Cruises » A Restful 7 Day Western Caribbean Cruise

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The Fine Art of Doing Nothing!

A vacation can be a time of discovery. Visiting new destinations, meeting new people, learning a new language, or discovering a new culture. This Western Caribbean Cruise is was that! After a crazy-busy fall and a hectic holiday period, we needed some serious “me” time. Some time to rest, to recharge, to unplug and get away from it all. 

So, when the email from our favorite cruise line came in with another great offer, we jumped. A 7 Day Western Caribbean cruise, aboard the Sky Princess, including four ports of call: Cozumel Mexico, Roatán in Honduras, Belize City in Belize and Costa Maya Mexico.

Western Caribbean cruise itinerary sailing from Fort Lauderdale to four ports of call.
Image courtesy of Princess Cruises

It was not an extensive or exotic itinerary, but that’s the whole point. Just enough stops to enough to stretch your legs a few times, but not a grand adventure. 

As usual we sailed with Princess Cruises. Having achieved Platinum status (more than 5 cruises) we enjoyed a number of practical perks including early boarding, lounge access, and other useful benefits. 

Cruise Pro Tip

Cruise line membership tiers are designed to build loyalty and keep guests from hopping from cruise line to cruise line. So, in order to reach a desirable level (Platinum, Diamond, Elite, etc.) it’s advantageous to stick with one cruise line you’re comfortable with.

Choosing the same cruise line for all your trips also ensures that you reach a higher level faster. Capitain’s Circle Platinum is attainable after 50 cruise days or 5 cruises. The next level is after 15 cruises or 150 cruise days. Seems like a big gap. But the Elite benefits are very appealing and even include complimentary laundry service.

The Sky Princess

Sky Princess main Pool area. A great place to hang out on our western Caribbean cruise
The main pool area on the Sky Princess also includes a giant screen for watching outdoor movies, etc.

This was our first sailing on the Sky Princess, a relatively new vessel, launched in 2019. This very large Royal-class ship accommodates up to 3,660 passengers and a crew of 1,346: a very respectable ratio. Needless to say, the service onboard was impeccable. 

Given its size – a whopping 145,281 Gross Tonnage, a length of 330 meters and a beam of 38,4 meters – it’s not surprizing to learn that the ship’s construction started back in November 2016 and required close to 3 years to complete.

Built in Italy – our favorite travel destination – by Fincantieri, the largest shipbuilder in Europe as part of a five-vessel contract signed with Carnival Corporation, the owners of Princess Cruises. 

The Sky has three swimming pools and a multitude of hot tubs located on the Sun (17) and Lido (16) decks. There’s also a pickle ball court, basketball court and jogging/walking track on the Sky Deck (18).

You can see the full deck plan on the Princess website

The Sanctuary – an Oasis at Sea

Our favorite feature of this, and other Princess ships is an area known as the Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is an adults-only area equipped with comfortable Cabanas and luxurious loungers.

It is a quiet zone where people speak softly, listen to music with headphones (supplied) and basically chill out in the shade of an overhead canopy. Perfect for our restful Western Caribbean Cruise.

A small hot tub allows passengers to soothe their weary bones. A shower is provided to maximize hygiene and to cool off after a soak. There is also a massage room for those needing to relax even more. These can be booked at the lotus spa and via the Medallion App.

We were fortunate enough to snag three afternoon Cabana spots facing the bow of the ship. Each gave us a great 180° view of the port of call (Roatan, Belize and Costa Maya). They included beverage service, lunch from a pre-set bento box menu, teatime with sandwiches and scones. 

The Prosecco and Champagne

Part of our daily routine was a mandatory glass of Champagne or Prosecco. At the sanctuary, we choose a wonderful bottle of Val d’Oca extra-dry Prosecco as our beverage choice (along with Ginger Ale and Club Soda, coffee and tea).

In the main dining room, Premier package holders could order Haslinger & Fils champagne by the glass. In Sabatinis, the Italian specialty restaurant, they appropriately served Santa Cristina Brut Methodo Classico from Trentino, Alto Adige.

Cruise Pro Tip

If you want to enjoy the Sanctuary, best to head up to the registration desk as soon as you board the ship. Sea days sell out in minutes and port days, though less popular, will get snapped up by noon, if not sooner.

