Last time, I left you all waiting at the Port of Miami. This time, we’ll go for a boat ride. A BIG boat ride.
Our shuttle dropped us off at the pier, which strongly resembled an airport. Along with international travel at an airport comes security and customs checkpoints. I was not looking forward to standing in an infinite line waiting for a disgruntled customs agent to look at my ID. Surprisingly, I didn’t have to. We arrived at the pier pretty early and the lines were minimal. It might’ve taken 15-20 minutes from being dropped off until we were walking up the gangway to the ship.
Since cruise ships are on an endless loop of arrivals/departures, our stateroom wasn’t available immediately when we got on board. While the staff frantically cleaned and scrubbed the ship from the departing passengers, boarding passengers were directed to a MASSIVE lunch buffet, where we had our first experience with the food on board. And boy, what an experience it was! The spread included anything you can imagine from fried rice to fajitas to cheeseburgers and hot dogs to fried fish and chicken. Throw in salad, pasta, and dessert bars, and every corner of the globe was covered! Although, I’m fairly certain numerous scientists have argued against the globe having corners, but for some reason the saying has managed to stick around.
With full stomachs, my wife and I began exploring every nook and cranny of the ship. We walked more flights of stairs than we could count, which was helpful considering the amount of calories we had just jammed down our throats. Just outside of the buffet was the pool deck, which offered 2 swimming pools that were divided by 2 scalding hot tubs.
Tucked around the back of the ship was the sports complex. We came around a corner and BAM! Massive rock wall right in front of us. The deck below that had a half court basketball court, soccer goals, and ping-pong tables.
That end of the ship also offered a bar with a 360 degree view of the ship’s surroundings. Just beneath that, on the pool deck, there was a bar on either end of the ship, along with the soda fountain. They really don’t want people to dehydrate while basking in the sun!
Several decks below all of that, was the main atrium. The four-story atrium served as a central hub for everything on the ship. In one direction were staterooms, the general dining room and pool deck. the other direction led you to yet another bar, formal dining rooms, the Chorus Line Theater, Casino Royale (which offered free playing instructional classes), spa & fitness center, and the ship’s nightclub. There were also a couple of kid’s areas that I was pretty jealous of! One thing I couldn’t help but notice was the lack of restroom facilities. There were only a couple that were strewn about the ship, and even those were pretty close to each other in proximity.
After wasting time exploring the ship, it was finally time to locate our stateroom. Let me clarify something at this point. I’m very convinced that they use the term “stateroom” to try to convince passengers that the rooms are more than a broom closet with a toilet. Let me assure you, they are not. We got a room with a window, and that was pretty much the only feature. Our bed consisted of 2 twin beds pushed together, and there was barely room for our luggage which meant that there was no room left to actually move around. The bathroom had everything you would expect – toilet, sink, and shower, but when you took a shower the curtain failed to restrain the water from soaking the entire bathroom.
Time was approaching for dinner, so we changed into our evening attire and made our way to the dining room in time for our reservations. Let me fill you in on something that is a pain when it comes to cruises – the packing. As a member of the male community, I pride myself on efficiency when it comes to packing for a trip. While my wife literally needs an entire day to pack her bagSSS, I’m typically done in about 15-30 minutes, depending on the length of the voyage. However, the dress code for being on a cruise prohibits time and space-saving packing techniques. You need bathing suits (preferably more than one) and flip-flops, clothes for during the day (typically shorts and a tee-shirt) and good walking shoes, then nicer clothes (such as slacks and a polo or button-down shirt) and dress shoes. On top of that, you are required to have at LEAST one formal dinner in which you are encouraged to wear a suit, if not a full tuxedo (which are also for rent onboard).
During dinner was when reality finally sank in and I took full notice that we were no longer at port, and were indeed sailing off into the deep, blue sea. My head started feeling a little funny, and I was fearful that my stomach problems were about to rear their ugly head. On top of that, our waiter took it upon himself to bring us one of everything on the menu, and it is not in my nature to turn away excellent food! After dinner, I was pretty worried that all of that food, in addition to my stomach issues, would come back and haunt me. I ended up taking a less-drowsy Dramamine to try to calm my nerves before anything happened.
Then it was show time. There was a comedian scheduled for the first night, so my wife and I wobbled towards the theater. We took our seats and enjoyed the PG rated show that was aimed to please the whole family. And that’s when the less-drowsy Dramamine kicked in. Less-drowsy, my ass! I stumbled back to our room following the show and immediately passed out cold at 9:30 on the first night of our cruise! I was awaken sometime around 11:00 by my wife asking me if I needed to change and get ready for bed. I may have groaned before instantly falling back asleep. Minutes later she woke me back up by taking off my pants…and I couldn’t even enjoy it, people!!
The next morning we woke up in Nassau, Bahamas. We had set up an excursion at the famed Atlantis resort. We had beach access for 5 hours, as well as access to several aquariums, the casino, some shops and bars, and The Dig. Unfortunately, our day on Paradise Island didn’t feature the greatest weather. The sky was overcast, and the temperature/humidity was muggy. Luckily, we had stepped inside to get a drink and grab a seat for a few minutes during the only shower of the day. Luckily, we were no longer in Miami, so the rain only lasted 10-15 minutes.
