I just got back from another amazing vacation and I am excited to tell you all about my experiences cruising the Western Caribbean on Princess Cruises’ Caribbean Princess. Continue reading for more about my adventures as well as tips and tricks for your next cruise.
Our 7-day Western Caribbean voyage started and ended in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. We flew into Florida a few days prior to sailing to give us time to explore Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. While there, we took a riverfront sightseeing cruise/tour through the canals known as “Venice of America”. We sailed from Las Olas Riverfront in downtown Ft. Lauderdale and saw some enormous yachts and gorgeous homes. (Check out the pictures below from our tour.)
The next day we spent time doing a hop-on, hop-off bus tour with BIGBUS Tour Miami. This is a great way to explore a large city, especially when you are limited on time. While riding on the open-air bus, we had a live guide providing exciting commentary of all the ins and outs of what makes this city such a cool destination. You are welcome to get on and off at any of their many stops to explore an area further. Here are some photos from our day!
Tip: I highly recommend arriving at least one or two days prior to your cruise, as it gives you a time to get relaxed before your journey as well as time to explore the port city. Also, in the event you have flight trouble, flying in a day or two prior will give you more time to get there before the ship departs. Lastly, when purchasing your flights, I recommend you buy them through the cruise line. This gives you some added protection, in case there are any issues with flights. In the event your flight does not arrive prior to the ships sailing, the cruise line will work with you and the airline to get you to the next port.
On Princess, boarding the ship was streamlined and very quick. We had an assigned time based on the deck that our cabin was located. We arrived at 2:00 pm to check-in and approximately 10 minutes later, we were enjoying the beautiful Caribbean Princess. To help streamline boarding, prior to arriving, you need to log into Princess’s Cruise Personalizer and create an account. This is where you will enter your passport information, add the credit card number you plan to use on the ship, make reservations for the spa and specialty restaurants and even book your shore excursions. It also features tons of questions and answers and helpful tips, so you are in the know! The Cruise Personalizer is also where you print your boarding passes and luggage tags. Tip: All cruise lines have different procedures on how they board passengers, so be sure to verify with your cruise company and allow plenty of time to get to the port. Also, you will quickly realize that your cruise card is used a ton on-board! I recommend you purchase a lanyard to carry it in for easy access. On the ship they had an offer of 3 for $12.
Our voyage through the Western Caribbean included Grand Cayman, Roatan, Belize, and Cozumel, with the first and last days being sea days. I loved having the sea days at the beginning and end of the sailing. It gave us time to get acquainted with the ship and start enjoying all the amenities she offered. While, the last day was a great day to relax and rejuvenate before heading home. The last day is also a good time to enjoy a spa treatment! Note, the spa is in high demand on the last day, so I recommend that you book your services in advance!
During embarkation, our bags were taken from us and delivered to our stateroom. We received our room key and headed to our cabin, where our luggage awaited. We quickly unpacked and got organized. In our cabin, we found two twin beds, which can be converted to a king, two nights stands, a desk with a chair, refrigerator, TV, safety deposit box and a private bathroom, just to name a few. For those that have never been on a ship, be advised that most rooms are very small, especially the bathroom shower. We also found lots of paperwork including information on our first port, an in-room dining menu and the Princess Patter, which is a guide to all the on-board activities. Princess also offers a handy app that allows you to access a map of the ship, on-board activities, meal times and even your cruise account, from the convenience of your cell phone.
The Caribbean Princess is a medium-to-large sized ship, holding 3,120 guests and 1,200 crew members. With that said, it never seemed crowded. The activities, various pools and eateries are spread out all over the ship. There are many retail shops on-board, a casino, full-service spa and salon, nightclubs, an adult only section called The Sanctuary, and more. Don't miss out on the awesome nightly entertainment which included production shows, comedians, magicians, live performers, Movies Under the Stars, and more. Tip: Check The Patter for the nightly schedule and plan your dinner time around the events you are interested in, so you don't miss out!
Traveling with kids? On-board, Princess offers Camp Discovery, a kids and teens camp, which is a great place for kids to be engaged in supervised and organized activities along with their peers. They offer three groups based on age, 3-7, 8-12 & 13-17. You will be given an opportunity to register your child for the camp on the cruise personalizer. Want to go on-shore to enjoy an activity that the kids are not old enough to join in? No worries, you can leave them at the kid’s club. That way you can enjoy your excursion and have peace of mind that the kids are safe and having a great time too! Make sure you have advised the Camp staff that you plan to disembark at port. Moreover, some ships even offer off-ship activities for teens.
Wi-Fi is available throughout the ship and there is even an Internet café with PCs for your personal use. Be advised, 100 minutes will cost you a whopping $55 (55 cents per minute)! Tip: Prior to travel, I contacted my cellular service provider to see if they offered a better alternative. Since I have an unlimited plan, I was able to have unlimited data for only $10/day (24-hour period), while in ports only. Before you cruise, check with your carrier!
Here is a compilation of photos from around the ship.
While in Port:
In port you have two options, you can stay on the ship or get off and explore/take a shore excursion. Note, if you stay on the ship, there is limited service on-board while in port. For example, the retail shops, casino and pools are all closed. There are scheduled on-board activities, but they are somewhat limited.
Shore excursions can be booked directly through the cruise line or you can book your own independent tour through a local company. Be advised, if you choose to book your tour(s) independently with a local company, the cruise line will not hold the ship, in the event you return to the pier late. Nor will they be able to assist you with any aspect regarding your independent tour. There are also taxis readily available to take you wherever your heart desires.
Our first stop, Grand Cayman!
