My Review for Cruise Critic

I submitted this review to CruiseCritic and it’s been published at http://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=252186

My DH and I sailed on the Coral Princess round trip Panama Canal partial transit from Tuesday, March 4 through Saturday, March 15, 2014.

This was our first Princess cruise. We have previously sailed Windjammer (before they went out of business!), Dolphin (a cruise that became part of Premier Cruise Line, went bankrupt in 2000), Celebrity and Norwegian which we really enjoy. I’ve also taken Royal Caribbean a couple times with a friend of mine. Norwegian, which we took in November was our previous favorite. Not any more. Princess beat them all out for us.

The Coral Princess is a beautiful ship. The Atrium is spectacular with its spiraling staircase covering 4 decks. I loved all the various activities going on in the Atrium at different times. I’m not a fan of all the glitz like RCL has so this was perfect for us.

The 4 levels of the Atrium include: Deck 5 – passenger services, shore excursion and future cruise sales desks. Deck 6- stores. Deck 7 – art gallery and wedding chapel (used for many other things than weddings). Deck 8 – Internet Cafe, card room and library.

I never went to customer service but the lines there never seemed too long. I have been on RCL and waited in several long lines.

Towards the end of the cruise, on the last day, I saw a rip in the carpet near the Lido pool but that may have happened during our cruise. I had walked that way several times before and not noticed it.

EMBARKING: We got to the ship late so I have no idea how it would have been earlier. Even though we got there after 2:00, the line seemed to move along. We didn’t even bother to go to lunch. Staff directed the way and even pushed the elevator buttons for us. We went right to our cabin. Most of our luggage was already there and the last piece arrived in about 5 minutes.

MUSTER: Princess does this differently than RCL but similar to Norwegian and I like it much better. We gathered our life jackets from the closet and headed to our muster station (ours was in the art gallery so we had to be careful not to lean on the walls!) Everyone’s key card was scanned so they knew when all were present. The crew demonstrated how to use the life jackets and then we all put them on.

On NCL, we just went to a restaurant and heard about how to do this. No lifejackets at all. RCL we went to our actual lifeboats and had to line up on deck about 7 deep. Of course, some folks had started drinking and the lines kept getting out of order.

I liked the Princess way best since we learned how to put on the life jackets but didn’t have to line up outside. I trust that the crew would direct us to the correct lifeboat if needed!

GETTING AROUND: When getting our room key, we were given a very nice fold-out map of the ship that was about the same size as the key card so it was easy to take with us. We didn’t really need it that much. There were well designed maps near each elevator telling us where we were.

A few days into the cruise, someone mentioned that the odd (starboard side) deck cabin carpet had a green border and even was a red border. That helped us a lot when finding our cabin.

Elevators were nice and room and came fairly quickly. We often walked up and down, though. There was no Deck 13.

Decks were named as well as numbered. We were on Deck 11 – also called Baja Deck. There was Aloha, Caribe, Dolphin, Emerald…

Unlike RCL, the elevator buttons were never sticky. One thing I like better about RCL is that they have “Day” indications on the floor. Sometimes, we lost track of what day it was.

We never felt crowded or cramped. Sometimes, walking around the ship, we felt like it was just us onboard. A nice feeling.

HAND CLEANING: The first several days of the cruise, we had to use the Purell dispensers before entering the buffet or the grill to get our silverware. Later on, we still had to clean our hands but the silverware and napkins were on the tables. I’m not sure what changed. They had some dispensers a few other places but not as many as I’ve seen on other ships. However, we had no outbreaks of Norovirus so the plan worked!

CABIN: I loved our cabin! It had a balcony and the cabin was the largest one I have had on any ship. The cabin is (or seems) bigger than the one on Norwegian (NCL). There is a desk instead of a couch (NCL). The couch wasn’t very practical – the desk really is. Not having the couch also made the cabin more roomy.

We had a walk-in closet which is really nice. It’s at a right angle to the sleeping area which makes it seem like a separate room.

The bathroom is small, of course. I think the shower is smaller than NCL’s but I don’t spend that much time in there. I like RCL’s round shower door better.

The end tables by the bed have actual drawers instead of open shelves, and lots of storage.

The chairs on the balcony recline. They’re fixed on NCL.

No coffeemaker, though. NCL had one in the cabin. I missed that.

There was a TV guide telling us what is on for the whole trip along with a large flat screen TV.

This ship has a self-service laundry on each deck. I’ve never seen that on another ship. We used that 3 times during the cruise and was really helpful in keeping the amount of luggage down.

The bed was very comfortable, and we had two chairs, a small refrigerator (but not filled with stuff we’d never buy), Egyptian cotton towels, all very classy.

I was so grateful that there were no announcements all the time. On RCL, I had to figure out how to turn off “Anna Banana” and her bingo. The announcements on there were very annoying. Not so on the CP.

Our steward Dante was fantastic. He came and introduced himself before the muster. He showed us some features we might have missed.

Pool/Beach towels are in the closet. We return them to the cabin and the steward brings us new ones. We didn’t have to check them out and return them to the pool each day. Hooray!

The second day – the first sea day – we had a card in our cabin that said we could have fresh fruit delivered each day. A nice touch but we just got ours from the buffet.

DINING: We had Anytime Dining but we never went to the MDR. We were happy enough with the buffet and it fit our schedule perfectly. I loved the selection, especially the Mongolian BBQ. We have a restaurant like that here so I knew how it worked – you take a small bowl, fill it with fresh vegetables, then protein, then you request either rice or rice noodles. They stirfry it quickly and you’re off to eat.

I loved the desserts and probably had more than I should.

We had some snacks in the Grill – I love bratwurst and sauerkraut and was able to get it on the CP. We had it on the first NCL but not the second one, even though it was the same ship (NCL Jewel).

