Friday, January 7, 2011

Cruisin' For A Bruisin'

Some of you have been asking how our four day (or was it five?) Christmas cruise went.

Ok, one person asked. But still.

To answer that question, I will have to remind you that there were 11 people in our party, 10 of whom were related by blood or marriage, and all of whom have access to the Internet. And then I will have to politely change the subject.

Oh, but wait! I have pictures!

Hm. Well, in that case, I *guess* I can spare a few more details...

Ok. So. The only day worthy of visuals was our stop in Nassau, the Bahamas. Here we visited Atlantis, the famous resort that any of you who have ever been on a Caribbean cruise have probably visited.

Now, I love Atlantis for one reason and one reason only. Can you guess what it is? Considering that I just posted a big picture of one above this paragraph?

Yup. It's the seahorses.


Actually, all of the decor in Atlantis is amazing, and the whole "Lost City" theme is right up my alley. Crumbling plaster, nautical touches, and lots of star maps and armillary spheres? Yes, please!

A pretty ceiling in the main lobby:

And if you've ever been, you'll of course remember these glass sculptures in the casino:

[Update: You commenters are right: this IS the work of Dale Chihuly. According to his site, this one represents the sun, and the blue one down below the moon. Nice!]

If you step outside the casino there's a nice patio/walkway with this view:

That building houses an underwater aquarium and also a restaurant, if I'm remembering right.

And now, let's check in with our vacation correspondent, Mr. Seymour Butz! (woo-hoo!)

*giggle* Yes, I'm 12. Besides, I was getting a real Ocean's 11 vibe here with everyone bellied up to the balustrade, so of course I had to take a picture. And John caught me in the act, of course.

Oops, I just realized my mom isn't in that shot. So here's one of her in front of the aquarium, instead:

That's my grandmother in the chair. She nearly died about an hour prior to this, so this was quite the eventful day for her. (I'll tell you about the almost-dying thing in a minute.)

While you're enjoying the suspense, check out this great shot of John's mom and sister, who I think are checking out the 15-foot manta ray:

I love this shot. You can almost hear the fish saying, "Dude. I'm right HERE."

Ok, now on to Grandma's Action-Packed Almost-Dying Experience, aka, "So I Married An Action Hero!"

It started like any other day.

Well, not really; we were on a cruise. Heh. Um. Maybe I should just skip the intro? Yeah.

So here's the thing: when you have 11 people in your party, deciding on a course of action for the entire group is kind of like trying to steer some massive, unwieldy metaphor for something that's hard to steer. It's hard. Which I guess is why we ended up on the water taxi to Atlantis.

Now, John and I have actually been on a really nice water taxi to Atlantis before. It was a big double-decker with open-air decks, clean seats, and a PA system so the tour guide could narrate the 10 minute trip with ease.

That was not the boat we ended up on.

Our boat was a small, nasty wooden thing with peeling paint, belching fumes, and tiny windows that were fogged with scratches and grime. However, by the time we saw what it looked like we'd already walked a block or so to get there, and with 11 people you don't just change the plan willy-nilly once it's been set in motion.

Before we boarded, though, we did make sure that we could safely get my grandmother - who can walk, but mostly travels by wheelchair due to balance issues - on board. So, we asked the crew for their professional opinions on the matter. In answer, we got lots of enthusiastic "No problem!!"s and head bobs, as they quickly took our money for the tickets. And, in fact, it wasn't too bad: one big step from the dock onto the back of the boat, and then she could sit down again. Easy peasy.

The trip over was smelly, muggy, and unbeLIEVably loud, since the "tour guide" "narrated" our "tour" by bellowing at the top of his lungs directly into my right ear. (This was necessary to be heard over the skull-vibrating drone of the engine.) When he screamed out his first "LADIES AND GENTLEMENS!!" - yes, it was "gentlemens," a double plural - I nearly fell off my bench. I spent the rest of the trip trying to catch a whiff of fresh air through the tiny cracked windows, counting how many times the guide said "gentlemens" (8), and wondering how much I would have to tip the guide to make him *stop* guiding.

