Travel/Caribbean cruise: Setting sail for family fun

Travel/Caribbean cruise: Setting sail for family fun

By THOMAS SOUTHEY

Last August, my family and I went on a five-day Caribbean cruise that left from Miami and visited the Bahamas and Grand Turk Island.

Many companies offer Caribbean cruises, and they vary in the number of days at sea and ports visited. We selected a cruise that offers fun activities for the whole family. Our ship had clubs for young kids and teens, a big water slide, a spa and a casino, but when we were anchored at some ports, I saw ships with a climbing wall and basketball courts.

At each port, passengers can either stay on board or select from a range of tours and activities. Off-board tours typically cost extra, and some have limited openings, so I recommend choosing a cruise with many on-board activities.

We decided to do a little bit of both, staying on board at some destinations to discover everything the ship had to offer and taking tours during the day at other stops. We always enjoyed the activities they organized for the passengers at night. I suggest you learn about the cruise entertainment options as soon as you board.

We flew into the Miami airport on the day of departure and took advantage of the option to check in for our cruise at the airport. We were able to avoid the check-in lines in the hot sun at the Port of Miami.

Our cruise left Miami in the afternoon, and the next morning, we arrived in Nassau in the Bahamas. Nassau is not only the capital of the Bahamas, but also its busiest city.

In Nassau, we relaxed, walked around and discovered the entertainment options on board. A popular tour in this port is to visit Atlantis Paradise Island. Atlantis is an entertainment complex that includes hotels, aquariums and a water park. The aquariums hold large marine habitats, including huge rays. The water park has many slides for all tastes, from mild to the Leap of Faith, which drops about 60 feet and transports people through a tunnel that passes through a pool full of fish and sharks.

The following morning, we arrived to Half Moon Cay Island, another one of the 700 islands in the Bahamas. This is a private island owned by a cruise line, and many cruises use it as a destination.

We used a tender to reach the island, and passengers had free access to its white beaches. I recommend arriving to the beach early to rent one of the few cabanas or shelters close to the shore, because there are few places in the shade.

We rented snorkeling equipment at the beach, and I saw people renting catamarans, sailboats and kayaks. Close to the beach, there is a bar in the shape of a pirate ship, where we climbed to the top to get a good look at the island. The island was hosting passengers from at least three cruise ships that day, and our cruise set up tables for us to have plenty of food at lunch.

The cruise arrived early to Grand Turk Island on the third day, and passengers could walk around or take a tour to visit the island's lighthouse, museum and Cockburn Town by bike, Segway or bus.

We chose snorkeling, which was for people as young as 8 years old. We walked from the cruise along the pier and waited in the port for our tour.

In our group of 20, there were people of all ages, from 10 to 70. We were provided with diving masks, breathing tubes, floating vests and fins. One of the guides also offered floating noodles for those that felt less comfortable in the water. Another guide dived with us and showed us the best places to find colorful fish. The guide also brought food to attract fish. The guide was careful to keep the group together and even pulled along some people who were having trouble.

We were first taken to a place 20 minutes from the harbor, where there was a deep drop into coral and plenty of marine life. In our second stop, we saw a nurse shark.

At each place we stopped for snorkeling, there were two other tour boats, but it never felt crowded. This snorkeling adventure was memorable, and I highly recommend it.

After Grand Turk, we spent one day at sea and returned on the fifth day to Miami. There was never a dull moment.

Room service left a daily schedule of activities and attractions. They also left a towel folded in the shape of a different animal every night. One of the activities I enjoyed most was the class on how to fold towels into animals, where I learned to make a bear.

The cruise offered many dining options. Stations with burgers and simpler foods were open in between the main meals.

Informal restaurants were open for buffet-style breakfast, lunch and dinner, and there was the option of a more formal dinner at a high-end restaurant. For the formal dinner, my family was assigned a table with another family from Canada that had children my age.

Family shows like musicals, comedians and magic skits started after 7 p.m.

In addition to the schedule of activities, I participated in many of the activities organized by a club for young children, and there is another club for teens.

Our cruise had a pool, jacuzzis and a small water park with slides on one side. A mini-golf area was located on the other side of the ship. Ping-pong tables and bean bag toss boards were spread along the sides of the boat. The master of ceremonies organized tournaments and encouraged passengers to participate.

Thomas Southey is a middle school student who lives in Savoy.

Sections (1):Living
Topics (1):Travel

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