2024 Regal Princess Cruise – Galveston, Cozumel, Belize, Roatan

We decided to take a Caribbean Cruise out of Galveston. This was our second cruise but our first in several years.

Cruise Planning – picking a cruise, selecting a room

After spending a lot of time researching forums and checking out prices from various sources online, we decided the Regal Princess would fit the bill! We had a few specifics in mind. We wanted:
1. a balcony room
2. mid-ship and on one of the lower decks
3. an unobstructed view
4. to visit places aside from Mexico (just for the fun of adding a couple of new countries to our “visited” list)

After shopping around, I phoned Princess and spoke to a booking agent. We were slightly less than 90 days before cruising, so, in the cruising world we were booking last minute. On the Princess website I had picked a cabin slightly forward of mid-ships. When I told him what we are looking for he typed away at the computer for a while and offered us a “premier balcony” right in the middle of the ship on deck 9, which is the second lowest level with cabins. The cost was only slightly higher than the standard balcony I had found so we took it on the spot.

A note on the different balcony cabins: the premiers have a love seat couch that makes into a small bed in them that the regular cabins do not. We really liked having that love seat as it gave us a place to sit rather than on the bed.

The balconies aren’t very big on these ships. While it was interesting to go out on the balcony while in port or to go out for a few minutes while at sea, we actually didn’t use our balcony nearly as much as we thought we might. Of course, your mileage will vary. On the Regal Princess there are no window rooms – it’s either balcony or interior, but for future reference, I’d be satisfied with a window cabin rather than a balcony. After all, there are places to sit and enjoy the ocean views everywhere on the ship.

Ports of Call

We aren’t as physical as we used to be, so our focus was on sightseeing rather than adventuring (although I kind of wish I’d gone snorkeling). At Cozumel we walked off the ship and checked out the shops in the area. We then returned to the ship and enjoyed the quieter atmosphere on board for the afternoon. I know people don’t want to miss anything, but I think everyone should experience having the ship “to yourself” somewhere along the journey.

At Belize we took an excursion to the Altun Ha Mayan site followed by a wildlife spotting river tour. Just leaving the ship at Belize City is an adventure. Ships anchor about 5 miles out and passengers board tenders to the port. From there we were ushered onto a nice bus that traveled about an hour to Altrun Ha. It’s an interesting place. You can climb up on top of some of the pyramids. We learned a bit about the culture and took photos. After a short ride to a place where lunch was served we got on a boat for the Belize River excursion. We saw lots of iguanas, a few howler monkeys, some crocodiles, and just the snouts of some manatees. We had a bit more of an adventure that we expected when one of the engines of our boat died. Another boat was sent for us and we changed boats out in the middle of the river – a bit of a challenge for several! Our trip back to the ship was an ordeal because the line to get on a tender was over an hour long! I think there were four cruise ships there and that stretched the resources of the port to the limit. We thought Belize was a neat place to visit, but because of the tender situation we’d likely pass on a shore trip there in the future. Even better, I’d pick a cruise that offered a different set of ports all together.

Roatan, Honduras, though, is a Caribbean visitor’s dream. Mahogany Bay is private to Carnival and Princess ships. You walk off the ship to a nice shopping area, then can either ride a chair lift or walk a few minutes to a beautiful private beach. We strolled down to that beach, found some beach chairs and watched all the people. Then we took a nature path back to the ship. There are a lot of fun excursions available, but that beach is great and in walking distance of the ship. If you ever wanted to skip excursions and just enjoy the beach, Mahogany Bay is the place to do it.

On Board

Our journey had four sea days. As did most everyone else, we spent time exploring the ship – and there’s a lot to see! There are many comfortable seating areas. In the big four-story plaza area at the center of the ship there’s often someone playing, singing, or hosting a public game. There are plenty of places to get refreshments. There’s no need for me to try to describe everything as the internet is full of videos of the ship.

We ate most of our meals at the Horizon food court, although we also ate in one of the main dining rooms on some evenings. We tried the hamburger place, and it was okay. We also splurged at the Gelato place for some very good ice cream.

We attended a few of the big productions in the theater and heard some talented singers and musicians and saw some impressive dancers in the shows. There are also smaller productions in Princess Live. We watched an ice sculpting demonstration and checked out over activities. Depending on your tastes, during sea days you could literally go from one thing to the next all day long. We aren’t gamblers, so can’t tell you a thing about the casino.