We also had a pizza or 2. There was one standard each day plus the pizza of the day, freshly made and yummy.

The muesli parfaits at breakfast were fantastic. Muesli, yogurt and a couple kinds of fruit all layered. I loved those.

One interesting thing – every meal seemed to have apricots in some form. One night, I thought that there were none but there they were in the Apricot Crumble for dessert. Lots of other fresh fruit at every meal. I think I had melon and pineapple 2-3 times a day for the entire trip.

This ship had no midnight chocolate buffet. I don’t mind – I’m just saying that in passing.

POOL/MUTS: There were a three places to enjoy a pool: the Lido Pool, Splash Pool and Lotus Pool. The Lotus Pool is next to the Lotus Spa. This ias a very lovely, calm and relaxing area. The roof looked like it might have been retractable but we only saw it closed so I don’t know for sure.

The Lido Pool had live bands played mid-day. They also had a variety of pool games and other activities there.

This is also where the Movies Under The Stars (MUTS) big screen is located. We saw several movies at MUTS. They have blankets at night and offer cookies and milk as well as popcorn – all free. The last movie we saw, they also came around with pizza. An annoying thing was the use of a BBC show called Walk on the Wildside about 20 minutes before each show. That was animals dubbed by various comedians. We didn’t find that too funny. The trivia questions were fun, though.

This area got very full quickly on movie nights so we made it a practice to get there early for movies we really wanted to see.

ENTERTAINMENT: All the live musicians throughout the ship were all terrific. Around the ship we heard a pianist (Tetiana) and String Trio who played lovely, classy music throughout the day. Also, a single solo artist named Daniel Oliver was outstanding singing and accompanying himself on the piano.

We went to the second performance of Alexander Great, an illusionist, in the Universe Lounge. We didn’t go to see the mentalist or comedian.

The singers and dancers were excellent. We saw all of their shows including Motown, What a Swell Party featuring many Cole Porter songs and was so good, and Dance!. The Bayou show in the Universe Lounge was fantastic, especially the ship’s orchestra as New Orleans funeral band followed by a jazz band. When they marched up the aisle at the end of the show and out into the foyer, they kept playing – fantastic.

Steven Kane, billed as Fantastic Flying Fingers, was also terrific. He had played on our last cruise but we missed it due to a Cruise Critic Dinner with an Officer so this was our second chance, meant to be. We saw him (and the ship’s orchestra) in the Universe Lounge and that was a great venue for him. When we saw him later, in the Princess Theater, the crowd was smaller. He played just as well, though.

A note about these performers – we saw them all eating in the Horizon Court Buffet, usually after shows or practices and it was nice to be so close to them, made us all feel like a “family”.

EXCURSIONS: Generally – when we returned to the ship after a day in port, crew members are on the pier passing out cold water and cool washcloths. Very much appreciated! Embarkation was generally easy, by group, depending on the tour. Except for the Panama Canal/Gatun Lake, all were docked at a pier.

Aruba: we did a tour of the California Lighthouse, Casibari rock formations and a semi-submersible over the Antilla shipwreck. Even though the tour description read “Your route back to the ship takes you past the fascinating ruins of a 19th-century gold mill at Boca Mahos, and at the end of the tour, you will have the option to independently explore Aruba’s capital city Oranjestad”, neither of those happened. I think that this was our least favorite tour and didn’t show Aruba off as well as it might have.

Cartegena: We did a mostly bus tour to La Popa Monastery. This is a top a large hill and gives some great photo opportunities of the city below. We stopped outside the Old City and there were the pushy streets vendors all over. We also saw the Navy Museum and a display of native dancers/musicians.

Panama Canal: The guide, Dr. Chris Roberts, was excellent and narrated onboard as we entered Gatun Lake. We were on the starboard side, Deck 11, and got a really good view of the whole lock operation. Someone (turned out later that it was a fellow passenger) played the bagpipes for most of the transit.

After getting off the tender for our tour, there was a very steep climb to the busses. I had to use both hands on a railing to pull myself up.

We took the Panama Canal Railway tour and loved it! A bus took us to the train station, then we got into the dome car. The guide (Melvyn) stayed with us for the day – very informative. The “train girls” who brought coffee and sodas gathered together and did a song for us. We saw the Miraflores Locks Observation Center and the new lanes being built for the canal.

Colon, Panama: We drove though this on the way back to the ship and were surprised how run-down and seedy it was.

Limon, Costa Rica: A 2 hour bus ride to the rainforest but the guide (Dennis) was excellent and had brought “show and tell” items for us to pass around. We had been to Costa Rica before but on the Pacific coast so this was different. The rainforest tram was a very relaxing way to glide through the upper trees and our guide (Fernando) was excellent. He’d done his thesis on butterflies so was able to point out a lot.

The walking part of the tour was good, too but we didn’t see as much as we had on the Pacific coast rainforest of Manuel Antonio National Park. They had a very good buffet, too, consisting of fruits, rice, beans, chicken, pasta and a dessert dish of plantains…and wonderful Costa Rican coffee. Other drinks were a mixed fruit juice that was very good, water, ice tea and soursop juice. DH had had soursop before and decided he didn’t want it again.

Ocho Rios, Jamaica: We didn’t get off the ship. I’d been there before and found it too touristy, especially at Dunn’s River Falls. The vendors there were just too pushy, too.

So, we stayed onboard and enjoyed the hot tub and pool.

Fort Lauderdale: We did the Intracoastal Waterway by Boat & Las Olas Blvd with Fort Lauderdale Airport Transfer and the was an easy way to transition from cruise life to the real world although we had to wait 6 hours for our flight. Lots of cruises came in that day and out flight couldn’t be changed.

OVERALL: We loved the Coral Princess. This is our new favorite ship and cruise line. My DH had a few suggestions, one being that there should be at least one more Veteran’s Get Together, and he went to the Cruise Director’s office. They acted quickly and another was added.

