Planning a vacation is easy! Right? Wrong. During the middle of a pandemic, planning a nice trip can be a nightmare at most, and trying, at least. It took three attempts to actually go on the cruise we tried to plan. It wasn’t easy for the cruise line either. Carnival Cruise (our cruise line) had to change the cruise itinerary because of docking restrictions, so our Eastern Caribbean cruise became a Bahamas cruise.
The situation was looking up in May of 2021, though that didn’t last as the Delta variant came in July. Though planning a cruise seemed like a good idea, cruise lines had hurdles to jump over to be able to open. We were planning a cruise to be part of my fortieth birthday celebration. The cruise would actually leave on my birthday, and we would cruise for a week. The cruise line would actually put up some decorations (we had to bring our own balloons), and bring a small cake from their candy shop that my parents ordered in advance. The cruise was canceled. We rescheduled it for a month later around the same time. Same issue. Finally, we scheduled it again in September. This time we were able to go!
Going on cruises now involves additional red tape. A couple of days before setting sail, the people cruising need to provide a negative Covid-19 test. The ship does not provide the tests. In our case, we sent for home test kits, five in total. We wanted extras in case we would mess up because we would not have had time to replace them. They were a special type of test that had to be ordered.
Before the cruise we needed to perform these tests. To use the self-administered tests, the person needs to install an app on their phone. Using the app, they dial up the tech who will be watching you take the test. They give you the instructions, and it’s your job to follow them, though they are tricky to follow. Also, they need to see you at all times during the test, which involves swabbing your nose several times. A suspenseful fifteen minutes follows before getting the results. If only one pink line shows, such as it did for us; we were negative for Covid. We printed off the results. Our record of vaccination was also required for the cruise.
The day of the cruise, Dad drove us to the pier in Baltimore with our record of vaccination, and our negative Covid-19 test results. Upon entering the ship area, people were required to mask-up. Exceptions were in the state rooms, and while sitting with food and or drink. Also, for reference the ship was only filled to sixty percent capacity; and at least ninety-five percent of the people on the ship were vaccinated. The ship itself felt safe to me. Given the statistics, I think my feeling was correct. This was the third Covid-free cruise since they reopened (I am assuming the one we were on was as well.)
Mustering was easier this time. Though some times, we could watch their safety demonstration from an auditorium, other times in the past we had to stand outside with our life jackets in a large crowd and strain our ears to hear what they were saying. Not this time. Everyone was still required to muster, but they did so in small groups, and they took our photo as proof we were there. The demonstration was quick and to the point. It could be done at any time before the ship took off. We were in a group of our own.
We were in state room 7298. We were in the aft of the ship. For the first time, we had a large wrap around balcony. It offered great views of the water, as well as the ship’s wake. Four chairs (two lounge and two normal) and a small table were on the balcony. It was primarily quiet, save the noise of the water. The state room was decorated for my belated birthday. They had a banner, and several hanging decorations. A chocolate mousse cake from Cherry on Top (their candy store) was also awaiting me.
Mom and I went out onto the balcony that evening. We saw several lighted objects in the water. A tug boat was following our ship helping to navigate it into the open water. Buoys were also lit up. The combination of green, red, and blue lights reminded me of Christmas lights, only in the water in September. We sailed under the Bay Bridge. A green light told the ship where it was safe to go under the bridge. The traffic on the bridge seemed to stop as the ship was approaching. It was dark by now.
The design of the stateroom made the set up similar to home for sleeping. Usually on vacations, whether at hotels or on cruise ships, all our beds are close together so I sleep better, then at home. Here I was in a separate room from my parents so it felt like home. I had rituals! I had a different set of “touching” rituals. Instead of making sure my desk light had empty space surrounding it on all sides, I wanted to make sure my computer, phone, and extension cord weren’t touching each other. Because of heavy use of the computer and phone; I thought they would be too hot to safely touch each other. I also had trouble getting the lights to turn off. The only thing I seemed to be able to get the lights to do was dim. Or here is an interesting problem, sometimes instead of turning the lights off, I would actually turn a set on that previously hadn’t been on. The first night I slept with dimmed lights behind me as that was the best I could do. The night that they were the ones above my head, I had to keep playing with them until they went off, so that I could sleep.
