I ended Part One with my experiences in Roatan, Honduras. Although the waters were choppy as we sailed away towards Mexico, the sunset was beautiful. We continued our winning streak that night on the boat, participating in movie trivia that netted us a bottle of champagne, the first of two for the week. The rough waters continued into the night, but other than loud bangs we heard, courtesy of the waves slamming into the boat, seasickness wasn’t an issue. Every night on the boat there were jazz performances and we sat in one of the lounges on Tuesday night and enjoyed some great jazz piano before turning in.
One thing I did learn after experiencing two different ports in the Caribbean is the popularity of jewelry stores in that area. Yes, the Caribbean is absolutely obsessed with diamonds, as well as alexandrite, tanzanite and about any other rare gem you can think of, that you probably couldn’t buy a piece of in North America for anything less than ten thousand dollars. Why am I mentioning this? Well because each port we docked at, had at least ten jewelry stores, about half of them Diamond International stores. And, on the boat, we picked up coupons, certificates for free jewelry, which is a great bargain because tracking down the various pieces is a fun scavenger hunt and you can save money on souvenirs for other people.
It’s a subject I’ll return to, albeit, briefly, as I describe our experiences in Mexico.
Docking in Cozumel, Mexico
Unlike the other three ports, Cozumel was the only one we could actually dock in port and simply walk off the gangway. I, for one, really appreciated not having to go on another bumpy ride in the tenders to get to shore. Cozumel was also the busiest of all the ports we’d been to. Although we were the only boat from Princess, docked near us were three Carnival line ships, Legend, Elation and Imagination. Farther down, closer to downtown Cozumel was a Norwegian cruise line ship as well as a Disney ship, which unfortunately, I didn’t get a good look at as the Norwegian ship was blocking it from view.
The first thing I noticed upon stepping on shore was the colors of the buildings in Cozumel. Apparently, there IS some
truth to the buildings supposedly in Mexico that you see in the movies. The buildings were colorful and made out of stone, some orange and yellow, others blue. There were also a few restaurants in port that had thatched roofs which I believe helped with the heat that day, which got worse as the wind coming off the water was warm.
We may have missed out on touring the pirate ships in Grand Cayman, but we did get a photo-op with a pirate in Mexico. We also bought some of the famous Mexican vanilla to take home as souvenirs and along our cab trip downtown with two other Canadian couples, we learned a valuable lesson.
When you’re in Mexico and you happen to notice a smaller jewelry store with a sign out front that says ‘Free Gift’, do not and I mean DO NOT, under any circumstances enter the store with the pretense that all you’ll be doing is receiving a free gift. We made the mistake of walking into a small jewelry store that had such a sign as soon as we hit port and the manager in charge twisted my partner’s arm so hard to buy me a pair of earrings, the only way we could make a hasty exit was to say that we didn’t have our credit cards on us. It wasn’t a lie, we didn’t have any cards on us but we learned never to do that again.
Once we hit the downtown core, we made a conscious decision to go into shops that we had vouchers for in order to
grab more souvenirs and leave it at that. We did have a great lunch at a restaurant named Pancho’s Backyard, famous with tourists and locals alike. It was great to have some authentic Mexican fare, although in my case, I realized once again why I usually go for flavored margaritas.
The jewelry aspect of our trip to the Caribbean made one last appearance while we were in Mexico as my partner won me a necklace in a raffle put on by Diamond International for all the cruise ship guests in port that day. It wasn’t just any necklace, but a beautiful blue tanzanite slide necklace from a designer named Safi Kilima. Although the designer name didn’t ring a bell, I did know that the necklace would have retailed for $150 or so and that tanzanite was a rare gem. Personally, I appreciated it simply because it was blue, my favorite color.
Our time in Mexico was over much too quickly, but our winning streak continued on the boat that night with our second bottle of champagne, this time from playing 80s one-hit wonder trivia, which my partner is much better at than I am. Our winning streak was capped off the next day at sea with a $200 win at bingo in the afternoon.
Yeah, I’d say all the winning made a great trip even better. Now on to the relaxation of Princess Cays, Bahamas.
Sailing into Princess Cays, Bahamas
Princess Cays in the Bahamas is actually a private island belonging to Princess Cruises, so only our ship was docked
just off the island. Once we walked on shore, I was struck by how warm and fine the sand was, it was soft and you could definitely sink if you weren’t paying attention. The water was beautiful, just as blue green as the other ports, but without the busy atmosphere. Crew members and staff manned the huts serving drinks while other people walked to their private cabanas, clamshells or to the many lounge chairs that dotted the beach. My partner and I had a complimentary excursion, a simulated skydiving experience he had been very eager to try out. I went with him to the wind tunnel that the skydiving was to take place at, but didn’t participate. Skydiving has never been high on my list priorities and I wanted to be available when it was his turn in the tunnel to take photos.
In an ironic twist, the company holding their simulated skydiving excursions is actually from our backyard, based in Delta, less than half an hour away from where I grew up in Vancouver. The company was apparently on a two-month contract with Princess Cruises for their guests to try out their experience and judging from the positive response, Princess may very well put such wind tunnels on their new boats in the future. Although my partner was only up in the air for two minutes, he said it was easily one of the coolest experiences in his life.
Afterwards, we spent the remainder of our time in port lounging in the chairs they provided and enjoying a complimentary barbeque lunch. At one point, we walked out into the water and experienced the Caribbean water for the first time. And let me tell you, it was COLD. Nothing like being splashed by a cold saltwater wave to wake you up, it was also an eerie sensation to be standing in the water and feeling the sand get sucked out from under your feet as the tide moved out and then to have double the amount of sand bury your feet up to your ankles when the tide came in.
So that was our first cruise and our first experience of the Caribbean. We enjoyed it so much that we put down a deposit for an open booking to be used in the next four years. We hope to return down south or even to Hawaii or Europe if the price is right, with a group of good friends and some family for our next cruise. The one drawback on the boat that I could think of is the variety of food. At the end of the week, I found myself craving some authentic sushi and udon or some fried rice and some of my mom’s famous Chinese spare ribs. Other than that, the only other comment would be on the cabins. Not having a big cabin isn’t a big deal. You can enjoy the experience of cruising while having an ocean view cabin even without the balcony or large bathtub. To me, the cabin is just the tip of the ice berg on what Princess Cruises has to offer.