This was our first experience with a choir onboard. We loved the Princess Pop Choir, especially the director, James Goodall. He was so enthusiastic and brought so much to our rehearsals and final show in the Atrium.

We saw him just as we were disembarking and did a bit of the choreography.

It made leaving this fantastic cruise just a little bit easier…

Aruba, March 7 ~ Panama Canal Cruise

The description:

Friday, March 7

8:00 AM-7:00 PM

Dutch influence still lingers on this balmy Caribbean island, part of the former Netherlands Antilles until its independence in 1986. Aruba is a contrast: the island’s arid interior is dotted with cactus and windswept divi-divi trees while secluded coves and sandy beaches make up its coast. Aruba’s long and colorful heritage is reflected in its dialect. Called Papiamento, it is a tongue that combines elements of Spanish, French, Portuguese, Dutch, African and English.

Our Tour:

aruba

Semi-Submarine, Shipwreck & Island Drive

Your tour begins when you board the ferry “Stingray” at Palm Pier, on one of Aruba’s best beaches. After a 20-minute transfer, you’ll board the semi-sub. This is a surface vessel where you sit five feet below the waterline, the perfect way to discover the fascinating sea life that lives in these crystal clear Caribbean waters. The semi-sub will head towards the wreck of the “Antilla,” a German freighter that was sunk off the coast of Aruba during World War II. The tour is narrated and you will learn about how this 440-foot-long freighter met its watery end. You will also be able to view coral and the plentiful sea life, before returning to dry land. Here you will board your air-conditioned transportation for the short yet scenic journey to the California Lighthouse for views of Aruba’s windward coast.

The lighthouse is named after the U.S. ship which sunk in 1893, years before the lighthouse was built. Your captivating day then continues as you drive to the Casibari rock formations, where you will have time to browse the gift shop and view the amazing landscape formed by diorite boulders the size of small houses. Energetic guests may wish to climb the 80 rustic steps to the formation’s summit for stunning views of the island. Finally, it’s time to head to Aruba’s rugged north coast, to view the breath-taking Baby Natural Bridge, carved by the surf from solid coral and limestone. You will also be able to view the collapsed original Natural Bridge, and visit the gift shop here. Your route back to the ship takes you past the fascinating ruins of a 19th-century gold mill at Boca Mahos, and at the end of the tour, you will have the option to independently explore Aruba’s capital city Oranjestad. You will then be responsible for your return to the ship, which is a mere five minute walk away.


Our day:

Aruba, 8:00am–6:00pm

Weather Forecast:  Mostly Sunny High 82 / Low 79

Sunrise 6:52 am / Sunset 6:50 pm

From the Navigator:  Overnight Coral Princess maintained a southeasterly course and this morning we will make our final approach to Aruba.  A local pilot will assist in navigating the vessel to our berth in the capital city of Oranjestad.  This afternoon, with all the passengers onboard, we will let go our lines and maneuver out of the harbor, before altering course to starboard and setting westerly courses toward our next port of call, Cartagena.

When we woke up, we could see that we were approaching port.  I watched the process from the balcony, then we went down to deck 7 (Fiesta) to wait in line for disembarkation.

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Arriving at Aruba

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Of course, I checked in at Foursquare :)

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Container ships on the dock. In the distance, near the crane, is the Hooiberg volcano.

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The Freewinds often hosts local functions in the ports it frequents, such as jazz concerts and movie performances in Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. These events are usually free but often support island charities through entrance fees or suggested donations.[21] Local artists are often showcased. It also caters to different international conferences and events. The ship’s leisure facilities include a restaurant, lounge, cabaret, swimming pool, movie theater and beauty salon.

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More containers

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Arriving at Aruba

Off the ship, we went through the terminal and met our bus.  Turned out, Rosie and Jim were on the same tour.

We rode in the bus for a while as our tour guide mentioned some Aruba facts and showed us some points of interest.  One of the most interesting and pertinent facts for me was that all restrooms on Aruba cost $.50 to use except the Natural Bridge, which was $1.00.  Yuck!

One of the first things we saw was a roundabout with a McDonalds, Wendy’s and other fast food.  I also saw a store called Rat Land which I hope means something in Dutch than in English.

rat-land

Their license plates say “One Happy Island” but people are more happy when it rains.  They get very little rain there.  The island is very desert-like with lots of cacti, like we saw in Phoenix, AZ.

Our first stop was the California Light House.  There were some mini-Stonehenge rocks there.  We couldn’t go in.  This lighthouse was named for the steamship California, which wrecked nearby on September 23, 1891. It was formerly open to the public until a suicide occurred, which prompted authorities to restrict public access to the lighthouse.

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California Lighthouse

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At the California Lighthouse, looking at the sea

In Aruba, they make piles of rocks, similar to those we saw in Iceland.  In Aruba, tourists stack them up and make a wish on each rock they add to the pile.

rockpiles

Back on the bus, we went to DePalma beach.  That was down a path next to the Riu hotel.  All beaches here, like Barbados, are public.  The Riu had a “garden” of big rocks, surrounded by hedges and flowers, complete with a gardner tending these rocks.

Lots of activity there like wind surfing, parasailing, etc.  We walked past the little shops (they had Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin Robbins!) and got on a flat-topped ferry boat for our semi-submersible.

The semi-submersible didn’t submerge at all.  The only “submersing” it did was when we walked down the stairs to take our seats by the portholes.  In some of the photos below, you can see the bottom of our craft on the top of the water.

Even their own website says that they do not submerge at all:

The Seaworld Explorer Semi-Submarine is a state-of-the-art semi-submarine developed in Australia for use on the Great Barrier Reef. This unique vessel does not submerge. You step down into the hull of this cruising underwater observatory and sit in air-conditioned comfort just 5 feet below the water’s surface, viewing amazing Aruba sea life through large clear glass windows.

