized sofa, a small oval coffee table, and a single chair. The area seemed a little bare, and could have used another chair or a chest. Perhaps they keep it bare so the sofa can be opened out to a bed, but it seemed a little cheap. Finally, there is a sliding glass door out to a large balcony with a sturdy white plastic table and two chairs. Unlike the cocktail furniture in regular balcony cabins, this set seems large and sturdy enough to have a complete meal on. We, however, didn’t get to use it at all thanks to the weather along the Pacific Northwest coast: windy, chilly and a little damp. It would be perfect for breakfast or dinner while the ship was docked in a warm location. Our cabin steward, Dino, knocked on the door and introduced himself as soon as I got in. I asked for some terry cloth robes and for the beds to be separated, which he took care of during the afternoon. Although you don’t establish as much of a relationship on such a short cruise, he was both responsive and professional. I had a problem with the door to the safe in the cabin, which was off the hinge – I’m not sure how that could happen. Since I didn’t see Dino in the hallway, I called the purser’s desk about it. Nothing was done for 24 hours, and it was only when I mentioned it to Dino that he immediately called for an engineer and had someone there in minutes. Dining: I had not been impressed with Princess’ cuisine on my previous short cruise, and this trip didn’t change my mind on that. However, I appreciate that they have a variety of choices at dinner that are competently prepared and presented: chicken, several fish dishes, sirloin and NY strip. They also have one or two vegetarian options every meal – I tend to notice that since my partner is vegetarian, although I’m not. Their wine list is uninventive, short and moderately priced – bottles of mostly mainstream California wines from $18 to $30 a bottle. There’s nothing creative or challenging about Princess’ food, but it’s also inoffensive for most Americans, who are presumably their target market. We had chosen “Personal Choice” dining, Princess’ version of dine-anytime. Coral Princess has two main dining rooms, and you have the choice of traditional assigned times and tables in the Provence dining room, or dine anytime and anywhere in the Bordeaux. I normally prefer traditional dining on a cruise so you get to know your table-mates and waiters, but I didn’t want to scare Bob away from cruising if we had a bad experience. The ship also has two extra-cost restaurants which we didn’t try given the short trip: Sabatini’s, Princess’ signature Italian restaurant; and Bayou Café, which is a New Orleans style restaurant and bar. Sabatini’s had an interesting menu, and the space looked very elegant. There is a $15 charge for eating there. I’d be happy to try it on a longer cruise. The Bayou Café had a less inspiring menu, but the live jazz trio playing both nights was pretty good, and the $10 charge includes a cocktail. We actually spent some time in the Bayou Café the second evening, and enjoyed the jazz music. Again, I’d be happy to try it on a longer cruise. It was a little noisy with the live jazz and the bar up front, so you might not be able to talk across a table there. We ate both dinners and breakfasts in the Bordeaux dining room, and ended up having the same waitress and assistant waiter each time. After being seated in Ideko’s area for breakfast the first day, she recognized us from the night before and was increasingly warm each time. We did notice that the only tables for two seemed to be in her area, right in the middle of the restaurant. Normally, I would prefer to be seated by the windows and out of the path of the waitstaff, but we appreciated her warmth and good service. I think she’s the first woman I’ve seen as a waiter in a ship’s dining room, so I wish her well. We ate lunch in the Horizon Court (the buffet) on our day at sea. Just as I recalled from the Sun Princess, the layout is bad and causes congestion, as everyone has to enter and exit through the same doors. It wasn’t at all busy when we were there, but even so there was some bumping of trays. Also, there are several food stations in the middle of the floor, which forces the staff to cross the floor with large pans to refill them and take away the empty platters, which further interferes with traffic. The food selection was pretty good for a buffet, including a number of healthy and fresh choices. The seating area is very pleasant, as the Horizon Court fills the entire front of the ship and has floor to ceiling windows that curve all the way around. There’s also a skylight over the middle, raised seating area. The bar stewards circulate with sodas and beer, but no wines, which they can get from the bar. There’s a piano under the skylight for mealtime music. Entertainment: We saw two large production shows during our two-day cruise, “Dance”, in the Princess theater in the front of the ship, and “Tribute” in the Universe Lounge in the back of the ship. Both were a notch above most shipboard stage productions I’ve seen. The Princess theater has good sightlines, but is really just a theater with regular movie theater seating – there’s no balcony, and no cocktail service in your seats. The seats are rather small. The Universe Lounge is an interesting combination of nightclub and theater, with comfortable sofas and chairs with cocktail service, along with a full production stage with video walls, three revolving and hydraulic stage segments, fog machines, etc. As mentioned above, the jazz trio in the Bayou Café was great and was well worth a drink or two while enjoying their music. The Wheelhouse bar is a very comfortable, wood-paneled space with leather furniture and oil paintings of ships and nautical themes that, unfortunately, had an incongruous pop band playing every time we walked through. I would have been happy to relax in the space if not for the band. The Explorers lounge was set up for Karaoke one night, and with a disco later. During the daytime it had the paintings for the art auction displayed. The Crooners bar in the Atrium was a martini bar with a piano player in the evening that was a great spot for a creative martini or glass of champagne. Look for the hula-dancing waiter there. The casino is well laid out and has enough choices that I didn’t mind losing some money there each evening. It doesn’t have that claustrophobic feeling that some shipboard casinos can have. We attended two lectures during our two-day cruise, one on the history of the “great” ocean liners, and another by a naturalist on the great Orca and other whales. The first speaker was very light and general, with slides of ocean liners from the turn of the (last) century until the present accompanied by tidbits and gossip. The second speaker was very technical and detailed, but was very educational. I believe that these speakers were both part of Princess’ new educational programs at sea, which include the Coral Princess’ pottery classes with shipboard kiln, cooking classes, and full lecture series on longer cruises. Exercise: I enjoy working out in the gym on any cruise, and the gym, aerobics room, and spa on the Coral are refreshingly spacious after having been on the Sun Princess. The gym is surrounded by windows, and is equipped with a full set of Cybex selectorized equipment as well as a half-dozen treadmills, elliptical trainers, and four recumbent cycles. The aerobics room is also surrounded by windows and our cruise offered a selection of yoga, step, spinning and stretching classes. The more popular classes (spinning and yoga) had a $10 charge. I was surprised that the locker rooms are small and are completely separate from the gym. The men’s included lockers with two small showers and a steam room. Princess must intend that they be used only by spa-goers, and not by those exercising in the gym. The main swimming pool has several whirlpools around it. There is another small, deep pool at the very back of the ship behind the gym with a glass windscreen and sunning area. There is also a shallow wading pool and sunning area on the very top of the ship forward, above the Horizon Court. There is an enclosed “Conservatory” pool with a sliding glass roof that was heavily used during our trip due to the windy cold weather. However, Princess made no effort to keep children out of this otherwise elegant, restful area that I’m sure would be perfect in Alaska. The ship has a padded running track around the deck above the pool that looked wide enough to allow jogging without fighting with sunseekers. There is a half-basketball court surrounded by a net behind the funnel, and a mini-golf course along with a golf simulator for a charge. Finally, the ship has a full, wrap-around promenade deck that allows circuits of the teak deck in all weather. Layout and Decor: As I noted at the beginning, Princess clearly tries to go with the mainstream, and avoid anything adventurous or daring. That said, the Coral Princess has one of the best layouts I’ve seen on any ship. With the exception of the Horizon Court, there is no space on the ship that feels crowded or cramped. Decks 6 and 7 both have a wide passageway down the starboard side between the Atrium and the Universe Lounge. The passageway is wide enough that it never feels crowded, with windows and seating areas that pass by the two specialty restaurants on Deck 7 and the Casino and Explorer lounge on Deck 6. The Atrium is surrounded by bars and lounges on several decks, including a large and quiet library with a decent selection of books and large leather chairs by the windows. Opposite the library is a good-sized cardroom, also with lots of windows. The internet lounge is at the top of the Atrium, where internet access is 50 cents a minute for those who need to keep in touch while on vacation. Conclusions: The Coral Princess impressed me with her layout and exercise facilities, the level of service of her staff, and the entertainment choices. I was not so impressed by the food and wine selections. I can’t speak to any cabin categories other than the mini-suite we were in. I’d be happy to sail on her again given the right itinerary and price, but I think I’ll feel more comfortable returning to Celebrity for my next cruise (10-day Mexican Riviera on Celebrity Mercury, October 26th). Happy cruising, whichever line and ship you choose!

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Nov 30, -0001

Two Day Coastal Sampler

I have cruised before with Disney on the Wonder in its inaugural season and most recently a week before Thanksgiving 2002' on Royal Caribbean's "Voyager of the Seas." In my opinion there is no better vacation other than cruising, so now I will use any excuse to go when I can get away and in this case I took advantage of being a Mom and took my kids on the newly built Coral Princess for Mother's Day weekend. This was the shortest

cruise I have ever taken, but amazingly was able to experience for the first time the ship itself without shore excursions getting in the way. I affectionately labeled this cruise the Princess again and in fact are looking at cruising to the Mexican Riviera with them next fall.

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Nov 30, -0001

11-day Alaska Cruise/tour

My wife and I traveled with another couple for a 7-day cruise and a 4-day land combination. The 4 of us all had the same ideas at the end of what Princess calls their Tour 1 The northbound cruise from Vancouver with stops at Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway couldn't have been nicer. In Ketchikan, we took the somewhat expensive ($269 ea) Misty Fjords trip and were mesmerized by the beauty we saw. My wife and I felt what we experienced

was worth the money. In Juneau we did the Mendenhal Glacier and Wildlife boat trip, which we thoroughly enjoyed and thought was well worth the cost. After the tour was over, we walked around and saw the Mt. Roberts tram and thought it would be a fun way to kill the afternoon. When we saw the price of the ticket ($22), we almost changed our minds but decided to do it anyway. Were we glad we did! While the view over the harbor was magnificent (and expected) what we had not expected was the view out back. We discovered a nice quiet place to look at the valley and have a pitcher of beer, which is available from the restaurant there. The view was spectacular and the beer cold (a beautiful partnership). In Skagway, we did the White pass Railroad, which we all liked, and then had lunch at the Red Onion Saloon, an ex-bordello with waitresses who played saucy wenches (and rather well, I might add). The cruise then continued for 2 days into Glacier Bay and College Fjord, both of which were magnificent. There were times in each when we just floated, with no engines noticeably propelling us. Floating in front of a 1 1/2 mile wide, 250 ft high glacier, having a drink of the day on your private balcony is not a bad way to spend some time. The food was outstanding; the service excellent; the drinks reasonably priced; a multitude of tours; and a gorgeous new boat--I can't speak about other Alaska cruise lines, but I can't believe anyone could do it any better. There were just no negatives. HOWEVER, the land package left us all disappointed. The first day we spent 8 1/2 hours on a bus getting to the first hotel. Even though we had upgraded to a balcony room on the ship (and our companions had gone for a suite), our rooms looked over the parking lot. "Sorry, can't move you; we're full." The next day we took a jet boat tour because our river float was cancelled after one tipped over during a storm the day we arrived. The ride was fast, fun, and informative. On the next day, we spent a good part of it getting to the hotel between a bus ride, waiting for the train, and a nice train ride. We arrived about 4pm and had the rest of the day to browse. Because we had a tour of the park in the morning, we had to check out and be ready for the bus by 7:55 am. The tour was good; but when we got back to the hotel, we had about 3 hrs to kill and no room. Then we were off to the train again; had dinner on it; viewed lots of tundra, flat lands, and withered trees. By the time we got to our hotel (another parking lot view--"Sorry, can't move you; we're full") and got downstairs for a drink, it was about 10 pm....and we had to up in time for a 5 am transfer to the airport. The long and the short of it is this: the cruise was a HUGE success and worth the money. None of us felt the land part was worth the money, the time necessary in transporting us, nor the hurried pace required. My suggestion would be to skip the land part or take the cruise/tour southbound if you must do that package. Save the best for last. I'd say Princess does an outstanding job with their cruise ships; the logistics required moving people from place to place; and all their employees; but we all thought Princess should not try to squeeze in as much as they do on their Tour 1. I'm sure other tours could've been more restful. Since Princess does not provide information about the travel times necessary in their brochures, however, it is impossible to know about it in advance. Overall, we had a great time and will travel with Princess again, but we would all recommend skipping the land part. Cruise on!

