We had this trip planned and paid for 8 months ago, so it made sense at the time.
This cruise, we sailed on Carnival “Glory” out of Norfolk. We were thrilled to have no airplane trip to deal with, but I would never willingly sail from the port again. We had a neighbor drop us off, about a half hour into boarding; this turned out to be the plan of everyone else as well, and the lines were horrendous and very poorly handled. All we could figure is that the Half Moon cruise center was built before 9-11 and therefore was not set up for the necessary passenger and luggage screenings.
Part of the time we stood in the rain, then we moved into a corridor of people steaming gently while crushed together haphazardly, and finally we reached a dome with the sun blazing through and no air moving whatsoever. After a miserable 1 ½ hours with a few hundred of our closest friends, we got on the ship.
I did meet my brother’s barber, however. He had told me she was sailing with us, so the very first woman I saw that looked Oriental, I asked if she was a barber. She was and asked if I was Robert’s sister. Small world. But the rest of the cruise we never saw her again.
Our cabin—by choice—was a tiny closet with bunk beds. This room was so cheap, I don’t know how they could afford to feed us as lavishly as they did. Our suitcases were already at the room when we arrived [!] so we settled in, taking turns moving around. There is something very fine indeed about unpacking on a cruise, making a nest and yet heading off toward the open seas.
We ventured to the top deck so as to watch our departure and found a nice spot in “adults only” seating, kind of silly, since the children’s section was on the other side of an openwork fence. Wonderful views of Norfolk, which is a grand seaport and therefore a nightmare to drive in. [btw, Norfolk is pronounced “Naw-fick”] We saw three generations of the Naval Hospital. The enormous size of the latest one attests to the higher survival rate for sailors these days. Thank God.
We stayed up top through a most glorious red sunset over the coastal swamps and towering freight cranes—two of my favorite things. Even as a small child, I had a keen appreciation of world trade, and will never forget that cork is grown in Portugal, the first of many freight facts I have learned. And, as my brother learned in working for the railroad YCMFSOYA, which means “You can’t move freight sitting down.”
Famished, we went to eat at the Red Sails Buffet and, while dining, we passed the chain of lights—and dark spaces—that mark the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.
Along with a bevy of others, we waited in the Camel Club Casino for international waters. I found a choice spot on a sofa in the no-smoking [!!] section of the Camel Club, where I gazed out at the phosphorescent sea and the reflections of people as they posed for photos next to me. “Island Sound” was playing [badly] and I was amazed to hear them complain about “too much fighting and sex”. I got too much fighting, but what guy thinks “too much sex”. As I pondered this and they droned on and on, I began to realize the words were “Too much biting insects.”
Ron came to get me to crow about winning $22 on a bet of $20. Seeing I was ok, he then went off and lost the lot. A wonderful evening was had by all.
Tuesday Oct. 26 We rocked and rolled all night and the ship gave periodic massive shivers, like being in the belly of a whale. “Shiver me timbers,” I thought, waking up. We went to the buffet for breakfast and tried to nap, but couldn’t. So we returned to the Camel Club, where we resumed our activities of the night before, sans the fighting and sex. As I watched the waves, hundreds of large flying fish were taking off at angles to the ship and flying amazing distances. [more about these later].
We leaned that the ship was traveling at 20 knots, with a headwind of 25 knots, so the upper decks were closed. I had washed my hair and we sat on deck as a hairdryer, sipping coffee, diet Coke and eventually having a yummy plate of fish and chips. We found a section of deck in the shade of the upper deck and the funnel and were quite content. After a few hours, our eyes got full and we went to our cabin to rest.
We rose and donned some gay apparel to take tea in the Platinum Room spanning the stern of the ship. The tea was certainly lavish, though with more sweets that we expected. I had a rousing good talk with [another] 9 year old about Harry Potter. Tops on the menu were cuke sandwiches, small biscuits with a semi-sweet whipped filling and a peach compote with crumb topping. Earl Grey, of course.
We then withdrew to the Ivory Lounge, where a combo were playing rock ‘n’ roll. With a complete lack of preparatory alcohol, Ron danced with me!
Our assigned dinner table in the Platinum Room was a booth with one other couple! This was a wonderful surprise and we screamed restrainedly through dinner, as opposed to the usual shrieks and bellows. I had lobster tail and Ron had chili relleno. How weird is that?
After dinner, we returned to the Ivory Room for more music and dance. Our dinner partners danced beautifully and we also danced. The band played one of my favorites “Lady in Red” which came out the year Simon was 1 and I used to sing to him, in his red footed pjs, “Baby in Red.”
While we were getting our breath back [mostly from laughing], the captain and officers showed up and began talking and drinking. I guess it was a set reception, but few people came by; we asked them who was driving the boat. The officer laughed, but he DID NOT answer the question!!
When the band finished, we headed for the Ebony Lounge---- are you getting the color theme here?---- for the clean version of the stand-up comic, Duane “DS” Sanders. Ron tried a Rum Collins, hereafter know as a Ron Collins, and I got a serious brain freeze from a strawberry daiquiri. Duane made a pretty good joke about men being allowed on vacation with their wives to act as mules for the shopping. I saw him in the hall later and gave away Christine’s term BOB = beast of burden. I hope he uses it.
After having seriously too much to eat and drink, we went to our cabin, drank pepto and fell asleep.
October 27 Nassau, Bahamas. After breakfast, we made our way to “our deck,” reading. “Land ho” about 10 am, so we remained on deck watching the docking and taking a few photos. Two of the cruise ships at dock were running drills with their lifeboats; I personally would pay extra to participate. Also, to tour the engine room, kitchens, anything behind-the-scenes.
We had lunch, sampling fried plantains, which have absolutely no flavor. In this leisurely fashion we avoided the mad stampeded to get off the ship. Downtown is a brief stroll from the ship, but you have to pass through a gauntlet of people wanting to sell things and tours. But we had our agenda, and made our way to the #10 jitney heading toward Sandyport. We had read online that this is the bus the locals take to and from work, as it passes many upscale resorts and wealthy homes. The economy seems to be chugging along and will be fine as long as the tourists keep coming. But all the jobs are dependent on the tourist trade; there was no manufacturing or farming visible, but abandoned and decaying sugar mills. The guide book says even the straw weavings, baskets etc are made in China and only embroidered with raffia locally.
Sandyport wants to be an upscale shopping destination, with shops like Lladro. It seems to be very new and under construction. The Baptist Cathedral [where Anna Nicole Smith was buried] is undergoing massive enlarging and new houses/condos are springing up all around. We crossed the road and ducked under a charming arch to the beach.
We found 2 broken beach chairs set up in the shade for us. Ron sat there while I combed the beach. The weather was highly changeable, with black clouds raining on us one moment and clear skies the next. We could watch the storms pass a couple of miles over Paradise Island as well.
The sand is super white and coarse, being made of shells. It is this white sand and shallow clear water that makes the “Caribbean Blue” that Enya sings about. It is liquid turquoise, aquamarine, with purple strips where the submerged coral reefs are. You see it on the “Atlantis” ads on TV; it is truly that color, not, as I assumed, photo-shopped. The water is so clear that you cannot judge the depth.
There were only 3 other people on this beach, with a few on a private beach across a canal. I walked out on a jetty over this incredible water, and then returned to Ron. As we left, I watched the others pulling conch pieces out of the shallows and I went for it. Caribbean waters are very salty and hard to clean off your glasses.
N4 33 Bahamas edition, part 1
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