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Coral Princess Review: Designed for Panama – Perfect for Alaska!

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If you think of a 20-year-old cruise ship, what comes to mind? Probably not the best experience, right? Never fear though: Princess Cruise’s Coral Princess might be old enough to drink (if she were a human), but a recent refurbishment makes her one of the newest in terms of experience. Best of all, she’s specifically designed for certain destinations – and excels at cruising in one of my favorite places (and one that I cover a lot on my blog!).

I sailed aboard the Coral Princess in March 2017 on a Caribbean-Panama Canal itinerary. It was my first trip with my blogger friend Marissa from Postcards to Seattle; we’ve since gone on many trips together, so we at least enjoyed our time aboard the Coral Princess enough to make us travel companions for almost a decade!

Coral Princess Review Hero

If you’ve booked a cruise aboard the Coral Princess – whether it’s your first or the first of many –, you might be curious what it’s really like aboard this ship. My week-long sailing was the first one I’ve ever taken, so I feel like I went into my cruise with fresh eyes, and looked at the Coral Princess much as I do a hotel – but the ship is also a destination in its own right.

Below you’ll find a bunch of information about the Coral Princess, as well as my own thoughts after sailing (and, admittedly, a fair amount of time has passed and I’ve taken other cruises). I hope this helps you feel confident in booking your Princess Cruise aboard this ship, whether you’ve already paid the deposit or are still considering whether this might the right travel style for you.

Lastly, because I primarily focus on Alaska and the American West, I’ve added a special section about whether I think this ship is good for Alaska cruises specifically. Ready to set sail?

Overall Ship Details

Before jumping into the details, you might find a few facts about the Coral Princess interesting. I like to know these sorts of random details before I set out on a trip to a destination, so why not know them about your floating accommodation/destination too!

  • The Coral Princess was originally designed to traverse the Panama Canal as her primary destination. (I did not know this when I decided to sail aboard her on a Panama Canal itinerary!)
  • She carries 2,000 passengers and 895 crew at max capacity; she has 16 decks and 1,000 staterooms including 700 balconies.
  • The maiden voyage aboard the Coral Princess was in January 2003, making her the second-oldest ship in the Princess fleet. You won’t notice that though, as…
  • She was last refurbished in January 2019, after my cruise aboard the ship; sounds like I’m overdue for a repeat sailing! (Hint, hint, Princess – you can find my email easily on this site if you want to invite me to cruise Alaska with ya! 😅)

Yes, boats are always “she.” I lived on one for about 18 months; trust me, all boats have the temperament of a high-maintenance gal – I say, as a high-maintenance gal myself!

Cabin Options & Peek into Our Room

The Coral Princess has all the standard cabin options: Interior, Oceanview (picture window or porthole), Balcony, Mini-Suite (sitting area with sofa bed), and Suite (living space, a sofa bed, and separate seating areas). During my cruise with Marissa, we were booked in a Balcony stateroom; it was arranged as two twin beds since we were traveling as friends.

Our cabin was very efficient, and I delighted in discovering all the little storage areas as this was my first cruise. The beds – which Princess takes great pride in, calling them the “Princess Luxury Bed” – were very comfortable, and the balcony was well worth it in the Caribbean where we could enjoy warm fresh air pretty much all day by keeping the door open when we were in our cabin.

The restroom – officially called a “head” if you’re a boat person! – was sufficient, though certainly cozy for two adults who don’t live together normally. (What I mean is, I feel like Mr. V and I adjust to small shared spaces very naturally, whereas this was my first trip with Marissa so we definitely had to find a balance of having our own space within the small space available!) We had a shower but no tub, which was fine – I’ve since cruised on other ships with a tub instead, and much prefer the additional space.

Everything Aboard the Coral Princess

One of the biggest draws for traveling by cruise ship is everything it includes, such as meals, entertainment, etc. Here’s a quick run-through of those options for the Coral Princess, if you’re not familiar with them.

