REVIEW: If the main goal on your next Caribbean cruise is to visit gorgeous ports of call and shop ’til you drop, the 3,400-passenger Regal Princess makes your job difﬁcult. Why? This beauty is so irresistible that it is tough to leave it to go ashore.
The soaring atrium has luxurious furniture set on polished marble ﬂoors. The space is lined with gleaming brass elevators, sparkling glass staircases and sugary crystal chandeliers.
The jewel in the crown of the new Regal is the SeaWalk. It’s a glass-bottom walkway on the top deck that hangs 28 feet over the side of the ship. You can see the ocean 128 feet below if you have the courage to look.
Princess has focused more attention on food than ever before, so prepare to feast on fabulous offerings. There are 12 restaurants including three dining rooms that also offer private areas for special menus such as the Wine Maker’s Dinner and Chef’s Table Lumiere.
Even the smaller restaurants are big on offerings. The Ocean Terrace has seafood such as caviar, sushi and oysters. Vines is a wine, sushi and tapas bar. The Horizon Pastry Shop is where you can watch pastry chefs demonstrate their skills in cake decorating and chocolate sculpting.
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the Regal, it really is time to go ashore and explore the ports. The ship visits the duty-free shopping meccas of St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Cayman Islands, Aruba and Antigua, depending on the itinerary you choose.
St. Maarten is the only 100-per-cent, duty-free island. Prepare for Philipsburg to be an absolute mecca for almost everything imaginable. Stores overﬂ ow with international name-brand products from diamonds to designer wear, from Guess to Cartier. Shop for watches, electronics, alcohol, cameras and more. You’ll probably need to buy a suitcase too since the bargains are irresistible.
In St. Thomas you’ll dock at the capital of Charlotte Amalie and be a few steps from Havensight, which has boutiques offering items from gems to cameras. Or take a 10-minute shuttle bus ride into town where there are hundreds of duty-free shops lining the streets and alleys. Just be prepared for crowds if several ships have arrived. The best buys include jewellery, alcohol, china, crystal, perfumes, art, clothing, watches and cameras.
In Aruba, visit Oranjestad. You’ll ﬁ nd table linens, perfumes, leather goods, designer fashions, electronics, locally made handicrafts, Cuban cigars, Dutch Delft, Dutch cheeses and more.
The Cayman Islands is known for its rum cakes from Tortuga Rum Company. The rum is locally distilled, so it’s inexpensive and you can visit the factory. In George Town, you’ll also ﬁ nd jewellery shops with unique items. A favourite purchase is Caymanite jewellery and sculptures that are a polished stone in gorgeous colours of orange and red, black, grey and white. Find natural soaps, lotions, creams and body sprays. Fabric wall art, cushions, dolls and quilts are also available. Lovely books, notecards and magnets are made by local artists as well as shell s and painted glass ornaments.
In Antigua, Heritage Quay is the place to go when visiting the capital city of St. John’s. It has two ﬂ oors of duty- and tax-free merchandise. Electronics, local music, cigars, liquors, ﬁ ne crystals and china, designer clothing and footwear, swimwear, sporting equipment, fragrances, cosmetics, jewellery, watches and other souvenir items are available.
After an exhausting day of shopping, return to the Regal and visit the Sanctuary. It’s an adults-only quiet haven with upscale padded loungers and curtained cabanas. Or check into the Lotus Spa. The thermal suite has a hydrotherapy pool with a cascading rain shower and therapeutic jets.
And if you need justiﬁ cation for the relaxation, consider that shopping involves a lot of walking and that carrying parcels is a form of weight-lifting.
The Regal cruises the Caribbean in winter and the Mediterranean, Greek Isles and northern Europe in summer. Visit Princess.com or call 888-PRINCESS.
Published June 2014