For many years, I have been ambivalent about vacationing on
a cruise ship. For me, the beauty in traveling is exploring and a cruise
program would seem to minimize the opportunity for exploration since by
definition, the course and activities are very scripted. Following our Sendero
motto that, “It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive”; there wouldn’t
be many surprises on a ship and not much to the process of exploration.
Having toured two stationary cruise liners and having heard
much about the benefits of entertainment for all ages, I agreed to join my
girlfriend Gena and her two children on the Disney Dream cruise from Port
Canaveral Florida to the Bahamas, not expecting to make much use of my GPS
it turned out, there were ample opportunities to record user points at the
various docks and at the venues on the islands since I did not have maps for
the Bahamas. This was actually quite useful when we were on land and even
helpful at sea to know how far I was from our origin and how far off the
Florida coast from places like Stuart Florida we were. I saw that Nassau in the
Bahamas was about 750 miles from Puerto Rico, further than I would have
guessed. I could check our speed. It was only about 10 miles per hour. I
changed to Nautical Miles just for the heck of it. I could check our heading
which started out East and then due south. I recorded about 30 user points of
interest between the two islands we visited, which are now posted in the World
POI file on the Sendero web site
Our first stop was at the Disney-owned Castaway Island where
we had the unique opportunity to feed and feel Southern Stingrays
. They are two
to three feet across and the barbs have been removed from their tails.
Our other stop was on Nassau
, the capital of the Bahamas.
Rather than signing up for one of the expensive tours, we took our chances and
ended up hiring a driver named Rohn Johnson who informed us there are over 700
islands in the Bahamas and only 30 some odd are inhabited. Six are owned by
cruise companies, one by Eddie Murphy
and another by John Travolta. Rohn was an
excellent guide around Nassau. He left us off at the Atlantis resort where we
took a fascinating Aquarium tour. Their penthouse suite goes for $25,000 per
night, a regular place where Michael Jackson stayed. We really enjoyed the
chocolate factory and were happy to avail ourselves of the free Wi-Fi at the
port building. The kids really preferred being on the ship where they had made
friends after only the first day.
The highlight of the trip for me was also making friends,
even in such a short time span. I always say that the people make the places
and this cruise was no exception. There were around 4000 guests plus 1500 staff
on the ship from 60 countries. For example, Alenka from Serbia was a bar tender
in the Quiet Cove. I had fun telling her stories about my participation in the
Olympics in Sarajevo in 1984. Her husband Marco worked in the Palo restaurant where
we had him as our waiter one night. He shared how they met and how they deal
with being together 24-7 on a cruise ship in such tight quarters, bunk beds and
all. Marco had such a beautiful bright perspective on life.
A 12 year-old boy from Littleton Colorado, Ethan, fell in
love with Tank and we seemed to run into him around every corner. We met his
younger sister Chloe and mom Carrie.
Our first waiter we met was Aut from Thailand and we shared
stories about our recent trip to Thailand with him. His fellow countryman was
our regular dinner waiter but I never figured out his name nor could we tell the
difference between the 3 regular guys who waited on us. They were all extremely
nice and helpful and made sure we didn’t go hungry.
The Assistant Cruise Director Trent from England gave us a
tour when we boarded the ship and he looked in on us during the cruise. Disney
was very accommodating about bringing a guide dog on board and on the islands.
Paul from Australia was the Clearance Officer who made sure
everything was in order for Tank to go on the islands. He got us seats in the
front of the theater and orchestrated the 4 of us being able to touch and feed
Sting Rays on the Castaway Island, a several hundred dollar gift from Disney. He
and Gena charmed each other for sure, culminating in a private meet and greet
with all the Disney characters. We got to feel their costumes. Tank made best
friends with Goofy and Pluto, who we learned was a gift to Mickey from Mini.
There were several excellent live bands on board. EHarmonic
played lots of pop tunes as well as oldies with wonderful vocals. We really
liked the duo of Tara and Kev from England. She had a rich soulful voice. He
sang nicely as well as playing amazing guitar on top of a bed of electronic
drums and bass. We traded emails and hoped to be in touch.
Our state-room hostess was Nicole from Jamaica. She and the
other staff work 14 hours a day for 6 months before they get 6 weeks off. She
was always around, not just cleaning our room but making it our home with
special touches like towels twisted in the shape of animals, small gifts of
chocolate and wine. She read announcements to us if we needed. She helped with Gena’s
son Shiya when he was sick. Her lilting island accent calling me Mr. Michael
always made me smile.
The fireworks on New Year in the middle of the ocean were
incredible; the food was copious; the Broadway style shows were first class;
the live music was top notch; the ride was pretty darn smooth. In the end, it was the people we met that
made the experience wonderful and their memories will be the most enduring part
of the trip. We just might run into them again, on another cruise, in Belgrade,
in Jamaica or who knows where. Rest assured, I will have an accessible GPS when
we meet again. Like we heard time and time again on the Disney Dream, It’s a
Small World After All.