Standard Dining

As you might expect for a section about “standard dining” options, the included dining aboard the Coral Princess is pretty standard:

  • The Bordeaux Dining Room offers reservation seatings every evening, whereas the Provence Dining Room is open seating throughout the dinner window (5:30-10pm daily). Both dining rooms offer the same menu each night, so it’s a matter of your preferences and group size, etc.
  • The International Cafe is essential for morning fuel and midday snacks.
  • The Bar & Grill offers casual fare on the Sun Deck (Deck 15).
  • Horizon Court is the classic all-you-can-eat casual dining spot for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  • The Princess Pizzeria is another casual option – and passenger favorite –, on the Lido Deck (Deck 14); it was named “Best Pizza at Sea” by USA Today in 2019.

As you can tell, these are all what you’d expect on a ship of this size, and cover the basics. If you don’t want to spend extra on meals aboard the Coral Princess, these will cover your meals throughout your cruise.

Specialty Dining

I can’t deny: I love specialty dining when I’m cruising; it’s one of my favorite parts of the mega-ship experience, probably because it’s the closest you can get to the incredible food I’ve been fortunate to enjoy on small ship cruises I’ve done.

Aboard the Coral Princess, here are your specialty dining options:

  • Sabatini’s Italian Trattoria is the European-style specialty option, with incredible pasta dishes and the best wine list on the ship.
  • Bayou Cafe & Steakhouse is the American option, featuring surf and turf menu options, and a great cocktail list. Think of it as white tablecloth New Orleans dining.
  • My favorite dining experience – possibly aboard any cruise ship of any size –, the Chef’s Table Experience is fantastic aboard the Coral Princess (as it is among all Princess ships!). This is sometimes paired with a tour of the Galley (kitchen), which is also fun if you really love good food and are curious how it works on ships of this size when as many as 2,000 people want dinner at the same time.
Coral Princess Review - Chefs Table

If your budget only affords one specialty dining option, the Chef’s Table is absolutely worth it; you’ll feel like a true star with the incredible service and food experience.

Chocolate Journeys

If you know anything about food on Princess Cruises, you may have heard about their “Chocolate Journeys,” too.

In short, you can find incredible chocolate-based works of art – I mean desserts – in the main dining room, at specialty restaurants, and in the buffet. There are also chocolate-based cocktails and a chocolate-themed spa treatment on some ships. Each Princess ship has a different range of chocolate desserts, drinks, and such, but as you can see, they’re beautiful and very indulgent. Be sure to give them a try, no matter where you decide to eat while onboard the Coral Princess.

Other Shipboard Amenities

I say this in the nicest way possible, but the Coral Princess is exactly what you’d expect of a mega-ship cruise: it has the variety of cabins and dining experiences, plus the other shipboard experiences you’d expect (or have heard about, if this is your first cruise). Specific to the Coral Princess, these include:

  • Shipboard entertainment includes theatre and musical performances, game shows and other social events, “Movies under the Stars,” art exhibits and auctions, and so on.
  • The Lotus Spa is the place for formalized relaxation exercises, with massages, beauty treatments (facials, salon treatments,etc.), and an aromatherapy thermal suite that might be my favorite spa experience in a while.
  • The Coral Princess is also home to The Sanctuary, an adults-only section of the ship if you need a break from the kids (or an escape from everyone else’s).
  • There’s a full slate of programming for kids and teens from ages 3-17, with special options for 3- to 7-year olds, 8- to 12-year olds, and teens 13+.

Basically, you can experience plenyt of delights aboard this floating small city!

My Coral Princess Experience

Let’s be real: so far, I’ve just been covering the basics of the ship; you could find all that on the Princess website for the Coral Princess, though I’d like to think I shared them more succinctly and with a bit less marketing-speak.

What you really want to know is: what did I really think of my time aboard the Coral Princess?

Coral Princess Review - Coffee

As a reminder, I sailed a Caribbean/Panama Canal cruise in 2017, with port stops in Jamaica, Costa Rica, and Panama, and a partial traverse of the canal (we went in and back out on the Atlantic side, rather than crossing all the way through).

