This was our first time sailing on Princess. We took the March 23rd trip on the Crown Princess out of Galveston (visiting Roatan, Belize & Cozumel). It really was a great trip & a great ship. The ship was beautiful, lots of different areas to spend your time, lots of activities to participate in. We had a balcony room on the Riviera deck, just below Lido. It was very nice & had lots of storage. I was a little worried that the noise from the pool areas would carry down to our room, but I never noticed any pool noise. Just the scooting of loungers at night, which was no problem.
We didn't get a chance to check out everything, so I'm just going to review the highlights. We used The Sanctuary for 2 1/2 days (during the days at sea). It costs $10 pp for half a day. I thought it was WELL worth it. You get a quiet, relaxing area, with filtered sunlight. The Sanctuary is beautiful, with soft cushioned loungers. The hubby & I managed to get a double lounger facing the windows every day. If you ask nicely, they can shuffle the loungers around & add a lounger at the window if all of the other window spots are booked. If you don't book an entire week at The Sanctuary, you need to be there BEFORE 8am to book your spot for the day. I know they say 8am, but get there earlier. By 8am, most of the prime spots have already been taken. If you like to lounge outside & relax, this is the place to do it. Otherwise, you're fighting for regular loungers in the sun with hundreds of other people, lots of noise & you will BAKE.
One of the main reasons I went with Princess was for the Movies Under the Stars. It was pretty good. The first night, we found a prime spot & it was really enjoyable. Later on, the more people find out about the movies, you will have to nab a spot early or get stuck with an obstructed view of the screen. They have blankets, which you will need, its chilly & windy. Most nights they start off handing out popcorn & towards the end of the movie, its cookies & milk. We watched 2 movies & I wish we could have fit in more.
The Princess Theater was nice. They had a musician who did two shows & he did music from the 60's & 70's, which I really liked. The cruise productions are good as well. I will say I was more impressed with the theater & shows on Royal Caribbean cruises.
The only real complaint I have about Princess was the food. We ate all of our dinners in the main dining area. Unless you're a seafood lover (which most people are), your choices are kind of limited. I don't eat seafood, so I was eating beef at pretty much every dinner, which I'm fine with. However, both my husband & I found the food to be bland. It was really lacking in flavor. One night I ordered prime rib & it came out tasting like pot roast. I've sailed on Royal Caribbean twice & the food was AMAZING, so I was expecting the same here & was disappointed. If you REALLY enjoy cruise food, go with Royal Caribbean instead. The buffet areas have lots of choices, but again the food seemed to be lacking flavor.
All in all, it was a great trip. All of the staff was friendly & the ship is well run. I loved The Sanctuary & The Movies Under the Stars, but was really disappointed with the food. If food isn't that important, you will love the cruise. Personally, I'm going to be sticking with Royal Caribbean.
We had booked the glass bottom kayak / snorkel excursion. It was cancelled last minute due to the weather. So we went with the Gumbalimba Park / Beach Break. Gumbalimba was OK. Hampered a little due to the absolute downpour of rain. It was pretty & a nice last minute choice. The beach break was at Tambyana. It included a lunch, which was good. I really enjoyed the beach. Tons of loungers & the beach area was gorgeous. Tons of palm trees & soft, white sand. Lots of annoying vendors that stay on the beach by the water. If you want to swim, you're going to have to fend them off. I wanted to get a massage on the beach. When we get there, I was approached by a woman offering a $25 hour long massage. Yeah!! However, when I was taken to the "massage area", I had to lay on a nasty lounger on top of a wet sheet & was given a massage by her 7 or 8 year old daughter. Gross. She kept massaging my fingers & paying close attention to my diamond rings, again......creepy. Accompanying her was her 4 or 5 year old little brother, who fought with her the entire time & kept pestering me for a tip. In short, do NOT get a massage on this beach. If you like to snorkel, there is an excellent spot on the left side of the beach, near the cliffs. The water is shallow & calm & you literally only have to go 4 ft from the beach to start seeing fish. They have large coral formations that you can swim around & float over with tons of colorful fish. I absolutely loved the snorkeling here. As far as the city of Roatan, its pretty dirty & run down. I would stick to a ship-run excursion here.
In Belize we did the Zip Lining / Cave Tubing excursion. The cave tubing was really cool & luckily, the water wasn't nearly as cold as I expected. We had a great guide. After the cave tubing, our group did the zip lining. Due to slowness / confusion of the zip line equipment guys, we got split up from our group, and didn't get started until 30 minutes after the rest of the group. They ran out of helmets, so we spent most of the time just standing around & waiting. Once we got to zip line, it was really fun. Over a little too quickly for me. I wanted more! They served a great lunch after zip lining. However, since we were delayed on the zip lining, we only had about 10 minutes to eat before our group had to head back to port. I would've enjoyed a more leisurely lunch. Just like Roatan, Belize City is really run down & dirty. Again, I would stick to ship run excursions here.
We've been to Cozumel several times before, so we decided to just rent a jeep & drive around the island. I love the other side of the island, just walking around looking at the rocks & tidal pools, etc, etc. You can walk along the beaches here & find gorgeous pieces of coral. As far as I know, it IS legal to take them from this side of the island, as long as you pick them up from the beach & not the water. We went back to Chankanaab. This is a great place to spend the day. They have a great walking tour, gorgeous lagoon area (no swimming there), sea lion show, dolphin experience, restaurants, beach area, snorkeling, etc, etc. Its a really nice place. The snorkeling here is nice. Just slightly annoying walking down the mossy steps into the water & lots of waves. They have sunken monuments you can check out. Again, lots of very brave fish that swim right by you. We saw a group of at least 100 fish just hanging out by one of the monuments. Needless to say, I love Cozumel. The beaches are gorgeous & clean & the water is amazing. Its a small island & if you do your own research, you should have no problem just checking things out on your own.
As for shopping in the ports.....stay away from the jewelry. I know everyone hears that you can find great deals on jewelry. You cant. For instance, I like the silver jewelry that has multiple kinds of large semi-precious stones. This style of stuff is all over the place here. However, the necklaces run from $300-$800. You can buy the same things on Ebay for around $75. The prices in Cozumel are ridiculous. I also saw a kiosk selling a silver PLATED bracelet, and saw the same exact bracelet in just about every store, advertised as STERLING. Save your money, buy Sherridans coffee liquour. You will NOT regret that :-)