The ship, itself, is an entertaining experience. On the last day of the cruise, we were still discovering areas we’d missed.

If you can’t find a thing to do you can always go to your cabin and watch movies on TV. Or follow my example and take a nice nap.

Odds and Ends

We had a bit of rocking the first night and second day of the cruise. Then, as we traveled back to Galveston the ship rocked a little. We never felt ill but did use Sea Bands. Not sure, but I think they did help. I took a Bonine the second evening. Slept like a log, then, the next day at Cozumel between sightseeing and exploring the ship I took not one, but two naps. In the future I’ll save taking the pills for more extreme conditions.

We made reservations for evening dining but each evening they moved us to a different table, so we never experienced the “the waiter knows us” dining experience. Then, later on, we decided we liked the buffet and settled on eating there most of the time. I do suggest eating breakfast at one of the main dining rooms at least once. It’s a different sort of dining experience. Here’s a tip: you can order off menu if you want. No promises, but we were happily served.

Our cabin steward took good care of us and cheerfully responded to all requests.

One cabin irritation is the motion sensor light just outside the cabin bathroom. We mentioned it to our steward, and she applied some silver tape to the sensor. The tape didn’t stick very well, so we kept reapplying it. Still, it lasted most nights and that’s all we needed.

The cruise offered such a variety of experiences that I’m sure you can read someone else’s cruise story and it would sound as if they were on a completely different trip!

One option when disembarking the ship is “express.” That means you are taking your own luggage off rather than checking it. If you use that option, you get the earliest departure window and can basically leave whenever you are ready. However, there were hundreds of people doing the “express” walk off and we ended up waiting in line about 45 minutes to get off the ship. Once across the gangway, things went much faster with no issues.


We had a good time on the cruise. The food was abundant and good. It was nice having people taking such good care of us and the mixture of being on a luxurious ship and then doing port excursions is a nice combination. I know some people basically go from one cruise to the next. That’s probably not my cup of tea. No doubt, that is due in part to our years of independent travel in the RV and then in Europe. Still, a cruise is a lot of fun. I think it would be even more fun to travel with a group of friends and family. Who knows? That might be in our future.

2023 – London Transport Museum

During our visit to London we traveled by train, tube (subway), bus, and ferry. Because of the good public transportation system, London is easy to navigate. The London Transport Museum celebrates the long history of public transport in the city. As early as 1829 the London Omnibus was in operation. The museum is filled with antique vehicles and tube carriages from across the years.

A bit of a bonus is nearby Covenant Garden Piazza with many shops and restaurants. We heard a talented string quintet entertaining diners there. There’s a lot to see and do in London, but if you like old vehicles and such, you will enjoy this museum.

2023 – Falkirk Wheel, Scotland

During the 18th and 19th centuries over 2000 miles of canals were dug across the UK. These canals were the “motorways” of that day, providing a relatively “fast” way to move goods. This “Golden Age of British Canals” ended as rail became king. The canals, with their many locks, were neglected and, sometimes, simply abandoned.

Then, an interesting thing happened: people began using the canals for recreation. Individuals bought, or constructed, so-called “narrow boats” and used them as a sort of RV to explore the countryside. The government took up the project of restoring the canals and lock system for the purpose of recreation. Travel by narrowboat is slow (about 4 mph) and takes the boater through picturesque rural landscapes and small villages. It is even possible to travel by canal to major cities across the UK.

That brings us to the Falkirk Wheel. Two different canals meet in Falkirk, which is about midway between Edinburgh and Glasgow. However, the topography in the area is quite hilly, meaning one canal is high above the other. At one time a series of 11 locks joined the two, but these locks were removed in the 1930’s. The Falkirk Wheel replaced all 11 locks in a marvelous feat of engineering. Really, it is a modern solution to an old problem!

Excursion boat rides are available, giving the rider an experience that can’t be had anywhere else in the world. We loved our ride on the Falkirk Wheel and recommend it to all.

2023 – Tour of Loch Ness, Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland

We made Inverness, known as the “capital of the Highlands,” our hub for exploring Loch Ness, Eilean Donan Castle, and the Isle of Skye. This region is known for its breathtaking scenery with majestic mountains encircling the deep lakes. Loch Ness, a remarkably deep lake, has a dark blue hue and boasts the largest reserve of freshwater in the entire UK. The highway winds its way along the lake and one stunning view after another comes into sight. Sorry to say, the elusive Nessie, the legendary monster, was nowhere to be found, yet the amazing landscapes compensated for its absence.

