Workation With Dad Part 2: Cruising Through The Bahamas and Grand Turk

Let’s dive into the five days I spent at sea with my dad cruising through the Caribbean. As you know, this cruise was part of a workation I planned with my father to Florida and the Caribbean. It was also the perfect opportunity for me to cross a few islands off my list.

The cruise was right in the middle of the workation, and it would dock in the Bahamas, Half Moon Caye, and the Turks and Caicos Islands. If you want to know the beginning of the workation, click here, this post, however, is about the juicy filling in between.

Day of embarkation and settling in on the Sensation

On embarkation day, we made our way from the hotel to the big cruise port early in the morning.
Thankfully, the Miami cruise ship port is located on Dodge Island, just east of downtown Miami, so our ride over was only about 15 minutes.

The cruise ship port is significantly large; that morning, there were about 4-5 large ships docked with along with ours. Our boat was one of the biggest, the Sensation with Carnival Cruise Lines.

On the Sensation, we had about 3,000 passengers on board. So it was not the biggest ship, but certainly among the larger-size cruise ships out there.

I should note that even though it is a decent size ship with suitable accommodations, amenities, and food, it was also an all-inclusive cruise made for a more for a “budget” and party North American audience.

We didn’t bother booking superior cabins either; we had a double room with twin beds with just the most basic amenities. So no suite or concierge services, which turned out to be just fine for us. At the end of the day, we got what we paid for, and it wasn’t that expensive at all; I think we paid just 1000 bucks for five days, all-inclusive.

So after the usual check-in and luggage drop dealings, we dropped our hand luggage in our room, and we each went our separate ways for a bit. I walked around, exploring the boat for a few hours and met up with dad after at one of the bars.

This ship is huge. I enjoyed it, but would have much rather spend the 5 nights on the much smaller and nicer Star Breeze.

The day of embarkation was a sea day, and it consisted of the typical first day on every cruise. After checking in, you usually have a few hours to explore the ship and get settled before having to attend the mandatory safety and security meeting at your muster station (the place on the boat, where you should gather if there is an emergency).

By the time we had finished the safety meeting, it was already around noon, and the ship was setting sail.

The ship hadn’t even left the port, and people were already laying by the pool and drinking at the bars, it was very obvious that the ship was all-inclusive.

As the ship set sail, it took almost 2 hours to leave the main harbor. If you know Miami, you know this unique little channel off the south coast of Miami Beach, which disembogues at the open ocean.

It was actually quite cool to be on the other side of this experience for the first time. You see, I’ve been to Miami many times and have seen cruise ships depart from South Pointe. This time I was the tourist waving the city goodbye from the top deck as we slowly left Miami behind.

Leaving Miami behind

Dad and I enjoyed the pool for a bit; then I went to get some work done while dad hung out at the lounge or the bar.

In the evening, we had our first proper sit-down meal on the boat. To my most pleasant surprise, the food wasn’t actually that bad at all. In fact, it was even enjoyable, similar to the offerings at the NC. The restaurant itself was similar to that of the Nomad Cruise, although the interior decoration wasn’t very classy at all.

As mentioned before, this was a rather “low-class” ship, tailored to party tourists. It has 10 bars and lounges. For food, there were some specialty bars and restaurants, but for the most part, passengers (we included) ate at one of the two main restaurants during their allocated time slots.

The Sensation also boasts of a casino, a rather large theatre, a few pools, sun decks, and a disco. Very similar set up as the NC, just on a slightly larger scale.

At least they got big waterslides 🤷‍♂️

After dinner, we enjoyed our first night on the boat together. We went to the bar with our chessboard for a digestif and a match. We actually spent half of the night playing chess at the bar while my dad smoked a cigar, and I had some tasty drinks.

The ship does have a more up-scale bar, where they offered my favorite Moscow mule. It became our go-to bar for a match for the rest of the cruise. After chess, we ventured to the casino and played our first round of roulette on the cruise. This, too, would become a nightly tradition for the remainder of the voyage.

After the casino, we checked out the disco briefly before calling it a nigh. We went back to our room to sleep as we sailed closer to our first port in Nassau, Bahamas.

