Southern Man

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Summer Vacation Day 3 - Nassau

Having ignored the "crucial and mandatory" hard-sell meetings of yesterday and early this morning, Southern Man and Wife decided to eschew the pre-packaged tours and snorkeling and such and just take our chances ashore. So after breakfast we disembarked and wandered about and eventually found the scooter rentals and rented a two-seater for the day. Southern Man was a bit nervous about this; while he does have the "M" endorsement on his license, he is very much a novice biker and Southern Wife, due to neck and hip injuries from a long-ago car accident, dares not suffer a fall. However we ended up doing rather well.

An avid geocacher, Southern Man had already mapped out several caches in and around Nassau and we decided to use those to guide our explorations. We started at historic Ft. Charlotte, which once guarded the harbor and was the site of our first cache of the day. The fort area was also thick with vendors and we spent an enjoyable couple of hours purchasing a number of trinkets and t-shirts and such for both ourselves and for the family back home. We then (on the recommendation of one of the vendors) went down the hill to the nearby shoreline and ate red snapper and drank Kalik (the self-proclaimed "Beer of the Bahamas") at Big 10's Briland Lounge. We then explored the town of Nassau proper (the traffic was thick but forgiving), picked up another cache in front of the beautiful Governor's Mansion, and then had to turn in the bike and return to the ship all too soon, having never made it to the east end of the island to see the Ocean Club (featured in the Bond file Casino Royale) or across the bridge to Paradise Island to explore the seashore and visit the legendary Atlantis resort. Note to self - on the next cruise, find one that allows far more time ashore than did this one.
The beautiful (and pink!) Governor's Mansion in Nassau.
(photo cribbed from the 'net)
Tonight we were scheduled to eat in one of the formal dining rooms. Our host seated us in the exact spot where we were wed the day before, served us a wonderful meal, and brought the rest of our wedding cake for dessert. We then went to one of the ship's nightclubs (where we had our picture taken with the Captain, who had already signed our marriage certificate) and even got out on the dance floor for a while before turning in for the night. But Southern Man ended up exploring the ship for much of the night, watched the blackjack players in the casino, hung out with some of the crew on a little hidden smoking deck, rode out a mild storm while on deck, climbed way, 'way up some ladders to the top of the fo'c'sle, and watched the Florida shoreline emerge from the misty dawn as we returned to the USA.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Summer Vacation Day 2 - Wedding Bells

Today is the big day! But first a little back story. Southern Man and gf knew that they were going to marry in Florida in a private ceremony (with a renewal of vows for the families sometime in the future when everyone could attend) but didn't pin down the details until last week. It turns out that it's pretty easy to marry in FL and there are plenty of notaries willing to do inexpensive beachfront ceremonies and such, but we found out that we could actually have the ceremony on the cruise ship! This idea found favor with gf, so Southern Man set it all up via email with the cruise line wedding coordinator. The last step was last night (or, rather, early this morning) when Southern Man logged in to the Broward County Clerk's web site to fill out an online form that would hopefully speed things up.

So this morning we rose and ate and dressed and headed to said County Clerk's office, where a most helpful young lady took our money and swore us in and gave us the paperwork we needed, and then made the short drive to Port Everglades where the good ship Bahamas Celebration awaited us and were everyone (and Southern Man does mean everyone) was just incredibly helpful and friendly and even excited that we were marrying on their ship; indeed, we were treated like a king and queen. We were whisked aboard well ahead of the posted boarding time, shown to our cabin, and given a few moments to gather ourselves up, and then taken to one of the formal dining rooms for the ceremony. The service was conducted by an Episcopalian minister who gave a wonderful wedding sermon and we had cake and champagne and posed for the usual wedding pictures. Southern Wife was most pleased.

