Saturday, May 08, 2010

I'm on a Boat


Having never been on a cruise in my life, the thought of it was intriguing. So when we began to consider ideas for a vacation getaway, the thought of going on a cruise was one I gladly entertained.

We finally opted for four nights on Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas. While the smallest ship in the RC fleet, it held 2,600 people - half the population in the town where I grew up.

Monday we awoke to rain and radio reports of every paved roadway near Atlanta in total upheaval. The typical 30 minute ride to the MARTA station took two hours which severely impacted our chances of making the airport on time. But with the traffic in its current state, driving through or around Atlanta to reach the airport were also out of the question. Once on the train, I began to receive email updates from the airline informing that the flight was delayed. This was both good and bad news. The good news, we would be able to make the flight. The bad news, we might miss the boat.


photo source: Life.com

Once the plane landed at Miami, we had 45 minutes left before the cruise line would not accept passengers. A nice taxi driver understood the pinch we were in and did his best to get us to the Port of Miami with a few minutes to spare. Apparently the weather had delayed a couple of flights and our flight had contained numerous fellow cruisers. So, the port quickly filled behind us. The ladies checking people in commented they had been bored for the last two to three hours.

As both breakfast and lunch had been missed in the mayhem of trying to reach the Port of Miami before sailing time, once onboard we headed straight to the buffet with suitcases in tow. As I ate, images of "Lord of the Flies" ran through my head. My pulse rate and blood pressure began to slowly return to a normal range as we located our stateroom and tried to forget the events of the day.







The ship pulled out of Miami Monday evening at an amazing 15 knots (17.262 mph) to make the 160 mile journey to the Southernmost City. We awoke Tuesday morning to the sight of channel markers from our balcony. And finally, the outline of Key West appeared in the distance.





We made our way to the gangway while our shipmates who had partied all night long beside the pool slept and made our way to Two Friends Patio Restaurant where we arrived as they were opening their doors for breakfast. Our previous visit to Key West had both taught us that this was an excellent choice for breakfast and that if you arrived at the door at 8am, you would be the first customer of the day.



We then ventured a few blocks to the Audubon House with its gorgeous garden and the restored 19th century home of Captain John H. Geiger. The house itself is worth the $12 admission price. The tropical gardens that surround it are icing on the cake.










The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering the streets of our favorite city before making the "all aboard" mid-afternoon.



The following morning following breakfast, we walked out on our balcony to see the pilot boat from the port of Nassau.








We went ashore and wandered the streets of Nassau. We found a "Harley" store selling shirts but no motorcycles, although they had one softtail sitting in the window. In the United States this would be impossible as a merchant cannot get official Harley-Davidson clothing to sell unless they are a full fledged dealer selling and servicing motorcycles. Apparently the rules are different in the Bahamas.



The streets of the downtown area are dirty, small and crowded. Every block you walk you have three different people asking if you want to rent a scooter or want a taxi to "Atlantis", the fancy resort built on the other side of the bay. And every block is a girl wanting to braid hair. Every automobile imaginable has the word "Taxi" handpainted on the door. The streets are the equivalent of a narrow alleyway with cars parked down one side and scooters and cars fighting for the remaining space. Most of the stores are unairconditioned, dimly lit, with sand covered concrete floors. In all of this apparent poverty stands a Burger King and a Starbucks. One block over from the waterfront are stores selling Cartier, Boliva, and Rolex in bright white painted buildings that resemble American jewelry stores but who can say if the products are authentic.



While many piled into taxis and stretch limosines and headed to Atlantis, underwhelmend by the 8-10 blocks of downtown, we headed back to the Majesty of the Seas and enjoyed the pools and hottubs that were scarcely populated and the attentive staff.

We had planned to spend a very relaxed and informal week and had not visited the ships dining room, but our cabin steward pointed out that with the exception of formal night, the dining room was open to informal dress. So, we made the dining room for our appointed time at our appointed table and were quite impressed with the service and the quality of the food. Lesson #1 of dining, even if you do not plan to pack a jacket and tie for formal night, enjoy the dining room onboard every evening that it is open.



The next morning we arrived at Little Stirrup Cay in the Berry Islands which Royal Caribbean leases and renamed Coco Cay. A tender met us to take us ashore where a fleet of jet skis awaited our arrival. After a rivetting video on the operations of a jet ski and U.S. Cost Guard guided saftey procedures, we set out for one and a half hour rop around the island.



We returned to the Cay and wandered the crystal clear waters and the pristine beaches until the cruise line opened the chow lines serving burgers, hot dogs, ribs, and chicken.

After a little more wandering the one mile island, we hopped a tender back to the ship and relaxed before hitting the dining room for the evening.



Another night at cruising speed, 9 knots and we were pulling into the Port of Miami at sunrise.

7 comments:

Charlie6 said...

Very nice pics so far Allen! Glad you two made the boat!

I want to do a cruise as well but am leaning towards the Alaska one where you can take the motorcycle, get off to cruise for a bit, get back on, and so forth. We'll see.

Richard Machida said...

I took our family on the Mexico Royal Carribian cruise and I would definitely do it again. I was pretty unenthusiastic when the cruise was suggested but I've turned. I'm looking forward to the next one. Thank you for your trip review!

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Mr. Madding:

Well it sounds as if you had a delightful and relaxing mini-vacation, despite the stress of flying to meet the boat. After years of being a commercial traveler and a travel writer, I advise people that if they are planing to meet a boat at the dock, they should fly into that city THE DAY BEFORE, lest they get an unpleasnt surprise at the airport. Air transport isn't what it used to be.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

Allen Madding said...

reep - you touch upon lesson #2 of our trip. Duly noted :)

-Peace

irondad said...

I've often thought of taking a cruise. The mass of humanity in such close quarters has stopped me. You don't mention that part. Must have been okay?

Glad you had a great time and it all worked out for you.

Allen Madding said...

Irondad
You and I share a distaste for crowds. Despite 2800 people on board, the Atlanta airport was more crowded than the ship. We avoided the pools during busy times. Other than that once we encountered a crowd at the buffet. Boarding wasn't an issue and getting off at the port-o-calls was pleasant.

Id recommend giving it a try

Peace

bobskoot said...

Allen:

I also dislike crowds. A few years ago I was dragged for a short cruise from Vancouver to SF. All was good for about a hour or two. After I had walked all the decks, halls, and explored the whole ship I felt like I was trapped.

but glad you managed to have a good time

bob
Wet Coast Scootin