Loungers go first because they are affordably priced. At time of writing, the Cabanas went for $140 for a half-day. All locations can be rented for a half-day or a full day. We prefer afternoons because they include afternoon teatime. 

The Suite Life Onboard

For our Western Caribbean Cruise, our cruise planner, Dawn Parsons, recommended that we take advantage of the current promotion to upgrade to a mini suite. The price difference was inconsequential, but the experience was exceptional – and a brilliant move.

In addition to a lot of extra space, a large balcony with furniture, a sitting area with its own flat-screen TV, the bathroom is much larger and features a full-size tub.  Watch the video for a full view of the mini suite we were assigned.

Quite remarkable!

The Western Caribbean Cruise Itinerary

Port Everglades

This Western Caribbean itinerary started in Port Everglades, Princess’s Fort Lauderdale home base. The ship sailed a little after the customary time of 4:30 due to passengers’ delayed flight. They must have been traveling with Easy Air which guarantees that you won’t miss the departure due to delays.

As always in winter, we travel the day before the sail date to avoid unnecessary stress. We stayed close to the cruiseport at the Embassy Suites by Hilton. It’s a functional 3-star hotel with a 4.0 rating that gets the job done. It was clean, though older and the bed was comfortable enough for a one-night stay. 

There’s a huge interior courtyard and a junglelike sort of patio area that doubles as a breakfast area. Same thing outdoors around the pool area, which also features a pond filled with huge Koi fish. So large in fact that we could see them clearly from our 8th floor balcony.

The only drawback was the two slow elevators. Around breakfast and checkout time, you’re looking at a 15-minute wait. 

And speaking of breakfast, it is complimentary and includes the usual continental fare plus fried eggs, omelettes made to order, waffles and more. Again, nothing fancy but better than expected. Unfortunately, there were no gluten-free choices available.

A big hit with the cruise set was the Happy Hour free drinks in the bar and outdoor terrace. Two coupons entitle each guest to have two basic cocktails, beers or glasses of jug wine. Nothing fancy but great to unwind after a stressful trip.

First Sea Day 

Leaving Fort Lauderdale, we were spared the agony of a day in Princess Cays. Those who have been there know what I mean. Sailing in direction of the first port of call in Mexico, we spent a leisurely day relaxing on board. It was a great time to get familiar with the Sky Princess our home away from home on our Western Caribbean Cruise.

At first glance, the Sky is similar to other ships we’ve sailed on. But appearances can be deceiving. the Sky Princess has a few new twists: more decks, different locations for certain activities, location of dining rooms, etc. 

Fine Wine Tasting

To help us all get our sea legs, there was a wonderful wine tasting at 11am in the Sabatinis dining room hosted by several of the ships Sommeliers. We were presented with six fine wines and an assortment of hors d’oeuvres for pairing.  

A Selection of fine wines offered at the tasting on board the Sky Princess

Starting with Haslinger Champagne we went through a range of whites and reds of increasing intensity, ending with the Camus Cabernet Sauvignon. The Sommeliers added commentary on the wines, their different characteristics and which food to pair with.

Though not exceptional wines, they had the advantage of being available on the line list onboard. Danielle and I agreed that although an interesting experience, it was a little early in the day. 


Princess Theatre is where all the action is on the Western Caribbean Cruise

The shows in the Princess Theater were a highpoint of the cruise. Starting on the first night with singer and actress LaShonda Reese who flew in from Vegas to present a selection of popular Motown hits. Very dynamic!

On our first sea day, we were treated to a fabulous production show: Spotlight Bar. 

To end the cruise with a bang, the Rock Opera Show brough together members of the ships singers and dancers in what is probably the best show on any Princess ship.  

First Western Caribbean Cruise Port of Call – Cozumel

First port of call on our Western Caribbean Cruise: Cozumel

Our first stop was the Mexican Riviera Island of Cozumel. Known for its dazzling white sandy beaches, Mayan temple ruins, water sports and most of all snorkeling and diving on the nearby coral reefs.

