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A Port Intensive Caribbean Voyage


By Leonard Seelig

Nearly six months after the Transatlantic voyage, a cruise done in the post-opening weeks of the influence of Covid, the voyage took place in the Western Caribbean, one of the most popular destinations for cruising. In contrast to the extended number of at-sea days, this was very port intensive, with stops four days in a row and only two days crossing the waters. The visits included Grand Cayman, Roatan, Belize City, and Cozumel. Each of these destinations had its flavor to experience. Shore excursions included a glass bottom submarine to experience life below the waterline and trips inland to see chocolate making. Along the way, there were unannounced visits to beaches and other places. They included beach stops and a Tequila making operation, not just to show but to entice people to spend cash. A memorable experience was visiting Mayan pyramids and their ancient culture in two of the visited ports. It was a precarious hike upstairs to the top of the pyramids to take in the view of the surroundings. What surprised me was that we were permitted to climb the steep steps to the top. Other places in the world only let tourists see them while near them and not let their feet trample on them as humans can take their toll.  It is good to learn about the history of people. Shore excursions have to be booked not less than five days out from the departure date. While the ship does have a shore excursion desk, it is what is still available, so it pays to do things in advance. For those who have never been to one of the ports, a presentation was done in one of the main rooms before arriving there. This was done not just for the shore excursion but for the destination itself.  

This voyage was in contrast to the previous atmosphere of the last cruise. While health and safety are top priorities, there was a more relaxed atmosphere than on the previous cruise. It was on the way back to a type of normalcy that was prevalent pre covid. Mask wearing was optional and not required. People were in a more fun mood, not just because of safety and health, but the influence of where the ship was going. People needed and wanted to get out of the house to experience things. The separation between going places and staying at home needs to end. Another difference was the ship was much fuller than the third occupancy of the last cruise, and various public rooms were full. The casino was packed, and the lounges were buzzing with activities. Pools were filled with swimmers enjoying the Sun. People were lined up to do things, which was not evident on the previous voyage. While some may consider an entire third ship to be excellent in terms of personal service, it was nice seeing many more people enjoying the experience than before. The only real negative remarks overheard were from passengers moving their cabins because of a sewage backup from the previous cruise. People had the habit of placing many things down their cabin toilets, resulting in not many moves but related announcements from the captain. What is somewhat frustrating is that this comes from passenger action and not that of the cruise ship.  

I was looking forward to this cruise and planned the different things to do along the way. Later it was found that on the ship that around three hundred people were either on the last cruise or staying on for the next one as the ship does alternate Eastern and Western Caribbean Itineraries. People that go to this area of the world often go there repeatedly to do different things each time. This is something I hope to do again as well.  

The ship offers many things for different ages as people bring their children along. There were younger and more mature people from families to couples and solo travelers engaging in what they like to do. Dining was varied, and daytime activities offered an excellent slate of exploring things. It was more of a voyage than a trip from point A to B like the first cruise seemed to be. This type of cruise is very suited for the first-time cruise for people. The Florida departure is a flight up to five hours from most parts of the United States without added paperwork or longer flights over the ocean. The Caribbean Princess is known for this type of cruising. It can cut down on the amount of preparedness that a voyage much different way may require.  

Accommodations on the cruise were pleasant. A welcome change was the assignment of a cabin midship and not forward as in the past, something many passengers avoid because of the ship's motion. I did not need very much square footage, although I would like to have a balcony room and not the usual interior once time. A person can lose the ability to know what time it is when they lack a window. Tipping, or crew appreciation, as it is now called, is mainly added as a part of a package to avoid it showing up at the end. Unfortunately, I did not do the box and was charged at current rates. If you are one of those people who like to hand cash to staff at the end in amounts you would like to do, there is a process of opting out, which must be done at the beginning of the cruise.  

Passengers, it seemed, were primarily American and not from other countries, such as on the last cruise. In addition, there were larger families with young and grown children, another significant difference. It is good to get the family together, especially at dinner when it is a social experience instead of just dining.  

One of the signature elements of the Caribbean Princess was the Skywalkers Nightclub. Perched on a wing-type structure 19 decks above the aft end of the ship, it provided dancing and nightlife for me. It is reached via a single set of elevators and then up a moving light effect walkway. It is an adult playground with a sign at the bottom stating that those over 18 years of age are welcome. The alcohol flows, and there is a vibrant atmosphere. The venue opens at around 10 PM and closes as the last revelers depart. The trip up there became a nightly ritual, and the body moved to the beat of the music of the DJ. When going up there, this place establishes a nightly separation from the rest of the ship.  

Cruising is coming back. It is much more than being paused for the spread of a virus but also a learning experience. Planning, check-in, and checking in have changed because of what has transpired. Some out there may complain about the new process, but it is needed. Even if the influence of Covid were never unleashed on the world, there would still be an evolutionary process for cruises and other types of travel. Changes are coming. We wish it would not have to be that way, but it has to. It can be an easy planning process for travel just with added changes, not to make things more complicated but to make things easier while adapting to new things the traveler must do.  

Source: Pam Price

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