Drove from Laredo to Houston on Friday, the day before sailing. Stayed at the Hampton Inn in Pearland, Texas, which proved to be an excellent location for last minute shopping and for a variety of restaurant choices. On Saturday, it was an easy 30 minute drive to the Houston Port Terminal. The parking “garage” turned out to be a parking lot, but was reasonably priced at $75. for 7 days. Even with “priority boarding” it took a bit over an hour to clear security and board the ship (one security device was down with no back-up). Due to winter weather airport delays the day before, the ship left two hours late in order to wait for some passengers—this was of no major concern.
The Caribbean Princess is a very appealing ship, even with some minor touch-ups needed here and there. This was our 6th Princess cruise, and we have never been on another ship with as friendly, and apparently happy, crew. The ship’s management staff should be congratulated for the outstanding “work atmosphere” they have created. The décor of the ship is very traditional and appealing if you are not looking for climbing walls, zip lines, etc.
The best news is that the food quality was greatly improved in comparison to our last three cruises, especially in the Horizon Grill buffet area. The traditional dinning was good—especially during the “sea food” night—with lobster and prawns. We ate 2 nights in the Crown Grill and one night in Sabatini’s—both excellent. The food at the International Pastry/Coffee area was very good also.
More good news is that the last night’s production show was outstanding—the best entertainment we have seen on six cruises! The “Passion” cruise band from the island of Lucia was very good; outstanding when the lead female singer sang “Country” for the Texans on board (the dance floor became quickly crowded). Fifties/Sixties night was also fun, the jazz group was a bit off I’m afraid. The Casino activities were very well managed, and the casino staff was excellent, especially Grace from the Philippines. This was the best managed and equipped casino we have encountered on Princess.
In regard to the ports, we walked the downtown area and then went to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville Restaurant. The sanitary conditions in the kitchen area were atrocious, food on the floor, and more. We left after paying for two un-consumed ice teas. The next day, the Captain announced an outbreak of intestinal illnesses, some of which I believe may have come from the port. We had very low expectations for Roatan, having been there four years ago, but were very much delighted by the Gabbyaba Preservation & Beach excursion. Some of our party played with monkeys and birds, and it was a delightful three hours spent touring the grounds and seeing a variety of wild life. Unfortunately, that night, the Captain announced that our visit to Belize was cancelled due to fog expected in Houston. Most passengers probably thought the real reason for the cancellation of one day of our cruise was the noro virus outbreak (a total of 160 passengers and 20 crew had succumbed), but we did learn at the end of the week that not only was the fog real, but the next cruise was delayed 24 hours leaving Houston as a result. Due to returning a day early, we had to cross a cold front in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico with 50 mile/hour winds (gale force) and 12-18 foot waves. This storm lasted from 6:00 pm on Wednesday night until the next morning. There were some really loud noises during the night. We arrived in Houston at 10:00 pm on Thursday night, spent the night on the ship and disembarked the next morning.
Our suite cabin was excellent, Peter form Poland—our Cabin Stewart was excellent, and we, all in all, had a great time. Princess pro-rated a refund for the missed day, and gave us a 20% discount on our next cruise. Hotels were provided by Princess for those passengers who had Saturday flights, and these adjustments seemed very fair. We will certainly cruise with Princess again, but not out of the Houston Port.