This was one of those family gatherings that actually played out better than we expected – after lots of planning conversations laced with “fingers crossed” and a collective sigh of relief when we were back home. (My sister will note that I used my often maligned air quotes once again). So if you are up for hearing about a family adventure to the Caribbean, keep reading. If not, just look at the pictures here and in the Places Gallery and smile (oh and I posted more of our craft brewery discoveries in the Foodie section of the blog).
The goal was to get Dad out of the house and back on a cruise that he and Mom had enjoyed so often in retirement. He is a patient and loving caregiver for Mom, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, and he was in need of some serious social interaction and relaxation. So a three-night weekend cruise from Port Canaveral to Nassau, Bahamas seemed the right choice. My sister flew in from San Diego to join, my brother and wife from SC drove Dad and sis to meet us at the ship. We stayed at a local spot the night before and teased that we would be on board, poolside with drinks in hand while they were still driving down I-95.
We actually had a good time the night before, as we discovered Florida Beer Company was just across the street from the Radisson where we were staying. So we sent selfies of our “hey we made it” drinks at Radisson and a few at the colorful sampling bar of the brewery just to get my brother and sister in the mood.
As it turned out, they arrived at cruise check-in the same time we did, so we all got to board and head to the pool deck at the same time, with a beaming Dad ready for adventure. (I have to pause a moment to thank my other sister who stayed with Mom the whole weekend and really was a critical piece in making this happen).
It was the first time we cruised with Royal Caribbean and as it turned out, the last cruise out of Port Canaveral for the ship Enchantment of the Seas. They were headed to Miami after our cruise to be their next home port. There was a big celebration one night in the center atrium, complete with a table-sized cake for all.
So of course we had to find the nearest bar for the perfect glass of champagne (Kir Royale) in celebration. Ok, Ok, we did purchase the unlimited drink package, so slap our hands and raise a frozen concoction to say “Welcome Aboard.” It really did make for a very fun and relaxing weekend, as we changed up the drink of the day and I checked off my list of gotta-try-this-next drinks. I have to say the bartenders onboard were top-notch. The sail away that evening was perfect: sunny, clear, smooth sailing. We left the dock before the Disney and Carnival ships and were ready for adventure in Nassau the next day.
But first we had to discuss the “peeps” competition between my brother and I. Not sure why, but we started this thing about having people we meet and high-five aboard ship and such. You know how you seem to run into the same faces for some reason the whole vacation? Well, Jackie and I already chalked up the server at the Florida Beer Company and the manager of the Radisson (a great guy who had several recommendations for drinks aboard ship). My brother was anxious to grow his list of peeps at the blackjack table later on, so the gauntlet was thrown down. He didn’t know that I already had a peep serving us at the Boleros bar on deck 5 …
Saturday we were to arrive in Nassau at noon and there was much planning about who was going to go ashore and who was staying on board. Jackie, my sister and I wanted to go ashore, since we had never been there before and we wanted to try a local beach spot: Junkanoo Beach. As we sailed into port, there were four other ships docked, so it looked to be a pretty busy spot. We had a great view of Paradise Island and the Atlantis Resort, something a lot of folks visited for a half day excursion. We stepped ashore, ready to walk a few blocks to the beach.
I can’t say I was very impressed with the arrival area closest to the ship’s dock. We didn’t get to wander too far, but clearly the big draw was Senior Frog’s and Fat Tuesday’s – definitely crazy beach bars. We made our way around them to the beach, where the clear water was amazingly refreshing, but the whole public beach scene was not really the most relaxing. It was a good idea that we took a taxi the short ride back to the dock and was exciting driving on the wrong side of the road. We did stop in at Pirate Republic Brewing and had a flight (of course, you knew we had to) of Long John Pilsner, Island Pirate Ale and Captain Kid’s Kolsch. The pilsner was quite good. The waterfront just didn’t seem as welcoming and clean as we expected, so maybe a ride over to the hotels on Paradise Island or over to Cable Beach would have been a better choice.
Saturday night was Formal Night in the dining room. You can see that our table took that very seriously … well maybe it was more like Island Formal, meaning we had shoes on.
Sunday our day was spent on CoCo Cay, the private island of Royal Caribbean cruises. We kids all took the tender ashore and spent the day snorkeling and sipping and spraying sunscreen. It was a gorgeous day and we had fun spotting lots of tropical fish, including rays, puffer fish, parrot fish, butterfly fish, trigger fish, and all the other golden, blue, silver and purple tropicals that make the reefs so colorful. For me, this was some of the nicest snorkeling I have done.
Sunday night aboard ship was so much fun. We hit the casino and pretty much took over one corner. Dad moved from roulette to the blackjack table and settled in. Next to him was the craps table, so my brother and I took a corner and started the action and noise. Pretty soon his blackjack peeps from the night before joined our end of the table and my sister (after some as-we-played instruction) joined us. She turned out to be a good shooter as was the entire other end of the table. Folks kept asking us to look over and check on Dad, who was doing just fine with his stack of chips. It was a fun night and we all came away with some pocket change. Asked later what his favorite part of the cruise was, Dad said “the gambling.” No wonder, he had his own cheering section. He might have won for the most peeps.
As we all said our goodbyes and started the long drive back home on Monday, we agreed that we had to do it again. The ship’s crew and staff were very attentive and enthusiastic and the weather was perfect. It was time for that collective sigh of relief and smiles about the good times together. Mom was just fine back home and nobody was worn out from cooking or cleaning. A family gathering to remember.
And Dad was heard to say “So when are we getting the team back together again?” Stay tuned for the sequel.