They should call in non-submersible instead.  There must not have been a reef or anything because all we did was circle the shipwreck, the Antilla.

I was a bit upset by all the divers’ bubbles coming from underneath us.  That couldn’t have been safe for them to be diving under a boat, whether it submerged or not.

Whatever.

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Ferry “Stingray”

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Shipwreck of the Antilla. You can see a diver’s fin in the top of this picture.

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Shipwreck of the Antilla. The jellyfish-looking thing in the upper right is air bubbles from a diver.

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Shipwreck of the Antilla.

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Shipwreck of the Antilla.

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Sergeant major fish

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More divers’ air bubbles

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The bottom of our boat at the top of this picture.

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The bottom of our boat at the top of this picture.

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From there, we drove to the Natural Bridge past Arashi Beach.

The Aruba Natural Bridge was a tourist attraction that was formed naturally out of coral limestone. The landmark collapsed on September 2, 2005.  We saw the newer Natural “Baby” Arch at the northeast shore of Aruba at the same site.

I thought I had a video of this arch but it might be on my other camera.  If/when I find it, I’ll put it here.  :)

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Natural Bridge area

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New or baby Natural Bridge

Everything where we were seemed so dry, so there was a lot of cactus.  We also saw some brown doves (close relative of the North American Mourning Dove) and egrets (a type of heron).

egret

The guide said that many of the beaches were made of coral.  They have a volcano on Aruba called Hooiberg, a Dutch word meaning Haystack.  It is actually a dormant volcano located close to the center of the island. The island of Aruba was formed as a result of volcanic activity.

Off to the Casibari rock formations.  Geologists are uncertain about their origins, but think that a collision of the teutonic plates forced the massive slabs to the surface. The limestone steps surrounding them are signs of the changing water levels of the Caribbean throughout the ages.

Aruba is made of lava quartz diorite and limestone.  There is also granite but it’s protected.

 

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Tom under one of the Casibari rock formations

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Casibari Rock Formations

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Casibari Rock Formations

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Casibari Rock Formations

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Arashi Beach

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A little lizard on the rocks.

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We didn’t get to see the gold mill or downtown Oranjestad but we were happy to head back to the ship.  I was surprised and pleased when the crew gave us cold water and cold towels.

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Oranjestad from our ship balcony.

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Back on board, we took a little nap, went to the library saw the singers and dancers do a show called Motor City, another excellent show.

After dinner in the buffet, we went to the Princess Theater to see Gravity with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.

http://youtu.be/OiTiKOy59o4

At Sea, Thursday March 6 ~ Panama Canal Cruise

image

Weather Forecast:  Sunny High 82 / Low 77

Sunrise 7:15 am / Sunset 6:58 pm

New Time Zone, one hour ahead

From the Navigator: Throughout the day, Coral Princess will continue to maintain a southwesterly course across the Caribbean Sea towards the island of Aruba.  The Caribbean Sea is part of the Atlantic Ocean and lies between the Islands of the Greater and Lesser Antillies and the coasts of South and Central America.  It covers an area of over 2,500,000 km2 and is considered one of the World’s most marine-rich bodies of water.

We spent this day mostly wandering around and eating.

Tom had a Veteran’s Gathering that started about 15 minutes before Pop Choir so he started there then joined me in choir.

We learned the difference between port and starboard.  According to our guest lecturer, “starboard” is from the old practice of having a steering oar on one side of the ship with the right side thought to be chosen simply because most people are right handed.

The word starboard comes from Old English steorbord, literally meaning the side on which the ship is steered.

The captains didn’t want to damage their oars, so they usually docked with the left side facing the port – and that became the port side.

I saw an interesting brown bird.  Tom said he thought that it was a frigate bird but that they couldn’t get wet.  When I saw the bird dive into the water and come up with a fish, it disproved one or both of Tom’s thoughts.

This may have been what Tom was thinking of:

Frigate birds cannot plunge like pelicans, when wet they can’t take off without difficulty. If their wing span got fully wet it might drown them. Even with a 90 inch wing span water sopping adult frigate birds may have trouble from taking off in water. Surface dipping and fixed habitat feeding may explain species limitations in survival.

From http://www.tropicalbirds.com/frigatebird.php

libraryEventually, we ended up in the library.  Very comfortable chairs!  There were headphone ports with some kind of music available, as well as footstools.

I settled down in my chair with my book and most likely dozed off for a bit.  Next thing I knew, 2 (or more) women were talking behind me.  I heard the entire life story of one of them, I think.

Then, I had a little headache and an ache at the back of my neck.  We went to MUTS to see Mamma Mia! and my headache got a lot worse so we left.

By the time we got back to the cabin, the headache circled my whole head.  I took 2 Tylenol (the only thing I’m allowed to take post-kidney cancer) and lay down a bit with a pillow over my head.  Then 2 more.

About 7ish, I was feeling mostly better so I got up and we went to eat, followed by the movie Captain Phillips starring Tom Hanks.

We decided that one of the library talking-women was wearing a perfume I was allergic to.  Tom will be more aware of potential scents in the future.

We had a small bit of rain…

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At Sea, Wednesday March 5 ~ Panama Canal Cruise

image

 

 

Weather Forecast:  Sunny High 81 / Low 77

Sunrise 6:32 am / Sunset 6:06 pm

From the Navigator: After passing the Santaren Channel, Coral Princess will alter to an easterly course as we enter the Old Bahama Channel, which lies between the Great Bahama Bank and the Northern coast of Cuba.  We will continue to follow the north coast of Cuba before rounding Punta Maisi at the eastern end of the island.  We will then pass through the Windward Passage which lies between Cuba and Haiti.

