Day 8 Home and thoughts on cruising

Actually, what I discovered on this trip is that what I love most about cruising, is, well, actually, cruising. Being on a top deck watching the seas and the skies and feeling that huge ship moving beneath me is an incredible rush, and in the entire 7 days I never tired of it. Lots of good things about a cruise, but that movement on the sea is the best part.

The daily posts listed below have some photos in them, but here is the link to all the photos from the cruise.

Day 7 Some thoughts on Princess

Our last day of the cruise was spent at sea, with time to relax in deck chairs, and enjoy the lovely gentle seas. Time to think a bit.

Mo has been on 5 cruises, and this was my 4th. Two previous trips were with Royal Caribbean and one 4 day cruise with Holland America. It is sometimes difficult to compare something like a cruise, and I think every experience is individual. For what it is worth, in most ways we were impressed with Princess. The cabin was excellent, and our steward did a great job. We knew there wouldn’t be cute little animals, but chocolates and a turned down bed were fine, and if I had to choose, I would pick the huge closet over fancy towel animals.

The Anytime Dining option has some glitches, but still is a great way to go if you aren’t traveling with a big group of people that you know. The food on Princess was fine and the service was excellent in our experience, but there wasn’t quite the fabulous fancy thing that you expect on a cruise. We didn’t opt for any of the extra charge restaurants, but that shouldn’t be the only way to get great food on a cruise. Talking with a friend about this, we think it may not just be the difference between cruise lines, but an overall difference in cruise food in general.

The spa was wonderful, and my experience on this ship better than others. There are 4 pools, lots of places to hang out, and not very many children or young adult people on this trip. It was pretty quiet, actually, not a party ship at all. It seemed very classy, and mature, unlike the rock climbing wave riding midnight party glitz of the Royal Caribbean. I would still like to someday experience one of those big ships like the Independence of the Seas, but in all, Princess compared very favorably to past cruise experiences.

The only other problem seemed to be the very short times in port. Often, another ship would be in port when we arrived and there after we left. We heard tales of 12 hour port stays, and the 6 or 7 hours that we had in our ports was a real detriment to actually enjoying them. I’m not quite sure why it worked out this way, but might pay closer attention to port stays when planning another cruise. My choice won’t necessarily depend on the company, but on the ports, the price, and the dates.

Day 6 Grand Turk and swimming with rays

You tube video swimming with rays

Our last port day on the cruise, Grand Turk was a surprise. We didn’t have enough time to explore the island since again, we signed up for an excursion. This one was by default, since it was the only snorkel trip still available, and included petting sting rays. Hmmm. We weren’t too sure of that one, but really wanted to see more fish, so thought that maybe an excursion was the way to do that. After all, we even brought our own shiny new snorkel gear for this trip!

As we boarded the excursion boat, it began to dawn on me that we were going to actually snorkel in deep water, no walking in slowly from the beach, this was going to be a jump off the boat kind of thing. Gibbs Cay is just a spit of sand in view of the island, but we weren’t any where near either one when the cool snorkel dudes stopped the boat and showed us how to jump down the ladders.

At first it was a bit daunting, but with the inflatable snorkel vests and the warm water it was just fine. I loved it. The reef was lovely, and there were some fish, but still nothing like we saw in Hawaii. It was hard sometimes to keep track of locations, and once I felt trapped in an area with reef all around me and no way over it, but I found my way back eventually. A great experience.

We all got back in the boat and headed for the beach on Gibbs Cay. Our guide warned us to stay calm when the rays swam around our legs, told us they liked people and were extremely friendly. It was an experience, to say the least. We would all be looking at him holding this huge thing, when suddenly more would sidle up behind us and suddenly you would feel them around your legs. Strange, and yes, difficult to stay calm and not get a bit freaky. All in all, a great experience though, even after he did admit that yes, these were the same sting rays that had killed the croc hunter. Hmmm. I watched that stinger whip around a few times and wondered if this was really where I wanted to be, but now that it’s over, I’m really glad we did it. it.

Day 5 St. Thomas and Magen’s Bay

Our day in St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands was just as I imagined a day on a Caribbean beach would be. Again, the time in port was really short, but this time Mo and I had pre-reserved our excursion to Magen’s Bay, listed by National Geographic as one of the top ten beaches in the world.

We disembarked and immediately boarded our open air bus to drive the steep curvy road over the island down to the beach. The air was tropical, there were lush tropical plants along the road, and the views were magnificent. Ahh. Once on the beach, we walked to the end where we found a delightful little nook with some shade and spent a couple of hours swimming, snorkeling, and sunning. It was perfect. The turquoise color of the water is the most amazing thing, although there weren’t as many fish and the water wasn’t as clear as it was last spring when we first snorkeled on Kauai. Still, it was great. Again, I wished for a lot more time to enjoy these ports, these islands, more time to explore them. It really was wonderful, and we soaked up every bit of sun and water and sky and white sand that we could.

It wasn’t until I got back to the ship and uploaded my photos that I discovered that somehow my camera’s setting reverted to a high ISO and all my St Thomas photos were extremely overexposed. Ahh, well, forgive me for the weird photos. There are plenty of good ones on the internet, however, just go to google and search for images of Magen’s Bay. The color is real!

Day 4 visiting St. Maarten

Our visit to Phillpsburg was interesting, and if I go back to the Caribbean, and to this island in particular, I hope that I can get around a bit more and see it in a different way. We were on the Dutch side of the island, and I saw nothing particularly Dutch, or particularly Caribbean either. Because I got hooked on the shopping thing by the cruise shopping director, we spent our day in port running around trying to find all the shops that honored our free coupons, and shopping isn’t one of Mo’s favorite things to do, but she was a good sport. We discovered Diamonds International, and Tanzanite International, among a gazillion others. We learned that shopping for extreme luxuries, aka “bling” is the big thing to do when cruising the Caribbean.

Maybe not. I bought the silly coupon book for 25 bucks, thinking I would get a discount on my spa treatment, but then the fine print said “port days only” and I certainly wasn’t going to stay on the ship on a port day. Live and learn, I guess. We did manage to get a color changing bag from Del Sol, and a water wallet from DI, but really didn’t find much of interest in that whole day of running around Old St. Maarten. Next time I will take a taxi to the French side and check out the local market.

The beach was white and lovely and very crowded, and the water was all churned up by the storms. Two beach chairs and an umbrella came with a bucket of beer for 20 bucks so we declined that one and instead opted for conch fritters and pina coladas at the barefoot bar on the beach. It’s a bit difficult to feel what the West Indies might be like when the town is filled with more than 10,000 tourists from the ships. I have heard that there are some really lovely things to explore on St Maarten, but this particular cruise had a very short port time, really not enough time at all. I’ll pay attention to that as well if I ever get a chance to return here.