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 – Italy-Switzerland wrapup

2023 – Zermatt, Switzerland – the Matterhorn – Scott and Jackie

We arrived back “home” in Manchester a bit weary but more than satisfied with our trip to Italy and Switzerland.  Here are some random thoughts as we wrap up our trip.

It was an all-public transportation trip.  Over the last 10 days we traveled by bus, plane, subway, trolley, boat, Uber, and, of course, train.  It is quite an experience for Americans who are fully immersed in the car culture to travel totally as passengers on public transport.  It certainly is nice to look out the window or read a book while someone else handles the trip!

This journey was, of course, all about the trains.  Jackie and I enjoyed the Italian high-speed trains.  They are big and roomy; smooth and quiet.  Our Swiss trains, of course were all about the view.

The trains we traveled on in Switzerland were all narrow gauge.  That means the tracks and, therefore, the cars are narrower.   Most of the time it didn’t make much difference but, on the Bernina Express it did.  We were in second class where the seats face one another in groups of four.  Jackie and I decided it would be better to spend the four-hour trip looking at one another (and with both of us having window seats).  That meant two other passengers on the full train sat beside of us.  They were nice people, but they didn’t speak much English, so we spent those hours listening to them speaking French to one another and to several other family members on the other side of the train car.  While traveling in second class worked great on all the other journeys we took, I think we’d opt spend the extra money and go for first class if we were ever to take that excursion again.  The first-class cars have two seats on one side and one seat on the other.  Much more room.

I confess that photography on the train was a challenge.  The train keeps moving and there are reflections in the windows.  I just took lots of photos and then deleted most of them, leaving only the ones I thought looked best.

If you ever plan on traveling by train in Europe, check out this web site – I got tons of great information there: https://www.seat61.com/ is a great resource.

Jackie and I were really blessed with the weather.  Not only was it unseasonably warm, but it also didn’t rain or snow on us the entire trip.  We couldn’t have ordered better weather for a January in the Alps!

My biggest budget miss was the cost of food.  Switzerland, in particular, was very expensive.  Just a hamburger and fries were over $20 a person.  When traveling, we generally try to eat one nicer meal each day, and then, in the evening, eat a sandwich, etc.   Even that approach was a challenge.  We often went to a grocery store and bought ready-made sandwiches with chips to take back to the hotel for supper.  Those sandwiches usually ran $7-8 each.  Two of the “best” deals were German Doner Kebab restaurants (lots of meat!) and many pizzerias.  I do like pizza, but not as a daily staple!

I researched hotels on Google, trying to find highly rated ones, for reasonable prices, that were close to train stations.  We were satisfied with all of them.  All but one offered breakfast with the stay.  The breakfasts were pretty good.

I’ll close out my writing with this.  Thanks to all who have read along.  Comments are always welcome and encourage me to keep writing.  All of the posts in this series can be easily found in our travel blog: http://localhost/pastorscott/travel/tag/italy-switzerland/

Beginning a new Adventure

Last year Jackie was looking at a denominational website where she saw a story about a retired librarian who had volunteered at Nazarene Theological College in Manchester, England for a year.  At the bottom of that article there was a link to more information for others who might be interested in volunteering there.  Thus began an interesting year of research, email exchanges, and many hours of discussion and prayers.  The result was an invitation to come, provided a UK “Charity Worker Volunteer” visa could be obtained.  Jackie would volunteer in the library 3-4 days a week and I would help out with the sound system and other things as needed.  As volunteers we would receive no salary and would pay our own transportation and living expenses.  An on-campus flat would be provided.

We decided to go for it.

As I have already written, we have been in the midst of winding down our fulltime RV lifestyle.  What better time to begin a new adventure!

Today our UK Adventure begins for real as we board a flight to England.  We’ll post updates with photos often!

Winding down our fulltime RV Adventure

2021 – Old River Rd RV – Kerrville, TX

We started our fulltime RV adventure over 9 years ago in May of 2013. Our travels have taken us across the USA, coast to coast, and we have thoroughly enjoyed the journey. The past couple of years brought some major changes to our lifestyle.

