She wanted a new experience, that of spending time on the biggest cruise ship in the world, and I wanted much the same, though to find out what outdoor activities such a ship might have, both on board and on shore excursions. Luckily, we’d been saving money for quite a while for such a trip, so a couple of weeks ago we stepped aboard a Fort Lauderdale vessel that’s either still the largest or at least in the top three. It was a memorable experience.
My first look was around the huge ship itself, and there were indeed outdoor sports waiting for those days traveling and plenty of room to enjoy them. There was swimming, of course, and a whole water park with slides for young and old, plus hiking on top or on upper corridors. Add an exercise room, rock climbing, and even an ice skating rink for idle time. But passengers should like best the shore excursions.
Our first stop was at Nassau in the Bahamas, and the offerings for shore adventures included trips in a semi-submarine whose portholes opened to sea life of all kinds. There was more sea life at Atlantis Paradise Island with sea life exhibits and lagoon aquariums holding sharks, turtles, and fish., and swimming with dolphins at Dolphin Cay. There was snorkeling too, at Rainbow Reef, and a turtle and reef snorkel.
St. Thomas Island offered another sub-submarine with sea life waiting, and a kayak, hike, and snorkel at Cas Cay, a swim with sea lions, and a sail, snorkel, and beach combination. Next came St. Maarten, an island shared by the French and Dutch, and another sail and snorkel adventure, swimming at a beach, and kayaking, as well as scuba diving. San Juan, Puerto Rico, had a walking tour through history that went back hundreds of years, a rain forest drive, a cave adventure, horse back riding and even zip lining, and beaches by bicycle.
Labadee, Haiti had is own luxury sailing and snorkeling, speedboat riding, a relaxing beach, and sport fishing and parasailing. It was all fun for those who could afford multiple activities, but on several cruises I’ve found just one sport that I dearly love, and that’s saltwater snorkeling. For a biologist, this sport is little short of paradise. On another trip I spent a day at Bonaire Island, which scuba diving magazines consider one of the top water sports in the world.
It was like swimming in an aquarium with water so clear I could see bottom in nearly 100 feet of water. I did much the same in Hawaii, diving over a shipwreck, and continued the fun in Lake Erie and other freshwater spots. You can learn a lot about fishing from directly observing what your quarry is doing. And what about the ship itself for others who might like to try these huge craft. Ours was the length of 12 football fields laid end to end, and 22 decks high, and it held offerings both good and not so good.
For active families with kids, it was great with plenty for the youngsters to do from swimming to a “county fair” with merry-go-round, ferris wheel, and rides. For those who were fit at any age, there were activities from musicals to films, and lively shows. But for oldsters in poor shape and those handicapped, it could be tough indeed. In such a huge ship, anything from meals to shows required long, long walks and there were few facilities for these folk. An electric scooter (I was told) cost $250 per day, and shore excursions often required a lengthy walk to town.
Prices could be high too, with no alcohol allowed to come aboard and x-ray machines to prevent it. A beer cost $8, a mixed drink $10 or more, and even a glass of wine at dinner was $10 to $16 and up. But it was an experience, and those who don’t mind walking will love it. Luxury, good food, and lots to do in a warm climate made it a welcome change from northern Ohio winters.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at [email protected] You also can visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.
HOOKS & BULLETS
• Looking for a really good place to fish this spring? The Ohio Division of Wildlife has made a list of the top spots to try your luck in the various parts of the state. Those close to home are as follows. Black bass — top spot is Clear Fork Reservoir which ranks as one of the top 10 in the state. The west end is going to be first choice. Crappie will be best at Pleasant Hill Reservoir which contains a large number of fish longer than 9 inches. Try rocky ledges on the southern shore. Channel cats will be found at Van Wert Reservoir No. 2 in Van Wert County. The southern end is where to start. Saugeye will be prime at Pleasant Hill Reservoir again with the hotspot around the marina and beach, and yellow perch is tops in Williams Reservoir in Allen County with lots of perch, some to 13 inches. The north shore should be first choice.
• In northeast Ohio, still close, the bass hotspot will be the Portage Lakes in Summit County. Try around the numerous docks on these five main lakes. Crappie fishing will be best at Atwood Lake in Carroll and Tuscarawas counties. It's one of the top 10 lakes in Ohio for crappie. Channel cats? try Springfield Lake in Summit County, a place that's well stocked with some trophy fish. And walleye will be waiting in numbers at Mosquito Creek Lake in Trumbull County. It's the finest inland walleye lake in Ohio. Muskies will be equally best in the state at West Branch Lake with LOTS of large fish.