March 2016 - 10 Night Panama Canal Partial Transit (Ft. Lauderdale Roundtrip) Cruise on Coral Princess
Crew Excellent but Princess Is Nurturing Some Problematic Policy Issues
This was our 10th cruise with Princess. We love the feel of the ship, the freedom of small venues, great places for dancing, attitude of employees. The Coral had all those things going. The Problems:
(1) Stomach flu hit our family the week before this cruise, my wife the day before departure (nausea, vomiting, fever). We had to decide between canceling or catching the ship in Aruba. We opted for Aruba. Delta was great in helping. In talking to someone at the enroute office, I was told catch the ship in Aruba, and to bring a letter from the physician. Rich told me that gratuities would not be charged for days we weren't on board, and the captain had choice to gift per diem shipboard credits for days we missed. Admin was great about welcoming us, however the cabin hadn't been cleaned and the bed had been slept on. When I took the letter and went to the Burser's desk, I was treated with an attitude that I was trying to cheat Princess, and received nothing for response, only a condescending attitude. While attitude was better in dealing with Customer Relations, policy was not. Lesson: if you have the flu a day or two before traveling, suck it up and climb on board as Princess has no desire to address this issue.
(2) Anytime dining is not anytime. First night on the ship, dining room at 6 and were told to get in a line (40 minutes) or come back at 8 pm. Reservations were available between 8 & 8:15 each morning for 5:15 or 5:30, or 7:15 & 7:30. There is a seating problem, and anytime dining is a myth.
(3) The sanctuary, small pool on three levels is a pay availability ($20 half day or $40 full day). From people who used the rear three decks, I was told they never saw more than a half dozen people in the area. That area has been adult only, or reservation only, but this was first time there was an upcharge. It is the equivalent of airline baggage and snack charges. Princess needs to do better. I wanted to take a picture passing through the Panama Canal off the back of the ship from this area, and was not even allowed a photo. Only one of four decks were available off the back of the ship.
(4) We found spotty smells on the ship, smell of old plumbing problems lingering. These were mostly entering theater on right hand side, and hallway near midship on Baja starboard side.
These things said, the food and service was wonderful on most of the ship. Excursions were good and necessary in Columbia and transiting the canal. Local tours work in Limon or Jamaica, or consider renting a car with others and going to Blue Hole (up White River) for a fun spot. Avis was good.
While having been loyal to Princess over the years, we are looking at Celebrity or Holland for next cruise.