HI Cruisers, This may be a long report, so sit back and enjoy our trip report on the Coral.
We left Victoria, BC, Canada on November 14 and made a stop in Seattle before landing in SFO. We had booked a shuttle at SFO but could not locate one upon our arrival, and our Canadian cell phone did not have access to the US network, so we waited for 45 minutes for another shuttle to show up. We should have gone out the exit and then turn left for a few yards, instead of going right as airport personnel told us. We got to our hotel, which was in the Union Square area, and very comfortable. Unfortunately the elevator was out of service for 2 days, but the hotel cut our hotel rate in half, so no complaints at all, and we got some exercise climbing the 6 flights of stairs.
We stayed in San Fran for 3 nights and explored the beautiful, clean city, visiting Alcatraz as well as the Cable Car.
On November 17, we got to the terminal around 9:30 and waited until 10:30 to get into the terminal, the first of about 100 who went into the terminal first. We had the porters take our bags to the designated area, and had a seat until 1 pm, which was very late as the US Coast Guard were doing their 90 day inspection of the ship, otherwise we would have been on board hours earlier. After security, we noticed that the Alcohol Station was not attended and passengers with alcohol, wine, just walked by the station.
We went to our cabin and it was all prepared so we went to the Horizon Buffet, where we always had our meals instead of the restaurants, and had a refreshing drink. We returned to our cabin later and our bags arrived at 5 pm, as they knocked on our door to let us know that our bags had arrived.....nice.
We choose the Baja Deck 11, Cabin 704 port, which was really nice as we were able to see land on the voyage south. When booking your cabin, make sure that you have cover over it, as our upstairs neighbor on Deck 12 did not have cover and soot from the ships exhaust was on their balcony as well as in their room.
As previously noted, the bathroom is small, but larger than an airplanes, lol, and the shower is small but doable, but some may have difficulty if dropping something on the shower floor, as bending down to retrieve it moves the shower curtain....by lifting up, for example, the facecloth, I used my foot to grab the cloth...fun...It took me awhile to find out how to control the temperature of the water....the top control is the pressure, the bottom is used for temperature...I moved that life jackets from the closets to under the bed to give us more storage, even though there was a very large open closets with clothes hangers, but asked for more. There were drawers in the closet area, as well as the bedside tables, so no shortage of space to store things.
We tuned into the ship WIFI and were able to text to each other, look at our account, look at all activities for the day. We did not sign up for the $10.99 a day internet, but by day 9 decided that the reduced rate for the rest of the voyage of $79.99 was worth it, saving a lot.
We bought several hundred dollars of on board credit months in advance (we booked our cruise 13 months in advance and got free room gratuities as well as $400 total on board credits) and the US exchange rate remained at 30%, rather than 36% that the Canadian banks offered. The credits in our account more than was enough for onboard purchases, mainly bar taps, but we ended up with a large credit, which Princess will reimburse us by cheque, some few weeks later.
We booked most of our excursions months in advance but with the HOHO bus, the ship offered passengers the option of going ashore and presenting a form, with all the information needed with your room number, etc. and it was charged to your account, in Panama and Cartagena,.
Punteranas Costa Rica had a flea market which had lots of items for sale, but not negotiable prices as Nicaragua.
We really enjoyed the Nicaragua Parque Central & Shopping excursions, a 6 hour trip that we really recommend, as it was all escorted and we got to see the beautiful city of Granada.
I went on the Ships Behind the Scenes Tour, a $150 expense that I highly recommend, learning so many facts of the ship:
280 Tons of food are loaded aboard at the start of the cruise, with no other food being picked up along the way.
6000 dozen eggs are used throughout the cruise
1600 kgs of meat is used per day (multiply by 2.2 to get lbs.)
5000 kgs of chicken is ueed throughout the cruise
300 linens are pressed per hour
4000 towels are washed per day
The ship generates enough electrical power to power a 70,000 city
Seawater is vaporized to provide enough water for 3 days usage in the storage facilities
194 personnel are in the galley preparing meals, and there are four large pots, about 4 ft by 4 ft preparing soup as it was offered even for breakfast as their were a lot of Asians on board.