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Nov 30, -0001

Panama Canal

Introduction - This was our first 10 day cruise and our first time to the Panama Canal.  Before she was put into service, Coral Princess experienced a  number of problems.  She had a one month delay in delivery, a very rough crossing and a noticeable roll problem.  In spite of these difficulties Coral Princess proved to be one of the very best cruises, of the 17, that we have taken.  It was the only cruise, in recent memory, where

we didn't encounter any problems.  Neither of us were sick or injured and we returned with everything we set out with.  By all accounts, a glorious cruise on a lovely lady. Ports of Call - Ft. Lauderdale - Nassau - Panama Canal - Limon, Costa Rica - Grand Cayman - Cozumel. Our Review: Our cruise on Coral Princess was in doubt when Princess cancelled the first two sailings.  Suddenly, we were moved up from the forth sailing to the second.  We were carefully watching the bridge cam to see if Coral would leave St. Naizare, France.  Shortly before Christmas she sailed to Ft. Lauderdale for her maiden voyage on January 3, 2003.  We didn't notice any appreciable difference in service or amenities because of the delay.  On the contrary, if we hadn't known of the delay and the rush to put her into service, we would have believed that she had been sailing for years. Our ten day cruise on Coral began a day early when we flew down to Ft. Lauderdale on Delta and stayed at the Sheraton Yankee Clipper Hotel.  We had a good flight and a pleasant stay at the hotel but the weather was unseasonably cool.   On Monday, January 13th we departed for the pier around noon and boarded the ship.   Boarding was a pleasure.  Except for a momentary misplacement of our Passports we boarded quickly.  We opted not to use the Platinum check in desk (there was only one) but instead, went to the Aloha Deck check in.  There were fewer people in that line. After pausing for a welcome aboard photo and a photo for our boarding card we entered through Deck 5, the lower level of the Centrum.  We then took the lift to Deck 12 and found our cabin A623 - a standard outside cabin with a private balcony.  We were upgraded to category BB from the best available outside cabin with balcony.  Although small, the cabin was pleasant enough.  Because the ship is new, everything was sparkling clean.  Oddly, there were not a lot of wardrobe aids.  Except for shelves and clothes rack there were no dressing hooks or belt or tie racks.  The wardrobe was not very well thought out. In our cabin we found a letter from Fleet Medical Director, Dr. Grant Tarling regarding the recent outbreak of Norwalk Like Virus (NLV) aboard other passenger ships.  The letter goes on to explain that Princess meets vessel sanitation standards and explains simple ways to help prevent the spread of disease.  The letter also went on to say that if any passenger experiences symptoms that they should report to the medical center and that there would be no charge for treatment.  To our knowledge, there was no reports of NLV onboard our sailing. The safe was too small.  The knobs on the drawers were flimsy.  One broke off but was quickly fixed the next day.  The balcony was small measuring 4.5 ft. by 9 ft.  It was the most private of balconies.  The balconies below us were visible from above.  Some of them were the mini suite balconies.  They didn't afford any privacy.  As for the mini suites, they were not much larger than our standard outside cabin and in our opinion, were not worth the extra cost.  They had a small couch and two TVs, each side by side facing opposite directions. Shortly after we arrived in our cabin our cabin steward came by and introduced himself.  He was 36 year old Dodo from Bangkok.  We mentioned that we were Platinum Club members and would like to have the use of bathrobes, which he promptly brought.  Dodo would turn out to be one of the best cabin attendants that we have every had.  He was courteous and always happy to provide us with the very best of service. A word about the beds.  They were marginally comfortable with a 4 inch foam mattress on a rip-rap of nylon springs.  The one drawback was that they were too narrow.  They would not have configured well as a double bed.  The pillows were wonderful. The cabin was especially well lit.  A good deal of thought went into the lighting design and switching.  The temperature of the cabin was comfortable and easily controlled.  Everything in the cabin worked except the telephones wakeup call feature.  When we missed a wakeup call we found that the system was not working and had to make arrangements for a wake up call from the purser. We set out to the Horizon Court for a light lunch and made a point to do a mini tour of the public areas while working our way to lunch.  There is nothing about the Coral Princess that made us want to say, "Whoa".  The ship is lovely but there is nothing distinctive about it, unless you count the two jet engines on the funnel which were placed there as a purely decorative feature to tout that the ship is propelled by gas turbine engines.  If you didn't know what ship you were on, you wouldn't know that you were on the Coral.  The interior design is a big yawn - boring and uninspiring.  The absence of artwork was all too evident.  The most boring of the public areas?  The pool deck. The Horizon Court served a typical buffet style breakfast, lunch and dinner.  We ate several breakfasts and most lunches there.  The food was good but the variety was lacking.  The most noticeable of drawbacks was its size.   The serving area was small and always crowded.  The flow of pedestrian traffic resulted in clogged isles.  Bob's favorite was the hot soups and deserts and Hellen's favorite was the sushi, severed on only two days. Outside the Horizon Court on pool deck, deck 14, was the pool bar.  Next to the bar was Princess Pizza.  In all of our encounters with shipboard pizza this was without a doubt the very best pizza that we have had.  It was made fresh, hand tossed, topped with the familiar toppings, baked and served hot.   This was truly a wonderful spot and should please pizza lovers. Following lunch we thought that we should check on our dining room seating.  We wanted to meet with the maitre d¢, Generoso Mazzone, to make sure that we were seated a a round table of eight or more on the main, fixed seating.   We met with the waiter assistant who told us that the maitre d¢ would be available at 5:30 in the Provence Dinning Room.  We met with him and found that we were indeed seated at a large round table right in the middle of the dinning room.  We opted out of Personal Choice dinning in favor of fixed seating.  Personal Choice dinners ate in the Bordeaux dinning room one deck below us.  We were seated at table 158.  Our table mates were two couples from Oregon traveling together and a couple from Manchester, England.  All were older that us.  We had a very pleasant time with them and enjoyed their company.  Our waiter Remus was from Romania.  He was a pleasant enough fellow but his service missed the mark. When we returned to our cabin all of our bags were waiting for us.  We hastily unpacked.  It was a cool day in Ft. Lauderdale so we decided not to go to pool deck for a swim.  After we unpacked, we prepared for the lifeboat drill at 4:30.  Our lifeboat station was the Explorer Lounge.  Shortly after, we sailed from Port Everglades on our way to ten glorious days on Coral Princess. Our first day was a port call at Nassau.  We took a taxi to Atlantis and toured the "Dig", a fanciful interpretation of the Lost City Of Atlantis legend.   We had never been to Atlantis so we wanted to see for ourselves just what everyone was talking about.  It's a beautiful piece of property and we are glad that we went.   Our $25 apiece to tour the Dig would have been better spent elsewhere.  It was not that interesting and certainly not worth the price.  We would recommend a land based taxi over the water taxi.   It's a dollar more per person each way than the water taxi but it's quicker, less crowded, no noxious fumes and drops off at the hotel entrance.  It was a cool day with on and off showers.  Had it been better, we would have headed for the beach but instead we went back to the ship. Back on board we sought out Princess Links for a game of golf.  Well, put-put golf.  Located on Sun Deck (15) this tiny little space offers nine holes of miniature golf.  It was fun and we enjoyed our game.  We promised each other to return again but we never did. Following Nassau we had Wednesday and Thursday at sea while making our way to our second port of call - the Panama Canal.  We used the day to lounge about the pool and start working on our tans.  Coral Princess has a new program called [email protected]  It boasts the only onboard pottery kiln.  Candace Resnick demonstrated the use of the pottery wheel and taught a fellow passenger the art of pot making.  There was a fee to cover the cost of materials. Wednesday night was the first formal night and Captain Philip Pickford's welcome aboard cocktail party.  Captain Pickford did not attend the receiving line but did say a few words about the ship and the future of Princess Cruises midway through the party.   The party was very well done.  We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and came away feeling that we were indeed welcome guests. Following dinner we went to the Princess Theater to see "Da Beat", the first of three production shows.  Introduced by cruise director, Paul O'Loughlin, the show was nonstop high energy singing and dancing.  Good but not great.  We would later enjoy the production show "Dance" much more.  The third show, "Tribute, Tribute, Tribute", premiered Wednesday, January 22nd in the Universe Lounge.  It was the best of all.  Following "Da Beat" we were then rip roaringly entertained by funny man Bill Acosta in the Universe Lounge.  We don't remember laughing so hard.  All of the shows were backed by the Princess Orchestra under the direction of Gordon Hough.  They were perhaps the finest shipboard orchestra that we have every heard. By Thursday (a day at sea) we were well on our way to improving our tans.  Hellen used the morning to attend the Brain Waves Quiz, the culinary demonstration and the skin care clinic.  Bob spent the better part of the day at poolside.  We watched as Patricio Balquiedra turned a block ice into a noble bald eagle.  At 2:00 the pool games began.  Hellen volunteered to be one of three judges.  She was given a gold medal, a pen that lights up and a travel clock.  She had a fun time judging the contestants. Jay Johnson of the TV show "Soap" performed in the Princess Theater.  We had seen Mr. Johnson before on another cruise.  Much of his show was what we had already seen.  Following his show we went to the Universe Lounge to see Comedian Rick Starr.  That evening we left a wake up call on the auto phone for 5:30 in order to be out on deck early enough to watch as we entered the Panama Canal.  We also ordered coffee.  The room service menu didn't allow for service before 7:30 AM but we penciled in 5:30 and sure enough, our coffee arrived on time unlike our wake up call which never arrived.  After checking with customer services we were told the system was not working. As we awoke Friday morning we first went out onto our deck to see if we were near the canal.  As it were, two pilot boats were along side.  We hastily finished our coffee, dressed and went up on deck to stake out our spot to view our entry into the canal.  We feared that we might be too late for a good vantage point but we weren't.   We entered the locks of the canal around 6:30.  A member of the Panama Canal Commission could be heard over the loudspeaker giving a narrative of the canal and our position in it.  After about an hour, we retreated to the Horizon Court for breakfast and by way of a window seat continued to observe our passage through the locks.   We were booked on the Grand Tour of Panama.  By now, Coral Princess was in Gatun Lake.  The weather was warm and sunny.  We disembarked Coral by way of tender and arrived at a nearby pier where we boarded a bus for the observation platform adjacent to the canal.  We were treated to a fascinating narrative about the canal as we watched the container ship, Yong Tai from Hong Kong pass through the canal.  After this stop, we boarded our bus for a brief trip to The Hotel of the Americas, our jumping off point to our boat ride on Gatun Lake to the Embera Indian fishing village.  This reenactment of Embera life gave us insight into their culture and way of life.  It was especially enjoyable for us.  One of the highlights of our cruise. Coral Princess was Christened at 12:30 this afternoon by the president of Panama, Her Excellency Mireya Moscoso.  We knew that by taking the tour we would miss the Christening but was pleasantly surprised when we returned back to the ship.  As we boarded, we noticed a large crowd gathered at the bottom of the gangway.  We inquired and discovered that they were waiting for President Moscoso to disembark.  We went on board and stationed ourselves at the bottom of the stairs that let up to the Centrum decks.  Shortly, Madam President made her way down the stairs and right past our position.  Hellen said to her, "hello Madame President", at which she replied, "Enjoy your cruise".Before dinner that evening we stopped by the Internet Cafe on Deck 8 to check our e-mail.  The cafe proved to be a very useful tool to get e-mail out to family and friends.  The service was reliable and reasonably fast.  There was always a seat at one of the dozen or so terminals.  The cost was $.50 a minute.  An advantage of being Captain's Circle Platinum Club members meant that we were able to use the cafe free of charge.  Each day our charges for the service were deducted from our shipboard account. Following dinner we went to the theater to catch Kenny James, a Star Search grand champion.  He was entertaining and talented.  Following the show we took up our favorite spot in the Crooner's Lounge and was happily entertained by resident crooner, Jere Ring.  Sitting down with Jere was a nightly ritual.  No one would ever accuse Jere of being bashful.  He was a hoot.  It was here that we got to meet and know Rita and Mel.  Jere looks a lot like Dennis Quaid.  When we saw Jere the next morning in the lift I asked him if anyone ever mentioned that Dennis Quaid bears a striking resemblance to him.  He was caught off guard.  He laughed at my observation and the way I phrased the question. At dinner that evening we learned that our Costa Rican Adventure tour had been cancelled.  The aerial tram was out of service.  We hastily beat a path to the shore excursion desk and booked a 7:15 tour to Tortuguero Canal known as the Amazon of Costa Rica.  It was a fascinating trip down the canal.  As our boat made its way down the river we discovered howler monkeys, sloths, birds of all sorts and a crocodile.  It was an exciting tour.  We were blessed to get the first tour as we were told that by the time the river gets saturated with boats, much of the wildlife retreats into the jungle. Coral sailed at 6:30 that evening but before leaving, we shopped in the market on the pier in Limon.  We learned that Limon is Spanish for lemon.  Something about a group of men gathering at the lemon tree for midday drinking.  The town that grew up around the tree was called Limon. A word about the food and service in the Provence Dining Room.  We found the food to be excellently prepared.  It was tasty, served hot and we were offered a good variety of choices.  If you love fish, you will love the menu on the Coral Princess.  In addition to the nightly selections, sirloin steak, broiled salmon, chicken breast and fettuccini may be ordered anytime.  