Sunday, April 13, 2008

Home, Tanned and Rested

We are returned from our week long cruise to the Bahamas and back, and I must say that I was entirely satisfied with the experience. The NCL "freestyle cruising" really appeals to me, and I enjoyed the flexibility and not having to dress up. There were lots of great aspects of the cruise, not the least of which was the food and drink. The shows were first rate and had variety. I did an improv workshop with some of the Second City folks who were part of the entertainment. Our stateroom was conveniently located and comfortable. The crew was friendly and helpful without being obsequious (some of the passengers were looking for more obsequiousness).

Our excursions were fun. The Kennedy Space Center was pretty cool, and we got to go very close to the launch pads. I now know why the launch pads are so far away from the Vehicle Assembly Building. If they were any closer, people would be killed during launches. My only disappointment was that there was very little on display about the Orion and Constellation programs coming up in the near future. The tours at NASA are a brillinat public relations tool. If the IRS had tours, maybe they wouldn't be so unpopular. I found out that the Saturn V that I used to drool over at Huntsville was not a real Saturn V, just a mock up used to measure stuff, but I have now seen a real Saturn V at the Space Center.

In Nassau, we went snorkeling with sea scooters on a reef off Atholl Island. The reef formations were spectacular, and there were plenty of beautiful fish. And the sea scooter makes getting around entirely effortless. We also took a carriage ride around town. We also snorkeled off the NCL private island at Great Stirrup Cay, but the reef there is not developed and there wasn't as much variety in the fauna. In Freeport, we did the obligatory shopping trip but only spent about $25.

While we saved our money on land, we were free with it on board the ship. We had a number of spa treatments and did not avoid the specialty restaurants that had cover charges. We would buy wine with dinner and visit the wine bar, and I worked very hard at staying liquored up at the poolside bar or in one of the several lounges. We bought almost every picture taken of us, mainly because we kept forgetting to bring our camera anywhere. Drinks were very expensive.

By the pools, which were very warm and which were especially fun to swim in when they sloshed around, there was usually a band playing and it was a party atmosphere. The weather was cooperative every day, so we spent a lot of time on the sun deck, liming and reading our books and magazines and sipping Cuba Libres.

I made some observations about my countrymen on the ship. Americans really are tubbies. I'm a fat guy myself, but many of the passengers made me feel downright svelte in comparison. About 10% of my countrymen are huge whiners and complainers who seem to enjoy kvetching. They managed to find fault with everything and always had sour expressions on their faces. These same people were also huge cheapskates and seemed to think that everything should be free. If you didn't drink and ate at the dining rooms without cover charges, you could hold on to your money.

I was gratified to encounter many parents (there were lots of families with kids of all ages on the cruise) who are not total nudgenicks and who have well behaved kids. Then again, this group was self selected, and I suppose that overly protective parents and those with bad kids don't take their kids on cruises.

Everwhere we went on the ship, we were encouraged to use hand sanitizer provided in automatic dispensers. I was told that this was to help prevent the illnesses that have plagued some cruise ships from time to time.

An episode of "What Not to Wear" was being taped on the ship and set on the cruise, so we caught glimpses of the hosts and the make up artist from that show.

We hope to take another cruise next winter from New York to the Caribbean. Not having to fly was huge, and we were able to park right at the pier.

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