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 – Kelpies, Falkirk, Scotland

Since their creation about 10 years ago the Kelpies have become a major Falkirk, Scotland attraction. These works of art stand nearly 100 feet tall. “Kelpies” are a part of Scottish folk lore, mythical water spirits that often appear on land in the form of horses. An additional symbolism has to do with the horses that towed the canal boats throughout the region. In fact, a canal and locks are located right between the two giant horses allowing canal boaters to cruise right between these giants. However one wants to think about the Kelpies, they are impressive and well-worth a visit.

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 Isle of Skye, Scotland

Our tour from Inverness continued from Eilean Donan Castle across the bridge to the Isle of Skye. Skye is the largest of Scotland’s Inner Hebrides islands, around 50 miles north to south. It is known for its rugged landscapes and steep cliffs. Hikers and bikers love Skye and the bed and breakfasts are always booked well ahead of time. We just happened to tour on a day with perfect weather – something that, we’re told, is no way promised. We saw the Old Man of Storr, a famous rock formation. Supposedly, it looks like a man lying on his back looking to the stars. Neither one of us could quite spot that, but it is an impressive formation. Our lunch stop was in the largest town on the island, Portree. There were tourists everywhere and the restaurants were all full. We ended up with soup and bread at a local bakery, sharing an outside picnic table with some friendly Australians on holiday. Honesty, there is no way our photos can capture the vast landscapes of Skye.

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 – Blackford, Scotland Highland Games

During the summer, different towns in Scotland host Highland Games, resembling county fairs with a wonderful Scottish flavor. We visited the Highland Games in Blackford, a small village, where we enjoyed bagpipe contests, Scottish dances, and athletic events like caber tossing. Several competitions were for younger participants, including foot races and track and field events. There were several bicycle races. Jackie explored the various crafts stalls. Naturally, kilts and bagpipes were abundant, adding to the festive atmosphere. We thoroughly enjoyed our Highland Games adventure.

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 – Amsterdam, Netherlands

The primary purpose of our visit to Amsterdam, Netherlands was to see Keukenhof gardens, but, of course, we wanted to see a bit of the city too. We took the train into the city center where we hopped onto one of the many canal cruises that are available. It was a good choice for us as we got to see many of the historic sights of the city while riding on a canal, something Amsterdam is famous for. It was a relaxing trip and we recommend it. Afterwards, we just looked around – visiting the “flower market” where all kinds of touristy things are sold. Jackie did a bit of shopping. Afterward, we headed for the Palace and Dam Square. This huge town square was full of people. It is surrounded by government buildings and shops. For lunch we boarded a tram and worked our way to the Foodhallen – a unique food court in a big mall. We wandered the city, enjoying the sights.

Obviously, our short trip didn’t give us time to visit some of the famous museums. We opted for getting a general overview instead.

A few observations. We felt that public transportation, which was quite good, was rather expensive there. It may be that we’ve just been spoiled by the prices in Manchester which are less than half what they are in Amsterdam. Our hotel, the Airport Intercity Hotel, was very nice. We especially appreciated the full, complimentary breakfast that came with our senior adult rates. I will mention that the 10 minute walk from the bus/train station was complicated by several steps up and over a dike – something we weren’t prepared for.

It was, all things considered, a fun, but short, get-away. We’re constantly amazed at how close things are in this part of the world. Our flight from Manchester to Amsterdam was just over one hour. The negative was that we were supposed to arrive at the airport around two hours early. It seems strange to sit in the airport for twice as long as we sat on the plane!

2023 – Keukenhof, Netherlands

The primary purpose of our trip to Amsterdam was to visit the world-famous Keukenhof Gardens. This destination boasts 79 acres of floral beauty – over 7 million tulips (I confess that I didn’t count them!) plus many other beautiful plants. Keukenhof is only open to the public about 50 days each Spring when the Tulips are in bloom. We stayed in a hotel near the airport to take advantage of the express bus that is available from there. Honestly, the “airport” pickup point is a bit of a hike from all the other bus/train/air hubs. Starting the day off with a hike isn’t the best approach when you are going to stroll the wonderful garden paths for a few hours! We took multiple breaks, including having lunch at one of the cafes. The Gardens were very crowded, but we still found spots where we could stop and enjoy the amazing beauty. There are wonderful fields of tulips all around the Gardens with ample overlooks for great photos. We very much enjoyed our “tiptoe through the tulips” at Keukenhof and highly recommend it to you.