Months ago when my partner and I decided that a vacation was in order, our family members highly recommended that we think about taking a cruise with Princess Cruises. After all, they said, you wouldn’t have to worry about food or finding a place to stay and pretty much any spending money you have you could spend it on anything you wanted. Moreover, with a cruise, in a week, you’d get to see several destinations in an area of your choice, whether it be Europe or South East Asia or the Caribbean.
Having heard several positive stories about the cruise experience over the last ten years, my partner and I decided that that’s what we would do for our vacation. Destination: Western Caribbean. Why Western Caribbean over Eastern or Southern? Well, everything we’d heard from our families, the itinerary was one we’d be interested in: Grand Cayman, Roatan, Honduras, Cozumel, Mexico and Princess’s own private island, Princess Cays in the Bahamas. By early December, our itinerary was confirmed, everything was booked and all we had to do was wait.
The Princess Cruises’ motto is ‘Escape completely’ and I think we did that and much more. Part One will focus on our experiences on the ship and our time in The Grand Cayman and Roatan, Honduras.
Without further ado, here it goes.
Aboard the Crown Princess
On first impression, the ship was huge as well as gorgeous. After the initial shock wore off, we discovered that the Crown Princess was large enough to carry over 3,000 people, 3,080 to be exact; not as grand as the Oasis from Royal Caribbean cruise lines which carries over 5,000 passengers, but still big.
What features did the cruise ship have you ask? Well, a casino, three duty-free shops, an entire smorgasbord of dining, a wine bar, four lounge bars-and we saw all of that right when we walked onto the ship. What else was there? A spa, fitness centre, mini-golf, three pools, two hot tubs, poolside bars, two specialty restaurants, a café-the list goes on, but I can definitely say that being surrounded by all that for a week was absolute heaven.
The crowning glory for me was the Piazza, an open-air plaza with the elevator going three floors up. The floors were gorgeous white marble with Romanesque columns flanking the main area. They held jazz performances and piano concerts there every day and there was something about its architecture that was reminiscent of Venice to me (or at least, the Venetian in Vegas). The International Café had tables in the Piazza and you could sit and enjoy enormous portions of three different types of gelato while listening to some amazing piano music. I’m not normally a fan of jazz, but some of the performances were incredible.
I also loved watching movies on the deck, what the ship called ‘Movies Under the Stars’-basically the biggest projector screen you’ve ever seen in front of literally hundreds of deck loungers, blankets and free cookies and milk. It was definitely an experience to be curled up with my partner under blankets watching True Grit and hearing Jeff Bridges call Matt Damon a ‘nincompoop’, a good movie which I’d recommend.
Last but not least, there are my favorite performances and lounges. Club Fusion was the site of one of our many triumphs during the week and Explorer’s Lounge was where of two of my favorite performances took place: comedians Peter Sasso and Cary Long.
Peter Sasso, a New York native now living in San Franciso, was hilarious. My favorite bit from him was when he recalled a conversation with his stateroom steward where he asked the guy what the line that ran across the shower stall was for. It was technically a clothesline but the steward told him it was a line to hang himself on the last day when he saw his bill. Cary Long had some great bits about how his wife would discipline his kids, but I enjoyed Peter Sasso’s show more.
The last performance we loved took place in the Princess Theatre, a hypnotist named Kellie Karl put on a great show. With people under hypnosis pretending to love her, be her fans and famous stars, it was a hilarious show. The closer was the best, with a number of people she touched on the shoulder becoming stuck to their chairs and they could only get free after shaking the cruise director’s hand. Seeing the last man on stage desperately doing whatever he could to block the cruise director’s path and get her to shake his hand was a riot.
But…I’ll get back to the experiences on the ship later. Onwards to Grand Cayman.
Grand Cayman: But Why is All the Rum Gone? (Bonus points if you can name the movie it came from)
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Grand Cayman is all about the rum, pirates and surprisingly, giant turtles. We signed up for a shore excursion that included a visit to the turtle breeding farm and the dolphin facility. What was it like at the turtle farm, you ask? Well, it was a facility just for breeding , so most of the turtles in the tank were as big as four dinner plates and weighed anywhere from 200 to 300 pounds. The one I picked up for a photo-op was still a baby, only about ten pounds. But their flippers are strong and they all hate being out of the water. The one my partner held was roughly about thirty pounds and he gave us a mighty splash while he returned him to the water. Strangely, the turtle farm also had lizards on the small beach off the pond, looking like lizards you’d find in pet stores on land.
The dolphin encounter was amazing, however, it was a bit of a let-down to not be allowed
our own cameras. Instead, the facility’s photographer took photos of the dolphin, Darwin, coming up to touch our outstretched hands or the volleyball we each took turns holding, while we stood in waist-deep saltwater in the tank. We also petted him, danced with him and shook his flippers. It was a great experience and the only thing I would want to improve on with it is to actually be able to ride the dolphins and swim with them as well.
On the way to shore, we also noticed several pirate ships that you could have excursions on. If we did get the opportunity to go back to Grand Cayman, I would definitely take that up as an excursion. Although we didn’t get a personal tour of the pirate ship, there were still several pirates on shore; including ones featured at Grand Cayman’s famous Tortuga Rum Company. Rum cake, coffee and liquor are plentiful in any of the stores in Grand Cayman, in fact you can purchase Tortuga rum for $10 duty free. They even had a rum delivery truck to complete the pirate motif. I’ve since tasted the pineapple rum that we purchased on the island and it is delicious. I highly recommend Grand Cayman for the rum, the turtles, the pirates AND Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville as the one close to port had a rooftop slide and pool as well as a DJ.
When we came back from a day on shore at Grand Cayman, we took part in a rum tasting. I would advise against tasting Bacardi Superior as I taste-tested half a shot glass worth and it still burned 15 minutes later. However, Cruzan Coconut Rum was very smooth and tasted amazing. It was also the start of our winning streak as my partner correctly guessed the name of a rum cocktail and received the drink for free.
But, let’s leave Grand Cayman for now and head over to Roatan, Honduras.
Roatan, Honduras: Scenic Island
The trip to Roatan on Tuesday was bumpy at best, semi-dangerous at the worst. With the strong waves, the ship couldn’t pull into the new port of Mahogany Bay that we were scheduled to pull into, instead we pulled into the old port, known simply as the Port of Roatan. The sky was clear and sunny and the water was gorgeous, blue and clear. However, there wasn’t much to see in port beyond local souvenir shops and jewelry stores such as Diamonds International; which is an enormous company in the Caribbean. Unfortunately, there weren’t any local goods such as the rum coffee in Grand Cayman that I was able to purchase or partake in.
The weather was still warm and beautiful and we took the time we did spend in port to appreciate the gorgeous scenery. If we do have another opportunity to see Roatan, I would hope that we would be able to see the new port and hopefully experience a shore excursion such as zip-lining that would give us a better feel of Roatan.
I’ll cover the other two ports, Conzumel, Mexico and Princess Cays, Bahamas in Part Two of The Crown Princess Cruise Experience. I’ll leave you with this breathtaking sunset taken from the ship as we sailed away from Grand Cayman.