It was when we docked that the trouble started.

You see, we had boarded at the back of the boat, which is where small boats like this are meant to be boarded. As you may recall from any previous boat encounters you've had, the front is the pointy bit. It has no railings, walkways, or flat surfaces.

In fact, here's a picture of a boat similar to the one we were on:


Imagine a bigger, banged up, wooden, and completely enclosed version of this. That's what we were on. And that's what they decided to dock front-first.

At first I didn't realize there was a problem. We were seated in the back, which was much lower than the example above, and couldn't even *see* the front of the boat. Then, as the passengers emptied out ahead of us, I realized there were several very steep steps to navigate on the way forward. "Uh-oh," I thought. "Grandma's going to have trouble with those."

Then I stood up and saw that everyone was being forced to crawl out the front windows.


Shocked, I allowed the crew to hustle me forward, trusting that somehow the guys in our party would see Grandma safely ashore. As I climbed the steep steps a crew member grabbed my arm and pushed me towards the left window. "You go out the window," he said, pointing. Like this was a perfectly normal instruction to give in a non-burning mode of transportation.

Seeing no other option, I hitched my leg over the sill and crawled onto the outside deck, where I noted with mounting horror that the "walkway" was approximately 8 inches wide, and rail-less.

Which is how I came to be clinging to the side of a boat in the Caribbean and side-stepping around the edge like James "Twinkle Toes" Bond.

Now, at this point most of the passengers were off the boat, which meant that it was turning into the world's largest teeter-totter. It swayed side-to-side, rising up 6 feet only to crash down again a second later. Normally I find this fun. This time, all I could think was, "My grandmother is about to die."

Eventually I made it onto the dock where a small crowd was gathered, staring back behind me. I almost didn't want to look. But, of course, I had to.

What I saw next will forever haunt me, because - it's hard for me to even type these words - I didn't take a picture. Nope. I'm ashamed to say it, but my hands were glued to my face in such a state of panic that it never even occurred to me to grab the camera. Dang it all.

Well, anyway, here's what I saw: John, my grandmother cradled in his arms, was staggering forward Backdraft-style down the main aisle of the boat. Seriously, the only thing missing was dramatic music and maybe a few explosions. The deck was heaving so violently I was sure he would lose his balance and they'd both go down, but somehow he managed to climb the steep steps inside and get her to the window.

Next, he and my brother helped Grandma crawl out onto the tiny 8-inch pathway. (Around this point my heart stopped. You understand.) With one going before her and one after, the guys then kept their arms around my grandmother's back, pinning her to the boat side as the three of them slowly inched their way down the edge of the wildly pitching deck.

On the dock, roughly half a dozen people prepared to dive into the water in case she fell.

However, as you've probably gathered from the fact that none of my photos showed a dripping wet grandmother, my grandmother made it. When the guys helped her that last step onto the dock a small cheer went up, and eventually - maybe just one or two days later - my heart even started beating again.

The boat crew, I should mention, looked bored and slightly impatient throughout our ordeal.

So, to sum up: never, EVER, take your aged or frail relatives on the crappy Bahamas water taxi. For that matter, don't go yourself, either. Take the car taxi. It's well worth the extra $2. Trust me.

And now, your moment of cruise zen:

(I have no explanation. Just the picture.)


  1. Those glass works are by Dale Chihuly right? I had the pleasure of his seeing his exhibition at Kew Gardens over here in the UK one birthday.

  2. First off, glad to hear Grandma is fine! Sounds like quite the experience.

    Second, does anyone know if the glasswork there is Chihuly? Looks like his style.

  3. "Dude. I'm right HERE." I think you nailed it. :D
    Love the pictures from the resort - simply gorgeous.
    And I quite agree, John is definitely an action hero. Glad your grandma's OK. :)

  4. OMG, I am laughing, not because it is funny, but because the sheer ridiculousness of it. How could they not see that it was going to be an issue for your grandmother?!?
    It also made me think of the time that my grandmother and I decided to drive to a tourist town close to ours on a beuautiful summer day. Nanny was in a wheel chair as there was going to be a lot of walking to do and we knew it would be hard on her. I was "driving" the wheelchair. Things were going great...until I hit a raised cobblestone and sent Nanny flying onto the sidewalk. She wasn't hurt, but I felt bad for WEEKS afterwards and I think my hands shook for a full 24 hrs afterwards.

