Monday, February 22, 2016

Enchantment of the Seas and the Bahamas

This was our first cruise and I can say we had a great time and, overall, were very happy with the experience.  That said, most of our vacations since we have been on the road have been to all-inclusive resorts and for us the cruise does not compare to those experiences.  The number one reason was so many kids.  When we go to the Secrets resorts they are adults only.  On this cruise there were over 250 fifteen year old girls from Argentina who were on there quinceanera trip.  This is a celebration of their transition from childhood to young adult.  While they were generally well behaved, they were everywhere. Another big difference was the food.  On the cruise you had the choice of eating in the dining room at an assigned table and time or going to the buffet (not a choice we like) or paying extra for a different restaurant.  The menu included ten or so choices with one or two being different each day and entrees like lobster came with an additional $30.00 charge.  At Secrets there are six or seven restaurants, each with different cuisines, where each menu has ten or so choices and you can eat any time you wish.  Another big difference is the drink selection, even bottled water and pop.  Prices started at $20.00 per person, per day for water and pop up to $60.00 for unlimited alcohol.  On top of this an 18% gratuity was added.  We did the pay as you go plan where a beer was five or six dollars and a glass of wine ranged from seven to twelve dollars.  We did not feel this was too far out of line, but one wine Nanc drank was a brand we purchased in the Keys for $8.00 a bottle and included a 25 cent per gallon fuel discount with the fuel perks card making the real cost about $3.00 a bottle.  That wine was $11.00 a glass on the ship.  Way over priced.   
Our trip started with one of those wow kind of moments.  When we were checking in at the park and cruise lot the clerk asked if I knew Rick Tidball.  I said I did (he's my brother) and was waiting for her to tell me how she knew him.  She proceeded to introduce us and obviously this Rick was not my brother.  As all Tidballs are related Rick has to be a distant cousin.  We talked a bit when we returned and learned he is a native Floridian and his father was not aware of any other Tidballs.  We have only met a couple others in all our travels.
Our ship, Enchantment of the Seas, was built in the mid 1990's and in 2005 the ship was cut in half and a new 72 foot section was added.  There are ten levels which  included five with passenger cabins and one for the crew.  The other decks were all public areas with entertainment venues, bars, and dining.  Another example of something we felt was way overpriced was $150 per person if you wanted a tour of the workings of the ship.  Seems to me they are trying to discourage people from taking an inside look at the ship and it worked for us as we did not take the tour. 
This is one outdoor pool area with hot tubs and a spray area for the kids.  There is also an indoor pool area.  Because the weather was a bit cool and the pool was very crowded with kids, we never put on our bathing suits.  This was another big difference from the Secrets resorts, which all have at least two very large pools.  I understand that that is not possible on a ship.
Since we are only 30 miles from Port Canaveral we got on board early so we could explore the ship and have lunch and a bon voyage toddy.  I was happy they did have a good selection of beer.
A half hour before departure all passengers had to report to their assigned lifeboat muster area to get instructions about what to do in an emergency.  We were thinking this was a good idea after the first night was very rough.  Happy to report that Nanc, who was worried about getting seasick, did fine even without the motion sickness wrist bands she brought along.  
I would say the high point of the on board activities was the music and entertainment.  There was music from early afternoon to late at night.  There were three different bands and a couple of piano players who played at several different spots.  They were all outstanding. 
The second day we were at sea all day and they had many activities to keep us busy.  Of course you can also find a quiet corner to read and soak up the sun.  We opted for a couples massage in the spa and it was wonderful.
Day two was the formal dinner and I got about as dressed up as I do.  There was a big show each evening in the Orpheum Theatre.  One was music and dance from Broadway shows, another was popular music and the last night was a wonderful Farewell show.  The singers and dancers were very, very good. 
The captain and officers were introduced and then the International Parade of Flags was held to show the many nationalities of the crew members who come from over 50 countries.  All the crew was great.  They work seven straight months, seven days a week and then get two months off.
The Centrum was our favorite bar with different entertainment every evening.  One night there was  70's - 80's music, another 50's - 60's, another karaoke, and also jazz.  There was something for everyone at several venues.  The only music they did not have was country. 
When we woke up on day 3 we were in Nassau, Bahamas where we took a historical tour of the city.  Of course there were many places to shop.  Other than a tee shirt for me and a bit of jewelry for Nanc we escaped with our wallets in pretty good shape.