The deserts were outstanding but the choice limited to three.  At least three ice creams were on the menu.  New York style cheese cake, Princess Dream, ice cream sundaes, sugar free deserts and fruit could be ordered anytime.  Executive Chef Michele Cossoli from Lago D'lseo, Italy has done a marvelous job with the food on Coral Princess.  Except for the beef, we could find nothing wrong with the taste or presentation.  Michele's specialty, cold water lobster (Maine lobster). The service at our table was not up to par.  Our waiter, Remus from Romania, was friendly enough but had trouble remembering everyone's order.  He mixed them up more than once.  Wine and water glasses sat empty a good deal of the time and on most nights, we were the last to leave the dinning room.  Another fault of our waiter was that he sometimes would let his assistant present the entrées.  We've never had this happen before.  It's always been the waiter who serves the dinner.  The dinning room captain, who served our section, was nearly invisible.  It's been our experience that the captain makes his presence known early on and then assists with such chores as removing the shell from the shrimp or lobster.  Our waiter was tasked with this job.   We also learned  that punishment for being late for work or for not performing up to standard meant banishment to the Horizon Court for the breakfast meal.  We saw our waiter there more often than we cared to. One night, we opted to go to the alternative restaurant - Sabatini's.  It was nice but we were plied with too much food.  The dinner was leisurely enough (2 and 1/2 hours) but we had hoped that we could escape the hubbub of the dinning room.  Unfortunately, we just exchange one set of hubbub for another.  The only two choices were the entree and the desert.  Bob had the lobster and Hellen the capon.  All of the other courses came to the table on cue - each waiter responsible for his own course.  Oddly, there didn't seem to be a lot of traditional Italian dishes.  At $15 each we felt that we got good value for our dollar but would only recommend Sabatini's with caution.  The food was nice but not great.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  We had heard that the better of the alternative restaurants was the Bayou Cafe.  We didn't go but talked with folks who did.  Go for lunch, drinks are included. Following dinner we made our way to the the Universe Lounge for the comedy of Steven Scott.  He was good but not great.  After the show it was island night deck party.  We were so tired from the day's activities that we passed on the limbo and conga line. Sunday was a day at sea.  We were heading for Grand Cayman.  The weather was poor - cloudy and cool so following Mass I used the time to video tape the ship and shoot some digital pictures.  Hellen went to Kitty Bartholomew's mosaic class.  Ms. Bartholomew is known for her show on Home & Garden TV.  Hellen is a fan and enjoyed the presentation and a chance to pose for a picture with Ms. Bartholomew. As Captain's Circle members with Platinum Club status we were invited by Captain Pickford to a special luncheon held in our honor.  We arrived a few minutes after 12:30 in the Provence Dinning Room and was greeted by Nicky, the Captain's Circle hostess.  We were seated with two couples and Richard from the purser's department.  One couple was from England and were on their 34th Princess cruise.  The other couple, he a golfer and she a scuba diver were on their 6th Princess cruise.  All in all about 30 Platinum Club members were in attendance.   We were given cocktails before lunch.  The luncheon of Potpourri of Seafood Cinderella, Medallions of Fresh North Sea Halibut and a Princess Fantasy Delight were masterfully prepared by Chef Cozzoli.  A ship's photographer took a group picture of our table and following lunch, we were presented with the picture, signed by the captain, chef and other members of the ship's crew.  A very nice surprise and a treasured memento. Because the weather was bad, we retreated to the comfort of the Lotus Pool.  This pool has a retractable roof and the pool area is air conditioned.  The roof was closed due to the poor weather.  Both pools on Coral are fresh water but only the Lotus Pool is heated.  One of the hot tubs in the Lotus Pool area had an annoying way of "stinging" the legs with scalding hot water.  Midway through the cruise we noticed that the jets for this pool had been shut off. Captain Pickford had his wife and three children on board.  Their two boys, roughly ages 8 and 10 were frequent visitors to the Lotus Pool.  This day was no exception as the two redheaded lads were having a swim with their father and mother.    Knowing that the captain wished to spend some personal time with his family we and others didn't make a point to notice the captain thereby affording him the privacy that they were seeking. A major problem with Coral Princess is its propensity to roll, that is rock from side to side.  This is most evident in the Lotus Pool.  The sea was rough this day and deck attendants had their hands full trying to contain the water that was splashing out of the pool.  The squeegees and water vacs were constantly trying to dry up the water.  A section of the floor in front of the bar was closed off due to the excessive water on the deck.  So bad was this problem that water was overflowing the deck and running down the side of the ship to the decks below.  A major problem.   Hellen became ill from the ship's movement.  She went to dinner but ate only crackers, apples and ginger tea.  The chef was kind enough to mince some ginger which Hellen put in her tea.  It saved the day. The show in the Princess Theater that evening was the second production show, "Dance".  Starring Laurie Miller, Doug Crawford, Deneice Tame, and Scott Chamberlain "Dance" featured the aerial artistry of Anna & Rick.  The Princess Dancers were outstanding.  We really enjoyed this show very much.   After the show we went to the Crooner's Bar but found that Jere was no longer entertaining there.  He had left the ship on Saturday.  It wasn't the same without him. Grand Cayman had received 30 inches of rain the day before we arrived.  As a consequence, we were unable to anchor in South West Sound.  The sea conditions were not favorable for tendering so Coral made her way to the leeward side of the island.  We weren't sure if we would be able to tender from there.  I had a scuba excursion booked and Hellen was going in to Georgetown for some shopping.  I went to the Princess Theater, the staging area for shore excursions, and waited to be called.   While I was waiting it was announced that my excursion had been cancelled due to bad weather.  I returned to the cabin.  We then decided to take the tender to shore and see if we could arrange for an island tour.  Once ashore, we hooked up with Mr. Shirley Delbert and his ten passenger van.  For $20 each he took us on the grand tour.  We had been to Grand Cayman many times in the past but we have always missed the Turtle Farm, the rum cake factory and Hell.  Not this time.  We had a nice tour and it helped to salvage the day.   We ran into an old friend - Royal Caribbean's Nordic Empress.  We sailed her in 1991. Coral sailed for Cozumel at 3:00 so we were back on board early.  It was formal night and the repeat passenger's cocktail party - The Captain's Circle.  Captain Pickford was absent from the party but Staff Captain Alan Wilson represented the captain.   It was a nicely done affair.  Plenty to drink and good company.  It has been our experience that Princess takes good care of its repeat passengers and this night was no exception.  It was especially nice when Hellen's name was called as one of the three door prize winners - a bottle of Champaign.  We brought the bottle to the dinner table and our waiter served it to our table mates. We went to the Universe Lounge to see Ed Alonzo of the TV show "Saved by the Bell".  He was performing a comedic magic show.  Not funny and his magic was uninspired.  He grossed out the audience when he sliced his arm with a knife.   After the show, we went to the Explorer's Lounge for a nightcap and then to bed. The weather in Cozumel was beautiful - warm and sunny.  When we were approaching San Miguel we noticed that the ship wasn't head for the International Pier or the Puerta Mayo Pier but rather it was headed in a downtown direction.  It turned out that we were berthed at Punta Langosta Pier.  This is a new pier for us, not having visited Cozumel in over two years.  It was very conveniently located with the Punta Langosta Mall across the street. We had booked the Swim With The Dolphin excursion at Chankanaab Park.  In a word - wonderful.  We had so much fun swimming with Triton and Titan, two male dolphins.   This was the highlight of our cruise.  Following the dolphin swim Hellen stayed on at Chankanaab while I took a taxi back to the ship's pier for a scuba excursion.   I arrived early.  Three other divers showed up for the tour and soon we were in taxis headed for the Sand Dollar dive shop just off of the Palancar Reef.  The last time I was in Cozumel I dove with this operator from the same boat - Roman Holiday.   The dive was great.  A two tank dive to the Columbia and Santa Rosa reefs.   It doesn't get much better than that.  After the dive I returned to the ship and made it just in time to shower and dress for dinner. Following dinner we went to see the comic Marty Allen of the Allen and Rossi comedy team that I grew up with.  I remember them from the Ed Sullivan show.  Marty was now performing with his wife, Karon Kate Blackwell a song stylist and pianist.  She was terrific.  Marty's act was stuck in a time warp - circa 1960 but he was still funny. Wednesday was our last day of the cruise before disembarking in Ft. Lauderdale on Thursday.  It was a day at sea so we made the most of it.  In the morning I made a walk-a-round with my cameras and Hellen began packing.  After lunch we spent the afternoon pool side trying to get the last of the sun and polish off our tans.  We watched the pool games and listened to Sugar Cane, the pool band.  At 4:00 we made our way down to our cabin and finished packing. We spent the evening at dinner taking pictures of our table mates, exchanging addresses and enjoying that last of our delicious meals in the Provence Dinning Room.  After dinner we went to the Universe Lounge for the show "Tribute, Tribute, Tribute".   We were the first passengers to see this show.  The producer and choreographer were in attendance and following the performance, were called to the stage by Cruise Director, Paul O'Loughlin to take the audience's applause.  It was a wonderful show and the staging was magnificent.  After the show we went back to our cabin to finish packing and to put our bags out in the hall. Well, it finally arrived, our disembarkation day.  We were sad to leave.  It was such a wonderful cruise.  We had a great time.  One of our very best.   We had an early flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Boston so we got our breakfast early in the Horizon Court.  We had red tickets for early disembarkation.  Rather than wait in the Platinum Club lounge in the aft of the ship we opted to spend the waiting moments in the dinning room.  We had coffee while we waited.  We were the first called, around 8:45.  We went to the baggage claim area in the terminal, collected our bags and made our way out onto the street and took a taxi to the airport.  $10 cab fare plus tip.  We arrived at the airport in plenty of time for our flight to Boston.  We checked in at the e-ticket kiosk and were told that our bags were headed for the inspectors.  When we got home we found that one of our bags was opened for inspection.  On our flight down, we didn't lock our bags but secured them with plastic ties used to bundle wire. Summary - Our Cruise aboard the brand new Coral Princess was probably one of the best cruises we've had.  There is nothing about Coral that catches the eye or the imagination but the service and helpful staff more than make up for any shortcomings in the ship's stale design and ordinary decor.  We were royally entertained by the ship's bands and production team.  The shows were great.  We met some nice people and that made our enjoyment of the cruise more delightful than it otherwise would have been.  The Panama Canal was special because it was a new port call for us and it was the occasion of the ship's Christening.  We will always have the memory of being onboard when Coral was christened.  Costa Rica was new too us as well.  It's a beautiful country with a marvelous eco-system of rain forest and rivers. The weather could have been better but it wasn't.  Nassau and Grand Cayman were cold, cloudy and rainy but that didn't detract from our enjoyment of the other fine days we had.  We would happily recommend the Coral Princess.  We would go again if we could.  What impressed us the most was that even though she was delivered late by the shipbuilder, everything was in place and worked well.  There was a genuine cohesiveness about the crew that made it appear that they had been serving aboard Coral for a lot longer than they had.  Except for the excessive roll, there is really nothing bad that we can say about Coral Princess.  We enjoyed our cruise and if you choose to sail Coral Princess we hope that you will enjoy her as much as we did. Bon Voyage! Bob & Hellen Hersey Portsmouth, New Hampshire Our Photos - Coral Princess Photos At Yahoo - Rankings - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly The Good - Platinum Club benefits, friendly staff, excellent cabin steward, delicious pizza and ports of call. The Bad - excessive roll, pool deck ambiance, dining room waiter and narrow beds. The Ugly - There really wasn't much to describe as ugly on Coral Princess.  An all time first for us. Overall Rating -     * * * * Seamanship and safety of the vessel: * * * * Sanitation * * * Food Service In The Dining Room * * Food Quality In The Dining Room * * * * Food Variety In The Dining Room * * * Food Service In The Horizon Court * * * Food Quality In The Horizon Court * * * * Food Variety In The Horizon Court * * Stateroom Amenities * * * * Stateroom Comfort * * * * Stateroom Attendant * * * * * Room Service * * * * Production Entertainment * * * * Headliner Entertainment * * * Show Band * * * * * Pool Band * * Lounge Entertainers * * * Cruise Director * * * * Cruise Staff * * * * Ports of Call * * * * * Shore Excursions * * * * Meet and Greet - N/A Reservations * * * * - Rating Schedule - * Poor ** Fair *** Good **** Excellent ***** Outstanding - Ship Facts - Operated By: P&O Princess Cruises, Los Angeles Port Of Registry: Hamilton, Bermuda Official Number: 733720 IMO Number: 9229659 Call Sign: ZCDF4 Classification Society: Lloyd's Register of Shipping, London Class Notation: A1 Passenger Ship 91,627  Gross Tons. 53,394  Net Registered Tons. 964.3 Ft. Ship Length. Moulded Breadth: 105.6 Ft. Total Breadth (Wings): 126 Ft. Total Height Above Keel: 203.4 Ft. 2292 person, double occupancy cabins. 2 dining rooms. International Crew: 981 persons Propulsion Type: 2 Synchronous Electric Motors Diesel Engines: 2 Diesel Electric Wartsila 16V 46C Output of Main Engines: 40,000 kW Manufacturer of Main Engines: Wartsila N.S.D. Italia S.p.A Thrusters: 3 Bow Rolls Royce                 3 Stern Rolls Royce Propellers: 2 Fixed Pitch, Six Blades Rudders: 2 Semi-Balanced Splade Rudders Stabilizers: 2 ACH Engineering Fuel Capacity: 1938 t (Heavy Fuel Oil)                         1786 t (Marine Gas Oil) Fresh Water Capacity: 2199 t Cruising Speed: 21.5 Knots Maximum Speed: 23.4 Knots Built By: Chantiers de L'Atlantique, Shipyard of St. Naizare, France Year Built: 2002 Inaugural Sailing: January 3, 2003 Christening Date: January 17, 2003 Godmother: Her Excellency Mireya Moscoso, President of Panama