I woke up about 8:30 and took a shower in that tiny shower stall.  A removable head shower would be better in tight quarters like that.

Tom was reading on the balcony. He’d brought me coffee, a croissant, banana and yogurt.  Nice!

After a bit of me writing this, Tom napping, we went up to Horizon Court for real breakfast.  We almost always sat looking out the windows over the bow.  It was such a nice view.

our-table

We wandered around a bit and went to the Wheelhouse where I’d planned to join the Princess Pop Choir.  Tom was going to wait but ended up knowing all the songs so he’s singing with us, too :)

wheelhouse

We’ll have rehearsals every sea day and a final show the last night.  James, the leader, said we’d get special pins to wear.  Oooh!

Our songs, complete with choreography, will be:

Oh, What a Night

Waterloo

Isn’t She Lovely

It’s Not Unusual

We Are the Champions (might not be in the final show)

Sweet Caroline

We Will Rock You

We will be wearing black and white (where have I heard that before?!?) and our pins.

I have some black shorts with me but I didn’t think that they were performance-ready so when we were walking around later, I bought some black capris (and a *few* other things)

We talked to one of the young crew members, Hannah from Southhampton.  We’d seen her at the show last night.  Turns out she lives right up the street from James but they’d never met until this cruise.

After choir, we wandered around a bit, toward the atrium and into a couple shops (see black capris, above) , watched a bit of “Goofy Golf” and ran into some folks Tom knows (Jim and Rosie).  Goofy Golf consists of hitting a golf ball down a stairway with a right turn and hill at the bottom.  The ball was supposed to go into a plastic cup…eventually.

Back to the cabin for some reading and email, Then I decided to go out to a deck to read, instead.

We sat by the Lotus Pool for a while, then out on the deck.  I think I rested my eyes in both places.

lotus

It was formal night but I didn’t feel like going to the bother so we just got a bit more dressy, but nowhere near formal.

We ate in the buffet, anyway, and the main meat offering was roast lamb.  Yummy!

We were a bit early for the show, but there was a string trio playing in the Wheelhouse across the hall.  We went in there – they were playing Mozart, Vivaldi, Ravel, Strauss but the thing that got to me was when they played Astor Piazolla’s Oblivion.

Several years ago, Alice and I were talking about skating and I mentioned that several of the skaters were using the music of Astor Piazolla.  She’d never heard of him so I played some of his music over the phone for her.  She immediately fell in love with his Oblivion and ended up buying the music for herself.

I couldn’t believe that this little group was playing this, another reminder of my Alice.

There are several versions of Oblivion on YouTube, none with string trios, so I liked this the best since it showed off a violinist:

We went into the show in the Princess Theater – it was completely full – so we sat in the 3rd row.  It was wonderful.   The show was called What a Swell Party and featured music of Cole Porter – how can you go wrong? I was just amazed at the talent the singers and dancers have.

After the show, we went out to see what was running on MUTS.  It was the end of Jobs and we stayed for the rest of that and into the beginning of the next showing.

After getting a glass of ice water, we went back to the cabin.  A reminder that we change our clocks forward tonight.

Lots of promising activities tomorrow, including choir practice.

And, on TV tonight – Great Expectations.  I loved that book.  The movie (2012 version), not so much.

I read about a paragraph of mine (Pigeonwings) before I fell asleep.

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Tuesday, March 4 ~ Panama Canal Cruise

ft-lauderdale

 

What a day!  I spent most of the first part being nervous that we would miss the ship.  There were phone calls from employees that weren’t sure what to do while we were gone, emails…

At 11:00 we were supposed to check out and housekeeping came by to check on us and I told her  “soon”.

My sandal broke, the part next to the heel separated from the sole.  <sigh>

Finally, we checked out at noon and set off to find the place to return the rental car that we never really used.  A wrong turn or 2 and we finally got there about 1:00.  Tom called for a taxi.  We waited and waited.  Tom called again.  Finally, the driver got there and we reloaded our luggage.

Fortunately, the port was only about a mile a way but there was a lot of traffic to the port and all cars had to stop and everyone had to show IDs.  That slowed everything up.

Dropped off our luggage and finally got in the terminal building.  It was nearly 2:00.  Tom had been thinking we had until 4:00 to get onboard – I reminded him that this ship sailed at 4:00.  We had to be on by 3:00.

Fort Port Lauderdale Embarkation 

Weather Forecast:  Sunny High 77 / Low 69

Sunrise 6:41 am / Sunset 6:23 pm

From the Navigator: As soon as all the passengers and crew are onboard and all pre-departure checks have been completed, the Captain will give the order to let go our mooring lines.  Once clear from the berth, Coral Princess will make her way out of the harbor before disembarking our pilot and altering our course to starboard.  We will then set southwesterly courses through the Straits of Florida toward the Old Bahama Channel, as we make our way towards Aruba.

A hustling, bustling port – not just cruise ships.  As far as I could tell, we were the only cruise ship there.

A lot of people got there about when we did but the lines moved fairly quickly…until it was time to actually board the ship.  That’s when you swipe your new card and they add your picture to the record for to be sure you’re who you say you are when you come back from port.

We got on the actual ship and were directed to the left.  We followed lots of other folks and ended up at an elevator.  Up to our cabin and our first 2 pieces of luggage were already there.  The third was only a few minutes later.  Very speedy!

I like this ship – Coral Princess!

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The cabin is (or seems) bigger than the one on Norwegian (NCL).  There is a desk instead of a couch (NCL).  The couch wasn’t very practical – the desk really is.

We have a walk-in closet which is really nice.  We haven’t even filled it halfway up (yet).  It’s at a right angle to the sleeping area which makes it seem like a separate room.

The bathroom is small.  I think the shower is smaller than NCL’s but I don’t spend that much time in there.

