Bahama-Rama II

August 4, 2010

Location: CocoCay, The Bahamas
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~ DAY TWO ~

I was feeling quite energized considering I’d only scored myself five hours of sleep. I can’t figure out if the incredible sleep was due to the fact that we have no windows in our Stateroom and therefore no light came creeping in or because my bed was just so damn comfortable. Waking up hang-over free was just an added bonus; kinda like the cherry on top of a sundae. Either way, I wasn’t going to complain.

We pack a day bag and make out way over to the Windjammer Café for breakfast. As I step foot into the café and take a peak out the window, I notice the ship has docked in the middle of the ocean. In the distance lays a small island which, without my glasses on, doesn’t look like anything too impressive. I wonder if this is Coco Cay, Royal Caribbean’s private island that we are due to visit today. I am hastily side-tracked by the grumbling of my tummy. Well, excuse me! The smell of breakfast aromas fill the air and my taste buds are quickly tickled. I grab a plate and am overcome by the wide offerings. Where do I begin? I head to the hot section and grab me some scrambled eggs, bacon galore, toast, sausage links, cured ham and a selection of fresh fruits and pastries; delicious. I think I have died and gone to food heaven.

After breakfast we decide to make our way down to Deck 1 which is the departure point for Coco Cay. Unfortunately, because the Monarch of the Seas is too big to dock at the island, we must take a ferry from the ship there. We are bummed when we realise the line is backed all the way up to Deck 3 but our disappointment is quickly overturned when one of the crew tell us we’ll be on the next ferry. Turns out they can seat a couple of hundred people at a time and turns out, he’s correct. As we board, I can feel the ferry wobble about while staying afloat in the ocean. I feel a sense of uneasiness and queasiness and my breakfast jiggles around in my belly. We sit there for a good fifteen minutes before the ferry pulls away from the ship and we are off to Coco Cay. We head towards the same island I was eying off over breakfast; I quietly pray it looks prettier up close than it does from afar.

The ferry docks at Coco Cay Island. Within minutes my earlier concerns are put to rest and my heart is at ease. Coco Cay is absolutely stunning. The waters are a gorgeous sparkling teal colour and the sand is so white and pure; the island is like a tiny slice of heaven on earth. The Market Place is an array of bright colours which compliment the dazzling green palm trees, adding to the tropical island feel.

Mike and Jessica head out to do their jet-skiing activity while Lauren and I walk around and explore the market stalls.  The sun is beating down on us; we haven’t even been on the island for twenty minutes and already I am dripping with sweat. It has to be 95, maybe 100 degrees Fahrenheit out and it can’t be much after midday. Phew; what a scorcher! After walking around for a while we decide to find two sun chairs, dump our stuff and without any hesitation, I throw myself into the semi-cold ocean.

Pure bliss. Life really doesn’t get any better than this. The water is lukewarm but still a welcoming cool off from the wicked heat. I doggy-paddle around for a while in the shallow waters. There is a fair bit of seaweed floating about. While paddling I can see it getting nearer so I try to blow it away. Stay away, sea weed, or you shall die a terrible, terrible death! I can’t stand the feeling of seaweed clinging to my bare skin while I’m at the beach; it freaks me out! I clear a path in the water for myself and swim down it to reach deeper waters but alas, seaweed touches my mouth. I panic. This is horrible. Terrible. I throw my arms around in a desperate plea for help. Get it away. Gross! I break free from the seaweed (a single strand, no more than 10cm in length) and I swim back to shore and lay face-down on my beach chair and close my eyes. I can feel the heat of the sun evaporate the water droplets on my back as island music is playing in the background. I open my eyes and sit up. The sky is such a crisp shade of blue; the sand so white,  the water, a sparkling light shade of teal and the palm trees gently whistle in the almost non-existent breeze. I am so relaxed. It’s a tough job, but hey, somebody has to do it. May as well be me.

After a short while, we meet back up with Mike and Jessica and grab a bite to eat. There is a massive BBQ buffet lunch on the island and, despite having our bellies showing, we do not hesitate when piling up our plates with food. I’m rather self-conscious, but after seeing a rather voluptuous lady in her late 70’s in a leopard-print string bikini, I feel a little more comfortable with myself. Lunch is great; we have BBQ ribs, chicken, hamburgers, hot dogs, fruit, cakes… I’ve quickly come to realise that cruising really is the way of life.

We spend some more time swimming, sunbathing and shopping at the Market Place before we succumb to the heat and make out way back to the ship, not before a super touristy Coco Cay group photo though.

Tonight is formal dining night aboard Monarch of the Seas; yes, that’s right, it means we must get gussied up and not look like washed up trash. We spend a good few hours in our cabin showering, shaving, straightening hair, curling hair, dressing, doing make up, you know, all the pre-requisites for making ourselves look all pretty and cute. The end result is nothing short of amazing if I may say so myself.