Continuing westward from Loch Ness, we ascended through a mountain pass, pausing frequently to capture photos and take in the magnificent panoramas. Eilean Donan Castle, originally erected in the 1200s, served as a formidable defense against Viking invasions and later became a stronghold for the Mackenzie clan. Although the fortress was destroyed in the 1700s, it was painstakingly reconstructed after nearly two centuries, eventually becoming a national trust property. We toured the castle, getting a firsthand view of what life there would have been like.

Our tour continued to the Isle of Skye and I’ll write about it in my next post.

2023 – A day in the Peak District of the UK

From certain places around Manchester you can look to the southeast and see big hills off in the distance. Our day in the Peak District took us out into that area, known as the Peak District – home to deep valleys, flowing streams, steep green hills, and pretty towns and villages. We used Rabbie’s Tours for this trip and we do recommend them.

The drive out of Manchester into the heart of this beautiful area is just over an hour but the change from big city to rural beauty is dramatic. We stopped in two towns where we had plenty of time to look around.

The first was Castleton. The ruins of a medieval fortress, Pervil Castle, overlooks the village. Some climb up the hill to enjoy the panoramic views. We opted to wander around town and take photos.

We went to the town of Bakewell for a longer break where we had a nice lunch. The River Wye flows through the village (interestingly, “Wye” means “River” so it is actually “River-River”). The railings of one footbridge is jam packed with “love locks.” Couples get padlocks and put their names on them. They attach them to the bridge rail and then toss the keys away. Bakewell is also known for a particular jam and almond pudding called, appropriately enough, “Bakewell Pudding.” There is a sort of copyright on it, and only in this village can it be called “Bakewell Pudding.” Of course, we had to try some with our lunch and it was quite good!

The scenery was wonderful. One interesting stop was the overlook above the Monsal Head Viaduct. This was built as a railroad bridge but when the rail line was taken out of service the line was turned into a hiking trail that is very popular. Our stop there was just for photos so we didn’t get to walk any of the trail, but we did enjoy seeing the viaduct far below.

Our other major attraction of the day was Poole Cavern. We’ve been in bigger caves but this one has a lot to offer. Our cave tour guide was knowledgeable and interesting and we learned about the caverns and the infamous Mr. Poole who used the cave as a hideout in the 15th century.

We’re glad we took this tour as it gave us an opportunity to see an area near Manchester that we haven’t had opportunity to explore.

2023 – The East Lancashire Railway and Bury Transport Museum

There are several vintage steam railways around the UK. One not too far from us is the East Lancashire Railway, Bury – just north of Manchester. In fact, Bury is at the northern end of the Manchester tram line. We rode the tram about an hour and a half up to Bury to ride behind the Lady of Legend coal-fired steam locomotive. The line runs along the River Irwell about 8 miles to the town of Rawtenstall. The weather started off cool, but nice. As we rode the train it began to rain followed by small hail! The weather didn’t delay our trip any, but it did dampen our desire to do much exploring! We opted for a coffee shop break followed by a return ride on a vintage diesel train, with a break for lunch and then another ride behind the steam locomotive.

The other half of our adventure was a visit to the Bury Transport Museum. It was fun checking out a wide variety of antique vehicles there – ranging from an old tractor to double decker busses to another beautiful steam locomotive.

It was a nice day trip for us, and we recommend it to anyone who likes the old trains.

2023 – Dublin, Ireland

It’s only 165 miles from Manchester to Dublin, but most of that distance is over the Irish Sea so the only two ways to get there are by air or by ferry. Air travel is less expensive and should be much faster. Any way you do it from Manchester is much less expensive than flying from the States.

You will note that I said air travel should be “much faster.” In our case, the trip took longer than it should have. Our original flight was canceled due to technical difficulties. No complaint about that; I have no interest in flying in a plane that is in questionable condition! However, our Ryanair flight kept being delayed as we were bumped from one plane to another as they searched for a spare aircraft for the short hop. When all was said and done we arrived in Dublin in a plane full of drunks (you can guess how they passed their time during the delay). All’s well that ends well, and we arrived in Dublin without further issue.

We were booked into the Metro Airport Hotel and appreciated their free airport shuttle. Upon checking in they told us we were being upgraded to a suite! It was as nice a hotel accommodation as we’ve ever had – a three room unit! One wall of the bedroom was filled with windows. Our only complaint was that just below us was a major highway intersection. I think we managed to arrive on an especially busy night as we heard sirens off and on throughout the night. Since the intersection is a major one the emergency vehicles turn their sirens on as they approach the intersection and then turn them off once they are through. Happily, things were much calmer the second night.

