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Pete Peterson

Age: 55

Occupation:Cruise Specialist

Number of Cruises: 11

Cruise Line: Princess

Ship: Caribbean Princess

Sailing Date: September 17th, 2005

Itinerary: Western Caribbean


This was scheduled to be an Eastern Caribbean cruise, but after our first stop at Princess Cays in the Bahamas, the captain decided to change it to a Western Caribbean cruise because of the weather. Hurricane Rita was just beginning to make herself known and there were two other tropical depressions in the making. Turned out this was a wonderful decision on his part. We had fantastic weather and calm seas on the entire trip. We heard later that the Carnival Glory decided to proceed with their cruise to the Eastern Caribbean and they were sorry they did – encountering heavy seas and making the passenger very uncomfortable. Because of the change, we naturally heard a few complaints from passengers who had booked back-to-back cruises so they could do both the Eastern and the Western only to now being doing the Western twice. But you can’t control Mother Nature and most passengers realized there was nothing anyone could do and just made the best of it. For us, we prefer the Western Caribbean, so it was fine with us.

We have been to the Western Caribbean several times and have always enjoyed it. Mostly, this is due to the fact that we are scuba divers and Cozumel is one of the premier places in the world to go scuba diving. But I’ll talk more about that later.

The Ship

This was a family and friends cruise to say Bon Voyage to our daughter, who just recently joined the U.S. Navy and was shipping out to boot camp two days after we get back. So we had a total of 9 people (ages 20 – 55) and ‘party’ was definitely a verb on this cruise!

For this trip, we chose the Caribbean Princess. It is an absolutely wonderful ship and has our stamp of approval for families or first time cruisers.

The Caribbean Princess is the newest ship in the Grand-class and began service in April 2004. At 116,000 gross tons, it’s their latest entry into the mega-ship race. For our last family reunion a couple of years ago, we went on the Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas, so all of us were comparing the two. And, after spending a week on both, it was tough to decide which one we liked the best. For families, it’s tough to beat all the amenities on the Navigator, so we tended to lean a little more in its favor. But other than that, the food, the service, the ship – everything was wonderful on the Caribbean Princess and we only had some very minor complaints.

We were all from the Washington, DC area and after doing a 15 hour drive to Miami on their previous trip, everyone decided to spend the extra money and fly down with us this time. We originally purchased roundtrip tickets on Jet Blue for $160 each. However, between the time we booked the airfare and the time we left, the price dropped twice so we were able to get a $30 rebate each time thereby bringing the total fare down to $130 per person, which was cheaper than our last family reunion two years ago.

When we got to the Ft. Lauderdale airport, we tried to find a van to take our party of 5 to the pier. (The other four flew down the day before.) There were absolutely no vans to be found anywhere and we ended up having to take two taxis instead. Needless to say, I wasn’t happy with spending the extra money for nothing. And then we tried to tell these two drivers we needed to stick together as we wanted to make a stop at a liquor store to get some wine and champagne to take onboard. We might as well have been speaking a foreign language. Long story short, we got separated and had trouble trying to find each other later on at the pier.

If you’ve ever been through embarkation at a cruise ship pier, you know what it’s like and I don’t have to provide all the details. If you haven’t been in one of these lines, It’s always a lot of fun and seems to take forever. From the time we got in line until we got on the ship was only an hour, so we have no real complaints. The only negative comment is to say that we were handed forms to fill out while moving through the line. I do not understand why these could not have been sent with the cruise documents so we could have done this earlier.

Some cruise lines force everyone to go through their picture taking area in hopes you will buy them. Most people don’t know that this is not a mandatory stop and they can bypass the line and just board the ship. It would be very much appreciated by those of us who cruise on a regular basis if they made it easy to just walk around this.