  5. Oh Jen, the story of your sweet hubby saving your grandma MADE ME CRY. What a man, to see her in need and knowing no one on the crew would help... well, the tears speak for themselves. (I know, you can't see them but believe me... they're there!)

    I fully expected a post script of the insults you hurled at the heartless crew full of "@" and "$" but maybe you were too shocked to do that too. :)

  6. Good grief - I'm glad to hear grandma and all are well. We've done the water taxi there once also, and while not quite that dramatic, I did fear for my life. And for future visitors, I will echo your advice - take the land taxi.
    Did you visit the water park there? We are considering doing that on our cruise stop in Nassau.

    vw: ingasu
    ingasu didn't catch it the first time...the water taxi is a death trap.

  7. I'm pretty surewe had the exact same tour guide in November!

  8. I'm of the belief that it isn't a real adventure/vacation unless something extremely sketchy happens - congratulations!

    P.S. Other then the boat ride it sounds like you had a great time, colour me jealous

  9. You, my dear, are a patient woman. I pretty much go nutso when we have large family or friend get-togethers and people are planning to do something. After wasting 2 hours "deciding" I gave up & vowed to spend time doing what I wanted to do. My favorite is, getting someone and half the people want to pee, the other half want a drink. Reverse & Repeat in 20 minutes.

  10. Wow, what an ordeal! Seriously, I'm pretty sure that my mom would have yelled at the crew to turn the boat around so that my grandma could get off. Also, your grandma must be pretty spry for her age. No way mine would've been able to shimmy alongside the side of that boat. Kudos to John and your brother for getting her off alright.

  11. Gorgeous pictures! Love the seahorses. I've seen some of those glass works here in the MN Institute of Arts - so spectacular!

    So glad to hear grandma survived her ordeal - and you too!! Not good when your heart stops that long...

    You certainly have a keeper in that John, don't you?

  12. Heh. I saw that first pic of the glass and said "Chihuly." And sho 'nuff....Sounds like Grandma had a Big Adventure. On the plus side, this is one of those trips you'll all be talking about years later. Having a story is sometimes the best part of a trip. On the minus, crappy Bahamian water taxi? Oh well, live and learn. Glad it was a smashing success!

  13. Holy crap! I'm glad your Grandma is ok. I hope everyone still had fun. Tell your man he is, indeed, a gem among thorns, or something.

  14. I did wonder but after last year hated to ask.

    Still, what could be stressful about a trip that included both sides of the family?

  15. @Alsgal - I managed to ram into my poor mother's shins while "driving" my grandmother's chair, and at top speed, too. I felt TERRIBLE, and was afraid to push the chair for a few days afterward. :(

    @ Laura - No, no hurled profanities, I'm afraid - but I did give a withering glare to those in my family who actually TIPPED THE CREW when they shoved their tip jar in our faces. Granted, this was before we got off the boat, but still. [grumble]

    @ Leanne - I've never been to the waterpark there, but I hear it's amazing. If you go, I'll expect a full report! :)

    @ Kaaren - your last line made me LOL. Thx.

  16. I think I'm having a mini anxiety attack just from the story about the water taxi and your grandmother. That's insane! I'm glad everyone is all right.

  17. Your Grandma probably gained a few years on her life after such a great adventure. I hope when I'm a dotty old thing that I can have a few strapping young lads help me out of a precarious situation. She'll be the belle of the bingo circuit for months with this tale!

    wv: pukedi - It's lucky that the little boat didn't toss about in the water much more or Grandma might have pukedi.

  18. So glad Grandma made it off the boat safe and sound!

    We have often traveled with a large group and we have found the term "herding cats" to be a good way to describe trying to get everyone moving in the right direction.

