Posts Tagged With: Coco Cay

Snorkeling the Western Caribbean

It’s mid-October in Atlanta and the temperature has finally dropped from 97 degrees to a more fall-like 65 degrees with 40’s overnight.  Jeans have replaced shorts, shoes replaced sandals and it is cold enough to use the firepit. Yet here I am at the pool bar, sipping a fruity frozen drink as a warm breeze blows ripples across the water.  What just happened? Maybe I better back up the story a bit …

You see, since our last great cruise on the Harmony of the Seas this summer, Jackie and I stated rather firmly that we would not be cruising again for a year or so, since we had plenty to do back home with grandson-sitting, beer festivals, maybe a fall camping weekend and such.  But it was just fine if Dad and the family wanted to head out to the Caribbean once again, we would wish them well. So plans were made for Dad, my brother Jeff and wife Vickie – even my sister Linda and husband Norman – to head out to the Western Caribbean on the Harmony of the Seas for a fall cruise.  Good stuff – wish you well.

But things got complicated when Norm’s family announced a trip to the Canadian Rockies and suddenly Linda was a single cruiser and gosh she needed a way to get to Port Canaveral via Atlanta (from California) and wouldn’t it be nice if Doug picked her up from the airport and drove her to the port and heck, he could even be her cabin mate.  Hey, Doug, whatcha think? Well it seems that, being retired, Jackie and I go where we are needed: so that meant cruising as a plus-one with my sister.

Turns out it was a great time.  We drove to Orlando and spent the night, checking out two breweries of course.  Hourglass Brewing had a lot on tap so of course we had two flights between us. Then a return visit to Rockpit Brewing meant another pint to try before returning to the hotel. 

 

Up early in the morning and off to the ship! We parked, checked in and were on the ship by 10:30 – just minutes before Jeff, Vic and Dad arrived. This trip Jeff arranged a scooter for Dad, so we had to practice getting him in and out of the room and around the ship.  Turns out it was the BEST move, as he was soon zipping along on his own.  

 

How about some highlights from the ports and sea days aboard ship you ask?  

Perfect Day at Coco Cay

The scooter made a world of difference for Dad, who was down the gangway and on his way across the dock to the Oasis Lagoon pool in no time.  We found lounge chairs by the huge pool and were soon sloshing around with drinks in hand. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect, as you can see from the pictures.  

The only disappointment was the snorkeling reef.  Over the years we have been coming here, the area to snorkel has been corralled in closer to shore and the last hurricane seems to have damaged the reef enough that you really didn’t have much to see.

Cozumel Snorkeling

The three reef excursion Linda and I took certainly was a change from Coco Cay.  We walked around and through the maze of shops on shore to find a taxi to the departure marina to meet our guides. 

Turns out there were only four of us on the small boat, which was awesome. Snorkeling in Cozumel is usually a float over the reef with the water current moving you slowly along.  We saw triggerfish (Queen and black), angelfish (Queen and French), parrotfish, yellow snapper, blue tang, butterfly fish, scrawled filefish, trunkfish and a couple of black and white eels.  

 

 

We had a photographer along who kept attracting the yellow and black Sergeant Majors in front of us to get photos – nice at first, but a bit annoying if you were looking at something else on the bottom.  Overall, it was amazingly clear and a great snorkel. A float vest I purchased worked out perfect, along with a rashguard shirt that substituted for sunscreen (they are serious about protecting their reefs – no sunscreen).  Fish identification was much easier thanks to some waterproof cards I bought from fishcards.com. Thanks to Michael Greenberg for all his help getting us these essential cards. We had a few cold Coronas on the way back to the marina while sharing what we saw. 

Roatan Snorkeling

 

Getting to the reef in Roatan from our dock in Coxen Hole was much more of an ordeal than in Cozumel, where the reef was in sight of the ship.  Jeff, Vic, Linda and I made our way ashore (where they are in mid-construction of a second big dock), wound through the maze of shops once again and found our excursion driver.  Into a van with four other divers and we were off to the northeast coast. It was an hour’s drive up and over the mountains along a busy 2-lane road that was surrounded by small houses (barely one-room shacks by our standards) and market stalls.  Despite all the happy house hunters I have seen on HGTV, I can’t say that I would have chosen to retire to the island. Not exactly prospering.

