Panamanian Princess

President stops for shipboard shopping after canal christening

By: Theresa Norton Masek

No less than the president of Panama christened the new Coral Princess while it was passing through the Big Ditch.

Afterwards, Mireya Moscoso, the first female president of the Central American nation, cut short a photo session with Princess executives and top travel agents to go shopping in the ship’s boutiques.

She found a lot she liked, departing an hour later with about a dozen bags full of T-shirts and gifts for children, according to a member of her entourage.

Most passengers also will find a lot to like on the 91,000-ton, 1,970-passenger Coral Princess. Princess managed to pack in public rooms comparable to those found on the much-larger Grand-class ships. Although the Coral Princess is small, it is a long, narrow, efficiently laid out vessel that squeezes through the Panama Canal’s locks with just inches to spare.

“This is a true Panamax vessel and the longest ship in our fleet,” said Dean Brown, executive vice president of customer service and sales.

The signature public rooms found on the Grand vessels and the Coral Princess include the Explorer’s Lounge with its exotic, African décor, an aft showroom, a forward theater and the Asian-influenced Lotus Spa operated by Mandara.

Making its debut on the Coral Princess is the line’s ScholarShip@Sea Program, enrichment classes ranging from computer training ($20 a person) to a complimentary demonstration on fiesta cocktails and appetizers by chefs Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken, better known as TV’s Two Hot Tamales.

Many of the courses are held in the Universe Lounge, which has three revolving stages and a full kitchen with overhead cameras and big screens. It also can accommodate 50 people with laptops for a hands-on Web design seminar.

Also new is the Pottery Studio, which Princess says contains the first seagoing kiln.

The Coral Princess will operate 10-day canal cruises from Fort Lauderdale until April. Then it will move to Alaska for weekly gulf cruises between Vancouver, B.C. and Seward, Alaska.

The Coral will be joined in Alaska by its sister ship, Island Princess, which is scheduled to join the fleet in May.