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Warm winter cruising

Warm winter cruising
HARRY & LINDA KAYE PEREZ Escape the winter chill to an island paradise during a warm winter cruise from the Bayport Cruise Terminal near Houston.

For the past several years, two major cruise lines have been sailing out of Bayport Cruise Terminal, just east of Houston.

Sadly, Princess Cruises is ending their stay in Texas in April 2016. We are die-hard fans of Princess and have enjoyed the ease and convenience of driving to Houston, instead of flying to Fort Lauderdale or Los Angeles. If you want to experience the elegance of a Princess Cruise a little closer to home, now is the time.

Book your cruise

We always use a travel agent because:

¢It doesn’t cost anything extra for that service; in fact, they often have special pricing.

¢The travel agent can guide you to the best staterooms in your chosen category and set up dining options, which are too numerous to mention here.

You can also book online or directly with Princess by phone.

Choose your room. There are basically four types of rooms inside, ocean view (window), balcony, and suites. Of course, the inside staterooms are the least expensive and really quite confortable, considering the time you spend there. Most of your time will be spent either on deck, in entertainment and dining venues, perhaps the gym, or just hanging around the ship. You can go online and look at the different cabins available.

The average cost of a seven-day cruise out of Bayport, for an inside room, is about $75 per day, per person, including all port fees. Very often, Princess will reduce prices if they have unsold rooms as late at three days prior to sailing, which means you have to be ready to go at the last minute.

A note on tipping: When we first started cruising, knowing how much to tip those who made our cruise so special was difficult. Princess has solved this problem by assessing $11.50 per person, per day, to cover all gratuities from your room steward to dining servers and others so essential to your cruise. After you see how hard these folks work, you will be happy with this arrangement. However, you can always ask the Pursers’ Desk to change or remove the charges from your on-board account and tip on your own. Customary tipping for a seven-day cruise for two passengers would be $161.

Parking at Bayport Terminal is super easy. Unlike Galveston, where you have to park in large lots away from the terminal and use a shuttle, if you get there early, you actually park at the front door of the terminal. You can book online and pre-pay; this is $75 for a seven-day cruise.

Save on board

If you enjoy wine, you can carry on one bottle of wine or champagne per adult for consumption in your stateroom. Just ask your room steward to provide you with wine glasses. Many times, we pour ourselves a glass of wine before dinner, carry it down to the atrium, listen to live music while waiting for the dining room to open, then finish it off during dinner. There will be bottled water and sodas in your stateroom, but they are not complimentary. If you use them, you will be charged. We usually pack bottled water and Ginger Ale in our luggage. We also fill reusable water bottles with ice and water in the Horizon Court (24-hour buffet) before retiring to our stateroom for the evening.

Fun & free

Of course, all the entertainment is free, whether it’s a musical show, a comedian in one of the large venues, or movies Under the Stars or in the theatre. There is always live music around the ship; in the evening, there will be at least two venues with live music and dancing. Swimming pools and hot tubs, the fitness center, walking track, basketball court, miniature golf, craft classes, lectures, art auctions, bingo, trivia, and organized games will keep you busy.

Take a tour

Shore Tours can get very expensive, depending what port you are at and what you want to experience, and the selection is seemingly endless. There are full descriptions of each tour on the website, and we suggest if you are going to purchase a tour, study them before you leave to get exactly what you want. There are many ports, especially in the Caribbean, that have built small “cities” right at the dock with shops, restaurants, bars, and entertainment, exclusively for cruise ship passengers.

When docked at Roatan, Honduras, you can walk to Mahogany Bay via a beautiful paved walkway or a wooded trail along the water. This 10-acre private island has an 825-foot-long white sand beach with plenty of complimentary beach loungers and shade and, of course, places to get lunch or a drink. There is also a skyride called the Magical Flying Chair from which you can get a bird’s-eye view of the island’s beach and tropical playground. You can buy an all-day pass for $12, but you waste valuable beach time standing in line. (I’d skip it.) Be sure to take your pool towel from the ship.

And remember

Almost all cruises will require a passport.

Caribbean cruises usually enjoy very calm seas. If you are prone to motion sickness, take meds with you, just in case.

As soon as you get onboard, lock your wallet in your room safe. All you will need while on the ship is your cruise card. You will not need any other credit cards or cash, except when you go ashore.

Enjoy every minute!

Harry and Linda Kaye Perez are freelance writers from just down the road from Floresville. Together they share a passion for traveling and writing, and discovering the very best in all corners of the world. Email them at

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