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.
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.