The city bus passes right through that intersection, making it easy to hop a bus and ride directly to the heart of Dublin. You might want to know that Dublin buses don’t accept credit cards. Upon arrival at the airport I stopped off and bought a one day “Leap” transport ticket, so we just held it against the card reader as we got on the bus and on other trips that day.

One thing we wanted to see was Dublin Castle. It was different than we expected, more of a palace than castle. There’s lots of artwork by famous artists plus rooms of fancy furniture and such.

From there we walked along the River Liffey where we happened on a college rowing event. It is amazing how fast the teams can get their boats going! We walked on the famous Ha-penny Bridge and then checked out O’Connell Street in the heart of the city.

From there we hopped a bus for a short ride to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells. This is a surviving copy of the Gospels dating from the 800s – a beautifully handwritten and illustrated portion of the Bible. It was impressive to see it, but unfortunately for us, no photography is allowed. However, the Book of Kells is adjacent to the “Old Library” which dates back to the 18th Century. We took lots of photos there. There is a harp on display there that is several hundred years older than the Library itself. It is called the “Brian Boru’s harp.” Since the harp is considered to be a symbol of Ireland, seeing this ancient one there in Dublin is pretty cool.

A bus ride back out to the hotel with a stop for fish and chips finished our day in Dublin.

2022 – Lucerne, Switzerland

On Thursday, we left Milan, Italy on a high-speed train bound for Lucerne, Switzerland.  The train was very fast, very quiet, and quite comfortable.  Our route took us *under* the Swiss Alps.  The Gotthard Base tunnel is the longest and deepest tunnel of its type in the world – over 35 miles long!  When not in the tunnel the scenery was very nice.  We enjoyed the journey and it set the table for the world class rail journeys yet to come on this trip.

We’ve heard a lot about Lucerne, and it measures up to the reviews.  We walked through the old town area which is filled with shops and restaurants and beautiful old buildings.  The city is divided by the Reuss River which has two historic covered wooden bridges.  The oldest is the Chapel Bridge which was built in the 1300’s.  There are photo opportunities galore in the old city.

The most famous sculpture in Lucerne is the Lion Monument.  It’s a sad but beautiful work of art dedicated to 1792 Tuileries war heroes.  After seeing it we took a short bus ride back to the train station, bus station, and ferry dock for our cruise on Lake Lucerne.

Here are some things for people considering a trip to Switzerland.  First, everything here is expensive.  Even a hamburger will cost $15-20.  Food is always good, but never cheap.  We did a load of laundry at a self-serve place, and it costs over $15 for that single load washed and dried.  Second, for $20 you can get a sim card from Sunrise Mobile that will give you unlimited data most anywhere in Switzerland for a week.  Unless your phone accepts multiple sims or e-sims your regular number won’t work while the Swiss sim is inserted, so keep that in mind.  Still, it’s a really good deal that lets you get email, use your maps program, etc. while in the country.  Third, we stayed at a neat old hotel named “Drei Könige.”  The name means “Three Kings” and the logo of the wise men is everywhere.  I thought that was pretty neat, especially on the week after Christmas.  It isn’t unusual for hotels here to include breakfast.  And they really mean it – we had a hearty breakfast each morning.  That’s a real plus when you consider how expensive the eating places are.  Fourth, when you book a hotel in Lucerne you are given free bus access.  That’s a big savings and sets you free to explore the city.  Finally, most everyone speaks a little English (German is the most common language).  It never hurts to know a few common phrases.  Even saying “Thank you” in German will bring a smile as a response.

The highlight of our stay in Lucerne was the Lake Lucerne cruise.  The passenger ferry boats run regular routes around the lake.  We paid the winter day rate to give us unlimited time on the ferries.  Honestly, that discount rate is about the same price as most round-trip tickets.  By having a day ticket, we were able to decide just how much time we wanted to give to the cruise even while we were already underway.  To our delight the scenery was amazing, and we opted to go for the longer route, not returning to Lucerne until after dark.  Words can’t describe the beauty!  We were reminded of our Alaskan cruise but also of time we spent in Colorado at Rocky Mountain National Park.  We took tons of photos and hope you will enjoy them.