  1. For one thing, COVID cramped our style the same as it did for everyone else. We hunkered down in a comfortable urban campground for the duration.
  2. Meanwhile, I kept getting requests to serve as interim pastor in different places. What with COVID making it difficult to plan and the satisfaction we get from helping churches, we took the departure from our touring lifestyle in stride and enjoyed ministering to some wonderful people.
  3. Also, medical stuff has occupied more and more of our calendar. Thank God, the concerns haven’t been major. They have, though, impacted our travel plans as well as our bank account!
  4. While we full well know that there’s a lot to see and do in this country, we’ve had a bit of a feeling of “been-there-done-that.” There are many gaps in our travel, but we’ve seen a great deal over the past several years and have visited some favorite areas more than once.
  5. We’ve gotten kind of tired of living in a RV. I think this is related to slowing down our travel the past couple of years. Doing typical RV chores and living in a small space is well worth the inconvenience so long as the tradeoff is going places and seeing new things. For us, the less we have done, the less we have enjoyed the RV as a residence.
  6. Finally, skyrocketing fuel costs have influenced our thinking. Fill ups costing hundreds of dollars do make one think twice about hitting the road.

Had the slowdown not happened we might have continued the RV life a bit longer. You might say that we lost much of our “momentum” waiting out COVID, etc. Frankly, we never retired to live in a RV – rather we retired to travel in a RV.

All this to say we are retiring from fulltime RVing, at least for the foreseeable future. Even as I write this the motorhome is on a consignment lot waiting for the right buyer to come along. I expect to get a smaller rig at some point in the future so we can do some seasonal, short-term travel. Time will tell.

All of this, though, doesn’t mean our unconventional retirement adventures are over. In a few days we will begin an entirely new adventure. I’ll write more about that in a few days. We’re excited about this next step!

Researching, planning, reserving

I’ve always mostly enjoyed the planning part of fulltiming. If others prefer free lancing it is fine with me, but that’s not my thing. I get a kick out of searching the web for the best campgrounds in interesting places and within our budget. As has been reported on many fronts, one unexpected impact of Covid has been a surge in the popularity of RVing. Sales reached record highs and campgrounds began to experience record occupancy.

Our 2021 Adventure has been delayed a bit as we prepare to celebrate a family event but we are looking forward to getting underway in a bit over a month. Knowing that campgrounds are filling up, I have spent time researching campgrounds and destinations, planning our route, and then reserving camp sites.

I’ve written before about planning: here and here.

For instance, this coming winter we want to spend some time in Arizona. There are an amazing number of places there that cater to winter RVers. I spent considerable time checking the information on websites and reading reviews. Once I narrowed my choice down and actually called about vacancies (still 7-8 months out!) I found that many places I had marked as good possibilities reported no room in the inn! Now, if I wanted to spend $1000 a month I would have no problem finding a spot (well, probably not, since our rig isn’t new enough), but trying to stay within a reasonable budget puts us in competition with lots of other RVing retirees.

We finally settled on a spot and made our deposit. As of right now, we are booked up for practically every night the rest of the year. For even me this level of planning is a bit over the top, but it sure beats landing in an area for a week or two and being told that there are no vacancies.

Personally, I think this is just how it is going to be from now on. Not only are many discovering RVing but many campgrounds are selling sites for long term use. Like it or lump it planning is going to be a part of the fulltime RV lifestyle.

Fulltiming and the Coronavirus

2019 – Airport Park CoE, Waco, TX

The coronavirus outbreak is a fluid situation.  Today’s guidance from officials may be outdated by this evening.  To some extent we are all just waiting for the next domino to fall.  Fulltime RVers aren’t exempt from all the uncertainty.  The other day I saw a meme on Facebook picturing a class C parked alone on a peninsula overlooking a pretty lake.  The caption, meant to bring a smile, said that they were practicing social distancing.  Then, in less than a day I saw a news article that New Mexico was closing its campgrounds.  I couldn’t help but wonder if that RV was being evicted from that isolated spot.

I see that FMCA and Escapees have announced changes in their rally schedules.  No doubt that leaves some fulltimers looking for a place to land now that they won’t be attending their rally as planned.

In our case, we’re still at our winter campground.  In fact, we had already planned on a longer than usual stay while I serve as interim pastor at a local church during their pastoral search.  A few days ago I mentioned to the campground management that we just might be staying into the summer – not because of the church assignment but because our summer plans might be disrupted by the pandemic.

