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Friday, April 14, 2017

Our First Entry!!!! Cruising the Western Caribbean aboard the Caribbean Princess.

Welcome to LuXury Docs travel blog --your prescription luXury travel!

This is your place for inside tips about travel and your chance to share your own tips.

My first trip that I want to talk about was a spur of the moment Western Caribbean cruise with Princess cruise lines.

Booking this cruise was not difficult. There was a sale on going that allowed my family and I to secure and ocean view cabin with a partially obstructed view for $429 for six nights.  With taxes and port charges the total was $598 per person for six nights.

Rx TIP: If an itinerary is a common one for a particular cruise line, monitor the price for some period of time before you book it.  A good target price for your cruise before taxes and port charges should be around $70 per night per person.  Usually this is well below brochure prices.

Rx TIP: The best place to look for these prices is on the cruise line website.  Once you find the sale price, then you can shop with Cruise discounters to compare prices or bonuses.  But something has to be said for the good service your regular travel agent gives you.  Ask him/her to get you the sale price.

Rx TIP:  The best discounts or bonuses are with USAA or Costco.  Ask them to match the sale price.  Sometimes they will give you the sale price but take away the bonuses.  I have found USAA to be the least expensive.

Flying into Fort Lauderdale to depart on a cruise from port Everglades will be the easiest departure experience you will ever have cruising.  Each cruise line has representatives with staplers at baggage claim who will help you tag your luggage for the ship. There is no need to take the cruise sponsored transportation to the ship unless you have mobility concerns!!!!!!  Port Everglades is literally 3 miles from the airport.  I prefer Uber to take my family to the ship.  We needed Uber XL for this trip because we had lots of luggage.  No problem! It was $22 for four of us of and our luggage.  If we took the cruise sponsored bus it would have been $144 total.

Elite embarkation is smooth and we arrived about 1230 pm.  We prefer to skip the "obligatory" photos in the terminal to get to our rooms.

Rx TIP:  Ask the pursers desk to place a hole in your cruise card to give you the option of hanging your card around your neck.  Save an old id holder, shoestring or necklace to hang your card on.  You can buy one also:

Fashion Lanyard Necklace

Our cabin steward meets us in the hallway.  I ask for a robe, extra hangers and an extra blanket.  It's there by dinner. Princess gives you a mini bar setup at the start of every cruise if you are elite.  You can change this to different combinations .  They do this usually by the time you go to bed the first night.

We had an obstructed view cabin E219.  








Rx TIP:  Obstructed ocean view cabins can be less expensive than a good inside cabin.  Consider this and look at both categories on the Princess website.  Always click your way through on the cabin selection portion of the Princess website, because you may find prices lower than listed on the basic cruise search.  Also, sign into your princess account, because you may find a lower price if you are Princess Captains Circle member.  Here was our obstructed view.  To find this view look for a room in the center of a life boat on the deck plan when selecting a cabin.





Rx TIP: Bring a multi plug extension cord to plug in all of your electronics.  Outlets are limited in your cabin! The outlets on the ship are two prongs.

Easy Option to charge all of your Electronics when traveling

The elite lounge is located in Skywalkers lounge on this cruise.  This means great views!  The elite lounge which can be used by platinum or elite members. Here was our menu.

We opt for early traditional dining.  I am not a fan of anytime dining on princess because I find that it is hard to actually eat when you want.  I do not want to stand in line for sometimes 30 minutes  to an hour or have to worry about reservations on a cruise!  If you opt for traditional dining you can request a small table for just your travel mates or to share a table.

Rx TIP: If you don't think you will get along with your table mates for the duration of the cruise ask the maitre d after dinner the first night to move you for the remainder of the cruise.  Usually they can accommodate you elsewhere.

Day 1: at sea. When Princess has a martini demonstration in the piazza, that is always a fun event to attend even if you don't like martinis!  If you do like martinis, you may get to sample them!




Day 2: Roatan Honduras. Mahogany bay.  In the past I have done a shore excursion to Gumbalina which was a great place to see monkeys, parrots and hummingbirds.  This time we decided just to explore mahogany bay. This was a treat.  It is a short walk to the beach.  You can decide to take the ski lift which costs $14pp for an all day pass.  At the beach there are free chairs everywhere.  A cabana costs extra.  You can rent floats or snorkeling equipment.  There a plenty of fresh water showers, bars and restaurants.  Corn hole, volleyball, cricket, and basketball are being enjoyed by many for free at the beach.  We spent nothing and went back to the ship for lunch.

Rx TIP: Bring a refillable water bottle on your cruise. You can use it at the gym and off the ship. Fill it with ice water from the ship. You know it's clean water from the ship!  If you like flavored drinks, MIO drops are easy to bring.  The flavored water makes for a good cocktail mixer as well!