   

But once we reached our destination at Turquoise Bay Beach and Dive Resort it all changed.  The small marina had several dive boats and we were soon joined by 5 others with Subway Watersports to head to the reef and snorkel.  Next to us was a beachside resort that we would be able to enjoy after the snorkel. Not far off shore we were moored and ready to slip in the water in a sandy spot that was maybe 6 feet deep with a few sea stars.  There was a bit of wind chop as we were directed ahead to find an underwater oasis of coral, sponges and fish that were just amazingly beautiful.  

The “wall” was covered with sponges, fans and corals of all sorts.  The fish were much like what we saw at Cozumel, darting in and around the corals.  A lionfish was pointed out to us along with a yellow trumpetfish. Our guide took my gopro down to get a shot of the lionfish (which was stunning, although destructive to many native fish on the reefs).  Again, my vest was a big help, since we were probably snorkeling the reef for an hour. The sponges and corals (thanks to my ID cards) seemed to be sea whips, sea fans, tube sponges (blue and yellow), sea fingers, vase sponges, staghorn coral, brain coral, star coral … gosh so many colors and shapes.  Video link click here.

As I mentioned, we were able to hang out at the beach resort until our taxi arrived to take us back to the ship.  Totally gorgeous spot on the water – dreamy. But since we would be leaving port early and Roatan was 2 hours behind ship’s time, we were a bit anxious when it had not arrived. We were told we would be waiting for the divers in our party to return, but when they were overdue and in fact were choosing to continue their dive, the excursion owner opted to have one of his staff drive us back to port.  We made it with time to spare, but grumbled about the decision by our fellow passengers to have extended their dive at our expense.

Costa Maya Shopping

We were surprised to hear Dad say he wanted to go ashore in Costa Maya to buy a shirt, but once again the scooter made that possible.  He was down the gangway and speeding along the dock ahead of all of us, making a beeline for the cluster of shops on shore. He found his shirt while shopping, as did the rest of us, and soon we were all back aboard.  Costa Maya is pretty much the shopping arcade, a water park and some nearby excursions and nothing else for miles around. But the coastline is very pretty and our sail away was beautiful. 

Around the Ship and Sea Days 

Now this is a big ship and you have a few of your close friends with you – about 6,000 of them, with about 3,000 crew members.  So finding a lounge chair on sea days can be challenging. You have to first get your Irish coffee at the Park Cafe, find something good for breakfast (waffles with strawberries, whipped cream and chocolate syrup maybe?) then grab a mimosa or bloody mary and head for the towel check.  Maybe some sunscreen gets slathered on and you are all set – until Jeff says “hey let’s go do the waterslides!

   

So we climbed the stairway to the waterslides for the highest view aboard ship and zipped down.  The “toilet bowl” slide was a first time for Linda and she screamed the whole way down. I did the dark Abyss dry slide again; we bobbed in the pool and Jeff and I decided to brave the Flowrider kneeboard.  The board took a moment to get the hang of, what with all the water shooting at you, but soon we both got up on our knees and … well, we took a few falls and scooted around the fast-moving sheet of water. Totally fun and a real blast – I definitely got better as the week went on, but neither of us felt confident enough to do the stand-up wakeboards.

 

Dinners were in the main dining room, except the night that three of us ate at Jamie’s Italian (oh my gosh was it a lot of delicious food!).  A plank of meats and cheeses, garlicky prawns, lasagna, pasta and lamb chops washed down with a delicious red wine and followed by a huge plank of desserts. We had a delightful serving staff at dinner, with special after-dinner shots to toast the day (thank you Mikayla).  Late nights involved pizza slices and Octoberfest beer and lunch involved the famous Royal Kummelweck roast beef sandwich in Central Park. We all lunched at the Sabor Taqueria one day and had a fabulous and filling meal – so much so that we skipped the dining room and just did nibbles for dinner.

And of course we had to spend time in the casino.  The odds were not in our favor on the craps table and as the week went on, fewer folks were playing it.  But Dad had pretty fair luck at the roulette wheel, so he spent more time there than we did. He also seemed to attract his share of women who became helpful friends.  One couple adopted him as their good luck charm and we ran into them several times around the ship. Actually, everyone he met was very accommodating and helpful as he navigated his scooter.