  19. I was going to show you my adorable seahorse drawing and the I realized he was deformed from looking at your pictures. Now you HAVE to look at him.
    Poor seahorse

    And my mom keeps talking about going on a cruise so I will keep your advice in mind. =)

  20. Sounds like quite an adventure! I'm sorry you guys had such a crappy experience this time around. I hope the ride back was better? :)

    Your blog is hilarious and I love it SO MUCH. But why don't you ever post pictures of yourself? :) I guess you gotta keep the mystery alive... or something.

  21. @ JRose - it took me a second to spot him, but he's actually pretty cute! Plus I *have* to love anything with "pew! pew!" written on it.

    @ Kimmie - part mystery, part personal preference, be defined later. ;) And yes, the ride back was positively BORING by comparison - just how we like it!

  22. I hope your grandmother is okay. Jen your mom is absolutely adorable!

  23. Maybe the crew didn't think you tipped enough to warrant a proper boat dock? Terrible.

  24. Oh my goodness! I went on one of those water taxis to Atlantis (even the term "water taxi to Atlantis" sounds like there could be danger afoot) a few years ago. You can tell they don't have much in the way of Health and safety out there! I feared for my safety getting off the thing and I was a fit and healthy 21 year old at the time! Your brother and husband need some serious praise for that rescue effort!

    I do spot that you don't appear to have had any very young children with you on this trip. No large group of family is complete without at least two who seem to be in cahoots to constantly run in opposite directions.

  25. Is it wrong that I'm crushing on your husband?

  26. Yes, yes, your seahorsies are all fine and good and what have you....did you not see that AWESOME OCTOPUS LIGHT!!!!???!?!?!?! I NEED that so bad.
    Yeah, I'm only about as obsessed with cephalopods as you are of seahorses.

  27. Sorry for not asking how your trip went, I'm sure all of us were wondering(I just didn't ask, obviously like everyone else). And oh my goodness! Your poor grandmother! That's absolutely horrible(if anything maybe a good learning experience).

    Oh my! Is that an octopus on that lamp! Although I now know you like seahorses, my favorite animal will always be the octopus! :)

  28. Wow, so glad everyone is okay. I have taken note to never take the water taxi. Never take the water taxi...never take the water taxi..never take the..

  29. They are Chihuly's works.

  30. Oh, Jen! You are SO much nicer than me! I have a very bad temper as it is, much less when someone messes with my family's safety and well-being. I more than likely would have been in some jail for the things I would have said to that crew. That is completely unacceptable!

    Other than that one horrific event, your vacation sounds lovely, and I am completely jealous of you. The pics are amazing!

  31. Okay that wouldn't be funny at all if your grandmother wasn't okay but as she is RTFLMFAO.

  32. WOW!! Worth the wait! (And really..I was the only one who asked?! I'm shocked, but find it kinda awesome that I'm kinda mentioned in one of your posts. In's sad how awesome I find that. I need a life, lol) Poor Granny!!! My heart almost stopped while reading that, even though I had already seen the picture of her sitting calmly and perfectly fine!

  33. Those resort pictures are stunning.

    I'm sitting here shaking my head over the insanity of exiting the water taxi. That sounds like something out of a movie.

  34. ok, so I"m leaving for a cruise to Nassau, Bahamas on Friday (6 days 15 hours and 10 minutes!!) I'm going with my best friend's extended family, which includes her and her husband and their kids, her parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, brother, and maybe a few other I forgot to count. I personally won't be doing any water taxiing (mostly because I'll be swimming with dolphins) but I MUST pass this story on to them...I'm doubting that any of them would appreciate having to crawl through a window to get ANYWHERE!

    Glad your Grandma's ok!

    ...resuming countdown...6 days, 17 hours, 5 minutes...

  35. OMGosh, TOTALLY worth the wait! I think you should take more trips just so you can come back and tell us about them as only you can.
    Thanks for sharing!

