We all know cruising has gotten a bad rap lately. The years 2012-13 seemed like records for wrecks, fires and shoddy maintenance. But should one Carnival Corporation represent them all? Probably not.
Before we completely sideline an entire segment of the travel trade, all because of two or three extreme events, let's consider the industry that not only has been going strong since the 1840s, but also gives back and provides countless jobs around the globe.
My very first cruise, on the Island Princess in January of 2012, was as an assistant to a good friend who was providing on-board entertainment as (yes, believe it) a hypnotist. This 10-day pass provided the best of both worlds as Asad and I could hang out with the staff and enjoy discounts on spa services, as well as lounge by the pools and eat in the restaurants like regular passengers.
Cruising from Aruba through the Panama Canal was an experience I'll never forget. However, the IP is a big ship, with almost 1,000 passenger cabins and almost as many staff. If there is ever a next time, I think I'd like to downsize my order. Less than a week on the high seas would be perfect for me. The other thing about this particular cruise route was that we saw bits of the Caribbean, but totally skipped the Bahamas. Bummer.
So if it were up to me to plan things, I might go with Holiday Cruise Line. HCL specializes in Grand Bahama Island (aka The Jewel of the Bahamas) and offers an affordable two-day sail-away that departs from Palm Beach, Florida -- another place I've wanted to check out. A former co-worker got married at The Breakers Hotel last November and the Facebook photos have been burned in my memory. The oceanfront resort just looks like heaven.
Putting all the pieces of this puzzle together in my head, here is how my ideal cruise happens.
After a night or two at The Breakers, I would hop aboard the Bahamas Celebration to check in, and then indulge in a buffet lunch and a bit of poolside lounging.
After leaving port at dusk for Grand Bahama Island, the party can go any which way I choose. After dinner, a self-guided tour of the seven decks would be in order. Word is the BC is a modern luxury ship and includes a glass encased adult pool, two Tiki bars and the Fountain of Youth Spa.
Back to the evening entertainment. There's the glamorous Wynmore Casino with its gaming machines and games of chance-like poker, blackjack and roulette. Then I might listen to a few piano numbers in 437 Pub, or hit The View and get my groove on to a live DJ. Up to deck six for a nightcap in Ocean Breeze Lounge before falling into a sweet sleep in one of the 500 well-appointed cabins.
The next day is all about the Bahamas.
An excursion to the 4-star, 372-acre Grand Lucayan Beach and Golf Resort? Yes please!
While at the resort, I can catch some sun on their pristine sugar-white sand beaches (the definition of relaxation), try swimming with the dolphins, parasail, Jet Ski, or get on horseback for a leisurely ride. Personally I love snorkelling, so I'd probably take advantage of some of the most gorgeous stretches of shoreline in the world.
There's always the option to stay on-board, of course as there are no end of activities to occupy the hours. If I had kiddies, I'd probably get them hooked on the Caribbean Splash Park and that 180-foot waterslide. There's also a Teen Centre if you've got one of those.
And what about the food?
The dining deck is found closest to the ship's bow so I can always enjoy the view at either The Cove, or at the more upscale Crystal Restaurant. Pub 437, Trattoria Di Gerry and Rio Restaurant provide a super casual scene. 24-hour room service is said to be sublime if a late-night nosh is required.
All said, it all sounds like a quick hit of bliss that singles, couples and families alike can use to escape the everyday. You in?
What else do you need to know?
The editor-in-chief of the prestigious Porthole Cruise Magazine has declared HCL's Celebration cruise ship the "Best Bahamas Getaway Cruise" for four consecutive years. A pretty solid recommendation, if you ask me.
Cruises depart every other day from the Port of Palm Beach, FL. The port is located within an hour of two major international airports and within two hours of four international airports.