Anyway, we decided to take this particular trip as they offered a good rate. We could not afford to book a cabin as Travel to surprise your partner. I had preordered flowers to be delivered to our cabin and they were there when we arrived, much to my wife’s approval. You can carry wine or champagne with you on the ship, so I also brought two bottles along with me for consumption later in the cruise. But you can also buy packages for your cabin that include bathrobes, hors d'oeuvres, champagne, pictures, etc. They add a very nice touch to the romance of the cruise. I bought a champagne breakfast for $25 to be served to us on the balcony on our last day at sea and it was wonderful!

Ok, back to the ship; our cabin, which was on the starboard side towards the aft. The hallways on this deck run the entire length of the ship, making it easy to get around. We were only two decks below the Lido Deck, so it was easy to walk up the steps for food or drinks. We did not feel the ‘motion of the ocean’ during any part of our trip, but our group in the back of the ship noticed the vibration of the engines the entire trip. Our cabin was very quiet and afforded plenty of room for our clothes. The bathroom was rather small, as is usually the case, but we’ve gotten use to becoming intimately attached to our shower curtain. Our cabin attendant was great.

The ship is said to hold 3,114 passengers when there are 2-to a room. This is exactly the same as the Navigator of the Seas. Since our cruise was sold out, there were actually 3,158 passengers on board. The reason I know is because I was the last one on the ship one day. As I put my boarding pass in the computer, I asked him if I was the last and he said, “3158. Yep, you’re the last one.”

There are three dining rooms on this ship. The Coral Dining Room and the Palm Dining Room are both on the Fiesta Deck and are both for Personal Choice Dining, which allows passengers to eat when they want. The Island Dining Room is on the Plaza Deck and is for those wanting traditional dining with an early or late seating. Since we had a group of 9, we chose traditional dining. Our waiter and assistant waiter were among the best we have ever had on any of our cruises. They went out of their way to insure everything was perfect.

Since the ship is so large and has so many pools (4 large, one small) , we never really felt crowded anywhere on the ship at any time; except when we first got on board and went to the Horizon Court buffet for lunch, along with everyone else. I won’t go into all the amenities on board, as I could fill a book talking about them. But they are as wonderful as the rest of the ship. Of course their biggest attraction is the large outdoor screen in the middle of the ship by the pool. They had movies running most of the time (days & evenings), so you could sit, eat, drink, swim – all while watching a movie outside. It was very nice. In fact, being Washington Redskins fans, we absolutely had to watch Monday Night Football under the Caribbean stars on the big screen. We had pizza, beer, popcorn, beer, hamburgers, beer, hot dogs, and more beer. It was an awesome setting to watch the Redskins beat Dallas in Dallas! It just doesn’t get any better than that! The only negative about the whole thing was that they could not get the color corrected so all the players were blue and the uniforms were anything but the normal colors. It was distracting but didn’t take away from the excitement.

We’ve had enough of the cruise line shows, so we didn’t’ go to any of them. The others in our group said they were good but not great. We did go see one of the comedians/magician and he was really good. In fact our kids made friends with him later in the bar and found he graduated high school down the road from us. So they’ve made plans to see him at the local comedy nightclub when he comes here.

On the days at sea we had no desire to sit in the sun all day, but we did go by a few times to see how crowded the pool areas were. On other cruises, there were always too many people and not enough lounge chairs. This was not the case on this cruise and it was very enjoyable. It also made using the spa, hot tubs, steam rooms, etc. much nicer as well. As I mentioned, there are 4 large pools; the adult pool near the spa, two in the middle of the ship (one with the big screen and one without), and then one on the back of the ship. There’s also a small adult pool and a children’s pool near the aft. So there were plenty of places to go, but we preferred the pool in the back. It’s directly under the nightclub, so it stays in the shade during the hottest part of the day. And contrary to what we’ve heard and read, the sound from the movies did not interfere with the other areas.

Something we always enjoy about Princess is that they do not make a lot of announcements and this was true on this cruise as well.

One thing that made this ship a lot nicer than most is that they have laundry rooms for their guests, so they can wash out a few things or use the iron to take out a few wrinkles. I wish all ships would do this.

