I haven’t been to a lot of other countries. That might surprise you, since I’m such a cosmopolitan and learned gentleman. But it’s true! Before last month the only foreign country I had ever been to was Canada. And, if we’re being honest (we are!), that doesn’t really count.
However, I was recently able to up my total of foreign countries visited to two! I mean, that’s not great, but there are people in America who have never been on a plane. So I guess it could be worse. Anyway, I took a cruise to the Bahamas (one of the most American ways possible to go about seeing another country), and these are my observations.
5. It Seems Like a Bargain…BUT
The initial reason a cruise seemed attractive was the price tag. I majored in journalism (good choice past Burk!), which means my bank account is less than robust. A cruise seemed like a good way to see a different part of the world for relatively cheap.
And it is! Kinda! See, the initial price per person isn’t that staggering at face value. I think when my girlfriend and I booked the trip it was between $250-$300 per person for an interior room–a room without a view, so to speak. Cruise lines conveniently forget to remind you that there are fees and taxes associated with that price, though. We actually ended up paying a little more than $400 per person.
Still, that doesn’t seem too bad for a room and all of your meals. Be prepared to get absolutely gouged on everything else, though.
The booze is really where they get you. Alcohol is marked up to airport bar and stadium concession stand prices. I want to drink a cold beer on my vacation as much as the next guy, but I also don’t want to pay $5 for a Bud Light. The mark up on the medicine in the little shop was even worse. Also, the cruise line will tack on a fee for gratuity, which can run you about $100.
4. The Staff is Incredibly Diverse
Our cruise left from Charleston, so I guess I assumed the majority of the crew would be American. I couldn’t have been more wrong. There were a few Americans (mostly people running the activities throughout the day), but, just on the first day alone, we encountered people from South Africa, Australia, England, Bulgaria, Mexico and a number of Asian countries.
Also, our cruise director was named Jacques and had an accent I was never able to place. During the first announcement, I briefly thought he might have been Jean Claude Van Damme fallen on hard times. That proved to be false when I failed to notice any significant splits doing or throat punching throughout the week.
Our ethnically ambiguous director aside, it was amazing that a crew that diverse was able to communicate and keep things running smoothly with little to no issue.
3. Ugly Americans
The thing that bothered me the most was the high percentage of ugly Americans on the boat. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. When you go on a bargain priced vacation, I guess you have to accept that it might attract a certain type of person.
By certain type of person, I mean loud, entitled and surprisingly unwilling to try new things DESPITE GOING ON A VACATION TO A FOREIGN COUNTRY.
For instance, the kitchen actually tried provide a variety of different starters and entrees during the cruise. I thought it was great that the cruise line was actually putting forth some effort and not just caving to the simplest American tastes. Some of the other passengers were less enthusiastic about the menu.
We sat with one such couple. The wife gave one of the worst stink eyes I’ve ever seen whilst looking at the menu, following it with “Nothing on here looks good.” Her husband helpfully added “This is doesn’t look like a Chili’s menu, which is what we’re used to.” She got chicken pretty much every meal and he got a steak every meal–smothered in A1 of course!
When we actually got to our ports, it was even more depressing. I was determined to take the opportunity to explore Nassau. We walked through downtown, past the tourist traps until we were clear of pasty, poorly dressed white people. Our adventurous streak paid off when we got to a restaurant and pub off the beaten path.
The veranda where we sat was devoid of other tourists, and I had one of the best meals of my life. After getting back to the boat, I learned that most people spent the day shopping at the tourist-y shops near the port or in Atlantis. If you’re not familiar, Atlantis is basically an Americanized theme park/hotel/casino in Nassau.
To me, it’s beyond comprehension to travel yet be determined to remain within your comfort zone. The point of traveling should be to expand your horizons and experience new things.
But if you want to travel thousands of miles to go on a water slide, I guess that’s your choice.
2. The Food
I really wish we would have had more time to explore Nassau, but I made what little time we had count. Like I said, we ate at a pub and restaurant down the hill from a colonial fort and next to a cricket pitch. Oh, and did I mention it was a stone’s throw away from the beach? Because it was.
I had some amazing island style snapper. The sides (fried peas and rice, mac and cheese and plantains) were amazing as well. Honestly, I don’t know if I can do the meal justice by simply describing it. Let me put it like this: If you’re in the Bahamas, eat at the Cricket Club in Nassau. You won’t be disappointed.
The looks on our dinner companions’ faces when we told them about eating fish served whole–with head and all–was a nice bonus.
We also had the chance to go to several restaurants in Charleston before and after our cruise. I highly suggest The Grocery, Husk, Poogan’s Porch and the Tattooed Moose.
1. The Beauty
Having grown up in the upper Midwest, I don’t know if I’ll ever be used to seeing palm trees–much less palm trees lining city streets. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
My (literal) distance from all things equatorial actually made the experience more special. To me, it felt otherworldly. Granted, where I’m from is beautiful in its own right but not like the Caribbean. You’ve seen the posters and the Corona commercials and your friends’ pictures; I don’t need to tell you it’s beautiful.
It’s really something to see it in person, though.
Go see it!