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Nov 30, -0001

Panama Canal

Hi everyone, I’m back from my Coral Princess Panama Canal cruise, 12/28 to 01/07, that I took with my daughter, son and daughter-in-law. We had a blast. To begin we were on Baja Deck 519 and my son was next to us in their cabin. They did open the partitions on the balcony which was great. The cabin was spacious and beautiful with more than enough storage for

two women however I wish the shower was larger, if you dropped the soap you would without a doubt bang your head on the wall. It was like showering in a locker the real trick was leaning on the wall to shave your legs. It was quit comical. The only downfall to the cabin was the wind if you had the sliding door open it was like a wind tunnel if you opened the cabin door every thing would blow all over the room and the wind constantly whistled through the cabin. One other thing was there was a drain pipe on the balcony and it would flush very loudly occasionally or just trickle with water all the time. The food in the Province Dining Room was outstanding (the desserts were not). Our waiter Miguel from Mexico and his assistant Nikusur from Romania were adorable and entertained us every night. If I went to order something and Miguel’s eyes didn’t sparkle I knew better than to order it. Against all of your advice here we did present them with NYC tee shirts and they were so happy and pleased. We were talking to Nikusur and Miguel came up to us all out of breath and we joked that he was doing all the work while Nikusur was just talking to us but what Miguel had done was run down to his cabin and presented me with a beautiful hand painted ceramic trinket box to show his appreciation. He said he had been cruising for 14 years and it was the first gift he had every got and was extremely appreciative. We also tipped above the automatic deduction. I did not use the tee shirts as tips so please don’t complain. We also presented a tee shirt to Jose who took care of our cabin and he too was grateful. He said he used to do the NYC to Bermuda cruise and always meant to get a tee shirt but never did and now he would have one. He was so smitten with my daughter he would put two chocolates on her pillow every night. The food at the Horizon Court left a lot to be desired but the desserts were better. Pizza and hamburgers were great and so was the ice cream bar. We did also have a large breakout of Norwalk Virus. 50 plus people came down with it and by the next morning the count was up to 60ish and by the end of the cruise it was up to 90 something. Upon entering the buffet or dining rooms you had to use an antiseptic wash on your hands and there was no longer any self service in the buffet you were not allowed to touch anything. Ship rails were wiped down constantly to sanitize them. The people infected were quarantined in their cabins. The last 3 nights of the cruise we were not allowed to have the bread basket on our table so we were not even allowed to touch the baskets. And they stated that the next cruise was also going to be the same absolutely no self service. The cruise was pretty rough with 12 foot waves and extremely high winds. My bed would vibrate and shake all night long on the windy days. One day they had to close the pool because the water was being battered from one end to the other. And speaking of the pools twice they had to be shut down and drained because some thoughtless parent allowed their darling child in the pool and they had left floating specimens. And we wonder how the virus gets started. Now for the ports – Limon is so poor and dirty – the market by the ship had a lot of interesting things for sale. We did the Flores Tropical Garden tour it was pretty nice at the end everyone was presented with a beautiful bouquet of native plants, we were also treated to a road side stop of baby bananas that were out of this world. New Years Eve was exciting the inside was filled to capacity with people on the stairs and halls waiting for the balloon drop at midnight. Some people had gotten in the glass enclosed elevators and just rode them up and down until midnight. On the deck they had another party and they wanted to have a huge streamer throw at midnight but once the kids found the boxes of streamers well lets just say they were all tossed before midnight. And there was a huge downpour but it didn’t really bother the dancers they only left the floor for about 5 minutes and just went back out and danced in the rain. After midnight we retired because it was early call the next day for the Panama Canal. The Panama Canal was of course outstanding – I managed to be right in the front of the ship to watch everything while my children went all around the ship to experience it at different places. I really don’t think the experience would be the same from your balcony. Because you would miss the narrative and could not possibly appreciate it as much. We did the Lock tour and ego cruise which I don’t think was really worth it all though the Chagris River is gorgeous. The actual town of Colon where the ship is docked is very dirty and poor just like Limon. The market place has a lot of interesting things. My son and his wife did the Emberia Indian tour and absolutely raved about it. Grand Cayman is still pretty devastated from the hurricane. You can see all the houses getting new roofs and our tour guide said that the locals that lost everything were given help and new furniture and appliances to get them back on their feet. One local I talked to said he still didn’t have electricity. We did the submarine, rum cake factory, turtle farm and hell tour they were interesting. The sub was the best. Then we got a cab for $3 and my daughter and I went to 7 mile beach for a couple of hours. The beach is gorgeous and the sand is incredible. Next we were off to Cozumel – I loved it there. We did the Passion Island tour which I would say just find a cab and ask to go the beach because it was over an hour ride there so you only had 2 hours on the beach and to eat lunch. When we got back to town we just walked forever up and down streets and came across a beautiful market place. We didn’t make Senor Frogs but my son did and he could not believe what a party place it was he said it was wild. We had to leave Cozumel way too soon. The ship was delayed for an hour leaving because some passengers just couldn’t seem to make it back. So we were late the next morning docking at Belize. Belize was ok I just did the port nothing exciting for me. My daughter did the Mayan Ruins and lunch at a hotel and she loved every minute of it. My son and his wife took a water taxi for what they thought was a 5 minute ride to the beach and it was actually a speed boat to some island that took forever to get there and then it rained. They weren’t happy about that but they said the speed boat ride was crazy. We experienced rude and pleasant passengers. One teenager wanted a deck chair and the only one left was broken and he screamed at the deck attendant that “you work for me and just get me a chair.” We had a couple at the next table who were waited on hand and foot by our waiters so they could be in and out quickly. They had complained that the little light over their table was out so they walked in on the second formal night and the grumpy passenger said they were not going to sit down until the light was fixed. So there was our Miguel up on a chair trying to get a light bulb out of another socket to give them light. He couldn’t get the light bulb out so the couple stormed out. We got their bread, butter and their candle so we were happy they left. The next table was extremely rude to Miguel to the point he hated them. One of the young girls was always late and expected to be caught up on the courses so she could eat with the rest and they would keep him in the dining room until after 11pm. On the last night they want to have two more people join their table and their really wasn’t any room so they were not very pleasant. Overall the other passengers were just wonderful human beings and we enjoyed talking to them. That was our wonderful cruise – I hope you all enjoy reading it.

