I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh after 3 1/2 years of dreaming. I was dreaming of the day I would graduate and no longer have to listen to people formally lecturing me. I was itching to travel full time. So in December 2009, I completed the last of my coursework and skipped my own graduation to begin my travels uninterrupted. Although I had dreams of roaming the globe by myself, I first had to fulfill a promise to my Mom. I was going to go on a cruise with my Mom and Stepfather, who had both been looking for deals on Virgin Holidays Cruises, which resulted in a booking for the three of us aboard a Carnival cruise to Nassau in the Bahamas.
Making a cruise the first leg of a round the world journey is sort of like biking across the U.S., but doing the first few miles with training wheels. I figured I would get some great food out of it, and I wasn’t going to see my Mom for a while, so I agreed. I mean, it doesn’t matter how adventurous or self-sufficient you like to think you are, nobody turns down a free cruise, or so I thought because I actually had to pay for myself. So after graduation, I headed home to the Philly suburbs and spent a week planning my travels while I waited to board a plane with my Mom and Stepfather.
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On the ship
My dreams of a lecture-free post-graduation life quickly evaporated during what seemed like endless safety demonstrations complete with life jackets and excruciating alarms. My plan was gorge myself on pies, cakes, and the glorious soft serve ice cream machine while reading a book, The Zanzibar Chest: A Story of Life, Love, and Death in Foreign Lands.
The opportunity to read was rare while working full-time on my businesses, an internship, and a full course load at the University of Pittsburgh. But on a cruise ship without internet it was the only thing to do and I appreciated that. Before I could start my new book, the three of us dropped our suitcases in our tiny but comfortable room with a view of nothing. You see, our room’s window showed the dark blue ocean at eye level and that was it. Besides a lack of view I was sharing the room with my Mom and Stepfather. I was not too bummed because a week later when I started my own travels in Ecuador it might end up being awhile before I could spend quality time with my Mom again. But honestly, most of my time would be spent outside of the room anyways.
After setting our bags down, I quickly scoped out the ship for amenities: the saltwater pools, hot tubs, restaurants, bars, hallways, buffets….and that is when I stopped. I attacked the first buffet I saw, shoveling down burgers, soft serve ice cream, and a bite of every kind food that was offered.
After the beginning excitement I cooled down my energy and spent the rest of the time relaxing on the boat. The normal routine was reading by the pool with my Mom and Stepdad, reading in the hot tub with strangers from the south, watching the mannerisms of Americans with different backgrounds than I, and eating the buffets solo. There is no time to talk at a buffet, anyways.
I did actually participate in a few on-board cruise activities. I took my Mom salsa dancing because she just assumed I had to be an expert from spending so much time in Latin America during university. I tried to explain that they actually dance tango in Argentina but she didn’t seem to care for such distinctions. Another night we listened to a piano man singing Billy Joel songs in the piano bar. And finally we saw the magic show. It was magical.
Port of Call
Although the cruise was fun and relaxing, it certainly didn’t do much to quench my desire to travel. Although technically moving, cruises aren’t really about traveling as much as they are about creating amusement parks outside of traditional tax structures. That’s why the port of call at Nassau was the absolute best part of the trip.
Nassau is the capital of the Bahamas, and is home to about 80% of the country’s population. It’s a regular stop for cruise ships, so tourist infrastructure not only exists but is a huge part of the local economy. We pulled into Prince George Wharf Cruise Terminal (yes, they have a terminal just for cruise ships) and headed downtown.
As a former British colony, English is the language spoken in the Bahamas, which makes it especially appealing to American cruise lines. It has all sorts of interesting history, mainly because people were always fighting over it. The Americans even occupied it for a very brief period during the War of Independence, and it was a port for blockade runners during the American Civil War. Of course, the Spanish also controlled it for a long while, which means that the place has some pretty cool Caribbean architecture with all of the bright pastel colors that impart an easy-going island vibe to whoever walks by them (so long as there are no hurricanes around.)
In Nassau, like in most former Spanish ports, the Old Town is the chief attraction. Some of it is crumbling or abandoned, yet some it is in absolute pristine condition. There are all of the tourist traps, and the usual wave of vendors that descend on everyone as they step ashore, but walk just a few minutes away you can get some space and really enjoy the Old Town.
One of the coolest spots around was a quiet hotel downtown called the Graycliff Hotel and Restaurant, where Winston Churchill once stayed. I took part in a cigar rolling lesson, and they also have rum, wine and cognac tastings. Winston must have been right at home.
Feeling newly confident in my ability to roll cigars (a skill I have been waiting to put into practice ever since that lesson) I went down to the Straw Market, which was once the city market but is now basically a home to endless souvenir vendors. Stuff seems expensive, but I quickly realized that you were expected to haggle. It turned out I really enjoyed the haggling part of it, and I soon found myself talking down the vendors for stuff I didn’t even really want. I thought I was doing an awesome job haggling, but I still got played.Office Project ativação chave
I then headed to Paradise Island, which is the Island just a short bridge walk away from Nassau proper (a bridge walk I was told never to walk at night). There I went to the Blue Lagoon, and, you guessed it, did not swam with Dolphins. It is something I have not yet done, and if I were to do it, I definitely would feel like I would enjoy it more than them, which is too bad because I would want them to do Dolphin laughs at me and maybe even save me from an attacking shark (they do that, you know).
Nassau was a very cool city, and my Mom and Stepdad enjoyed it as much as I did. Overall, the cruise was pretty great. I ate a ridiculous amount of food and enjoyed total relaxation, which I would soon miss while backpacking and hiking through South America, seeing false mirages of all you can eat buffets in the heat rising off of boiling city streets.