The next day was the first of two consecutive sea days. When one leaves from Baltimore, it takes longer to reach the destination, but it means we don’t have to fly. In the afternoon my dad and I went to a quiet location to talk, while Mom rested. I had a Sam Adams beer while Dad had wine. At the bar was a man playing acoustic guitar, and singing. Wait a minute, I know those songs. While we were waiting for our drinks, he played two country songs from the year 1994. You know you are starting to get old when songs from the nineties are played on a cruise ship.
The second night was also the first of two formal nights. Formal nights are a pain, as I’m not a big fan of dressing up. The good news, is that they tend to have good food that night. Tonight, was no exception. They offered lobster tails. Also on the menu was a meal that came with a side of peas which are my favorite vegetable. The lobster came with broccoli which I do not like at all. I asked if I could have peas (since I knew they had them) instead of the broccoli. They agreed. When the meal came out, they brought me two sides of peas to go with my lobster. The peas also were served with a few small potatoes. Later during the meal, the waiter stopped by, and offered a second lobster tail. The dining room was fixed up that evening. They had a decorative star fish in the center of the table.
The next day was another sea day. The Mermaid’s Grill which is the buffet on the Lido Deck had been modified. The buffet style options including fish seem to have disappeared. What the ship did offer was extra stands offering specialized foods. They had a Chinese stand that became a favorite.
Dad and I played chess in the afternoon. I won the game.
That evening we went to David’s Steakhouse for supper. It was above the Mermaid’s Grille, up a set of glass, spiral steps. I had trouble climbing them as I was afraid, I would fall. While at the steakhouse, I learned a better way of climbing and descending steps such as these. All steps are made to a certain dimension and height. They are calibrated to a person’s stride. If one would step normally while on steps, they would always land on the next step. I tried this technique, and had less trouble descending the steps. We also visited the shops on the ship. I looked at the candy store, but only bought candy the next day due to being full.
September 29th, was an early day. We reached our first port Bimini, which is a very small island in the Bahamas. The ship doesn’t normally stop there, but did this time due to some port closures because of the pandemic. The island was basically made up of a straw market, a few other shops, some beaches, and some hotels. A noisy tram connected the ship with the beaches. We “toured” the island using the tram. It wasn’t my favorite as the tram had music blaring. It didn’t even seem to be island music. They did have a pastel green house that I enjoyed seeing, and we rode by it two times. After finishing the lackluster “tour”, we decided to go souvenir hunting. The small set of shops on the tram route didn’t have much. We learned about a straw market, which is where most of the shopping was. We took a taxi there, and shopped for a while. Though they didn’t have much, we did buy a few things including a green T-shirt. Oh, by the way, in case you were wondering, in the Bahamas masks are required, with the exception of the beach in Half-Moon Cay, which is owned by the cruise line.
Another major discovery was made on the cruise ship. Since Carnival recently switched to Pepsi products, they offered Mountain Dew Zero sugar. This was a great discovery as I had the Bottomless Bubbles program, the ship offered, which was a one-time fee for endless soda on board! They also had Pepsi Zero Sugar as well. Since I would get soda every night at supper in the dining room, our waiters soon remembered, and brought my dad and I each a soda automatically after we entered for supper.
We left Bimini at a relatively early time for our next stop, Half Moon Cay. This day we had a real excursion. Half Moon Cay is a pristine beach with turquoise water. The beach is in the shape of a crescent moon which is how it received its name. The island is owned by Holland America and Carnival Cruise Lines. The island technically is Little San Salvador, though I’ve never heard it called by that name. Mom loves Half Moon Cay. She thinks it looks like what Heaven might be like.