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Nov 30, -0001

UNKNOWN

SailingDate: July 17th, 2006 This was our first cruise (in celebration of our 20th wedding anniversary), so I cannot compare this to others cruises. All I can say is that we must have lucked out – the cruise was spectacular from start to finish. We flew from the east coast (Providence, RI) to Vancouver the day before the cruise left. In retrospect, it would have been better to go 2 days before the cruise. Vancouver is a wonderful

city and we did not have enough time to enjoy it. Embarkation went smooth as silk. I was worried about this, having read many horror stories about waits. We literally walked on without any long waits and were in our cabin by 11:30am. We were eating in the Horizon Café by noon. The Horizon Café is amazing – this is the buffet restaurant that runs basically 24/7. I think they might shut down for a couple of hours (3am to 5am) to clean and re-stock. Cabin - our cabin was what we expected. We had a balcony cabin on the starboard side of the ship (Aloha 627). I highly recommend a balcony cabin for an Alaskan cruise – so much to see. The starboard side was particularly attractive on the northbound cruise. The location of the cabin was perfect for us. Even though the cabin was near the Kid’s Center, noise was never an issue. We were one deck below the exercise room and spa, both of which we used frequently. Our cabin steward (Pramote) was pleasant and very accommodating. Dining – we chose the standard assigned seating option. I realize that there are advantages to both the “anytime” dining and the assigned seating. However, we thoroughly enjoyed the 8:00pm seating. It provided a little structure to our day and it was a pleasure having the same two waiters every night. They were both great and by mid-week they knew what we liked to drink and would have it on the table right after we sat down. Also, we were fortunate that the two other couples that we dined with were great company. The food was excellent. The menu varied every night, yet there were always 4 or 5 standard items that you get anytime. The king crab legs they served on Alaskan night were incredible. We always ate breakfast in the Horizon Café. It was amazing – this buffet had everything you could ask for and more. Because we were so stuffed from breakfast, we only ate lunch twice, but the options were plentiful in a variety of restaurants. What we did do every day was go to the Horizon Café around 5pm to get “munchies” to bring back to the cabin. They always had assorted cheeses, crackers, and cut vegetables out at that time – this made for a great cocktail hour with a bottle of wine on the balcony while cruising past snow-capped mountains. On the last night we opted for Sabattini’s – the Italian themed restaurant with a $20 surcharge – very unique experience, definitely worth the extra $20. Excursions – you can spend a ton of money or nothing on excursions. Any excursions that you book through the cruise ship tend to be more expensive. Make your life easier – book all excursions before you leave home. If you are willing to do a little internet surfing, you can probably get more “bang for your buck” by booking independently. We did a little of everything. In Ketchican, we opted for the rain forest wildlife canopy zip line trip. It was more of a thrill adventure than a wildlife experience and quite pricey ($155pp booked through Princess). If you are not bothered by heights, it is definitely a good adrenalin rush. In Juneau, we booked a whale watch/Mendenhall glacier trip with Orca Enterprises (Captain Larry). This was a good move. It was cheaper, smaller, and more personal than the cruise line offerings for the same. TIP: Juneau has the best shopping by far - great stores with lots of options. You will find that the prices go down the further away you get from the docks – be patient! The Red Dog Saloon is also a must for a beer or two. In Skagway, we rented a car for $80 and drove through White Pass into the Yukon. We went a little further than Carcross to Emerald Lake – a beautiful lake that gets its’ name from the colored reflection of the calcium carbonate within. The scenery was awesome along the way and we could stop whenever we wanted on the numerous lookouts along the road. Glacier Bay and College Fjord – sit back with your camera, a good drink and watch and listen. We had a great naturalist on board who frequently spoke over the public address system about the glaciers, the environment, and the history of the area. Entertainment – remember, you are on a cruise ship in the Gulf of Alaska, not mid-town Manhattan. Do not expect award winning Broadway revues and you will be satisfied. Of the seven nights, we went to 4 or 5 the shows. The variety was good; the energy level and enthusiasm of the entertainers was higher than what I was expecting, so I was quite pleased. Lounges – plenty of them and never very crowded. I will say that Crooners Lounge has the most incredible martini options. I highly recommend this watering hole before or after dinner. Miscellaneous: • There were 1900 passengers on the ship and not once did I feel a sense of being in a crowd. • The ship is big with lots of options – see the “Princess Patter” every day. • If you are into working out, try the spinning classes (only $10) – a good way to burn off all those extra calories from the dining areas. • We also did a couples massage in the Lotus Spa once – talk about being pampered!! • They do a lot of picture taking, but there is no pressure to buy. • The chocolate desert buffet at the last lunch was incredible. • Money saver - they let us bring 1 bottle of wine pp on the ship from the ports of call. • Tips are automatically added to your account, but we gave our waiters and cabin steward a little extra because we felt they deserved it. Disembarkation – was a piece of cake for us. We had independent travel plans, so we could leave whenever – no wait. Thank you Princess – it was superb!  

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Nov 30, -0001

UNKNOWN

SailingDate: May 3rd, 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 protected] Please put Coral Princess in the subject or the email may get deleted.  

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Nov 30, -0001

Panama Canal

Don and Veronica Taylor Calgary, Alberta 10 previous cruises on various ships including Radisson Diamond, RCCI, Carnival, Holland America, Costa, and this was our third Princess cruise. OVERVIEW: Getting there: It takes a long time to get to Ft. Lauderdale from Calgary and when we decided to book directly though

Princess Cruises, we felt we would have the Company on our side. We dealt with several friendly and knowledgeable reservationists and one very unhappy soul who actually insulted me. I did suggest to Princess that perhaps this type of approach was not high on their list of hiring criteria but to date, we have received no response to further investigate and so it just affirms our decision in the future to perhaps try a competitor. Our request was simple….please provide us with the most direct, non-stop flight to Ft. Lauderdale that is in any airline’s system. This particular person told me outright, that we had picked the ‘cheapest’ routing and that convenience had nothing to do with it. My husband is a heart patient; convenience has everything to do with it. The Company has not responded to my inquiry. After a full day’s journey through Toronto and then on to Ft. Lauderdale, we finally arrived and were met by a Princess representative who directed us to collect our luggage and then we were all to meet at the far end of the terminal….and wait for another 30 minutes. Then we physically schlepped our luggage outside, across the street and were to wait another 20 minutes before the bus finally arrived – with 6 passengers already onboard who were going to the Westin and we were going to the Sheraton Suites. And these passengers in the front seats got on where???? The bus also took them to the Westin first…..and then we were taken to the Sheraton afterwards…why? There were only 6 of them and several of us. Room was clean and we quickly deposited our luggage and went next door to Benigan’s for fabulous crab cakes, Asian salad and unheard of for us Canadians; beer was 2 for 1. After breakfast the next morning just down the street at Moonlight Café which serves oversized versions of everything, we had the hotel concierge drive us to ‘Publix’ where we bought several bottles of wine, macadamia nuts, etc., to take onboard. There were no problems taking this onboard in our luggage. However, if you forget to bring a wine opener, Princess has none in the cabins regardless they have wine glasses. You can buy one onboard for more than it’s worth, however after tipping a steward to come to our room to open a bottle, we decided to ask our cabin steward to open a bottle in the mornings when we knew we’d be enjoying a glass of wine or two. Problem solved. CABIN: Check-in at the ship was uneventful and we were shown directly to our cabin D328. The cabin itself was lovely. Lots of storage, large bathroom with tub/shower, queen size bed with television and then a sitting area with a sofabed and another television. Then on to the balcony and a table and 2 chairs seating area. But, oh my, NO PRIVACY. I know we’re not supposed to write anything with capital letters, but THERE IS NO PRIVACY. Please, I implore any of you thinking about sailing with the Coral Princess…..DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY ON A MINI-SUITE OR BALCONY! I’m sure the other patrons laughed and laughed and laughed at the foolishness of those of us who paid mega bucks in purchasing a mini-suite only to have every single person above us look down and point fingers at how thankful they were that they didn’t waste their money! To step out on your deck, you had to be fully dressed and smile and wave at those above you ….several decks, in fact….and they’re all waving and smiling back, while they retreat into their own private cabins ABOVE you…and everyone can see what you’re doing. EVERYONE. And at a much lesser rate. Princess nicely avoids disclosure of how non-private these cabins are. They sell these cabins by telling the consumer that they will ‘get more sun.’ We had asked Princess representatives about these decks as the brochure outline was confusing. We were assured there was ‘lots of privacy’ and even put us on hold to double check. Couldn’t find an answer in Cruise Reviews or Cruise Critics, so we booked based on the assurance from Princess representatives. FOOD: The food was okay; not great, just okay. The Horizon Court had a lovely variety and we ate there daily bypassing the dining room for breakfast and lunch. With 10 days at sea, I personally had seafood in some form – 9 days, and all of it was deliciously prepared/presented. There were a variety of pizzas fresh out of the oven on one of the decks and on another deck there were hamburgers and grilled chicken burgers along with fries, salads, etc., and a variety of drinks. I truly do not understand why one has to pay additional for ice cream, pop, or specialty coffees. One evening we joined friends at the much touted ‘Sabatini’s’ and it was everything we anticipated. For $20 per person (however, it is $2 for a bottle of Perrier; and the cheapest wine is $49/bottle and there are no simple glasses of wine), the food was more than plentiful. Mussels, caviar, artichokes, cioppino, salad and finally the entrée, which was a complete and full entrée of either lobster, chicken, veal chops, beef tenderloin or Chilean sea bass. ‘Way too much food but it was fabulous. We did not try the other specialty restaurant serving alligator, etc., and spoke with some folks who did. They were not impressed with the food and said they had been approached by someone promoting the restaurant. This Bayou restaurant was not busy and perhaps it needed promoting due to what appeared to be a very successful Sabatini’s. ENTERTAINMENT: The Princess performers were among the best we’ve seen at sea. They were multi-talented and so very entertaining. The worst was a faux comedian/guitar player who relied on insulting the audience and appeared surprised at his minimal response. And these entertainers get their cruise free. Previously, on a Dawn Princess cruise, we were subjected to a woman who was such a joke in her presentation of ‘business practices’ that I’m sure everyone in the audience complained. But her cruise was free. However, it was pleasant, after a full day in the sun, to get a glass of wine and go to the Princess Theater to see a first run movie of ‘Ray’ or ‘Being Julia’ etc., and beside every seat was a little tray you could rest your drink upon. We visited the Casino rarely but deposited the obligatory few dollars in the slot machines and moved on. The ‘Island Night’ was filled with dancing, great food, games, fun and the weather was fabulous. Strolling the deck in the late evening was delightful with the sound of the sea and a sky filled with stars. We were pleased with the cleanliness of the ship – everywhere. The wine and cocktails onboard are very pricey. If this is indicative of duty-free, then it’s right up there with the very expensive sodas that are so overpriced. Additionally, there is a tip included in every drink whether you enjoyed their service or not. Speaking with an employee I was told one of the best jobs was to be a cabin steward which is understood by the amount you are ‘encouraged’ to tip at the end of your journey. TOURS: First tour was Costa Rica and our tour guide was Jorge who was studying for his Masters Degree in Biology and was a wealth of information. We saw sloths, crocodiles, howler monkeys and lots of birds. Next was Panama Canal and while we had made no previous arrangements, there are several tours you can book at the last moment on Princess. When we discovered that you could not leave the ship when it transited the Canal unless you had a tour booked, that was our incentive to book immediately. No difficulties. We thoroughly enjoyed a visit to old Panama City and saw unforgettable sights. Next stop was Grand Cayman and took the tour out to Stingray City which was just THE best of all the tours. Swimming with these incredible creatures was such an unforgettable experience that the fee paid to have a video sent to your home, was more than worth the money spent. Next stop was Cozumel and we were told that Princess supports the businesses trying to lure you through their doors and that if you have the piece of jeweler appraised when you return stateside and it’s worth less than what you paid, then Princess will support your efforts in retrieving the lost monies. I was more than surprised to find that the diamond/emerald ring I purchased (after much bartering) more than tripled its price value when I had it appraised for insurance purposes in Canada. Belize was the final stop and it was hot but enjoyable…again, sloths, termites, etc., and I highly recommend the tour on the air boat. MISCELLANEOUS: One night we were awakened by the sound of hail on our balcony table. I ran outside and looked up only to see an arc of icy material showering downward and …’into’ my eye. Next morning, I immediately went to see the front office attendants and they were puzzled as to where it was coming from. However, they assured me it would not happen again. Next night; same thing. Wide arc of icy ‘something’ sweeping downward from above and again, because I was looking upward, into my eye. Following night; same occurrence and again front office staff assured us of getting to the bottom of this dilemma. Not so. Wasn’t until after the third night of icy material being flung from the 14th deck, that it appeared anything was done. Appears the bar area on the 14th deck was cleaning out their fridge and flinging it overboard – but not quite. DINING ROOM: We had selected Personal Choice Dining and it has worked well on our other Princess Cruises but we did not understand the rules with Godwin from India who was the Maitre d’. The concept of ‘anytime dining’ is to arrive for dinner in the assigned dining room whenever you felt like having dinner. However, almost everyone who passed through his portals, knew beforehand that one had to make a reservation or else, would you please step aside for the folks who knew these never-before-mentioned rules but learned quickly about this Godwin Reservation System. Consequently, there was never a table for 2 or 4 but always, we had to be seated at tables of 8-10 or wait at least 30 minutes for a smaller table to be available. There is nowhere in the brochure/cruise information that states you have to make a reservation prior to being seated with Personal Choice Dining. Please, be prepared, otherwise Godwin and staff will seat you wherever it pleases them – not you the paying customer because it is his Personal Choice – not yours. SYNOPSIS: The cruise was good, the food was okay, the ship is incredibly clean, the tours were good and the clientele onboard the ship were for the most part, elderly. Perhaps it was due to an ecological type of tour versus the more conventional Caribbean frequent on/off destinations. With this type of clientele, it made for slower lines in the buffet food areas and definitely the transportation areas. We will be trying other ships in the future. Cruising is wonderful. We have been to several land destinations around the world and we keep returning to the cruise experience because it is truly a relaxing way to travel. Should you have any questions or opinions, we would be delighted to hear from you. Don and Veronica Taylor

