Sunday, January 31, 2016

#1596 Nassau and the Everglades

Since I didn't write much of anything yesterday, I'm going to write a longer post tonight and talk about both Nassau and the Everglades and that will wrap up the places we went on our vacation in January. Are you up for it? Let's go!

I've mentioned that this cruise was a first for a few different reasons: first time for us on this cruise line, first time excursions we booked on the ship were cancelled, first time we had grey/rainy weather every day of the trip and first time a port of call was changed. The last port of call was scheduled to be Celebrity's private island CocoCay, Bahamas but because of weather, we stopped in Nassau, Bahamas instead.

MT and I were excited to go to the Bahamas because we have never been there and it is an island chain we have considered for a longer vacation. The weather in Nassau was grey and cloudy and rainy. We had booked an excursion (sailing and snorkeling) that was cancelled, so we decided to see what we could find onshore. We ran into a man named Stanley (Stan the man with the blue van) who had a cab and offered to take us on a tour of Nassau. There were three parties from our ship: a German couple and a Brazilian family of a mom and two daughters, and us, then there was a family from India who was on the Disney ship. Loved the diversity!

First we went to a Fort Fincastle. It was small as far as Caribbean forts go but I liked this view of the port:

At this point, there were three ships in port, the Reflection, a Disney ship and a Norwegian Cruise Lines ship. Later in the day, two Carnival ships would come in. The parking lot at the pier was full! It was pretty cool to see all those big ships lined up. The folks in Ocho Rios would be ecstatic to get that kind of cruise traffic.

Right by the fort is a cool canyon called the Queen's Staircase. It was built as an escape route from the fort for the soldiers and it was carved out by slaves in the late 1700s. Stanley took us to the top of the steps and met us at the bottom so we didn't have to climb up the 65 steps. Thoughtful. It's steep!

Queen's Staircase
We drove though various neighborhoods and made a quick stop at a beach that had another little fort we couldn't get into, then we went over to Paradise Island, home of the mega-resort Atlantis. We wandered around the casino building at the resort and looked at the marina. I wasn't especially interested in Atlantis. I don't care for those huge sprawling mega-resorts very much. I prefer smaller and quieter places. Here's a view of Atlantis from the ship:

Atlantis on Paradise Island
One thing I liked about Nassau was that the buildings were all friendly pastel Caribbean colors. The government buildings were pink and white. The police buildings were green and white. The hospital was a yellow-y color. The port buildings were a rainbow of bright colors. I bet it looks amazing on a sunny day.

Government buildings in Nassau

the port area in Nassau
With five cruise ships in port, you can imagine that the port area and Bay Street, the main shopping drag a block away from the terminal, was packed with people. We didn't spend too much time on the streets after the tour was done. We did walk several blocks up and down Bay Street. We went through part of the Straw Market (overwhelming). We bought some t-shirts at a shop and took a few photos, but that was the extent of our time in Nassau. As we were leaving port (we were the first ship to leave) I did go up on deck and had a farewell pina colada in the rain. MT was warm and toasty and dry in the cabin. I think he had had enough with the rain!

That night we sailed back to Miami and we debarked around 8am. Since our flight didn't leave until 8pm, we decided to rent a car and drive to the Everglades. MT has always wanted to see the Everglades and take an airboat ride. Fortunately, the day was clear but very windy, so off we went!

We had done a bit of research on the Everglades before we left on the trip, so we had a place picked out that we thought would be fun, the Everglades Safari Park. It was only about 30 minutes from the airport, had airboats and the price was reasonable.

Quick note: the ship offered an excursion to the Everglades with an airboat ride and a drop off back at the airport, but it was cheaper for us to rent a car and go by ourselves. It worked out well. Another bonus was that since we were already at the airport, we checked our luggage before we rented the car so we didn't have to mess around with lugging our luggage from the car rental area to the airport. Miami airport is HUGE.

I have to admit that I was a little apprehensive about the airboat ride, but it turned out to be the absolute coolest, bestest thing we did! The airboats held about 20 - 25 people. There was plenty of room. The boats are LOUD. You are given earplugs to mute the sound. At first we were just going slowly through the channel but when we got out to the grasslands, the captain let 'er rip and we were going fast! It was so fun and so cool and so amazing! I loved it!!

Here are some photos:

starting out in the channel

out in the everglades

another airboat zooming through the River of Grass

a channel in the River of Grass

it was windy and we were going fast
I took this photo of the Everglades from the plane

Normally mid-late January is a dry time in the Everglades and we would have seen more wading birds and maybe more alligators. Since it has been so rainy, though, there were higher levels of water in park than normal and we didn't see many birds at all. We did see a couple of alligators. One was lurking in the tall grasses near an island, but the other was basking in the bright sun.

Fun fact: alligators sleep with their mouths open and their mouth works like a mousetrap. If something that gets near the mouth, the mouth slams shut and whatever was near goes right in. You can see then that this big fella was asleep.

We were excited to see the alligator in the wild! After the airboat ride, which lasted about 30 minutes, we walked through the park and looked at the swamp and saw some more captive gators.

By then we'd had all the fun we felt we could get out of the Safari Park, so we headed back to Miami. We weren't all that interested in driving around the city, so we just went back to the airport and sat around for lots of hours until it was finally time to get on the plane and come home.

That pretty much wraps up the ports we saw on our trip. I haven't written much about the ship, but I do have a few stories and photos to share of that part of the vacation, but I'll talk about that another time. 

I hope you enjoyed reading about and looking at photo from the vacation as much as I enjoyed sharing them and reliving the trip.

In February my plan is to write every other day on the even days, so I'll talk to you on Tuesday!


Kteach said...

Good job writing about the trip. It seems like you had fun even if the weather was sort of crappy.
Loved the pictures too :)

Pappy1 said...

Enjoyed reading about your trip. You made it interesting and informative. Good job.