My first Cruise: but definitely not my last

I had sworn from an early age that I would never get caught in an airplane. I was not understanding how that big heavy piece of metal could stay in the air like it does and be a safe way to travel. That all changed after my daughter was born. She loved Disney cartoons. The Little Mermaid was her favorite movie. So, naturally my wife thought it was a good idea to take her to Disneyland. And since I had a brother living in Los Angeles, CA it seemed like a pretty good chance we would make the trip. The only drawback was that we would have to fly, so that delayed this particular vacation. I was not even really sure why I was scared to fly, but doing so wasn’t really something that I wanted to try. However, listening to my daughter crying about wanting to go to Disneyland made me put my fears aside. So, I told my wife that it was ok and that she could go ahead and make the travel arrangements. I then called my brother and told him about what we were planning. He said that it was fine that we would stay with him and he would take care of all of the travel arrangements to and from the airport and the drive down to Disneyland. With all of the taken care of, I was actually looking forward to the trip.

The day of our departure was scary to say the least. I had only been to an airport a couple of times and that was to pick up my older brother when he flew in from California or to take him there to catch his plane back home. Being at the airport and knowing that I was actually about to get on an airplane and fly was just crazy to me. But the one thing that gave me the strength to be brave was that my little girl was so excited about finally getting to go to Disneyland and her seemingly obliviousness to how we were getting there. I mean she was really excited about getting on the plane. She even wanted to sit by the window so she could see outside. I was in awe of her braveness to say the least. The worst part of the whole ordeal for me was finding out that when my wife had booked the flight, there were no direct flights and we were scheduled for a stop-over in Houston, TX. Now, looking back, I am wondering why I was so nervous. Yes, it was a bit harrying during the take-off as it felt like our plane was never going to make it to our flight altitude. It seemed like that took forever. I was just concentrating on my daughter and she was looking out the window and just chatting away about how high we were and how pretty the clouds looked.

After we finally leveled off I was able to relax a bit. The flight was pretty uneventful, and by the time we landed in Houston, I wasn’t as scared as I had been. When we left Houston for the last leg of our trip to L.A., I was okay with the take-off and wasn’t too worried about how long it took us to hit our flight altitude. The trip to Los Angeles, CA was pretty easy and after we had de-planed and retrieved our luggage we found our way to the front entrance of LAX and found my brother outside and loaded our stuff into his car and he drove on to his house.

                Now, I am able to fly anywhere. I actually look forward to going on vacations and booking flights. I am what you would call a seasoned veteran at this point. I have experienced the dreaded in-flight turbulence and survived. I have sat next to the chatty fellow passage and survived. I don’t have any trouble with take-offs any more. But, this brings me to another form of travel that I had also sworn to myself that I would never be caught doing: Cruises.

                Yes, the dreaded cruise. Getting on a huge ship and traveling across the ocean was not something I had any interest in whatsoever. I had always, and not really sure why, had equated cruising on a ship with the unsuccessful journey of the Titanic. I am pretty sure that the fact that I am not a swimmer also played a part in that decision as well. Being out on the open ocean where there are sharks and other “hidden dangers” made taking a cruise not something I had on my bucket list. But alas, it was meant to be.

                As life goes on, mine as well, things happen. Change is inevitable. And for me that meant getting divorced and finding a new life. On that journey I met my current wife and have never felt happier. We got married, settled down and started a family. My son is so remarkable and I just adore him. I just love doing things to make him happy. And that is how I found myself in of all places, The Bahamas.

                My wife had been on a cruise before we met, with her parents. She had mentioned that to me several times and talked about how much fun it was and the places they had visited. I told her that was all so cool and that if she had ever wanted to go on another one, I would be so excited for her. I also informed her that when she went on her next cruise, I wouldn’t be there with her as I don’t do cruises. There’s just way too much water out there and that was something I just was not going try. Did I mention we had a son? Well, saying no to a small child was like stabbing a knife into your own heart. It was just impossible. And so, here I go again. My son, having heard my wife talking about going on a family vacation on a cruise picked up on that immediately and was all on board, (pun intended). So there I was again, having to face a fear that I had instilled upon myself for no apparent reason. I agreed that we could take a cruise and visit the Bahamas. So I went online and found a vacation package through the Carnival Cruise Lines and booked us a 4 day cruise package. I can remember during one call I had with a Customer Service rep for the cruise line and I had told her how I was really scared and couldn’t believe that I was actually booking a cruise. She told me how she had spoken to many travelers that had confessed the same thing. She assured me that every one of them were now valued customers and doing cruises all of the time. I was highly skeptical of course as she also assured me that after this first time, I too would enjoy it so much that I would be back for more.

The hardest part, for me,  was that my wife had wanted to have an ocean view cabin because she had claustrophobia. Claustrophobia! What about my dread of being out on the ocean?          

The Carnival Liberty, our ship, was way bigger than I had even imagined! After we drove up to the pier and found our ship, I was both very excited and very scared. When we booked our trip we had added on some off ship excursions in the ports we were to visit in Nassau and Freeport. But the one addition we added that turned out to be a huge decision was to purchase the “Fast-Pass”. This was a passport that allowed us to by-pass the long check-in lines and use a fast-lane to do our check-in. Plus, our luggage was fast-tracked as well and was delivered to our cabin faster.

