November 15, 2013 is a day that I will long remember. This was the day that I really felt that I was retired! My cousin Betty and I armed with cameras, suitcases, and various and sundry items boarded the ship Victory bound for the Eastern Caribbean. This was only my second cruise, but for Betty it was her very first.
I was excited to be cruising again, this time as an officially retired person. After all, that was what I told myself I would be doing every chance that I got the moment I retired! I had been planning for this day seemly forever and at last the day had arrived. My cousin Betty was apprehensive, and totally scared as we stood on the deck and watched the shoreline slowly moving away.
I am fascinated by the ocean. I have always lived close to oceans, lakes, and other bodies of water though I must confess a secret- I cannot swim! My two children have heard me say year after year since they were growing up, that I am going to lean to swim “this year”. Of course I am still making that statement though another year has come and gone!
I must say that cruising is in my mind one of the best ways to see the world, and to enjoy God’s creation. I encourage every retiree to make plans to cruise as soon as possible. As a nurse,I have even had fleeting moments wishing that I could work on board a cruise ship. I did not make this a reality however, because I am sure that I would miss my family and friends since I would be gone for months at a time.
As the ship moved slowly away from the dock, the feeling of peace that came over me was indescribable! The first day at sea was glorious. Lots of sun, blue skies, and an ocean so calm, peaceful, and tranquil. As we relaxed out on deck and felt the warm rays of the sun, and the gentle swaying of the ship, I felt that all of my troubles were miles away.
One of the highlights of cruising is of course the food! Every imaginable kind of food is served almost 24 hours per day. The “Lido deck” had an extensive buffet with an international array of cuisines vying for my attention. All the things that I had been staying away from – pies, cakes, cookies, seemed to be calling me- begging me to go all out and just splurge!! I must tell you that I had to remind myself of the promises I had made to myself before coming on board- that I would not throw caution to the wind- at least not on the first day! My cousin and I ate sumptuously in one the elaborately decorated dining rooms on board. The service was impeccable, and the choices were too numerous to describe. This was the life!
Our first port of call was Grand Turk (Turks and Caicos Islands). The people were friendly, and the weather was sweltering hot. As we toured the area through narrow and bumpy roads, I realized that this was a beautiful island which had some buildings that were in much need of repairs. Our tour guide kept us laughing when he said that the bumpy roads were nothing but a massage that we were getting! There were several donkeys that are allowed to roam freely on the island. I learned that at one time salt was a commodity that was exported, and the donkeys pulled carts of salt to the ships waiting at the port. Children are allowed to ride them, and lasso them for entertainment. I was happy to purchase a beautifully hand crafted bag to remind me of my trip to this beautiful island.
The next day, the ship docked at a private island owned by the cruise line. As I looked out of my port hole, I was somewhat puzzled as to how we would get from the ship to the island, because our ship was docked so far away from the land. I found out later that we would be taxied from the ship to the island in small, open, glass bottomed boats. Each boat carried approximately 200 passengers. I said a prayer as I climbed from our huge ship, across a swaying “gangplank” unto this smaller boat. We were on an adventure!
We arrived at the island within ten minutes. I could see our ship looming far away in the distance. As we arrived on the island, we were greeted by staff from the ship who had been transported to the island earlier that morning. They had made preparations for our arrival. The island was beautifully arranged with tropical foliage, and all of the amenities of a lush secluded paradise! There was a beach with white sand, and many passengers already horseback riding, swimming, or snorkeling. Of course there was a bountiful feast prepared for our enjoyment-all you can eat barbecued ribs, chicken, hamburgers, and hot dogs, and many other delights.
I felt content as I took off my sandals and walked in the warm, turquoise water. At the end of the day, we made our way back to the swaying boat, and made an even more nerve racking trip back to the ship. I again prayed fervently as we waited for our turn to climb back on to the swaying “gangplank” and very gladly made it safely back on board our ship.
My cousin and I were eagerly anticipating the next port of call which was Nassau. I had great plans in mind to visit Atlantis! I had seen so many reports about this famous place. If you visit Nassau, this is a must see! Before we could get to Nassau and Atlantis however, we had to travel through some rough seas. Our ship was rocking and swaying all night! We were in the middle of really rough weather. I said my prayers that night, got into my bed, and tried to sleep, all the while believing in God’s keeping care as we rocked from side to side. Thankfully, things became calm just about 2:00 am.
I was really delighted when I was able to disembark in Nassau. I was thrilled to look at the turquoise water on either side as I walked from the ship to the dock. There was a buzz of activity as we tried to locate suitable transportation to take us to Atlantis which is located on Paradise Island, which was not very far from the dock. There were so many taxi drivers, tour guides, and passengers all speaking as loudly as possible! I had received strict instructions from my son before we left home about where to go, what to see, and what to avoid!
Finally, we made it to Atlantis! It looked just as I had imagined. We made our way through underground tunnels with numerous exotic fish, huge sharks, and beautiful flora and fauna. This is a depiction of the reportedly lost city of Atlantis that is submerged beneath the sea many moons ago. This lost civilization was reported as having sophisticated communication, and even space like travel capabilities. Very interesting! As we roamed around the exhibits with the help of our travel guide, Mary, it was clear to me that this was a place that I would recommend to my family and friends.
I was very daring as I suggested to my cousin that we should cross the swaying rope bridge that crossed over a lake filled with alligators! It was quite an adventure as we held on to the ropes as the bridge moved from side to side. I was very thankful when we made it over safely. I am not sure that I would do this again!
That afternoon we took a taxi to a local restaurant called Fish Fry. We ate fresh conch sandwiches, and other local delicacies. Our taxi trip back to the ship was memorable. I really got a glimpse of how the people live in Nassau as we able to go through the very busy downtown, and some residential areas. The people were friendly and warm. Of course, tourism is big in Nassau, so there were many shops with local made clothing, trinkets and other items. Quite a shopping mecca!
As we made our way back to the ship, a lady from the Nassau tourist board interviewed me about my stay on the island. She wanted to know what I thought about the friendliness of the people, also where I ate, and what I bought. I was happy to give her a positive report, and I promised to return someday soon.
Have you ever traveled to Atlantis? I would love to hear about your most memorable vacation.