Pre-Thanksgiving Celebration, Part One

Blue is one of my favorite colors.

I’m staring at a painting here at Starbucks of a stormy night on a lake.  It’s theme color is blue – a stormy blue that’s so dark it’s almost black but still exudes all the beautiful characteristics of it’s root color.  I have to turn my eyes away from it because it’s quickly losing its beauty.

I’m looking at the beautiful blue that often accompanies “crimson and blue” in a statement about the best basketball team in the Big 12 – Kansas.  It’s a rich color – rich with tradition, character and the power that belongs to a premier university in the United States.  But the magic of the color escapes me right now – it’s dull, almost lifeless by itself.

And as much as I love my Royals, even Royal Blue can’t hold my attention longer than a passing glance right now.

Why?  Because I’ve seen the perfect blue and every other blue pales in comparison to it.

And that, my friends, is about the only bad thing I can say about this weekend’s trip to the Bahamas as part of the Bud Light Port Paradise Music Festival – that I can no longer look at the color blue the way I used to.

No, I didn’t pick up that drama while I was down in the Bahamas; I’ve always had it just simmering beneath the surface.  So I’m going to go ahead and repress it again so we can get to the good stuff: this weekend.

It started on Friday.  A 6:45am flight wasn’t my favorite, but knowing the destination it was well worth it.  So after a long night of partaking with my Thursday night trivia friends I stumbled into the shower about 3:45 to start the day and what was sure to be an unforgettable weekend.  We got to the airport about 4:45 and we were wheels up well before 7 for the first leg of the trip down to Atlanta.  A couple of hours later we made it to the AirTran gate heading to Ft. Lauderdale – our final destination – just as they were boarding.  There were ladies at the gate handing out Bud Light beads to all the passengers – awesome way to start.

It only got better.

We get on the flight and they do the normal drink service.  My standard is Bloody Mary mix – I like the taste of a spicy tomato juice – so I order that.  The cart makes it all the way down the aisle then, as if recognizing a faux pas, the gentleman attendant running the front of the plane mentions over the loudspeaker that Bud Light is complimentary.  I look at my watch and realize it’s not even noon yet.  And so, naturally, I raise my hand for a beer because I’M GOING ON A BUD LIGHT CRUISE.

So the day starts off well – after an uneventful flight I had a beer in front of me, a good book in-hand (Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”) and a four-day, three-night cruise ahead of me.  What more could one want?

We get off the flight in Ft. Lauderdale and a few minutes later hop a bus that’s going to take us on a 40-minute drive to Miami where we’ll hop on the Majesty of the Seas and depart for a port ~195 nautical miles south called “Nassau, The Bahamas”.  We get on the bus and before I can even get to the top step of the stairs I’ve got another Bud Light in my hand.  “Complimentary Bud Light” was the theme of the weekend, to be sure.

The ride was long but it was all new to me (never been that far south in Florida) so I kept my eyes open to the beauty that was all around me.  Mostly highway, but certainly colorful highway – there was more graffiti in one square mile of south Florida highway than all of Kansas City put together.

We arrive at the port and hop on board, easily finding stateroom #2534.  A quick foray inside shows the only thing I wished for in a stateroom on board a cruise ship: a view outside.  I wanted to be able to get up in the morning and watch the waves roll by or appreciate the visual sight to go along with the gentle swaying of the boat as we crossed the deep blue waters of the open ocean.

And I got my wish.

After changing out of the jeans and flannel shirt I had donned Friday morning for the cold trip to the airport in Kansas City it was time to see what the Windjammer buffet held in terms of edibles since breakfast consisted of two Vitamin Water Zeros and a banana…about ten hours prior.  They had a tremendous assortment of foods – salads, fruit, cold cuts, cooked foods, prime rib.  I went prime rib (awesome) with a banana and a beer along with some grilled asparagus and some cucumber tomato salad.

Sufficiently stuffed we retired to the top of the boat to see what the rest of the ship looked like.  It was huge – I don’t think I ever appreciated the size of a cruise ship until that point.  We walked around the top couple of decks and enjoyed the light Miami breeze blowing across the upper portion of the boat while we kicked back on lounge chairs with a bucket of – what else – Bud Lights nearby.

We got underway about 5:40, following a large Carnival Cruise Lines ship (one with a waterslide on the back).  The sun was setting which was pretty neat – it was cool to watch it go down behind the buildings of downtown Miami but still reflect off the clouds.  Before we got out of visual range of the city it was dark and the only sign of any life outside of the Majesty was the constant lights on the Carnival ship headed for the same destination we were although with a much different clientele (nobody under 21 on our cruise!).

