Better late than never.
Way back before the holidays, Heather and I met up with my family in Charleston to embark on a 5-night cruise of the Bahamas. It was a well-needed getaway as she had burnt all her vacation for the year back in April for our honeymoon; it was a long year for her.
When folks ask how the cruise went, my first reply seemed to put it best “It was good to see the family.” I’ve been on a number of cruises before and knew what to expect with a Carnival cruise, but was not prepared for the clientele who boarded in Charleston, the age of the ship, or the state of the Bahamas.
On the clientele, well, there were more than your average number of folks who were merely going away on a 5-day buffet. Boarding the ship, several families had to stop, sweating, in order to catch their breath for the walk up the next meager incline of the gangway. Everyone was pleasant, but I’d be lying if I said cruising from Charleston won’t depress you a bit.
Onto the ship, the Carnival Fantasy. While I did know it was Carnival’s oldest ship, the fact that it received a full renovation in 2008 had me hopeful. Aside from the flat-screen TVs they put in the rooms, I’m not sure what the renovation consisted of as the entire boat was clearly 1990-esque. Poor appointments, tacky decor, ungh…
And then the Bahamas. Or The Bahamas? No matter. While I’m sure there are a number of great islands amongst this small nation, Nassau and Freeport are not them. As usual, I tend to trot off the touristy path and really get to know a place.
In Nassau, we discovered absolute poverty just blocks from the diamonds and other overpriced “deals” that come with a cruise port. We did find a beach where we had a few beers, enjoyed a Cuban, and had some jerk chicken straight from a BBQ/barrel, and that was truly awesome, but then we began to walk. Slums. Shortly after being offered drugs by a pair of guys on a scooter, we were invited to a family BBQ. I’m sure it would have been a great time, but we were exploring and kept walking. Worth noting because people of the islands are damned friendly with the exception being those who are trying to scam tourists (here it was a set of guys saying we NEEDED to get round-trip tickets on our boat taxi).
In Freeport, we boarded a “bus” (completely beat ancient minivan) to the tourist-trap called Port Lucaya. Grabbed some decent food and then made our way to the beach to catch some rays. Freeport is a rather sad state of affairs with very clear poverty being the result of years of being taking advantage of [presumably] the white man. Massive amounts of industry have gobbled up and polluted the land. Hilariously, I think the largest property owner was the United States, which had a massive port for shipping and ship repair. The scammers here were again the cab drivers who insisted that we pay them the full return fare when we arrived and they’d pick us up at a special spot and at a special time (they were trying to beat waiting in line with other cabs). Knowing their schemes, I declined, which clearly he wasn’t expecting. In the end, we received a free ride back to the boats because they never asked us for money. Clearly a broken system, clearly a lot of scamming going on, but I wasn’t about to correct their mistake when they were trying to pull one over on us.
So… the Bahamas left a very bad taste in our mouths. If you’re okay with laying on a bright, beautiful beach, while what basically appeared to be slavery is occurring all around you, it’s a great place for you. We’re not and will likely never be going back as there are far too many other bright and sunny places out there.And then Charleston. After the family hopped back into their car for their short trip home, we found ourselves alone in this cool little town. In our pair of days before boarding the plane for home, we basically checked out the whole of downtown and ate some amazing food. Pro tip: Go to Pearlz and get some Happy Hour specials. It was a great time and a nice change of pace from the cruise.
Overall, the trip was a good one. Again, it was great to see the family, and it allowed us to not travel for the holidays and instead spend it with her family. Two birds, two stones, but smaller stones than they could have been.