Since the port cannot handle large ships, we were tendered in. This is where the ship anchors a short distance from the shore/pier and smaller boats shuttle passengers back and forth to shore. Be advised that wheelchair access is limited. Keep in mind, if you book an excursion independently and have a meeting time on-shore, please allow time for this process. Tender shuttling is quick but the first boats heading to shore will take more time due to the large volume of passengers disembarking. The same is true for the last boats leaving the pier at the end of the day. I recommend that you find out the schedule for the last shuttle and try to arrive in plenty of time to avoid the crowd and/or missing the ship’s departure.
While in Grand Cayman, we did an excursion called Stingray Sandbar & Cayman Highlights. This tour included:·
Next stop, Roatan, Honduras!
Out of all the excursions we did on this vacation, the Gumbalimba Preservation Nature Park & Tabyana Beach tour in Roatan was our favorite! We took a van from the pier to Gumbalimba Preservation Nature Park, which was about a 40-minute drive. At the park, we toured the beautiful Botanical Gardens, full of tropical flora and fauna and saw tons of enormous iguanas, some as big as 3 feet long! We visited the bird sanctuary and got a chance to hold them for a photo. We continued onto the Monkey Refuge, our favorite part of our visit, and had a blast interacting with the white-face monkeys. We got to see a 1 month old baby and a 1 week old baby, so precious! Next, we took a short road trip to Tabyana Beach, where we were served lunch and got to enjoy the facilities. We snorkeled right off the beach and saw some cool stuff. Here are photos from our stop in Roatan.
On to Belize!
After tendering from the ship to the pier, we took a tour called Caye Caulker Shark & Ray Encounter. It was about a 45-minute boat ride from the port to the Barrier Reef. After snorkeling on the edge of reef, we took a short jaunt to “shark and ray alley”. There were so many sting ray and nurse sharks, it was mesmerizing! After our water experiences, we arrived at the quaint island of Caye Caulker. Measuring about 5 miles with a population of approximately 1,300 people, this island is very small and peaceful. We walked the streets, shopped and then enjoyed a lunch at a local restaurant. Check out my pictures below from this excursion.
Our last stop was Cozumel, Mexico!
Cozumel is one of the top destinations in the world for scuba diving. The water is so clear, and the reefs are amazing. While there, we did an excursion called Deluxe Catamaran Sail, Snorkel & Beach. We sailed to the reef on a huge catamaran, which was just a few minutes away from the pier. After snorkeling for about 45 minutes, we sailed to a private breach that offered an obstacle course of water inflatables, drinks and lunch. We ended the day with a dance party on the catamaran. Check out the photos below from our great day in Cozumel!
Tips for choosing shore excursions:
I highly recommend that you book your shore excursions in advance, keep in mind, it’s never too early to start the process! Whether you are booking with the cruise line or booking independently, it’s always best to have a plan. By taking the time to plan prior to your trip, you are ensuring availability, so you get to do the activities you desire. You are also saving yourself from wasting valuable vacation time trying to figure out a plan. Planning is also helpful when you are budgeting for your trip. Lastly, by planning, you will be able to balance out the activities, so that everyone traveling will get to do things that are important to them.
The first step is talk to your travel companions and get an idea of what they hope to do on the vacation. This will help you when you start compiling activities. Next, get to know your ports. Research things to do in the destination and look for things that interest you, keeping in mind things that will interest your travel companions. Note, your travel agent is a great resource and tool to help you determine what to do in said destinations. Once you have made a list for each port, talk over the list with your travel companions and be sure to balance out the activities. Having a good mix of activities is key as well as balancing your days with high activities and then milder activities. This way you will not get burned out half-way through the trip. Remember, it is a vacation, so plan some down time as well! Next, check out the excursions offered by the cruise line or check with your travel agent, if you prefer to book independently. Remember, Explore Travel Planners can help you with all aspects of your trip. Lastly, book your adventures and enjoy your seamless trip!
Choosing a stateroom for your next cruise:
On the Caribbean Princess, there are many different room categories. They offer Club Class, Mini-Suites, Balcony, Oceanview, Interior and Two Bedroom Family Suites. When trying to determine which room category is best for you, start with your budget. If budget is not a concern, then look at the features and amenities of each category to determine which best suits your needs. Be advised that all staterooms have private bathrooms but only a suite or higher will offer a tub, in addition to a shower. Therefore, if you have small children or personally enjoy a tub bath, I recommend you look for a cabin category that offers this feature.
Another thing to consider is what kind of itinerary are you sailing on? If you are doing a cruise that is particularly scenic, i.e. Alaska or Milford Sound, I highly recommend you book a balcony stateroom or higher. Being able to enjoy the scenery from your stateroom balcony is a huge bonus and will add a lot to your experience. It’s also a wonderful place to relax and enjoy your morning coffee/tea or a nightcap under the stars.
In my opinion, the location of your stateroom is key! Avoid the extreme front or back of the ship. The middle of the ship is more convenient, and you may experience less ship movement. Keep in mind, these are the first staterooms to sell and usually cost the most, so book in advance! If you are looking for a quieter floor, look at the deck plans and choose a deck with little to no public spaces. On the contrary, if you prefer to be in the action and want the convenience, pick a higher deck.
Tip: Do not over-pack! Staterooms on cruise ships are very small, compared to what most people are used to at most hotels and resorts. With that said, you will want to have as much space to move around as possible, so pack lightly.
I hope you have enjoyed learning all about my travels to the Western Caribbean on Princess Cruises. If you have questions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay tuned for more travel tips and tricks with Explore Travel Planners.
Angie Conger Hinds
I have a true passion for travel and I want to share my travel knowledge with you. I hope this blog gives you inspiration to EXPLORE the world!
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