The end tables by the bed have actual drawers instead of open shelves.

The chairs on the balcony recline.  They’re fixed on NCL.

No coffeemaker, though.  NCL had one in the cabin.

We have a TV guide telling us what is on for the whole trip.  The new Hobbit movie will be on later.  Glad we didn’t see it in the movies.

Pool/Beach towels are in the closet.  We return them to the cabin and the steward brings us new ones.  We didn’t have to check them out and return them to the pool each day.  Hooray!

This ship has a self-service laundry on each deck.  I’ve never seen that on another ship.

We went off for muster  Here, we had to take our lifejackets and put them on at one point.  NCL, we didn’t take them.  They showed us how to jump off the side, if necessary.  Um, no.

I noted for future reference that many women on here wear white long pants.  Not likely!

Tom went off to a meeting, I did some church work – uploading Sunday’s sermons.

I took a little video of the sail away and some regular pictures.

http://youtu.be/snOVmXcPO-0

 

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The sheriff’s boat, acting as pilot

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Tom came back and wrote some emails.  I think I napped.  I didn’t feel like getting dressed for dinner so we went to the buffet.  It seemed smaller than NCL but then I realized that they didn’t have the pizza and burgers mixed in.  The buffet was all real food.  Among other things, I had prime rib.  Yummy!!!   We got to sit right ”up front” in the center of the stern.  Very impressive!

We walked around a bit, trying to get our bearings.  This ship has a lot of wood on it, more “real” than the mostly metal ones I usually see.  Teak tables, wooden doors.

I understand that this ship line used to be P&O from England before they became Princess.  There are British hints all over, from the afternoon Tea Time, to the huge selection of teas at dinner.  There are also pictures from the P&O line on the walls and 2 grenadiers guarding the casino.  Tom thinks that P&O might have stood for Pacific and Orient – I’ll look that up when we get home.  (Note – it is Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation Company)

I had wanted to go to the 7:45 Welcome Aboard show but there was some email to be sent.  I think I rested my eyes.

Then, we went out and walked around some more – by Movies Under the Stars (MUTS) which seems to mostly be showing a variety of things.  There are 2 movies later this week that I’d like to see.  They put cushions on the deck chairs and give out blankets, popcorn,  cookies and milk.  It’s also right by the ice cream, pizza and grill so not too much chance of hunger.

We walked all around a couple of decks.  It seems like we’re nearly alone on this cruise.  Except for embarking, we’ve seen very few other people.

At 9:30, we did see  the show.  I thought that they would do snippets from upcoming shows but the singers/dancers did a “welcome to Princess” type song and dance and the comedian told some jokes.  The cruise director, Susan Rawlings,  told us a bit about what was coming up.

Walking around some more.  We decided to get some pizza but they were just closing up.  Back to the buffet – Horizon Court – and I had some fruit (and another egg roll)

There was a note on our bed after dinner that they would be happy to deliver whatever fruit we wanted to our cabin.  Nice touch.  Also, a Princess tote bag.

We had chocolates on our pillow!

Just a bit of church work, should have taken about 2 minutes, tops, but it took 11, thanks to this s-l-o-w internet connection.

I think I fell asleep almost immediately.  If anything, I read one paragraph in my book.

Early Tuesday

ft-lauderdale

 

We’re having breakfast and will be getting repacked and ready to leave soon.

I’m getting a bit antsy since we have a rental car to return, then a taxi from the rental place to the port.  Things like this make me nervous with all the “what-ifs”.

I’ve posted a couple links on FB if anyone wants to follow along or I want to look again later.

Webcam from the bow of the Coral Princess

Current position M/S Coral Princess

I also took several screenshots of the current cruise heading into port but I’ll wait until we get back and pretend that it’s us heading home :)

Beach Buddies

MaryO

 

 

Panama Canal Cruise

I know I’ve talked about my good friend, Alice, several places online but I don’t know if I’ve mentioned her here.  There were several places she dreamed of going but never got the chance to go.

My DH always wanted to go to the Panama Canal.  In November, I started looking at cruises and finally settled on this one.  It was a very expensive Christmas/anniversary/birthday gift – for many years – for him but I remembered Alice and thought that we have to do this now, while we have the opportunity.

Here’s where we’re going…

Coral_10DayPanCanCaymans13-14_R1_CA

Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Tuesday, March 4

4:00 PM

Day 2

At Sea
Wednesday, March 5

Day 3

At Sea
Thursday, March 6

Day 4

Aruba
Friday, March 7

8:00 AM-7:00 PM

Dutch influence still lingers on this balmy Caribbean island, part of the former Netherlands Antilles until its independence in 1986. Aruba is a contrast: the island’s arid interior is dotted with cactus and windswept divi-divi trees while secluded coves and sandy beaches make up its coast. Aruba’s long and colorful heritage is reflected in its dialect. Called Papiamento, it is a tongue that combines elements of Spanish, French, Portuguese, Dutch, African and English.

Our Tour:

arubaSemi-Submarine, Shipwreck & Island Drive

Your tour begins when you board the ferry “Stingray” at Palm Pier, on one of Aruba’s best beaches. After a 20-minute transfer, you’ll board the semi-sub. This is a surface vessel where you sit five feet below the waterline, the perfect way to discover the fascinating sea life that lives in these crystal clear Caribbean waters. The semi-sub will head towards the wreck of the “Antilla,” a German freighter that was sunk off the coast of Aruba during World War II. The tour is narrated and you will learn about how this 440-foot-long freighter met its watery end. You will also be able to view coral and the plentiful sea life, before returning to dry land. Here you will board your air-conditioned transportation for the short yet scenic journey to the California Lighthouse for views of Aruba’s windward coast.

