Our first experience cruising as a family was with Princess Cruises. Cruising is not really our thing but we wanted to give it a try as so many families seem to enjoy it. Our verdict remains the same - it's not really our thing - however, it was still a fun trip and we actually have a better appreciation for this popular vacation activity. First, cruising is perfect for multi-generational family trips. There is literally something for everyone to enjoy. Second, if you are new to traveling and are nervous about leaving your country, cruising is a safe and easy way to take that first foreign vacation. For our cruising experience, we chose a 7-day Western Caribbean Cruise with stops at Princess Cays, Bahamas, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, and Cozumel. Blog links with further details on each stop are located at the bottom of this page.
Princess Cays: Princess Cays is the first stop on Princess Cruises Western Caribbean cruise. Located on the southern end of Eleuthera, an island in the Bahamas, Princess Cays resort is owned by the cruise line. The stop features a white sand beach with lunch barbequed right on the beach. Other activities may be purchased and for us, it was a bike ride "Island Adventure." Of the four ports on this cruise, this one was our least favorite. It was just okay. The bike ride was nice in that it gave us something to do beside sitting on the beach but it was too short, too casual, and there was not much to see. We would skip this if we returned.
Jamaica & Adventure: Jamaica was our second stop on our Western Caribbean Cruise with Princess Cruise lines. After some time at sea, we were itching for some adventure so chose a day of zip lining, ropes course, and swimming. Jamaica does have a high crime rate, so we opted to stay with the a shore excursion purchased through the Princess Cruise line. The subcontractor did a great job of making us all feel safe and at no time did we have any concerns about our safety. Each activity was suitable for kids grade school age and up. $119/per person for this all-day activity. Includes lunch.
Sea Turtles at Grand Cayman: On this third stop on our Western Caribbean Cruise, we had plans to go swimming with the Island's famous Sting Rays. Unfortunately choppy water canceled our plans. Instead, we were taken to visit the Cayman Turtle Centre, as well as a couple pretty vistas along the way. Much later after we returned home, we learned that the Cayman Turtle Centre is controversial due to raising turtles in questionable conditions and for human consumption, along side of their conservation and repopulation efforts. It is a good lesson in researching venues before you travel, even if you learn of the change only just before arriving at a destination.
Catamaran Trip. Cozumel, Mexico, is an island in the Caribbean Sea in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. This popular cruise stop for Western Caribbean routes, begins in a tourist port with shops full of tchotchkes. It was a bit too touristy for our taste. However, this port was also the starting point for an all-day catamaran trip which whisked us away from the throngs of tourists to the open gorgeous waters of the Caribbean. Here, we enjoyed a day of snorkeling, great food, drinks, and even time on a quiet private beach. This was by far our best day of the cruise.
Where We Stayed
Our room choice was an exterior room with balcony. Being a bit on the claustrophobic side, an interior cabin really was not an option. We think it was worth the expense. The small balcony was just enough of a private space to provide fresh air, when needed, without the need to interact with other passengers. Another popular spot for us was the basketball court on the top level. Oddly enough, it was rarely in use so it ended up being feeling like our own private part of the ship. We hung out here and played endless games of H-O-R-S-E and two-on-two.
Where We Ate
Meals were, of course, on the ship. Each night we participated in the formal dining experience but in reality, it was very casual. We had our own table but we did get to know the families that sat next to us. One thing to note is that Princess does a great job of providing healthy options, including plenty of fresh fruits and veggies. Tip: For drinks, order pre-dinner 2 for 1 cocktails during the ship's daily happy hour.