Updated: May 25
We knew that our wedding would be less than conventional when we got married. We did plan to have it during the COVID-19 pandemic, but we accommodated social distancing, discussed indoor mask requirements, and strictly adhered to the guidance of no more than 200 people.
Wouldn't you know it, though, the week of our wedding, there was a sudden uptick in COVID-19 cases in Virginia, causing the governor's office to restrict gatherings from 200 people to 20 people! Luckily, all of our vendors and guests were understanding, as this was entirely out of our control, but we still wanted to get married! So, instead of the planned ceremony, we gathered with our immediate families over Thanksgiving dinner, said our vows, and made our marriage official. Our thought was that for our first wedding anniversary, we could dust off the plans for our wedding and have a big celebration.
Well, it's officially been a year, and we're still in this PanDemiLovato, so that wasn't an option either. However, with more knowledge of how the virus works and vaccinations, we did feel comfortable celebrating our commitment to each other with a belated honeymoon! Christopher has been a fan of cruises for some time, but I had never been on one, so this was a great way to get away, share an experience, and enjoy someplace warm!
We found a fantastic deal on the Carnival Legend leaving Baltimore for a seven-day cruise to the Bahamas. Since we're now located in Northern Virginia, that meant jumping in an Uber on the morning of our departure and taking the quick jaunt north. As we approached the harbor, we spotted the ship, and it was Massive. Apparently, it is one of Carnival Cruise's smaller ships, but for this novice, I was awe-inspired. Unfortunately, a weather delay brought the ship back later than anticipated, causing massive traffic near the cruise terminal, but Christopher and I are resourceful. We grabbed our bags, hopped out, and walked alongside the highway to get to this boat! When we arrived, it was smooth sailing (pun completely intended). Carnival required proof of a negative COVID test and proof of vaccination before boarding the ship. If someone chose not to be vaccinated, rapid COVID testing was available at the cruise terminal and was also required on board.
When we walked on board, I was such a kid in a visual candy store. We first entered the towering atrium filled with lights, glasswork, and gathering places. The ship's décor riffed off of the idea of "Legends" with depictions of Greek and Roman mythology, Arthurian legend, and middle eastern lore. We weren't sure if our room would be ready, but we decided to check, and wouldn't you know it, my thoughtful husband surprised me with a beautiful arrangement of tropical flowers to start our honeymoon. The room was well-appointed, with a sitting area, comfortable bed linens, and a decent-sized bathroom. I love that we opted to have a balcony room because it was so much fun watching and listening to the waves as we traveled.
I was quickly introduced to one of the many cruising traditions - Towel Animals! Our room steward, Supri, was wonderful. At home, Christopher and I are those people who have to make their bed every day, and everything has its place in the apartment, but on this vacation, we never had to think about that. Our room was always immaculate, with the fun surprise of these wonderfully sculpted towel animals. We had a menagerie by the end of the trip, with a swam, crab, peacock, monkey, and what we think may have been Yoda…. And, of course, a turkey on Thanksgiving day.
As we explored the ship, it quickly became evident that there was So Much To Do! One of my favorites was exploring the Fun Shops. There were so many options for souvenirs and gifts, ranging from t-shirts and hats to diamond jewelry and skincare products. The staff was accommodating, and I was surprised that the prices were not unreasonable (Christopher may have been surprised with diamond stud earrings). The spa and fitness center was another favorite. The fitness equipment was situated at the very back of the boat in a window-filled room to enjoy the view while working up a sweat. There was also all the equipment you could ask for, including a whirlpool, sauna, steam room, and showers. We indulged in a couples massage and had the most relaxing time.
If you know us, you know that we will find the fun or make it ourselves, so there were bound to be cruise ship shenanigans! One of Christopher's favorite pastimes is people-watching. A cruise is perfect for this, especially when the onboard "Fun Squad" puts on activities such as a disco dance class or incredibly competitive charades. Oh, and we absolutely went to the front of the ship and had our "I feel like I'm flying" Titanic moment! (Can you guess who was Jack and who was Rose?)
I was warned that the abundance of food on a cruise ship is unmatched, and that is the truth! Since we were in the boarding process at lunchtime, we started our trip with a trip to the Lido Deck's Unicorn Café. I was immediately struck by the sprawling room filled with buffet after buffet after buffet! There was Asian food, a deli, a rotating special bar, a salad bar, a coffee shop, and a dessert bar that would make even the sweetest tooth tremble. And all you can eat on board is included in your fare! In addition to the buffets, there was also the Blue Iguana Cantina with tacos and burritos made to order and Guy's Burger Bar with delicious burgers and fries. Of course, I tried it all!
