Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bahama Mamas

What goes better with Thanksgiving than cold weather, good times with family, and a meal that could feed a third world country for a month? Turns out a cruise to the Bahamas ranks right up there. That's right! After the traditional family gorge-a-thon, my sister and I packed our bags and headed out to sunny Port Canaveral to hop aboard Royal Caribbean's Monarch of the Seas. (Now, I'll spare you the details of the drive, which included my brother-in-law, niece, and nephew...all in all, a lot of fun, until taco bell got involved.) After parting ways with the fam , Rhonda and I drove on down to the ship...there she floated in all her glory...ready to take on a fresh herd of cattle load of passengers!

The beautiful Monarch of the Seas anchored off Coco Cay

Once aboard we did what any good cruiser does...we headed to the trough er, buffet. Now, that doesn't mean we ate an entire pizza topped with hamburgers. You see, a cruise ship ain't Vegas and what happens on a cruise ship often doesn't stay on the cruise ship. Yeah, I'm talking poundage. Really, the veggies, seafood, and fruit were the best offerings anyway, so we had our fill of that while everyone else loaded up on deep fried mashed potatoes and butter cheese bacon fritters. Although, I'd give somebody's right arm to have the recipe for that lamb curry!

I decided against eating that brown fried...thing.

"Comedy's a dead art tragedy...that's funny!" -Bender.
Humor was the order of the day on the Monarch. The ship offered two different comedians, both of which were actually extremely funny. I'll admit I wasn't holding out a lot of hope, but yes, my sides actually ached from laughing. The acts ran the comedy gauntlet from impressions to race relations... "Hey, I have a white friend! See white people, do you see how stupid that sounds?" Nice. The final night, the singers and dancers performed...I love the production numbers, as does Rhonda...she's a former musical theater gal and I'm just a big ham that loves the spotlight...nothing like living vicariously. We sat there and sang-a-long and judged the choreography and cheered when those high notes were landed.

This girl glowed...literally. Every single picture I took of her, she's literally phosphorescent!

Ports of call...
This was a short cruise and we only had two ports of call, but once you've seen one tropical island, you've seen them all...or so I hear...I'd like to find out for myself. Nassau was fine, we really didn't explore the city itself, we tendered over to Paradise Island and toured the Atlantis Hotel. The aquarium was really the highlight of the tour and the gorgeous Dale Chihuly glass sculptures. The aquarium housed giant Manta rays, huge sawfish, serious looking...tuna? and some piranha that looked as if they'd like to have you over for some fava beans and a nice Chianti.

Chihuly's "The Sun"

Glowing Jellyfish...friends of the singer on the ship?

Hello Clarice...

After the "Atlantis experience," we walked around the island a bit, played in the surf, realized we hadn't eaten since breakfast, many, many, many hours earlier and decided to head back to the ship...besides, we didn't want to miss the dance party. I'll start with dinner and work my way back to dance party. Rhonda and I enjoy the formal dining room for dinner...there's just something nice about having someone pull out your chair for you, drape your napkin in you lap, and offer you more bread than all of France on Bastille day. The meals were fine...nothing spectacular, nothing bad...but this isn't about the's more about the company. Our dinner companions seemed nice enough...a slightly older couple, well traveled, well read...a medical researcher and former Secret Service agent. We enjoyed them, even if ...we'll just call him "Mr. Smith" was a bit of a bloviater. All was well...until "Mr. Smith" announced that he just didn't like "the black people." How do you even respond to that?!? I sat there slack jawed...Rhonda, wide eyed...we listened to a few more of his absurd assumptions about various subjects, said our goodbyes and left in a state of complete confoundation. He also hated our "lazy, unambitious, bum of a...." kayak excursion leader...if that was his definition of a lazy, unambitious bum, where do I sign up?

Apparently the people of 422 preferred a more casual setting.

Speaking of kayak guy, whose name I can't recall, but he did have a lovely South African accent. *sigh!* He was a resident of our other port of call, Royal Caribbean's private island "Coco Cay." It was a beautiful island...gorgeous clear water, white sugar sand, and hammocks on every tree. We proceeded to our excursion station and took up our paddles and life vests for a nice relaxing kayak tour...or so we thought. Turns out Neptune had other plans...what started out as calm seas with clear waters quickly turned into 3-4 foot waves and gray skies...and I'll admit, a heck of a lot of fun. I've only kayaked in Alaska a few times and it was never in rough water so this was a new adventure...especially when Rhonda and I took a (I'm gonna say "rogue wave" for the dramatic effect) rogue wave that knocked us clear out of the boat! We were out a couple hundred yards from the shore, but the water was still only waist level and warm. Sadly, there was a old secondary digital camera...tucked into my life vest for a few fun shots...little did I know the wrath of the ocean...she be a harsh mistress indeed.

The last picture my little camera ever took. Godspeed little C340 easyshare...Godspeed.

The rest of the time on the island consisted of us proving we fail at hammocking (I declare that a word.) how we do not fail at falling asleep on beach chairs, a nature walk, and lunch. Lunch...a beach bbq, very nice, ribs, chicken, regular fare...and cookies. I decided I wanted a cookie and surprisingly, there was only one left when I got up there, well lucky me...or so I thought. As I reached for the tongs, I see a puffy, red nailed hand practically lunge at the tray, grab the tongs and snatch the last cookie. I stood there in a mix of confusion and irritation (did I mention I really like cookies?) as this woman, this garish, badly permed, cookie stealing woman looks at me and says "*sigh* It's not even what I wanted" as she shoves it in her mouth akin to a blue furry monster that could tell you how to get to Sesame Street. I whisper under my breath as she lumbers off, "well, it's what some of us wanted." Oh well...better on her hips than mine.

I'm convinced this is what I was meant to do.

Now that's entertainment!
...and we're back at dance party. We walked into the main stairway of the ship, a huge spiraling thing descends from all directions, each tier was packed with people clapping and shouting and staring down at the bottom level of the landing. In that landing was cruise director Chris, sporting a huge afro and sunglasses, also in attendance was a glittered up, singing, dancing sailor, more afro wig wearers, and the YMCA boys. Well, Rhonda and I stealthily maneuvered our way into the thick of things, and before I knew it, I was dancing with a greased up policeman, Rhonda with the sailor, and then, sailor, she, and I started what would become the second oddest conga line I've ever been privileged to join. Speaking of conga lines...this brings me to "Quest." Quest was the late night game show on the ship and while Rhonda and I chose not to participate, we did decide to watch. C.D. Chris was there again, sans afro wig. This time he would call out commands to teams and they'd race to be the first to show him what he wanted..."a man with his pants on backwards," or, "a thong! '...very nice ladies, but all I was looking for was a flip-flop'." At the end of this game, 20 grown men wearing women's ..."attire" congaed around the lounge...without question, the #1 most interesting conga line in which I was not involved!

Here's the main staircase from which I believe everyone on the ship watched our dance party...

...and here's a bad photo with our glittery companion post conga line!

In the end, it was great to spend time with my sister. Given that she's 17 years older than me, we didn't really get the chance to grow up together so...carpe diem, because that's what we've got...and that pretty much sums up the most interesting parts of the trip...the rest was packing, leaving, and the desire to avoid all the things of Monday that loomed on the horizon.

I'm not still here why?

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