Wednesday, November 9, 2011

To Cruise Or Not To Cruise

                If I were to go on a cruise ship would I get motion sickness? Would I feel trapped on a ship, with nowhere to get off? There would have been a day in my past, when I struggled with Panic Disorder that,  that idea alone would have kept me from even entertaining the idea of boarding a cruise ship! But along with my three kids and their three friends, we boarded Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas sailing out of the port of Miami, and was soon Bahamas’ bound.

              We flew into Miami the night before the cruise because I didn’t really trust the airplane connections and wanted to be sure we didn’t miss sailing time the next day. It was hard to plan where to stay in Miami ahead of time, because I wasnt sure where the Port was for sure.  I chose the Dolphin Hampton Inn. The room was nice, breakfast good, people nice; however, it took nearly two hours for the shuttle to come and get us from the airport and take us to the hotel! Besides the long wait,  the man only spoke Spanish so there was no way to communicate with him!  By the time we got to the hotel, the only real place to grab something to eat was the hotel grill which ranked right up there with the shuttle service! So we were not so crazy about Dolphin Hampton Inn.
             The next morning, passports in hand we were excited to start the day. The hotel arranged for a different late shuttle service to take us to the Port of Miami. Dropping  us at the curb, porters took our bags. Finally the chance to snap that boarding cruise ship picture of the whole group in the blue shirts, I made us. Some of my travel mates put them on happily, and others muttered but wore them anyway ha.  

The blue shirts...Shelbey took this

          The ships embarking process was smooth and relatively easy. We boarded the ship, dropped our bags in the room on deck ten and went to the Windjammer buffet for lunch. The food was ok… nothing to brag about, and nothing to complain about. Next we went up to the pool deck and listened to the Caribbean house band until we set sail. Was quite the experience setting sail. The scenery, the Caribbean band playing...that part was really fun and beautiful as we cruised past all the skyscrapers and scenery of Miami. Later that first night we went to some of the ships entertainment such as Finish the Lyrics, and watching Sydney and Mike take a salsa dancing class and they did really well! By now however Melissa and Sydney were sick enough to be taking Dramamine. I felt wobbly and off balance but not sick at least.  No one got sick enough to vomit or anything just woozy feeling and off balance.
              The next morning with sunscreen, iPod’s, sunglasses, towels and beach bags taking up as much room as we did (well some of us ha), we boarded  the tender boats and rocked back and forth over the huge waves, to the island of Cococay. The island and all that’s on it, is owned and operated by Royal Caribbean.  It was a bit windy and the sun was intense! We lounged on the chairs, and hammocks while Sydney and Mike snorkeled. I think they thought that was fun, we had bought a cheap fifty nine dollar underwater camera and it was well worth having with us.

                After being at Cococay all day, we tendered back and set sail on the high seas at five o’clock for Nassau, the next stop in the morning.  We all showered and dressed up for dinner at the Starlight restaurant. The food there was wonderful! After dinner we went to karaoke where we whooped it up for Shelbey and heard a lot of good singers.  After that the kids formed a family feud team calling themselves Team “Top Shelf” and won the game! We finished the night at the top deck pool dance. They danced the conga line, Macarena, cupid shuffle and more but some of us finished the night when it was still night, and some came in towards morning.  

The Top Shelf Team :)

              The next morning we got off in Nassau, (some of us more frisky than others I might add) Beautiful weather, a little hot and humid but sunny and no wind.  Our excursion with the dolphins on Blue Lagoon Island made lifetime memories for all of us. Everyone enjoyed the boat ride over and the dolphins were amazing. They were so well trained! Sydney and Mike actually did the float out in the water and two dolphins come and propel them through the water. Sydney was trying to figure out how to get propelled through the water and not lose the bottom of her swimming suit. They did though and it was fun to see. Something I won’t forget. We ask the locals if any of the other boats leaving stopped at the Atlantis.  They happily shared  which one to board so we could save time as time was limited.  We walked around the Atlantis and the surrounding shops.

The Incredible Atlantis

       Brendon, Melissa and I were tired so we took a taxi back to the port, while the rest shopped longer and ate pizza at a local shop. After being dropped off by the taxi Brendon, Melissa and I bought some conch fritters which is one of the local Bahamian foods people say to try on all the travel sites I'd read. They were really good and I’m glad we did. They are made from the meat from a conch shell mixed with vegetables and dipped in a batter. After deep frying for several minutes they are served with toothpicks and a pink spicy sauce. They were good, we all liked them.
A Conch Shell

Conch Fritters

                After we all got back to the ship we were tired and hot. We showered and almost all of us took a nap…such a good nap, that we over slept our dinner reservation at the nice restaurant and had to eat at the buffet which was just “ok food” again. Later that night we went to karaoke again,  then a Michael Jackson name that tune activity, a comedy show that was really funny, and ended the night with a dance on the top pool deck again.  
           The next morning we left the ship about nine thirty. They practically throw people of the ship when it docks. They were knocking on our door at nine thirty and we weren't set to leave until ten.  We took our bags to the Intercontinental, where a nice Hispanic man named Luis took our bags for the day. He charged us three dollars per bag to keep them for the day. We then took taxis to South Beach and used some groupons I had purchased for Go Cars. They were the cutest little two seater cars that had GPS systems in them and they navigated where you were going and took us on a narrated tour of South Beach. We saw Ocean Ave, Lincoln Ave, the beach area etc. and walked around South Beach. Later Luis had a driver pick us up with our bags all loaded and take us to the airport. For that reason I would highly recommend staying at the Intercontinental if you ever cruise from Miami. You don’t find honest people like Luis very often. He got us to the airport in plenty of time and we were as happy coming home as we were leaving.
The Go Cars

                Would I cruise again? Well, the sickness wouldn’t hold me back I felt fine after the first day or so. The food that everyone raves about I didn’t find that appealing, and we certainly didn’t overeat. What was appealing about cruising,  is the price to travel all inclusive, the entertainment was great, and the rooms were clean and well kept. What I didn’t like was the all the alcohol drinking. I like to have one drink or two but I don’t like to see people drink to excess and especially my own kids so that part I didn’t like.  I would go on another cruise and I enjoyed it for the most part. I love anything that makes memories with my kids, that’s what life is about for me.
          Here are some cruise tips I have for you if you should choose to go on one.
1.       Bring lots of hand sanitizer. That’s a lot of people from many places and a lot of germs on board.
2.       Bring some cheap lanyards and a hole punch so you can punch your card that you need for everything on the ship and wear it and keep it handy.
3.       I bought some magnetic metal hooks that we put on the door and at the end of the night we hung our lanyards there to head out the next day.
4.       Bring some mini water bottles in your suitcase because they are expensive and ship water sounds less that appealing.
5.       Spend the extra money to have a balcony on your room. If you do feel sick the ability to get fresh air and look out onto the horizon helps a lot. It’s pretty besides.
6.       Be sure you remember sunscreen and a visor ( a hat would be even better but they take room in your suitcase).
7.       Make up a little first aid kit, because if you get a cut or something (which Brendon did) you have some Neosporin and a bandaid. Include some headache and nausea tablets.
8.       A power strip is helpful if you have camera chargers etc. to charge, and you will want your phone ready when you get back.  
9.       A battery operated alarm clock is a must because to use your phone over the seas is a huge expense.
10.   I saw it mentioned that an over the door shoe organizer keeps things tidy and if it were a long cruise maybe I would consider that.
11. Get that water camera I mentioned above. This is the one we used.