Monday, September 27, 2010

Cruisin' the Bahamas

This past weekend, Justin and I went on a cruise to Nassau and Coco Cay in the Bahamas. Justin's parent's got this cruise for him as a graduation present, and it could not have come at a better time. Both of us were ready for a much needed break.

We boarded the Royal Caribbean Monarch of the Seas on Friday and immediately started taking advantage of the food :) If you don't drink and don't gamble, the food is the best part of any cruise and there is plenty of it. I was afraid I would over do it and gain back some of the weight I lost, but I am glad to report I weigh the same that I did when we left :)

After our lunch ,we walked the ship while we were waiting to shove off.

A quick view of our boat:
... And the long drop if you fell off the side.

We had fun on our first day, met some fun folks at dinner and had a good rest all leading up to Saturday in Nassau. Since we have both been to Nassau before and did the beachy thing, we decided to do something different first. We grabbed a map and headed toward Fort Fincastle on foot. On our way we had fun looking at all the paintings on the sides of the buildings.

This guy was my favorite :)

And this was Justin's.
This mural was just too cool, we had to take a picture of it.

Also on our way, we passed the First Methodist Church, which is such a neat building.

Incidentally, we passed a large baptist church as well that was a bit further off the beaten path and it was full of people having what sounded like a very spirited funeral service.

Finally we made it to the Fort Fincastle, which was like a very very small version of the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine. The thing that sets this fort apart is its shape, it has a large triangular shaped deck that jets outward. It was designed to look like the front of an oncoming ship.

So we played on the canons.

Went in the powder magazine.
And admired the view, which was very nice, I must say.
Here's the "ship's bow" piece of the fort along with the water tower from the 1920s.
And this is me demonstrating how all American tourists look in the eyes of the Bahamians. I think I did a bit too good of a job in this picture.
This is a statue of Queen Victoria in the town square. This statue sits in the courtyard that connects the senate and court buildings.

And we could not press on without trying some of the local fare, namely Goombay Punch. It was ridiculously sweet and tasted like artificially flavored pineapple and mango. How appropriate.
So, after wandering the town for a few hours, we noticed another interesting destination on the map called The Cloister. I can't resist cloisters, so we grabbed a cab and made our way to Paradise Island.

As you walk up to it, you can't help but say, "What the heck is this doing here?" The Cloister is a medieval structure that was built in Montrejau, France in the 12th & 13th centuries by the Augustinian Order. It was purchased, taken apart, and then reassembled piece by piece on Paradise Island in 1962. If you don't believe me, read this stone:

After you walk through the cloister itself, you can see a stone pathway leading down the hill in step sections, ending at a lovely gazebo.
This is the view from the gazebo.
The gazebo had the coolest iron scroll work ceiling.

This is the view of the ocean from the gazebo. The more time we spent in this quiet, secluded little spot, the more we were convinced that it would make a fantastic wedding location. So, all of you who want a unique place for your destination wedding, this is it. The pictures would be amazing!

We went back up the hill and over to the other side of the cloister and walked through the Versailles gardens. There were still ponds full of lily pads and water lilies.

And in between each section of stairs was some type of statue.
This one caught my eye because of the knights carved into the side, but when you look closer...
You can see it's an old sun dial. Unfortunately most of the writing has worn away (it was in latin anyway) and someone has taken the actual angled piece you tell time with, but it was still cool.
More statues.

This was one of the ponds.
And a statue of Psyche and Amore.

This one was technically on the property of this very exclusive resort that butts up to the Versailles gardens. Ironically, their pool is just to the left.
I love the root structures of these trees.

So,o after we had our fill of medieval art and architecture, we made our way to Cabbage beach, which turned out to be very secluded and empty. Most of the people there were locals, some who brought their dogs. Once we set foot on the cornmeal-esk sand, Justin noticed a large rock jetting out from the shoreline and we began our trek toward it. We walked and walked and walked, but it was worth it to see all the creatures who chose to make this rock their home.
This was prime time to test out Justin's new b-day present: The Panasonic Lumix TS2 Tough Cam :) It can go underwater 33 feet, be dropped from 6 feet, withstand 200 lbs of pressure and 14 degrees Fahrenheit.

Yes, it's a miracle. I was in the water! :)
We were quite fascinated by these urchins.

And anemones. Justin kept trying to get me to touch one and when I finally did, it sucked all the fronds up into itself so quickly I thought it was going to suck my finger in with it.

These two urchins were the best shot. Good job to Justin for taking such a crisp shot under water and in a pretty powerful tide current.

During out little snorkeling exhibition, we not only found shells and sea glass but 3 pairs of sunglasses (one of which is a pair of real Chanels, but they unfortunately were in the water for a very long time), a large piece of astro-turf-like carpet, and the plastic diving step off of a boat. The carpet was a bit of a let down. Justin thought it was a burlap bag and managed through his determination to go hold his breath and use all of his might to pull the piece out of the sand. I wish I had a picture of it, it was great :)

So, after about 3 hours of snorkeling, we made our way back to the ship and got ready for our formal dinner night.
Don't we look crazed?
After dinner, we went to the show which was El Gaucho, the amazing Uruguayan guitarist, pianist, and bolo swinger. He was actually very good, probably the best show I've ever seen on a cruise. After El Gaucho, we went onto the deck for the Set Sail Party and midnight buffet :)

I couldn't help but take a picture of this guy. He was a bread decoration on the bread table. I am now determined to make all my breads look like him in the future.

After having a few very unhealthy snacks and watching the drunk people shake their groove things on the edge of the pool deck (and waiting with baited breath for one of them to fall in), we got some rest so we could enjoy our next day at Coco Cay.

Coco Cay is Royal Caribbean's private island, which seems to be synonymous with "Nothing to do unless you pay us more money." We aren't much of the excursion type, since on every island you can find the same tours and activities from a local in the port for half the price the ship wants to charge you. Unfortunately, there is no competition on a private island. So, we brought our snorkels and tried to find a fairly deserted stretch of beach.

Once in the water, we soon discovered why there were so few people in that area:
Mushroom Jelly Fish. We must have seen about 15 of them randomly as we hunted the ocean floor for shells that we technically weren't supposed to take. I saw a gigantic sting ray a little ways off from me, and Justin found a conch shell with a live conch inside (which we willingly put back in the ocean - the whole shell, not just the naked conch). We swam for about an hour and then decided to head back.

On the tender boat back in, we took a few more photos:

We ended up sleeping more when we got back (surprise, surprise) and then prepped for our final dinner. After our tasty meal, we came back to find this little guy in our cabin.
A cruise just isn't a cruise without towel animals :)
And the goofy pictures you take with them :)
We had a wonderful time on our mini-vaca. Since Justin is having back surgery this Friday, it came just in the nick of time as he will be pretty much down for the count for at least a month. Now we are home resting from our rest so we can be ready for work tomorrow. I wish we could just be on vacation forever. Wouldn't that be nice?