The self- (mis)guided walking tour of Nassau, Bahamas: The shore excursion you would never take - on purpose

This blog pretty much sums up the story of my life. For anyone who has ever watched The Middle, I am a real-life Sue Heck. I try obscenely hard all the time at everything and for some reason, things never quite work out for me or take much much longer than they should. Since I’ve been working here, I’ve met people who applied for this job and were onboard two weeks later. It took me seven years to get here. Seven! At some point you think the universe will realise that you have paid your dues and things will shift in your favour but it hasn’t happened yet. 

For as long as I have worked on ships I have wanted to work in the Mediterranean. I was finally scheduled to join a ship in Spain (one week before it left Europe to come back to the Caribbean) but I couldn’t even do that because my Schengen visa application was rejected. The main reason for this was because I didn’t have a Seaman’s book. - It’s like a passport, but not really, for people who work on ships. Of course, I had to use three different modes of transportation at my own expense to travel to a different city to find this out. I looked into getting a Seaman’s book at home and not only would I have to, again, use three different modes of transportation at my own expense to travel to that same city to apply, but I would also have to undergo a medical through one of their approved private doctors (again at my own expense). - And that’s how I ended up back on this ship. When I later discovered that I could use my already valid ship medical and pay the same application fee to get one in Nassau “a short walk” from the pier where my current ship docks every Friday, I decided I should get one now just in case.  

I got an application form and a copy of my passport from personnel, a copy of my medical and a cold from the medical centre, and managed to pull some strings with my friends in the photo department to take and print a passport photo - the hardest part. (I didn’t think to pack my overpriced rejected Schengen visa passport photos.) I also went on my office computer to download and print a map to the Maritime Authority office. It looked a bit longer than a “10-minute walk” but I knew the taxis would all be full of tourists going to Atlantis so I didn’t have much choice. 

We don’t always get the opportunity to get off the ship, but a few weeks ago I had the chance. It was also two of my favourite people in the world’s last day on the ship. Rox and Fer, usually referred to as “my Mexicans” have been my sanity and have made coming back to this ship worthwhile and manageable.

Me and my Mexicans

As much as I didn’t want to wander the dodgy streets of Nassau all by myself, I thought I couldn’t make them go on a boring errand like that on their last day. - Then they reminded me that the last time we worked on a ship together, I accompanied them on their last day around the backstreets of Cozumel in Mexico to find a courier so they could save money on overweight luggage by sending their stuff home. So this would kinda be the same thing, except I wouldn’t make them carry heavy boxes and again they would be the ones abandoning me. 

That one time in Mexico

By the time we got off the ship, we had just under 2 hours. (Well, I did. They’re musicians. They hardly work so they had more time.) We followed the road around and walked on Bay street for a while before cutting through to Shirley Street. We walked past the Princess Hospital and then the Doctors’ Hospital. I’m not quite sure why there are two hospitals so close together but it did raise some questions about why Princesses don’t just go to the Doctors’ hospital if it’s good enough for doctors? Or if I’ve misinterpreted the titles, why are princesses caring for sick people in the first place? And can I have an appointment with Elsa, please? 

What do you call a road trip on foot? A hike? That sounds naturey.  Well, whatever. Our pedestrian road trip / urban hike had all the makings of an awesome pedestrian road trip / urban hike thing: 

- Street Art:

- Churches:

- Derelict buildings
(I don’t know why but I’m fascinated by them - I love pondering who built them, for what purpose and what went wrong)

- Graveyards
(It sounds macabre but I also love looking at the birth and death dates, and the epitaphs, trying to figure out the people like the buildings.)

- Haunted places
(We found a piece of property that was completely overgrown like a little haunted jungle that the ghosts wouldn’t allow people to occupy. …Well, that’s my explanation for its existence) 

- This gate:
(Rox loved it. …She likes dogs. …And apparently gates with dogs)

- Something Barbie-related
(When we were in Mexico we found my box, this time we found my house.) 

Last time in Mexico

This time in Nassau (It was pinker in person)

- Random street names:

"Dog Flea Alley" 

"Lovers Lane"

- And finally a really long detour in completely the wrong direction.

Last time I went on an adventure with my Mexicans, I learnt the Spanish word “Esta Feta” which means “relay race”. It's also the name of a courier company. (I even wrote a blog about it. You can read it here.) This time I didn’t learn any cool words, probably because the only ones that would have been fitting in this context were swear words and whenever you try to learn a new language from friends who speak it, you always learn all the bad words first. A few days before our adventure though, they did teach me the word “quadritos” which directly translated means “little squares” but basically refers to abs. That in no way contributes to the story at all, but it is Sharon’s Spanish word for the week. There you go. It’s a pleasure. 

After we passed the hospitals, we walked past lots of other businesses, churches and homes. Some of them had numbers on them. Sometimes the numbers were in order, sometimes they were completely random. There were large parts of the road where we were walking with no sidewalk or paving at all. It was too busy to cross, so we were walking between a wall and the painted line on the street while big cars raced past us. We were now endangering ourselves on this mission. There were a few times we wanted to give up, but once you risk your life you’re committed. For the most part, the numbers were in the high 100s but eventually, it became clear that they were getting smaller. At 3:00pm we arrived at the point marked on the map. It was 126 Shirley Ave. We were looking for 226.  

We spent an hour walking in the wrong direction and we were tired and thirsty and a little bit scared of being hit by cars on roads without pavements or haunted by private property jungle-dwelling ghosts. - Both entirely logical fears! 

