Our plan of getting out Friday afternoon early enough to miss all the Atlanta traffic did not work as planned. We left Calhoun at 5 PM which put us into the ATL during the height of Friday afternoon rush hour. It took us over two hours to get through that mess. We arrived at the Hyatt just before midnight. While there we saw some of very tall gentlemen in the lobby. Since Jacksonville doesn't have an NBA team I assumed they were just genetic freaks. It was only later that I found out that the Heat and Magic were playing an exhibition game. It just made me realize how fall I've fallen as a sports fan. I used to be the guy that would recognize all the athletes, Clyde Drexler in the Houston Airport before he was drafted in by the TrailBlazers, Cecil Fielder in an Olive Garden in Winter Haven, Roger Clemens at Universal Studios plus a bunch of others. Now I can't tell the players unless they're wearing a jersey with their name on the back. I guess I've just moved on to other things to waste my time with. The hotel was beautiful with a balcony over looking the St. John's River. Another big priceline win.
We spent Saturday morning driving around Jacksonville looking for a post office to mail a few things I sold on EBAY. It was probably just the area we were in but what we saw of Jacksonville looked run down and in need of money and a makeover. We also looked for a mall but couldn't find one but did find a store to pick up an underwater camera and some additional clothes for the cruise.
It took forever (2 hours) to park and process through a few long lines to get on the ship. It was an uncomfortable experience for me because I had no idea what I was doing and what the process was. Once we got on board it was all good. As I said in earlier post we had one of maybe 12 cabins that looked out the aft of the boat. The room was nice and clean and the bathroom was tiny. we had a few adult beverages before the lifeboat drill and the actual sailing. It was stupendous to actually sail out under the Jacksonville bridge and I think it produced some of the best pictures of the cruise.
I spent some time in the casino and as usual did pretty well (I was immediately up $400 thanks to a nice run on the craps table). After a wonderful sit down supper with some very nice people, Laila headed to cabin and I headed to casino. Everyone who knows me knows I love poker. Unfortunately the ship had no dealer tables, only an electronic one and I lost $50 playing on it before I determined that a pokerpro table sucks and if I wanted to play that way I would just play online. I finished day still up a good bit thanks to the craps table. (end of cruise I did finish a little down)
The first port call was at a private island called Half Moon Cay. We arrived running a little late for our shore excursion which was supposed to be a glass bottom boat tour. When we stopped to buy a bucket of beer it delayed us further and we missed our tour by ten minutes. That was okay as we headed to the beach and layed out and enjoyed what was the closest thing to paradise I had ever experienced. We picked a chair that was in the first row and were enjoying the rising tides lapping at our chairs… until that moment when I realized that the camera bag floating in front of us was ours. Death to my camera. Bummer. We headed back to ship and had another wonderful supper with great company.
Some of the cruise was quite rough as one night that we had retired early we were awoken by the ship rocking and our closets slamming. I got up and looked out the back of the ship and was surprised to see wave 50 feet above us and then 100 feet below us. Not a very restful night. I found out later that the kitchen had lost over 200 plates to the rocking of the boat.
We snorkeled in Nassau which I loved but after the rough night Laila enjoyed less. I loved the whole snorkeling trip as the crew was great and they gave us a tour of harbor on the way out, pointing out which celebrities owned which houses and some of the history of the island. I was very disappointed by the pictures and the quality of the disposable cameras we had purchased.
We did enjoy the piano bar on the ship on two occasions and I guess we made impression on the first night because as soon as we sat down on night two we were serenaded by a piano version of Layla. The pianist was great and played everything we requested from the Allman Brothers to Springsteen to Seger.
We only enjoyed the deck life on one afternoon on the way back to Florida. Somehow we had made it to day 4 before we had our first margarita. We hung out for a couple hours enjoying island music, sunning and sipping beverages out of a Giant Monkey Coconut Head.
FOOD, FOOD, FOOD it was everywhere all the time. I am hoping to be able to see my toes again sometime in the near future. The sit down suppers were the best.
We did spend one morning in Nassau before we went snorkeling. We got there early after the fiasco of missing the excursion the prior day. For some reason after the rough night at sea the whole island was moving a little bit as we walked. We spent some time walking the stores and shopping. It seems like they sold from opposite ends of the spectrum. The high end Gucci. Rolex and jewelery or crap. Since I am not currently looking to buy high end merchandise and we already had enough crap (Other than the aforementioned monkey head drinking vessels we purchased later) we walked away with nothing.
We did spend a lot of time waiting for our excursion to start and visited with a wonderful gentleman from the island that worked for customs. Since he was in uniform and looked official. people constantly asked him questions, which is how we met. He was great people would come up to him and spout off some question about where they needed to go and he would always smile and reply "Good Morning". They would repeat the question again and he would just say "Good Morning" again. Then the usually too pasty white out of shape tourist would look at their companion and say something like "He doesn't speak any damn English!" He would then answer "I speak English fine, I said good morning, I was waiting for you to do the same." I loved it, someone teaching manners to folks. We visited with him for over a half hour and spoke about local life, where he vacationed and laughed about some of the people who approached him.
This was the first vacation in over fifteen years where I did not have to be responsible for answering my cell phone, checking my pager, calling voice mail or answering e-mails. Was it paradise for its beauty or for its tranquility? Or maybe its just that we all need a break at least every fifteen years or so.