Before dinner we are all invited to the Captain’s Formal Welcoming aboard Monarch of the Seas in The Sound of Music Theater. This takes a while to kick off but we are showered with champagne which is alright by me.  The Captain introduces himself, tells us some interesting facts about the ship and then introduces us to the Managers on board who then each introduce themselves. It turns out to be a rather enjoyable event and we are glad we took the time to attend. After this we head straight to dinner. My choice for tonight’s formal dinner is the beef which is delicious and tender. I’m not a fan of mashed potato so Jonathan, our Assistant Waiter brought me a baked potato which I sliced in half and enjoyed with a dollop of butter. Dinner was followed by an incredible dessert for the sweet tooth. I’m not entirely sure of the name of this one, but it was similar to that of chocolate pudding, only our Waitress, Ning, grabbed my spoon, put a hole in the pudding and then poured a Kahlua-like custard into the middle. Regardless of what it’s name is, it was an absolute treat on the taste buds; yum!

After dinner another visit was paid to Casino Royale and alas, another few dollars were kindly donated to Royal Caribbean. Damn slots, get me every time! It’s a good thing we have plans tonight because I can see all four of us easily losing more money than we have to that place.

Before heading out for the night, we make a quick detour back to our cabin. Much to our delight, our room has been made up and there is a towel creature sitting on my bed wearing Mike’s glasses. It’s so cute. Pretty shoes come off, flip flops go on and off we go to the Sound of Music Theater for a night of entertainment. Tonight’s show is called You Can’t Stop The Beat and is a dance and musical number performed to us by the Royal Caribbean Entertainers. We get there early and secure ourselves front row seats so that I don’t have to wear my glasses. The lights dim, the curtain draws and the show begins. Lauren and I are quick to spot our favourite dancer from 70’s night the night prior. His moves are amazing and his body just seems to stay in sync with the beat; he’s incredible… that is until we are introduced to the three main singers. Their voices are phenomenal and the female singer has a voice that could raise the nine decks above us off the ship. Wow; what a gift to be blessed with.

The show let’s out and Lauren and I make our way to Circuit Nightclub. Upon walking in, we are rather surprised that our favourite bar tender already has our two drinks waiting for us on the bar. After only one night he knows us so well; shucks. Tonight is another night of one too many beers, singing, dancing, a late night pizza rendezvous at Sorreno’s and drunken conversations with the friends we made last night. Who knows what time or how we got back to our beds? Good times.
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~ To be continued ~

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Bahama-Rama I

August 1, 2010

Location: Somewhere in the North Atlantic Ocean
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~ DAY ONE ~

The day started out different to the one before. Today there was a particular sense of excitement buzzing around through out the air. The countdown had finally reached its end and the next exhilarating saga was about to begin. Yes, today was the day we board Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas and embark on our journey to The Bahamas.

Royal Caribbean’s terminal at Port Canaveral is swarming with people; all as eager and bright-eyed as I to board the ship. The check in line is long and some of the younger guests begin to get irritated by this. As I patiently wait I wonder how many of these guests are first-time cruise-goers like myself.

Check in goes as smoothly as one could hope. The ship is money-less so we are given SeaPass cards which act as our room key as well as a debit/credit card. Once swiped the crew on board can detect our age and verify that the card is ours via a hideous photo that is taken upon entry. Now, let me tell you, this is no ordinary photo. This photo is taken from roughly stomach height looking up toward your face. This is not only the worst angle ever imaginable, but now in my photo, I look like a repulsive, three-chined, sweaty dragon lady; an eager one none the less. Can’t wait to flash that one to my bar-tenders later on tonight when I’m all gussied up. Dragon lady who?

Upon stepping foot onto the ship, we are welcomed by many of the ships crew and an array of alcoholic beverages, all chargeable to our SeaPass card, of course. We decide it would be best to find our cabin, throw our luggage in there and then make our way to the pool deck for a swim before dinner. We are in stateroom 5009 which is down an extremely long hall, away from all the noise and commotion. The room is, well, tiny, to say the least; tiny yet extremely cute. We have two single beds and another set of two beds which fold down from the walls to make bunk beds. There is a small closet, a TV, a full length mirror and another half body mirror on the dresser as well as a small bedside table between the two bottom beds. The bathroom is, well, again, tiny. If you were slightly on the larger side I’m not exactly sure you’d have the most pleasing of times trying to fit not only into the shower, but into the bathroom itself. Despite the size of the room, it really is pretty much all we need. After all, who goes on a cruise to The Bahamas and does nothing more than stay in their cabin? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Before we can go and enjoy the pool, everyone is to meet on deck for a compulsory safety briefing. I hate this part, just like I hate it when I’m on a plane flying over the ocean. What to do if the ship sinks in the middle of no where and you’re stranded with no land or human life (except those on the ship) for thousands of miles out; ugh, it gives me the heeby geebyz. A life jacket, a whistle and a flash light is not going to protect me from a hungry great white shark that sees me helplessly kicking around in the water and thinks I’m a stranded seal, or worse, the dessert that accompanies the seal. It is at this safety briefing that we meet Mike. Mike is conveniently standing by us with his family when he hears is talking about Disney. He turns around and starts talking to us. Coincidentally he is also a Disney Cast Member on the College Program and lives right across from my old apartment at Chatham Square. Coincidence? I think not! The never ending safety briefing finally ends. Imagine that.

