"Congratulations, you've won a cruise to the Bahamas!" That's how I was suckered in to this vacation to begin with. My boyfriend had won a trip similar to this a few years ago and when we went it was wonderful. This time was nothing like the last.
You have to pay $100 per person just to accept the trip, and they tell you that you must also pay port fees. Food and entertainment on the ship is provided for you, but the drinks (even water) run about $3-$10 and the entertainment is bingo and a musical-chairs type of game passing a hat from one head to the next.
The ship itself is old, with construction issues including non-working elevators and cabin doors too small to fit luggage through. The cabin that was included in the "free cruise" was similar to a jail cell- twin bunk beds, no windows, TV, or AC so I paid $200 to upgrade three levels so that our cabin would have a queen size bed and large window. What we got were two twin beds pushed together and covered to look like a larger bed, two small windows, colorless TV and no refrigerator. The toilet wasn't flushed and we found a sock in the corner.
Embarkation was supposed to take about an hour but was more like five due to lack of organization. Valet parking our car for 6 nights cost us $90, we had to pay housekeeping on the ship (something like $15 each night), we even had to pay for FUEL for the ship, $12 each way. When we first got on the ship we bought a drink voucher booklet for $60 which only saved us a little money. Also, the bars don't accept cash payment for drinks so everything is charged to the credit card you provide them with when you book the cabin.
Another "freebie" offered in my package was a $25 voucher to use at the casino on the ship, but only if I put up $25 of my own money. I was not interested in gambling and skipped the casino, except to smoke cigarettes at the bar.
Before dinner we were in our cabin getting ready when three crew members knock at the door asking if we were smoking in the cabin. They came in and looked around saying they smelled something "sweet" and if we admitted to smoking they wouldn't file a report. We did not admit to anything because we did not do anything and they left.
Dinner was weird. We chose to eat at a place called the Black Stone ($20 per person), upgrading and thinking that it would be a little better than the free buffet food offered. Our appetizers were coconut fried shrimp - served cold. Our entree was a piece of raw meat (your choice- I got the tuna) and a heated black stone on which you cook your meat to your liking. The staff will assist you with this part. This is where I must say we had the best service and I wish I could remember the young men's names who waited on us that evening to give them proper credit.
After dinner the crew came back not five minutes later asking again if we were smoking in the room, pointing to the non-smoking logo by the door and having a really bad attitude. We got pretty frustrated at this second accusation, opened up our luggage and showed them that we didn't have anything. They insisted we were lying and said they could get us into a lot of trouble with customs unless we paid $200 for smoking in a non-smoking room. I was feeling very harassed and scared and we ended up paying the fee so they would leave us alone. I still don't know what it was they smelled, because I thought the whole floor smelled like piss.
We got off the boat as fast as we could the next morning, skipping breakfast and showers. A taxi took us to our hotel - the Bell Channel Inn. It was nice and the staff there was wonderful. We were given free drinks and the restaurant/bar at the hotel is actually pretty good. The only down side to this hotel is the location. We were about a 30 minute walk from the marketplace and beach area where the locals selling jewelry and offering hair braiding were quite pushy. We bought a couple over priced things and then rented a scooter to get around the island. We found a beach far away from the tourist areas and spent a long time playing in the water.
The next day we were invited to have "breakfast on the beach" where they took us by taxi to the Island Seas Resort and were served eggs, bacon, and grits while we got acquainted with a lovely young lady telling us about timeshares. She showed us around the property and talked to us about our vacationing habits, other timeshare members, and fun things to do on the island. By the end of our time together we had become friends with her and her manager, even exchanging phone numbers and gifts. We did end up purchasing a timeshare because they worked with our budget and gave us so many perks to joining. There's a lot of different cities all over the world we can visit as members in this program. We are given one week a year at the Island Seas Resort, or we can exchange that week for two weeks in another location. The biggest perk is that all the money (except the annual maintenance fee) is paid back to us at the end of our time share span (15 years). Since we became members, Island Seas arranged for us to stay the remainder of our time on the island with them and they compensated our money that we paid for the other hotel and gave us food vouchers and free activities. We were able to go para-sailing, snorkeling, and go on a glass bottom boat tour for free. Overall I'm very happy we became members at the Island Seas Resort.
I dreaded getting back on the Bahamas Celebration cruise to return home. Going through customs took about an hour and a half and the ship didn't leave on time (of course). I was so exhausted from all the activities at the resort that I decided to spend the day sleeping in the cabin. My boyfriend had made a friend at the bar and was content to spend time by himself. I guess they thought we were both out of the room because the same crew member from before opened the cabin door without knocking and was going to come in when I sat up in bed. He gave a quick "Oh, sorry," and closed the door back. Shortly after that, a knock came at the door and I received forms for disembarkation. I was feeling very nervous and ended up staying in the cabin the entire trip home. I got the sleep I needed, but couldn't wait to get off the ship.