The real vacation started with the shuttle from the hotel. Anyone cruising out of Miami should fly in the night before and stay at a hotel that offers a free shuttle to the port. The hotel we used, La Quinta, offers a free shuttle from the airport to the hotel and a free shuttle from the hotel to the port. The normal cost for a taxi is $24 from the airport to the port. We only paid $70 for the hotel. Taking away the $24 we would have spent anyway leaves just $46 for the hotel.
By taking the first shuttle to the port (at 10AM), we breezed through checking in. Norwegian Cruise Lines allows/requires passengers to check in online. The process was painless.
We took a seat in a huge waiting room until the boat was cleaned/empty. The previous cruise ended at 7AM. The passengers were off by 10AM. After about 30 minutes we were walking onto the ship.
The crew offered up free champagne....nice touch. We then wandered up to the pool deck and were one of the first to enjoy the buffet. The food was very nicely prepared and tasted great. I was initially worried about missing soft drinks. The cruise offers free water, tea, coffee and juice (in the morning only). An unlimited soft drink plan was $6.25 a day. Turns out between coffee, beer and mojitos....I didn't miss soft drinks at all.
We explored the ship and by 2PM our room was ready.
The room was small, but fine for the two of us. We had an interior "superior" stateroom. The "superior" part meant we had a seating area in addition to a desk. The room was much larger than the last cruise I went on over 10 years ago.
Our bags had not yet arrived. We checked them with a porter once we arrived at the port. No big deal.
We left our room and explored some more. I had a decent bloody mary on the rear deck.
Around 4:30PM we attended the mandatory emergency evacuation drill. I take emergency drills very seriously. There have been countless evacuations where passengers die because they didn't know what to do or follow instructions. At our drill were a bunch of twenty somethings joking around and not listening. One tried to light up a cigarette. I quickly advised him smoking was not allowed during the drill. Idiots.
Once done we headed to the top of the boat to watch our departure from the port. There were three cruise ships all leaving at the same time. Once we were in open water Kelli and I settled into the casino.
That evening Kelli REALLY wanted to play Bingo. I grudgingly went along.
She bought a package that included a few paper cards, several electronic cards and more. We didn't win.
Afterwards we gambled a little more before eating dinner at the buffet and calling it a night.
Saturday morning we walked off the ship just after 8 AM. I have been to Nassau on vacation 3 times. The most recent time was a little over 10 years ago. A lot has changed.
The port is very organized and easy to move around. Gone are the days of being assaulted with offers from street vendors and being ripped off by taxis. The vendors are all licensed and polite. The taxi fares are all set by the tourism board.
We decided to walk around and explore. Being early not much was open. We did take a walk through the straw market.
The stores were just opening. The aisles were very narrow and the Bahamian woman running the stores were very wide. Kelli saw some things she liked but waited till later to buy.
We walked a bit more past many historical buildings. After another hour or so of walking around we took a taxi to the Atlantis hotel and resort.
The Atlantis is a very nice hotel. The prices they charge versus what you get in return is very skewed in their favor. On some travel sites they have really low room prices. The catch is these rooms are in the VERY old tower that are not nice at all. This is akin to the really cheap rooms at Circus Circus in Vegas...the rooms at low prices are no where near the real hotel.
We walked around and ended up outside near a huge aquarium. They had the largest Sting-rays Kelli had ever seen. We walked around the outside of the aquarium trail (only those who pay a ridiculous $35 fee can walk on the inside path) until we reached the end. Even on the outside we were able to see some amazingly large animals. Along the way we came across a group of young girls who were going snorkeling in the aquarium along with a hotel guide. There is no way I would pay to get in a tank with Stingrays, Sharks and more. That's how white people die.
We left the aquarium and went back downtown. For lunch we ate at a restaurant I first ate at over 10 years ago. The food was decently priced and tasty.
The straw market was our next stop. Kelli bought two small purses for our nieces. They are hand stitched purses with 'Dora' from the Dora the Explorer series. Several vendors had them...some good...some bad. Each one is unique.
I bought some alcohol and found and Internet cafe. They only charged $0.10 a minute. We each spent a whole $1. With my Internet fix taken care of we made our way back to the boat.
That night we at dinner at a steakhouse on board. The view was beautiful. Our reservation was for 5:30PM. Since I am always early....we were early. We spent a few minutes outside the restaurant enjoying the view.
The boat left the dock right as we sat down. We watched Nassau fade away and the sunset while eating a very nice dinner.
That covers the first part of the trip. More later.
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