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Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

My wife and I are both in our mid-sixties and have been on three prior cruises; two of which were with Princess. We had cruised the Inside Passage six years ago, but wanted to experience the “Alaska Land Tour” portion this time. We celebrated our 46th wedding anniversary August 8 while on this cruise. We had Princess make our airline reservations. We departed San Francisco International Airport on August 6, 2005 at 8:00 a.m. and arrived

at Vancouver at a little after 10:00 a.m. We found the “US Direct Program” at Vancouver Airport extremely beneficial as it allowed as to bypass the usual customs delays. After about an hour we boarded a bus that took us directly to the Port of Vancouver where we arrived just about noon. Since embarkation began at noon, there were very few other passengers waiting to be checked in and we were on board the Coral Princess within twenty minutes. Since we had been on the Coral Princess two years ago during her maiden voyage through the Panama Canal into the Pacific, we were very familiar with the vessel and did not have to spend a lot of time walking around the ship, orienting ourselves. We went immediately to our mini-suite 709 on Dolphin Deck and found it identical to what we had two years ago. Just as happened on the earlier cruise the beds were not in the configuration we had requested. Rather than twin beds, we found a double bed. I immediately telephoned our cabin steward and he rearranged the beds per our earlier request later that evening. My wife and I enjoy cruising on Princess and this trip was no exception. However, there were some issues with which we were not pleased. For example, the cabin steward informed us that this was his first cruise in that capacity. (He had several prior years experience with Princess in “Room Service”. He told us his new position as cabin steward was a “promotion”.) He was an extremely nice man, but he made several mistakes. First, even though we had completed a form “on-line” several months before the cruise indicating that my wife wanted fresh fruit delivered to the suite each day, she did not receive any our first full day. When I asked the steward why, he said we needed to complete a form that he had neglected to leave in our suite. I obtained the form from him, filled it out, and the fruit was delivered the next day. However there was no fruit delivered the next day. Again the steward had failed to leave an order form. On the seven day cruise, she only received fresh fruit twice because we were required the complete a form each day and he kept forgetting to leave one even though I told him of her wishes. On other occasions, he failed to leave a proper complement of linen in the bathroom. On two days, we had no bath “rug’ on which to step when exiting the shower. Another day, we had four hand towels and no wash clothes. Still another, we had only one large bath towel for the two of us. Each time I called these shortages to his attention, he apologized profusely but the service did not improve. The suite was cleaned and the beds made each day without problems. But we never knew what would be missing next. We were not too pleased with the numerous times we were approached on the first day to purchase a “soda card”. As you may know, the only drinks on the ship for which you are not charged are coffee, tea and tap water. A fee, plus 15% mandatory gratuity, is charged for beer, bar drinks, sodas and bottled water. However, if you purchase a “soda card”, you are given an insulated container with lid and a small decal that is placed on you cruise card (which serves as room key and identification to charge purchases and get on and off the ship). You may then have an unlimited number of sodas in that container during the cruise. It is not an exaggeration to say that we could not walk fifty feet on the Lido deck without a crewmember shoving an insulated container towards us and asking if we wanted to purchase the “soda card”. We also noticed that on our previous 15-day Panama Canal cruise, the “card” was $32.50, while on this 7-day Alaska cruise it was $28.50. On a couple of occasions during the cruise, we were sitting on the Lido deck and hoping one of the waiters would take our drink order. (There were several walking around carrying serving trays.) However, none came and I had to walk to the bar to get our drinks. But I should add that many of the crew, particularly the hospitality staff were excellent and anxious to assure us a pleasant cruise experience. My wife and I enjoy the “Traditional” dining in the Provence room. Our waiters, Marius and Dragos, were excellent. As on past Princess cruises, we found the food excellent as to selections and quality. And the desserts “are to die for”. Unfortunately, we each put on several pounds, which we are now trying to lose. The entertainment in the Princess Theatre and the Universe Lounge was outstanding. Professional singers and dancers who did a marvelous job. We thought this was the best group of entertainers we have seen yet on a cruise. The headline singers were Mary Elizabeth Rich, Lainie Gulliksen, Donnie Marcs and Jeremy Scott. In addition, Jeff Peterson (Comedy Magician) and Don Ware (Comedian) were very entertaining. There was a wide selection of activities available on the ship ranging from first-rate movies to educational seminars, to cooking and carving demonstrations. In addition, the Coral has both an indoor pool and an outdoor pool, both with spas. When my wife and I sailed the inside passage exactly six years ago on the Sky Princess, the weather was terrible. Fog and rain at most ports-of-call. However, this time, we had what was probably the best one-week of weather in Alaska so far this year. Instead of rain at Ketchikan, which annually receives over 150 inches, we had 80+-degree sunny weather. The same was true at Juneau and Skagway. There was a good selection of “Shore Excursions” to choose from and we particularly liked the Salmon Bake in Juneau. In addition to visiting a fish hatchery where we saw the “salmon run” (what a remarkable experience), we had a wonderful buffet lunch at the “Salmon Bake”. Getting off the ships at the several Ports-of-call went very smoothly; however, getting back on is another matter. Due to increased security, it is quite similar to the typical airport security procedures. It actually took us longer to get back on the ship at Ketchikan than it did when we initially got on the Coral at the Port of Vancouver. The Coral Princess had a “Naturalist” named Barbara Bennett who gave several lectures during the voyage and also got on the ship’s P.A. system whenever we left a port or cruised near glaciers to provide interesting information about the flora and fauna. Her narrations added greatly to the enjoyment of the cruise. We want to mention here that we had excellent bus drivers and tour guides. Many of them were college students who attend school in the lower 48 and return home to Alaska to work during the summer. Polite and knowledgeable. Since we were going on the five-night Land Tour, we were limited to one piece of luggage for that portion of the trip. We repacked our three pieces of luggage and attached to two of them the “Meet me in Anchorage” tags provided. Those two pieces were transported directly to the Fairbanks Princess Riverside Hotel pending our arrival there four days later. To the third piece we attached the “Take Me Along” tag provided. In addition, we were each allowed one small “carry-on” bag in which we kept our travel documents, passport, medications, etc. We placed all six bags (three apiece) outside our mini-suite the night before disembarkation. We arrived at Whittier on August 13. The disembarkation process went very smoothly and we rode to Anchorage on a bus. On the way, the bus driver (again a most excellent young man) stopped at an animal preserve where we saw bear (grizzly and black), buffalo, moose, wolves and a porcupine. Anchorage is a very large city of nearly 300,000 population. We stayed at the Anchorage Hilton Hotel (where we found our “Take Me Along” bags waiting for us in our room) and had a wonderful meal at a nearby restaurant. (As you probably already now, all meals on the Land Tour are at you own expense.) It was in Anchorage where we noticed for the first time just how late the sun was setting. 10:00 p.m. with some light until 11:00 p.m. or later. Each day we were given instructions as to when to have our “Take Me Along” bags ready for pick up and each afternoon, when we arrived at our next destination, the bags would be waiting for us in our assigned hotel/lodge room. The train ride from Anchorage to Talkeetna took about three hours and was most enjoyable. We chose to eat on the train since it has been years since either of us had previously done so. The food was so-so but it was a worthwhile experience. Since we were still experiencing exceptionally nice weather, the views from the train were great. Rather than take the bus from Talkeetna to Princess Mt. McKinley Lodge, we elected to pay for boat trip up the river to the lodge. The boat captain and his naturalist assistant were very personable and professional and made the trip very interesting. We highly recommend this trip. Since we had had a “run” of beautiful weather, we had very high hopes of seeing Mt. McKinley while on the Land Tour. Unfortunately, smoke from forest fires in Canada and northern Alaska covered the mountain as densely as heavy low clouds. We barely saw it while boating up the river. It was not visible at all from the Lodge. The next day, we went by Princess bus from Princess Mt. McKinley Lodge to Princess Denali Lodge. Both lodges were very comfortable and had good restaurants. Denali seems to be the older of the two and is much larger. As part of our prepaid cruise fare, we were given a bus tour of a portion Denali National Park. We were fortunate to see several moose and mountain goats at a distance. The next day, we traveled by train from Princess Denali Lodge to Fairbanks Princess Riverside Hotel. This portion of the train ride was very slow (five miles per hour in some stretches) and rough( i.e., shaky). We were then reunited with all of our luggage. We spent two nights at Fairbanks. As part of our prepaid cruise fare, we had two “Shore Excursions”. A short trip up a river on a stern wheel boat where we saw Susan Butcher’s sled dog compound, as well as a replica pf a native village and visit to a gold mine “operation” where we panned for gold. We were picked up at the Fairbanks Princess Riverside Hotel at 6:15 a.m. on Thursday, August 18 and driven a short distance to the Fairbanks Airport. After checking in and waiting a couple of hours for our 8:30 a.m. Alaska Airlines flight, we departed for Anchorage where, unfortunately, we had a five-hour layover. We eventually caught a United Airlines flight at 2:25 p.m. and arrived back at San Francisco International Airport at 8:00 p.m. What really bothered us and several other fellow cruise passengers was that the Alaska Airlines flight we caught at Fairbanks was scheduled for stops at Anchorage, Seattle and San Francisco. Had we been able to stay on that flight, we would have arrived home two and-a-half hours earlier. All in all, we had a good, if tiring time. There are several mornings when you have to rise rather early (4:00 to 5:00 a.m.) in order to make connections. But we highly recommend this cruise/Land Tour. at Vancouver at a little after 10:00 a.m. We found the “US Direct Program” at Vancouver Airport extremely beneficial as it allowed as to bypass the usual customs delays. After about an hour we boarded a bus that took us directly to the Port of Vancouver where we arrived just about noon. Since embarkation began at noon, there were very few other passengers waiting to be checked in and we were on board the Coral Princess within twenty minutes. Since we had been on the Coral Princess two years ago during her maiden voyage through the Panama Canal into the Pacific, we were very familiar with the vessel and did not have to spend a lot of time walking around the ship, orienting