Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Moths to a Flame - Part 4, Nassau, Revisited, Again


The sun dramatically rises in front of us as we slowly approach Nassau. The barely perceptible light on the iconic, battered lighthouse flashes dimly in the breaking light as we glide silently, effortlessly past into the narrow Nassau channel.

The 990 foot long, 91 ton ship slows and turns around easily in the narrow channel. She backs into the dock as if by magic. All of the modern ships turn effortlessly within their own length, and they do it every day. The days of tugboats pushing and pulling with ropes and cables faded away years ago.

I usually sleep like a rock, but not on a cruise ship. I’m always awake before daybreak and wander around the top deck looking for opportunities to take photographs. I love to watch the sun rise at sea. Something new or interesting in the morning light usually catches my eye. Besides, I like having the whole boat to myself.

The cruise ships rarely enter port before dawn and this way I get to see when the pilot boats come alongside to allow us to pick up the local pilots who bring the huge ships into port. Ilse enjoys the time to sleep in a little bit, a nice break from the daily routine. And that brings me to another reason cruising is popular with us, time.

Time to sleep-in that doesn’t always happen at home. Breakfast here is just a few feet away, even in your cabin if you want it, and we don’t have to cook or drive anywhere. Breakfast can be just about anything we choose. We always eat in the main dining room the first day as Eggs Benedict are as much a tradition with me as my French Onion soup, and that is one of the few things not found in the informal breakfast line found on the upper decks. The breakfast serving line on deck ten had everything imaginable, but it is no longer self serve. Instead, mask-wearing servers wait patiently to serve what ever you point at, from coddled eggs to custom made French toast and different fares from Asia and the Far East. There are more servers than passengers.

No sooner are we docked in Nassau than another huge ship approaches us head-on as if we aren’t even there. She slows and begins spinning – turning is not the right word – and within minutes the Celebrity Silhouette slips quietly backwards into the dock across from us.

I check on Ilse, who has dressed, and we head down to eat breakfast as the ship’s captain announces disembarking the ship is now open. There are no long lines when there are less than a quarter of the regular passengers to disembark, but we always avoid the initial rush, usually by getting something to eat. We did not sign up for any shore excursions so we had no fixed schedule. We’ll walk into town after the we eat and the crowds have thinned out. We have until 3:30pm so we are in no rush.

We are the only passengers in sight as we disembark onto to the long, empty dock. We take our prerequisite photos next to the ship and wander into town for a nostalgic stroll along Bay Street, stopping to chat with the pigeon man, several police officers, and many clerks and store keepers. The first thing we notice is the bleachers that are usually assembled and in place along both sides of Bay Street this time of year for the Boxing Day Celebration known as Junkanoo, are missing. We are informed by several sad Bahamians that the day after Christmas celebration has been canceled for the second year in a row.

We are immediately struck by the change in attitudes from past visits here. Everyone we talk with is openly friendly. The sharp, usually abrasive marketing atmosphere has mostly disappeared. This is our third time in town, not counting flying in and out of the Nassau International airport where we would fly to Luxembourg, just a few kilometers from my wife's hometown, and the welcome change in the atmosphere seems to be universal. They are obviously glad to see cruise ship visitors back after a year and a half absence, even if there aren’t that many of us.

Nassau is undergoing another port reconstruction as well as major building projects along the waterfront area and in town itself. Even though Nassau is one of the most modern, up-to-date cities in the Caribbean, caution is still required when walking along the streets and pathways. One of our fellow passengers suffered a serious head injury just outside the entrance to the dock when he tripped on the uneven pavement and fell, striking his head. His wife joined him in the emergency ambulance as she requested a hospital check of his injury. They pulled away as we were showing our photo ID’s and ship’s room cards to reenter the port.

After we board, I wander off with my camera as Ilse retires to the cabin to do some restorative yoga. I watch as another ship approaches through the channel, but instead of turning and backing in, it charges up to the dock, raucous Caribbean party music blaring obnoxiously from loudspeakers apparently mounted on every square inch of the ship. The Carnival carnival arrives via the Conquest, a twenty year old ship famous for its youth oriented Guy's Burger Joint, Red Frog Rum Bar® and SkyBox Sports Bar and the Alchemy Bar®. One of my fellow passengers dryly comments the ship is misnamed, he thinks it should renamed the Carnival Sideshow. Its appeal is definitely the other end of the cruising spectrum from the Millenium.

I head back to the cabin as I know Ilse’s yoga has come to an unexpected end. Our room is only yards away from the source of the oddly out of date music echoing between the ships. I take several photos and notice there is also a lack of passengers on the youth-oriented party boat, the Conquest is as empty as we are. The shop owners in Nassau are going to be disappointed.

Departure 3:47 pm - Someone stood patiently on the otherwise empty dock with his luggage for almost an hour. He was allowed to board at the last minute just as the boardwalk was being retracted. The weather was great, even with scattered showers in the distance. They moved away as we headed out past the lighthouse and turned north toward the Northeast Providence Channel that will take us to the Atlantic for our forty-hour trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico. 

We will have a day and a half at sea.

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