Friday, December 20, 2013

2013 Dec. mother/daughter Carnival Freedom 4 nt Bahamas cruise: Grand Bahamas; Nassau

Since Angie was coming back to St. Louis for her cousin's wedding on Nov. 23rd, staying for Thanksgiving the next week, and for the long weekend after Thanksgiving, she decided to drive up from Ft. Lauderdale with her 2 dogs.  Josh was smart and flew up and back over Thanksgiving.  Having nothing better to do, I asked if she wanted company for the ride back (other then the 2 dogs).  She said sure, so I rode back with her.  We tried to stop a little past Atlanta, but the hotel we planned to go to was gone, so we called Ken and asked him to hit the internet and find us a dog friendly hotel.  It was already about midnight and we got caught in road construction for about an hour with no way to exit the highway.  We finally made it to the Florida border about 2 am and ended up staying in the same hotel Ken, Roxy and I stayed in the year before.  Not the nicest of places, but relatively cheap and they allowed dogs.  All in all, Murphy and Molly were good travelers.  They didn't sleep much in the hotel, but Angie did get a little break from driving.  Unfortunately, I'm not a long distance driver.  I usually start falling asleep after about 2 hours of driving.  With 20 hours driving time to their home in Coral Springs (by Ft. Lauderdale), it was an exhausting drive/ride for all of us.

Are we there yet?!

 Murphy using poor Molly as a pillow whenever he could get away with it.
About 2 weeks before her trip out, we were joking about going on a short cruise during the week I would be there.  Joking turned to  checking out cruises.  We found 1 that fit perfectly and went to 2 Bahamas islands.  So we booked it.  Not a bad deal at $198@ for 4 nights (about $235 with port taxes and fees), plus I was able to get a $50 onboard credit for owning CCL stock and cruising on Carnival.  So we pretty much rested up the day after we got to her home.  The next day, we met Josh for lunch.  He dropped us off at the port, and away we went. 
The first day was spent exploring our new home for the next 4 nights.  We had booked the cheapest category room at the very front of the ship (interior upper/lower which meant bunk beds) as a guarantee, but were upgraded to an interior 2 lower beds in the middle of the ship--cabin 1291.  It wasn't the suites I'd been getting accustomed to and I missed the verandah, but we didn't spend much time in the room and it was quiet and very little motion was felt there.

 Weird bathroom picture!

We did some exploring before the muster drill.
The water slide.
 Looking towards the large outdoor theatre screen.  They played a couple movies and concerts on this screen.
 the 24 hour pizzeria
 the Freedom Café (lido buffet)
 one of the 3 or 4 - 24hr ice cream/hot drinks stations.
 patio seating.
Then it was time for the infamous muster drill.  We got there way too early and it lasted way too long, but fortunately we didn't have to use what we "learned"!
Back to exploring the Carnival Freedom.  It's another large ship (passenger capacity of 2970 and crew of 1150), but really didn't seem all that big.  Maybe it was because of our cabin location in the middle of the ship.  A lot of reviews complained about the dark décor around the ship, but I thought it was very nice.  
Aft pool area (adult pool)
 inside the elevator
 one of the bars along the walk through area
 Some of the lit art along the hall way
 Lounging area along walkway.
 Lots of areas to get away from the crowds and chill out.  Hard to believe there's over 4000 people on board!!!
 display by sampling bar
 Viennese Café.  These desserts had an upcharge for them, but it was only about $2 and the portions were huge.
 entrance to the casino
 atrium area.  Lots of the ships Ken and I cruise on now don't have these grand atriums anymore.  I rather like it.

 one of the dessert bars in the Freedom café.  There was a fish and chips restaurant above this part of the Lido, but it wasn't opened many hours.
We were even treated to a pretty sunset as we sailed away from Fort Lauderdale!
 Looking down the atrium from a couple floors up.  There was very good nightly entertainment here.  This was a talented band called something like the 3rd Degree.
 the library where you can check out books and games or just enjoy the quiet.  There were also daily crossword puzzles and soduko games for interested cruisers.
 the Havana Bar---note the cigar bar stools!  There were great shows in here, too.  You would think it would be smokey, but I think this is one of the rooms that doesn't allow smoking.  The casino still allows smoking.  There's also smoking on private lanais, but that may be it.
 We took the late assigned dining.  We really loved our wait staff, but our dinner mates were somewhat strange.  Or should I say one was.  The 1st night we went and only 2 other people were at our table for 8.  The one gal was probably on something which didn't mix well with alcohol.  She definitely was entertaining.  Her travel companion was a very nice gal, but hardly got a word in.  We didn't go to the main restaurant the 2nd night since it was formal night and we didn't want to dress up.   The 3rd night we met 2 more of our dinner mates and they were a really interesting gay couple.  The last night, we went to the restaurant at the early seating and asked our servers if we could dine then and they were happy to oblige.  Seems a lot of people don't go to their assigned dining times anymore.  With the lido food being basically the same food as in the restaurant and the burger bar and pizza bar, it makes it easy to avoid the restaurant and dressing up.  But we did make it there 3 nights and enjoyed most of our food.  This was probably the best thing I had---brisket.  It was very tasty.   The boneless braised ribs were great, too.  Surprisingly, the filet mignon was only so-so.
 The entertainment on the Carnival cruises we've been on have been very good---much better then HAL, I hate to admit.  This ship even had a live band.  We were told they are only 1 of 2 ship bands left on Carnival now.  They were excellent.  So were the Carnival singer and dancers.
 Being the first week of December, the ship was already decorated for Christmas.  It was really neat seeing all the decorations.
They even had a mailbox for letters to SAnta!

