Return to the Bahamas

Carnival Dream
Saturday, September 25,2021…The day we had been anticipating for months finally arrived, and we began our journey back to the Bahamas via Carnival Cruises…namely the “Carnival Dream,” a ship we have never sailed on. We were happy this time that our children, Bobby, Shanna, and Kimberly would be traveling with us. Shirley and I were especially happy, because that meant we would not have to do all the planning, driving, parking, and other hassling things that one does to go on a sea cruise. Kimberly, with her massive Toyota Tundra truck, would be the driver, picking up Bobby and Shanna and then us before heading to Galveston. She would handle the parking and delivery to the dock, and all would be fine.

       Promptly at 10:00 a.m. the black Tundra rolled into our driveway, and in a matter of minutes we were on our way to our new adventure. Our boarding time was to be straight up noon, so we felt we had plenty of time. We arrived at the parking garage shortly after 11:00 am. We were a couple of blocks away from the massive ship that is the Dream, but the shuttle driver promised us a quick delivery. The delivery part was true, but we were dropped off several hundred feet from the check in station and had to haul our luggage a long distance before it was checked in. By this time the hordes of prospective travelers had all converged at the same place, and the luggage check in was organized pandemonium. Then the fun began.  In previous voyages, the check in procedure was a massive mob of people attempting to all get into the same door (ship’s door) at the same time, so the cruise line came up with the novel idea of assigning sign in times to each traveler which would be spread over about three hours to alleviate the massive mobs. All I can say is that everyone must have been assigned the 12:00 o’clock slot because there were hundreds of people lined up attempting to sign in.

    The current national situation with the COVID problem made it even worse because each person had to show proof of having received the Covid-19 vaccine and passed a COVID test within the three days prior to embarkation, so checking boarding passes, driver’s licenses, passports, vaccine proofs, and negative COVID tests was time consuming. All the while we are standing in a very long line becoming wearier by the minute.   Getting one’s papers confirmed was just the start. Next came security, and we endured the walkthrough X-ray check, which I always fail because of my metal hip, and then the baggage X-ray. Having cleared those hurdles, it was time to make the vertical climb up a very steep walkway to the entrance to the ship. We were told once on the ship our first duty was to go to “Station A4” for the obligatory safety training, which consisted of how to put on the life jacket.

    Where was Station A4? Nobody knew. We deduced it might be on level 4, so we elevatored up to deck four. Got off the elevator and all was quiet. We wandered around for a few minutes until finally a steward came by and pointed us in the right direction. Station A4 was in fact on deck 4 and was a large auditorium…with hardly anyone in it. But a guy came out and briefed us on how to put on a life vest and sent us on our way.  Since we could not get into our rooms till 1:30 we decided to have some lunch,

so we had barbecue at an on-deck place called “Pig and Anchor.” Good, spicy barbecue. Afterward we made it to our rooms which are typical cruise balcony rooms. Compact but comfortable and with a nice balcony. We were on deck eleven; the ship has fourteen decks. By this time Shirley and I were both pretty exhausted from all the walking and climbing, so we rested and unpacked our bags after they eventually arrived.

     At 6:00 p.m. we had dinner reservations at the Scarlet Restaurant which turned out to be clear to the stern of the ship. Our rooms are very near the bow which meant we had a nearly 1,000-foot walk to dinner. By the time we sat down we were sure enough worn out but ready for a good dinner.   Maybe it was because it was our first night out or maybe it was the first day on the job for the wait staff and cook, but the dinner was not good. I ordered grilled mahi-mahi, and it tasted like dead fish, and the vegetables were unknown. They offered bread, and it was a single small piece that was like hardtack. The chocolate lava dessert I have bragged about since our first cruise was more like a serving of Hershey chocolate poured into a cup. All in all, very disappointing. We were back in our room by 8:00, and, although Shirley went next door to Bobby and Shanna’s to play games, I was worn out and went to bed. 

