"Happy New Year 2011"
By Capt. Fred Davis
Published: Friday, December 31, 2010

I would like to lead this column by saying; HAPPY NEW YEAR! I will be seeing in the New Year by observing a giant fireworks display off the waters of the Florida Keys. Pat and I will reminisce about bringing 2010 to a close with an adventure with our youngest daughter Lu, her husband, 16-year-old son and 21-year-old daughter.

It began when we met in Miami at the seaport four days before Christmas. We turned over our luggage and boarded the 853-foot Norwegian Sky then gathered on deck for a bon voyage toast. We would spend the next four and a half days cruising to the Bahamas Freestyle, defined as: “Do whatever you want, whenever you want to.” If you want to hit the pool, jump right in, there are no restrictions. If it’s too cool, slide into one of five hot tubs and warm up. Order another rum drink — soon you won’t feel cool at all.

Our cruise began by floating around in the Atlantic, bobbing and rocking in the seas because of our slow speed, but in such a large ship, it hardly mattered. Entertainment was all over the place: Movies, art shows, piano bar and reggae dancing on the pool deck. Another definition of freestyle applied to the dinning: If you are hungry, you simply go eat. Food of every variety was everywhere you turned.

Obviously, we could not keep up with the family, but the next morning we met up at the Garden Dinning buffet. Choices were any breakfast food you ever had heard of and some you never had seen before. When we were sufficiently stuffed, we headed for the disembarking area and our first port of call, Grand Bahamas Freeport. I was quite amazed at how easily the ship had turned around in the small harbor then backed up to the dock. The Thrushman clan headed off to the beach and I found the casino. Pat headed to the beach for a stroll, and of the more than 4,000 people from the two cruise ships docked at the port, the first people she saw was our family. They had hiked about five miles of white, sandy beach and were worn out.

Back on the ship, we had a great dinner and afterward, we were entertained by a great comedian-magician show. It was one of the best we ever had seen and we all enjoyed it. Dancing and music commenced after the show — from jazz to karaoke. Our kids probably were big hits, but freestyle also meant, “Hit the sack whenever you want to end the day.” We headed back out to sea in much calmer seas and slept soundly.

Our next stop was Nassau, a very popular cruise destination port with a population of more than 260,000. There were five ships lined up at the dock and one of them was the newest and largest cruise ship in the world: The Oasis. Pat took some photos and we headed to the Atlantis Resort we had heard so much about. It was on Paradise Island, which is a play land unequaled anywhere. As we toured the resort, we saw the most opulent glass art display and sculptures to be found anywhere. One blazing red ball of glass if stretched out would go 27 miles — its value was more than $5 million. Diamonds sparkled in every display window of the shops: They can be purchased for much less in the islands.

Back on our ship, we met up with the Thrushmans for a sit-down meal, then enjoyed a Broadway-type show with sample tunes from recent hits such as Wicked, Jersey Boys and Mama Mia. The next day was to be spent on a private island, but the surf was too high to risk taking tenders ashore. To compensate, the Casino stayed open all day and, As I See it, perhaps loosened up because the one-armed bandits spit out a few winners (thank you very much).

There was more poolside dancing, hot tub lounging, an art auction and shopping to fill the time until we met up again for a final dinner followed by a farewell Christmas show by the entertainers. When we returned to our cabin to pack to depart in the morning, the ship was catching a few broadside seas and rocked us to sleep.

Our kids joined us in the Keys for Christmas Eve and Christmas day, and we enjoyed more good food and family time. When we watch the fireworks tonight, we will be thinking about Fourth of July in Port Austin — and the temperature will be about the same (sorry, had to mention that).


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