By Jim Ferri
I write and travel and, unfortunately, my wife doesn’t always travel with me. We both have our own long days and weeks and even at home one of us is often working late, which is wearing and not good for a relationship (her: “I’ve only seen you for three days this month!”).
Two weeks ago we decided to attack the problem head on. Our plan: do nothing. For a few days we would just vegetate and recharge.
Neither one of us wanted to stay home so the best solution seemed to be a weekend-getaway cruise. While I was away in June Marjorie booked us on Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas on a cruise out of Miami to Coco Key, one of those little Bahamian islands all the lines seem to share, and then on to Nassau before returning to Florida.
We didn’t want to have to lift a finger and planned to stay onboard in ports we visited while everyone else went ashore. We’d have the ship, the deck chairs, the bartender, et al, to ourselves.
What a way to recharge, we thought. Nirvana at sea. I could finish Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, which I’ve been reading in dribs and drabs forever, and Marjorie could delve into another book she’d been eyeing.
This past Friday we boarded the ship early to avoid the crowds. But I still found the boarding process trying and after only 15 minutes was already thinking that airport security lines really weren’t that bad. We finally did get to our cabin though and met Ketut, our stateroom attendant, who turned out to be great for our entire trip. We dumped our luggage and set out to find chairs on a secluded deck.
While Marjorie was engrossed in a book, that first afternoon didn’t go well for me. I had brought along a wrong connector so wasn’t able to transcribe some material I had planned (I know, veg-out but bring work along?) so I read several magazines on my iPad before heading back to our cabin to relax before dinner.
The next morning after we watched the little ferries shuttling passengers off to Coco Key we headed for deck chairs near the now quiet pool, thinking this was to be our time to relax with a good book. But it wasn’t meant to be. I never opened the Jobs’ book, instead falling prey to the semi-tropical sun and the comfort of the lounge chair. Marjorie did a little better, getting through part of her book before succumbing, as well.
On Sunday morning we decided to go ashore in Nassau since we both had already become bored with onboard life. Right after breakfast we left the ship and were immediately set upon by a swarm of vendors in the little cruise terminal.
We pushed our way through and headed for the ubiquitous straw market where we roamed about for perhaps 10 minutes before deciding to wander off on the local streets and then towards the Queen’s Steps. The Steps were carved from limestone to honor Queen Victoria and with its canopy of trees turned out to be a little oasis after the 20-minute walk from downtown in the July sun.
The steps led up to the old landmark water tower and miniscule Fort Fincastle, one of several built in the early 18th century to protect the islands from Spain, France, the U.S. and marauding pirates in the area. The small fort was ringed with blooming bright-red Royal Poinciana trees and a string of tourist kiosks selling more of the same things we had seen down at the port.
Marjorie, walking about 20 yards ahead of me, motioned she was going behind the kiosks, where we found five men building the frame for a large sign. Deyanza, who appeared to be supervising the little group, told us that he and his brothers would be putting it on top of the water tower for Independence Day.
We had passed many buildings downtown that were festooned with the black, turquoise and gold bunting of the national flag as everyone got ready for Independence Day, only three days off. The 40th-anniversary celebration seemed important for many Bahamians and Deyanza gave us a two-minute overview of Bahamian history.
During our chit-chat we learned he was retired and in his 70’s, and in a month would be off to Miami to take another cruise with his wife to Europe. They do quite a bit of traveling and he told us they had spent 10 days in Russia a few years ago, and recently cruised from Venice through the Greek islands. He was a typical Bahamian: very kind, funny, outgoing and welcomed having his picture taken.
After leaving Deyanza we decided that before lunch we’d go back to the port and find a taxi to take us to Atlantis, so we could see the huge hotel complex on Paradise Island. Pushing through the throng of taxi touts once again, we finally found one that charged only four dollars each. The catch was that we had to wait a half hour to get enough people to fill his minivan.
We only spent a few minutes wandering through the lobby of the colossal hotel before being turned away from the pools and beach area by a guard, and directed to the public beach a five-minute walk down the road. Although it shares the same sand as Atlantis, the entrance to the private beach was a bit scuzzy and also forced us to walk the gauntlet hawking towels, chairs, umbrellas, Cokes and beer. Since we had only come for a view of the hotel property (which we couldn’t get from this beach), we decided to find a taxi and instead head for lunch at the Poop Deck Restaurant, a dining mecca for locals and tourists. Everyone, it seemed, loved its seafood and its setting on the marina.
There’s nothing like a cold beer on a hot day and right off we ordered two locals, quickly followed by an order of Yellow-Tail Snapper and Mahi Mahi. For desert we split a piña-colada cake, a large cupcake infused with pineapple juice and coconut rum covered with icing and pineapple chunks. The meal was delicious.
When leaving we found we weren’t the only ones who sought out the popular restaurant since on its walls were menu covers signed by the famous who had visited… John Kennedy Jr., Sean Connery, Brooke Shields and about 50 others whose signatures I couldn’t decipher.
Ironically, during our veg-out vacation it was lunch at the Poop Deck and our time wandering Nassau that we enjoyed the most – just opposite of what we had planned. That was probably because our cruise, even though it had many 50+ onboard, was geared more to a 20- and 30-ish crowd and a booze- and party-atmosphere. We sought solitude but instead found a level of raucousness we consistently encountered, even on our way to dinner (but not during it, thank God).
I finally overcame it by listening to music on my phone while slumbering on my deck chaise.
Unfortunately, though, I still haven’t reopened that Steve Jobs book. It’s now back on the shelf awaiting Veg-Out II.
If you go:
1050 Caribbean Way
Miami, FL 33132
Tel: (866) 562-7625
Bahamas Ministry of Tourism
1200 S Pine Island Road
Plantation, FL 33324
Tel: (800) 224-3681