We don't normally go on cruises less than 7 days as we have to travel from Michigan, and the cost of flying or driving is pretty significant when you only take a 4 day cruise. But this was an ad-hoc back-to-back cruise that we booked the week before while we were on the Freedom. Since the departure port was the same, we had a layover of an evening before the next cruise. We primarly booked this cruise because we missed Coco Cay on the Freedom due to weather conditions.
After departing the Freedom, we returned to the hotel and discovered we could get a room for the night as this was a Sunday, and the rooms were not as full this night. After booking the room, we went to breakfast in town, got the car washed, did some laundry and did a few leisure activities, and walked on the beach until our room was ready later in the afternoon.
For some reason the booking agent was not able to assist us in advance check-in with our SetSail documents as apparently it takes 24 hours for them to appear, and we ran out of time due to our late booking. But since I had my netbook with me, I was able to do so from the hotel. And I was able to hook the hotel's courtesy printer up to my netbook via USB cable to print the documents. I sure am glad I brought my netbook from home.
Due to the late booking, all we could get was an inside room, and they sure are small on this ship. No matter, we have booked inside rooms plenty of times before, and to be honest, they are cheaper.
Departure. Although we stayed at the same hotel as we did on our Freedom cruise, we didn't take the shuttle, but rather we drove to the terminal ourselves and parked on-site. We were only going to be gone 4 nights, so the expense of parking at the terminal was not significant. We had repacked our bags so on a 4 day cruise, we were lightly packed.
Again, since we were Platinum, we received priority check-in and boarding. The passengers on this cruise consisted of a lot of first-timer cruisers and college kids on Spring Break. We were not sure if this cruise was a good idea or not, as we didn't know what to expect with the passengers. However, at 4:30 muster, the Captain announced that while he recognized there was a lot of "Spring Break'ers" on board, this was a Family Cruise - not a Spring Break cruise, and he would not hesitate to throw anyone off the ship that didn't behave. That set the tone of the cruise, I think. Luckily no one challenged him on that point.
Coco Cay. The weather was a bit rough again, but less than it had been the week before, so we were able to visit Coco Cay. Our cabin steward had told me that out of the first 10 weeks of 2010, they had aborted Coco Cay 8 times due to bad weather.
Coco Cay had not changed that much in the 10 years since we had been there last. There were a few additions, such as the water slide, but nothing significant. One of the things I wanted to do is go snorkeling, so my wife and I rented gear. But it was pretty darned cold - too cold to go snorkeling. You know when you go swimming in cold weather, and the water is so cold that it hurts to breathe? That was how cold it was in the water that day. Someone sad the water temperature was in the 60s... in the Bahamas... in March.
But sadly to say, all was not perfect. I had brought my new Nikon S560 Point & Shoot digital camera with me to take photos, and since it was going to be a beach day, I put my swim trunks on before we left the ship. And since the swim trunks had front pockets in them, I put the camera in my front pocket. And you can guess the rest of the story...
Apparently, cameras do not work after dunking them in the ocean. Who knew? I immediately took the camera to the shower area and rinsed it off as best as I could in fresh water, but to no avail. The camera was ruined. I was however, able to retrieve the SD card in the camera. After also rinsing it off in fresh water and letting it dry, I was able to download the photos on the card. The bad news was that I had only purchased the camera a month prior. The good news was I bought it as a refurbished camera, so I paid under $100 for it.
Tip #20. Do not leave expensive electronics in your swim trunks when you go swimming.
Nassau. While this was the 4th time we had visited Nassau, we had never visited Atlantis. For some reason my wife wanted to kiss a dolphin, so we booked the Dolphin Encounter excursion. It was pretty expensive, but I have to say it was worth it.
To get to Atlantis, we were escorted over to the ferry area at the southwestern end of the pier. The ferry leaves for Atlantis on a 30 minute or so schedule, and the trip takes about 30 minutes on the water to get to the ferry dock at Atlantis.
Upon arriving at the ferry dock, we were escorted through a rather convoluted path to the dolphin area, taking us through the marina and hotel. There were some nice yachts at the Marina Village, and I sure had oogle eyes. The excursion included the Dolphin Encounter, then at your own leisure on your way back, it included a visit to "The Dig", A what-if scenario of what the real Atlantis would look like if it had ever been discovered.
The Dolphin Encounter consisted of changing into a wet suit. There are no private changing facilities, so you should wear your swim suit, as you will be putting the wet suit on outside (there is a bathroom you can use when you change back at the conclusion if you wish to put on street clothes). So be sure to take a backpack with a change of clothing if you wish. Also, cameras are not allowed because they don't want you to startle the dolphins; but they will sell you photos they take for a hefty price (and I mean $60 and up).
While you are waiting your turn, you go to a room to watch a dolphin facts video and talk to a marine biologist about these magnificant creatures.
When it came our turn, we went into a shallow pool right to the edge of a drop off. The water level we were standing in was about 3ft, and the water was some 6ft deep beyond the drop off. This allowed the dolphins to come right up to you, but you have to be careful you don't slip on the drop off. You get a chance to pet them, kiss them, feed them, and watch them in action. If you can swim, it's no big deal other than being embarrising. ursions you can purchase There are other Dolphin Excursions where you could swim with the dolphins, but they were a lot more expensive. I think by the time we were done, the Dolphin Encounter, with the least expensive photo package, cost us almost $400.
This encounter I think is a bit over priced, you can do the same thing on other islands in the Caribbean for much less. Still, it was a once-in-a-lifetime thrill.
Tip #21. Do not book your Dolphin Excursion at Nassau. Save it for a cruise when you go to another island in the Caribbean.
On the return to the ship, we stopped off and viewed "The Dig". It was pretty neat. It kind of gives you the sense that the Atlantis hotel was built on the ruins of the real Atlantis, with mock underwater apparatus looking like it was right out of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Arrival. The return trip to Ft. Lauderdale was uneventful, and we again partook in the express departure, especially since we had minimal luggage with us.