A short ferry ride brings you directly to Playa del Carmen and nearby X-Caret Eco-Archeological Park which we visited a few years ago and well worth the trip. And of course, there’s shopping which starts at the end of the pier and goes on and on.  We spent most of the day lounging abord ship. This was after all meant to be a restful trip.  

Second Western Caribbean Cruise Port of Call – Roatán

Our second port of call was in Roatán, a small island off the coast of Honduras. Roatan is home to the world’s second largest coral reef making it the ultimate destination for snorkeling and diving.

The Sky Princess docked at the Coxen Hole cruise port instead of the planned stop at Mahogany Bay because of heavy cruise ship traffic. Coxen Hole is the largest city on the island of Roatan with a population of 5070 according to the 2001 census.

It is located near the Juan Manuel Gálvez International Airport and has it’s own cruise ship shopping complex with the usual suspects of precious stone and jewellery vendors. But when you venture beyond the high fences around the complex, you get to witness the reality of life on a poor Caribbean Island.

An eye-opening visit to Coxen Hole, Honduras

As I strolled down Main street, I witnessed islanders going about their day-to-day activities, much of which revolves around the cruise ships and their guests. Tour guides, scooter and motorcycle rental, groceries, cell service providers and more. 

Panoramic view of Roatan - Coxen Hole  - from our stateroom, second and most impressive port of call on our Western Caribbean Cruise

The various shops, homes and buildings along the way are brightly painted in tones of green, yellow, pink and orange. The strong police and bank security guard presence along Main Street made me feel perfectly safe. What stood out in particular was the rats nest of power cables and wires atop the utility poles along the way. 

I was also struck by the very large number of brightly colored barber shops along Main Street. No doubt the island residents are always well groomed. These establishments are certainly part of the social fabric on the island as patrons gather to discuss current events as they wait for a trim and shave. 

In the afternoon, we treated ourselves to a Cabana in the Sanctuary. The luxury of the surroundings made me feel a little guilty after visiting Coxen Hole.

The level of service at the Sanctuary is impressive. So is the dedicate of the staff to keeping us well fed. Lunch upon arrival, beverage service, tea and more. Fortunately, our dinner reservations were at 7:20 leaving us plenty of time to work up an appetite.

Third Western Caribbean Cruise Port of Call – Belize City

third port of call on our Western Caribbean Cruise - Belize City.

Belize is a great destination for those who are interested in Mayan history because of the many important archeological sites. There are several tours that allow you to visit some of the most significant: Altun Ha, Xunantunich and Lamanai. 

The only drawback to this port of call is that you need to take a potentially bumpy 30-minute tender craft ride to go ashore. This is not specific to Princess: there were four other cruise ship parked alongside the Sky.

I never have seasickness on a large cruise ship, but on smaller craft I don’t fare so well. Better not to tempt fate. So, we decided to stay onboard and let ourselves be pampered in the Sanctuary.

Fourth Port of Call – Costa Maya (Mahahual)

final port of call on our Western Caribbean Cruise - Costa Maya

Located 2 hours from state capital Chertumal near the border of Belize, Costa Maya is bit of a head scratcher. It was built from scratch in the middle of nowhere, minutes away from Mahahual, a small fishing village on the Mayan Coast.

The main attractions include a soft sandy beach (in Mahahual), a modern shopping mall and a Mayan theme park, all designed with cruise passengers in mind. The theme park even includes a mock Mayan pyramid which could easily be seen from our cruise ship balcony.

If you want authentic Mayan ruins, there are tour on offer to visit lesser known and partially excavated Chacchoben, an hour’s drive, and Kohunlich, about 2 hours away.

The pier is quite long as the dock needs deep water to accommodate the large cruise ships. So, if you have mobility issues, this is not a recommended stop. Again, we chose to stay on board and spend the afternoon resting in the Sanctuary.

Dining Onboard

There are a lot of dining options aboard the Sky Princess, from casual to formal, from steak to sushi and everything in between. We prefer dining in the formal dining rooms, because of the atmosphere, the service and also the fixed yet scrumptious menu. 

Things change at every meal, except for Princess classics like shrimp cocktail, Cesar salad, etc.  With a limited selection and controlled portion size, your less prone to pigging out as you might at the buffet where the tempting selection is huge and there is not limit on how much you eat.

