A Caribbean Princess cruise is a great way to island hop and find that favorite beach location where later you can come back and spend a week or more, while at the same time enjoying all of the amenities that a cruise ship has to offer. This is probably the best method of getting a quick taste of several great beach vacation destinations while still having enough time to relax and explore all that cruising has to offer.
It is not for everybody and I always recommend that if this is your first Princess cruise, you should try a 3 day one somewhere close to home so that you can see if you like it.
The beauty about a Princess cruise is that once you show up, your work is done and the fun is just beginning. No driving, meals to prepare or schedule to adhere to. All meals and entertainment are included, and by purchasing one of the all inclusive cruise drink packages, alcoholic beverages are too.
My wife and I departed San Diego on a chilly February morning (ok, it was only in the low 40s) and headed for Ft Lauderdale, Florida for a seven day Princess cruise to the Caribbean. Our destination was Princess Cays Bahamas, St Marteen, St Thomas, Grand Turks and then returning to Ft Lauderdale where we would spend a day roaming the city before our night flight back home. Our ship was the beautiful Ruby Princess.
We were looking forward to returning to St Thomas for the third time and new adventures to St Marteen and Grand Turks, but honestly, were not really looking forward that much to Princess Cays Bahamas only based on the information that this is a private island owned by Princess Cruise Lines....but were we wrong ! This was one of the most gorgeous, relaxing days of the trip. Light winds, ample sunshine with not a cloud in the sky combined with the warm Caribbean made this day one of the best.
We woke up to a cloudless, windless, spectacular 80 degree crystal clear day. We departed the ship mid-morning and headed down to one of the bungalows that we rented for the day. A nice retreat from the sun, each unit had a small air conditioner, dining table and chairs plus some lounge chairs to enjoy the sun with partial shade provided by the numerous palm trees lining the beach.
The beach was uncrowded as only some of the cruise ship passengers took advantage of the stop. The water was a wonderful turquoise Caribbean color and the sand very white, soft and warm. The accommodations provided by Princess cruise lines were outstanding and included a very nice buffet lunch.
There was a slightly deeper entrance to the water that provided some nice snorkeling amongst the rocks and coral formations. The water was so clear and calm plus the sky so bright and clear and there was very little wind, making this a fantastic start to a great week on the Caribbean.
After departing Princess Cays in the early evening, we headed to St Maarten which included a full day at sea to enjoy the pool, food, entertainment and casino. We lounged in the brilliant sunshine for most of the day with a brief moment of exercise on the upper level running track and gym. That's the great thing about an all inclusive cruise, you can lounge, drink, exercise and eat as much and as often as you like.
We arrived in St Maarten early in the morning of our third day. As with the previous two days, the weather was warm and clear with only an occasional cloud providing a nice, temporary cooling from the brilliant sunshine. Unlike Princess Cays, in St Maarten the ship can pull up directly to a large cruise terminal. We arranged for a bus/boat tour to the French side of the island for a day of strolling though the shops and sampling the great french cuisine including several escargot appetizers soaked in butter and garlic.
We boarded the bus for a 30 minute winding road tour that provided stunning views along the hilly terrain as we headed towards the dock. After boarding the boat we were greeted with snacks and drinks, with the Dominican Republic beer, El Presidente, being my choice drink for the day.
Calm weather and waters greeted us again, leaving me to conclude that February is the preferred month to travel to the Caribbean on a Princess cruise. We made our way along the takeoff side of the famous Princess Juliana airport known for its "over the beach" landings and takeoffs directly towards a mountain follow by a quick turn as each plane climbs into the sky.
After a day of shopping and eating, we made our way back to the Ruby Princess for a 6pm departure to St Thomas. Another perfect day draws to a close.
I have been to St Thomas twice before but only to rent a car from the airport and drive to one of my favorite Caribbean vacation destinations of all time, St John. Never had I explored the local waters surrounding the island so we were really looking forward to it.
As with St Marteen, the Ruby Princess arrived early in the morning at a cruise ship terminal, making for an easy departure to our snorkeling and sailing adventure on the Castaway Girl, a very large and comfortable catamaran with a great crew. I highly recommend this day trip.
Our destination was an all day snorkel and sail trip to Buck Island, located about 2 miles off of the southern part of St Thomas, USVI and our about 7 miles from our departure point of Baye de Grigri.
As with all of the days on this Princess cruise, bright and clear sky with light winds welcomed us as we headed out. Seas were calm and the water crystal clear, another stunning Caribbean day.
Buck island is a national wildlife refuge and about 45 acres in size. Our destination was Turtle Cove, a protected area on the northwest side of the island famous for its large population of sea turtles.
Our journey took us about 90 minutes. We anchored in gorgeous Turtle Cove in about 60 feet of water. The bright sky combined with the extremely clear water allowed us to see straight to the bottom. This place was amazing.
We snorkeled for several hours, both close to shore and out deep in 50 to 70 feet of water. There was little wind, no current or waves making this one of the best snorkeling adventures ever. We hovered over dozens of turtles and watched them pass by us on their way to take a breath at the ocean's surface, only to return to the 60 foot sandy bottom. An occasional stingray also dotted the sand amongst the sea grass.
The day concluded with a slow sail back, while enjoying a refreshing rum punch made by the crew, to a small island for lunch. A short trip back to the harbor and we were back on board our Princess cruise ship preparing to depart to our next adventure.
Our last stop on our Caribbean all inclusive cruise was the tiny and beautiful Turks and Caicos. The island seemed so isolated and flat. As with every day on this trip, the sky was bright and clear with hardly any wind. The water was that brilliant classic Caribbean turquoise.
The cruise ship pulls up directly to the dock located in the downtown town of Grand Turks. The first thing you notice is the brightly colored buildings as you exit the ship and the really nice beach located on the left.
The day starts out with a stroll around downtown.
Then we made a short trip to the dock where we meet the captain of our next adventure, an offshore reef snorkel and then a trip to a small isolated island to swim with the stingrays. 45 minutes later we are jumping into the clear Caribbean a few miles off shore, in what seemed like it should have been really deep water in the middle of the ocean. Instead we were exploring a reef that rises from about 30 feet deep to just inches under the water allowing us to weave and wind our way around the coral and amazing sea life.
After about 90 minutes of exploring the colorful fish and brightly colored coral, we take a 30 minute ride to the sandy side of a small island for our stingray adventure.
As we exited the boat and started walking in water about waist high, we were greeted by dozens of stingrays ranging from 10 to 20 pounds to well over a 100 pounds. Your first instinct is to run but you soon learn, that handled correctly, these magnificent creatures are very calm. These stingrays have also interacted with man for several generators and have become comfortable being around us. Never the less, if you step on one or make it feel confined or threatened, you will find the large 4 to 8 inch barb headed your way at lightened fast speed.
The stingray above is about 4 feet wide and 4 feet long if you don't include the tail. I took this photo while swimming in about 4 feet of water using my iPhone in a waterproof case.
This was our last adventure of the trip. Back to the ship for the cruise back to Ft Lauderdale. I have never seen more perfect weather for 7 days in the Caribbean, not a drop of rain, light winds, small waves and bright sunshine. February is definitely the best month of the year for this type of vacation. A Princess cruise to the Caribbean in February is the best !