Caribbean

Port Day in Roatán, Honduras with Princess Cruises

This post is sponsored by Princess Cruises.

I recently had the extraordinary opportunity to visit Roatán, Honduras in partnership with Princess Cruises—a place I’d never heard of, but was immediately excited to go once I found out our Caribbean cruise itinerary. Even before we docked, I knew I was going to love it. We passed through a rainstorm just a few miles out, and it was so cool to be sailing in what felt like the middle of nowhere in the middle of a shower. Once it was in view, the island was overflowing with lush and diverse vegetation that I didn’t find in any other port on our cruise. It was an absolutely incredible dock to pull into, especially from our starboard-side balcony room.

Some of my favorite cruising memories are the most routine, and as always, our day got started early with in-room breakfast. Although there’s a ton of amazing restaurants onboard Caribbean Princess (Sabatini’s, Planks, and Crown Grill to name a few), there’s nothing like enjoying croissants and coffee in bed or on your balcony as you cruise the Caribbean. Getting breakfast in bed is as simple as filling out the menu card and hanging it on your doorknob the night before. I like to add fresh fruit and yogurt to my order, and it’s the perfect amount of food to get the blood flowing before setting out on the day’s adventure.

Port Day in Roatán, Honduras with Princess Cruises | truelane
Port Day in Roatán, Honduras with Princess Cruises | truelane
Port Day in Roatán, Honduras with Princess Cruises | truelane
Port Day in Roatán, Honduras with Princess Cruises | truelane
Port Day in Roatán, Honduras with Princess Cruises | truelane
Port Day in Roatán, Honduras with Princess Cruises | truelane
Port Day in Roatán, Honduras with Princess Cruises | truelane

Of course, some days are more adventurous than others—in Roatan, we elected to take a beach day excursion and were simply picked up from the port by a motorcoach and dropped off at a beach. And with Princess, it gets even easier than that. When you book a beach day excursion through Princess, more often than not your lunch and drinks are included; believe me when I say they’re delicious. Local chefs know how to cook local fare better than anyone, and all of the seafood is usually caught in the same water you’re looking at as you enjoy your meal.

After a drive up the island, Big French Key was just a five-minute boat ride away and a treat of a beach resort. It was charming without being campy, had plenty of space and chairs, a beautiful lagoon and not to mention ocean views for days. It even boasted a quick nature walk through the trees, feeling a little like you’re on safari. There was even a smattering of thatched umbrella tables out in the lagoon, which we were able to take advantage of since the OceanMedallion is waterproof! Is there anything more relaxing than sipping on a cold drink in the hot sun, cool water surrounding you and a light breeze wafting through the island air? I’ll let these photos answer that for you.

Port Day in Roatán, Honduras with Princess Cruises | truelane
Port Day in Roatán, Honduras with Princess Cruises | truelane
Port Day in Roatán, Honduras with Princess Cruises | truelane
Port Day in Roatán, Honduras with Princess Cruises | truelane

Speaking of drinks, don’t forget to order the official drink of Roatan while you’re on the island—the Monkey Lala. While you might feel ridiculous saying the name to a bartender, you’ll feel even sillier if you leave the island without trying one! Still, if you miss your chance, ask Roldan at Good Spirits destination-inspired bar back on board to concoct one for you. They’re almost better than the original!

Port Day in Roatán, Honduras with Princess Cruises | truelane

Photography by Michele Equitz

iPhone shots by me

Stingray Encounter & Snorkel in Grand Cayman with Princess Cruises

This post is sponsored by Princess Cruises.

Whether I’m cruising the Baltic or the Caribbean, somehow I always end up getting off the cruise ship and onto another watercraft. It’s a natural excursion to take when you’re cruising, because you’re constantly surrounded by water in every form—channels, sounds, rivers, bays, seas, and oceans. On the recent Caribbean cruise that Princess Cruises hosted me on, we had a full day planned to make the most of our time in the Cayman Islands, and first on our itinerary was—of course—a boat ride.

Grand Cayman was our first port on the itinerary, so it was our first time getting on and off the ship using our OceanMedallion wearable devices. Unsurprisingly, it was incredibly simple and took no more than five seconds to tap the device and have the crewmember identify me when my photo popped up on their screen. I wrote a detailed post about how many ways the OceanMedallion has changed the way I cruise, so head there for more details. In the meantime, read on about our “Stingray Encounter, Reef, Snorkel, Beach, & Lunch” excursion at Grand Cayman!