Sunday, September 26…Slept reasonably well, and we were outside our door heading to breakfast at 9:00 with the kids. Discovered Kimberly was not feeling well, so she did not accompany us to breakfast at the Lido Restaurant on Deck 10. The Lido was buffet style, and it had about anything you can imagine for breakfast. Every Carnival Cruise ship has a Lido Restaurant, and it is a major breakfast gathering place.   Back to the room after breakfast and sat on the balcony and watched the water slip by. We saw a few flying fish and sea birds, but mostly water. To Guy’s Burger Joint for lunch for two reasons: one, because it has great hamburgers, and two, because a good friend of mine, Jerry Stewart, who is a veteran cruiser, wondered if Guy’s still offered all the condiments for burgers for the taking as they used to do. The COVID pandemic has altered how restaurants offer food to customers, but as far as I can tell, things were normal all over the Dream…it was serve yourself throughout the boat. 

    We wandered around Deck five for a while. That’s where all the stores offering overpriced souvenirs were located….and the casino. I confess…I donated twenty dollars to the casino cause in about three minutes and quit…. especially after a woman who was standing behind me said, “Yeah, I lost $200.00 on that machine last night.” I think the casinos keep the odds stacked severely in their favor on these cruise ships. Back to the room to take a nap in preparation for supper.

Scarlet Restaurant Staff Entertaining

Tonight we requested another table on a different level of the Scarlet Restaurant, and it was like night and day. The wait staff quickly learned our names and gave us excellent service. The food was very tasty, and the dinner experience tonight was just as good as last night’s was bad. Encouraging, anyway. We had our first group photos taken with the roaming cameramen, so we’ll see the results tomorrow. Afterward we went to a live show featuring ‘80s music, and I drew the conclusion that it’s no wonder kids today are the way they sometimes are. There was no “music.” It was all flashing lights, noise, and scantily dressed girls…shallow, cheap entertainment...and the poorest Michael Jackson impersonator I’ve ever seen. To the room about 8:30.

    Monday, September 27. Today was a “cruising” day which meant that we were on the high seas all day without reaching our destination. Last night was a rough night for me because I must have eaten something that did not agree with my system or something. The result was a reflux problem during the night which awakened me about every hour. I was feeling really tired this morning when we arose, so I had an unusually light breakfast of cereal and dry toast instead of the usual cruise feast. We all decided to go up to the Lido Restaurant and play cards. En route to the Lido, we stopped by the photo shop and purchased one of the photos. At $17.50 each, one becomes a little selective. Besides the which, Kimberly had been holed up in her room because she has a touch of the flu, so we wanted to wait and get a full family photo. For an hour or so we played 3-13, but I was still feeling the effects of the night before. II told everyone I was not feeling well, so we broke up. Shirley and I came back to the room, and I laid down and took a long nap. After an hour or so of napping and the much lighter breakfast, I awoke feeling much better. I think I just overate
yesterday (easy to do on a cruise), and I needed to tone down my gluttony.  Back to the Scarlet Restaurant for supper tonight and again received excellent service. Their menu changed each night, and one had many options for an excellent supper. 

Tuesday, September 28. We awoke to a view of the harbor at Freeport, Bahamas. Actually, the view is not too impressive as Freeport apparently is the main shipping terminal for The Bahamas, and what one sees mostly are huge storage tanks for oil, container ships coming and going, and a small forest of cranes for unloading the cargo. We have taken the tour of this island before and there isn’t too much to see, so we opted to stay on board. So, it was to the Lido deck for the usual big breakfast.  We decided to at least go ashore and visit some of the shops clustered around the terminal.  I bought the obligatory tee shirts and a Bahamas vacation shirt for myself. Kimberly is still under the weather, so Shirley stayed on board with her. I was on Bahamian soil for about an hour before reboarding. Kimberly had called for a nurse this morning who came and examined her. She

was diagnosed as not having Covid but was given medications to take and confined to her quarters for 24 hours for observation. The whole world is skittish about Covid-19 at this time, and although the nurse said she probably didn’t have the virus, for the sake of caution she should be quarantined for a day.     

