Another reminiscent post for me, as I’ve really been itching to travel lately. Unfortunately our finances and work schedules are preventing us from doing so at the moment. But! We are saving up to go on a cruise this December, so I’m very excited for it.
As we plan our cruise, I’ve thought back to our first cruise we took in 2016. It was after our wedding and my college graduation. My husband’s parents gifted the whole family a cruise for Christmas (we actually didn’t go until June).
Our cruise was through Royal Caribbean, 7 days long, and we stopped at three ports: Cozumel, Mexico; Georgetown, Grand Cayman; and Falmouth, Jamaica.
Getting to the Cruise Ship and Checking In
My husband, his brother, his sister, her boyfriend (now husband), and I drove from College Station to Galveston the morning of (about 2.5 hour drive). We probably left around 9am to get to the port by 12pm. My husband’s parents left from Austin to get to Galveston (almost 4 hour drive) and we met them at the port.
Once we parked our cars, we made our way to the check-in area on a shuttle with our luggage. I have to admit, I’ve never really been the best packer. So hauling our luggage was not fun from the shuttle to the check-in area.
There was a point in time, as we were moving through the line, this old lady got very upset with us for moving ahead to a more “premium” line and told us to go to the back. She didn’t work there, she was just grumpy that we could move ahead of her.
If you have never been to Galveston, it is a humid, hot place. Being in line, waiting to get on the ship was really gross because there wasn’t any A/C. So we’re all standing in line, sweating way too much, and looking like a hot mess.
When we finally got through the check in process, we made our way onto the ship for lunch and send-off!
Once on the ship, we explored, settled in, and had our first dinner!
The ship itself felt like being in a giant mall. It never felt like we were on a ship, until we got on the top decks and could see the ocean. There were so many things to do, and so many different rooms on this ship. They had theaters, an arcade, a spa, two dining rooms, stores, several restaurants and bars, and so much more! Our rooms were pretty cozy, too. We had an interior room, with no window. I really liked having no window because when you went to bed the room was pitch black. There was even a curtain in front of the bed that you could close to deter even more light! It was a little disorienting in the morning because you had no idea what time it was, but I still really liked it.
The housekeeping staff would also fold the towels as animals, and it was the most adorable thing ever.
Cruising Days and Evenings:
We had three full days of cruising at sea, and they all blended together. The really nice thing about being on the ship was there was so much to do. There was always activities going on, so you could always find something to do at any time during the day.
Some of the stuff we did was participating in a scavenger hunt, going to the arcade, hanging out at the pool, hanging out at the casino, and going to some of the shows at night! We had gone to a comedy show, an ice skating show, an acrobatics show, and even a game show! I even participated in an improv class! They were all a ton of fun and made the cruise experience that much better.
The dinners were really nice, the food was pretty good. We even went to one of the specialty restaurants on the ship. There were three total on the ship: A steakhouse, a mexican restaurant, and an Italian restaurant (the one we to).
Royal Caribbean also does Captain’s dinners, where you basically get really dressed up and go to dinner. One of the nights they did a parade sort of thing in the dining room, and the other captain’s dinner they had this huge dance party in the promenade afterward. Some of the staff even dressed up as The Village People!
Most nights we went to bed early, as we were exhausted from all we did during the day. They did have later activities for adults, as people younger than 18 (I believe) had to be in their staterooms after a certain time. They did some “nightclubs” and other things for adults. We did go to one of the “nightclubs,” but it wasn’t really that exciting. Not a lot of people were dancing, so we just went to bed anyway.
My favorite port was Cozumel, hands down. My husband and I didn’t plan for any excursions, as we didn’t really want to pay for them. A lot of the excursions through the ship were incredibly expensive, and I’m more for going out and exploring on my own, rather than doing something guided.
When we docked in Cozumel, my husband, his brother, his cousin, and I took a cab to a nearby beach called Corona Beach.
The people who ran the beach were incredibly friendly, very helpful, and they had some awesome food. I’m a big fan of spicy food, and I have to say Mexico did not disappoint when I asked for something spicy.
The beach wasn’t what you would expect as a normal beach, but it was still very beautiful, and we even snorkeled in the water! I was able to see some baby stingrays and a ton of fish. The beach itself had so much coral in it, and they had signs posted everywhere to not walk or step on the coral because it was so endangered.
While at the beach, we even took a touristy picture with an iguana. It was super expensive for what it was, but hey, you gotta live a little.
After our time at the beach, we caught a cab and went into town for lunch with my husband’s sister and her husband. We were looking for tacos and someone directed us to some amazing al pastor tacos! I had asked them for salsa and they told me that it is super hot. And they were not lying. After the first bite my stomach dropped for a second, as I’d never had anything that spicy. But it was sooo good. I dream about eating that salsa again.
After lunch, we walked around the town, bought some souvenirs, and made our way back to the ship.
I’m very excited to go back to Cozumel this December, and hopefully have an experience just as great.
Georgetown, Grand Cayman
Our next port was Georgetown. For this port, we actually had to ferry to the port, so we were assigned different times to leave the ship to get on the island.