The food was very good. In fact, none of us had a bad meal during the entire cruise. Most of the time, we chose to eat in the formal dining room for all breakfasts and dinners, then would eat lunch on shore. But we did try the buffet during a couple of breakfasts and lunches and it was very good also. A wide variety was available for all types of tastes. On Monday night before the football game, we were going to try Sterling’s Steakhouse, but they were booked so we decided to eat at the buffet instead and it was very good for dinner We did have a couple in our party try Sterling’s and they said it was wonderful. But I talked to others and they said it wasn’t all that good and took too long. So I guess everyone’s taste is different.

Their pizza kitchen was the best! It’s made by hand and cooked in real pizza ovens. The hamburger place was good, but not as good as some we’ve had on other cruises.

And speaking of food, as I mentioned earlier, on our last day at sea I ordered a complete champagne breakfast to be served on our balcony. It was a very romantic way to enjoy a beautiful day while watching the deep blue sea. We had Quiche’ Loraine, fruit, salmon, pastries, orange juice and Moet Champagne.

Overall, this is an awesome ship and I would not hesitate going on it again. I would highly recommend it to my clients, especially to those with kids. I can provide additional information to you if needed, but this ship literally has something for everyone and if you find yourself bored, it’s only because you want to be.

Princess Cays

This is Princess’ private island. Because there is no pier, all passengers must be tendered to the beach, which was handled relatively quickly considering the number of passengers. Getting back on board took a while longer only because everyone waits until the last minute to get in line.

It’s a beautiful beach and everything is laid out well with lots to do and plenty of places to sit. It was a beautiful day and the water was very warm and clear – truly a lovely day at the beach to relax. We chose to walk the furthest from the tender station, so it was not as crowded and the snorkeling was much better. I only had one complaint about our day; they close the bars at 1:30pm, yet the last tender wasn’t scheduled to leave until 3:30pm!

As with all of the cruise lines’ private islands, the food is brought over from the ship. The food is okay and the choices were few, but given the circumstances, they did a pretty good job of providing for everyone.

For those more adventuresome, there is sailing, banana boat rides, kayaking, and snorkeling gear available for rent.

But overall, it was a nice day to relax and enjoy the sun, sand, and water at a beautiful beach.

Cozumel, Mexico

My wife and I spent a week in Cozumel about 12 years ago and we have visited it several times on various cruises, so we are very familiar with the island. We love Cozumel for its laid-back atmosphere and beautiful blue water. We ate breakfast early so we could get started as soon as we arrived. Luckily, our ship docked at the Downtown Pier instead of the International Pier, which is a couple miles south. So we were able to walk everywhere without having to take taxis.

We had prearranged to charter a boat just for our group with Deep Blue Divers. We had 5 certified divers, 1 snorkeler, and 1 that wanted to learn how to scuba dive. We walked over to the dive shop and after taking care of paperwork, they drove us out to a boat they had rented for us, which was at a marina south of the International Pier. The boat was more than adequate for our group and the captain and crew were wonderful. Our first dive was just for the 5 of us who were certified; we went to Santa Rosa Reef where we made a 105’ dive through coral formations. It was absolutely awesome! Cozumel is one of the premier diving locations in the world with water temperature around 84 degrees and visibility up to 200’ at times, and every time I dive there it just keeps getting better and better.

While we were diving, my wife was snorkeling above us. After we completed our dive, the boat headed back to the marina to pick up the lady in our group who did the resort course so she could go diving with us. Unfortunately, she couldn’t clear her ears and was unable to dive, so she just snorkeled with my wife. (The Resort Course but does not count towards any certification; it’s more of an introduction to the sport, but gives people the opportunity to see what scuba diving is all about.) After picker her up, we changed out our tanks and headed to Paradise Reef where we headed down to 45 feet for another incredible dive. After about 50 minutes, we reluctantly surfaced and the captain took us back to the marina. Note: scuba diving in Cozumel will run about $65 for a two-tank dive, while the Resort Course will cost about $75, plus the cost of a one-tank dive, which is another $35.

