Saturday, November 21, 2015

Bahamas Cruise 2015

Jared and I were fortunate enough this week to check off a huge item on our Florida bucket list: go on a cruise! Back in August when we learned Jared's first vacation week of the year would fall Nov. 16-20, we decided to do something fabulous as a couple. The second year of residency has been more challenging than both of us hoped, so what better way to recharge than to stick our toes in the white sands of the Bahamas?

We chose Royal Caribbean based on friends' recommendations and were not disappointed. I dug out my old point-and-shoot camera from college to document our trip.

Port Canaveral

Port Canaveral Terminal
First sighting of our cruise ship at the terminal

One perk of living in Florida is our proximity to so many cruising ports. For our first cruise, we decided to go out of Port Canaveral near Orlando, about two-and-a-half hours from Jacksonville. It's basically a straight shot down I-95.

Since this was my first cruise, I had no idea what to expect with check-in. Royal Caribbean did an excellent job of making the entire process smooth. We checked our bags with the porters outside the terminal and went through security. Since we were sailing to The Bahamas, we had to bring passports and go through customs. The entire process was very smooth, much like going through the airport.

On the ship, we used a card called a SeaPass for all security access and payment. The card made everything very efficient. Once we received our SeaPasses, we were able to board the ship. Our stateroom wasn't ready for another hour, so we lugged our carry-ons to the ninth deck for lunch.

The Departure

Aboard the Ship
Top: waiting on the bridge to board! Bottom: we found a quiet place to watch the world go by
Out to Sea
Leaving the channel and out to sea!

Aboard the Ship

We talked with a lot of passengers on the ship who had cruised on other lines before. One of the best things they ALL had to say about Royal Caribbean is you can make the vacation whatever kind of experience you want. Whether you want to party all the time, relax or do something in between, you have the choice. Jared and I really found that to be true. We really enjoyed the wide variety of activities, including singing a duet of "Summer Nights" from Grease during karaoke and being featured as the newlywed couple (under five years) in the Love and Marriage game show. (Jared and I were minor celebrities aboard after that, haha! It was so embarrassing!).

Our four-day cruise was supposed to stop at Coco Cay, a private island owned by Royal Caribbean, on Tuesday and cruise to Nassau, The Bahamas, on Wednesday. Thursday was supposed to be our sea day on the way back to Port Canaveral. Due to extremely high winds, the ship couldn't anchor at Coco Cay on Tuesday. When the captain tells you this massive ship has been dragging its anchor all over the bottom of the ocean, you know those are some strong winds! So we skipped Coco Cay that day and sailed on for Nassau. Jared and I made the most of our time aboard!

The Centrum
The Centrum, the social hub of the ship
Day 1 Cupcake Class
Cupcake decorating class! I tried to decorate mine (far left) with an "M" and "J"...Jared made a Christmas tree!
Day 1 Arrival in Nassau
Arrival in Nassau the night of Day 1...with a pina colada!

Living Aboard

The ultimate perk of cruising? Never having to worry where your next meal will come from. Jared and I enjoyed so much delicious food, especially at dinnertime. In fact, a favorite saying around the ship? "You'll walk on as a passenger and we'll roll you off as cargo". Fortunately, we walked off, but you get the much delicious food! At dinner, the portions were small, so you could try anything which struck your fancy.

Formal Night
Formal night
As for our stateroom, it felt a little bit like living in an RV for four days. The stateroom was perfectly comfortable, but still compact like an RV. Jared and I spent most of our time around the ship or ashore, so we used our stateroom as a welcome place to rest. We did have a fabulous stateroom attendant who kept our room spotless and offered us first-time cruisers lots of tips.

High Seas Henry
Loved all the towel animals! Jared and I were going through Henry withdrawals, so we called this guy "High Seas Henry"

Nassau, The Bahamas

With our itinerary change, we arrived in Nassau a day earlier. Jared and I didn't go ashore until Wednesday. We did a glass bottom boat tour of the harbor outside Nassau and got to see some underwater life.

Nassau, The Bahamas
Nassau had such colorful architecture. From the boat, our guide showed us the TWO homes owned by Oprah. One is her house and one is the guest house, apparently (bottom middle). It was difficult to get a good picture of the fish in the dark environment above the glass bottom, but by Jared's reaction, you can tell it was cool!
After the exceptional glass bottom boat tour, our experience in Nassau went downhill. Nassau is huge in tax-free, duty-free shopping. Since Jared and I weren't in the market for any diamonds, designer goods, or straw accessories, there wasn't much for us to see. Plus, the local people know you're a tourist, so they try to get you to buy anything imaginable.

We did go to a local craft brewery and enjoyed a sampler, but after that, we were ready to head back to the ship!

Coco Cay

Thursday morning, we swung back around and were able to anchor at Coco Cay. The wind was still pretty strong, but at least we got to go for beach day. Jared and I had booked a snorkeling adventure, which neither of us had ever done before, so we were excited to give it a try.

Loved snorkeling! Jared and I both saw lots of fish. The waves were high, so it was a little rough, but well worth it
Perfect Beach Day
Perfect beach day
Overall, beach day was one of our favorite experiences!

The Verdict?

Jared and I had an amazing vacation. The best part, of course, was having almost an entire week together with no responsibilities, no chores and no worries except what to pick for dinner that night. Sometimes, you just need a fabulous getaway. I definitely want to write another post of tips I picked up as a first-time cruiser and share a few funny memories!