2022 – Milan, Italy

The day after Christmas we boarded an EasyJet flight from Manchester to Milan, Italy for our first visit to Italy and then Switzerland.  Air fares are quite good around Europe, and we didn’t want to miss the chance to do some exploring.  As we approached Milan we could see the Alps (Italian or Swiss?) down below us.  That marked the beginning of our Adventure.

Milan is a big city, filled with activity everywhere.  We got around using public transportation, mostly the subway.  I specifically picked our hotel based on its easy subway and train access – right across from the Milan Central Train Station.

Since we don’t speak Italian we were concerned about the language barrier.  We learned just a few phrases, but before long we realized that everyone seems to speak English.  Some people just looked at us and switched to English (apparently, we “look” like tourists).  I tried my few Italian words out, but, apparently, even my Italian sounds like American English because they would usually answer me in English anyway.

We bought 3 day transit tickets, so we could hop on and off of the subway or trolley where ever we wanted.  That set us free to explore the main sights of the city.  The subway, by the way, is very popular and more often than not it offered standing room only.  Most of our trips were 3-5 stops, so that wasn’t a real big deal except for the afternoons when we were getting leg weary.  We never rode the subway during rush hour.  I can’t imagine the cars being more crowded than they were.

One of the highlights of the city is Leonardo da Vinci’s famous mural, The Last Supper, which was painted in the late 15th century.  We had to buy tickets early to see it, but we felt it was well worth the effort.  The painting is on the wall of the church.  Amazingly, it survived Allied bombs that hit the church during WWII.  It was humbling to see the famous art in person.

In route to see the painting we walked around the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.  This is a very upscale shopping area, filled with luxury stores.  The entire area was crowed to the point that it was hard to walk around. I think everyone was touring like us, although a few people had shopping bags, so some people were there to actually shop!

The heart of Milan is the huge Duomo Cathedral. The church dates back to the 1300’s and construction continued on the building over 600 years!  One feature not to be missed is the rooftop tour!  By going up on top you get a more close up view of the amazing architecture of the building.  There are statues, latticework, and spires everywhere.  It is amazing to me that statues would be placed in areas that could never be seen from the ground.  We took the elevator up but ended up climbing up and down many stairs as we followed the route up higher and higher.  Of course, the views of the city are magnificent.  Then, even from the roof top there are still more spires towering high above.  The inside of the building is amazing too.  This ancient church seats 40,000 worshippers!  It seems that every square inch of the interior is carved, decorated, etc.  There are stained glass windows everywhere, including some huge windows made up of smaller windows that tell the story of the Bible.

After finishing up our tour of the church we hopped on the subway to visit the Piazza Gae Aulenti.  Visiting this ultra-modern shopping area after exploring the Cathedral nearly gave us “architectural whiplash!”  From an ancient building we found ourselves surrounded by the latest, most modern buildings you can imagine.  The Christmas market was still in operation, and there was a giant “tree” constructed of snow sleds.  It was very interesting.   In the near distance there are two “forest” sky scrapers.  These big apartment buildings are covered with trees!

For meals we had mostly pasta.  One night I had a pizza that was quite good.  The next night I had lasagna that was even better.  Jackie loved the Alfredo with mushrooms she had one meal.  I enjoyed a coffee they have called a macchiato.  It is similar to a latte but somehow better.  It seems that there are coffee shops and pizzerias on every corner.

I think we could have continued sightseeing Milan a few more days.  It is an interesting and fun place to visit.  If you come, don’t miss the Cathedral rooftop or the “Last Supper.”

2022 – York, UK Christmas Market

York, England is about 70 miles from where we are staying in southern Manchester. The train trip, including the journey from our flat to the train station, is about 2 hours. York, which was founded in 71 A.D. has Roman walls, a huge and famous church, an ancient and still-operating shopping district, a castle, and is the home of the National Rail Museum. Honestly, there’s more than anyone can hope to see in one day.

This time of the year, famous Shambles Street is the epicenter of a huge Christmas market. We checked out the wall, which is easily reached from the rail station and then headed to the Christmas market. Our plan was to look it over and then visit York Minister – the world-famous church.

Our plans didn’t work out because the Christmas Market was absolutely amazing. Every time we thought we were coming to the end of the market we would look down a street and see another street filled with stalls of food and gifts.

By the time we finished, we were running out of energy and time. We may well return to York in a few months just to see some of the above-mentioned sights. At least we have a better idea of what to expect on a future adventure there.