In colonial times the Bahamas were a hot bed of pirate activity so there were three forts to protect the harbor in Nassau.  The tour included stops at two of the three.  This is Fort Fincastle that has this unique ship prow shape on the back side. 
There were only three cannons and a couple mortars in the fort that was built in 1793.  It was on the highest point of the city about 165 feet above sea level. 
To get to the fort the Queen's Staircase was carved from limestone by slaves in 1793 as a short cut.  There are 65 steps that are now covered with bricks.  It's hard to imagine all this work being done by hand.
Fort Charlotte was built in 1783 by the British colonial government.  As with many old buildings in the city it was constructed with limestone.  Of course there are vendors at each stop of the tour.
Three cruise ships and the Atlantis hotel, an upscale hotel and waterpark, from the fort.  Nassau has a small, but deep, harbor where the ships need to turn around either coming in or when they leave.  The two on the right are Royal Caribbean ships and the other is a Carnival ship which came in after we did and left before us.
For those who wanted some beach time this beach is a short walk from the dock.  This was the only time Nanc got in the water.
The final stop was at the Atlantis on Paradise Island.  As you can see this is the playground of the rich and famous.  This is a place where a guy with a 75 foot yacht can be envious of his neighbor's bigger boat.
After the tour we walked around Nassau to check out some things that were pointed out by our guide and browsed the tourist traps.  This is Sir Milo Boughton Butler, a local businessman and politician who held several positions in the government.  When the Bahamas became independent in 1973 he became the first Bahamian Governor-General.
This is the Bahamian Parliament building.  The flag indicates that that branch of the legislature is in session.  The statue of Queen Victoria reflects the Bahamas continuing allegiance to the the British Crown as a member of the Commonwealth.  In per capita gross domestic product the Bahamas is the third richest country in the Americas after the US and Canada.  
WOW, check it out a tropical brewing company that makes great beer.  I enjoyed their IPA and the two for one special for Royal Caribbean customers.  I got Nanc to drink a beer and four beers only cost us $12.00, by far the best deal of the trip.
While I did not know much about Bahamian history I have always admired the picture of the sharply dressed police officers I have seen.  They look great in the neat white tunics and blue slacks.  All that and they are very helpful to the tourist.
Another great headliner show in the Orpheum Theatre was Olympic gymnast Lance Ringnald.  He has combined his gymnastic skills with a comedy routine that was very good.  
While this was supposed to be a free cruise through our vacation club we did upgrade to a room with a view rather than an inside cabin.  At that we were only one deck above steerage where the crew lives.  But we were able to see this from our room as we left Nassau near midnight.  The pilot boat traveled alongside our ship for several miles and then moved in close enough to pick up the pilot who had taken the Enchantment out of the harbor.  Very cool.
Day four was supposed to be a stop at Royal Caribbean's private island, Coco Cay, where passengers would be tendered on a small boat to the island for a day of beach activities.  Great!  Our plan was stay aboard the Enchantment and enjoy the pool without the many kids who would be at the beach.  Bad news!  Strong winds cancelled the stop so it was another day at sea with the kids.  We understand why they cancelled because we talked to a couple in Nassau who had been to Coco the day before and when a storm blew through they spent two hours on the tender bouncing in heavy seas.  Downside, we had another day with kids.  Upside, we had a table with a great view for breakfast. 
The last evening we were treated to a wonderful sunset.  It was a great way to wrap up our first cruise.  While, in our opinion, cruising does not compare to our stays at Secrets resorts, we still enjoyed our time away and a chance to add another country to our list.
That evening the entertainment teams farewell show was great.  They are a very talented group.  Even though we enjoy the all inclusive vacation more than the cruise, we are still looking forward to another cruise in April.  We will be sailing from New Orleans to Central America and Joe and Kathy and Paul and Trudy, who we met at the Elks, are on the same trip.  We are sure it will be a fun time with fun people and it will be interesting to compare cruise lines, as this one will be with Norwegian. 


Chuck and Jan Moore said...

Good job reporting on your cruise. We enjoyed the comparison of the cruise vs. all inclusive. Looking forward to you Norwegian cruise report.
We have done two Norwegian cruises and on Holland America. The food of HA wins hands down. Hugs, the Moores

Ray/Wendy said...

You never know if you don't try, I'm sure will be more fun with friends. We had a good time on our cruise but may do the all inclusive next winter.

Daniel Quinn said...

You two are just so photogenic and a great
looking couple! You still got it!