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January 10, 2016

Travel Guide: Eastern Caribbean Cruise

After a rainy week in LA it's safe to say I'm seriously missing the tropical vibes of the Caribbean! Apparently El Niño is really happening. Getting back to reality wasn't that easy (I'm sure you feel the same) and I somehow managed to get three parking tickets over 4 days. Damn, street cleaning! 

As I started writing this post I realized that my recent Caribbean cruise was my 14th cruise with Princess Cruise lines, 2nd of 2015. Remember my best friend's bachelorette cruise? So. Much. Fun! Anywho, I think that means I'm kind of a cruise "expert"- hah. Expert or not, I've cruised a handful of itineraries in  Europe, Alaska, Mexico, and the Caribbean. Last year I posted my cruise tips + FAQs, however, a few of you commented on my Instagram recently with a more questions, so keep reading for more insights. But first, some info about my recent Eastern Caribbean Cruise: 

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This 7 day cruise took us to 4 ports in the Eastern Caribbean which is just the right amount of stops on a 7 day itinerary. Any more and you'd be overwhelmed; it's nice to have a few sea days to relax. Any less and you may get cabin fever!

Princess Cays 

Princess Cays is Princess Cruises' very own stop, located on a small island in the Bahamas. Many of their Caribbean itineraries (both east + west) stop in Princess Cays, which I love. It's the ultimate tropical paradise filled rows and rows of beach chairs, plenty of bars, and delicious food. It's basically the cruise ship on land. There's water activities like snorkeling, paddle boats, kayaking, banana boat rides, and ginormous water tricycles. Beware, the tricycles look fun but they are SO hard! The best part about Princess Cays is that there are no tourists traps like Margaritavilles or Senor Frogs. It's totally pure, beach fun!

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Grand Cayman

After our Princess Cays stop we docked at Grand Cayman which is known for it's gorgeous 7 mile beach, stingray city, and turtle farm. This is one of those stops I wanted to LOVE but the second we got off the ship I felt like I was on Hollywood Blvd.... just tourist trap after tourist trap. We had a few friends who signed up for the stingray and turtle excursions and had a great time, so I feel like that's the way to go. Andy and I opted for a taxi ride to 7 mile beach for an afternoon on the sand. Don't get me wrong, the beach is gorgeous, but I'm not sure how it qualifies as one of the best beaches in the world. Yes, the water is absolutely stunning and the sand is white, but it's lined with hotels (and not like Miami - which I love) that don't allow you to rent chairs, so you're kind of stuck finding a spot between the hotel chairs and the water which doesn't give you much space. We made the best of it and grabbed a quick lunch at the 7 mile beach bar @ Grand Cayman beach suites then rented a kayak for a few hours. 

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Roatán

Roatán was by far my favorite stop on the trip! We signed up for an excursion via the cruise and ended up with a great guide who took us around the island, on a submarine experience (it's like snorkeling without getting wet), and to a dance show with native children. After that we were free to explore the island for an hour then driven back to the ship. During our free time Andy and I stopped at the most delicious spot for lunch: Creole's Rotisserie Chicken. The food was INSANE. I had the best fish tacos I've ever eaten and Andy had chicken (naturally!). We chatted with a local who had moved to Roatán 8 years earlier. He was originally from St. Louis and came to Roatán on a cruise decades earlier, fell in love, then decided to move there upon retirement. I totally get why! The people are friendly, it's filled with so much culture, the weather is beautiful, and the island is stunning. This is definitely a spot that embraces tourism but in the right way - it didn't fill gimmicky at all. 

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Costa Maya

What's in Costa Maya? Mayan ruins and a lot of pineapples, that's about it. Don't get me wrong, it's absolutely beautiful and full of history but it wasn't out of this world exciting. If you happen to go to this port, definitely check-out the cruise excursions as I think there were some great zip-lining tours!

More Cruise FAQs:

Excursions: When I was younger I used to be anti-excursions because I wanted to do my own thing and explore the ports with a set schedule. As I've gotten older, I enjoy most excursions because they're super informative. Typically you have a guide that is extremely knowledgeable about the location and you can suck up tons of info that you couldn't gather yourself from just spending the day at the port.

My suggestion: research the ports/locations ahead of time and decide how you want to spend your time there then review all the excursion options to nail down the perfect one for you (or decide not to do one)! Excursions are great for families or groups with different age ranges because there is usually something for everyone.

When it comes to price, the excursions are very well priced and you do get a bang for your buck because the cruise lines have connections with the tourism boards at every port. It's also a lot safer (if safety is a concern) to do a cruise excursion than venture out on your own. That being said, venturing out on your own can be a fun adventure and when it's just a few friends or your significant other, it sometimes is best way to go.

Cruise Lines/ Best Time to Buy: Although I've cruised a lot, it has solely been on Princess Cruise Lines which means I'm a bit biased. The Princess crowd tends to be a little older with pockets of young families. Cruises during spring break/ the holidays have more kids on it than other times of the year but I imagine that it is every cruise line. With Princess you can always count on 5 star food and entertainment, plus they just launched an unlimited drink program YASS! One of my favorite things about Princess is their "Movies Under the Stars" which is a huge TV out by the pool that turns into a theatre at night.

If you're looking to get the best deal, sign up for any cruise line's email blasts. They always send promotions and current deals which can't be found anywhere else. Make sure to check out my other  cruise tips + FAQs here! Plus, you can always tweet at me @pursuitofshoes with any of your questions. 

In case you missed it (and are looking for more vacay vibes), on Monday I chatted about 2016 bikini trends including my new fave: high-waisted styles!

{Pursuing more Travel Guides?}


5 comments:

  1. This looked so relaxing and warm!! It's about 20 degrees where I am right now... Not so fun. Maybe I should take a short cruise sometime soon :) haha

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  4. Such a great and informative read, Ash. Well done. I have never been on a cruise but this (and I remember feeling similarly with your last cruise info post--which I think I might have commented on, even) gives me a well rounded idea of what to expect and makes me think it might be something I'd like to do. I love the information you gave about the ports as well, and the helpful tips at the end! Thanks!! I will definitely refer to this post should I decide to go cruising!

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Thank you for your lovely comments... Keep pursuing shoes!