Cruising the Bahamas
There is nothing like a trip with your friends. I love my husband and we travel the world together – it’s great. But time with girlfriends gives me a chance to bond, decompress, and eat/drink/laugh. This year six women packed our bags to meet in Florida for a short and cheap cruise through the Bahamas. [Editors note: I do mean cheap, as in under $400 for a 4 day trip using free miles to get there.] Two of us were coming from Denver, so needed to arrive in Miami a day earlier in order to board the ship in time. The Courtyard by Marriott in Miami Beach offered up a perfect 24 hours worth of pre-cruise experiences. We had lunch on the patio when we arrived, spent an hour on the beach, then showered to head into South Beach for dinner.One thing I usually do when traveling someplace new is find at least one great dining spot ahead of time, and I had scoped out A Fish Called Avalon, a diner’s choice on Opentable. So after cruising the strip of South Beach, gawking at the gaudy display of flesh passing by, we slipped into a great outside table and began our meal with the best wedge salad ever. It was the best because they used Romaine instead of iceberg, and loaded it with bacon and goodies.My friend Susan is great to dine with because she’s always up for ordering two dishes then splitting them. So we ordered both the grouper with shrimp and creamed peas……and an incredible panko crusted snapper served with creamy spinach risotto. South Beach is a trip, and if you haven’t been it’s worth a short visit, but not probably where you want to hang out for too long if you’re over 25.After enjoying a long walk on the beach, a swim in the pool and a shower, we packed up to head to the ship. That’s when I noticed I couldn’t find my passport. Commence panic and mayhem! I did make it onto the ship (thanks to the level headed and calm staff at the hotel and my husband who raced home to fax me a copy of my birth certificate), but I was so sick to my stomach from the stress that I didn’t think to take any pictures all afternoon (except this bizarre one basically saying not to put ANYTHING down the toilet in the stateroom). We had a nice dinner that night to celebrate my friend Gail’s birthday, and set sail for the Bahamas.We awoke just as we were docking at our first stop in Freeport, on Grand Bahama Island, and we noticed all these cute little shops right next to the ship.So we scurried down to enjoy breakfast overlooking the lovely blue water surrounding our ship……then went ashore for a bit of shopping. I needed a sun hat, but more importantly, I found a pretty necklace to give to Susan to apologize for the passport stress I put her through the day before (I did find it when unpacking, by the way – note to self and anyone reading: check everywhere, even if you think it couldn’t possibly be there). Then we reboarded the ship to just enjoy lunch, the pool and some relaxation before the ship set sail again.For such a cheap cruise, the food was unbelievably good. A Greek tapas dish and some Greek salad.A delicate chicken breast served with tender gnocchi. We learned after our first night to slow down our dinner service so we could enjoy it. If you feel “herded” on a large ship, order wine first, then when that’s poured, proceed with ordering appetizers. Don’t order your entrees until those are finished. One of the greatest things about a cruise ship breakfast is having the chef make you an omelet each morning – I loaded mine up with veggies and poured on some salsa on the side, and I proceeded to have this every morning aboard the ship – a perfect start to the day for me……but others in the group were tempted by the small little chocolate croissants they offered up each day.Our next stop was in Nassau, where we had been tipped off about heading to the Atlantis resort for a day at the beach. Well, it’s pretty all right, but it would have been $70 for each of us to enter and we opted to just shop around the marina instead.The buildings on Paradise Island are the classic colors of the Bahamas……and the water sparkles with shades of blue, green and turquoise.As we made our way back to the ship for lunch and some pool time, we giggled at seeing this hair braiding sign.And we snapped some shots of the Atlantis resort from this side of the island.The ship we were on was the Norwegian Sky, an older ship that’s been renovated recently. The rooms are tiny, but everything else about it was just fine.We retreated to the pool where we could gaze at the beauty of Paradise Island……while soaking up some sun around the pool on deck.After a little last minute shopping in Nassau near the ship, we cleaned up for the obligatory group photo……then sipped our various adult beverages while watching the sun set from the ship.I started dinner the third night with the caprese salad……AND the escargot. That’s a little cruise ship secret – they’ll feed you just about anything you want, and I think this was the night my friend Susan ordered the pasta for dessert because she hadn’t gotten her fill.Another tip is that if you eat largely fish and pass on dessert, you can probably get by without gaining much weight.And although I did skip the desserts completely, I did indulge in the cheese platter one evening after our meal.And I did sneak a bite of this German chocolate cake – more like a an over the top compressed coconut and chocolate wedge.Our final day of our cruise took us to the private island of the cruise company, where they have set up a large swimming area decked out with chairs.Doesn’t a bucket of Bud Light with limes seem perfect? And doesn’t my pedicure look nice? 🙂We enjoyed a fabulous beach barbecue while gazing out at our ship in the distance before heading back and showering up for dinner.Here’s my final dining tip for cruise ships: most offer some standard things every night like a steak, salmon, pasta and a Caesar salad. So not to worry if you don’t like what the chef has dreamed up for that night’s menu. Oops, one more tip: there is a $20 per person or more charge to eat in the specialty restaurants on this ship, but really there is no need to. The selection and service in the main dining room are great, so save your money for wine!Susan ordered this gorgeous chocolate Bavarian cream dessert – I snagged a bite and it was heavenly!When we woke for breakfast the next morning, we were back in Miami……gazing over the skyline and the waterway while we enjoyed our final breakfast on the ship.I lingered as long as they would let me on the ship because my flight wasn’t until mid-afternoon. I was the last one off the ship at 10am – and would you believe it took me 11 hours door to door to get back to Denver!?
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