12/7/12 - 12/10/12 82 °F
We're just about 48 hours into the voyage and it's been great so far! We're pulling out of the Montego Bay, Jamaica, port as I type this and soon we'll be headed to Cartagena, Colombia. Here's a recap of what we've done so far:
We arrived in Nassau on Friday afternoon following a series of uneventful flights. We checked into the Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort, which is indeed located right on the beach. We spent a little time getting some sun and then decided to head downtown for dinner. That's when we learned that everything closes in downtown at sunset. So our cab driver suggested a new plan: go to the famous Atlantis Resort, which apparently is where it's at. So that's what we did. And yes, that resort is quite impressive. We ate at what we decided was the real-life inspiration for the restaurant chain Bahama Breeze (may be an East Coast-only thing?). Then we walked around the Atlantis shops, the casino and the giant aquarium. Seems like a very family friendly place, judging from the hoards of kids who appeared to be having the time of their lives.
On Saturday, it was time to pack up and head to the ship! We bumped into some fellow passengers who were leaving our hotel at the same time so we all shared a cab. We suffered through a 1.5-hour wait before finally boarding the ship (there was a big backup at port security, but hey, at least they put safety first!). We were pleasantly surprised by our room: it's a good size and the ship is fairly new, built in 2002 and acquired by the Semester at Sea parent group, Institute for Shipboard Education, in 2004 (so it is a different ship than the one I sailed with on SAS in 2001). We're on the 4th deck out of seven and just one floor below the main dining room. The facilities are great; there are two dining areas to eat in, 8 classrooms, a pool and pool deck, a dance club, a student union, a bookstore, a computer lab and a library! The food has been pretty good so far and although I had a cold shower yesterday, it was later determined that was due to user error, so really there has been little to complain about!
During our first full day at sea yesterday, we sat in on a talk by an author about the history of travel guidebooks. It was really interesting and the guy, named Doug Mack, was very knowledgable. The highlight of the talks so far, though, was one by famed Civil Rights leader Julian Bond. He told us about being part of Martin Luther King Jr.'s civil rights movement and being one of eight students in the only class that Mr. King ever taught at Moorehouse College. Really, a very fascinating guy. For dinner last night we attended the first of three fancier dinners that we'll have while on the ship called the 'Captain's Welcome Dinner' It was very nice and the other two we have to look forward to are on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve.
Today we arrived in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and spent the day from about 9am to 4pm. As we left the port this morning, there was a shuttle taxi to take us downtown. Our driver offered to take the 12-person group (all from our voyage) on a 1.5-hour tour of the town so we took him up on it. And he was great! Palmer took us all around the town, showing us all the resorts, the historic sites (Rose Hall, old sugar mills), really nice neighborhoods, not-so-nice neighborhoods, downtown and he finally dropped us off afterwards at a place called the hip strip. There we ate lunch (Jamaican jerk chicken for me, shrimp kebabs for Paul), did a little bit of shopping and enjoyed some relaxation time on a beautiful beach called Doctor's Cave. Then we rode back to the ship with some fellow passengers and discovered that two of them live in Mill Valley (just outside of SF) and graduated from UPenn. So even in Jamaica, it's still a small world!
Tomorrow is another day at sea as we head to Cartagena. We signed up for a morning Spanish class and then Justice O'Connor is scheduled to speak in the afternoon. I'm also hoping to squeeze in some pool time as well. Should be another great day!