The dining hall was a truly unique experience. Each night, we were greeted by the same waiters (shoutout to Imade and Mudika) who learned our names and preferences expeditiously. By day two, we were greeted by name and didn't have to place a drink order because they knew what we wanted. I even noticed that they recognized Christopher sweetened his tea, and I didn't, so our place setting had a teaspoon for them and not for mine. One of my favorite moments was just how excited our team was on the day of our anniversary. Imade kept coming over to my side of the table and telling me, "We're going to make this so special for you." And they definitely did when the whole dining room staff came to our table, sang to us, and presented us with an anniversary cake. Thanks again to these beautiful, hard-working people!
Another remarkable thing about the dining hall was the ability to try new things. Since your fare covers all meals, the kitchen staff prepares for you to try as many items as you would like from each day's menu. You can order multiple appetizers, main courses, and desserts if you would like. Each day also included a "Rare Find" item for the adventurous eater, such as escargot, braised ox tongue, and frog legs. Portions are kept small so that you are encouraged to explore!
Great food pairs with great drinks, and those were always easy to find on the Carnival Legend. There are plenty of bars onboard, each with its own personality, including the Red Frog Pub, Billie's Piano Bar, the sports bar, and the grand bar right at the midship entrance featuring a towering image of the Colossus at Rhodes. Our favorite bar was probably the Alchemy Bar. The bartenders earned the term "mixologist" with specialty drinks each night, tastings, and incredible creativity.
It seemed like music was never more than a few steps away while we were on our honeymoon! The Colossus Bar featured a mix of exciting musicians, including a violin trio and a Caribbean steel drum player. We enjoyed recapping our day over a cocktail while listening to The Nice Guys. They were a pop music, piano and guitar duo from Argentina who covered everything from Katy Perry (we appreciated the pronoun switch to "I Kissed a Boy and I Liked It) to Coldplay.
The Lido Deck was the spot for entertainment. An onboard DJ plays a mix of music throughout the day and facilitates karaoke and "Name that Tune" style games. With the DJ comes the Fun Squad, staff members whose goal is to ensure you are having a great time. Our favorite was Nelson, this bright smile from Jamaica who ran over and chatted every time we saw each other. He was a delight!
Of course, as a theatre kid, I could not miss any show that was happening in the Follies Theatre! There was comedy, a game similar to "The Newlywed Game" and another similar to "Minute to Win It." My favorite was the more traditional, theatrical shows, which we were able to catch two of - "Epic Rock" and "The Brits." We saw the premiere of "The Brits," and it was a catchy and toe-tapping skip through classic British pop music. I was hoping to get into some Spice Girls or Amy Winehouse, but it was kept to the "British Invasion" era and was terrific. "Epic Rock" lives up to its name, honestly. It is a high-energy, high-octane blast of music and dance from all corners of the theatre. It is a can't miss experience.
PORTS OF CALL
After preparing myself for my first northern Virginia winter, I had broken out my sweaters, coats and boots. I began to adjust my internal thermostat as much as this Louisiana boy could. So I was so excited to see warmth again! It's strange how everyone has their vision of what the holidays look like, but for me, my childhood included shorts at Thanksgiving and sometimes Christmas, so this was nostalgic and perfect.
We were able to explore Princess Cay, Nassau and Freeport, Bahamas. Princess Cay was probably my personal favorite. The beautiful turquoise water and white sand that you see on computer screensavers! The island included lots of things, including Carnival-sponsored shopping, local vendors, a beachside picnic, and water recreation equipment. Christopher and I enjoyed sitting out and relaxing, getting as tan as my northern French skin allowed.
Nassau was a great place for shopping! There were many souvenir stores with shirts, sweatshirts, kids' toys, jewelry and more. We wandered around appreciating the architecture - classic British colonial architecture in traditional, bright Caribbean color. Also, everything smelled terrific because the local restaurants were pumping out fresh, local food. We tried jerk spiced wings and conch fritters, which were all fantastic.
Freeport was a great place to wrap things up. It is a much smaller port, but I loved how the shops were set up in a small village of small houses. There was a wide selection of Bahamian merchandise, including handmade items and familiar favorites. They also had great food vendors, including this fantastic stand selling drinks in coconuts or pineapples!
Because of the recent discovery of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, we feel obligated to say that this blog is in no way a statement of the safety of such a vacation. We traveled before the variant arrived in the United States and followed all protocols of Carnival Cruises as well as the Center for Disease Control. We did witness frequent cleaning throughout the ship and verbal reminders to wear masks when moving about. However, personal safety should be considered when evaluating if a cruise vacation is suitable for you at this time.
Overall, we had a truly wonderful time. This trip was so important for us to disconnect from everything else and just celebrate our marriage. The only problem is that now I miss the palm trees! Until we meet again, Caribbean!