100 kgs of pasta is cooked each day
There are 94 personnel cleaning the dishes, etc
We visited the Medical Centre, Bridge, Theatre, Anchor room, Galley, Laundry, engine control room, print shop, Photo shop and received the Princess $50 white robe, as well as 3 group pictures and a personalized note pad. This tour is very highly recommended and lasted about 5 hours, with snacks, including champagne offered at the end of the cruise....very enjoyable and a must see.
Most personnel work 11 hour days, with breaks and some stay on board for as little as 2 months, others for several months.....The Coral went to the Antarctic after docking in Fort Lauderdale.
Drinks are expensive, but the best buy is the 5 for 4 beer bucket costing $31.86 US $ gratuity included....a Cesar or whiskey, vodka will cost $9.44 all in , Marguerite $11.51 all in..wine is more expensive over $12 a glass or over $45 a bottle....A 375 ml of alcohol can be purchased from room service, which seems to be a good buy. I don't have a price, though
On board shops do not offer great deals, but I happened to purchase a 1 litre of rum for $11 and 2 T shirts for $20.
The best buys for souvenirs was in Nicaragua at the flea market on the dock. Cartagena had the worst items to purchase at their duty free shop and very expensive, except a promotion on wine and voda.
We took the Panama HOHO bus tour and found it very interesting.
The Panama Canal took several hours to go through the various locks and we enjoyed most of it on our balcony cruising through the old locks on the starboard side of the locks, and were able to see the twin lock beside us as well as the highly efficient new locks which did not have electric locomotives, (mules) guiding the ship though the locks.
We found the easiest way to get from our deck 11 to 14, was to go to the starboard side on deck 14 and walk all the way to the buffet, otherwise one could just leave their cabin but have to walk all the way from their deck to the bow, passing all the cabins and carts that the stewards use in order to get to the buffet.
We usually ordered room service between 5 and 6 am (early risers) and had our breakfast delivered within 10 minutes, but by waiting after 6:30 am, it would take much longer. By ordering the night before, by putting your request on the cabin door, you are offered only limited food, continental, but we usually ordered a breakfast sandwich with egg, or just a boiled egg by ordering in the morning.
The food on board was varied every day : lots of beef, pork, chicken, and one day we had lamb, the other day USA Thanksgiving day turkey, veal, lots of veggies and the most delicious varied soup which was offered at all meals. Chicken was done several different ways and was always delicious. Smoked fish was offered as well as lots of fresh fruit. We usually prepared our plates and went to the Lido Deck area, just outside the buffet were it was much quieter and more relaxing and in the open air. All in all the food was very good with lots to choose from, and no one went hungry. We even had suckling pig, oh so delicious.
To sum up: bring on your own shower gel (it seems the gel in the shower stall is watered down and does not lather, although the bar of soap lathers.)
Always lots of towels replenished twice a day
Very eco friendly, having containers for glass and plastic, etc
There were only two electrical outlets and the one in the bathroom only can be used for a shaver, so I would have brought on another multi plug, although it may not be allowed, as one person had their surge protector taken away due to fire hazard.
We pre ordered 48 500 ml bottles of water for 38 cents a bottle, compared to $2 on board or $3.95 for 1.5 litre, and used all but 4 bottles. We kept a few in our very cool frig and only had a few left over at the end of the cruise....the water on board tastes good as well, as some may want to use it only, but there were no outlets to fill your bottles, as they do not want passengers to fill up at the buffet, due to cross contamination.
We ended up in Fort Lauderdale on December 2, and a taxi took us the short distance to the FLL airport....we did not pre book with Princess as it was much more expensive, but just took our bags to the cab, and then checked into the Delta desk....a very fun and relaxing cruise.
That's it, Folks, and if I can answer any questions, please feel free to post.