   

     

We were naturally concerned about Dad on the days that he remained on board and we went ashore for excursions.  When we returned from Cozumel he told us that he had found the spa and toured the gym and made an appointment for a haircut and shampoo.  Then when we returned from our Roatan excursion he shared how he drove around the buffet with a plate of food and a bowl of soup, driving one-handed.  And to think we were worried about him!

       

The shows were also well done – we all watched Columbus the musical, the Fine Line aqua show (twice) and Linda and I saw the ice show 1887 (very good).  Headliner show was the Company Men, which Dad declared all “yelling and screaming – I don’t recognize any of the music” but the rest of us thought their mash-ups from the past decades was well done.

       

But aboard this huge ship, you can just sit somewhere and relax, maybe in the Central Park gardens while a guitarist plays.  Or people-watch on the Promenade on formal night. Or ride the elevator with the piano player. Or watch the sunset from the Mast Bar on deck 16 or even better from the “King of the World” overlook.  Maybe create your own drink from the robots in the Bionic Bar or discover the quiet Wonderland Bar for a martini. Watch the street parade from the Schooner Bar with a coconut mojito. It is easy to forget you are cruising off the coast of Cuba or Honduras.

Meanwhile, somewhere in the Canadian Rockies . . .

 

… Norm was enjoying a beer in a hot tub in the midst of a snowstorm – – while his replacement was lounging by the pool in the warm Caribbean sun.  Ahhh, Life is Good.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The BIG Cruise

Some time after the holidays this year my brother told me that he and Dad were planning their next cruise in April and I enthusiastically wished them well. Jackie, John, Dad and I had done a Carnival cruise over Halloween to Nassau and I was just fine passing up any cruise for the next year. But things evolved and the cruise choice was no longer a 5-day out of Charleston but a 7-day out of Port Canaveral aboard the Oasis of the Seas, the first mega-ship by Royal Caribbean. Jackie and I still felt we were just fine sitting this one out and, again, we wished them well.

During a late January visit with Dad, he and my brother leaned on me to join them on the cruise — Dad pulling a bit of a guilt trip “I just want both my boys with me .. not sure how many cruises I have left in me” .. so I agreed to think it over, which meant of course we booked ourselves on the cruise shortly afterward. Heck, it should be fun on the Oasis class ship.

Then an accident happened while the ship was docked in Nassau for maintenance. A crane fell into the stern AquaTheater, the ship slipped and the (new word) azipods were damaged below. We kept our fingers crossed, but two weeks before sailing we learned the cruise was cancelled, refund was on the way, future cruise credit to be applied. Oh well.

But we would not be deterred. Since that meant that 3 cruises of 6,000 passengers each were now looking to re-book their cruise, Jeff and I jumped on the phone to contact our travel agents and find some options. The solution was the next ship scheduled to leave from Port Canaveral, the newer Harmony of the Seas, which was the same Oasis class of ship that hosted 6,000 guests and 2,000 crew. We booked the second week of June for an Eastern Caribbean cruise and hoped for the best.

So our most recent adventure just completed was an amazing cruise aboard a floating hotel/mall. Seriously, this ship had everything and really felt like you weren’t even on a ship most of the time. Not sure I can fully describe the wonderful time we had and all the available amenities the ship had to offer, but I will certainly try. I also have some videos that will take a bit longer to edit, but I promise to post them soon. I was having fogging issues with my 35mm camera aboard ship, what with the cold AC in the room and the warmer, tropical air out on deck, but the GoPro was good with the underwater shots and such.

Pre-Cruise Orlando
We drove to the Orlando airport area the day before, since it is about 7 hours (8 if you drive through rainstorms like we did) and stayed overnight. That meant we were less than an hour from the ship’s terminal and would have no problem arriving before Jeff, Vic and Dad (oh no, I am not competitive at all). So after checking in at the Best Western we searched for “breweries near me” and found several choices.

 

Since Rockpit Brewing also served barbecue, that was the choice for dinner, followed up by Dead Lizard brewing. I enjoyed Rockpit’s Yudu Yuzu, a sour Berliner Weiss, Jackie liked Nudge, Nudge golden ale and we both liked a mango beer that neither of us can remember the name of.

