Monday, March 12, 2012

Freestyle Cruising Ahead

I took a short hiatus from blogging for the past few days, and we had a fabulous time aboard a Norwegian cruise to the Caribbean. Our journey started in Miami where we spent a day touring the City and enjoyed the fine dining and free lifestyle the City has to offer. We also took the opportunity to investigate the real estate market, and were awed by how affordable a condo vacation property is right by the bay. After that we boarded the cruise ship, and started our 4-day sail. Being the first-time cruiser, I've learnt a few new things and thought I'd share my experience with you.

1. Get a balcony or penthouse suite if possible. Okay I admit it that we are antisocial people. So to have our private balcony to get the same views as from the panoramic deck (where all the people are) is amazing.

Views from our balcony as we were embarking in Miami

2. Cruise crew are extremely courteous and helpful. They are mostly recruited from Southeast Asia (Philippines) or South America, who have superb work ethics and really go out of their way to ensure your short stay was as relaxing and memorable as possible. The $12 per person per day tips were worth every penny.

3. Upon boarding, we immediately made reservations for the three gourmet restaurants to get our first picks of times. These are the ones that cost extra cover charges ranging from $15 to $25 per person, and they are well worth it. Wine, sparkling water and cocktails are extra, and they will put away your unfinished bottle for you to consume in any other restaurants on deck. One of the three restaurants we tried offers French cuisine called Le Bistro, and they make one of the best Crème Brûlées I've ever had. Each meal ended up costing us on average $80, which is only a third of what we would've paid in town for such a meal including wine.

Food from our cruise

4. Watch out for high sodium in food and drinking water. I had suspected that the water has high sodium content which led to slight swelling in my extremities, e.g. I had a tough time squeezing my finger through my wedding rings yet they are usually loose fit. After reading some blogs and comments, a lot of people blame the food served instead. Either way, after the first day, we opted for very low-sodium Pellegrino whenever possible, and avoided sauteed dishes and cold cuts as much as we could.

5. Ship can get pretty rocky when sailing through head winds or rain storms. We had experienced both for a short period of time, and I actually quite liked it. For those that are prone to motion sickness, pack extra non-drowsy Gravols or ask concierge on the boat for some free ones.

6. I'd like to think cruising is an adapted taste. As an avid museum and art gallery goer, I felt I always needed to "do" things while on vacation in a different place. Before I was under the impression that cruising is mostly for seniors and newly-weds, and at the end of it everybody walks away food-stuffed. To my surprise, the trip is not short of activities and things to do, and truly offers something for everyone. Yesterday afternoon Hub and I hit the golf driving net, played Ping Pong, shot some criminals (video arcade), and pushed coin dozers at casino, all within a few hours. That said, you also need to like and enjoy letting your mind roam idle and free for a good period of time. I find it a nice change for me, and it helped unclutter my mind.

7. Let's just say pharmacies in the Bahamas are loosey-goosey -- all you need to do is to ask, and pay for it! My eyes were irritated by the ship's tap water, and my bad habit of rubbing them only made it worse. A few hours aboard I already found myself with what seemed to be pink eye. One of our destinations is Nassau of the Bahamas, and while in a pharmacy looking for OTC symptom-relieving eye drops, we overheard people in the line buying Tylenol #3 without any prescription. Thankfully I have a licensed pharmacist handy (Hubby) so he asked the lady (who doesn't appear to be one) at the counter for Vigamox or Garamycin, both require doctor's prescriptions in Ontario. And guess what? They have it, and had no problem of just taking our credit card and selling it to us! Rest assured that I responded well to the medication, and I got to continue to enjoy the trip.

Anti-infection eye drop sans prescription

As I mentioned earlier, this was my first time cruising, and I chose a short one to get a taste. Did I like the experience? Yes. Would I go for a long one next time? Hell, yeah! I've already had the Mediterranean Cruise in mind. Until next time...

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