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Bahama Mama, A California Girl’s First Cruise

Bahamas, Cruise Ships, Island Life, Miami, Travel

I can finally remove going on a cruise from my bucket list. After years of people giving me the look of shock when I tell them I have never been on a cruise, I can proudly say that I am no longer a “cruise virgin.”  I kicked off November with a great group of friends on an open bar cruise that departed from Miami and made two stops in the Bahamas. It was a whirlwind of a weekend and I am definitely doing it again next year.

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Norwegian Star

On November 1st, about 20 of us from SOG (South of Gandy) left at the crack of dawn to head to Orlando where we took a chartered bus to Miami. We are not a quiet group and were anxious to get our weekend started, so many of us began enjoying adult beverages for the three-hour ride to Miami. My nickname is not Champagne Girl for nothing and I sipped on a mini-can of Sophia Coppola’s Blanc de Blancs and dove into a few magazines. It felt nice not to have the interruptions of work, the telephone, kids and pets. I was getting into relaxation mode and ready for my weekend adventures.

Sophia Coppola Sparkling Wine
Sophia Coppola Sparkling Wine

We boarded the ship late Friday afternoon and I am embarrassed to say that after a grueling last few weeks at work, I fell asleep in my cabin for a few hours and woke up after we had already left the port in Miami. It was now dinner time and I had to get myself up and moving and ready to join the others. I was really looking forward to dinner as I had heard about how fantastic the food is on cruise ships. As we headed to one of the dining rooms, I was immediately impressed with the service of the staff. Everyone was smiling and happy and it was contagious.  I started off with a glass of Pinot Noir and a garlic tomato polenta cake, which was the highlight of my meal. While I thoroughly enjoyed the polenta cake, I was felt the rest of the meal was mediocre.  My main course was a New York Strip and a baked potato, which was just average.  I had asked for the steak medium rare and it was medium well. The potato was dry and flavorless. Since I was in a hurry to join up with the rest of the group, I didn’t say anything and ate my meal. I figured my next dinner would be better.

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Garlic Tomato Polenta Cake

After a fantastic first night of cocktails and laughter, we all woke up at the beautiful island of Great Stirrup Cay. There is a lot of history to this island, which I learned about on the cruise. Great Stirrup Cay is a small island that is part of the Berry Islands in the Bahamas. The island is owned by Norwegian Cruise Line after they purchased it from Belcher Oil in 1977 and is used exclusively as a private island for Norwegian Cruise passengers.

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Island Life at Great Stirrup Cay

I found the island quite stunning and was mesmerized by the water which is the color of my birthstone, aquamarine. The water was calling my name and I made sure to go for a swim before heading back to the ship.

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Great Stirrup Cay

As soon as we disembarked, we were treated to an array of food selections which included two of my favorites, fresh coconut and papaya. Several of us sat down to enjoy lunch before walking around and shopping with the local vendors.

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Fresh Coconut at Great Stirrup Cay

I found the food on the island much better than on the cruise and indulged in jerk chicken, Bahamian ginger & lime couscous salad, island spiced corn & bean salad and Caribbean yucca salad. After a relaxing lunch and an afternoon of light shopping, I was ready to head back to the ship to prepare for the evening’s festivities.

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Jerk Chicken at Great Stirrup Cay

Did I mention this was an open bar cruise? Sounds almost too good to be true but it isn’t. Part of our package included all domestic beer, wines, calls and many premiums. I am normally a vodka and soda gal but I decided to enjoy some rum drinks while visiting the islands, such as this mojito.

Mojito
Mojito

The second night of our cruise included an all white party and I was delighted to run into two other friends from Tampa, Robert & Mindy, who were on the same cruise. What a small world!

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Mindy, Robert and I at the White Party

After a fabulous second night on the cruise, we arrived early Sunday morning at Nassau. I must admit, I was a bit hung over and when I spotted fresh coconuts that you could drink right of, I had to get one. Nothing cures a hangover like hydration and what better way to hydrate than with coconut water.

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My Coconut

I blissfully sipped on my fresh coconut water and walked around the city of Nassau. Since this was my first visit, I had no idea how large the city was and found myself immersed in the local culture and numerous shops.  It was a gorgeous day and I was feeling very blessed.

Fresh Coconut Water at Nassau
Fresh Coconut Water at Nassau

I, of course, could not leave without getting some of their famous rum cake and tasted all flavors such as chocolate and coconut. Moist and delicious, I took one home back to Tampa.

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Tortuga Rum Cakes

Always wanting to eat like a local, I spotted a long line of people anxiously awaiting their orders of fresh conch fritters. I patiently got in line and waiting about twenty minutes for my order and it was well worth the wait. If you are not familiar, a conch is a sea-snail and is second in popularity to escargot for edible snails. Conch is considered to be the main dish of The Bahamas, so I was thrilled to be eating like a local. I have had conch fritters before, but they were not nearly as good as these. Although the coconut water helped my hangover, these fried little beauties really made me feel better.

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Conch Fritters

Thanks to the conch fritters, I was feeling better and able to taste some local rums such as pineapple, mango, coconut and banana. I bought two bottles to take home as memories of my first trip to The Bahamas. 🙂

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Local Rums

I had such an amazing weekend with everyone and will cherish these memories forever. All in all, the trip was fantastic and I am already booked for next year. If you are interested, or for more information, visit Open Bar Cruise and see their upcoming events. Maybe I will see you next year. Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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