Slipping in the door of Dead Lizard we were immediately asked if we had a lighter – it seems they were having a birthday celebration going on and no one brought matches for the birthday candles. Sorry, we are just here for the beer (and the sticker), so we moved to the bar and ordered a flight. Pretty funky vibe to the place and we enjoyed a Hefeweizen Orange Ya Glad I Didn’t Say Banana and Key Lime Chameleon Cream-Sic-Ale. On the way out we got totally drenched in a downpour before heading back to our amply-air-conditioned room to chill for the night.

All Aboard!
Up and out and we were on our way through the Florida sunshine to the Cape and our ship. No traffic, no problems, parked close to the ship, breezed through check-in and we were in the boarding area by 10am. Within 20 minutes we were joined by the rest of our party and, gosh we were onboard in no time. Kudos to Royal Caribbean for a very smooth check-in and embarkation process. Now, where is that first drink??

We explored the ship, got lost and turned around more than once, found our way to the Solarium Bistro for lunch, found several bars, stood for the safety lesson, checked out our room and settled in for fun. As I have said before, the first day aboard ship is the most exciting and the sail-away is exhilarating. As you stand on the rail watching the shoreline pass by and disappear into the distance, all the stress of the trip and worries back home just slip away. It’s party time!

So what exactly did we do?
I’m not sure when we did just what onboard, mostly on the three sea days, but I can share the activities. And we had three ports of call, so hang on, it’s a busy schedule.

Perfect Day CocoCay
This was a totally different experience from our last visit to the private island. The investment of over $250 million to transform this island into a waterpark with a new dock (no tenders!) was fantastic. We didn’t pay the extra fee to ride the waterslides, zipline or splash in the wave pool, but we did enjoy the upgraded food service, bars, huge Oasis Lagoon pool with swim-up bar and the snorkeling off Chill Island beach. It is a clean, lush landscape that just opened officially and it is a game changer.

 

 

After snorkeling and lunch we were enjoying the pool while a film crew used drones to capture the crowd for an upcoming promotional video. Perfect Day got a little less perfect when thunderstorms moved close and everyone was whistled out of the water. The rain made it easier to find a lounge chair, but I am guessing that thunder-rumbling, rain-soaked footage won’t make the “perfect day” video. Darn, and I was looking pretty good in those fly-by shots!

St. Thomas
We cruised into the port at St. Thomas about noon, a beautiful approach to this island. We were keeping it pretty casual that day and decided not to fight our way to a beach or snorkeling location, since we had a nice excursion planned for the next day.

So it made for a good day of having fun around the ship without the crowds. We never really felt like there were 6,000 other people crowded around us anyway – except on the pool deck on sea day afternoons – which is to Royal Caribbean’s credit for having so many places to hang out.

St. Maarten
This was our first time to the French/Dutch island and we were lucky to be the only ship in port at Philipsburg. Another gorgeous green-mountain island with a broad curve of beach along the harbor.

We had booked a snorkel excursion on a small-boat tour, hoping to avoid the disappointing experience in Nassau where we were overloaded with 60+ folks on a kayak, paddleboard, snorkel, party boat. Jackie and I walked the half-mile along Great Bay to the boat dock to check in and were told that once the other party of 2 arrived we would be good to go. That meant that all four of us had the boat to ourselves for a fabulous private tour along the coast.

First stop was snorkeling in Little Bay, a cove below the pelicans of Fort Amsterdam with clear water and some reef fish. The bottom was mostly rock and not much in the way of fans and corals, but there were fish around and some sunken artifacts (canon, helicopter, small sub, grocery cart?).

Back onboard and we zipped along the coastline, noticing the remaining damage from previous hurricanes (two Cat 5 within 10 days). Captain passed around a bowl of french bread, cheese and apple slices and we washed it all down with a cold beer. Hey, snorkeling is hard work. We stopped in the path of approaching aircraft as a jet passed overhead to land at the airport. This is the famous Princess Julianna airport with an over-water approach where people get blown around during jet takeoffs. Just Google Maho Beach. Then we crossed to the French coastline and hopped out for a swim in a turquoise water cove, Baie Longue, surrounded by villas that rent for thousands a night (Belmond La Samanna). Ahh, and we got to enjoy the same beautiful waters that they did. Time to head back to the ship and across some choppy water that made for a bouncy ride on a beautiful afternoon.  Snorkel video is posted here.

The excursion was really a treat. Back at the dock we stepped out of the boat with our gear, except that I was so focused on my footing that I completely missed the overhead metal rail of the bimini and “klunk” I hit it hard with my head. Had I been watching earlier, I would have noticed Jeff do the same thing as he was getting out. Ah … what’s a little blood in the scalp?