The lighthouse is named after the U.S. ship which sunk in 1893, years before the lighthouse was built. Your captivating day then continues as you drive to the Casibari rock formations, where you will have time to browse the gift shop and view the amazing landscape formed by diorite boulders the size of small houses. Energetic guests may wish to climb the 80 rustic steps to the formation’s summit for stunning views of the island. Finally, it’s time to head to Aruba’s rugged north coast, to view the breath-taking Baby Natural Bridge, carved by the surf from solid coral and limestone. You will also be able to view the collapsed original Natural Bridge, and visit the gift shop here. Your route back to the ship takes you past the fascinating ruins of a 19th-century gold mill at Boca Mahos, and at the end of the tour, you will have the option to independently explore Aruba’s capital city Oranjestad. You will then be responsible for your return to the ship, which is a mere five minute walk away.

Day 5

At Sea
Saturday, March 8

Day 6

Cartagena, Colombia
Sunday, March 9

7:00 AM-2:00 PM

One of the more interesting cities on your itinerary steeped in history. This was the transit port for all the wealth Spain derived from South America. The famous “Old City” is comprised of 12 square blocks filled with attractions, boutiques and restaurants.

Throughout Colombia, the Spanish Empire’s influence in the New World is self-evident. Its fortress walls, quaint narrow streets, and balconied houses are all vivid reminders of Spain’s hold on Cartagena and throughout the Caribbean and South America. This is the land of El Dorado and flamboyant adventurers in search of the ever-elusive gold. Cartagena’s well-constructed fortifications defended its borders against seafaring pirates whose attacks lasted for more than 200 years. Today this modern and bustling city, seaport, and commercial center still boasts much of its original colonial architecture. Your journey here will provide you with a significant link to the region’s grand past.

Our tour:

cartegnaScenic Drive of Cartagena & La Popa Monastery

Departing from the pier, you will be accompanied by an English-speaking guide, pass by the traditional district of Manga to admire the beautiful houses of the Republican time on your way to La Popa convent, built during the 17th century and dedicated to Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria, one of the city’s patron saints, enjoy the splendid view over the city and visit the small chapel for a look at the famous wooden statue of the Virgin, marvel at the wonderful gold leaves laminated main altar.

Continue on with your journey to a photo stop at the largest Spanish fort in the New World – Fort of San Felipe de Barajas, originally built in the 17th century, and snap pictures of the ancient towering walls and main entrance.

Take a 30 -minute drive to the walled city and marvel at the plethora of colonial buildings and age-old fortifications around every corner, as well as the old churches domes, the clock tower, symbol of the city and the city ocean views.

Continue your journey to the Navy Museum, established in 1986, restored ruins of the Jesuits school, discover the historic military efforts of Cartagena, enjoy the wealth of historical artifacts, maritime life and naval history of Colombia, enjoy a folkloric show and a refreshing soft drink.

After cooling down, take your transportation again for an overview of the modern residential area of Bocagrande, famous for its wide variety of shops, restaurants and hotels, before returning to the ship.

Day 7

6:00 AM-3:30 PM

The narrow isthmus separating the Atlantic from the Pacific Ocean had a colorful and turbulent history long before Ferdinand de Lesseps first dreamed of building a transcontinental canal.

Spanish conquistadors hauled Incan gold through the dense rainforest to ports on the Atlantic. English freebooters sought to ransack those ports and attack the treasure ships that sailed from Portobelo. And 49ers braved mosquitoes and yellow fever to get to the California gold fields. While the Panama Canal remains one of the great American engineering feats of the 20th century, visitors to Panama will discover a whole range of scenic wonders. Hike into the dense rainforest, home to over 1,000 species of animals. Or pay a visit to an Embera Indian village in the heart of Chagres National Park.

Disembarkation in Gatun Lake is restricted to passengers who have booked the following tours only: PC1-100, PC1-110, PC1-115, PC1-120, PC1-170, PC1-175, PC1-235, PC1-350, PC1-385, PC1-605, PC1-610, PC1-615. Passengers on these tours are taken ashore by tenders. Later in the day, the ship then retraces her route through the Gatun locks to dock at Pier 6 in Colon in the Caribbean. The tours return to this point. All remaining passengers are able to disembark in Colon, where they may explore the dockside shops. There are no tours offered in Colon.

Note: The Panama Canal Authority assigns specific time slots for the transit of a vessel through the locks. The ship will anchor in a designated area and will wait for instructions. Once clearance is transmitted to the ship, procedures begin to bring ship’s tour passengers ashore. Therefore, tour departure times may vary and will be announced onboard.

Our Tour:

trainPanama Canal Railway & Miraflores Locks (Dome Car)

Imagine traveling around the Panama Canal in a deluxe 1938 vintage executive railway car. During this six-hour tour you’ll not only take in the sights of the canal but transfer to the Miraflores Locks for an up close look at this engineering marvel.

After boarding your air-conditioned transportation you’ll make the short drive to the train station at Colon. Here, you’ll board your unique train. Reminiscent of the golden age of railway travel, the passenger cars feature luxurious wood paneling, tables, carpeted floors, soft lamp lighting, wooden blinds, air conditioning, bathrooms, large windows to appreciate the picturesque journey and open-air viewing decks that allow passengers to step outside and “smell” the tropical rainforest.

Then, you’ll leave the Colon station on an approximately one-hour train trip to the Pacific terminus of the Panama Canal, passing Gatun Lake and the isthmus’ dense rainforest. During your railroad journey, you guide will provide commentary on the railroad, Panamanian history, and the canal.

The rainforests of the Panama Canal are some of the most accessible green zones in the world. With over 50,000 acres of pristine rainforest, this natural gem hosts an incredible 105 species of mammals, 525 species of birds and 124 species of reptiles and amphibians. Enjoy a light snack and beverage during this part of you tour.