At this point I think fulltimers might be wise to find a campground they like that will allow longer stays.  Many of us are in the higher risk group and it makes sense to take advantage of our more unstructured lifestyle to land in an acceptable spot and wait for the storm to blow over. Of course, everyone has their own particular concerns: family needs, events, appointments and the like. If possible, though, I’d be looking into suitable long term parking.

And, while I’m writing, I’ll switch to my pastoral identity for a moment.  From a health point of view, we’re urged to wash our hands to protect against a virus infection.  From a spiritual point of view, I urge you to spend time with the Lord – maybe whispering a 20 second prayer each time you wash your hands – pray for our world and for ourselves and those we love.  Ask the Lord to protect you against the infection of fear and anxiety that is sweeping across the world. Also, you might include a prayer of thanksgiving for running water and soap. Oh yeah, also pray for our President and other national leaders; maybe health care providers and medical researchers too.

Come to think of it, you might need more than 20 seconds for those prayers.

2020 – Plans written in Jello

The phrase “our plans are written in jello” didn’t originate with us. However, we think it’s a great way to describe not only our touring RV lifestyle but our general approach to living. Twice before we adjusted our plans to serve as interim pastor. This year we’ve been asked to serve the Houston Southwest Church of the Nazarene in Richmond, TX during their pastoral transition. We’re enjoying getting to know the good folks of the church – they’ve made us feel right at home.

Hopefully, our presence will smooth the transition between pastors. Once we finish at Southwest we plan on yet another type of RV adventure, but that plan is also written in jello at this point.

2019 – Adventure Map

Other travel maps: 2013201420152016 – 2017 – 20182019

1. Green Caye RV Park, Dickinson, Texas – Review
2. Lake Conroe Thousand Trails, Willis, TX – Our Ford C-Max Towed Review
3. Southern Living RV Park, Greenwood, LA – Review
4. Ameristar RV Park, Vicksburg, MS – SightseeingReview
5. Wendy Oaks RV Resort, Florence, MS – Review
6. Roosevelt State Park, Moran, MS – Review
7. Little Tallapoosa Park, Carrollton, GA – Review
8. Pine Ridge Campground, Roebuck, SC – Review
9. Forest Lake Thousand Trails, Advance, NC – Billy Graham LibrarySightseeingReview
10. Holly Point Campground, Wake Forest, NC Review
11. Williamsburg Thousand Trails, VA – Jamestown SettlementBerkeley PlantationReview
12. Chesapeake Bay Thousand Trails, Gloucester, VA – Battleship WisconsinRevolution MuseumReview
13. Harbor View Thousand Trails, Colonial Beach, VA – Museum of the Bible – Washington, DCGeorge Washington Birthplace – Colonial Beach, VALots to see in the Northern Neck of VirginiaReview
14. Gettysburg Farm Thousand Trails, Dover, PA – SightseeingReview
15. Circle M Thousand Trails, Lancaster, PA – SightseeingReview
16. Hershey, PA Thousand Trails – SightseeingReview
17. Back to Gettysburg Farm Thousand Trails, Dover, PA – Review
18. Thompkins CoE Campground, Lawrenceville, PA – Sightseeing Watkins Glen, NY State ParkReview
19. Daisy Barn Campground, Wilson, NY – SightseeingReview
20. Kenisee Lake Thousand Trails, Jefferson, OH – SightseeingReview
21. Overnight on the Road – SE Michigan
22. In for repairs at Elkhart, IN
23. Horseshoe Lakes Thousand Trails, Clinton, IN – SightseeingReview
24. Bo Wood CoE, Sullivan, IL – Review
25. Stanton / Meramec KOA, MO – Review
26. Beagle Bay RV Haven & Campground, Sarcoxie, MO – Review
27. Belle Starr CoE, Eafaula, OK – Review
28. Lake Texoma Thousand Trails, Gordonville, TX Review
29. Airport Park CoE, Waco, TX Review
30. Lake Conroe Thousand Trails, Willis, TX Review
31. Green Caye RV Park, Dickinson, Texas