    We had eaten breakfast relatively late and were not too hungry for lunch, so we all went back to the Lido Restaurant and played dominoes instead. It was relaxing and enjoyable. I did manage to eat a couple of cookies, a slice of cake, and a bowl of ice cream, so the time wasn’t a lost cause. Back to the room for a good restful nap. By the time I awoke, we could see action beginning to be taken to cast off the moorings and prepare to head to our new destination tomorrow…Half Moon Cay. By 5:30 or so, Freeport was in our rear-view mirror, and we were back on the high seas.

Freeport, Bahamas

    Another great supper in the Scarlet Restaurant with our trio of outstanding waiters. Karel, Sora, and Wayan now know our names and what we want to drink and treat us like long lost friends. Last night and tonight they prepared additional food for Kimberly which we took to her, and they did it with a smile. After supper we sashayed through the gift shops for a few minutes and caught the tail end of a cowboy trick roping act in the auditorium. Mildly entertaining. He was advertised as a comic juggler, but all we saw were the rope tricks. Maybe he juggled at the beginning.   Back to our room about 9:00 to get ready for tomorrow.

Half Moon Cay, Bahamas
      Wednesday, September 29. Today was our visit to Half Moon Cay, the private island owned by Carnival Cruises. Our ticket to the tender (boat) to take us ashore was for 9:00 a.m., so we did not go to breakfast. The island itself is what its name implies…a slender curve of an island in the shape of a half moon. In the middle of the crescent is the pristine beach with accompanying cabins, cabanas, clamshells (canvas coverings in the shape of a clamshell) large enough for two people, and miles of beach chairs. They also have seashore tours, snorkeling tours, sightseeing tours, you name it, and you can get it (if you have enough money.)  We chose a clamshell on the beach; at least it gave us the opportunity to get out of the sun if desired and a place to stash our goods. The water was quite nice…not as cold as Hawaiian waters and very clear, but being a swimming beach, there wasn’t much to see underwater. I had brought my waterproof GoPro camera and had it strapped to my head. I let it run for about 40 minutes, but since there is no screen to see what is recorded, I will have to wait until I get home and to edit the video as needed. Got a few clips of some really tiny fish, but that’s about it. We floated and soaked in the water for some time, then I got a little tired and went ashore to our clamshell while Bobby, Shanna, and Shirley continued to swim. Kimberly is still confined to her cabin until at least tomorrow, so we missed her not being with us. 

        Underneath the shade of the clamshell, I dozed peacefully whilst the others frolicked, although I would occasionally awaken to the sight of another person who should never be seen in a bathing suit. To view an Atlas of a man or an Adonis of a woman on a beach is a rare occurrence these days, and I discovered that a woman can be 100 pounds overweight and still fit into a bikini; although is it a sight that makes one turn your gaze elsewhere. The same thing goes for men, however, except most don’t wear skimpy suits…you just can’t see too much of the suit because the belly coves most of the front. Oh, well…maybe that’s true freedom…to be able to enjoy nature no matter what one’s physical condition.  The only difficulty we had with the whole day was directions as to what to do were very skimpy. In the beginning we had to ask a couple of people where the clamshells were and how does one claim one’s clamshell. We had to hunt for restrooms. We heard by the grapevine where the food was, and we had to ask for directions as to how to get back to the ship. It was an enjoyable day, but all these items should have been covered before we left the ship. Carnival has gone practically paperless, and every bit of news is transmitted by the Carnival app or by QR code. It’s just that the information given is inadequate for confused tourists to be able to decipher.

      Around 2:00 p.m. we decided to head back to the ship. Back to our rooms to shower, de-sand, and relax (nap) for a couple of hours before supper. To our usual table (418) in the Scarlet Restaurant with our outstanding waiters. Nearly two hours of pleasant dining with excellent food and lovely company (my family…unfortunately, still without Kimberly…maybe tomorrow…)  Afterward we went to the same show we saw last night (Comic Juggler) except this time there really was a comic juggler. He was quite an accomplished juggler and an entertaining commentator as he juggled. That wrapped up about 8:45, and we headed back to our rooms for the evening.

