I booked a cruise to celebrate my parent's 60 wedding anniversary. Since we live in Texas, it's so much easier and cheaper to drive to Houston than fly. The cruise went to Roatan, Honduras, Belize City and Cozumel. My husband and ... Read More
I booked a cruise to celebrate my parent's 60 wedding anniversary. Since we live in Texas, it's so much easier and cheaper to drive to Houston than fly. The cruise went to Roatan, Honduras, Belize City and Cozumel. My husband and I booked 2 staterooms with balconies and was pleasantly suprised to see we got upgraded to a mini-stateroom with $50 ship credit from Princess and $50 from Vacations To Go! My parent's room (Caribe 10 Deck) had a larger balcony with four chairs so we liked to sit outside with them and shared their complimentary champagne. I was able to bring my own wine (1 per person) and kept it in the mini-fridge.
We were treated with such friendliness, starting with the parking people at the Houston Port cruise terminal to every single Princess employee! Parking (paid on-line,) embarkation, customs and debarkation were super smooth!
We have twice sailed on Holland America to Alaska before but the Emerald Princess was larger and just as nice. However the Gulf of Mexico and Carribean are rougher seas and I was seasick a few times. I tried the ginger tablets, essential oil, and wristbands, and reluctantly used Dramamine on the last day only to fall asleep for two hours! I did feel better the rest of the day. I even felt seasick while snorkeling in Belize.
Our room steward, Robert, was quite efficient and friendly -- wish I could sneak him home with me and my house would magically be clean!
We opted for the early 5:45 pm seating for dinner and totally enjoyed the food and impeccable service. Our waiters, Chaiyut and Kiattisan, from the Philippines, were prompt and professional. My parents had dinner in the Crown Grill one night and raved about the lobster. My husband and I went to Sabbatinis which was equally good and very romantic. We never skipped dessert either! Needless to say, I'm on a diet now.
One morning we had breakfast in the Da Vinci dining room where it's nice to sit down and order from a menu and dine with other folks. On port days, we opted for the buffet breakfast because it was faster and we had excursions booked. We enjoyed eating breakfast from the Caribe Cafe and sitting outside on the bow deck, enjoying the fresh air and view.
Lunch was just okay, nothing special. We are not big drinkers, but occasionally bought a glass of wine or beer. Not a great selection so I'm glad I brought my own favorite wine to sip on before dinner. Once, I got the Drink of the Day in Cozumel -- a delicious frozen margarita. Unfortunately they ran out of straws.
One thing I was surprised about were all the sales promotions for jewelry, art, spa services, etc. -- pages of ads in the daily newsletters, PA announcements. If you attend an informative seminar, there was a sales pitch to endure. When you get off the boat in port, you walk through all the duty-free, Tanzanite and diamond shops. When you get back on, the spa people were there to entice you for their services.
On-board activities were definitely geared to an older crowd although younger people might like Knitters, Bible Study, Bridge, Bingo, Speed Sudoko, seminars on non-surgical face lifts and footprint analysis. I would have preferred more cultural, historical, wildlife presentations with a naturalist that doesn't have anything to sell!
I participated in Zumba one morning but there were too many people crowded on the dance floor of the Fusion Night Club. The Brit instructor looked a bit out of shape too.
Since I had my husband captive on the board, so to speak, and he hates posing for photos, I booked a session to take those beautiful black and white portraits in the Platinum Studio. Our photographer, Rozanna from South Africa, played music, offered a glass of wine, and got us laughing -- all in 30 minutes. As a result, the poses were very natural. The next evening she presented us with nearly 80 images in a slideshow where we narrowed our choices down to 4 poses and got a free 8X10.
Before the photo shoot, I had my hair styled in the salon by Sushant from India. I thought it was well worth the $49 because my hair is always frizzy and Sushant transformed it! Quite a sweet guy, only 21 years old, and he's seeing the world! Afterward he did try to sell me two expensive hair products that I declined.
For entertainment after dinner, we enjoyed Tom McTigue, an excellent comedian who happens to play the photography teacher in the Oscar-nominated film, Boyhood! The magician was okay, not David Blaine-caliber, but a fun show. If you want to see a show, make sure you get there 1/2 hour ahead of time. We skipped the song & dance and disco shows and watched recently released movies on TV instead.
There's a good band that plays rock, country and pop covers out by the big pool during the day -- my 83-year old dad really liked it! On sea days I would find a quiet spot on deck, stretch out in the sunshine and read a book. Bliss! I did yoga in my room because the offered class ($12) was too early for me.
Excursions -- In Roatan, we got a private tour with Victor Bodden ($25 for 4 people) plus $10 at the iguana farm where you get to feed them. Iguanas are ALL over the place, even in the trees. Another $5 at Monkey Business where the little cappuchins and macaws jump on your shoulder, plus $10 for lunch. Our guide was informative and drove us all over the island. However, he did take us to an souvenir shop that was twice as expensive as the shops at the Mahogany Bay cruise terminal shops.
In Belize City, we used Sun Kissed Excursions, also known as Ecotours, for Goff's Caye Beach and Snorkeling. $40 each, not including lunch. It was a 35-minute boat ride from the port to the beach where we were provided the equipment, then jumped off the boat and snorkeled half-way around the island in turquoise blue water. I did see a lion fish but not much else. Plus I was getting seasick. After 45 minutes of snorkeling, we had about a couple of hours to lay on the board. It started getting crowded as we were leaving around 1 pm.
Cave tubing and zip-lining would have been fun too but we had already done that at a previous trip to Belize.
My parents also used Sun Kissed Excursions to go to Lamanai Mayan ruins by way of a speedboat on the river. They loved it!
No need to book expensive excursions in Cozumel. We just hired a taxi and for $25 each, the driver spent 3 hours driving us all around the island, stopping at Playa Palancar for a hour where we sat on the lovely beach before the crowds came around 10 am.
In all, the crew on Emerald Princess works really hard at trying to provide a vacation for all kinds of people, even LGBT, singles, children and seniors. The only drawbacks were all the sales pitches and not enough active activities geared to younger people.