By now, the ship has departed Port Canaveral, en route to the island of Coco Cay in The Bahamas. We get our bathing suits on and head to Deck 11 which is where the pool is situated. It is crazy hot out and the pool water looks so wonderfully inviting minus the horde of children floating around in it. My feet are burning on the hot floor. I can’t wait any longer. Without even thinking, I jump right in. AHHHHHHH! It burns! Upon surfacing I scurry around like a crazy dragon lady to find the pool ledge. My eye balls are burning in their sockets and my throat is stinging as if I’d just downed ten shots of straight up Limoncello. This is not chlorinated water; it’s the saltiest water ever to roam the earth. If I dumped 50 kilograms of salt into my bathtub and then some, this pool water would still be saltier! Gross!

After adjusting to the unhealthy levels of salt in the pool, I later find subtle enjoyment from this. While resting on the ledge, I see completely dry pool-goers, eager to find peace from the fierce heat jumping on it. Little do they know the water is salt city until it is too late. I find happiness while watching them scurry on over to the ledge while screaming out in a salty panic. Call me evil, but I’m sure someone did the same thing to me when I jumped in only minutes before. The next victim is our new friend, Mike. He walks up to the ledge and jumps on in. Poor Mike.

After spending several hours in the pool and looking wrinkly beyond belief, we head back to our cabin to prepare for dinner. Our dinner seating is at 8:30pm in Vincent’s Dining Room on Deck 3. Tonight is just a casual seating so we dress neatly and appropriately. The dining room is rather large. Upon estimation, I’d think it could seat maybe 500 people. There is also another dining room above us called Claude’s Dining Room which too has an 8:30pm seating. Both rooms also have an earlier seating of 5:45pm. Since this is our first dinner, we are escorted to table 91; this will remain our dining table for the next four nights. We are at the back of the room right by the kitchen which means super fast service. We are greeted by our waiters who introduce themselves at Ning, our waitress, and Jonathan, our assistant waiter. Both are very lovely and go out of their way to attend to our needs which they soon become very accustom to: a glass of hot water for Jessica upon arrival, no veggies for myself and Mike, plenty of sour dough bread rolls for us all and never ending glasses of lemonade. They are extremely accommodating and apologetic for the tiniest of things. Tonight I order myself a caesar salad for the appetizer and a flat iron steak with garlic butter sauce and a baked potato for my main, which, by the way was super delicious. Dessert is something similar to a chocolate molten lava cake, just without the lava. The inside is deliciously rich and moist. I also enjoy a side of lemon gelato which goes down a treat. Before leaving, Ning tells us that there is breakfast served in the dining room every morning until 9:30am, but since we are youngens she doesn’t expect to see us there. Between you and me, I think ‘young’ is her nice was of saying ‘drunks’.

We have some time to kill before tonight’s planned activities so we head to what soon becomes one of Jessica’s favourite places on board the ship, yes, that’s right, the Casino Royale. To be honest, neither of us really have any clue what we are doing but we each decide to gamble a few harmless dollars. I sit at a slot machine, put in a dollar bill, press the 20 lines by 3 button, and just like that, the machine howls at me and I’ve won $4.27; I am excited beyond belief… that is, until, I play my winnings and lose it all. Ah, such is life. I can’t let this steep loss get to me though, because tonight is 70’s night and we are ready to boogie the night away!

70’s night kicks off at 10:30pm sharp on Deck 3 right out side Vincent’s Dining Room. The entertainment crew come out wearing crazy big afro’s and florescent, vibrant costumes and start dancing away to some Saturday Night Fever. Not before too long, they are pulling guests out onto the dance floor and we’re all getting down. I’m not one to dance while sober, but the music was too good to refuse. The dancing crew jumped into the transparent elevators in front of the dance floor and started riding them up and down while getting their disco dance on inside. Every time a new guest would step foot into the elevator, they’d make them dance around like crazy; it was hilarious. A massive conga line was formed and travelled around Deck 3 and the Village People even made a surprise visit.  If this was the outlook for the next three days then this cruise was going to be amazing!

After 70’s night we made our way over to one of the 18+ clubs on the ship, The Circuit. We head straight to the bar and order ourselves a Bud Light. Beer after beer after beer was consumed. We drank so much that the bar tenders even learned our names and knew what we wanted before we even ordered. Tonight we made many friends while drinking and dancing that, despite knowing yet, we’d bump into many a time throughout the duration of our cruise. We wound down at Sorreno’s Pizza Bar at 3am and somehow made it back to our cabins some time after that and passed out.

Despite only being 12 hours long, day one was nothing short of amazing!

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~ To be continued ~