 The tree in the atrium had to be at least 25' tall.

 I think we even saw Santa napping on the deck!
 the 3rd Degree playing in the atrium.
 another sitting area.
 From inside, it looked like it was light outside when it was really dark.  So we went out to see why.  The blue lighting gave it an interesting appearance.
 The atrium again.

 Listening to the band from a couple floor up.
 Bar Nouveau.
Day 2 dawned with us docked at Nassau.  I had been here with my Dad on a Disney cruise back in 2004.  That was actually the first cruise for either of us.  I remembered taking the boat excursion to Atlantis and loving the aquariums, but I didn't remember how expensive that was (most likely Dad paid for it---he was very generous that way!)  But other than Atlantis, I wasn't too impressed with the rest of Nassau.  So I was surprised when Angie and I went to breakfast in the Lido and saw this line of beautiful beaches.  I was commenting to Angie that I wondered if they were public beaches and a couple sitting next to us chimed in with the answer---yes, Junkanoo, the large beach to the far right, was indeed public and free.  He also said it was only about a mile walk away, so Angie and I had our plans for the day made right then---we were going to the beach.  Until then we had contemplated trying to take a taxi to the Atlantis and wandering around to see what we could see for free.  I had read that to go through the aquariums by ourselves now would be $40.  It was $80+ by ship excursion!
 As we wandered around the deck taking in Nassau from the boat, we got a kick out of this sign Carnival had up.  While we were docked, they had these up all over the place and Carnival employees painting rails and such.
 Soon we were on our way off the ship and on our way to Junkanoo. 
 Strategically Senior Frog's seem to be close to all the ports.  We turned left there and had to go inland about a block and on around the hotel with the first really nice beach (Hilton I think?). 
 Along the way we saw this interesting "graffiti"?
 Eventually we came to Junkanoo.  It was a quite a long beach, so we continued on a ways to less crowds.
 All along the beach we passed hut after hut of little bars, masseuses, bar b q joints, chair rentals, ... .
 The jerk chicken being bar b qued here smelled so good we had to try it out after we played in the water and sat on the beach for awhile.  It, and the pina collada we got, were very good!
 Our perch on the beach.  We brought our beach towels from the ship and enjoyed the beautiful day.
 The ships look deceptively close here.
 Another bar on the beach.
 Walking back to the ship.  I'll have to admit I was much more impressed with Nassau this time around.  Seemed a lot prettier then I remembered.
 The entrance to the building leading back to the ship.
 Loved all the colorfully painted buildings along the way.
 After about 5 hours on shore, we were ready for a late lunch in the Lido. 
 It was nearing dusk when we were sailing off.  That's when Angie noticed the hotel in the distance with all the cranes.  Turned out to be the one she was working on the rock work for when she worked at PGAV in St. Louis a couple years before.  That was about the time the market crashed and the hotel construction got put on hold.  She was excited to see how much of it was done now.
 Looking the other way, we could see the Atlantis.
WAlking through the Lido we got a kick out of the napkin folded on the silverware pile.
 Later we also decided to try out the pizza.  It was actually pretty good.  No restaurant food tonight.
 Then we explored the ship some more.  Here is where the kids' area is.
 Another lounge---I believe this one is called Decades.
 And Swingtime lounge.
 This was the lounge where we went to watch the comedian and some karaoke. 
 We also had a drink here one night.
 Back in our room, we were greeted by a towel animal a couple nights. 
The next morning we were excited to wake up to another beautiful day and our much anticipated return to Paradise Cove to snorkel Deadman's Reef.  Angie, Tim, FAith and I had actually stayed here for 3 nights back in June of 1999.  We all LOVED it!  We were the only ones there when none of the cruise ships were in town.  In 1999 there were 2 old 2 bedroom villas, 2  old 1 bedroom condos, and 2 brand new 2 bedroom villas not quite finished.  Now the old villas and condos are gone (blown down by a hurricane), but the 2 newer villas look great.  Looks like they also rebuilt the Red Bar area and check in area shown here.  I had reserved our trip through their website for $35 @ (which included snorkel gear and rt transportation) instead of the $80 the ship charged.   We also rented a locker for $5, 2 chairs for $3@, and prepaid for lunch $7@. 
 It was as beautiful as I remembered! 
 I didn't remember all the different reefs out there, but I'm sure they were there in 1999.  We were anxious to see if what we remembered as being fantastic snorkeling was still fantastic after snorkeling so many other places since then.  We actually only snorkeled 1 day of the 3 we were there in 1999 because we all stayed out too long (8 or 9 hours) and got burnt terribly, to the point of extreme pain and even chills! 
 And we're off.  The water this Dec. day was about 76 degrees and quite clear.  Here's a look back at the beach with the Red Bar to the left and the 2 new villas to the right.
 One of the first areas of reef that we encountered.  Still in very shallow water and quite a ways out.
 In 1999 we were too scared to go to the back side of the reef.  In our memories, it dropped off to oblivion.  After 14 years of snorkeling since, we eagerly snorkeled the back side, too, and surprised to find it only about 30 or 40 feet deep. 
 Was I impressed???  Yes!!!!!
 Even in the shallower sandy area there were lots of corals and fish.
 And a few barracudas.  Again, that would have spooked me in 1999, but we've seen so many since then that we don't think much about it anymore.
 Another look back at shore from the front of the reef.  All the way to this point the water is probably shallow enough for me to stand up in, but I don't because of the coral.
 and more.
 Even saw some interesting birds on bits of the reef sticking up out of the water.
 Pelicans on the reef.
This is a very large gray triggerfish.
 Gray Angelfish
 I believe this is a wrasse, but I'm not sure what kind.
 I have a couple of these sea biscuits on my dining room table centerpiece that I got from here in 1999.
 There were a bunch of these jelly fish throughout the area, but they didn't have stingers.
 After a couple hours, we came in to enjoy the chairs we rented and eat a lunch of bar b qued hamburgers, chips and a soda at the REd Bar  .
 I also took a walk down the beach a bit and took some more pictures.

