A CRUISE IS THE PERFECT FAMILY VACATION
Fall rolled around and we started thinking of Christmas. What do you give grown children who don’t want or need anything. With the thought of one graduating from college and the possibility of no longer having those family vacations, we thought a trip would be the perfect gift for all of us!
We decided on a cruise to the Bahamas on the Carnival Pride out of Baltimore, MD. Since we were cruising the week before Christmas, we didn’t want to spend a lot of travel time flying and having a port within 2 hours of our home kind of made it a no brainer!
So, Max got home from college on a Friday and we were on the ship by Sunday afternoon! It was cold and rainy (we were boarding a ship in the north in December!) but once onboard we quickly forgot the miserable weather and started to explore the ship. We found our balcony cabins on Deck 8 to be quite spacious! We had no problem with storage and we never felt crowded. Of course, we had our own cabin and the boys had theirs. I don’t think 4 adults would have been very comfortable. I may have thrown someone overboard!
That evening was a casual evening. We had no schedule and did what we wanted when we wanted. The Pride has an amazing sushi restaurant, Bonsai Sushi, which we opted for rather than the dining room. We were hooked! Loved the food, the location on the ship and the staff! Bonsai Sushi was our dinner choice several nights that week!
After some drinks at a few of the bars and some great entertainment, we called it a night. At this point I should mention that we got the drink package for Cole. Being 22 years old and a recent college graduate, the boy knows how to enjoy an alcoholic beverage! It was well worth the money! It includes spirits, cognacs, whiskies, cocktails as well as sodas, juices, specialty coffees and tea, bottled water and other discounts. The limit is 15 drinks per day which although Cole hit that a couple times (!), it is more than enough! Often times you can purchase it at a discount prior to boarding.
Day 2 and 3 were Fun Days at Sea. Day 2 was chilly. Afterall, we were sailing south and it was winter time. We had to sail out of the cold weather. But there was plenty to do on the ship. Lots of entertainment, spa tours and give-aways, movies on the pool deck, shows, shopping, Bingo, trivia, art show/auction and of course for those with younger kids, the kid’s clubs were open for fun and activities. Day 2 was also our first formal night, so we had fun getting all dressed up (well I did!) and enjoying our dinner in the main dining room complete with a dance number performed by the crew!
Day 3 began to warm up as we got further south so most of the afternoon was lounging on the pool deck enjoying some warmth and making new friends!
Day 4, I think, was my favorite day! Princess Cay! We rented clam shells (you know, those cool “tents” for shade which we didn’t really use!) and spent the day on the beach enjoying the nice warm weather (knowing back in Maryland it was COLD!), swimming in the crystal blue water and enjoying a beach “picnic”. We were sad to go back to the ship. I think we could have spent another few hours but we had things to do back onboard and places to be the next day!
Day 5 found us docked in Nassau. We were up early, had breakfast and off the ship to do some quick shopping in Nassau (a piece of jewelry, of course, and some shirts and bags from Del Sol) before we were to meet our group for our planned excursion.
We opted to do a bar hopping excursion. Remember, I’ve got college sons and this vacation was about having fun with them! And fun we had! Our first stop was Viola’s followed by Margaritaville on Paradise Island. At both stops we were greeted with drinks…a “special” drink at Viola’s and what else, but a margarita at Margaritaville!
We spent time at both locations having some munchies (yummy conch fritters at Viola’s and ahi tuna nachos at Margaritaville) and a few more drinks before boarding the bus and heading back over the bridge to Nassau.
Our third stop was at a truly local Bahamian bar…Fish Fry. It was SMALL. Here we were given a delicious blue drink and when someone asked what it was, the answer was, “I don’t know. Just something we make.” Ok, we’ll accept that! We then were greeted by who we all thought was the owner. He had a conch in his hand and proceeded to educate us on conch. When asked if we knew how to get the conch out of the shell, he went on to reply, “You can’t pull it out by its feet. You can’t shake it out. You beat the shit out of it.” Well, we all laughed (remember, this was our third stop on the bar hop!) but it did sound awful! When he was finished with his demonstration, the air conditioning immediately stopped working. He said, “Well, I didn’t think that would happen so soon” and walked out the front door! Yes, the absence of air conditioning must be a regular occurrence but we were all glad we experienced some real Bahamian “culture”!
Our last stop had us at Senor Frogs. We didn’t have much time at this stop but we were able to have a few more drinks (the men did, not me!) and take some pictures. We were close enough to the ship that we could walk back so we could enjoy some of the local sights on the way.