Land day 1: Exploring Nasssau

The Bahamas is an archipelago consisting of about 2,000 islands if you include the cays, small lands formed on coral reefs.

The country is officially named The Commonwealth of The Bahamas. A common misconception is that the islands are part of the Caribbean Sea when in fact, they are actually on the Atlantic Ocean.

Nassau is the capital and largest city of The Bahamas. With a population of just over 70% of the entire population of the country. Indeed, I would find out that the outer islands are scarcely populated, underlining their natural beauty. Nassau is the center of commerce, education, law, administration, and media of the nation.

Our boat actually arrived in Nassau in the middle of the night. Did you know that The Bahamas is really close to Miami? You can actually fly from Miami to one of the most northern islands in under 30 minutes by helicopter. Nassau is a little further south, but not too far.

So, by the time we woke up the next morning, we were already in Nassau and ready to disembark. We left the boat early to explore Nassau.

For this stop, we didn’t book any excursions with the boat; we decided to discover on our own. After all, there wasn’t really too much to do, and we would be ok with a simple private taxi tour.

When we first got off the boat, we walked around the tiny “shopping mall” inside the cruise terminal – if you’ve ever been on a cruise, you probably know what I’m talking about – We left the terminal and right outside there are even more small shops with tourist trinkets. It is a busy area; after all, this is where thousands of short-term visitors are set ashore every day to go on shopping and sightseeing sprees.

Basically, as soon as you leave the terminal, you’re in the middle of downtown Nassau right off the bat. You actually have to be cautious, Nassau is actually known for having some crime, it is well known that there are tourists from cruise ships being robbed at every stop nearby.

So we were vigilant when we walked through the area, but to be honest, it didn’t actually look or seem too rough or intimidating. We continued to walk around the old part of Nassau and past a few churches (there are many different ones in Nassau: presbyterian, Greek Orthodox, Anglican, Catholic, etc.).

We saw a cementary, the parliament, some old buildings and traditional, colonial wooden houses which were actually pretty well maintained. A large building houses a museum of the pirates which lived all over The Bahamas for centuries. We then crossed the tiny Rawson Square pas the statue of Queen Victoria.

Dad at the Parliament Building.
Bahamas – Country 115:193 UN, 140:265 UN+

We were still pretty near the harbor and ran into a row of taxi drivers offering tours of the city for much higher prices than the tours the boat offered. We found a guy we liked and were down to do a private tour.

However, he needed a few more people to fill the car, so we decided to sit at a park bench and enjoy ice cream while we waited for him to lure in some other tourists, which eventually happened.

In the end, we had four others join us on the ride to explore the typical Bahamian lifestyle. We began to drive around the island and made our first stop at The Bahamas Rum Cake Factory.

It is located in the heart of downtown Nassau, and it was established in 2000. It started as a small Rum Cakeshop, and it has since grown into the most favorite brand of Rum Cake in The Bahamas. We got to see the factory and taste the cakes, and they were indeed very delicious.

After the factory, we went to check out the highest point in The Bahamas. It is The Water Tower, which is located behind Fort Fincastle. It was built in 1928 to maintain water pressure on the island. It has since been the tallest structure on Nassau standing at 126 feet tall. It has a narrow, winding staircase with 216 steps, which are worth the climb since the top of the tower provides a marvelous panoramic view of Nassau.

To get to the tower, we drove to an area we could park and walked the rest of the way. On one side, there is a huge cliff and a super steep staircase on the other side. Walking down the stairs helps you arrive at Fort Fincastle.

Fort Fincastle was built on Society and Bennet’s Hills. It overlooks the city and the Queen’s Staircase. Most visitors actually access the fort by going up the staircase by foot.

The Queen’s Staircase, commonly referred to as the 66 steps, is a significant landmark in Nassau. It was hewn out of solid limestone rock by slaves between 1793 and 1794, and it is said that it provided a direct route from Fort Fincastle to Nassau City.

These steps were later named in honor of Queen Victoria, who reigned in Britain for 64 years from 1837 to 1901. There are only 65 steps visible because the pathway that leads to the steps was paved, and the bottom step is buried. Legend has it that if you walk all the steps and count them right, it will bring you good luck.

