Ponder Emporium

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All-Aboard! January 22, 2013

Filed under: For the sake of writing — Cara Badalamenti @ 7:24 pm
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On somewhat of a whim, my friend and I decided to go on our first cruise. While it was a Bahamas cruise, our priority was all about the activities on board the ship, less that on shore.

An energetic Bachelor party group of guys picked up on us the first night we were on the ship. We all did body shots at the pool bar, swam naked at CocoCay in broad daylight, won BIG in the casino, upgraded to a regal suite with a massive balcony, and participated in amateur pole dancing at an obscure night club in an affluent ex-pat run part of Nassau.

That is the story most people expect, or at least would like to hear when someone returns from a cruise; especially their first-ever cruise. While all of that sounds very enthralling, sorry to disappoint, none of those activities actually took place. But that’s not to say a great time wasn’t had. In fact, we had the hangover-free kind of great time. And frankly, that’s the best kind there is. No wound-licking necessary. Instead we were able to add some pretty neat things to our life experiences list: Rock climbing in the middle of the ocean, check. Paddle boarding to a deserted island, check. Negotiate precious gems and jewelry down to a comfortable price, check.

With departing seas a little on the rough side we opted for some inner quality spa time. I must have fallen asleep three times during my hour-long hydra-lift facial. When the service was complete and I awoke from my slumber vertigo took over me as I haphazardly stumbled right into my charming South African aesthetician who graciously escorted me by my arm and delivered me back safely to my cruising pal. Each time we walked somewhere I would take three steps diagonally to the left and then three steps diagonally to the right. There was no straight line. Had this been a sobriety test I would have failed miserably. In fact, I didn’t actually need to drink anything alcoholic that first night; the seas made me feel high enough. Alas, we were successful in bringing aboard two bottles of red wine and a little extra liquid something that will remain unwritten here.

You hear people boast about food onboard cruise ships, saying that eating is half the fun of a cruise vacation. Well folks, not in this case. I don’t want to knock the whole Royal Caribbean franchise or cruising in general since I have nothing to compare it to in the industry of cruising, but Monarch of the Seas (the soon-to-retire/soon-to-be-sold off) ship was serving subpar cuisine throughout. We ate everywhere except for the private (additional cost) restaurant aboard the vessel (including room service) and the only thing they all had in common was disappointing cuisine. The dishes tasted pre-cooked, pre-packaged, and at times not cooked thru or not heated at all (isn’t a Panini supposed to be pressed and warm?) The best food we had was the BBQ on CocoCay (not even on the boat) and a cheese plate (that involves no cooking whatsoever) that I ordered twice from our stateroom.

On the contrary, the service throughout our cruise was superb! We were tempted to bring Choky, our adorable Filipino stateroom attendant, home with us. What was so surprising is that he memorized out names! We would be leaving the stateroom area passing by other rooms and we’d hear his voice from an open stateroom with a cleaning cart in front of it, “Have a good time Cara and Nichole!” On night two he surprised us by hanging a towel monkey from the ceiling.

Theater & Production: Move over Charades, we’ve discovered another kick-ass group game to play: Quest Adult game show! The host asks the groups playing to bring up specific items and to act out specific things, etc. and it gets rather hilarious (i.e.: lots of bare skin). The ship’s take on Jerry Springer, “Love and Marriage” was another amusing show to watch. And finally, the talented dancers and singers of the boat sang the top love songs that made me bawl more than I had intended in a public space. Was contemplating hanging myself from the theater’s second mezzanine as all songs reminded me of Augustine. Speaking of men, whoever told me that there are tons of single guys on cruise ships was mistaken (not that I was seeking, anyway)…there aren’t any, ladies, FYI. Which magnified the fact that the food was poor.

Regardless, Nikki and I had a great time with each other. It was quality girlfriend time. Got some shopping done in Nassau, watched some of the entertainment on board the ship (piano bar, ice sculpting, fruit carving, towel folding demo, midnight pool party, battle of the sexes, live bands, etc.), toured the spa, did some tanning, rock climbing and paddle boarding at CocoCay was sublime! It felt so rewarding to paddle from one private island to a deserted one. Just laying on our boards drifting freely in the sea was worth everything and then some. As the sun blazed hot the cool water refreshed. And sleeping in our stateroom was some of the deepest sleep we’ve had. Our room was cave-like dark and temperature controlled to our liking.

Hindsight: don’t book extras ahead of time, and go on a larger, newer ship for stabilizing and feasting purposes. BING BONG!

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