We turned around and started walking back. We took a few quick detours to take pics but mostly stuck to the main road in the hopes of catching a taxi. All the taxis heading in the same direction were full of people coming back from Atlantis. There was nowhere to buy a drink. I came to the conclusion that I must have typed 126 into google maps instead of 226 and pretty much spent most of the walk back apologising. 

When we eventually got back to where we had started on Shirley Street, we were in the 200s. We walked one more block down (closer to the ship) and there it was: The Maritime Authority office. I wanted to cry - both out of relief and disappointment. 

Self-(mis)guided walking tour map

It was now 3:45. I started work at 4:15 and should have continued straight back to the ship - But we had come all this way and the lady who worked there was practically waiting outside to welcome us. I told her our story and she clarified that about 10 years ago the office had been where Google maps said it was. (There, it wasn’t my fault!) We went inside and I handed her all my documents. She disappeared into a back office. 

Air-conditioned resentment

I second guessed whether or not I was doing the right thing by applying then because she was taking a bit long and I really needed to go back to the ship. I couldn’t be late for work. I thought I was waiting for a receipt but I think after hearing about our detour, even though the documents were supposed to take a week or two to process, she managed to do it right away and reappeared 10 minutes later with my Seaman’s book! 

Fortunately, now I really was just a 10-minute walk from the ship. I ran back, changed quickly and after our 2-hour long fun run, I managed to make it back in time for our one and a half hour long welcome back pier dance party. Yay! 

Actually, we achieved two targets that day.

My Mexicans signed off the next day. Though our last adventure wasn’t our most treasured memory, here’s a montage of some of the fun times we've had so if they're reading this they will hopefully remember why they forgave me: (I wonder if there’s a way I can turn this into a cheesy slide show with cross-fades and saxophone music to really milk it for dramatic effect?) I miss you guys!

Life is full of detours and friends who will bear with you as you walk kilometres in the wrong direction on busy streets with no sidewalks are what makes it worthwhile. If getting a seaman’s book was going to be an ordeal one way or another, I think I chose the right ordeal. Now, I just hope that one day I get to use the effin’ thing! 

In other news:

Christmas and new years 

Last year I was on land for Christmas so I did something I could never do on a ship. I made a gingerbread house. From scratch! (Americans can buy them already made and then just stick them together, decorate them and take credit for the thing they “made”.) I even designed the pieces and drew the stencil myself. My Home Economics teacher from High School who hated me can suck on that! …Except that would be enjoyable so never mind! I made it with two of my friends and the one friend’s baby peed on my other friend. It was awesome!  

This year, the chefs on board put us to shame. They made this: (And to my knowledge no one was even urinated on.) 

Of course, they’re crazy strict about health regulations so they couldn’t feed it to the guests. Wherever flipper is he’s frikkin sick of gingerbread!

I celebrated with my ship family. They threw a party for the crew the week before Christmas and I had a cabin party with my Mexicans on the actual day. We ate Pringles! 

Crew party!

Cruise Staff at guest Christmas party

My Mexicans bought me a ukulele for Christmas - a pink one (pink ones sound better)! I’m really good at it. I can play ‘You are my Sunshine’. I struggle a little with keeping the strumming rhythm and it takes me about 25 seconds to change chords but apart from that, I’m brilliant! I think I’m going to learn 90s three chord pop-punk first and then move onto gansta rap!

It matches Rodrigo

New Years is always fun on a ship. This year was my third one at sea and for the first time, I wasn’t hidden away in some remote piano bar with 4 old people. I got to be at one of the main parties right on the pool deck. It was packed. They made an ice sculpture of a ‘2016’ and smashed the 6, replacing it with a 7 at midnight. 

My favourite part about New Years on a ship is that there is no limit to the amount of Poseidon jokes you can make!… -Well, in crew areas anyway. I love how they discourage you from making jokes about sinking ships, but will play ‘In the Heart of the Sea’ (that Mobi Dick movie where the ship sinks) and ‘The Finest Hours’ (about people trying to rescue other people from a sinking ship) back to back on the guest movie channel.

My ACD left

I had a frikkin awesome Assistant Cruise Director named Andre who left to go on vacation. If life was fair he would be promoted to Cruise Director on a ship with an amazing itinerary and request me and my seaman’s book. In the meantime though, he left me with enough Yorkshire tea to survive the rest of my contract. Thank you and we miss you!

Happy New Year from Rodrigo and I

10 cruises down, 16 to go
Ukulele chords learnt since last blog: 4




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Sharon Waugh

Sharon is a writer, cruise ship entertainment host and freelance unicorn wrangler. She is currently taking a break from her seafaring adventures to explore some more landlocked locations from her homebase in Johannesburg, South Africa. She likes to photograph a plastic lawn flamingo 'Rodrigo' on her travels because it seemed like a good idea ten years ago and 53 countries later, it’s probably too late to turn back now.

 Sharon greatly dislikes reading 'travel blogs' by people who are just rephrasing press releases or composing lists like '15 ways to travel the world for cheap', specifically formulated for SEO, with absolutely no evidence that the writers have ever left their bedrooms. (This is not one of those blogs.) Sharon also dislikes bigotry and referring to herself in first person, apparently.

To find out more about Sharon and Rodrigo’s travel aspirations read this.

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Practical travel tips and destination guides for anyone visiting any of the places I have been.

My thoughts on travel mascots, photographing your butt in exotic locations and the addictive nature of cruise ship employment, among other things.

True stories about trying to find trolls in Norway, toilets in Denmark and getting flashed in Cuba, to name a few.

Tips for cruisers and crew members, as well as anecdotes from a variety of experiences at sea.