When we owned our boat, Big Red, we had plans of sailing around the world. Shawn wanted to sell everything, hop on and go. I, on the other hand, wanted to have a land base to come back to. When someone called and asked if we wanted to sell our beautiful boat, Shawn said yes and now we sail wherever we go, just not on our boat!
Now that we are boat free, we can sail wherever and however we want. Some of the places we have sailed are: New Zealand in the Bay of Islands, Lake Superior, and in the Abacos, all by charter. Our next two sailing adventures will be in Norway and Alaska. We cannot wait for those trips! In the meantime, we decided to cross the ocean from Miami to Southampton, England, in a boat that is reeeally big. One with 2848 other passengers on board. Yes, a very large cruise ship.
We boarded in Miami and the process was actually very quick, which surprised us. 2850 people is a lot to board in just 4 hours. Our stateroom was pleasantly large and we had upgraded to a balcony. Well worth the money on several levels. You can have the door open and hear the crashing waves at all times, you can sit outside in the sun or the shade and it makes the room seem a lot bigger. I love the sounds of water so we slept with the door open a crack to hear them.
Our first stop was in Nassau. We docked and thought-what a great view! Went to change and came out to discover the Oasis of the Seas had docked next to us. Now that boat is HUGE. Holds 5400 passengers. Wow.
Once off the boat we started our walk around town. We have been to Nassau before and really, we are not fans of the area. We walk towards the beach past all the buyme stores with a walk back through their market of vendors and then got back on board. Just a quick stretch of the land legs before we went to sea.
That afternoon we learned that we would be in the Gulf stream with gale force winds at 35 knots and swells to 15+ feet or so. The Eclipse is an amazingly stable boat but I am sure some people were not happy. The only time we really noticed the big movements was walking down the narrow hallways to your stateroom. It was very strange to suddenly be on the other side of the hallway! Stairs were ok but the best was really in the dining room. When we asked how the crew deals with the movement, they gave us the well rehearsed answer of eat food and take it easy. After 2 days at sea, we arrived in Bermuda where we would stay for about 2 days.
With beautiful weather and watching the preparations for the America’s Cup, we tour around and enjoy the sites. I love Bermuda and will hopefully come back one day.
Our next leg to Lisbon would be our longest leg and a true test to total boredom. There are a lot of things to do on the ship some of them are presentations on the upcoming destinations, dance lessons, art auctions, stores where you can BUY YOUR ITEMS NOW, gambling, wine tastings, lectures…and more. Well, we did the wine tasting around the world, and that was actually very interesting. It was nice to compare tastes from different areas all at the same time. Dancing lessons? Nope. Gambling? just not our thing. BUY IT NOW? don’t need to buy overpriced stuff I don’t need. I did attend the lecture on Lisbon as I had never been there and the instructor was well prepared and gave a good presentation that lasted about an hour. The art auction is what truly fascinates me. I find it so hard to believe that people actually LIKE the art that we have seen here on the ship. They have a section where they set up for the auction ahead of time so you can peruse it. Wow. Just a bit over the top kind of art that is just not to our tastes.
One of the more challenging things about this cruise for us is when we land in Southampton we will be hopping right into a taxi to fly to Iceland out of Heathrow. Packing was a nightmare. With weight restrictions, bag number restrictions and the fact that we were going from 80 degrees to 30 degrees in 2 weeks was insane. Add to that the dinners require some nice clothes, with several of the nights requiring a bit more formal attire. I packed a few roll up dresses with my long underwear and somehow made it work.
The food on the cruise covered a wide range. You had upscale restaurants for an extra fee, the regular dining room and the buffet. I hate the buffet. Not because the food is bad, it was usually pretty good. It is the fact that people will fight to get to the food first like it was their last meal. Every. Single. Meal.
We ate in the regular dining room for almost all the meals but we enjoyed dinner there the most. What I did like about this cruise is the option to seat by yourselves or sit with others. We opted to seat by ourselves during the whole trip. We just did not feel social. That being said, the tables for 2 are very close together so many times you will end up chatting with the others around you. At dinner though, we had the same table each night and we sat next to a lovely Asian couple who did not speak a lot of English so we would smile and nod in greeting. Our waiters, Kuri and Anthony were a real delight. Kuri was from Bali and had two children. He encouraged us to go to Bali and we will consider putting it on the list! Anthony was from a part of India I had not heard of and of course cannot remember. He had an 18 month old baby back home and he always had a smile ready for everyone. Both of them said that they Skype regularly with their kids. They are on the boats for 7 months at a time and have traveled around the world. A hard life as their time off seems very slim as they serve at all 3 meals.
The ship itself is fairly large. It has two swimming pools and at least 6 hot tubs that I saw outside. There is a walking track that was very popular, plenty of lounge chairs, and 14 bars scattered inside and outside. A drink is never too far away. There was a grill outside as well that served hot dogs, hamburgers and softserve that was open for lunch. We ate here a few times when the weather was good.
One area that was popular was the sauna. This was a completely enclosed area with hot tubs, chairs and the second , smaller pool. It was considerably warmer in here as we motored northwards and the air became colder.
Inside there was a game room where bridge and Mahjong tournaments were being held every day. A library which on the first day was packed as people grabbed the books they wanted to read right away. There is a spa and workout room, where the treadmills were put to good use. They held yoga and various exercise classes every day here but they were also an extra fee. We pay a lot of money to go on a cruise but many people are willing to pay for the extras. There is even a tree in the middle of the ship! You see this every time you take the elevators.
For kids, there is a pinball/game room and a special “camp” area inside with plenty of things going on to keep them happy. We only saw 4 kids on this ship so they certainly had fun with no lines and really personal service! On the top deck there was a nice grassy area where many spent time on the sunny days reading.
The average age of the passengers on this ship was about 70+. Many people who we had met have been on quite a lot of cruises beforehand. About 200 people on board were continuing on the ship as it heads to Norway for another cruise. We met several people that were from England and had been in the states for a bit and wanted to cruise back home. I can appreciate that because you change the time one hour ahead almost every day until you arrive, making he 7 hour time difference a lot easier to adjust to. No jet lag!
We survived our long leg part of the cruise and look forward to stopping in Lisbon. We are only here for about 6 hours and the best part of that was the entry to the dock. We pass under a bridge that is similar to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and cruise along the coast where you get a good view of the town and its very large statues. It is also fun to watch the docking and it seemed everyone was out for this one. We docked behind the Costa Mediterranea cruise ship, the company that had a boat hit ground and sank a few years ago. They started to pull out after we docked and we held our breath!
This kind of cruising life is not for everyone. We really enjoyed being in our own little world, sitting outside on our deck, walking the track and catching up on our reading. The best parts for me was the view from the staterooms, both under way and at port and the ability to have that door open whenever I wanted to. We did get a glimpse of the inside cabins and it would not have worked for me on this cruise. If you are on a cruise with daily stops to different places, an inside room would be fine. But the trans Atlantic keeps you at sea for 7 days and I was grateful to have our own little slice of heaven.