That night, it was my wife’s turn to not feel well. She had been fighting off some kind of virus for the week leading up to the cruise and hadn’t completely kicked it before we set sail. We had our formal dinner, watched a short musical in the theater, then retired back to our room for another early night and some recuperation.
The next morning we were anchored off of Coco Cay, Bahamas. This is a very small, private island that is owned by Royal Caribbean. We had planned a snorkeling excursion at this port, and I couldn’t wait! I had never been before, and I LOVE exotic fish! Needless to say, I still haven’t been…more on that to come. First, our ship’s captain broke the news that tender boats (essentially water-taxis) would be delayed to transport passengers from the ship to the island due to rough seas. Eventually, the tender boats began their service and a line wrapped around the stairs from the first deck to somewhere above the seventh. Once my wife and I approached the walkway connecting the boats, the attendants held us up just as a wave raised the tender boat, making the walkway jumped somewhere close to three feet in the air! Once it came crashing back down, we made a mad dash across it and grabbed our seats.
Once we finally docked and set foot on the island, we headed straight for the snorkeling shack, grabbed our equipment, and listened intently to the instructions. We were told about remains from a shipwreck and planewreck before I started getting an uneasy feeling about all the bad luck surrounding this tiny little island. Then my excitement took back over and I was good to go. Until my foot hit the water. Holy mother of pearl! The weather hadn’t been the greatest in that area lately, so the water temperature had dropped drastically. (Note: My wife does NOT handle cold temperatures very well at all.) We waded out to waist deep, thinking that we had already paid for the excursion, so we might as well get our money’s worth. Once I got past the “danger zone” (yeah, that’s what I’m calling it) I figured I’d be alright. We decided to stick our faces in the water and see how things looked. I immediately found out that my mask didn’t seal around my face properly and I got a mouthful of salt water. Since the sun was hidden behind a blanket of clouds, the view underwater was “murky” at best. We sadly decided to nix the snorkeling excursion…the conditions were just too unfavorable. Alas, I still have not got to witness exotic tropical fish in their natural environment.
Once all of the passengers had returned to the ship, the captain decided to make another announcements. It turns out, the previous 3 cruises had not been able to stop at the island due to the weather and rough waters. He then went on to mention how he had made a “border-line judgment call.” Gee, thanks for that little nugget of information! How comforting!
Night #3 featured more great food in abundance followed by a juggling comedian, although I think he could’ve (and probably should’ve) left the “comedian” part off of his title. We stuck around the theater a little longer for a “Love & Marriage” game show that was modeled after “The Newlywed Game,” but instead of 3 couples of newlyweds, featured 1 newlywed couple, a couple that had been married for 12 years, and a couple that had been married for 45…or somewhere around there.
Once the next morning arrived, we awoke to blinding rays of sunlight washing over our room through the window. We had come to port at Key West, Florida, and the weather was gorgeous! Oddly enough, the friends that we met up with in Miami had just so happened to plan on being in Key West the same day we were…so we met up with them again! We walked up and down Duvall Street taking in the sights, stopping in tourist shops, and ultimately landing in the one and only Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. I choked down some fish and chips while my wife quenched her thirst with an original margarita…and the salt shaker was nowhere to be found! On our way back to the ship, we stopped off and ordered a piece of original key lime pie.
As the sun sat on our final night on board, we started packing and preparing our luggage. Apparently, it is also the night that the event planner saved the “big event” for. We missed out on a ship-wide scavenger hunt that we’ll never get to experience. Meh.
We awoke bright and early on our final morning because we were being kicked off the ship sometime around 7 a.m. We hopped on our shuttle back to the airport, and killed several hours before our flight boarded. We were sad to see our vacation come to an end, but oddly enough we need more time before going back to work. As much fun as the cruise was, neither of us felt very rested or relaxed. With all of the planned programming on the ship, there was very little “down time” to lounge around and do nothing. Remember in the last post when I mentioned purposefully picking an itinerary with a port everyday to provide the opportunity to leave the ship in case of sea-sickness? That ended up coming back to bite me right in the naughty bits. I handled the motion of the ocean just fine, and having someplace to sightsee everyday kept us even busier.
Granted, you don’t have to do everything the ship has planned, but once you get there you kind of feel it necessary to get your money’s worth and take advantage of everything that’s offered. Not to mention that they do a tremendous job and making things sound like so much fun! Belly flop competition? Comedians? Jugglers? Gambling lessons? Musicals? Game shows? Yes please to all of that!
The longer we sat in the airport, the more I noticed just how much I was affected by the rocking and swaying of the ship. While it was never enough to really make me nauseas, there was just enough instability to mess with my equilibrium. The entire week we were on the ship I had the sensation that my head was constantly “swimming.” That reminder of our awesome week stuck with me until we had our feet on the ground back in Indianapolis after a full day of airports, waiting, flying, and layovers.
Thank you, that is all.