     Thursday, September 30. Up this morning about 7:30 (ship’s time) and headed to the Lido Restaurant for breakfast. Whatever one wants for breakfast will be in the Lido buffet, so we all had a good breakfast. We were now in Nassau, Bahamas, overlooking the city from our monstrous fourteen-story tall ship. Bobby and Shanna went ashore to snoop around, but we relaxed on the ship. We have toured Nassau before, and it’s mildly interesting. It’s just that this time, neither of us was up to much walking, and the Covid scare had limited the number of accessible tourist spots anyway. When Bobby and Shanna returned, they confirmed the fact that many shopping stores were closed and activities were limited. We stopped by Kim’s room on the way back to ours and hoped she would be released to have fun this afternoon.  Late morning, we all met on deck eleven out on the rail and played cards (3-13) for an hour or so, then decided to head back to the Lido to find a bit of lunch. We have almost reached the saturation point of food, so we are starting to reduce our portions to try to avoid the dreaded “stuffed” feeling. So far with only moderate success. 

     To the room for the obligatory afternoon nap and were pleasantly surprised when Kimberly came out of hibernation and announced she was clear to roam the ship. She had been confined to her cabin since Monday, so we’re glad to have her back with us.  Bobby and I went to the Spa Club and took advantage of their jacuzzi, a cauldron of hot, churning water that will hold about 15 people. Fortunately, there was only one elderly (like me) couple in the water, so we had a good, relaxing boil in the jacuzzi. They also have these sauna rooms with varying temperatures to sweat out all the evil spirits. We sat in the coolest of the hot rooms for a few minutes, at which time I headed back to the room while Bobby stayed and explored the area. The jacuzzi was good, but the sauna rooms had these ceramic chairs that did not conform to my body and were very uncomfortable, so I bailed out early.  About 4:30 p.m. (while I napped) the Carnival Dream slipped out of Nassau Harbor for the long two-day journey home. About 5:00 we went up to Deck 11 and sat outside in the reclining chairs while the winds whipped around us. At least we were on the shady side of the ship. Kimberly was with us, so we were a whole family again. 

     Back to the Scarlet Restaurant for another excellent evening of fine dining with the excellent wait staff. They were glad to see Kimberly. I think they were beginning to believe she existed only in our imaginations. Kimberly did not eat much; she is still feeling a little delicate and did not want to tempt fate with spicy food.  It was as we were leaving the restaurant the Shirley gave us all a group heart attack.  Just as she exited the main entrance to the restaurant, her shoe caught on something and she stumbled forward headed for the floor.  She was about halfway down when Kimberly, who was fortunately next to her, caught her arm, and when I heard the commotion behind me I turned around just in time to keep her from banging her head on a support post on the way to the floor.  We were all stunned for a second, but she said she was okay, and we continued on our way, as we allowed our hearts to start beating again.  Back to our rooms for us and Kimberly, while Bobby and Shanna went down to take in a show. We were thankful to hear today that our pastor and wife are recovering from their bouts with Covid-19. Though still weak, they hope to be back in church in about 10 days. 

     Friday, October 1. To the Lido for our full breakfast, and we continued there for another hour or so to play cards. Today is the first of two “Fun Days at Sea” as we make the journey back to Galveston. We did not get back to our room until nearly noon, and since neither Shirley nor I were hungry, we did not go to lunch. After a bit of rest and sitting on the balcony watching the sea slip by, we ordered room service and had a couple of sandwiches brought up. Around five o’clock we all meandered down to the fifth deck and sat outside in the deck chairs and just mellowed out. To the Scarlet Restaurant for a special treat tonight…. stuffed mushrooms, filet mignon, and key lime mousse for dessert. It’s going to be tough to go back to peanut butter next week. After the lovely supper, we went to the theater where there was a “comic magician.” He was a portly guy with a good sense of humor, moderately skilled in magic, and mildly entertaining. He was characteristic of the entertainment we have seen so far…not too bad, but nothing to write home about.