This was my first cruise aboard a ship this size – actually, it was my first cruise ever! My family didn’t take the common Caribbean cruise getaway when I was a kid (as a reminder, I grew up in Alaska!), so I was an adult for my first mega-ship cruise experience.

I’m of two minds about cruising, especially on ships these bigs: on one hand, I can totally see why people love cruising. It’s so convenient! You unpack once! You stay in the same place every night! And you have the chance to see the world! On the other hand, the cruise companies keep the vast majority of money in their own pockets and you don’t really immerse yourself in anywhere you visit. Even in Alaska, where I know cruise companies like Princess partner with local tour companies to offer excursions.

Specific to the Coral Princess, I can say that if you’re booking a mega-ship cruise, you’re going to have a great introduction to this style of travel (assuming this is your first cruise, hence looking for a review!). The Coral Princess is outfitted with all the standard amenities and experiences you’ll find on ships this size, though it perhaps lacks some of the bells and whistles you’ll find on the even bigger ships and with other cruise companies (like the go-kart track aboard the Norwegian Encore or literally anything on Royal Caribbean’s behemoth ships).

For its size, the Coral Princess feels accessible and well-appointed: it has enough to keep you more than fully entertained on days at sea, or if you’re visiting a destination where the weather isn’t always agreeable (lookin’ at you, Alaska!).

All in all, you’ll probably be satisfied – if not delighted – by sailing aboard the Coral Princess, assuming you’ve managed your expectations about this style of travel (mega-ship cruising) and are happy with the amenities, restaurants, and other experiences you’ll find aboard (which I’ve covered).

Now you’re ready to set sail, right?

Talk to Me About Seasickness, Valerie

If you’ve never cruised before, and you’re highly motion-sensitive (as I am), you might wonder about seasickness. To be honest, I experienced seasickness aboard the Coral Princess during a few days crossing the Caribbean. Yes, even aboard the big ship, I could feel it!

So, if you’re sensitive, travel prepared: bring medication or other items you might need to help yourself stay comfortable. This was the trip where I discovered Benadryl helps me sleep very well, and that the medical bay always has seasickness tabs on hand in case you forget to bring them!

Upcoming Coral Princess Itineraries

Here’s a preview of the general regions where the Coral Princess is sailing in the next 18 months:

As you can see, there’s one destination on that list that merited me (finally!) writing my review of the Coral Princess; she’ll be sailing in Alaska’s Inside Passage next summer!

Coral Princess in Alaska – Yay or Nay?

In summer 2025, the Coral Princess will be sailing between Vancouver and Whittier on their “Voyage of the Glaciers” itinerary, which includes port stops at Skagway, Juneau, and Ketchikan, and sail-through stops in Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay National Park. This is pretty similar to the itinerary I am cruising with Celebrity Cruises in September 2024.

There are two aspects of the Coral Princess that I think make it a great ship for an Alaska cruise, if you’re considering it:

  1. It’s the smallest ship in the Princess fleet, by both passenger volume and size (tonnage). This is an advantage, as it can access certain parts of the Inside Passage that larger ships cannot, and can get better moorages in certain ports.
  2. More than 700 of her 1000 staterooms have balconies, which is the best stateroom category for an Alaska cruise: there’s nothing better than stepping out on your balcony into the crisp Alaskan morning air with a cup of hot coffee in your hands.

All this to say, if you’re planning a cruise on the Coral Princess – especially an Alaska cruise – I think you’re in for a real treat. She’s a great ship, tried and true on Princess’ top itineraries around the world, and a favorite among repeat cruisers. I still feel lucky she was my first mega-ship cruise experience!

Have any other questions about cruising aboard the Coral Princess or my Coral Princess review? Let me know in the comments below!

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I was born on the East Coast and currently live in the Midwest – but my heart will always be out West. I lived for 15 years in Alaska, as well as four years each in California and Washington. I share travel resources and stories based on my personal experience and knowledge.

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