Estrella Dining Room Aboard the Sky Princess

There are three formal dining rooms on the Sky, Cielo, Soleil and Estrella. We chose the Estrella Dining room because of its mid-ship location. Also, the Cielo located at the back of the ship cannot be accessed directly from deck 5. You must first go to deck 6, travel to the rear of the ship and then go down one floor down.

Mid-ship dining rooms are more stable, less prone to the movement of the ship in rough seas. Our voyage was calm, but better safe than sorry.

As always, the service by our waiter Enselmo (from the Philippines), assisted by Junior waiter Suman (from Nepal) was impeccable. And the food was excellent. 

Gluten Free Tip 

Be sure to indicate that you are Celiac or Gluten sensitive in your profile so the crew can pay special attention to your meals. You can pre-order your meals the day before and have them prepared Gluten Free.

It also gives you inside information on the menu for the following day. They also serve warm Gluten Free bread with the meal if you so request.

Gala Evenings on the Western Caribbean Cruise

Preparing the Champagne waterfall for the Gala evening

These special evenings typically take place on sea days, unless the sea day falls on the last evening of the cruise as was the case with our Western Caribbean Cruise. The last formal meal was moved to the Thursday. 

Gala evenings feature an upgraded menu with more lavish choices and special deserts. These are also evenings where people dress up and have their official photo taken at the many photo stations around the ship. 

Usually on the first Gala evening, there is a Champagne Waterfall in the Plaza area so that the cruise started off with a glass of bubbly. It’s a great tradition and a spectacular moment as members of the crew including the captain pour bottle after bottle of Champaign over a tall pyramid of glasses.

Sabatini’s – a Classic Italian Trattoria at Sea

Sabatini's is easily the best specialty dining on board on our Western Caribbean Cruise

The biggest WOW during our Western Caribbean Cruise was dinner at Sabatini’s – the Italian specialty restaurant. 

There is a $45 cover charge to eat at Sabatinis, unless you take the Premier Package which includes two specialty dining options at no additional charge.

Perhaps our recent trip to Italy gave us a natural predisposition to enjoy the meal and the decor. On the walls were photos of many places we visited last fall on our foodie road trip in Italy.

Stuzzichino della casa

Our meal included home-made arancini – a Sicilian specialty made of rice, black truffle and mozzarella cheese, fried to a deep golden crust and resembling a small orange hence their name. They were served with a tomato and herb marinara sauce. 


This was followed by a delicious and refreshing salad. Mixed greens, charred pear, radish, arugula, orange segments and shaved fennel dressed with a extra-virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar.


I opted for the Burrata Caprese, a fresh and creamy Stracciatella-filled cheese served with red and yellow tomatoes, fresh basil a balsamic glaze reduction and basil oil. 


Danielle chose the Fritto Misto alla Veneziana. Light and crispy venezian-style fried shrimp and calamari paired with grilled polenta and served with a spicy marinara sauce.

Naturally there was a delicious selection of pasta dishes for the first course and after a long drooling hesitation, went for the Linguini alla Carbonara (Gluten Free spaghetti was substituted for the fresh linguini). A classic roman dish prepared with creamy sauce of eggs, pancetta and aged parmesan. 

Yes, yes, I know… true Carbonara is prepared with Guanciale (pork jowls cured and dry aged for several weeks), not pancetta. But on a cruise, aimed at a largely American clientele, you have to allow for exceptions. Regardless, it was delish!


Danielle wisely selected the Lobster Tortellini, wide delicate pillows of lobster-filled pasta simmered in a rich creamy lobster sauce. Being lactose intolerant, and hoping to avoid unpleasant side effects, Danielle took a handful of Lactaid tablets before the meal. When on vacation, sometimes you have to throw caution to the wind!

For the main course I snapped up the Ossobuco Milanese – a personal favorite – with a generous slice of braised veal shank crowned with a minced parsley garlic and lemon zest gremolata. It was presented on a bed of creamy saffron risotto (Risotto alla Milanese). So tender it melted in your mouth. Believe it or not, I couldn’t finish it all. So much food. It felt a bit like an Italian wedding.

