Posts Tagged With: Bahamas

Halloween on the High Seas

Here we go again with a Caribbean cruise, and just a week after returning from our Leaf Peeping in New England adventure!  Yes, crazy.  But this cruise should be a blast, with Jack (Dad), Jackie and first-time cruiser John (Jackie’s brother).

Of course the first objective is to board the ship quickly and early, get a drink (especially the colorful,  fruity kind), then take and send a selfie to everyone back home.  That was pretty easy actually, and we met John while getting checked in and headed for the Lido deck and got our drinks to celebrate!

I think the sail away on that first day is the most exhilarating, as the ship navigates the inlet and the shoreline slowly slips away with all your thoughts of things back home.  And with it, cell service, so the phones start to disappear and you direct your attention to the open sea.

The cruise was another break for Dad, although his current independent living is a pretty sweet deal for him.  But they don’t have a casino at home, so that is always a big attraction for him on cruise ships.  And he has quite the luck – overall doing much better than I did at craps.  I tried a new strategy that Jeff tried on our Alaska cruise, and I did hang in there for over 2 hours one night, but I think I paid for Dad’s winnings!  Ah well, it was fun just the same.

This was our first cruise over Halloween and we really didn’t know what to expect.  We thought we were clever packing some masks to wear to dinner, but soon saw that we were outdone by some pretty elaborate costumes.  John looked snappy in his pirate outfit, but there were many more aboard with us.  Kids (yes, there were school-aged kids aboard) were dressed up and even had a special onboard trick-or-treating night.  Certainly was festive fun.

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Two days at sea gave us a chance to relax on the pool deck, as the temperature was in the 80’s and sunny.  Yes, I did the water slide again, although it was a bit chilly. One nice sunny day was spent at Princess Cay and we were snorkeling around, checking out the reef full of fish and coral.  A  decent sized barracuda was hanging around the spot, but once there were enough swimmers, he moved on.

At Nassau, a port we have visited several times, we all wandered ashore to the Straw Market and the Woodcarver’s Alley.  Not exactly our style of shopping, but it was an experience nonetheless.  Oddly, we were the only ship in port and for some reason we were at the farthest pier.  It did give us a chance to work off some of the great food we have been eating.  We found out later that Dad had met some nice ladies on-board who shared a nice group picture.

The only spot of bad weather was just an afternoon drizzle off the northern Florida coast, but the worst of it stayed off our bow.

All of us ended the cruise in good spirits, glad to have been in sunny, warm Caribbean waters for a week and totally ready for the coming colder, colorful fall back home.  I know Jackie and I will be just fine spending a few weeks at home and not changing ports, cities, campgrounds and state locations every day.  But no complaints at all … it has been an awesome adventure-filled fall for us.

I have no idea what the next adventure will be, but stay tuned as our retired life’s adventures continue.  Time to get started with the planning … 

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Caribbean Jack

It seems you can’t keep Dad away from a good cruise.  He really needed this respite break and some of the family was happy to join him.  So Jackie, Jeff, Vickie and Doug set out from Charleston Harbor on Carnival’s Ecstasy for 5 days in October to enjoy the sand and sun.

Rat Pack ready for the Cruise

Sail away day is the BEST day of a cruise … you grab your colorful favorite drink and the party starts right away as you leave your troubles behind.  This was our first trip out of Charleston and the weather was just perfect to head past Fort Sumter and into the Atlantic.

Here’s to getting aboard first!

Charleston Harbor

Charleston Harbor and Ft. Sumter

Happy Jack

After a day at sea we arrived off the shore of Princess Cays.  Took an early tender and our snorkel gear to see what we could find.  Since the drink package did not include anything on the island, we all figured to spend just the morning ashore and be back on ship for lunch, drinks and dinner.  The snorkeling beach, however, was quite a surprise.  It was one of the best small reefs we have encountered in the Caribbean.

Princess Cays and the snorkeling spot

A small sandy entry point gave access to a sloping reef that was loaded with fan and pipe coral, sponges and all sorts of reef fish.  Several flounder were spotted, along with plenty of the other colorful reef fish: blue tang, parrot fish, sergeant major, angels … and a good size barracuda.  What a good morning of snorkeling (oops, no pictures).