After completing our diving excursion, we were all hungry, so we decided to head to Carlos’ ‘n Charlie’s. During the ride over, we were extremely disappointed to find that our all-time favorite restaurant, Santiago’s, had closed down and been bought by someone else. Don’t know what the food is like now, but this place was the best kept secret in the entire Caribbean. It’s not a very big place and is about 5 blocks off the beaten path, so it’s not crowded and most tourists don’t know it’s there, especially the cruise ship passengers. We can only hope the food is as good as it use to be because Santiago’s was truly the best restaurant I have ever eaten in.

Note: I have to add here that the best hamburgers, steaks, seafood, fruits, and vegetables that we have ever had in our lives have all been while in Mexico. We lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico for 9 years and during that time we took an annual vacation in San Carlos, Mexico, which is about 6 hours south of Tucson. We spent 2-3 weeks down there every Summer, so trust me when I say that Mexico has fantastic food and should be savored at every opportunity without worry.

Anyway, we walked over to the new Carlos’ ‘n Charlie’s, which is now on the main street a few blocks south of their old location. Anyone who’s ever been to Cancun or Cozumel knows that Carlos’ ‘n Charlie’s is THE place to p-a-r-t-y!!! While this new restaurant/bar is large and very nice, it lacks the ambiance of the old place, which was small, crowded, and dirty but it had a certain flair about it. The party is still there and all the cruise ship passengers still go there to have a few too many drinks and let it all hang out!

It does not take long to get into the party spirit in this place. We immediately ordered up 6 Dos Equis and 6 shots of tequila to toast our great day of diving. Nobody really cares about how good the food tastes, because you really don’t go there for the food. But we didn’t have a lot of time, so we only ordered some nachos to hold us over until we got back on the ship.

After spending about $100 for three rounds of drinks and the obligatory group photo, we decided it was time to head back to the ship before we missed it.

Cozumel is an easy island to get around; there’s only one main road that goes in a circle around the south end of the island and then cuts the island in half. You can rent a car for about $50-$85 per day or the preferred method for cruise ship passengers - motor-scooters for about $25 per day (no helmets or special license required). You can rent cars and scooters right at the International Pier. Compare these prices against a $20 roundtrip taxi ride to town. But you’ll get the best prices if you reserve ahead of time.

If you rent a car, the town of San Miguel is north of the International Pier. But if you head south, the road will take you to Chankanaab National Park. Snorkeling and scuba diving are very nice in the park. I had the best hamburger at the little restaurant. There’s also a wildlife refuge you can walk through.

Further south is San Francisco Beach, where there are millions of conch shells on the sea bottom. There’s also a restaurant and bar. You can walk south of the restaurant if you want to find some privacy for topless sunbathing.

A little further south, there are some all-inclusive resorts; some of which are very nice.

The main road heads east towards the Atlantic Ocean. Once there, you can take a dirt road south to the Punta Celarain Lighthouse. There’s no charge to climb up, but there is usually someone there to convince you otherwise. Yes, it’s a scam, but it’s a great view and we didn’t mind haggling him down to a dollar.

On the road down to the lighthouse, there are some beautiful hidden beaches, which are great places to skinny dip in the ocean.

Unlike the western side of the island, which has calm sea, the ocean is a beautiful blue with white waves, making it a wonderful place to explore and take pictures.

Heading north up the road, you’ll find the occasional restaurant/bar. I highly recommend stopping at all of them as they are usually quite a treat and most are pretty nice with great scenery, as you can see by this picture. We even got to pet a live iguana at the Naked Iguana Restaurant.

Eventually, the main road will turn westward. However, there is another dirt road that heads north towards another lighthouse. One time we saw a sign for a bar ¼ mile up the road, so we ventured up the dirt road and came across a quaint little place. It was a big thatched-roof building with no sides. There was a sign on the post that said, “Air Conditioned.” We parked the car and went in to find Credence Clearwater Revival playing on the 8-track tape player. We sat on the beach, drank a couple of Dos Equis, enjoyed the magnificent view of the beautiful blue water, listened to the waves crashing, and talked with the owner for a while. We had wonderfully relaxing time.