Aboard Ship
When we weren’t lounging by the pool or slipping down the waterslides, we might have been walking down the indoor Promenade (just like a mall), sitting at an outdoor cafe in the garden areas of Central Park listening to Spanish guitar, having a drink at an Irish Pub with a folk guitarist, watching robots fix our drinks or trying our luck at the casino. Our rooms were upper level balconies that overlooked the Central Park “canyon” so it was also nice to sit with a drink and listen to the music or wake up with a cup of coffee out on the balcony and people watch.

 

 

 

The casino was a destination for Dad most evenings, as he loves to play roulette. Jeff and I sat with him and played a few times – actually we donated to the casino, but our game is the craps table. We had our ups and downs and some nights were just wild at the table with some good runs, but in my case I came away just less than even for the week. Actually that is great, considering how long we played all week and what fun we had. We met the friendliest casino dealers who would really help you understand how to improve your odds and by week’s end came to recognize you. What fun.

Food
We did our best to try every eatery on board and enjoyed them all. Of course everyone heads to the Windjammer buffet for breakfast and lunch but we ventured away from that most days. The Park Cafe had delicious roast beef sandwiches and salads for lunch on the terrace in Central Park and Sorrento’s had pizza almost all night. The Solarium Bistro (the adults-only area on the decks 14 – 16 at the bow) had slightly lighter fare and a great view. There were several up-charge specialty restaurants that we mostly skipped.

Dad, Jackie and I ate lunch at Jamie’s Italian (complimentary for balcony bookings) on a sea day and were totally stuffed. Appetizer was an antipasto plank of cold meats, cheeses, olives and veggies; main courses were pasta, burgers and salads. We each made a dessert choice, whereupon our waiter asked why not all of them?

So, as you can see in the picture, we were served another plank with Tiramisu, Lemon meringue cheesecake, brownie, Almond sponge cake, and a raspberry pavlova confection. Yikes.

Dinner was mostly in the main dining room (short ribs and rack of lamb were the best), but we also tried the Solarium Bistro on the upper deck for dinner as we sailed out of St. Thomas and then the Izumi Japanese hibachi grill on the last night. That was a hilarious show of food preparation that none of us had yet experienced. Chef tossed pieces of egg for us to catch in our mouths – ok, weird but fun – and a few of us (Doug and Dad) nailed it on the first try.

Lobster, scallops, chicken were all delicious, and the tenderloin beef was mouthwatering. And some strange ice cream-filled dough balls for dessert.

Jackie and I also had a complimentary dinner at Wonderland, themed with Alice in mind.

Definitely something different, with all sorts of special food effects – smoked buffalo chicken eggs, “liquid” olives and mushrooms, spicy tuna in frozen limes, baked halibut and branzino. Quite the presentation, capped by a dessert plate of fungi: mango sorbet with cake and meringue mushrooms in pop-rocks dirt and a crazy bit of wizardry: The World – a chocolate sphere that melts before your eyes as the waiter drizzles hot caramel sauce, revealing salted caramel ice cream and chocolate mousse. Wow.

 

Drink
I did get a chuckle on the first day when I pulled out a bar checklist for each of us – crazy Doug – but later in the week we were all caught checking which bars we might have missed! “Oh, did I get a drink on each floor the Rising Tide bar stopped at?” “What about the Bionic Bar?” “Darn, I missed a glass of wine at Vintages.”

The robot arms of Bionic Bar

If you purchase the Deluxe Drink Package, you will have more than 16 bars to choose from. Poolside, in the Central Park garden area, restaurants, Promenade (mall) area, Solarium (adults only), plus the island of CocoCay. Yeah. That’s right. You try it without a list! Plus specialty coffees with a shot to start your day, like Icy Bourbon Mint Coffee.

We definitely gave our beverage package a workout.

Fun
Yep, another checklist just to be sure I didn’t miss anything. Besides the snorkeling in St. Maarten and CocoCay, there were plenty of activities onboard.