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I had no reservations about any part of this excursion until we arrived at Stingray Sandbar, and I actually saw the little critters swimming around completely wild. Ironically, my favorite part about this excursion—the fact that the stingrays are not in captivity—was also the most nerve-wracking. Still, I jumped right in the water, reminding myself that this wouldn’t be a tourist attraction if it wasn’t totally safe. The key is to not to freak out if they swim close to you—remain completely still, because they’re just checking to see if you are food (you’re not). I didn’t mind the smaller, one-to-two-feet-in-diameter stingrays, but the large four-to-five-feet-wide ones did skeeve me out a little. But that was just me—everyone in our tour group was touching, holding, and kissing them!

It was a very unique chance to embrace the Princess motto, #ComeBackNew, by facing my fears and letting myself enjoy such a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I now have a stingray encounter story to tell for years to come!

Stingray Encounter & Snorkel in Grand Cayman with Princess Cruises | truelane
Stingray Encounter & Snorkel in Grand Cayman with Princess Cruises | truelane

 After all that adrenaline, we luckily got some chill time afterwards. I always try to choose excursions with Princess that include a beach break just to make sure I get some time to myself. Included with our tour, we had a delicious fish and chips lunch at Rum Point Beach. Not included with our tour, we got our first sunburns of the trip there too—oops. We also learned a little too late that Grand Cayman is the home of the mudslide, a dangerously good chocolatey, boozy drink (which happens to be just about my favorite on a tropical getaway), but we made do with a couple of cold beers in the hot sun. It was priceless to have that time to fully immerse ourselves in island life.

Stingray Encounter & Snorkel in Grand Cayman with Princess Cruises | truelane
Stingray Encounter & Snorkel in Grand Cayman with Princess Cruises | truelane
Stingray Encounter & Snorkel in Grand Cayman with Princess Cruises | truelane
Stingray Encounter & Snorkel in Grand Cayman with Princess Cruises | truelane
Stingray Encounter & Snorkel in Grand Cayman with Princess Cruises | truelane

We had one more jaunt out on the boat after resting up—snorkeling at one of the beautiful coral reefs that surround the Caribbean islands. This time, we saw a stingray about twenty feet away minding his own business, and I loved watching him float on by keeping us both in a more relaxed state. Our guide also showed us a gigantic lobster, and we saw tons of purple and green coral, brightly colored fish, conchs, and beautiful anemones! Snorkeling has also been an activity I’ve had to work hard to not be afraid of over the years, but now that I’ve got the hang of it, it’s such a spectacular way to experience new parts of the world. Grand Cayman is definitely one of my favorite ports I’ve ever visited with Princess, making it an easy highlight of the trip. What a perfect way to kick off a weeklong Caribbean cruise vacation.

Stingray Encounter & Snorkel in Grand Cayman with Princess Cruises | truelane
Stingray Encounter & Snorkel in Grand Cayman with Princess Cruises | truelane
Stingray Encounter & Snorkel in Grand Cayman with Princess Cruises | truelane

I can’t forget to say thanks to our tour guides for the day, Solomon and Ralph. They kept everyone safe and having a great time every stop of the way. Michele and I were giddy buzzing about in those crystalline turquoise waves.

The best part? After a quick and easy tap of our Medallions to get back on board, we had a steak dinner (or exquisite seafood for me) waiting for us at Crown Grill. What can I say? Days on Caribbean Princess are what dreams are made of.

Photography by Michele Equitz, iPhone shots by me

True Travels: Life on the Regal Princess

True Travels: Life on the Regal Princess

It’s been a full month since I left behind life on the Regal Princess, and I can say with much conviction that I miss it. I had mixed expectations going into the trip—mostly fear of the great wide open—but everything changed once I stepped on board. In today’s post, I’m going to take you step by step on every turn of our trip, from the excitement of embarkation to the homesickness I felt for our little stateroom the moment we checked out.

Since cruising had never been on my personal radar until Princess Cruises invited me to experience their eastern Caribbean 7-day itinerary, I realized I had never thought about what it would take to get on a cruise ship. If you’re as curious as I am, you want as much information as possible before you commit yourself to a new adventure (as such, this post is not for experienced cruisers…you may find the details a bit of a yawn). However, as soon as we drove up to the port, I felt a flash of coastal familiarity. Growing up in Seattle, I’m no stranger to ports and docks and big ocean rigs lined up along the coastline. My dad has always been a seaman. However, I’d never seen anything as big as the Regal Princess anchored in a marina before. Standing next to it, you feel like less than a peanut shell. It’s unfathomably large. My first thought was along the lines of how-in-the-world-do-you-get-an-airplane-in-the-air…how could this thing possibly float?