Danielle was trying to eat healthy and opted for the Parmigiana di Melanzane or Eggplant Parmigian. A plate of thick-sliced and breaded eggplant baked in a marinara sauce and finished with aged parmesan and mild mozzeralla cheese.

A succulent rib-eye. My go-to steak at the crown grill.

Crown Grill

The Steakhouse at sea provides a consistent dining experience no matter which vessel you sail on. And this cruise was no exception. My ribeye steak (see image on the left), served with all the trimmings was perhaps the best cut of meat I’ve tasted at the Crown Grill – ever! Grilled to perfection, it was exactly the cut I prefer and amazingly tender. 

Gluten Free Tip

Gluten Free food is readily available aboard ship in both the formal dining rooms, specialty dining rooms, the International Café and the World Fresh Market (aka Horizon Court), etc.

There is even gluten-free pizza on what appeared to be a buckwheat crust. Personally, I did not enjoy it, but to each their own. The toppings and sauce were nice. Make sure you mention your sensitivity at every meal.

The Lotus Spa

There’s nothing quite as relaxing as a spa treatment at the Lotus Spa, located on Plaza deck 5. The atmosphere in the spa was very soothing and peaceful. Everyone spoke softly in hushed tones as they greeted passengers and guided them to their treatment rooms. 

We’re not a big fan of massages, but I opted for a shave and facial treatment on two occasions. The second time, a hand and arm massage was included. Very soothing. Danielle chose the hear styling package with Mateus, a friendly Brazilian-born hair stylist who currently lives in Lisbon. The treatments are a little pricy but since we didn’t purchase any excursions, they suited our vacation budget perfectly. 

The products used are typically the high-end Kerastase and Elemis brands. Naturally they will offer a full skin or haircare regimen for purchase to continue the treatments once you’re back home. Prices are comparable to those on the Elemis website and Platinum and Elite members get a 10% discount.

Take Five Jazz Bar – Our Western Caribbean Cruise Hangout

The jazz band offering up some classic favourites at Take Five - a great evening spot on our Western Caribbean Cruise

Adjacent to the Princess Theater and the smoke-filled Casino is a small jazz club called Take Five in homage to the Dave Brubeck Quartet jazz standard recorded back in 1959. We made this a mandatory stop after each show in the theater and our last evening of our Western Caribbean Cruise.

Take Five featured the Larry King Trio – with Larry King on piano and vocals, a delightful jazz ensemble presenting jazz standards from the American Song Book. 

The bar is made up of two sections. The first faces the musicians with comfortable seating, perfect for relaxing while listening to smooth jazz. Service is attentive and the mixologist can whip up anything your heart desires. They also have an impressive selection of Single Malts and Blends, Cognacs and spirits.

The second section is the bar area with ample seating for guests who want background music but don’t really care about the show. If you want to listen to music, I highly recommend you sit close to the stage if you want to hear without being disturbed by inebriated guests speaking loudly to each other, drowning out the music.

Dress Code on Our Western Caribbean Cruise

Gala evenings are a opportunity to dress up and celebrate with style
Gala evenings are a opportunity to dress up and celebrate with style

It seems like the art of dressing up for dinner is gradually fading away. Although there is a dress code for the dining rooms and specialty dining, few guests really follow it. Princess describes their dress code as smart casual. However, on the two Gala evenings, formal dress should be worn. 

Unfortunately, we witnessed plenty of people wearing cowboy hats and baseball caps, T-shirts, jeans and jogging pants at the dinner table. Please don’t take this to mean that you needn’t bother dressing properly. On the contrary!

We both feel that Princess should apply the dress code more rigorously for the formal dining rooms. For those that don’t care to dress properly there’s the World Fresh Market (aka buffet) and casual areas around the ship.

A beautiful sunrise as we docked in the Fort Lauderdale Cruiseport
A beautiful sunrise as we docked in the Fort Lauderdale Cruiseport

The Seven Day Western Caribbean Cruise – A Perfect Cruise for a Restful Vacation

All in all, this was exactly what we were looking for. A relaxing and restful cruise with wonderful entertainment and exceptional food. If you’re looking for an action-packed adventure, there are plenty of itineraries with more ports of call and loads of excursions.

But if you want to relax, unwind, and recharge, the cruise is just about perfect. We’ll be back!