 

 

Whirlpools, main pool, the 9 deck drop on the Ultimate Abyss dry slide, three waterslides, rock climbing wall (made it halfway), zipline over the boardwalk “canyon” … busy, busy. We didn’t ride the carousel, ice skate, or play mini-golf, nor did we try surfing the flo-riders, but it was fun to watch. We saw the Jules Verne styled ice show “1887”, “Grease”, “Columbus, the Musical”, “Fine Line” and “Big Daddy’s” aquashows and a rock tribute band, all of which were top-notch entertainment.

 

You might not have the pool to yourself

Riding the waterslides was crazy, since two of them were designed for you to race your opponent. Jeff and I swapped winning times, but maybe my worst showing was when halfway down the dark tube I realized the water was pretty much disappearing and I slowed to a stop. “Send water!” Soon a gush hit me from behind and I started to move along again, but it might have been a long squooch, squooch crawl to the end. And yes, Jackie did try the Ultimate Abyss, which also lost some steam at the finish and we both had to scoot ourselves out of the last 3 feet of slide. The launching pad was the best part, as you are perched on a glass floor high above the stern of the ship!

 

I guess this all sounds like one big commercial for Royal Caribbean, but it turned out to be a much easier cruise for Dad than we expected and I do have to give credit to the cruise line for a ship that was well designed. It never felt crowded, it was gorgeously appointed, there was plenty to do for all ages, the rooms were thoughtfully laid out, staff was abundant, friendly and attentive. Dad had his walker and our rooms were close to elevators, so it was easy enough for him to head to the casino or up to the buffet on days when we were ashore. Jeff and I figured out how to push him along backwards in the walker when we needed to cover some ground quickly, and he was a good sport to go along with it. These twice-a-year cruises are his big vacation getaways, and as his escorts we are happy to go along (but seriously, we need some time to recover!)

Once we got back home we were greeted by two of the five fawns born around our yard this year. I guess they thought we had left town for good this time and they had the run of the place. Kodi keeps a careful eye out now and the mommas don’t seem to be as fiercely protective, so it seems safe to use the backyard again.

Up Next?
Well, it isn’t really an adventure, but it does involve the motorhome. We head to the mountains of North Carolina to help John with some work on the cabin he is building. It is under roof now and I think we will be doing some staining and working on the deck railing. Once again we will pack the motorhome with supplies and the pets for a trip to the mountains.

If you haven’t checked out some of my latest glass creations, be sure to look over the Glass Totems page and then catch up with recent events on the Happenings page. Stay tuned for a brief blog with some of the crazy video from the cruise, once I get it edited.

Thanks for following along on the adventures. And to borrow a phrase from our cruise director, “bing bong.”

Doug

And I should thank Alex and Bethany for watching Kodi and Merlin.  It looks like Allie kept a wary eye on Merlin, though.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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.

christmas-cruise-2016-53

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!

20161224_180505

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.

 

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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.

Bahamas Cruise 2016 (105)

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.

Bahamas Cruise 2016 (58)

Central atrium was spectacular

Bahamas Cruise 2016 (104)

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.

Bahamas Cruise 2016 (3)

Bahamas Cruise 2016 leaving port

Bahamas Cruise 2016 (5)

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 …

Bahamas Cruise 2016 (13)

Bahamas Cruise 2016 (19)

Bahamas Cruise 2016 (15)

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.

Bahamas Cruise 2016 (23)

Bahamas Cruise 2016 (33)

Bahamas Cruise 2016 (32)

Bahamas Cruise 2016 (29)

Bahamas Cruise 2016 (54)

Bahamas Cruise 2016 (35)

Bahamas Cruise 2016 (36)

Bahamas Cruise 2016 (37)

Bahamas Cruise 2016 (49)

Bahamas Cruise 2016 (51)

Bahamas Cruise 2016 (34)

Bahamas Cruise 2016 (42)

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.

Bahamas Cruise 2016 (48)

Bahamas Cruise 2016 (26)

Pirate Republic Brewing courtyard

Bahamas Cruise 2016 (47)

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.

Bahamas Cruise 2016 (63) Bahamas Cruise 2016 (65) Bahamas Cruise 2016 (68) Bahamas Cruise 2016 (71) Bahamas Cruise 2016 (74) Bahamas Cruise 2016 (78) Bahamas Cruise 2016 (79) Bahamas Cruise 2016 (83) Bahamas Cruise 2016 (94) Bahamas Cruise 2016 (97) Bahamas Cruise 2016 (100) Bahamas Cruise 2016 (76)

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.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: