Club MACE 2015 Cruise Report
Looking back, I realized that I wrote a short something about the first cruise I went on. This being my second, I thought I should. Because this cruise was also a “Club MACE” cruise, there was a gaming aspect to it, but I covered that part in my Gamer’s Codex review. The cruise was leaving from Charleston, on board the Carnival Fantasy. I was really looking forward to it but with as busy a year we had, it was hard to even think about it until the week before we left.
We arrived a night early in Charleston after dropping off the kids at her parents. I have to say both my parents and hers really stepped up to help with this. It has been 5 years since our last major trip and almost 10 since our last cruise. This was going to be 7 days, so we knew keeping our kids would be a challenge. Thank God, our parents shared the kids.
This was also going to be our first trip with a group of friends. Not that we are anti-social or anything but we tend to be lone wolves in a lot of things like this. A cruise tends to be very romantic and we are not really into the group thing in that area. I had apprehensions even though there were gamer friends, but I knew we would make the best of it. Especially when alcohol was involved.
Getting on board and getting ready to leave was relatively easy, only a few long lines and very little hassle getting through security. I think the excitement was building up all at once, when we got there, and so that overshadowed any frustration I might have felt standing in line. I think we were in line maybe 20 minutes. We did not buy into the faster option (I think it was called “Faster to Fun“), and really did not have a lot of trouble.
Once on board, we waited for departure and did not wait too long to get a drink in our hands.
Before long we were on our first leg – 2 days at sea headed to Turks and Caicos, more specifically Grand Turks. The next two days were spent enjoying good times with friends, the boat’s entertainment and time with my wife. And a little bit if drinking, of course. The boat was nearly identical to the one we were on in 2006 aside from the fact that it has a kids area on the stern of the ship. It has some age to it, I could tell but that did not bother me. The food choices were not exceptional but they were good enough. They kept me fed. My only complaint was finding late night snacks. The pizzas were good but they got old.
The entertainment we focused on was comedy shows and the like, but for the most part, it was just my wife and I wondering about the ship, running into friends and enjoying our time together. Some games were played although we did not engage in as many as I think the others hoped we would. Some of the games were just not my kind of thing while others I was interested in filled up. Sounds like a con, right?
I should take a moment and comment on the swag that Jeff got us. They were $50 per person and you got at least twice that in games. He did a phenomenal job. Nice water bottles, dice, two big games, one medium game and a couple of small card games. Well done. I got Manhattan Project and Hegemonic, along with Zombie Island. Everyone got something different.
I had already brought some games. I had heard about the 2013 cruise and how the gaming was a little light, mostly casual games. I really wanted to try and inject more involved games, so I brought Eldritch Horror, Relic, A Game of Thrones, and a couple of others. Well, they never got played. I also prepped a Savage Worlds nautical horror game which we played one session of. It probably could have finished into 2 or 3. I had fun but I should have known that I would not get more than one session in. I cover this in more detail on The Gamer’s Codex.
Day 3, we pulled into port at Grand Turks. It was a nice place and the people were real nice. All week I was paranoid about being taken advantage of or robbed, but these people really put me at ease. We enjoyed horseback riding while the others did snorkeling (yea, lone wolves).
I can not say that I would recommend this island as a vacation spot however. It is a nice place to visit but not really a place I would want to stay. There is not much there. Like I said, the people were nice, the beaches were pretty, but not much else was on that island except people, donkeys, horses and dogs. We did use the wi-fi at Margaritaville to connect up with the kids. We really missed them a lot all week but this was a good break from being mommy and daddy. We probably won’t have another opportunity in a long while.
After a few hours there, enjoying the sun, the scenery and time with my beautiful wife, we departed for our next destination – Half Moon Cay – the private island owned by Carnival. The group paid for a cabana again, like they did last year and I was really looking forward to this. I was glad that Jeff paid for this for me as we were trying to save money as much as we could for this.
This place is a paradise and the cabana is well worth the money. We had food all day and all the drinking we wanted. I learned a very important lesson. When you are drinking while wading in the water, you really have no idea how much you have had to drink until you get out of the water. Yea, it was a fun day. Returning to the ship that evening, we met as usual for dinner and ended the night fairly early because we were pretty wore out from the day.
The next day marked the arrival to Nassau, which I later found out is a totally separate island from the rest of the Bahamas (I had no idea!). That was a fascinating place. We chose to just walk around, shop and check things out on our own for this one. We ended up at a bar and drinking with some new found cruise friends, and then going on to a place my wife thought I would be interested in. The Queen Staircase and Fincastle.
We walked up a long hill and got real nervous as we walked further and further away from the main tourist area. We saw fewer tourists and more locals hanging out on the porches of their shacks, in excruciating heat. There was also a hospital that we walked by. While we did not know it, we were going the right direction when some local guy starting waving his hands screaming “you looking for the queen’s staircase!” I was quite nervous about this guy, so we diverted to avoid him. Turns out he was where we needed to go and he was kind enough to give a tour. Of course, he was looking for some cash at the end of it, and I am not entirely sure all the information he told us was true, but he was cool, he didn’t rob us and his information was interesting.
The staircase has a fascinating but tragic history. As one can imagine, a lot of the Bahamas’ history is rooted in slavery – primarily British slavery ( … yes, the Brits owned slaves too – anyone want to ban the Union Jack? … sorry …). This staircase was is a product of the cruel slavery of the era. Although beautiful, you also feel the weight of history. I hate to mention white guilt, but honestly I felt a little there.
Fincastle was also very cool. It was very small but it has a GREAT view of the island.
The rest of the cruise was spent enjoying time with friends, a little gaming, comedy shows, and drinking. One very notable show we saw was the hypnotist show. This blew my mind. I laughed so hard, I could not see straight (drink might had a little to do with it). Not only were the people on stage completely enthralled, but some of our group was too. If I wasn’t a believer before the show, I sure was afterwards.
The cruise cost me around $3K in total. Was it worth it? I think so. I had never done a vacation like that with a group. That was definitely fun but I am sure they probably thought we were not around them a lot. My personal problems with social anxiety probably limited my desire to be around a lot of people and be as social as they wanted me to be. But I had a blast, over all. I would do it again.