Steve (DOS) and I just returned home from an outstanding seven night cruise on the Sky Princess, sailing roundtrip Caribbean out of Fort Lauderdale. We debarked the ship today (Saturday) around 9am, and had a quick four hour’s drive back to our home in Orlando, including a couple rest and coffee stops along the way. Disembarkation could not have been easier for such a large ship, and as at embarkation Princess was super efficient with every aspect of the sometimes stressful boarding and/or debarking process. Kudos Princess!
Now for the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey used to say: I left off on the last post at Day Two of our cruise aboard the Sky Princess, and am picking back up from there. I love blogging but it takes a fair amount of time, and between that and the huge bandwidth it consumes aboard ship and the large number of photos, it’s much easier to do when I get home. Plus we can enjoy ourselves more without having to “work”; i.e. a labor of love. I started to do the rest of the cruise on this post, but I’m breaking it down into a couple more individual posts so each one is not so long.
DAY 3: Costa Maya, Mexico
Our first port-of-call on the Sky Princess was Costa Maya. When I woke up around 8am, my balcony curtains were open and from my bedside view it looked like we were parked next to a high rise hotel or condo. Upon getting up and looking out, the high-rise “building” was actually the Symphony of the Seas by Royal Caribbean!
The ship is HUGE, and at over 228,000 tons and over 2,745 cabins is now tied with the new Wonder of the Seas as the world’s largest cruise ship (although the Wonder has an additional 120 cabins within the same gross tonnage amount of space). That’s a lot of ship, and a lot of passengers and crew!
We’ve sailed on the slightly smaller sister ship, The Oasis of the Seas before, (225,000 tons) but just from the outside viewing it, it seems like they’ve added a few bells and whistles to the Symphony since we took the Oasis a few years back. Once we got off the ship and the aft up close, we noticed this mind-boggling scary aft slide which looks to go straight down for several decks! No Thanks!
Docked directly next to us, was the Norwegian Joy which was also a mega ship, at over 164,000 tons and 1926 cabins. Here’s a couple views of the NCL Joy, which when docked next to our ship, the Sky Princess, make our’s look a bit smaller. The Sky Princess by comparison is 141,000 tons with 1834 cabins.
Like all ships however, the number of cabins can be misleading as the number of people per cabin is usually quoted as double occupancy, although many cabins can accommodate a third or fourth person, which can greatly increase the capacity. (NCL however is one of the few cruise lines that offers a handful of small single or solo occupancy “studio” cabins.) Right now, many of the ships are only operating at half capacity, but that’s increasing each week, and our ship was running at about 2,000 passengers on our sailing.
The walkway from the ship to the entrance port of Costa Maya was quite long, with two connected and long walkways, depending on where the ship was docked. Although it didn’t bother us, I’m mentioning that as you need to allow extra time if you have an excursion booked, but especially if you have mobility issues walking.
This was our first visit to Costa Maya, and we both enjoyed it, even though we didn’t do any planned shore excursions. We first debarked the ship after breakfast at Sabatini’s, and walked thru the busy market place area right by the ship. The shopping areas had many shops, bars, restaurants, and even a swim with the dolphins experience, which we enjoyed watching from the sidelines on our return from town.
With three ships in port that morning, (and later four with Carnival arriving at 2pm) there were several thousand passengers in port, which is great for the Mexican economy, which like everywhere has taken a major tourism hit during the COVID pandemic. The port shopping area was very busy, but was in a gate controlled area, so it was safe and there was also a huge pool and small beach area you could use if you liked.
After walking a bit thru the busy port marketplace area, DOS and I went to get a cab into town. The fare was only US $4 a person, but with so many other people trying to do the same, it took a little while as there was no formal taxi queue; i.e. just work your way into cabs that were lining up! The town was only about 10 minutes away, but far enough away that it wasn’t walking distance from the cruise port, so the cab was a cheap option.
Once in town, we walked around for over an hour, up the “Main Street” which was lined with different vendors selling a bit of everything, and we became “amigos” to everyone as we passed by their outdoor craft huts. Meanwhile other “amigos” were tempting us for a margarita on the beach, outdoor cafes, island tours, or plenty of them hawking massages on the beach! The people were really friendly though and non-aggressive, but it still reminded us of the Mexico pavilion ride at EPCOT, as people in the bustling marketplace are selling a bit of everything, and you learn “No Gracias” pretty quickly!
The main street in town was partially flooded, but you could cross from one side of the road to the other beach side of the road, if you braved walking across the temporary “bridge”, which consisted of everything from milk crates, to Coca Cola pallets, and cinder blocks etc. It was quite amusing watching people trying to cross over the “bridge” without falling in the mud, and we weren’t some of those bridge pedestrians either!
We didn’t dare try the “bridge” so we kept walking thru town until the flooding part had ended and you didn’t need to cross the stream.
While we didn’t do anything special, we really did enjoy walking around the town for exercise and photos.
After walking around the town for an hour or so without eating, drinking, or getting a massage, we had no trouble getting a cab back to town, for the same US $4 a person, which we rounded up to $10 as a tip.
Back at the port we took a few more photos and bought a Costa Maya cap, and even watched some of the other ship passengers doing a swim-with-the-dolphins encounter. We then headed back to the ship after a nice and quick visit to Costa Maya.
We got back to the ship right around lunch time, and after walking quite a bit we were getting hungry! Princess (unlike the other lines in port) offered passengers cold towels and plain or fruit-flavored waters on the return to the ship, served from a mini tent they set up in each port. It’s a small, but nice and refreshing touch that makes you feel well welcomed back to the ship!
We had lunch at the poolside burger and pizza venues, followed by an ice cream dish for DOS for dessert. The ship was fairly quiet at this time as many people were still out on shore excursions, and the ship didn’t leave until 4:30pm.
While having lunch we noticed a Carnival Cruise ship in the distance moving very slowly if at all it seemed. That Carnival ship, would eventually slowly back-in to the dock next to us!
Today’s cruise ships have bow thrusters which generally negates the need for tug boats, and it’s amazing how the Captain’s can “park” such a huge vessel with such precision. We went back to our cabin and watched the Carnival Valor slowly dock next to us, while DOS tries to push it into place! LOL!
Once docked, the “tiny” 110,000 ton Carnival Valor with nearly 1,500 cabins (i.e. 3,000 plus passenger capacity) looked very small indeed next to the gigantic Symphony of the Seas! We stayed aboard our ship the Sky Princess the rest of the afternoon, and watched another 2,000 or so passengers debarking the Carnival Valor for Costa Maya.
Here’s an interesting wide angle shot of the Valor and Symphony in dock.
For dinner we would dine in Club Class again, and have our favorite two waiters from last night, Raju and Wisnu, serve us again.
We finished up the night in Piazza listening to the music of guitar/piano/vocalist Tony Delaney from Ireland. We would return to hear Tony as well as the lady violinist performers on different nights of the cruise. The music was wonderful and could be heard throughout the beautiful Piazza atrium area.
‘Twas a wonderful day aboard the Sky Princess! Buenas Noches from Costa Maya. More to come . . .