2018 – Adventure Map

Other travel maps: 2013201420152016 – 2017 – 20182019

1. San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Park, La Porte, TX (review)
2. Lake Conroe Thousand Trails, Willis, TX (review)
3. Midway Park CoE – Waco, TX (reviewsightseeing)
4. Lake Whitney Thousand Trails – Whitney, TX (review)
5. Lake Texoma Thousand Trails – Gordonville, TX (review)
6. Warrior RV Park, Tulsa, OK (review)
7. Santa Fe Safari RV Campground, Chanute, KS (review – (Service on 5th Wheel)
8. Bucksaw CoE Campground, Clinton, MO (reviewsightseeing)
9. Indian Creek CoE Campground, Perry, MO (reviewsightseeing)
10. Clinton Lake State Recreation Area, De Witt, IL (review)
11. Cedar Lake, IN Ministries RV Park (reviewsightseeing)
12. Bear Cave Thousand Trails, Buchanan, MI (reviewsightseeing)
13. Twin Mills Campground, Howe, IN (reviewsightseeing)
14. Kenisee Lakes Thousand Trails, Jefferson, OH (reviewsightseeing)
15. Woodland, PA Campground (reviewsightseeing)
16. Timothy Lake South Thousand Trails, East Stroudsburg, PA (reviewsightseeing)
17. Rondout Valley Thousand Trails, Accord, NY (reviewsightseeing)
18. Quinebaug Cove Campground, Brimfield, MA (reviewsightseeingSturbridge, MA Thousand Trails Bonus Review)
19. Homestead By The River Family Campground, Biddeford, Maine (reviewsightseeing)
20. Mt Desert Narrows Campground, Bar Harbor, ME (reviewsightseeing)
21. Schoodic Woods Campground, NPS – Winter Harbor, Maine (reviewsightseeing)
22. Moody Beach Thousand Trails, Wells, Maine (reviewsightseeing)
23. Bear Creek Campground, Bristol, CT (review)
24. Timothy Lake South Thousand Trails, East Stroudsburg, PA (Bonus review of Timothy Lake North)
25. Hershey, PA Thousand Trails (reviewsightseeing)
26. Gettysburg Farm Thousand Trails, Dover, PA (reviewsightseeing)
27. Shenandoah Valley Campground, Verona, VA (review)
28. Fort Chiswell, VA RV Park (reviewsightseeing)
29. Douglas Dam Headwater Campground, Sevierville, TN (reviewsightseeing)
30. Seven Points CoE Campground, Hermitage, TN (review)
31. Agricenter International Campground, Memphis, TN (review)
32. Maumelle CoE Campground, Little Rock, AR (reviewsightseeing)
33. Rocky Point CoE, Queen City, TX (review)
34. Lake Conroe Thousand Trails, Willis, TX (review)
35. Green Caye RV Park, Dickinson, TX

2018 – Counting down to D-Day (Departure Day)

 Our 4 1/2 month stay at San Jacinto Battleground where we have been volunteering on Battleship Texas is drawing to an end.  This has been our 4th season here.  It is nice feeling we are helping out and the staff always makes us feel appreciated.  We also like being close to family and friends during these winter stays.  We had more winter this year than we wanted with several cold, icy days.  All in all though, we have few complaints; enjoying meeting people and getting to know our fellow camp hosts.

This year, in addition to our hours volunteering, we have filled in as interim pastor at Baytown Nazarene.  The church isn’t far from us and we’ve helped out there the entire time we’ve been at our “winter quarters.”  The church family has treated us very well and it has been good getting to know them better.  If you add our time filling in at Denison prior to arriving at San Jacinto, I’ve ministered nearly every Sunday over the past 5-6 months.  No complaints, but it hasn’t felt very much like retirement to me!  Lord willing, I’ll enjoy some down time now that we’re beginning our 2018 Adventure.

The closer we get to D-Day the more time I spend looking at potential travel routes and campgrounds.  Several reservations have already been made; especially at popular campgrounds during the busiest times of the year.   Our ultimate destination this year is the coast of Maine, but we won’t make it that far till mid- to late summer.  As a planner, I enjoy putting the trip together and then refining it. That process will continue all through the Adventure.

So, it won’t be long before we blast off.  We’ll keep posting sightseeing and campground reviews here to the blog.  Stay tuned!

See individual photos with captions here.