Friday, March 19, 2010

Day Four: Day at Sea


We left Nassau about 7 am, and headed back by the Islands North towards Florida. I slept through most of this, but when I did manage to get up from a tough day of doing nothing I went and ate lunch, sat on the deck, watched the islands pass in the distance, and the clouds gather above. I walked the track, ate lunch, took a nap, packed, sat, and wrote in my travel journal (because blogging, photographs, scrapbooking, and postcards aren’t enough documentation) and watched people run for a covered deck as the rain showers began. I was so grateful for two beautiful days in the Bahamas. There’s plenty to do inside on this ship, I’m OK with one rainy day. Thanks to some (more) Dramamine I managed to survive the rockier ‘road’ back to the US. I had one more dinner and one more dessert, and enjoyed a few of the onboard shows, comic, magician etc before being rocked to sleep one last time. A day at sea before a very busy next few weeks were doctor prescribed for me (the doctor being-me). If you’ve been on a cruise, feel free to stop reading. If you haven’t been on a cruise, feel free to stop reading. If you are bored at work, but want to look busy on the computer…feel free to keep reading, but I can’t promise the following won’t induce a need for naptime. I’m documenting the following details about cruising for me….which is really what most of this travel documentation is for, it just happens to be on a public blog, and I’ve actually found some useful info on blogs via google searches when traveling, so I’ll throw it out there anyway.
I’ve had a lot of friends who have gone on cruises to celebrate family anniversary milestones. I think this is a good idea (seeking invitations in the future with this praise). There is such a variety of activities on the boat and off the boat. It’s also great because all the food is included in the cost, so you don’t have to budget for food. They have juices, and milks galore, and if you want sodas, you can buy them individually, or buy a soda card (my choice) and have unlimited access to these as well. Everything you purchase (souvenirs, alcoholic beverages, photos (that they take continuously throughout the dinners, festivities, and ports of call) etc go onto a card that is linked to your credit card, so no cash is necessary (though I suspect this could also get tricky if you don’t keep track).

Each ship offers a different variety of (mostly free) activities, but all the ships I know of have tracks you can walk, gyms, saunas, mini golf courses, putting greens , ping pong tables, multiple (5+ on this relatively small ship) hot tubs, pool(s), slides, water play areas…

…enough lounge chairs for you and your imaginary friends, towel refreshment stands, rock climbing walls, adult only decks (with buttons to press every two lounge chairs in case the waiters who are always stopping by to check on you haven’t check on you in the three seconds between their last check, and your decision to get a drink), dance clubs, piano bars, drink bars, and live music played throughout the ships…

… libraries, shops, coffee bars (charges here-depending on the location), candy bars (charges-like you need any after hitting up the free desserts and ice cream topping, but some people like their candy, before lent I was one of those people, and I will be again…), sushi bars, casinos, video games (charges), shows, bingo games (charges to play for the chance to win a lot of money), interactive game shows, ice sculpting, spa treatments (charges), massages (charges), beauty salons (charges), towel folding demos, hairy chest contest, and dance contest. You name it, they have it. I can’t even speak for all the activities that were arranged for the kiddos, but on the last day they even finished up their stay with build a bear, and all sorts of arts, crafts, activities, scavenger hunts, and ice cream eating contest. I dare you to try to get bored….
And then there is the food. There is no word for this other than gluttony. Buffets, sit down options, and omelet stations, or room service (all free) in the morning for breakfast. Lunch includes grills, a rotisserie, made to order Mongolian stir fry, a ‘country a day’ food station, a salad bar with a huge selection of salads, toppings, cheese, fruits, and meat platters. A ‘slice the meat’ as you order deli, dessert buffets, breads, and American food options. Dinner includes an option of more buffets, or a sit down dinner with choices like lobster tails, and prime rib. If you decide you are really hungry, even with the extravagant options, the waiters will bring you multiple appetizers, entrees, or desserts, just ask. You are sat family style if your personal group doesn’t fill a table, which means you will get to know some new friends (same table and time nightly). They try to seat you with ‘similar’ people-singles, newly married etc. I’ve know quite a few people who have made good friends this way. In addition, you’ll fall in love with your waiter,

..and your matre-d who’ll sing you through the trip. There is always one elegant night where you can get as dressed up as you would like, with lots of photo opportunities throughout the ship. And then there are the midnight Mexican Buffets, and Midnight Buffets. I’ve never survived long enough for one of these. Lastly, there is a 24 hour pizza bar, ice cream bar, and room service. I don’t understand how it works, how they can possibly offer all this, but they do. The kicker is the food (prepared for thousands) is actually well made, and elegant!
And the highlight for me is the house keeping department. The people who work on cruise ships come from all over the world, and the cruises are run out of various countries that don’t have strict restrictions on working hours :O(, but I know a lot of the staff use this as the opportunity to make better money (one set tip is charged at the end of all this, and you are given the amount before booking). I’ve met some really sweet people working on cruises that I want to sponsor and move to Plano with me. They clean your rooms twice a day, and do a turn down service, with mints by the pillow, and tomorrow’s boat entertainment schedule each night….and the highlight? I puffy hear the new towel animal every day. I don’t know how they make thousands of people feel important, but they do. It’s hard to have a bad time on a cruise.

Lastly, it’s a safe way to see some places that are becoming ‘less’ safe over time. I’ve never been a good ‘out of country’ eater. My stomach protest at some foreign waters, and I have no problems (which may BE a problem) eating the fruits, waters, and meals offered on the ship. If you book an excursion in locations like Mexico via the cruise they pick you up as soon as you leave the port, stay with you, and bring you safely back. I have some less than ‘safe’ experiences in some foreign countries, but I don’t want to stop enjoying travel, and this provides a great way to enjoy life outside the US borders a little more safely. This also forces me to be a LITTLE less obnoxious about my go-go-go planned out vacations that require a staycation to recover from the ‘vacation’ that wore me out. Cruises force you to relax, and have a little fun, and reclaim the afternoon nap...and forget calories b/c there is no way you can count that high. And sometimes, for a week, that’s nice. For what it’s worth, I recommend a cruise.

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