    Saturday, October 2. Our last full day at sea, and I am running out of gas. I have a leg problem that affects my walking, and as I have said before, the Scarlet Restaurant is 1,000 exhausting feet away from our room, and any place else also takes a bit of walking. Even the walk to the Lido for breakfast requires a bit of a walk, thought certainly not 1,000 feet. Anyway, we made it to the Lido for breakfast and then played dominoes for over an hour. We decided (I thought) to head back to the rooms so off I started with Shirley and Kim behind. I got to the elevator and turned around and they were nowhere to be seen. I waited fifteen minutes, thinking maybe they had stopped by a restroom. No one appeared so I headed to our room, thinking they would be along shortly. Two hours later Shirley showed up.


    Apparently, they had decided to have lunch and then go outside on deck to relax. Fortunately, I had half a left-over ham and cheese sandwich from yesterday’s room service order, so I didn’t starve.  Everyone decided to go up to deck fourteen, the Sun Deck, to relax a bit, so there we chilled for an hour or so. Bobby, Shanna, and Kimberly decided to go do the jacuzzi and sauna, so Shirley and I went to our room. We had received preliminary directions for debarkation tomorrow, so we began organizing our items and packing for the inevitable leaving of the ship. By the time 5:30 rolled around, we were pretty well packed and ready to go to dinner.  Our last trip to the Scarlet Restaurant was as enjoyable as the other visits have been. Bobby had his usual four appetizers (!) including boiled shrimp, fried shrimp, some kind of strawberry soup, and a cobb salad. Being more moderate, I only had the fried shrimp and cobb salad. The short ribs and trimmings were excellent, and the baked Alaska was divine. Toward the end of our dinner session the wait staff sang us a goodbye song and bade us farewell. We responded by tipping our three waiters we’ve had all week; they were excellent. I have eaten in some very expensive restaurants where the wait staff was not nearly as efficient or personable. They were great.
Back to the room to finish preparation for the early exit in the morning. Alarm set for 7:00 a.m.


    Sunday, October 3   We were up before the alarm went off…in time to see the massive Carnival Dream slip silently into Galveston harbor, do a slow motion 180 degree turn around, and ease up to the dock.  If one had not been looking outside, one would never have known the ship was moving.  Shanna, my beloved daughter-in-law, had procured for me last night a wheelchair to use today, since I was still having difficulty walking.  Promptly at 8:20 the wheelchair arrives, and I flop into it while the family trails behind.  We went to deck 3 to a central waiting area for all mobility-challenged people were.  There my wheelchair assistant asked if Shirley would care to have a wheelchair, too.  She quickly agreed, so both of us were able to anticipate a smoother exit from the ship.  Kim had left the ship earlier to go get her truck to save us a little time and avoid the hassle of bussing to the parking area. 

    We started the long walk (roll) to the exit all the while with proper identification in hand.  Down to the exit door, down the long winding gangplank, into the cavernous room where our luggage was…somewhere.  Fortunately, the luggage was arranged according to exiting time, and it did not take too long to find all our gear.  However, to get from the luggage area to where Kim was to pick us up was way “over yonder,” so Bobby and Shanna were stuck with dragging all the luggage the distance to the pickup area.  We got there just as Kimberly was passing by and unable to stop, so she had to make another round to get back to us. But get back to us she did, and we all loaded up and headed north, stopping at McDonald’s along to the way to get a semblance of breakfast.  From the Lido Buffet to McDonald’s is a bit of a letdown.

     Around noon, we rolled into our driveway, finding thankfully our house was still all there.  We quickly unloaded our baggage, and the kids went on their way with Kimberly dropping off  Bobby and Shanna on her way home.  Although we enjoyed the Bahama time and ship time, what we valued most was the time we were able to enjoy with our kids.  I know we say our “kids,” although they are all grown, responsible adults, but to parents, your kids are…your kids…no matter their age.  We have been blessed to have children and I include our daughter-in-law, Shanna, who love their parents…almost as much as we love them.  They took care of us on our cruise like we were…well, like we were old people.  We are, unfortunately, at that age where we say in our minds, “We can still do that!” but our bodies reply, “Oh, no, you can’t.”  Unfortunately, our bodies are usually correct.  Regardless, it was an immensely enjoyable week.  We’re ready to go again.