After a Fine Meal

Dinner each night was in the main dining room and was good service with darn good food.  Dad certainly enjoyed the selection.  After dinner the guys tried their luck at the casino and the ladies did the shows.  Doug and Jeff tried a new strategy at the craps table that started out really well, but ended up working against them.  Overall, I think we all played as much as we wanted to and pretty much broke even.

Cheers!

Back to the “Cheers” program and our handy list of gotta-try drinks.  Some of us were fretting that the prepaid drink program’s limit of 15 drinks per day was going to be a concern — but we must be lightweights, because only one of us hit the limit on one night (and we agreed it was because the day started with a bloody Mary!)

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Rough day at the office…

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Popular spot for us on the pool deck

Our favorite bar was the RedFrog Rum Bar, poolside, but we also frequented the lobby bar, the BlueIguana Tequilla Bar, Alchemy Bar (for some wild martini productions) and the casino bar (but that was tricky — had to make your bets last until the drink arrived!)  So, despite our history of craft brewery visits and beer festivals, we were quite happy to try lots of fruity and colorful concoctions.

Freeport shops

The other island visit on this trip was a stop at Freeport, but we all decided to stay aboard ship and just watch the crowds wander the shopping plaza adjacent to the ship – and to giggle at the late arrivals who almost didn’t make the ship’s departure.   It didn’t appear that the recent hurricanes had a significant affect on the two ports we visited.  Jeff and Doug decided that with so many folks off the ship, it was time to try the Twister water slide.  Pretty wet and wild affair, and we hung in there for several runs.

Waterslide awaits

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Yikes!

Oh yes we did!

Overall, a good cruise and a nice ship with friendly staff and good food and drink.

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The point of this cruise was to make sure Dad had plenty of sunshine, good food and companionship — and that he did.

Pretty sure this was one good week for him!

Sleepy Jack

Planning a cruise?  You can get a great deal and we get some credit if you book through Cynthia Long at CruisesOnly.  Their loyalty program will give you extras like shipboard and resort credit on top of the cruise line’s best deals.  Give her a call at 617-587-6000 x 38584 and mention that Doug and Jackie sent you.

 

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Family Cruisin’ – the Sequel

Christmas onboard Enchantment of the Seas

Christmas onboard Enchantment of the Seas

The family cruise last spring was such fun that Dad (Pop Pop) declared we should do it again … in celebration of his 90th birthday.  That birthday doesn’t happen until New Year’s Day, but that is also a tough day to schedule anything, so we booked the week before Christmas for a family cruise to the Bahamas, sailing out of Miami.  Perfect.  Should be a breeze and a lot of fun, right?  But one night at sea one of our party went missing:

The note had been slipped under the door and was written hastily on a scrap of paper promoting the next cruise.  “Happy Birthday, Pop Pop.  I am 19 and I am sorry that my friend who was drunk took him last night and I want to return him to you.  But he is in good hands and has a good home.  I hope you make 100!”   Just the note, not the missing party.  What was afoot?

Let me back up a few days and fill you in.  Family members were arriving pre-cruise to Miami on planes and in cars in an undeclared competitive rush to get on board first.  I thought we (Jackie, Alex, Linda, Norm, Chris and I) had the edge, since we flew in to downtown  the day before and were within sight of the cruise ship terminal.

Bayside Marketplace in Miami enjoying music the day before cruising.

Bayside Marketplace in Miami enjoying music the day before cruising.

But it seems my brother Jeff made better time driving down from South Carolina than we expected (with Adam, Vicki and Dad on board).  As we were making our way through the embarkation desk, we got a picture sent to our phones of the Perfect Patron Margarita.  Drats! They played the old-guy-with-a-walker card and were already onboard with drinks in hand!  We of course responded that we were still waiting for our taxi and tried to play off our pending arrival at their side, but they appeared to see through the ruse.  Soon we were all on the pool deck with drinks aplenty, sharing hugs and stories.  Well, you can see where this adventure is going …

I think the best day of a cruise is arrival day.  Everyone is excited, the drinks (if you buy the package) are flowing, and everyone is in a great mood to have fun.  We sought out our favorite bartenders from the last cruise (Yay! Livingston, Al and Dr. G were aboard!), booked our dinner table for 10 (near the front, no pole to obstruct, please) and just plain relaxed until the sail-away out of Miami. “Did you bring the drink list?  What should we have? Wanna find something to eat?  Let’s go up front on Deck 10!  Which is starboard?”  We were traveling aboard the Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas, by the way – best pool deck ever.