There are some Mayan ruins near Cerveza, but they are relatively small compared to the ones on the mainland and the entry fee is a bit overpriced.

This brings me to shore excursions. I’m not a big proponent of shore excursions, as we’d rather explore on our own than pay the high prices for prearranged trips that are usually very crowded. For example, all the cruise ships offer trips to places like Tulum, which is a wonderful Mayan temple on the coast. However, they make it seem like it’s an easy and quick trip – it’s not. It takes about 8 hours to make the roundtrip of which only about 1-1/2 hours are actually at the site, the rest of the time is spent getting there and back. I’ve heard from many people who have done this tour and regretted it, so it’s not one I would recommend.

A word here about alcohol: It’s generally cheaper than it is in the States, but you have to shop around. The highest prices are at the pier; the lowest prices are at the airport. However, when you board the ship, if you’re carrying any alcohol, they will confiscate the bottle and return it to you on the last night of the cruise. So, here’s a little secret; first, always carry a backpack with you. Second, buy a one liter bottle of water and drink it while you’re walking around town. Third, buy a one liter bottle of clear alcohol (I prefer tequila). Fourth, pour the alcohol in the empty water bottle and carry it out in plain site when you walk onboard. No one will question your bottle of “water”.

By the way, just for informational purposes, I’ll offer you advice I got from an old Mexican bartender; the only difference between gold tequila and white tequila is caramel coloring! And there’s not much difference between the advertised brands and the local stuff except the price. But if you want a really good smooth tequila, make sure it says ‘reposado’ on the bottle, which means it’s aged, or ‘anejo’, which means aged even more. Two of my personal favorites are Don Julio and Tres Generaciones (Three Generations), but there are several others. They are wonderfully smooth and mellow, but pricey. If you’re looking for a nice gift for someone, these have my highest recommendation. Don Julio cost us $32 at the pier, whereas back home it runs $48.

I can offer much more information about Cozumel, but overall it is very safe and is one of our favorite islands in the Caribbean. The Mexican people are friendly and helpful, especially if you at least try to speak some of their language with them.

Georgetown, Grand Cayman

There’s good news and bad news about Georgetown; it is a beautiful town with a beautiful harbor with crystal clear water. Unfortunately, there’s no pier and everyone has to be tendered to and from the ship. This can lead to some long waiting times both getting off and getting back on the ship.

This is probably one of the only ports I would recommend a shore excursion and that is the one to see Stingray City. Some advice about this; first, make sure you go in the morning. When the stingrays hear the boats coming in the morning, it’s like someone ringing a dinner bell. However, because they feast in the morning, they are not as interactive in the afternoon and you miss out on all the fun. The stingrays are extremely docile and playful.

Occasionally, they will actually adhere to your body with their mouths and suck on your skin, leaving big ‘hickies’. So if you handle pieces of squid to feed the stingrays, don’t touch other parts of your body. But it’s worth it just to see and pet them. There are usually several shore excursions that include a stop at Stingray City. I highly recommend that you take one that includes a stop there and Coral Gardens. Otherwise, after about 20-30 minutes, you’ll get bored with the stingrays and there’s nothing else to see since it’s a white sanding bottom. If you take the excursion that includes Coral Gardens, you also get to snorkel and see some fantastic coral and beautiful fish. There are several companies offering these trips, so you do not need to purchase one through the cruise line along with everyone else.

Since we had done the Stingray City tour last time with this group, everyone decided to do their own thing, so the kids went shopping and then to the beach. Nancy and I decided to go the Hell! Yes, there’s a small place in Grand Cayman called Hell, so we decided to go see this tourist spot. We found that getting a taxi was out of the question as they are very expensive. So, we inquired about local transportation and found they have vans that leave every 15 minutes or so near the library. We walked over there and were told it was $2.50 per person to go anywhere on the island. Off we went on another adventure. The town of Hell is not much of a town and not real high on my places you have to visit, but what the hell, it was a hell of a good time and unusual.

