Coral Princess Cruise Review to Panama Canal, Central America

Contributor Level: Staff Captain

Experience
7+ cruises

Reviews
15

Helpful Votes
115

4 out of 5

Really like the layout of this ship and enjoyed the cruise with one big noticeable exception.

Sail Date: January 03, 2015

Reviewed: 1 year ago

Traveled As: Couple

Room Type: Suite

Coral Princess in the Caribbean----The Good, Bad and the Ugly.

VERY GOOD:

---We found the Coral Princess to be a vessel I really like, particularly the decor throughout most of the public space and lounges, sea and marine pictures everywhere, dark rich oak beams and molding backed up with lighter backgrounds. I'm tired of pastels and nonsensical modern art hung everywhere on ships. Excellent lounges, lots of room with rich furniture where peace and quiet is found, which makes it a simple enjoyment just to sit and relax in one. Also, super is the abundance of getaway nooks and crannies throughout the ship. The passenger to space ration is great but actually is even better than the numbers suggest. Nice to have some elbow room for a change, for instance the three elevator and stair towers were not ever crowded, even during the first boarding day. Contrast this to the new Royal Princess, where the stairway towers were claustrophobic with consistently long elevator waits; for instance a midship public stair case is non existent. Maybe Princess should begin having the French build and design their ships (Coral) rather than Italians (Royal). Like the good old days of yore, the Coral has a complete wrap around teak promenade deck, fairly wide in many stretches where old fashion reclining deck chairs are provided. The two level Lotus Spar area is great at no extra charge, two well heated hot tubs by the pool and lots of quiet areas above and below, to read and relax in. 

GOOD: 

---The specialty restaurants, particularly Sabatini's, but also the Bayou Cafe and its special "Crab Shack" luncheon were exquisite.  Meals in these venues, which you pay extra for, represent top of the line gourmet dining. Well staffed by knowledgeable and friendly personnel and your dining experience takes place in a wonderful, quiet, well decorated environment.  Unfortunately, the main dining room(s), are not so good, stink. 

---Ample public hot tubs, five in all, the three by the main pool though were usually a little on the cool side and occasionally youngsters using them as swimming pools was not good.---We had a mini-suite, nice decor and fairly large balcony on deck nine. Our cabin attendant was pretty good and very amenable and friendly even though he was probably burden by way too many cabins to service which often does not translate into fine personal service. Complimentary laundry service was excellent.  

---Staff, for the most part were very friendly all over the ship and tried to help, whatever the need or problem. Unfortunately, some areas like in the main dining room, were grossly understaffed.

---Horizon Court, the main buffet area had adequate seating, unlike on the new larger ships, Regal and Royal. Food was mediocre but the friendly and helpful staff partially made up for  lack of exceptional quality food. In this case the buffet did not appear to be understaffed, so, in all, it made for a worthwhile dining experience. In fact, out of frustration we abandoned using the Main Dining Rood and chose this venue for dinner instead whenever we decided not to eat in the specialty restaurants.

---TV--Nice to have MSNBC and BBS and not just FOX News--One of the things we like about Princess they understand not all guests are cut out of the same political persuasion cloth.

---Internet and library--Very fast and ample bandwidth and easy to use, staffed by an internet guy who knows his stuff. Wish the rates were lower but then, not all that bad if you are an elite like we are as you get some free time plus a good deal on more time if you buy it the first day or so. Library is very large for the size of ship, perfect layout for an exploration type voyaging ship.
---Interdenominational Church Services---Two Sunday services on sea days this voyage. Really enjoyed both, thanks so much for the opportunity to fellowship, Princess.   

---Enrichment lectures---One of the things I like best about cruising is the theme lecturers the three lines we frequent usually have on board. Princess used to be super great at this, slipping a little though as of late. During this cruise they had---Dr. Dean Papavassiliou, an historical expert on the Caribbean as well as the famous Pacific navigators, his presentations brought on an impressive crowd. But the only other lecturer they had was a half retired airline captain---Captain Ted McCourt---His subject was not anywhere close to the theme of the voyage, so why was he there? Perhaps because everybody, almost, had to fly to get to or from the ship, so maybe it was an okay subject for some, attendance indicated few were interested though. For me, I was born and raised and made my career in the airplane game, so I found his lectures of interest. His creditability could be challenged from time to time due factual errors, but then subjects this complex are very hard to make a delivery on without making mistakes here and there. Other than that, I leaned a bit, would dearly have loved to hear a rebuttal though to some of his points as they were certainly argumentative. In short, his presentations were not ideally suited for the average cruiser booking this voyage. Only a few guests are airplane buffs, industry types and age old pilots like myself. Princes should have put on another cruise specific lecture, instead.