  36. I saw Dale Chihuly's exhibit here in AZ at the Botanical Gardens. Honestly, they were pretty, but it wasn't as neat as I thought the exhibit was going to be. They weren't doing the tours that day where they take you around and explain the sculptures (which was weird because it was a Saturday), and there weren't any brochures or pamphlets or even little signs explaining what the sculptures were. So we just wandered around going OOOO PREEETTTYYY. Anyway, the sun and the moon were also at this exhibition, and the sun is now a permanent resident at the Garden, so he must have made several of them for different places.

    As for the story, I literally just said "WHAT?" when I read about you having to crawl out the windows so loud that I woke up the cat next to me. She was snoring her cute little squeaky snore, but it gets annoying after about 10 minutes, so I guess I wasn't a bad thing.

    And good on you, John, for being the action hero! And I'm sure you're quite happy there were no explosions because then grandma might just have really gotten wet!

  37. And I forgot: I feel your pain, Jen, with the 11 relatives and how it is like steering a great big ship to get them to do anything. We had the same problem at my dad's family reunion in Alaska about 10 years back, only it was over 20 people who stayed all in different hotels and locations. So my family spent most of our time riding in the RV that's supposed to sleep five (five gnomes, maybe) picking people up and dropping them off at various places. Needless to say we missed the bald eagle feeding and the moose that everyone else got to see thanks to my dad trying to be nice. Vacationing with relatives, getting a large group of people who all work in the same office together for lunch, and bringing the kids in after recess are all events that can be equated to the difficulty of herding cats.

  38. Thanks for the pics of Atlantis - I've never been and will probably never have the chance to go so it was a really neat thing to see. As for your grandmother story, uff da!

  39. That is one eventful day! I laughed throughout, but with terror mostly. o.0

  40. Jen, I have been waiting to hear about your cruise, but thought your inbox would be overwhelmed with friends' asking about it. Loved your story and so glad Grandma is ok! You made me laugh (which is a good thing since I buried a pet this morning).
    BTW, as everyone is crushing on Jen's hubby, I'm cliaming the brother (who is unclaimed?):-)
    @Zombie Edward, about 14 months ago I flew into Columbia, SC's airport and heard the following announcement: "There is no smoking on the concourse and also the many cephalopods." No one else stopped and looked around. Puzzled over this for 14 months and the best I can come up with is someone on security video got bored and decided to have a little fun. As a cephalopod fan do you have any insight?

  41. I think my heart stopped and I teared up a little reading your story about your Grandma... I can only imagine something similar happening to my dear Nana... Thank goodness your John could handle the situation! Yikes! So glad everyone's okay!

  42. I laughed reading this because of the sheer ridiculousness of it. Truly, fact can be stranger than fiction. I hope that incident didn't ruin the rest of Grandma's trip.

    Your John has a heart of gold! (I have a Jon as well and he is pretty awesome too ;-) )

    And OMG that "Seahorse holding the octopus lamp" is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen! Me want one!

  43. Totally unrelated but you might like this.

  44. what a wonderful man, you have got yourself. I am glad that everything turned out alright!

  45. Good grief, I can't even believe they did that, especially with your grandmother aboard!

    Glad she's okay, and the Atlantis resort looks amazing!

  46. Believe it or not, the families got along splendidly. A Hanu-kwanz-mas miracle perhaps?

    Still not sure why the "Captain" didn't have John pass Grandma through the front window. I swear it would have worked!

    @ Kimmie & @ Jen: Being the person in the front seat of the land taxi on the way back, I can tell you I never want to be in that position again. I stopped myself from asking the potty-mouthed driver "Do you find that the other cars move faster when you swear at them, then jam on your brakes an inch from their bumpers?"