Our excursion was having a private cabana for the entire time we were there. The cabanas are open structures where a person can relax and look at the beach. Since these structures are on the beach, people can also go back and forth to the water as they please. The Bahamian cabanas were in different bright colors. When I discovered this, I was hoping that we’d get a green one. Mom made the arrangements for the excursion and the form only had a place to select the cabana by location i.e., by its number. Mom saw the green cabana as well, and didn’t say anything. By sleuthing she had tried to pick the cabana she thought was the green one, but didn’t say anything in case she was wrong. The day of, I saw the green cabana in person. It appeared we were heading towards it! What chance was it that it would be ours? I knew the number of our cabana was number 10. Number ten was…….Green! We had the green cabana. It was stocked with munchies including tropical fruits, vegetables, tortilla chips, dips, and oranges besides several prepicked sodas a person plus water. We spent the morning relaxing and enjoying the view from the structure. It also had a fan, an outside shower, a fridge, and A.C.!
Mom and I went to the beach after a barbecue lunch. We got in the warm water in the shallow end of the ocean while Dad enjoyed reading and napping in the cabana. The waves were strong! They could knock you around. I used my feet to hold me in place, while Mom had to fight the waves to keep from falling on her bottom. We laughed constantly as we tried to stay up. Island themed music was playing quietly in the background. It came from a variety of styles, including Country. Yes, there was music with an island feel that also featured steel guitars. A young man nearby on the beach spontaneously started to sing, “Do You Want to Build a Sand Man?” as a pun on the Disney Frozen, tune (“Do You Want to Build a Snowman?”) That was pretty cool.
That evening at the dining room I ordered lobster as a treat from David’s Steakhouse. Nearly everyone on the ship had each received $200 dollars to spend onboard as repayment for having their previous cruise canceled. I chose to use some of mine to upgrade to a lobster. As a dessert that night they served apple pie with ice cream, which is one of the desserts that I had been waiting for on the cruise.
On the way back to our room we met our room attendant, Joner (pronounced Joan-air) in the hallway. We found out that he was from Sumatra in Indonesia. I asked him about tigers as I knew they lived there. True to the information on the internet, tigers do leave people alone as long as the people face them. Joner has heard plenty of roaring and seen numerous tigers when he was back home. He said it’s the primates to watch out for. People train them to be thieves. They will use their fingers to steal valuables. When the thieves return, the animals relinquish their finds to them. Very sneaky!
The next stop was at Freeport, and another early day. The ship arrived early and everyone had to be back onboard by 1:00 PM. I guess it was to prepare for the long trip back to Baltimore. It took two days to go from there to the Bahamas, but we only had part of that day and one sea day to get back. We didn’t have anything special planned for Freeport, but decided to go to the line of shops by the ship. From the ship it looked like they didn’t have many shops. Looks are deceiving. They had many shops, and we didn’t have time to look at them all. We found the rest of our souvenirs there. I got several green T-shirts, Mom got a magnet to put on our stateroom wall, and Dad got a small desk clock as well as frog wind chimes. We also got something for Dave.
That evening was the second formal night. They had filet mignon as one of their offerings. When they brought the bread, they brought me two of the cranberry breads.
The last day was another sea day, and a day to wrap everything up. I used the rest of my $200 on board credit. I played another chess game with Dad, which I also won. That evening, they culminated their desserts with baked Alaska. They had two interesting appetizers that night including a peach soup. Peach soup is a blob of cold peaches with cream poured in the dish. It’s sweet.
Mom and I went back out to the balcony that evening. When we went out initially, we saw one star. After looking more closely, the “star” was discovered to be the planet Venus, the brightest celestial body in the night sky other than the moon. As our eyes adjusted to the darkness, the sky filled with stars. We also saw a number of red and green lights out in the water. A strange boat-like thing was out there. I’m not sure what it was, but I believe it had to do with the ship being close by land. I remember trying to guess which state of the United States we were lined up with in the ocean (or in other words how close to Baltimore we were.)
The next day, we arrived back at Baltimore, and disembarked as usual. One thing to note is that, the ship reached the port later than what we were used to, I guess it was because of the time required to reach it from Freeport.
So as the reader can surmise, it is possible to cruise well albeit safely during the pandemic. Some changes had to be made as can be expected, but it didn’t stop cruise lines from opening back up and running safe operations. We finally embarked on our cruise planned for the end of June, though months later.
For those people who want to read more of my blog go to URL www.tomstidbits.net. By the way, I was sick for a while, thus the hiatus. I am mostly better now, and the blog is up and running again. Feel free to go back and read any older blogs that you may have missed!