Fort Fincastle is one of the many forts that were built to defend the city. It is most known for its peculiar shape: a sharp, pointed wall – which makes it look like a stranded ship, and is surprisingly small. Inside, the fort has several small rooms, but the best part of the fort is that it offers great views of Nassau, the sea and Atlantis, over in Paradise Island.

Views of the original Atlantis

We enjoyed the nice view of the palm and the Atlantis Resort. This Atlantis is the predecessor to the big Atlantis located at The Palm in Dubai, which I visited during my stay in there after NC11. If you want to know more, you can read all about it here.

At the observatory, my dad bout his Panama hat and a T-shirt (Panama hats are not very popular in The Bahamas, but we still found one!). After, we continued to walk around the tower, the fort, down the staircase, and finally back to our car.

Oh, I almost forgot, in this area, we also stumbled upon a small festival/market type of thing, and there were many vendors selling food and a few varieties of cocktails. Actually, our driver brought us there specifically to try out a few of the cocktails made with local rum. We tried a few and really enjoyed them, so much so that we actually bought big glasses to take with us on the rest of the drive.

For our next stop, we drove to Paradise island to see Atlantis from close up. We didn’t actually go into this one, a lot of other cruisers had, so visiting the water park didn’t really appeal to us. Instead, we continued to discover other parts of the island.

Nassau, New Providence

So on we went to a different part of the island to visit an old estate. It was a museum with very lovely and preserved colonial touches. In that location, all we saw were a few of the rooms inside the museum, and they were pretty well maintained and made to look like they did a few hundred years back. It was pretty exciting to see, but I don’t really remember many details.

After the colonial area, we went to another beach on the north side of the island. From there, we could see the cruise ship waiting in the harbor.

Nassau Port

This is all I can remember from our sightseeing day in Nassau. After the tour, the taxi driver brought us back to the port, and we were back on the boat before sunset. We took the opportunity to relax a bit before dinner and post dining activities. That night turned out to be quite similar to the one before.

At the bar, my dad got to know John, this American dude that was there with his wife and daughter. He actually didn’t act very much like a father on duty – he was drunk most of the time and acted like a typical superficial and red-neck American.

Apparently, he and my dad got along pretty well, although I believe he totally manipulated my father. I found out my dad bought him something ridiculous like five premium drinks, and he didn’t get my dad a single drink back. This guy ended up hanging out with my dad whenever I wasn’t around because of work.

We kept running into this John character throughout our trip, but after I had a talk with my father, he wasn’t too keen to stay in touch with him, despite having thought the guy was genuinely interesting at the beginning.

Land day 2: A day in the private island paradise of Half Moon Cay

On the third day of our voyage, we arrived in Half Moon Cay. It is basically a 2,400-acre private island owned by Carnival Cruise Lines that serves as a private retreat for passengers from the line.

Working on our way to Half Moon Cay – need to finance my dad’s cigar consumption somehow 😉

This little island in the middle of the Bahamas is basically just a big beach. Simply a flat, barren and desert island with some really beautiful beaches. At the main beach, they have a vast area of sundecks and other activities set up; there is also a big catering restaurant.

That day, we slept in for a bit, had breakfast on the boat and went to chill at the beach and have lunch on the island. The water there was really beautiful and enjoyable, so naturally, I also went to do some snorkeling. On the main beach, there were lots of people, so we decided to go to another beach at the other end of the island where there were much fewer people.

Views of our [quite out dated] ship: the Carnival Sensation, anchoring in the private island

We stayed there for 3-4 hours before catching the last boat back to the ship. At Half Moon Cay, there is no dock, so there are small boats that take you back and forth between the beach and the ship.

Our day at Half Moon was a super lazy beach day, the island was beautiful and cool to see, but nothing special.

Pretty stunning landscapes

In the evening, we had our typical cruise itinerary; dinner, drinks, casino, theater, or disco. I should note that the casino portion of the evening kept recurring because Dad and I ended up being really lucky; in fact, we both went out positive at the end of the cruise.