I must say a highlight of my day was learning that a couple we had met got engaged! At Margaritaville, they took a walk out on the pier. When they came back, she walked to me, put her left hand up and said, “I just got engaged!” He told us that he tried to do it on Princess Cay while they were walking on the beach, but it got so hot, he thought, “Not the right time.” That night they had dinner at David’s Steakhouse, one of the specialty restaurants on the ship, but the steaks were dry and he thought, “Not the right time.” So when they got to Margaritaville, he saw the pier and thought, “Ok, this is the right time.” But when they got to the end, he looked down and saw the spaces in the boards and thought, “On no, what if I drop it and it falls between the boards!” But, the proposal must go on and he mustered the nerve and the steady hands and he put that engagement ring on her finger!
Day 6 was to be our Freeport day. Due to “adverse weather conditions”, the port authorities and the captain determined it was unsafe to dock. So, we had another Fun Day at Sea!
Day 7 was our Fun Farewell Day at Sea. We took this day to do a “Behind the Fun Ultimate Tour”. This tour took us backstage on the ship. We had to meet in the Ivory Bar at 9am so we grabbed the glass elevator to head to Deck 3. A very handsome gentleman in a uniform followed us onto the elevator. He greeted us as he entered and me being the Chatty Cathy I am said, “We are going to tour your lovely ship” to which he replied, “Then I guess I will be seeing you around 11:30.” He got off and Max said, “Mom, do you know that was the Captain?” Our tour took us backstage at the theater and I learned a very interesting fact. One of the cast members from every preforming troupe on the ships must be a “seamstress”. Someone must be able to repair costumes (they can’t very well send them out for repair when they are floating around in the ocean!) however every member of the cast must be able to make simple repairs to their costumes like repair hems and sew on buttons. I don’t think I would get a part in any of their shows! Not only can I not sing, I also can’t sew! Then we were off to the galley (“put on your hats and wash your hands before you enter”) where we were greeted with warm cookies right out of the oven. What an operation!! They have to feed over 2000 people every day so they are quite efficient with this 24/7 operation. And the place was spotless! We also learned how to make flowers out of radishes and carrots and were told our creations would be in the Lido Restaurant at lunch time. Photo time with our radish flowers! Notice the “things” sticking out of the pineapples.
We moved onto the storage area (talk about a room full of beverages!), the control room, the laundry, the crew quarters, Human Resources (we learned that a crew member does a 3 or 6 month contract working 7 days a week, yes, that means no days off (!) and the Carnival crew is known as the best fed crew among all cruise lines!). After being “below deck”, we piled into the elevator and went to Deck 8. We were headed to the Bridge! WOW! It felt majestic being in there. It was quiet, you were surrounded by windows and all around you was the sea. It was a very humbling experience. And true to his word, Captain Alessandro Galotto appeared to answer all our questions! We finished our visit to the Bridge with a photo op with the Captain. He actually told Max to come stand beside him!
At that point our tour was almost over. We followed our guide like a group of ducklings, down the corridor, through the Lido Restaurant (hey, there are our flower creations!) and up the glass staircase (Cole and I hated that as you could see down 8 decks! Yikes!) to David’s Steakhouse where we got a crash course in steak preparation. At the end of our tour, we were served mimosas while we took time to fill out our survey on the whole experience. If you ever get the chance to do a “backstage tour” of the cruise ship, do it! You will not be disappointed!
The rest of my day was spent relaxing on the pool deck trying to soak up a little sun and warmth and reading my book. However, we were getting further north so there was a little sun but not much warmth! Thank goodness for beach towels. Lots of beach towels!
Because we missed our port in Freeport, we ran a bit ahead of schedule and arrived back in Baltimore early. Let me mention at this point that the Captain told us when we were on the Bridge that we would be entering the mouth of the Chesapeake about 11pm where we would be met by the Pilot who would navigate them through the bay. (That is a maritime law. He could do it with his eyes closed but he must follow the rules!) We would reach the Bay Bridge at 6am and arrive in Baltimore at 8:30am. He was spot on! We had to be out of our cabins by 9am so the crew could start turning over the ship. I must say, even with 2000 people waiting to disembark, Carnival is extremely organized and efficient with getting people off the ship.
Just a few reasons why I highly recommend a cruise on the Carnival Pride.
- Glass elevators are fun!
- There is a candy store onboard where you can “mix and match” candy, like gummies and nonperils (yes I did it!) or whatever you like! The bulk candy wall is to the right of the door!
- There are photographers everywhere. You may start to think they are annoying (it’s ok, just say, “No thank you”) but they do capture some great moments!
- The crew is fabulous and remember your name the very first day!
- Our cabin steward, Fery, was phenomenal! (I don’t have a picture of him!)
- The food is fabulous! From quick lunch spots, to the dining room to specialty restaurants. The drinks are delicious! Get the drink package if you enjoy your cocktails!
- There is a water “park”
- The entertainment shouldn’t be missed.
- Nightlife is hopping
- And my number one reason to sail on the Carnival Pride…Dr. E, the Pride’s awesome Cruise Director who will get a party going no matter where he is!
In closing, cruises are not just for families with grown up kids. They are for families with kids of all ages! Don’t wait till they are grown. Start making memories now!