    Anne-Marie (aka The Sister of John)

  47. Kudos to John the super husband for saving the day! I've been to the Caribbean enough for work (and fun) that as I started reading the Grandma-nearly-meets-her-maker section I was literally sweating bullets! So glad it turned out well... "safety" or "common sense" are not words that folks in the Caribbean find in the dictionary. It's never an official trip to the Caribbean without someone having a near death or serious injury experience. ;) Seriously.
    Also - LOVEd the marine mythology theme in Atlantis too, awesome photos of the best parts! SO AWESOME to find other folks who can appreciate and celebrate geekery, decorations, and crafting all in the same blog! :)

  48. @Marnie
    I have no idea what that would mean whatsoever! Sounds like someone was just bored and decided to say something random to see if anyone was paying attention. That's pretty funny though. I certainly would have stopped in my tracks and promptly started looking around.

  49. The one AND ONLY time I went to the Bahamas, we took this thrilling death-express airline full of "No problem, Mon!" employees. As the airplane pitched this way and that, the crew laughed and danced while the oxygen masks deployed and swayed back and forth to the beat. Holy hell, nothing rattles those folks. So yeah, I had no trouble envisioning the boat ride with your grandmother. Glad you are all in one piece.

  50. Got to visit Atlantis in Dubai this summer, and it's equally cool. So many richly themed details.

  51. "Non-burning mode of transportation" has just become my favorite blog phrase ever! Actually laughed out loud earning me a few "is she losing it finally" looks from my kids! :)

  52. My dad was one of the construction site managers at Atlantis, and he worked down there most of my childhood, which luckily for me meant a great many vacations there! So when I saw you're first picture of the seahorse I instantly recognized it as Atlantis, and I always feel a sense of pride when others enjoy the resort as much as I have. :) I hope you're trip was unforgettable! ... but I'm guessing that there is no way you would forget that water taxi ride anyways!

  53. Ah lovely seahorses!

    My friend told me a story of how she and her two sisters were discussing their favourite mythical creatures. She'd said dragons, her younger sister said unicorns and her eldest sister said... "I like seahorses."

    When my friend informed her sister that seahorses were in fact real, she wasn't believed and greeted with "Shut up they are not - I'm not stupid!"

    I should point out that this conversation happened when they were all in their 20s and NOT when they were children! I now can't help but think of my friend's sister when I see a seahorse!

  54. First I guffawed, then as I kept reading I 'wtf'ed. My dad has serious balance issues as well so this is good info to pass along should he and my mom ever head for the Bahamas. Who knew your post would be a PSA??
    So glad you all made it out safely! And John definitely earned some 'amazing husband' points in that story (but I'm sure you both know that).

  55. "trying to steer some massive, unwieldy metaphor for something that's hard to steer." I like to say "herding turtles" or "herding cats." Gorgeous photos.

  56. OMG Jen! I am so glad your grandmother made it! I would have had a heart attack!

    But it looks like y'all had a lovely time otherwise?

    You know, it's not an adventure in another country unless you have some story to tell.

    For example, when traveling with friends in Italy, don't let the driver put unleaded gasoline into a diesel engine- you may end up breaking down right in front of a winery, in the middle of no where.

    To this day, I swear the driver had that planned.


  57. Glad you all safely made it there and back! Glad grandma was fine and now she has her amazing story to share with everyone. Way to go John and brother - our new super heros! You're so lucky to have both of them... if you find another single one like them feel free to send him my way :)

  58. We leave for a cruise next Monday - Nassau, Grand Turk, and the cruise line's island. I've never cruised before - here's hoping it's good!

  59. I have just found your blog today (via a friend posting about your fab dining room curtains, of which I agree! love them)... then I read the crack house episode (very impressive) and now I'm here!

    Anyways - first and foremost I'm glad your grandma is ok and secondly, I could have written your story from a different angle! We were the couple (2006) with a 5 yr old, 3 yr old and an 18 month old, trying to keep 3 kids and a stroller from falling off the 8 inch walkway (you aren't exaggerating)! Oy! Then when the boat started, we realized that we were sitting right at the diesel engine & were sure we'd be done in from the fumes by the time we got to the Atlantis. Thankfully, the boat was wide open so we lived and there were no windows to crawl through. We DID take a vehicle taxi back to our ship, once the driver beat us all with a broom to remove the sand :) Looks like we are planning another "all family" (18 people) cruise in 2012 so I will know better next time!


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