By: Justin Jensen, Travel Consultant
The Caribbean Princess cruise departed from the very under-used and seemingly brand new Bayport Cruise Terminal. We arrived around 10:30AM to try and avoid the parking/check-in rush and were able to get a great parking spot. Check-in was a breeze, as there were no lines at all after passing through the security screening – much easier than airport TSA screening.
We walked right up to an agent who greeted us, provided our cruise cards and ship map, then wished us a great cruise. We waited for about an hour before boarding started but there are plenty of seats at the cruise terminal.
Once we boarded the ship, we had to get the obligatory umbrella drink to mark the true start of the vacation and headed up to the top deck to soak in some sun and wait until we departed. There is a nice, quiet “adults only” pool and bar at the rear of the ship which was our main hub throughout the cruise – it has a wonderful view of the wake while we were underway.
The first 2 days of this cruise are sea days en route to Grand Cayman, and there are plenty of activities offered on board the Caribbean Princess to keep you busy. From the casino, to game shows hosted by the Cruise Director, newly released movies in the Theatre or even just relaxing by the pool – there is always something entertaining being offered. There are also quite a few dining venues ranging from hot dogs and pizza, to a fine steak house requiring reservations and a modest cover charge. The food quality was very good in the a- la- cart restaurants and the buffets have plenty of choices for everyone.
On the third day, we arrived in Grand Cayman and had signed up for the Island tour and snorkeling with stingrays on the sandbar. We had to take a tender to the pier and met our driver shortly after getting there, and we were off to the first stop of the day – a sea turtle sanctuary where we learned about this majestic creature and how they would hatch, raise, and release them once mature. We were even allowed to get in a small pool with newly hatched turtles where we could hold them and take photos. It’s pretty amazing that an animal born about the size of your palm can eventually weigh over 400lbs.
From there, we went to Hell – literally. There is a small town on the main island that is named Hell and even has a Post Office and small shops offering all of the expected “I went to Hell and Survived” postcards, shirts and other trinkets. The town’s name was inspired by a beautiful lava rock formation nearby that we also visited for a photo op. The next stop was a marina a short trip away where we boarded a big boat to take us out to the Stingray Sandbar. This was the highlight of the day as there were hundreds of stingrays ranging from 1 to 4 feet wide. They showed no fear of any of the snorkelers and would let you hold and pet them freely. They would also swim right between your legs while you’re standing on the sandbar which was a weird sensation. After about an hour on the sandbar, we loaded back into the boat and headed back to the marina and eventually, the ship. That afternoon we set sail for Costa Maya.
We arrived Costa Maya early morning on Day 4, and intentionally did not plan any shore excursions here so that we could do some souvenir shopping and explore the town. We were some of the first off of the ship and into the small port town that is made just for the cruise terminal and bought some trinkets for family back home ranging from the obligatory sombrero to t-shirts with catchy phrases. We then headed back to the ship to store our stash and took a taxi into the “downtown” area that offers many beachfront restaurants and vendors walking around trying to sell little items that they hand make. We settled on a decent place that promised great food and drinks and we were not disappointed with the fajitas we ordered, but were a little taken aback when the platter arrived with a side of French fries.
The next stop on the itinerary was Cozumel, and this was the highlight of the trip for us. We signed up through Princess for the Fury Catamaran package that included snorkeling, a private beach, and water activities all for about $50 per person. This was the most well run cruise excursion I have ever taken part in, and really runs like a well- oiled machine. The crew of about 6 were all very friendly and informative, and spoke great English. The package also included all of the water, beer, and margaritas you could drink to really let the vacation mood set in. The snorkeling in the crystal clear water was amazing, and schools of fish would come up very close for photo- ops. After about 45 minutes of snorkeling, we loaded back on the boat and headed to a private beach with a full array of lounge chairs, hammocks, and beach beds, as well as inflatable obstacle courses on the water. Lunch was not included, but there was a small grill on the beach offering hamburgers and fries for $10 each.
The next 2 days were sea days as we headed back to Houston. The weather was perfect for a November sailing – not too cold and not too hot. We made friends with a few bartenders, and mostly relaxed by the pool. This was my second sailing with Princess, and I will definitely be back for more!