If you were wondering why I’ve been MIA lately it’s because I’ve been on a CRUISE!! My first cruise ever, actually. I’ve been wanting to go on a cruise since I was like, I don’t know, 5 years old! My grandma kept promising she would take us on one but it never worked out, so finally I decided I was just going to go for it, and luckily my best friend from college was on board (literally)! We researched for weeks and finally found an awesome deal for a 5-day Eastern Caribbean Cruise from Carnival. I know what you’re thinking, why would we willingly choose Carnival after all the drama they’ve been having? Not to mention we booked our Carnival cruise about 2 weeks after the Triumph disaster, which definitely led to people thinking we were crazy. But let’s be honest here, everyone I’ve ever talked to loved their Carnival cruise and they were the ones running the cheapest deals so we figured it was worth the risk. And let me tell you, it SO WAS.
Carnival was amazing. I would cruise Carnival again and again. When they say they are the fun ship, they mean it. We had so much fun. For our times on the ship, there was always something happening, whether it was an audience interactive game show, a show in the comedy club, or a hairy chest competition, we were always kept entertained and laughing hysterically. There were parties upon parties upon parties, including a huge deck party one night where we danced every line dance you can imagine – YMCA, Cupid Shuffle, Gangnam Style, Wobble, etc. It was so much fun just to let loose and be silly. And I promise I’m not writing this as a promo for Carnival, but I couldn’t get over how incredible the staff was! Every person we met remembered our name and was so friendly and always smiling. Way to go!
Nassau, Bahamas: Bay Street, beers, and cruise ship trickery
Now on to the ports. Our first stop was Nassau. I actually wasn’t a huge fan of Nassau. It was pretty dirty and sketchy in some parts. We walked down Bay Street for a little while but it was just so jam packed with tourists or street vendors selling cheap goods. There were some nice jewelry stores but I wasn’t in the market to buy any diamonds, so we skipped over those as well. When we’d seen enough, we decided to consult a tour pamphlet and realized there was a beach within walking distance called Junkanoo Beach. The beach was actually pretty nice and was a good escape from the hustle and bustle of Bay Street.
Being in the Bahamas, we of course had to have conch fritters for lunch. When I lived in the Florida Keys, I ate conch fritters all the time, but hadn’t had them since. I found a little locally owned beach shack who sold conch fritters and beers. The man who owned it was a local Bahamian who was so kind and friendly. We ended up chatting for a while just about life and traveling, and he even gave me a free Bahamian beer! He asked how we found the beach if we came off a cruise ship, since apparently the cruise ships won’t tell the tourists about it because they want them to take their excursion trips to Atlantis and the beaches on Paradise Island. Tricky! And when we got back to our ship later, pretty much everyone we had talked to had taken a taxi or excursion to Paradise Island since they had no idea there was a close beach. Do your research, people!
Half Moon Cay, Bahamas: A little piece of heaven
Our next port was Half Moon Cay, Carnival’s private island, which meant it was just people from our ship on the island that day. This was actually my favorite port! Half Moon Cay is everything that I imagine paradise to be. It was absolutely picture perfect. I wanted to stay there forever. I even took a picture with a sign that said “I wish I could stay here forever.” The sand was bright white and perfectly powdery, and the water was as blue as the tropical drinks in beach-goers’ hands. There were yellow and orange striped fish swimming around our feet, and silvery ones that darted around us, a flash of fins that quickly disappeared. And there was one lone little fish that just sat about a foot behind us at all times, following us wherever we went. At lunch (Carnival had a cook out for us under a pavilion near the beach), we decided to bring back some hamburger buns to feed the fish. And we were so glad we did! Within seconds of the first bread crumb hitting the water, we had probably 50 fish around us! They were the silver ones that we had seen earlier but we were getting to seem them up close now, and some were so excited they were jumping out of the water. It was so funny and we definitely got the attention of a crowd of people. Other than fish feeding, we mainly just laid out and enjoyed the beautiful view until it was time to head back to the ship.
Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos: Ocean tubing and Margaritaville
I was really excited for Grand Turk since it’s in Turks and Caicos – islands I’ve wanted to visit since my aunt brought me back a beach bag from there when I was younger. It was much nicer than Nassau, but once again it was pretty touristy. Although, I guess that’s what I should expect going on a cruise! We thought about doing an excursion but the ones we wanted were either sold out or way too expensive, so instead we hit the beach. Not before long, we found an island man who was taking people tubing – one of my favorite water activities. (Note: apparently people’s definition of tubing is different – this was when you get pulled behind a speed boat while laying on a giant tube). We thought what the heck, so we paid $20 (still cheaper than any cruise ship excursion) and had a blast flying over the crystal clear water at who knows how fast.
After our tubing experience, we headed to the one restaurant around the port: none other than Margaritaville. As I’m sure you already know, Margaritaville is party central. They had a giant pool with a pool bar you could swim up to to get drinks. We of course had to get margaritas, and after lunch we snagged a spot at the pool and joined the party. There was a DJ and dance competitions and way too many elderly people getting crazy. So our experience at Grand Turk was basically one giant pool party. While this was definitely fun, it would have been cool to see what an actual town in Turks & Caicos is like, because you could tell Grand Turk at the port was just built for the tourists. But we had a blast and this vacation was just for laying on the beach and having fun anyway!
Overall, our cruise was a great success! Sometimes I can be a bit turned off towards tourists since I’ve traveled a lot on my own and have never traveled with a tour group, so it was weird for me to be part of a massive group of tourists. (This might also come from the fact I’ve traveled mostly through Europe and they do not love tourists). As my friend said “We are the least touristy people, but we’re doing the most touristy thing by taking a cruise.” But I recently read an article in my NatGeo Traveler about staying at all-inclusive resorts and how the author felt like she was basically cheating traveling, but then realized sometimes it’s exactly what you need: to not have to worry about anything, to have a set schedule, and to just sit back and enjoy life as a tourist. Sure, maybe you don’t get the local experience but did you have a good time? Yes. Did you relax? Yes. Will there be a time to explore not as a touristy group? Yes. So I stopped feeling like a touristy weirdo and embraced my backpack and fellow tourists. And guess what, I had a great time! Cruises are such a perfect way to get away from everything for a few days. Cell phones were shut off, computers were left at home, food is included, rooms are cleaned for you – you don’t have to worry about a single thing and it’s great. I can’t wait to go on another one!