The Panama Canal requires a vast rainforest watershed to feed water to its lock system, which uses millions of gallons each day. Since the rainforests are so important to the national economy, the Canal Zone has had to actively preserve its natural resources, providing pristine green areas and excellent photo opportunities.

When your train arrives at Panama City’s train station, you’ll transfer to a coach that will take you to the Miraflores Locks Observation Center to view a documentary on the history of the locks. You will also have the opportunity for a close up view of the passing ships and functioning of the locks from the top floor of the center. The lock gates at Miraflores are the tallest of the three due to the extreme tidal variation that takes place in the Pacific Ocean. Depending on the size of each vessel, you can see one to three vessels simultaneously make the transit. From the moment the vessels enter the locks, it takes approximately ten minutes for the process to be completed. The water enters and leaves the locks by means of gravity only, there are no pumps or other man-made devices that assist in this process.

At the end of this fascinating adventure, you’ll return to the pier.

Day 7

Colon, Panama
Monday, March 10

5:00 PM-8:00 PM

Day 8

Limon, Costa Rica
Tuesday, March 11

7:00 AM6:00 PM

Costa Rica’s Limon Province boasts pristine beaches, sprawling banana plantations and dense rainforest.

These Caribbean lowlands are still sparsely populated–nearly a third of the province’s population lives around Puerto Limon–and conservation efforts have led to growing eco-tourism. Limon Province offers other charms as well. Afro-Caribbean influences abound, from the lilting speech and reggae rhythms brought by Jamaican settlers to the colorful bungalows lining small fishing villages. Limon is a zesty little slice of heaven.

Our Tour:

tramRainforest Aerial Tram, Nature Walk & Lunch

Board your air-conditioned transportation at the pier and travel to an acclaimed ecotourism and research facility near Braulio Carrillo National Park. Here, glide through the canopy in an aerial tram, offering intimate views of the forest from the treetops. The rainforest canopy is teeming with wildlife and is home to two-thirds of Costa Rica’s rainforest species. Towering trees, giant ferns, bursts of color and myriad wildlife make up a large part of this incredible hanging garden. A naturalist guide will accompany you on your ride, explaining the delicate balance of the rainforest and pointing out the amazing wildlife amongst us in this intricate ecosystem. After your tram ride, you’ll be served a tasty, traditional Costa Rican lunch buffet at the charming Rain Forest Restaurant, surrounded by the sights and sounds of the forest. The orchestra of creatures in the forest serves as wonderful background music while you dine. Following lunch, walk it off with a guided stroll through the rainforest for a deeper appreciation of this complex environment from a totally different perspective. You’ll have time to visit the gift shop for eco-friendly handicrafts made exclusively in Costa Rica before we head back to the ship.

Day 9

At Sea
Wednesday, March 12

Day 10

Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Thursday, March 13

9:00 AM4:00 PM

Ocho Rios (Spanish for “Eight Rivers”) is located on the northern coast of Jamaica–67 miles east of Montego Bay. Blue-green mountains, white-sand beaches, lilting breezes wafting across flower-adorned hillsides – Jamaica is a sensual feast. Stunning natural beauty and a unique society molded by British, African, Spanish and Asian influences make Jamaica an unforgettable port of call in the Caribbean. Ocho Rios is a superb slice of Jamaica. The area is named for its spectacular rivers and waterfalls, including famed Dunn’s River Falls.

Day 11

At Sea
Friday, March 14

Day 12

Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Saturday, March 15

7:00 AM

According to the popular 1960 beach movie, Fort Lauderdale is “where the boys are.” The city’s reputation as America’s Spring Break capital, however, has been replaced with the more favorable image of a prime family tourist destination, attracting more than 10 million visitors annually. The most popular beach resort in Florida is even more rightly famed as the “Yachting Capital of the World,” with more than 40,000 registered crafts calling its waters home. The city also prides itself on being the “Venice of America” with more than 300 miles of navigable waterways. Fort Lauderdale boasts world-class theaters, museums, sightseeing, and shopping.

The city sits 24 miles north of Miami and is named after a series of forts built by the United States during the second Seminole War. The forts took their name from Major William Lauderdale, who was the commander of the detachment of soldiers who built the first fort. Look hard and you might find remnants of three of them today. More people seem to be interested in taking a water tour aboard the “Carrie B.”

Note: Luggage is stowed on the transportation during disembarkation tours. Disembarkation tours end at the airports; therefore passengers who have post-cruise packages at local hotels must disembark at Fort Lauderdale International Airport. Passengers will then be responsible for their transportation to the hotel.

Our Tour:

intercoastalIntracoastal Waterway by Boat & Las Olas Blvd with Fort Lauderdale Airport Transfer (Disembarkation)

Departing passengers shouldn’t miss this last chance to tour Fort Lauderdale’s finest boulevards, beaches and waterways, on an excursion that promises to delight. Your tour starts when you board your air-conditioned bus for a guided tour along Fort Lauderdale’s famed golden beaches, en route to trendy Las Olas Boulevard, which features a multitude of delightful art galleries, eclectic boutiques and busy sidewalk cafés. Here, you will have 20-30 minutes to browse the many interesting shops, enjoy a refreshing beverage or simply wander around this bustling, sunny neighborhood, before heading aboard the charming “Carrie B” paddle-wheel boat for a relaxing cruise along Fort Lauderdale.

Your captain and crew are friendly and approachable, and will be on hand to point out the many elaborate mansions and celebrity homes along Millionaires Row. You’ll also get close to the massive yachts docked outside the Bahia Mar Marina, Hyatt Pier 66 and the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Grande hotels. This super-fun vessel features both open and enclosed decks for your comfort, as well as a comprehensive snack bar. Returning to the boat’s docking location, you will then board your bus and head to the airport.

Webcam from the deck: http://www.kroooz-cams.com/coral/coral1.php