We more than made up for the lack of activity around us by bringing out our party onboard our ship.  The music started and what seemed like the entire ship hit decks 11 and 12 (11 held the pools and hot tubs; 12 held the DJ, gigantic speakers and the balcony).  It was loud and it was wild – the way you’re supposed to kick off a trip to a beautiful destination…at least in my mind.

After we departed and were out to sea we hit the Windjammer again for dinner.  Good food – nothing spectacular this time (the prime rib was, though) but good to be sure.  Then it was time to see what else was on the ship.  We walked around a couple of the decks to see what else was around (a sports bar, a casino, a duty-free shop; lots!) and then kicked back on the top of the deck and I wrote some of my novel (I’m just past 5,000 words – 1/10th the way there with 1/3 the month left…) and sipped on a beer.

Then I retired to the room because it was time.  Time for Bacon.

That’s right – Bacon, my alter-ego, made the trip with me onboard the cruise.  There was a costume party and I’d be damned if I was going to miss the chance to don my bacon costume again.  After all EVERYTHING is better with bacon!

This proved to be no exception – Bacon was a hit.  I got a smile, a nod or a fun comment from just about everyone I walked by.  I’m going to chalk it up to the fact that everybody likes Bacon but it could have been the fact that there were complimentary Bud Lights being handed out all over the top two decks.

Here’s the thing, though.  I thought Bacon would be one of a handful of costumes that were there.  Bacon was simple and I could roll it up and stuff it in my suitcase easily.  I couldn’t imagine if you’re going on a cruise – even the Bud Light Port Paradise cruise – you’re going to pack an elaborate costume.

Wrong.

While there were some basic costumes there (along with bacon there was a giant inflatable scrotum, a banana and countless other “easy” costumes) they were probably the minority.  There were full-on zombies, vampires, pirates and others fully dressed-up and in character.  All dancing to a great DJ around/in the pools and the upper deck.

Sheer awesome.

I made my away around the deck several times dancing and having a good time.  After an hour and a half and a half-dozen beers I retired for the evening, ready to hit Atlantis hard Saturday morning.

When I got up we were within sight of the port of Nassau.  I sat on the deck and enjoyed the stiff wind that was blowing off the port bow (I always wanted to say that).  It was a gorgeous morning to be sure, and even the light grey storm clouds that were gathering in the distance couldn’t change the fact that I was now in the territorial waters of the Bahamas.

We grabbed some breakfast while we waited for the rush of people to leave the ship then headed off to explore.  We wandered around the shops for a bit, taking in the sights.  Nassau wasn’t at all what I expected the Bahamas to be – it reminded me more of New Orleans than it did a tropical vacation destination.  But it was still fun to go in the plethora of shops and see what was there – all duty free.  We picked up a couple of beach towels at one little shop for $10 apiece because we decided to head to the beach.

We headed back to the main dock exit and found the first taxi that said he’d go to the beach.  He crammed a half dozen of us into a minivan and gunned it, headed for the public beach on Paradise Island – in Atlantis.  I learned one thing Saturday morning, and that’s the fact that there apparently aren’t any traffic laws in Nassau.  I’m not entirely sure we didn’t end up on two wheels a time or two, and our driver had such good control of the beat-up minivan we were in he came within inches of sideswiping and rear-ending other cars and didn’t break a sweat, talking to us the whole time.  That was crazy.

We got off in front of Atlantis and wandered around for about 15 minutes through the resort trying to figure out where the public beach was.  We ended up getting directions, finally, and it’s a good thing we did – you never would have seen it.  It was a small path with a gated fence that was open.  And I don’t mean “pretty, white picket gated fence” – I mean the kind of chain link fence you find guarding prisoners, just without the barbed wire on top.  Seriously.  So we went in and walked a couple hundred yards ahead.  As we crested that hill there it was – the most gorgeous blue ocean you have ever seen.

We walked down the fine sand beach and found a spot a ways away that was unoccupied.  I laid out my blanket, tossed on some sunscreen (this Irish boy wasn’t about to get fried on my vacation) and proceeded to head out into that water, half expecting it to pick me up and cradle me like a newborn baby.

Instead it almost knocked me over and dragged me out to visit Davy Jones.  The surf was hard and the undertoe was crazy strong.  I saw grown men and women get knocked over by some of the waves when they were standing only ankle-deep in the water.  But the viciousness aside it was incredible.  The perfect temperature, the perfect color and, as long as the waves weren’t hitting you it was just like I’d imagined it would be…except there weren’t any angels singing.

That’s all for part one – I’ll finish the weekend (we’re not even to noon on Saturday yet) in part two.  My liver just dialed me collect to say it’s considering coming home and I need to take that call.

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