ourselves. We went immediately to our mini-suite 709 on Dolphin Deck and found it identical to what we had two years ago. Just as happened on the earlier cruise the beds were not in the configuration we had requested. Rather than twin beds, we found a double bed. I immediately telephoned our cabin steward and he rearranged the beds per our earlier request later that evening. My wife and I enjoy cruising on Princess and this trip was no exception. However, there were some issues with which we were not pleased. For example, the cabin steward informed us that this was his first cruise in that capacity. (He had several prior years experience with Princess in “Room Service”. He told us his new position as cabin steward was a “promotion”.) He was an extremely nice man, but he made several mistakes. First, even though we had completed a form “on-line” several months before the cruise indicating that my wife wanted fresh fruit delivered to the suite each day, she did not receive any our first full day. When I asked the steward why, he said we needed to complete a form that he had neglected to leave in our suite. I obtained the form from him, filled it out, and the fruit was delivered the next day. However there was no fruit delivered the next day. Again the steward had failed to leave an order form. On the seven day cruise, she only received fresh fruit twice because we were required the complete a form each day and he kept forgetting to leave one even though I told him of her wishes. On other occasions, he failed to leave a proper complement of linen in the bathroom. On two days, we had no bath “rug’ on which to step when exiting the shower. Another day, we had four hand towels and no wash clothes. Still another, we had only one large bath towel for the two of us. Each time I called these shortages to his attention, he apologized profusely but the service did not improve. The suite was cleaned and the beds made each day without problems. But we never knew what would be missing next. We were not too pleased with the numerous times we were approached on the first day to purchase a “soda card”. As you may know, the only drinks on the ship for which you are not charged are coffee, tea and tap water. A fee, plus 15% mandatory gratuity, is charged for beer, bar drinks, sodas and bottled water. However, if you purchase a “soda card”, you are given an insulated container with lid and a small decal that is placed on you cruise card (which serves as room key and identification to charge purchases and get on and off the ship). You may then have an unlimited number of sodas in that container during the cruise. It is not an exaggeration to say that we could not walk fifty feet on the Lido deck without a crewmember shoving an insulated container towards us and asking if we wanted to purchase the “soda card”. We also noticed that on our previous 15-day Panama Canal cruise, the “card” was $32.50, while on this 7-day Alaska cruise it was $28.50. On a couple of occasions during the cruise, we were sitting on the Lido deck and hoping one of the waiters would take our drink order. (There were several walking around carrying serving trays.) However, none came and I had to walk to the bar to get our drinks. But I should add that many of the crew, particularly the hospitality staff were excellent and anxious to assure us a pleasant cruise experience. My wife and I enjoy the “Traditional” dining in the Provence room. Our waiters, Marius and Dragos, were excellent. As on past Princess cruises, we found the food excellent as to selections and quality. And the desserts “are to die for”. Unfortunately, we each put on several pounds, which we are now trying to lose. The entertainment in the Princess Theatre and the Universe Lounge was outstanding. Professional singers and dancers who did a marvelous job. We thought this was the best group of entertainers we have seen yet on a cruise. The headline singers were Mary Elizabeth Rich, Lainie Gulliksen, Donnie Marcs and Jeremy Scott. In addition, Jeff Peterson (Comedy Magician) and Don Ware (Comedian) were very entertaining. There was a wide selection of activities available on the ship ranging from first-rate movies to educational seminars, to cooking and carving demonstrations. In addition, the Coral has both an indoor pool and an outdoor pool, both with spas. When my wife and I sailed the inside passage exactly six years ago on the Sky Princess, the weather was terrible. Fog and rain at most ports-of-call. However, this time, we had what was probably the best one-week of weather in Alaska so far this year. Instead of rain at Ketchikan, which annually receives over 150 inches, we had 80+-degree sunny weather. The same was true at Juneau and Skagway. There was a good selection of “Shore Excursions” to choose from and we particularly liked the Salmon Bake in Juneau. In addition to visiting a fish hatchery where we saw the “salmon run” (what a remarkable experience), we had a wonderful buffet lunch at the “Salmon Bake”. Getting off the ships at the several Ports-of-call went very smoothly; however, getting back on is another matter. Due to increased security, it is quite similar to the typical airport security procedures. It actually took us longer to get back on the ship at Ketchikan than it did when we initially got on the Coral at the Port of Vancouver. The Coral Princess had a “Naturalist” named Barbara Bennett who gave several lectures during the voyage and also got on the ship’s P.A. system whenever we left a port or cruised near glaciers to provide interesting information about the flora and fauna. Her narrations added greatly to the enjoyment of the cruise. We want to mention here that we had excellent bus drivers and tour guides. Many of them were college students who attend school in the lower 48 and return home to Alaska to work during the summer. Polite and knowledgeable. Since we were going on the five-night Land Tour, we were limited to one piece of luggage for that portion of the trip. We repacked our three pieces of luggage and attached to two of them the “Meet me in Anchorage” tags provided. Those two pieces were transported directly to the Fairbanks Princess Riverside Hotel pending our arrival there four days later. To the third piece we attached the “Take Me Along” tag provided. In addition, we were each allowed one small “carry-on” bag in which we kept our travel documents, passport, medications, etc. We placed all six bags (three apiece) outside our mini-suite the night before disembarkation. We arrived at Whittier on August 13. The disembarkation process went very smoothly and we rode to Anchorage on a bus. On the way, the bus driver (again a most excellent young man) stopped at an animal preserve where we saw bear (grizzly and black), buffalo, moose, wolves and a porcupine. Anchorage is a very large city of nearly 300,000 population. We stayed at the Anchorage Hilton Hotel (where we found our “Take Me Along” bags waiting for us in our room) and had a wonderful meal at a nearby restaurant. (As you probably already now, all meals on the Land Tour are at you own expense.) It was in Anchorage where we noticed for the first time just how late the sun was setting. 10:00 p.m. with some light until 11:00 p.m. or later. Each day we were given instructions as to when to have our “Take Me Along” bags ready for pick up and each afternoon, when we arrived at our next destination, the bags would be waiting for us in our assigned hotel/lodge room. The train ride from Anchorage to Talkeetna took about three hours and was most enjoyable. We chose to eat on the train since it has been years since either of us had previously done so. The food was so-so but it was a worthwhile experience. Since we were still experiencing exceptionally nice weather, the views from the train were great. Rather than take the bus from Talkeetna to Princess Mt. McKinley Lodge, we elected to pay for boat trip up the river to the lodge. The boat captain and his naturalist assistant were very personable and professional and made the trip very interesting. We highly recommend this trip. Since we had had a “run” of beautiful weather, we had very high hopes of seeing Mt. McKinley while on the Land Tour. Unfortunately, smoke from forest fires in Canada and northern Alaska covered the mountain as densely as heavy low clouds. We barely saw it while boating up the river. It was not visible at all from the Lodge. The next day, we went by Princess bus from Princess Mt. McKinley Lodge to Princess Denali Lodge. Both lodges were very comfortable and had good restaurants. Denali seems to be the older of the two and is much larger. As part of our prepaid cruise fare, we were given a bus tour of a portion Denali National Park. We were fortunate to see several moose and mountain goats at a distance. The next day, we traveled by train from Princess Denali Lodge to Fairbanks Princess Riverside Hotel. This portion of the train ride was very slow (five miles per hour in some stretches) and rough( i.e., shaky). We were then reunited with all of our luggage. We spent two nights at Fairbanks. As part of our prepaid cruise fare, we had two “Shore Excursions”. A short trip up a river on a stern wheel boat where we saw Susan Butcher’s sled dog compound, as well as a replica pf a native village and visit to a gold mine “operation” where we panned for gold. We were picked up at the Fairbanks Princess Riverside Hotel at 6:15 a.m. on Thursday, August 18 and driven a short distance to the Fairbanks Airport. After checking in and waiting a couple of hours for our 8:30 a.m. Alaska Airlines flight, we departed for Anchorage where, unfortunately, we had a five-hour layover. We eventually caught a United Airlines flight at 2:25 p.m. and arrived back at San Francisco International Airport at 8:00 p.m. What really bothered us and several other fellow cruise passengers was that the Alaska Airlines flight we caught at Fairbanks was scheduled for stops at Anchorage, Seattle and San Francisco. Had we been able to stay on that flight, we would have arrived home two and-a-half hours earlier. All in all, we had a good, if tiring time. There are several mornings when you have to rise rather early (4:00 to 5:00 a.m.) in order to make connections. But we highly recommend this cruise/Land Tour.

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Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

This is our forth cruise and first with Princess. We enjoyed this cruise and strongly recommend to others who are planning for Alaska cruise. We spent 2 days at Anchorage prior to the cruise. No sales tax there, if you want to buy souvenirs, I suggest to get them at Anchorage. Embarkation went very smooth. We took Princess coach bus from Anchorage

airport, thought that it was quite expensive, i believe it was $50pp, pre-arranged. Stateman was nice and clean, compare to other cruise ships that we've been to. Restaurant staff are nice and friendly, from buffet to main dining room. One thing we like about Princess is it has tranditional and anytime dining options. The nights we want to catch a show, we have option to have dinner at anytime dining and no waiting needed. Other cruise lines offer anytime dining but waiting time is horrible. Food is good, I would not say excellent. Besides 2 formal nights, they have different themes almost every night, such as Italian, American, etc. Lobsters on one of the formal night and, of course, Alaskan king crab. The wait staff service is excellent, including at the buffet area. Shows are excellent, compare to other cruise lines. For any Alaskan cruise, I strongly suggest balcony staterooms since you will send most of the time on cruising the glacier bay. There are different activities and we enjoyed the ballroom dance classes the most. They also have tour to their kitchen, which is awesome. The last night was formal night and they have champagne waterfall party which we think was great. Formal night pictures are little bit more expensive than some other cruise lines. One thing we didn't like about is the security. When you get back on to the ship from any port of calls, the crews only check your cruise ID and didn't request any legal documents.