After spending time in Hell, one likes to cool off. So back we went on public transportation to the beach. We found a great little place on 7-Mile Beach called Calico Jacks. They had great hamburgers, French fries, onion rings, and especially cold beer! The beach was wonderful, the water was clear and warm, and the rest of the day was spent having a wonderfully relaxing day. We met another couple who, it turned out, were also from the ship. The four of us came together and enjoyed each other’s company then shared a ride on public transportation back to town just in time to make the last tender to the ship. The kids keep reminding me that I bragged too much about being the last one on the ship that day. Hey, I take great pride in that feat, which has happened on many, many occasions.

While in Grand Cayman, instead of taking a shore excursion, you can walk either north or south of the pier and find scuba shops. They offer snorkeling right there in the harbor in the crystal clear water.

Following your morning adventures, you can walk around and do what most cruise ship passengers love to do: shop! Grand Cayman is not a cheap place. In fact, it’s one of the more expensive places in the Caribbean, so don’t expect to find any real bargains there. But the people are friendly, there’s plenty of air-conditioned shops, and great food.

One of the more popular items you’ll see offered everywhere is their famous rum cake. They all offer free samples, so try before you buy as they all different. The Tortuga Rum Cake you see everywhere is not, in my opinion, all that good. There are some local brands that are much better.

Another thing you’ll see offered a lot is Tortuga Rum. It’s okay, but I recommend you wait until your stop in Jamaica to buy your rum – better prices and better rum.

One important note; you will see a lot of Cuban products for sale, such as the famous Cuban cigars and coffee. Be advised that contrary to what they tell you, you cannot bring Cuban cigars back into the United States! I know one guy who unfortunately listened to the untruths provided by the salesperson and bought a whole box of cigars only to find out after he got on the ship that Customs would confiscate them. He ended up passing them out to everyone on the last night of the cruise to smoke after dinner. Cost him a lot of money to learn that lesson. So, if you have to buy one, only buy one or two to smoke before your cruise ends. And if you like cigars, then you definitely have to try one of these – they are very mild and very nice.

After the day is done and it’s time to board the ship, you’ll usually find a long line. Well, the good news is that cattycorner from the dock there is a very nice English pub upstairs. They not only offer excellent libations, but they have a great view of the dock so you can watch the line. Our group drank in air-conditioned comfort while watching this long line of hot sweating passengers wait their turn to board the tenders back to the ship. Gee, now there’s a tough choice: wait in line and sweat or sit in a cool bar and drink beer.

Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Jamaica is a very poor country, so you will be hassled everywhere you go to buy from people hawking their wares. Unfortunately, there’s not much to do in Jamaica. Most people will take a shore excursion that includes a stop at Dunns River Falls. It’s a great place to cool off and take some wonderful pictures. However, it is usually very crowded and walking up the falls is more of a hassle than fun with all those people. If you want to go to the falls, I highly recommend you bypass the shore excursions and do it yourself. You can take a taxi to the falls as it only takes about 10 minutes to get there.

There is also a Jimmy Buffet’s Magaritiville right near the pier with some water activities, but you can only take so much of that.

This is another one of our little-known secrets: When visiting Jamaica, we prefer to buy a day-pass at one of the local all-inclusive resorts. Jamaica is well known for an abundance of these resorts because of the warm water and white sandy beaches. It’s worth the price of admission, which will run anywhere from $65 to $85 per person. However, the price includes all water activities (sailing, water skiing, etc), lunch, and alcohol. It’ll cost about $30 for a roundtrip taxi ride to most of the resorts, but you can haggle the price. You can also choose between the nice resorts of Sandals, Dreams, or Couples, or you can go for the wicked, such as Hedonism, or perhaps the upscale resorts such as the Grand Lido Braco, or the Sans Souci Resort & Spa are more to your liking. We prefer the latter. Some are for families and others are for couples only. It’s best to contact them before your cruise and secure your reservations as often they get booked and will not allow day visitors. It also depends on whether your ship arrives in Ocho Rios or Montego Bay as to which resorts are available.