Once we got onto land, we caught a bus to a nearby beach, did some snorkeling, and enjoyed some drinks.
I will say, I got pretty tipsy in Grand Cayman, more than I did anywhere else, including on the ship. The beer was so good, and it was great vibes. We bought some souvenirs and made our way back to the ship.
Jamaica was a bittersweet port, and I’ll explain why in more depth as I go on. I really enjoyed Jamaica, the people were so kind and the food was fantastic. I would love to go back to experience Jamaica in more depth, not on a cruise.
Before I get into what happened in Jamaica, I just wanted to point out something I didn’t like very much about Royal Caribbean. I understand that passenger safety is the number one priority to the ship; however, they take it to the point of scare tactics in forcing you to purchase an excursion. Either way, we ended up buying the cheapest beach excursion that they offered, and I still had a really great time.
Once we got into the port, we made our first stop at Margaritaville before catching our bus to the beach.
The margaritas were pretty weak, but what can you do about that? Our bus driver was so fun, teaching us Jamaican phrases, and just making the ride a good time.
When we got to the beach, it was so beautiful.
The beach itself was privately owned by Royal Caribbean, so only people from the ship were allowed on, given they purchased the excursion. It wasn’t super crowded, which was also great.
While at the beach, we had some beers, played volleyball with the locals who worked there, and ate some of the best jerk chicken of my life!
The scotch bonnet sauce was so spicy and flavorful, I bought a bottle to take home (granted, it wasn’t the same). We took the bus back to the port, and I wanted even more chicken because it was so good! Our bus driver offered to drop us off somewhere more local, but we decided to just get the chicken at the beach again.
The shack at the beach only took cash, so we had to get some more. Unfortunately for our friend, the ATM ate his card. My husband and him stood there waiting for hours for someone to get it out, to the point that they almost missed the ship. It was a pretty sucky experience for him because he had to go the rest of the trip with no way to pay for things.
As they were waiting for someone to help, I ate even more jerk chicken at a nearby restaurant. It was not as good as the chicken from the beach, so I was sad I had paid so much for it. Eventually, we got back onto the ship, my friend never rescued his card, and we moved on with our cruise.
The End of the Cruise
After our last two days at sea, we landed early Sunday morning and got ready to head back home. Getting off the ship wasn’t so bad. They assigned times for you to leave, so it went pretty easily. Once we got back to our cars, it was time to drive back home.
All in all, it was pretty enjoyable. There were some things I would have liked to happen differently, and I would have loved to spend more than just a couple hours at each port, but that’s the nature of a cruise.
Tips for Going on a Cruise:
I’ve only been on the one cruise, but I do want to share some tips for making the most of your time on and off the ship, as well as what is worth spending money on.
- Don’t pack a lot of clothes! A week may seem like a long time to go anywhere, but you really don’t need that much. You can reuse swimsuits and outfits, especially for dinners. They can wash your clothes for you, but it is pretty pricey.
- Drink packages, do or don’t? I didn’t purchase a drink package because it was so expensive to buy outright. I ended up getting one of those 10 drink cards for a discounted price toward the end of the cruise, which worked well for how much I drank. I drank mostly off the ship, so it wasn’t as big of a deal for me. However, if you like to drink, and you like to drink a lot, go for it! Most ships will also allow you to bring up to two bottles of wine per stateroom, so take advantage of that!
- Excursions aren’t entirely necessary. If you’re not adventurous, or a great planner, then you can easily book an excursion through the ship. However, keep in mind that you can also book an excursion outside of the ship that will be significantly cheaper. The only difference is, though, if your excursion runs late or something happens and it’s not through the ship, the ship will not wait for you. We didn’t really do any excursions, as I like to go out and venture, and it still suited us really well. We saved way more money going out and finding our own stuff to do, and we didn’t even miss the ship!
- The rooms aren’t as important. We didn’t spend a lot of time in our room, so I didn’t mind having an interior (we also didn’t pick it, but still). Knowing this, our next cruise will also be an interior room because I know we’re only going to be in there to sleep, shower, and change. If you feel like you’ll be in your room a lot, get one with a view! But honestly, with all the ship has to offer, it might be worth saving some extra money and getting a cheaper room.
- Work those free restaurants! On our ship in particular, there was a pizza place open late and the pizza was included in the price of the cruise. I are so much pizza there, because it was so easy to get, and didn’t taste half bad! Room service was also included in the price, so we could order food at no extra cost when we were hungry! Especially when you’re cruising on a budget.
- Lock your phone away! My husband and I did not purchase any wifi and we didn’t use our phones throughout the cruise, unless we were at a port and wanted to take pictures. I would message my grandparents every port just to let them know how I was doing, but that was really it. It was so nice to be phone free for 7 full days and made me feel so recharged. I would highly recommend locking it up in the safe and completely forgetting about it.
All in all, a cruise is a great way to see new places in a mostly all-expenses paid way. I had a pretty fun time and would highly recommend going on at least one cruise in your lifetime!