True Travels: Life on the Regal Princess
True Travels: Life on the Regal Princess

Our shuttle dropped us off around the corner from the customs entrance, which was actually kind of a cluster. We filled out medical forms before finding a desk agent to check us in, but from there we were given key cards and a map of the 19-deck ship and sent to walk the plank. (Fine, it was more of a gangway, straight into what felt like a little cubby door in the side of the ship.)

Embarkation day is madness. We had to wait a thousand years for an elevator because my mom and I are nice people and let the forty-five million old people that were on the ship go first. That was one thing I was expecting on board—most of the cruisers were retired and experts at life on board. However, we felt right at home when we made it to our stateroom.

True Travels: Life on the Regal Princess

I could write a whole chapter of a book on what it feels like to stand on the balcony and look out over the endless blue of the Atlantic. What I thought was going to be the most frightening element of my trip ended up being my favorite. I loved watching the wake flutter along the back of the ship. I wondered how many sea creatures were chilling out below the surface and might be aware of our passing. I wondered at how many knots we were traveling (usually about 18, according to Captain Perrin) or how far away the nearest ship might be sailing (we actually passed quite a few cruise ships that were in clear view and almost within earshot).

The ship moved more than I anticipated. We learned towards the end of the voyage that there were a few uncommon factors in play, one of them being a day and a half we were traveling at full speed to deliver a passenger to emergency medical services at Turks and Caicos! The speed caused a substantial amount of rocking, but it tended not to bother me. There were days I felt it more than others, but it was not much more than a moment of dizziness. I felt it most when I was off the ship in my own bed on land. My body was so used to the waves that it didn’t stop feeling them for two days following. Sounds miserable, but I loved it. It was comforting and helped with the homesickness I was feeling for the Regal Princess.

Our quarters were modern and tidy and roomier than we expected. There are several variations of staterooms onboard, from inside rooms to balcony suites, and we were assigned something in the middle. It was nice to have the desk space for jewelry and accessory storage, but I would say that’s something of a luxury if you’re trying to stay within a certain budget. I’d be down to experience a room with just a porthole, but coming off of this balcony experience, I highly recommend going with a room that will let you escape into fresh air whenever your heart desires.

True Travels: Life on the Regal Princess

The food was exactly what I expected. Princess flies in five-star chefs from all over the world to design their menus and prepare meals for all passengers. You can eat as much as you want while you sit there—it’s all paid for with your trip—and it’s always worth saying yes to dessert. As a vegetarian, I experienced several different pasta or vegetable dishes (all divine), but between the espresso brûlée and salted caramel mousse, my sweet-tooth was more than satisfied. On formal dining nights, there isn’t as much pressure to dress up as I expected there to be, so for me, I just put on my favorite black dress and enjoyed looking at everyone else’s getups. A ton of the ladies and gents go all out, and seeing all of the glitz and glamour is almost like a window into the past of how snazzy cruises used to be.

If I were writing a book on Princess Cruises, I would dedicate another chapter just to talk about the crew. I’ve never met people more excited about pleasing their passengers. Every crew member I met went above whatever I could have expected, whether it was learning my name after the first time they saw me and making a point to say hi throughout the week or helping my mom and I through time-consuming questions about how to best spend our days ashore in port. Their staff is from all corners of the world, from Japan and Romania to Australia and Wales, and let’s be honest, half of the men look like male models in their uniforms.

And, because I'm writing this post on behalf of Princess, you might be thinking the staff gave us special treatment on board…and that’s a no. The Princess PR team exclusively coordinated the trip, and there are so many staff members on board (over 1,500) that there’s no way our steward or anyone else on board could have known we would be writing about them in the following months. We did get a few phenomenal perks, like a Chef’s Table Lumiere evening dinner, fresh flowers and champagne delivered to our rooms, and a tour of the bridge (we even met the legendary Captain Edward Perrin!), but all through the lovely Sara, Princess’s PR maven. That’s how stellar the ship’s staff is, and the reason that I miss all of them so.

True Travels: Life on the Regal Princess

You may also be thinking I’m remembering this all with a rose-tinted lens, but I’ve been writing this post since I stepped on board through a series of notes on my iPhone. My 7-day stay on board the Regal Princess was a trip I’ll never forget, especially since I got to spend it with truelane’s number one fan: my mom. If you have any questions about cruising, leave them here in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them or tap my connections at Princess to help!

Thanks to Princess Cruises for sponsoring this post!