|Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas,
docked in Nassau, Bahamas
For my 40th birthday, I went big. Cruise ship big. It had to be a short-ish trip because Chris has too much work in the summer, and I wanted it to not be too expensive. So we settled on a three-day cruise to Nassau and Coco Cay in the Bahamas, sailing out of Port Canaveral, on Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas. Two friends of ours, Chris and Jill, joined us on their first cruise experience.
I did no research on the ship before buying, but a friend who has been on this ship and many others let me know afterward that it was his least favorite ship. Now I know why.
First of all, our room was very clean. Actually, the entire ship was virtually spotless. It was only after noting the cleanliness that you see the other things, like bits of rust on nearly ever metal surface, or painter’s tape left in place. Or the fact that the “automatic” doors are only automatic if you press a button.
The crew was beyond polite, going out of their way to make sure you are comfortable and happy.
|My birthday surprise: Flourless chocolate
cake, vanilla cheesecake and berry dessert
Our dinner servers (we chose the 5:30 p.m. seating), were accommodating and super nice. The food, however, was not up to the standard I expected on a cruise ship. We expected grand dinners in the My Fair Lady formal dining room, full of food we can’t or won’t get at home. While I did get the escargot, I was incredibly disappointed. Tiny pieces of snail were drowned in a sea of butter and had no flavor. The pork loin was dry. The salmon was just … meh. Absolutely nothing was better than what I could get at home. The menu itself only had a few options for starters and main courses, but of course you could get lobster or steak for a huge upcharge.
|The dinner staff, about to sing O Sole Mio|
We were more impressed with the Windjammer Cafe buffet. The number of options was staggering. There was always a separate Indian selection every evening, and the butter chicken was delicious.
During our first full day at sea, Chris and I tried the breakfast buffet, but ended up leaving and heading back to My Fair Lady. The turkey sausage looked and tasted like a dog treat. The scrambled eggs were flavorless, and the French Toast was just not good. The coffee was bitter, as well.
We had far more success at My Fair Lady, with ham, cheese and mushroom omelets, and a smaller buffet filled with cereal, toppings and fruit.
The furnishings on the ship were lovely and comfortable in most public areas, though I got pinched by a broken chair in the dining room. Our bed, however, was a different story. We might be spoiled by a Serta iComfort bed at home, but the bed in the stateroom was rock hard. It was like sleeping on a board with a thick blanket over it. We did, however, get the least expensive stateroom possible, so that might have had something to do with it.
There are plenty of excursions available on the Enchantment of the Seas, but we opted to fly by the seat of our pants. Once we docked in Nassau, we made our way out of port and to the straw market, where you are bombarded with offers on all sorts of clothing, trinkets and souvenirs. Negotiating is key here, and I ended up with a dress for $15 after an initial $30 suggestion. Unfortunately, most of the items in the straw market are bought in bulk from distributors. I even saw a dress I bought on Amazon a week before the trip. We’re talking a lot of “Made in Taiwan” crap. It was unfortunate.
Chris spoke to a local bus driver and asked about an authentic Bahamas restaurant for lunch. We ended up at the Bahamian Cookin Kitchen. I ordered grouper fingers, and Chris and Jill got the owner-recommended mutton, with rice and peas, plantains, and baked mac & cheese. They absolutely got the better dish. My grouper was delicious, don’t get me wrong. Very lightly breaded and fried. but the flavor in the mutton, and the peas and rice, was divine. If you visit Nassau, definitely head over to this restaurant.
|The view from Fort Fincastle.|
Afterward, Chris asked the owner about what sights we needed to get in. She recommended Fort Fincastle and the Queen’s Staircase. We made our way up to the fort and Chris paid the $1.08 entry fee. The rocks to build the fort were quarried and moved by 600 slaves, who also built the Queen’s Staircase, just a short walk away.
Before heading to the Queen’s Staircase, we met a gentleman who asked if we wanted more information on the area. Of course we said yes. Thus began a 5-minute speech that looked like he was reading it from the back of his eyelids. The number of facts he spouted off was staggering. After he finished, he said he wasn’t associated with the fort, but did work for tips. We were thoroughly impressed with his knowledge and gave him $3.
At the Queen’s Staircase (where the manmade waterfall was unfortunately turned off), we met with another gentleman, the caretaker of the 66 Steps, as it’s otherwise called. I didn’t get any photos, but trust me that it’s beautiful and haunting. You can still see the chisel marks in the rock. The caretaker told us that the alcoves carved into the stone were created by the slaves’ ancestors, as a memorial to the dead. They would carve out the niche, then place a vining plant to grow up the wall. The vines didn’t always take, which is why several of the niches are visible. The caretaker also mentioned that he worked for tips, and we happily obliged (thanks in a large part to his sense of humor over the chicken he was trying to eat when we interrupted). There was also a woman selling hand-carved souvenirs at the base of the staircase. We were informed that they were made by Bahamians, and you would find no Made in Taiwan stickers here. For $20, I bought a wooden palm tree, which was made even cooler by the fact that it came apart completely for travel. Every frond and every coconut came off so it wouldn’t break on the trip home. Brilliant!
Then, again by the restaurant owner’s recommendation, we caught a bus that would take us around the island. The fee? $1.25 each round-trip. We knew there was a way to avoid the huge expenses of excursions! It was a local bus, so there was no tour guide. Instead, we just watched the scenery and marveled at the drivers and traffic. It was CRAZY! Lots of honking horns, but also lots of people letting other drivers in. They were polite and cranky at the same time. I loved every scary moment of it.
The next day was spent at Coco Cay, Royal Caribbean’s own private island. We were the only ship at that particular island that day, so that was nice. There was a different ship at the next island over. We had to take a ferry to get to the island from the ship, but that was a painless process. Plus, I really like riding on ferries. It’s all about the motion of the ocean, baby!
Again, no excursions for us. Instead, Chris and I set off alone on a trail to … somewhere. We had no plans and didn’t care. There was a secluded area off to the left, and we headed to the beach there so Chris could snorkel and I could swim. The water was incredibly shallow on that side of the island, and I never got to a point above my waist. He found coral fossils, a couple of sea biscuits and, my favorite, a shell that looks like an orange slice. We continued our trek around the island, by way of the beach, and headed to the westernmost point. There, the rocks began and the beach ended. We took the trail back toward the cruise ship and happened upon an alcove with benches and a gazebo, where we both said “I do” and got fake married. It was a lovely and brief ceremony.
After a 1-mile walk back to “civilization,” Chris got me a Coco Loco, which was so full of alcohol that I was drunk before I even finished. It was delicious! We ate lunch at the free buffet on the island, then headed back to the ship, where we hit the showers, then headed to the Windjammer Cafe, again.
|I’m somewhere in there, watching Apollo 13.|
There was an abundance of activities on the ship, at 15 minute intervals. You couldn’t be bored if you tried. We saw a comedian, watched part of a couple of movies on the big screen, and enjoyed the adult-only pool in the solarium (in large part to avoid having to wear sunscreen).
The back of the ship had a rock wall for climbing, but we never saw it open, due to high winds. The front of the ship had a bungee bounce, but that only seemed to be open in port.
There was also a fitness facility, with complementary workout seminars. The gym was really nice, and while we had good intentions to use it (I packed gym clothes!), we did so much walking and stair climbing and swimming, that I never wanted to be cooped up in there on a treadmill.
Chris and I like to make our own fun, without anyone dictating what we do. It was a great trip, with lots of events and drinking and overall merriment. I just wish the food and some of the facilities had lived up to the expectations. Next time, we’ll probably try another cruise line, with a newer ship. We might even splurge and get a room with a window.