Day 2: Belize city.  We take shore excursion.  You have to tender in Belize and because of the large barrier reef, the ship is far off shore.  Because of this large boats tender you ashore and back.  (I hear they are working on getting the cruise ships closer) our tour starts with a boat ride up the Belize river.  We see manatee where the river meets the Caribbean Sea.  It is a protected area.  Cruising up the river takes one to two hours. TAKE SUNSCREEN AND A HAT!  There is no shade.  Along the way we see many howler monkeys and crocodiles.  Our guide gives us much background about Belize.

Lunch is not very exciting.  Chicken beans and rice.  We decide not to eat the fresh vegetables out of concern for potential stomach upset.  I've usually had better lunches on excursions. Our departure for the ruins is delayed because our incoming bus broke down.

We drive to Altun Ha ruins which are lovely.  Our guide tells us that the locals thought they were mountains for many years but in the 1960s they were discovered to be Mayan ruins.  We tour the site and climb one of the ruins.  No time allowed to do any more.  The site is navigable for mobility challenged but climbing the ruin was not easy since the stairs were very slippery and I am pretty fit.  There is a small museum about the site there.

Our bus broke down and we had to wait for another bus for 20 min.  After about 10 minutes it became clear that the new bus didn't have functioning air conditioning but we were already very late and decided to tough it out rather then wait for a third bus.

Rx TIP:  everyone in Belize expects a tip.  If you tip everyone bring plenty of small bills.

Rx TIP: Princess cruise line has excellent choices for shore excursions.  Generally they are not much more expensive than what you could book on your own through trip advisor.  If you have the time and the persistence to use trip advisor you may save some money.  But always remember that if you are late on a princess shore excursion they will hold the ship for you!  My princess shore excursions have been late three times in the past!  Things happen!!

Day 4: Cozumel.  I've been here many times.  Usually we rent a jeep for the day and drive around, stop for a cerveza and go to see San Gervasio ruins.  We decided to do an ebike and snorkeling tour.  The ebike time was limited and only in a group but fun.  Our guide told us about Mexico's participation in WWII.  I didn't know that.  Afterward we did a quick snorkel at a beach club.  The current is very strong in Cozumel!!!!!  Probably good that we were supervised.  We were allowed to stay at the beach club for the remainder of the day and our guide arranged an included taxi ride back when we wanted to leave. We did not need to wait on the group.  No food or drinks were included but there was slow wifi at the club.  There was tequila tasting on site that was fun and tasty.


Rx TIP: There are many great shops at Porto Maya.  Pedicabs are available for mobility challenged for a fee.

Day 5: at sea.  This was the last day of the Caribbean voyage for our ship.

Rx TIP: If you hear that your ship is repositioning with its next cruise, this means specials!  Watch for deep discounts on merchandise like perfumes, clothing, cosmetics and jewelry on the last 1-2 days.  The same applies for shops on land -- when the season is ending you can bargain for great discounts.  On this cruise we purchased a Blancpain watch for 80% off retail, duty free in the Princess onboard shop.

Disembarkation:  no problem.  At Port Everglades bring your global entry card if you have one.  They will not let you use the global entry line without your card.

If you are departing via airplane use uber to get you to Fort Lauderdale international airport.

Rx TIP:  Rental cars are tricky at Port Everglades. Use this option if you want to explore Fort Lauderdale or are departing from another city (one way rental) I used to use Budget at the Quay but after too many long waits for the shuttle and keys, I changed to Alamo Port Everglades.  They have a prompt shuttle and many employees to get you through in a jiffy.  I was on the road in 50 min after leaving my cruise cabin.


Rx TIP:  Rent your car from Costco.com.  They have an easy search feature and the BEST rates.

Rx TIP:  Use Princess EZAir.  There are many good reasons. You can pick your flight and your favorite airline.  You can choose your class of service.  I recently found 2 business class Europe tickets for 40% less than the lowest price tickets at any other website and most tickets are refundable until 45 days before you sail.  You WILL NOT find refundable tickets anywhere for a price less than non refundable tickets.

Here are some various benefits on Princess.  Most of them are elite benefits.  But I saved them to let you know what kind of money you will save getting elite status on Princess.  Complimentary laundry and dry cleaning is the greatest benefit.  On a 6 day cruise, I saved $112. 






Elite members receive a complimentary wine tasting on board.  This is actually a lot of fun and the wines are pretty good.  I recommend doing this early in the cruise so you know what wines to order for the rest of the cruise.  

Elite members receive complimentary hors d'oeuvres in your stateroom on a formal night.  It is a nice touch when you are getting ready in your room.  This along with the complimentary mini bar set up at the beginning of the cruise adds to a special touch for formal night.


Princess has introduced new drink packages for their cruises.  I personally don't get these since we don't drink enough coffee, soda or alcohol to make it worthwhile.  



RxTip:  Personally, I recommend bringing your own wine if you are a wine drinker.  You can bring your own bottle to dinner and have the waiters open it for a $15 cover charge.  If you don't finish the bottle, they will cork it and bring back to your table the next night.  Generally restaurant costs of wine are double the retail price and this holds true for Princess Cruises as well.  If you drink wine that costs more than $15 per bottle, you have already saved money.  Wine skins are an easy way to pack wine bottles.  

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