 Such a gorgeous beach!!!
I couldn't stand it any longer, I had to get back in.  The snorkel groups of beginners kept going to the right of where we were earlier, so I had to go see what was there, too!
This looks like a pretty healthy reef to me!  Look at all those green fan corals!
 A large queen Angel fish.
 Another colored Angel Fish.
 blue tang.
 a hogfish
 a hogfish, a snapper and a surgeonfish .
 I have a feeling the guided beginner groups must feed  the fish sometimes.  A ton of fish came to greet us.
 More of the area behind the reef
 There were lots of parrotfish here, too.
 Not sure what this guy is.  This was at a cleaning station even though it's hard to see the little cleaner wrasses in this picture.
 Saw a couple of these large filefish.
 Here are 2 hogfish.  Note the yellow trumpet fish swimming above one of them.  It partnered with the hogfish for as long as I watched them.
 a 4 spot butterfly fish.
 the shallowness out by the reef.
 more kinds of coral on the inside of the reef.
 inside the reef area.
 a soldier fish
 these butterfly fish had symbiotic critters attached near their mouths.  Supposedly they don't harm the fish, just eat food remnants that get by the fish's mouth.
 I believe this is a razor fish.
 Another type of snapper.
 After a couple more hours it was time to come in.
 After 2 cans of sunscreen and about 6 hours of fun on the beach, it was time to go.  But I couldn't leave without getting a picture of the villas.  Hopefully we'll get back there for another land based vacation.  Looks like they have the footings for a couple more villas.
 Good bye Paradise Cove!
Alas, it was time to head back to the ship.  Our bus ride back took about 25 minutes. 
 WAlked around the ship some more.  This ship has a separate restaurant where the anytime diners eat.  We cut through it during non-dinner times to get to the back of the ship.
 Loved the assortment of chairs on the lido deck.  We got an ice cream and sat in these blue rocking chairs watching a concert on the big screen for awhile.
We noticed the ship next to us was the Celebration ship.  I believe this is the one that goes out of West Palm Beach and only goes to the Bahamas.  Sounded like they were even more of a party boat then Carnival.
 Right before we left we were treated to another pretty sunset.
 Then we treated ourselves to a milkshake from the Viennese Café and sat in the Atrium listening to a young lady singer.
 Video room --- they even have a way to get money from kids!
 mother and daughter. 
 This was the dinner time when we met 2 of our other dinner mates.  Apparently they got along really well with blondie the night before and did again through this dinner time.
 Blondie's travel mate and the other guy's partner.  The guys live in Denver and it was interesting listening to them and Angie compare notes from when she lived there. 
After that dinner, we mentioned we were going to the punchliner lounge to check out the kareoki.  They all thought that sounded like a great idea and came with us.  It was here the guys finally had enough of the blonde gal and said, "I've had enough!" and abruptly left.  Her friend spent the next half hour explaining to her why they left.  Shortly after that, they left.   I wonder if any of them showed up for dinner the next night?! 
Angie and I also went to the atrium for Christmas carols and snow (soap bubbles). 
 Santa even came by!

 the Atrium Christmas tree with "snow" on it.

 Looking down the atrium from the 6th or 7th floor.
 Another towel animal to welcome us back to our room that night.
The next morning, we did the self debarkation since we only had carry on luggage and Josh picked us up.  Amazing how tired we were after only 4 days on the cruise!  We slept most of that afternoon and the next day I flew back to St. Louis.  It was a fast week with a lot of stuff packed into it.  But I love these mother/daughter vacations.  They're fewer and farther between now that she's married and lives so far away.  Plus they're wanting to start a family so this may be it for a long long time!

1 comment:

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