BAD:

---Theater, okay for daytime lectures, I attended many in the theater, but that is it. For evening shows, count us out. No balcony but good steep stadium seating, unfortunately all isles have only two stairways so that those wanting to sit in the higher levels at mid-theatre had to tip-toe past up to 12 already seated if they were caught having to work into the middle of a row. First comers for the evening shows usually showed up very early, then they took the isle seats and were generally "very" reluctant to even standup in order to allow somebody else to occupy a vacant seat beyond them in the same isle. One nice feature was the little tables on each seat which pulled up, sort of like some first class airline seats do, don't know what they were there for though unless you brought your own drink, no service and hard to get to if there were waiters. All in all, for the big shows, the theater was terrible, we never did take in a top line performance due to this jumble, too bad as some shows were pretty good, we were told.         

---Over the last 15 months we have been on 5 cruises counting this one, Regent, HAL, Princess, Regent, Princess, 115 sailing days. 5 captains. Coincidentally, on each voyage unique circumstances developed, such as man overboard one time, un-commanded turn on another requiring emergency reverse thrust and dropping the anchor to avoid hitting the beach, etc. The situation was somewhat the same on this voyage as a lady went missing for the better part of a day, the crew scoured the vessel, of course all passengers were aware due all the announcements asking her to call. Turned out she had been hiding. Anyway, except for this captain, the other four captains were exemplary in their efforts to familiarize the guests with all developments thusly reducing the anxiety factor originating over concern for a fellow passenger. This captain was anything but a plethora of information. A day after the lady was found the ships grapevine made everybody aware she had not went overboard. On other occasions the captain would come on and attempt to explain what was going on with missed ports, etc. but most often one had to read between the lines in order to figure out what he wanted to say and what had happened. Very nice person if you meet him at a Captain's Circle event but he needs to do a lot of work on articulation and diplomacy. Perhaps, put him under the tutelage of the captain who commanded the Royal Princess in September 2014, for a stint.

UGLY:

---Princess has now completely adopted the business model of all the large mainstream cruise lines, we are witnessing what is either going to be the success or the degradation of this trend. From a profit motive standpoint it is likely to last. The concept leans toward building more and more very large vessels. The Royal Princess is 3.5 times the size of the Titanic and can hold 4610 passengers, the Coral, about 2000, to procure a vessel like these huge investment dollars are required. In order to fill up these ships most lines have adopted a policy of getting passengers on board for a very low initial fee. Then charging extra for just about everything except the basic stateroom and food served in the main dining rooms and the buffet areas, also there are pizzerias and hamburger grills with no extra charge. The ships function more or less like large floating resorts, with all sorts of premium type restaurants and other meal venues where additional payments are required, not to mention all the boutiques and other retail outlets trying to sell you something. By cutting down the size of, quality of, and service within the main dining rooms and other no extra charge areas, guests are more or less forcibly channeled into the nickel and dime game. 

----Up until this voyage the Main Dining Room on Princess was still tolerable, this time though, either we experienced a fluke or cost cutting has caught up with Princess rendering their product in the MDR undesirable for us. We have never ran into a situation like this before even though the "hand writing was on the wall" that it was bound to come. In my opinion this results from understaffing of both service and kitchen personnel. Each time we tried to use the MDR we were told there was a 40 minute wait time. They gave us a pager, but on the three occasions we decided to carry on and eat in the MDR the wait was only 10-15 minutes, which was not a problem. We don't like traditional seating for a variety of reasons, one of which is we hate being relegated to eating at either 5:30 PM or 7:45 PM., even if we secure a table for two, we usually try to get there by 6:30 using anytime dining. The principal problem(s) trying to eat dinner in the MDR was the lack of service and poor quality meals. For instance, there used to be a sommelier to take your wine order immediately after being seated, this practice gave way to no sommelier--instead head waiters were given extra training in wine selection then that gave way to what you have now, wine only if you are lucky enough to get someone's attention and forget about ordering a bottle to be carried over for the following evening, they will lose it for sure. You usually sit there waiting and watching a harried flurry of activity by the understaffed help forging a losing battle trying to keep up. Made dressing up in my tux on formal nights and trying to dine there a joke. So, in order to continue enjoying the cruise we made do, by booking dinner in one of the excellent specialty restaurants on board whenever we felt inclined to really enjoy dinner or simply going up to the Horizon Court buffet.

I have a theory that there will be a drift completely away from providing MDR service on the major cruise lines in the future. Instead cruisers will experience more of and larger specialty extra charge venues and expanded no extra charge buffet area service. We only use Princess, HAL and Regent. Regent being an all inclusive voyage, but ironically, the food and service in the specialty restaurants on HAL and Princess are much better than those on Regent which you can hardly ever get into due no extra charge. However, the MDR on Regent is far superior to those on HAL and Princess.
 

Cruise Photos

Ship Quality
Food and Dining
Specialty restaurants, Sabatini's the Bayou Cafe and its special "Crab Shack" luncheon were exquisite. Main Dining Room--Terrible
Cabin / Stateroom
Service and Staff
Entertainment
Onboard Activities
Destinations and Excursions

Tip

Stay away from the MDR--Instead budget for multiple dinners in the specialty restaurants (excellent dining)--when not there use the Horizon Court buffet.



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