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  • New

Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

My wife and I just completed a 14 day Vancouver roundtrip to Alaska. There was a delay at departure because the US customs implemented a new process where all passengers pass through one hall instead of having separate inspectors for each ship. This caused some chaos but I am sure they will work it out. The Coral Princess is a really beautiful, spacious and well

laid out ship. You never feel crowded. There was always deck chairs available. The various lounges and bars were never crowded. We opted for the anytime dining but usually made a reservation because we really like one waiter (Chatree) and always asked for his area. The Food was very good with great variety. Our waiter openly offered us extra king crab legs and lobster. Just ask if they don't offer. The horizon buffet was a little confusing layout at first but manageable once you get the hang of it. The entertainment was ok but not great. The bars and lounges had acts and musicians that were mostly boring. The casino was very large and pretty good. It has an London England theme. Princess is very good at communicating with their passengers. They pump the shopping at their recommended stores a little too much. The art auctions were a joke. I don't think they sold a single ugly painting. Tenders were very well done with no waits at all. The ship has the usual Princess cruise director and staff. They are lively and funny if you like English music hall humor. If I had any complaints it would be that the beds and pillows were very uncomfortable. I recommend bringing your own pillow. The showers are small but I suspect that the people who complain are overweight. Most of the whales you'll see are in the buffet line!! The coffee I found tasteless so we bought a small jar of Folger's crystals and would add that. They sell an all you can drink soft drink for $25.00. We just bought a couple of six packs on shore which we kept in out fridge. We also bought beer which the security staff were not interested in. We brought wine and champagne on board which princess allows. Hard liquor we bought at the "Patisserie" bar on board. They sell a 40 oz. for $22.00. Pretty cheap! In all a great ship and great cruise. I highly recommend it. If you are Canadian pay your bill in US funds or travelers cheques. If you let them charge your Visa they use an extremely high exchange rate. BIG RIP OFF!!!

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Nov 30, -0001

Panama Canal

too young for Medicare My husband and myself just returned from our 10 day Panama Canal trip on Coral Princess. After reading other reviews regarding the balconies not being private I was worried because I had gone to the extra expense of getting a mini suite (B218). Toward the front of ship, 11th floor, on the left side. First let me recommend the mini suite,

not for every cruise but for us it was well worth it. Our balcony was 1/3 larger than others, we had only 1 other balcony that could see in ours, if you go further back, ie 220 or higher its fine. but be careful of Aloha deck as people walking above can look over and say hello. We were lucky as we had met the people in the deck above ours, he was a cigar smoker like my husband and a very nice couple. Next cruise we will specify the right side of ship again, we like to see the port that we pull into and not another ship. If you like looking into other ships then you will like the left side. The room itself was very nice, had a queen size couch, which made into a full size bed. Also had a coffee table where morning coffee was enjoyed every day. The couch was soo much better than chairs, we did have 2 chairs also. It was great having 2 tvs. We wish we had 2 remotes. Our room steward, Alex was great and Princess has a wonderful way for him to introduce himself as he delivers two glasses of champagne. Fruit delivered to the room again is wonderful. May I suggest that if you have coffee delivered to your room in the morning, have them deliver some cut up fruit also and put this in your room fridge so that when you return to your room after a day of tours, the cold already cut up fruit is WONDERFUL. The indoor pool was great as we had some rain. Princess does need to do a better job cleaning the pool it has a pretty bad dirt line especially on the tiles, as well as some tiles missing on the steps leading down into the water. The staff was wonderful but I couldn't help but get the feeling something wasn't right. In the past when I would ask when do you go home, the response would be "Oh, in a few months" or they would specify the month. This time the response was how many months, weeks, days and almost down to the minute. This made me believe several of the crew was not very happy. As to formal night they are the same as always but I do wish they would have the second one on one of the nights that we are out at sea. They did this with the first formal night and it makes it soooo much better for the passengers as we do not have to hurry back from a day of touring, swimming, etc to bathe and clean-up. One thing that I got to do this trip was tour the galley. It was great fun. Princess I HATE TO SAY THIS, BUT YOUR MEALS ARE FALLING BEHIND. Prime rib was cut sooo thin, it MIGHT have been 1/2 inch thick, vegetable selection was very poor and lobster thermodore was, well let's just say bland as heck and if you found more than 2 pieces of lobster in it you were lucky. 4 people at our table had it with all the same results. they are relying way too much on chocolate mousse. It was used as the anchor in too many deserts. I love chocolate mousse, but you do get tired of it. They do need to work on preparing a variety of deserts, like they use to. We ate most of our meals away from the Horizon Court buffet. We just got tired of the cattle stampede and everyone going every which way and not looking where he/she was going. The Eggs Benedict was FANTASTIC and so is the French Toast, coated with corn flakes. Food was served hot and if you didn't get enough you were always offered more. There was a chicken dish, seasoned with mustard that was really nice and as always the steaks were fantastic and cooked to perfection. We did not try the extra restaurants, but one couple at our table who did was not overly impressed, but did say it was "ok". Overall this was a more relaxing cruise than others as we did not book a tour at every port. We had a good time and hopefully will book another mini-suite on our next one.

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Nov 30, -0001

Panama Canal

Just returned from the Panama Canal cruise. I chose this cruise because I wanted to see the canal, try a 10 day cruise, and did not want a party ship. I just returned from Iraq and needed a relaxing vacation, not a party vacation. I was in cabin A217. It turned out to be a great location. Just upstairs was the Horizon Court. My balcony, as all are on that deck

was private. I read some reviews where some balconies were exposed from up above, this is true, I saw them. I am glad I did not have one of those. (This is because they stick out farther than the deck above - I believe only one deck, towards the rear, had this issue) Room steward and dining room (8:15 PM Province Dining room) staff were excellent. One couple at our table did not really like the late seating, so some nights they ate in the Bourdeaux dining room (anytime dining). I thought that was great that they could eat in either dining room depending on their mood. Horizon court food impressed me constantly. On previous cruises, buffet food was like buffet food. This buffet was so good, one night we just ate dinner there. Only had breakfast in dining room once, because buffet was so consistently good. Overall, food on this cruise was consistently good. I have not been able to say that about other cruises (NCL, Disney, RCL). Ship is nice and elegant; however entertainment is a bit lacking. Quality of entertainment was okay, but there was no variety. On other ships I've been on, you saw different entertainers in the lounges each night with different music. On this ship, be prepared for the same exact music, with the same exact persons, in the same exact location, at the same exact time, every single day. By the 5th day, we were all sick of it. Even at the pool, when the same exact people who played the same exact music were on break, the same exact canned music played. Kind of strange, but certainly did not ruin the cruise. We joked about it. Unlike other cruises, you could not always see every show. Some shows were not available if you at at the late seating. On the one night we wanted to see a particular show, we ate in buffet. We were not disappointed though, but just something we noticed. We did the Tram ride excursion in Cost Rica. Did not see any wildlife, probably because the other two couples in tram yanked incessantly. Not a bad ride, would not recommend it to my friends, but would not discourage it either. In Panama did the lock and eco tour. Absolutely would recommend it. We were there while a very large cargo ship went by. It was awesome to watch close up. The indian tour part and river cruise was neat too. Saw plenty of wildlife there. Did not enjoy Grand Cayman, 10 ships arrived at the same time. Taxi ride to "Hell" and rum cake factory complete waste of time. Did like having a drink at Hammerheads near the ship. Was thinking about trying Carnival cruises in future, but after seeing the long lines to get back on their ships, and the rowdy crowds, no thank you. Did Muyil (CZM-MM) ruins when docked in Cozumel. Had only 10 people in group, was worth it. Much less crowded than others and ruins were impressive. This tour is on the mainland, so we actually never set foot on Cozumel. In Belize did the most exciting tour. Did the Lost Canopy tour (BZE-P and PN appear the same). Awesome. Best tour of the trip. We were surprised so many things on this cruise had an additional charge. Even in the gym - classes had a charge. If they keep this up, they will take away one of the advantages of cruising. Was able to use the gym treadmills to keep the weight off. Ate like crazy, but gained back only 10 pounds out of the 20 I lost in Iraq. After this trip, I've decided I like 10 day cruises and would do it again if I can. I will absolutely consider Princess again.

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Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

This cruise line's motto should be "I/We don't know". From the very beginning, customer service online and on the phone was horrible, and the cruise line offices wouldn't answer any questions, stating that their contract was with the travel agent, and they could only communicate with them (despite the fact that I paid them over $2000.00 and the travel agent

paid them $0). At the Seattle airport, Princess has no representative to meet with, only subcontracted agents who began the "I don't know's". They were unsure where we were to go, what bus we would be on, or what time we would be leaving. Upon our arrival (by bus) at Vancouver dock, we were horrified to see lines for miles. When we asked the agent how long we should be expected to wait, they informed us to be prepared to wait for 4-5 hours in line (standing!). They blamed the delay on U.S. Customs, but all passengers believed that both customs and Princess should share the blame. They had three different ships all checking through at the same time. What a nightmare. I had initially tried to book a mini suite on the starboard side, but Princess would not guarantee this (although they were available), even though I paid in full at the time of the booking. We settled on a category B balcony cabin (A401). We were surprised to see that many of the balconies were out in the open, allowing the passengers above and below you to see you. We were fortunate to have a private balcony. Since I love to read on my balcony, this would have been a big issue for me. Several of the other balconies had obstructed views. The room was certainly of average size and was reasonably decorated. The linens and towels were about the thickness of a Bounty paper towel. The shower was a joke to many of the passengers! We have traveled on 18 different ships and this shower was by far the smallest and most inconvenient. Water leaks out into the bathroom, and God forbid you should drop the soap, as bending down in the shower is impossible. The ship's common areas are clean and reasonably decorated, but not as "glitzy" as on other lines. Staff was pleasant, but didn't seem as anxious to please as on comparably priced ships in other lines. We had the anytime dining option, which was wonderful. I didn't miss having the same waiter every evening, and we had no trouble whatsoever getting a table when we chose to dine. You may choose to eat with others or by yourselves. The decor of the dining room was pleasant, but by no means as grand as other ships. We ate at the Bayou Grille ($20.00 per person service charge), which was a lovely room with a great jazz trio. The food was excellent. We took the whale watching excursion in Juneau, and the Yukon Express train and bus tour in Skagway. We also went on the Mt. Roberts Tramway in Skagway. All were wonderful and well worth the fee. The food quality was good, very similar to many other comparably priced ships. The deserts were really below par, and lacked imagination and flavor. The casino was good, and even had penny and nickel slots for the gambler who likes to lose their money more slowly. The waiters in the casino were the best on the ship, and remembered our names and drink preferences right away, even though we didn't spend all our time in the casino. The daily activities sheet seemed a little lacking in imagination and diversity. Disembarkation was handled quite efficiently, although a huge line formed during the short period allowed for errors in bag tag colors. Another difficulty on this cruise is the policy that all bags be left outside the room before 8:00 pm the night before the cruise ends. On most ships, they request that this be done "before retiring". The 8:00 time was quite inconvenient for us and many others we spoke to. Overall, I would not recommend this ship. I would prefer to travel on similarly priced ships on the Holland America, NCL, or Royal Caribbean Lines. There is much more attention to detail, better decor, more attentive personnel, and better cabin layout. This cruise was enjoyable, as no cruise line could interfere with the incredible beauty and wildlife of Alaska.

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Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

I recently went on an Alaska cruise with my wife for her 50th B-day. The cruise ship, Coral Princess is absolutely 1st class in all respects. We had perfect weather so that made the cruise even better. However, the "Dog Sled / Mushers Camp" tour that was offered and recommended by Princess Cruises was absolutely horrible. UNORGANIZED and a total "RIP OFF." The

total time I spent in the dog sled was 5 minutes at the most.

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