We didn't go cruising for the ship, the food, the drinks or the opportunity to climb and descend a hundred flights of stairs. We went for The Bahamas.
For those of you who aren't familiar with The Bahamas, they are a stretch of islands discovered in 1492 by Christopher Columbus, much to the joy of the thousands of people who already lived there. Having finally been discovered, they could start becoming indentured servants and playing fun games like, "Which European Disease Do I Have Now?"
But enough history. Let's talk geography. The Bahamas is actually a chain of more than 700 islands, cays and islets. The Islets had made a name for themselves as a popular Motown group before retiring to The Bahamas. They are fairly low-lying islands ranging in height from sea level to a guy named Freddie. And, of course, they are surrounded by beautiful blue waters filled with several species of sharks, including the Lemon Shark, which is ruthlessly hunted by such companies as Minute Maid for its juice.
Our first stop was in Freeport, where we were to go snorkeling out of Port Lucaya. This was my second snorkeling excursion with my wife. During the first one in the Keys, she nearly drowned me while climbing up my back when a large shark swam right in front of us. But it wasn't sharks we were warned about on our way to the Bahamian reef; it was fire coral.
Our guide explained that fire coral was yellow with white tips -- and that if we touched it, it would burn for at least two days unless someone urinated on the burn site, which he volunteered to do. They then dumped us into the fire coral capital of the sea with hopes they could spend the rest of the day peeing on us.
Fortunately, we avoided the fire coral and urine and sharks. It turned out to be a pleasant dip in the ocean with plenty of colorful fish to look at and snap blurry pictures of with a cheap underwater camera. If you would like to replicate the effect of a cheap underwater camera with your camera, simply spin very quickly and press the button at any point. You'll get pretty much the same image.
The most thrilling part of Freeport was the bus ride back and forth from between the ship and Port Lucaya. In between giving us history lessons and explaining little tidbits such as how KFC to Bahamian women means "Keep From Cooking" and that the raccoon is the king of the jungle there, our guide explained that the maximum speed limit in The Bahamas is 45 miles per hour -- just low enough for pedestrians to dive out of the way of our tour bus. At 50 mph, we'd have cut the population in half. I didn't have the heart to tell the poor tour guide after all those near misses that he'd been driving on the left side of the road the whole time, making the drive way more dangerous than it needed to be.
The second day, we stopped in Nassau. We had no shore excursion such as snorkeling or pedestrian crushing booked here, so we simply walked through the Straw Market and then on to nearby Junkanoo Beach.
There are three words you need to know if you're visiting the Straw Market: "No thank you." You will say this about 176 times before you can get through this place where vendors politely but incessantly hawk their wares. We would buy a few souvenirs on the way back to the ship but not before we said "no thank you" so much that I now say it in my sleep.
Lying farther south, Nassau is slightly hotter than Freeport. By "slightly," I mean "Oh, my God, I'm gonna melt." But once we found Junkanoo Beach, the breeze took over, and it was indeed paradise.
While The Bahamas boasts more than 700 islands and cays and such, it has just two songs -- "Welcome to Junkanoo Beach" and "Whatever I Do, My Monkey Do, Too." I'm exaggerating, of course. The Bahamas has just one song, to which they keep changing the words but keep the beat. At least, that's my impression from spending a few hours on Junkanoo where a musician serenaded us with a one-hour version of the monkey song: "I jump up; my monkey do, too. I sit down; my monkey do, too." It's amazing everything I learned about that monkey in the next hour or so. I'm a pacifist, but I'd have killed that monkey after about 45 minutes.
At Junkanoo, there were no sharks or fire coral to deal with, but there were other dangers. In fact, it might be the closest I've come to getting killed since I got married. Two bikini-clad young ladies approached us on the beach and asked if we could take their picture. My wife said, "Sure. Baby, you're better at that than I am," and told me to do it.
So, I took their camera and stood at the edge of the shore to take their picture with a lighthouse in the background as they stood in the water. But after I took a couple, they insisted I take a couple of shots to capture their rear view. Um, OK. Fortunately, my wife did not kill me on the spot, but the smirk on her face let me know that she had great ammunition for a future argument:
"SURE! YOU CAN'T TAKE OUT THE TRASH, BUT YOU CAN TAKE PICTURES OF TRASHY GIRLS' BUTTS!"
But she got me back. While I was swimming off the jerk chicken a fellow cooked up for me on the beach at a shack that would have got a health department grade of K if it were in Georgia, I looked back and saw her talking to a guy. I gave him time to move on, but he didn't. So I had to slowly swim his way and explain that the chicken wasn't the only jerk on the beach. At which point, he insisted he was just talking business and insisted upon me his business card -- because if there's anything I go to The Bahamas for, it's American sales pitches. He was selling electricity. Perhaps he discovered electricity like Columbus discovered The Bahamas. Anyway, I had enough electricity and suggested a place to plug in his business card.
Back on the boat, we found us a vantage point nice and high where we could watch some of our fellow passengers try to make the ship before it sailed away. These passengers all seemed to suffer from either heat stroke, alcohol intoxication or extreme laziness. A couple hitched a ride on a golf cart to make it to the gangway seconds before it was raised. I felt for anybody left behind. There are worse places to be stranded than The Bahamas, but I couldn't take another minute of "My Monkey Do, Too."
Next week, Chris Johnson writes about the reason many cruise -- the food!
-- Chris Johnson is an independent correspondent. Connect with him at Facebook.com/KudzuKidWriting or firstname.lastname@example.org.