Land day 3: A full day to explore Grand Turk

The next day we docked again, this time in Turks and Caicos. These islands were actually the main reason I decided to take the cruise.

You see, they are not very easy to visit by plane since there are not a lot of flights in and out. I mean, there are lots of flights from the states, but you can’t fly from there to other parts of the Caribbean with ease.

Turks and Caicos is an archipelago of 40 low-lying coral islands in the Atlantic Ocean, a British Overseas Territory southeast of the Bahamas.

We arrived at the port in Grand Turk and remained there for the day. Sadly, this time, I didn’t get to traverse through Caicos.

Grand Turk, one of the least known Caribbean islands, the Turks and Caicos are another sovereign British Overseas Territory

Grand Turk Island is the capital island of the Turks and Caicos. It is a tiny island, and similarly to The Bahamas, it is dry and barren with some remaining salt ponds and windmills from the island’s sea salt industry.

The island has a dramatic 2,134m underwater reef wall, which is famous for diving and snorkeling.

After leaving the boat, we encountered another charming cruise port with lots of shops and a big beach where most cruisers decided to stay for the day. My father and I, on the other hand, opted for another private taxi tour, this time all around Grand Turk.

First, we set off to explore the capital, Cockburn Town. We visited a little museum and some other primary sites of this old English colonial town. Eventually, we ventured to salt lakes to see some flamingos. A group of around 400 flamingoes often come to settle in the salt ponds in the interior of the islands. They are joined by many ospreys, stalks, and seagulls.

Finally, we arrived at the main highlight of the island touristic destinations. The Grand Turk Lighthouse is located in the north part of the island, and in the area, some massive cliffs drop down to the ocean. From this spot, you get some astonishing views of the coral reef below. To get even better pictures, you can also go up to the top of the lighthouse.

A small part of the great reefs that are all around Turks.

We enjoyed our time there; we even had some fun with some goats that were roaming there. We saw many running around looking for food from tourists and posing for some beautiful photo ops.

At this site, you will also find the lighthouse keeper’s residence, as well as the kerosene storage building, built of local limestone blocks. At night, the lighthouse was often the only guidepost mariners had to steer them away from the treacherous Northeast reef, which extends eastward far out to sea and was responsible for an untold number of shipwrecks.

Old Lighthouse

This is all I remember from our tour of the island. After all the lighthouse, we went back to the beach near the port and relaxed a bit. I had a nice little swim there, and my dad also went in for a dip. This was one of his first times going into saltwater after the issues he had on his feet. It was great to see him in the water; he really enjoyed swimming around.

Big ship, small beach. Rare sight.

As you’ll see in some photos, the beach was super beautiful, but we had the cruise ship right next to us. So again, we had another lovely photo of our ship, but we couldn’t really enjoy the scenery since the boat basically blocked the full view. 🙈

At the end of the afternoon, we decided to call it a day and swam back to the boat.

That evening, we enjoyed some more of the typical cruise life: a nice dinner followed by a few drinks at the bar, playing chess and roulette, and sometimes also going to the disco and walking a bit around the ship. We also enjoyed some excellent shows they put on, we attended the ABBA show, and on a different night, we saw the circus show, which was pretty cool to watch.

Last day on the boat, we spent it at sea

Sadly, I don’t have any more specifics for you, if you’ve ever attended a cruise, you’ll know cruise life is pretty standard and very chill. It was easy to enjoy ourselves.

The next day was our final full day on the boat. It was a sea day as we sailed back to Miami. This was the only day where we got to take full advantage of all of the amenities of the cruise.

We spent the day mostly lounging by the pool reading. We also enjoyed a lovely buffet lunch, and I got to catch up on some work in the afternoon before the standard evening programming.

So, that is our cruise in a nut-shell; nothing too peculiar happened during the cruise, aside from my father making “friends” with this silly American guy named John. 🤦‍♂️🤷‍♂️

Stunning sunset on our last evening at sea.

The next morning when we woke up, we were already docked at the Miami port. We left the boat super early to begin our adventure towards the Florida Keys. I was very excited for the days to come since I had something special for my dad and I. To read all about that wonderful adventure, simply click here.