                Once we got on board and found our cabin, we got settled in and unpacked. My son saw the portal and decided it would make an awesome place to sit.

                So, here I was on a cruise ship. To say I was scared would be an understatement. But, the excitement of it all helped tremendously. I was actually looking forward to being out there in the open waters and sailing to the Bahamas. Our cabin was actually pretty nice and had been decorated with the theme of our cruise; The Cat in the Hat at Sea!

                About an half hour after we got to our cabin, our luggage was delivered and so we unpacked and then left to go and explore the ship. It was awesome!

                We sailed out of Port Canaveral, Florida at about 5: pm. There were so many bars and restaurants to choose from for dinner, along with the main dining room and a buffet. We mostly ate from the buffet during our whole cruise. But the few times that we did try other spots, we were definitely not disappointed. One of our favorite spots was Guy Fieri’s burger joint. Those were some of the most tastiest and delicious hamburgers I had ever eaten. That first night out at sea was no where near as scary as I had imagined because we were having so much fun. During our pre-cruise tour of the ship we had run across the arcade room. That is probably where we ended up spending more time than any other place. My son was in happy heaven. He loved the driving games more than anything else and we spent hours upon hours driving race cars.

 Our first port of call was in Freeport, Bahamas where we arrived at about 8: am the following day. We had scheduled a family day at the beach for the day and were taken there by a bus. We got to spend the day just playing in the ocean, chilling out in a hammock under a canopy and there were some activities for the kids. We were served a pretty good lunch of some of the island’s traditional dished and there was a cash bar for adult beverages

It was really awesome just lying around and relaxing. After about 5 hours or so, we boarded back on the buses and returned to the ship. That night after dinner, we decided to take in a comedy show in one of the auditoriums.

 Later that evening after we had returned to our room and got into our pajamas, I called for an ice cream nightcap. We headed out in our pjs to one of the all night dessert spots and got ice cream that we took back to the room and enjoyed before turning in for the night.

The next morning we pulled into our 2nd port of call, Nassau. For this leg of the trip we had booked a few excursions. As we were getting off the ship, there was a party going on right there at the pier. There was music, people wearing costumes and taking pictures with the off-boarding passengers, and lots of dancing along the pier. Our 1st excursion was an Island tour of some of the historic spots that helped to make Nassau famous. Our first stop was a tour of a Rum Cake Factory that was famous world-wide, called The Bahamas Rum Cake Factory. What I was expecting was a sight-seeing tour of how the rum cakes were made with a guide telling of the history of the company. What we got was far from what I would call a tour. Our bus driver told us about the factory on the way, pulled into a parking lot on the side of the store and informed us that we have about 5 minutes to get off of the bus, go into the store and grab a sample of rum cake and get back on the bus. I thought he was joking but as it turned out, that’s all we did. We got off the bus and walked into the store. We walked around some shelves and got a small piece of rum cake and were immediately shuffled back out of the store and back to the bus and off to the next site. We were headed for the infamous Atlantis Hotel where all of the celebrities stayed when they visited the island. After about a half hour drive through Freeport, we arrived in the parking lot of the hotel. Our driver/guide told us all about visitors like Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jackson and others and also told us that we could not go into the resort/hotel. Yep, on this tour we got to spend about 20 minutes milling about in the parking lot.

We were then taken back across town heading to an old fort. This is an excerpt of the fort from Google: The fort was a fort in Nassau, Bahamas, first built in 1697 and lasted for nearly two hundred years with a rich legacy of history until it was finally demolished in 1897. It was located on the north side of Marlborough St., on the site of the current British Colonial Hilton Nassau. Remnants of the old walls can be seen on the hotel grounds.

The fort was a really interesting place to visit. My son and got so caught up in venturing around that we almost missed the bus. My wife came running up the stairs to the lookout area screaming out our names and shouting the bus was getting ready to go. We made it back in time and went on to our next location which was the John Watling Distillery. This is an excerpt from their website; John Watling’s Distillery home to JOHN WATLING’S rum, the “Spirit of The Bahamas” offers complimentary tours at its home, the Buena Vista Estate, in Downtown Nassau. The historic Estate, founded in 1789 and overlooking the harbour, is the site where Bahamians hand-craft JOHN WATLING’S small-batch rums. This was one of the best stops on the tour because we actually got a real tour guide that took us around the distillery and thrilled us with some good humored tales of the distillery’s history. We even got to have some cocktails using their distilled rum and were able to purchase some as well.

Day 3 of our trip was a day at sea. This was as we headed back to our home port at Cape Canaveral, Florida. There was a breakfast with the Cat in the Hat that morning in the formal dining room. And with him of course were his good friends and cohorts Thing 1 and Thing 2.

After breakfast we attended a game show that the ship’s Activity Director, Cookie, was hosting. My son Tyler got an opportunity to go up on stage and won a free pass to Build a Bear for later that day. I also got a chance to go up and partake in one of the games. It was really a lot of fun, although I didn’t win anything.

                I have to admit, I had loads of fun on that cruise. I never really thought about the Titanic, even during the night when I was in our cabin and shifting ever so slowly as the ship rolled along. And I admit that I am so looking forward to my next cruise.

 

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