We’ve been to the Sans Souci Resort & Spa many times and it is always wonderful. So we decided to take our group there for the day – price was $70 per person. The facilities are absolutely beautiful. It is a couples-only adult resort and therefore is very romantic. As with most of the resorts in Jamaica, there are two beaches; one for the normal folks, and the other is for clothing-optional enthusiasts. This area also has its own clothing-optional pool, bar, and snack bar. Since we decided we did not want to spend our day with the kids, we opted for the less crowded clothing-optional area, which was wonderful.

The youngsters in the group spent their day kneeboarding, paddling around in various water craft, and enjoying themselves in the pool. However, the majority of the day, they spent drinking a wide variety of local concoctions with lots of rum.

You can eat either at one of the two snack areas (hamburgers, hot dogs, steak sandwiches, French fries, etc.) or you can eat in the dining room. There you’ll you have to get dressed, but the food is more plentiful and very good. It is classy and very nice. The buffet had a huge assortment and the food was superb. They also had the traditional Jamaican fare including beef jerky. We had an extremely relaxing day and highly recommend this option instead of the usual overcrowded shore excursions. Comparatively speaking, a typical excursion to the falls will run about $100 per couple, usually with a small lunch, a couple of drinks, and a crowd of people for a few hours. Whereas, an all day trip to Sans Souci will run about $180, including taxi, but will offer a variety of water sports, a beautiful beach, all the alcohol you want to drink, all the fantastic food you care to eat, a very small number of people, and a place to sun your buns, if you’re so inclined. In our opinion, there is no choice – not when you’re on vacation!

Following a wonderful day at the resort, we had the taxi driver drop us off at the Taj Mahal shopping area. This is like a strip-mall full of small shops – all selling pretty much the same things. It’s gated, so only the cruise ship passengers are allowed inside. This way you don’t get hassled by the local beggars – of which there are a lot. This is a good place to buy some rum and, as with most alcohol, you can get cheap or expensive rum. The more you pay, the better it is, but they will allow you to try before you buy so you can decide the best for you. My recommendation is the 8-year old rum; it’s smooth, aromatic, and more flavorful, plus it’s less expensive than the 12-year old rum.

One of the unfortunate sides of Jamaica is that people will try to sell you marijuana, or ganja as it’s locally called. It is grown everywhere on the island and is one of their biggest cash crops, so it’s also relatively cheap. Obviously, I do not recommend purchasing this illegal drug – and yes, it is illegal in Jamaica even though it’s sold and used openly. The Jamaican government uses undercover police to try and catch the unsuspecting tourist. So you are hereby forewarned as the consequences can be very severe and very expensive. But when you’re walking around the ship after leaving port, you’ll definitely smell it everywhere.

Now for our best advice while in Jamaica: You have to buy some Jablum (Jamaican Blue Mountain) Coffee!!! In our opinion, it is one of THE best coffees in the world! For the best flavor, buy the whole bean and grind it yourself. The beans are grown in a small part of the island at an altitude of 4,200 feet above sea level and all the beans are still picked by hand. I can’t remember exactly what we paid for a pound, but I think it was around $12. In the U.S. it’ll cost you at least $25 per pound. If nothing else, you should buy at least two pounds; one to try for yourself and one to give me for telling you about it! If that doesn’t strike your fancy, then buy them anyway and I’ll pay you for both of them when you get back. But trust me when I say this is the best coffee you will ever taste.

Conclusion

As I said in the beginning, this was a wonderful ship for a family or a group; it has something for everybody and there’s always something going on. But then cruises are always what you make them to be. If you want to lay around and do nothing, there’s plenty of that available. On days at sea, I like to just lay on the balcony and read a good book while I smell the warm salt air and listen to the water beat against the hull. Doesn’t take long before naptime overtakes me. The 8 youngsters in our group ranged in age from 17 to 26 and they were never bored. But as we always tell our clients, a cruise is what you make it.

Please contact me if you have any questions about anything in this review or if you are interested in taking a cruise.

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