The Caribbean Princess ship leaves from Houston and we were lucky enough to take their Western Caribbean itinerary to Cozumel, Honduras and Belize for seven days. My friend and I had a nice direct flight on United from Cleveland to Houston the day before in case there were bad weather conditions. Being in Cleveland and planning on flying at the end of February, you have to be prepared for a cancellation or delay. They are now serving a snack on board which was from Solon’s very own King Nut factory although it was spicy pretzels so no nut allergies to worry about. The flight went perfectly and soon we were in the warm Texas weather. Being a day early allowed us to check out some local hot spots like World of Beer and Rudy’s BBQ.
The Princess cruise terminal is about an hour outside the city, a different port than Galveston. This was smaller, so small that there could only be one ship in port at a time. This being the case, embarkation was very smooth. We had filled out our pre-cruise information online so really just had to show our passports, fill out one form and we were on our way.
There were many fun things to do as soon as you boarded the ship. They handed you a card where you could check out different areas of the ship and get stamps at the locations like the casino and internet café. Once the stamp card was completed, you turn it in to be entered into a raffle for $1,000. I unfortunately did not win.
We did not upgrade so were in an inside cabin. Although I was nervous about the closed-in conditions, the room ended up being more spacious than I was expecting. There was also a mini fridge next to the desk which was nice to keep drinks cold. Our room steward made sure to keep our ice filled throughout the trip. He must have cleaned our room at least 3 times a day, leaving little chocolates on the bed every night. The only thing that I was not expecting was to be completely confused on what time it was. There was no daylight coming in to wake you up. Another passenger gave us a little trick though. There was a station on the TV that showed a live feed of the ship and if you turned that on at night, it will brighten with the sunrise so acts as a “window”.
Our first complete day was onboard for a sea day. There were so many activities to do like a shopping presentation and trivia that you had to consciously plan your time to just sit back and relax. There was an adult only pool at the back of the ship that was quiet. We found a few lounge chairs up a couple decks from there. The two pools in the center of the ship were pretty crowded though. One had a video screen which played movies throughout the day and evening. During the late evenings, they played a movie and served popcorn with a blanket to keep the chill away which was nice. The other pool played music or had a live band on the stage above the pool. We did not go swimming though because the pools were VERY cold. There was also a wine tasting that evening where we sampled 6 wines from around the world, paired with canapés of lobster, caviar and prosciutto. It was our first formal night as well so the evening was extravagant in many ways.
Our first port was in Cozumel. I was most excited about this one because I have been there a few times so knew my way around. We decided not to do a shore excursion and use this as our shopping day. There were a lot of stores around our port but we took a taxi to the downtown area where there were even more shops. I was on a hunt for my favorite tequila and finally came across the store after showing multiple people the distinctive shaped bottle and getting directions.
Now, there are plenty of tequila tasting tours offered on the island but you do not need to pay for any specialty tours. All you have to do is walk around and literally every little shop you pass will offer you shots of “the best tequila” to get you into their stores. After much of my shopping was complete, we went over to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville for lunch. They have a beautiful deck out back where you can go swimming while you have lunch.
It was a long morning so we headed back to the ship after we were finished and got ready for the evening. Princess sent canapés to the room before dinner and we were seated at our table as soon as we made our appearance. We opted for the anytime dining instead of picking an early or late seating. This worked out well because we did not have to worry about being down at a specific time. Although we did not sit with the same group of people the whole trip, we met different faces throughout the week which was fun too.
The next day we arrived bright and early in our own port on Roatan, Honduras. There were a couple other ships in another port but Princess had their own including shops and a huge private beach that had enough lounge chairs to accommodate the entire ship. We did a bit of shopping before we met our tour guide to head over to another private island to snorkel in the Mayan ruins. Princess has partnered with the Discovery Channel which gives accreditation to some of their excursions and this was one of them. The bus ride was about 20 minutes and then we boarded a smaller boat for a few minutes. We landed at a small dock with a beautiful beach complete with dive shack and restaurant. After signing waivers, we were fitted for our gear and then taken on another little boat out into the coral reef. The water was especially calm that day so we went to the drop-off of the reef and then snorkeled our way to the ruins. Although they were reproductions, it was cool to see a different experience. There was even a circular Mayan calendar with a huge hole in the center. If you were brave enough, you could dive down and swim through the center. After about an hour, we were taken back to the beach where we were served local beers and fish tacos. There was time to play in the blue water before we had to leave and return back to the ship.
The next day was off to Belize. The area is full of islands so we had to tender in on little boats to the main port. I have to admit that the shopping here was my favorite of all the ports. I did not realize that there would be so many stores or I would have brought more money! Our group was escorted to a large bus to go to Bacab Eco Park. There were two tours, one for horseback riding though the rainforest and one to kayak the smaller parts of the river. We were on the horseback one which was good because there was a crocodile sunning itself on a rock in the middle of the practice pond for the kayakers and I would not have gone.
The riding was fun! The horses were older so did not go very fast which was nice but also meant that they were like cranky old men, not wanting the others to pass them but would stop in the middle of the trail to eat some plants. Our guide would smack them on the butt and yell “No McDonald’s break!” We were lucky enough to see a black howler monkey which was rare at the time we went. The monkeys usually came out in the morning to eat but then would hide and take a nap during the late morning. After our ride, we had a traditional lunch of rice, beans and chicken with an amazing local sauce.
Then it was time to walk the medicinal trail which was a self-guided tour through the forest. There were signs by different plants describing what they would cure; everything from fever to syphilis to diabetes. It is so amazing what these different plants can cure! There was still a bit of time so we went swimming in the pool that had a waterfall over the rocks and a waterslide down the edge. As I was about to go down the slide, I started chatting with the security guard and he was telling me that he was a medicine man too. He was working on curing his daughter of asthma. He already cured his brother and was going to the doctor next week to see if it was working on her. He even gave me some tips on plants they use to cure diabetes (made with hyacinth stem and root) and help stop cancer cells from forming (lemongrass). I think I need to go down there for a month or so to learn more…
The next two days were sea days coming home. We relaxed by the pool and caught some shows. There was a great cooking demonstration given by the head chef and maître d‘. There was a tour of the galley after which was very interesting. Did you know that on a typical week of a Princess cruise, they use about 70,000 eggs?
All in all, the trip was great and I would definitely recommend Princess to others. Their main demographics are retired and the LGBT communities but there were still a good handful of families and millennials as well. There were also many back-to-back cruisers continuing on to the next Eastern Caribbean cruise on the same ship. There were almost 400 people on-board doing that. Princess has a very streamlined experience for this as well. If guests are not moving cabins, all they have to do is exit the ship, go through customs and get back on. There was one lady with a broken arm who needed to move one room over but her room steward cleaned her new room first and moved all of her stuff so she would not have to do that. The ship did need some upgrades here and there but the service was spectacular down to the white gloves at afternoon tea service. I will definitely be looking forward to my next cruise with Princess in the near future. If you have any questions about Princess Cruises or this experience, please don’t hesitate to ask!