Soon after we were checking in to our rooms and unpacking.  Just before dinner we marked the cabin doors with signs “Pop Pop’s Crew” and added crocheted Christmas ornaments that Jackie made.  Dad’s door now had a cute snowman with top hat and dangly arms.  While everyone went off to dinner, I decorated his room with colorful banners and such declaring “90” and “Vintage Dude” and posted a picture of Dad on the door with “Jack is 90.  Wish him Happy Birthday.”  Back at the dinner table we scattered the same “90” napkins and gave Dad a cap “Old Guys Rule – Aged to Perfection.”  Our servers Aries and Joan picked up on it and we soon had a cake with candle and singing.  What fun.

Vintage Dude indeed

Vintage Dude indeed

Celebrate 90!

Celebrate 90!

Next day was snorkeling, swimming and frozen drinks at Coco Cay, RCI’s private island.  Took way too long to get off the ship, onto a tender and set foot on the island, but the weather and water were perfect.

Back on board it was formal night and we managed to cajole the guys into wearing Christmas ties to dinner.  Wasn’t too hard to find 7 crazy ties in my collection from teaching and Jackie brought along blinking light-up necklaces for the ladies – so I think we might have been the most festive group that night.  Another cake with candle and singing for Dad (with much protesting on his part).

Oh, and did I mention the casino?  Blackjack and craps, with a little bit of roulette, were the games of choice and most of us had chips left in our pockets after a night or two.  On the way to the evening’s show Vicki and I escorted Dad (which took us through the casino of course) and he reaches over to the roulette table and plops down a chip.  Bam! His number hits, he scoops up the winnings and keeps on moving.  Just that lucky.

So our adventures took us to Nassau and a snorkeling excursion (not as good as we expected: too many paddle boarders and kayakers along with us), then to Key West for some bar hopping and conch fritters.

 ... a three hour tour ...

… a three hour tour …

Back on board we kept our bartenders busy and always had great fun at dinner in the main dining room (yes, a birthday cake with candle each night!).

But, back to the mystery of our missing party:

We noticed it on our fourth cruise day.  The snowman was missing from Dad’s door!  Some evidence was left behind, a broken piece of the clip, a snip of tape … who took him and why?  Should we alert security? Check nearby trash bins?  Who took snowman?

The following morning before breakfast, Dad found the note slipped under his door.  It seems that some late night revelers must have snatched him up, with one of their group later realizing the error of their ways and tried to make amends.  But the note did say he was in good hands and had a good home, so we hope he brings joy to his new family.  Jackie is going to have to whip up a few more, now, since everyone in our group wants one for their tree.

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One happy crowd at dinner

So did we have a great cruise and did Dad enjoy having most of his family with him for his 90th birthday?  You bet.  Speaking of bets, did we all come out winners at the casino?  Uhhh, not so much.  Better luck next time I guess.

Back home for Christmas with family.  Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our friends, family and followers.  Thanks for coming along on our adventures!

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Next Adventure?  Mostly local travels for the winter and fun with family and friends.  Look for updates on the “Happenings,” “Foodie” and “Mews” pages.

Planning a cruise?  You can get a great deal and we get some credit if you book through Cynthia Long at CruisesOnly.  Their loyalty program will give you extras like shipboard and resort credit on top of the cruise line’s best deals.  Give her a call at 617-587-6000 x 38584 and mention that Doug and Jackie sent you.

 

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Family Cruisin’

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.

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Cheers to Cape Canaveral!

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.

Florida Beer

Florida Beer Company

Florida Beer 1

Florida Beer Company

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.

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Central atrium was spectacular

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Want some cake?

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.

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Bahamas Cruise 2016 leaving port

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Pool deck

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 …

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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.

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Junkanoo Beach beauties

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.

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Pirate Republic Brewing courtyard

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Arghh

Pirate Brewery

Yet another brewery flight!

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.

Formal Night in the dining room

Formal Night in the dining room

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.

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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.

Bahamas Cruise family

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.

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