The cruise ship proved an interesting place. First of all, you have a card to which any purchases you make are charged (as well as daily gratuities and fuel surcharges and such, which added a hundred dollars or so to the total cost of the trip) and you are tempted at every turn to do so. In particular a recurring theme throughout the entire cruise was to drink, drink, and drink some more; apparently alcohol sales are deemed absolutely crucial to their bottom line. Second, the meal times and places were more strictly regimented than Southern Man expected - no midnight buffet on this voyage! And finally, this particular ship is on her third life, having started out as the Norwegian cruise ship Prinsesse Raghild in 1981, lengthened and extensively rebuilt in 1992, then sold and renovated in 2008 for the Bahamas cruise market. Southern Man found plenty of plaques and instructions written in German and Norwegian scattered throughout the ship as he explored over the next few days.

The ship pulled out of Ft. Lauderdale late afternoon. We spent the evening after dinner in the hot tub and then (well after dark) on the aft patio where we saw the lights of cruise ships strung out like pearls on the sea behind us. We then retired to our cabin for our first night together as husband and wife. We should be in Nassau when we wake in the morning!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Summer Vacation Day 1 - Off to Florida!

Now that Southern Man is back home it's time for a batch of backdated posts (to which photos will be added when Southern Man's photo CDs are back from the developer and when gf gets around to downloading everything from her digital camera) describing what is probably the lengthiest, most adventurous, and most varied vacation he's ever taken. In short: Southern Man and gf flew to Orlando, drove to Ft. Lauderdale , got married on a cruise ship, spent a day in Nassau, and then drove back to Orlando via the scenic Florida coast highways - where we were joined a few days later by Southern Man's mother and youngest daughter to finish out the weekend at the Disney parks as part of Youngest Daugher's tenth birthday. So this was wedding, honeymoon, vacation, and birthday gift all rolled up into nine glorious (and expensive!) days. But although Southern Man will be years paying it off, it was worth every penny to see the smiles on their faces and he had a great time as well.

The roots of this vacation go back a couple of years to a time when Southern Man was newly divorced and eager to embrace anything that he could do to make his children happy. While in this vulnerable state of mind he purchased a six day - five night Florida vacation package from a telemarketer (yes, go ahead and laugh; of course it ended up as something of a rip-off but we did end up making the best of it) hoping to use it one day to take Youngest Daughter to the Magic Kingdom (the two teens made that trip when she was but an infant, and Southern Man didn't get to go then). Then when Southern Man and gf decided to make honest folk of one another we added a short cruise to the front end and another hotel day to the front of that to make a wedding - honeymoon - vacation nine-day week out of it.

Due to poor planning on Southern Man's part we flew into Orlando but had to be in Ft. Lauderdale early the next morning so this first day was consumed by travel. We departed Southern Man's home city in the early afternoon and didn't get into Orlando until late, late evening, and then spent three hours on Florida's Turnpike (yes, that's what they call it, but don't be fooled: toll roads are everywhere in Florida) and an hour wandering around northern Miami (but in our very sweet Nissan Altima rental car), finally arriving at our lodging at about three in the morning. Southern Man didn't sleep much - tomorrow will be a big day!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Concert Review - Grand Funk Railroad

Like the group reviewed a few weeks ago, Grand Funk Railroad was fairly well established when Southern Man was a young 'un. And like The Guess Who they put on a heck of a good show tonight for a near-capacity crowd. Fortunately Southern Man and gf got the time mixed up and arrived an hour earlier than intended, so we got terrific seats and fortified ourselves with a cheezy pretzel (for her) and nachoes (for Southern Man). Crowd-pleasers included the (new) opening number Bottle Rocket, their well-known covers of The Locomotion and Some Kind Of Wonderful, a sizzling Hendrixesque guitar-solo Star Spangled Banner, plenty of blues, a really terrific tune with lots and lots and lots of percussion that Southern Man can't identify (the refrain was something like "kisses like thunder, makes love like lightning") but would love to find, and of course we all sang along to I'm Your Captain. They closed out with We're An American Band and left us most happy to have seen these legendary rockers.

[added later] Another blogger who wrote a much better review of this concert than did Southern Man identifies the unknown song above as "Lightnin' and Thunder." As far as Southern Man can tell, it (and Bottle Rocket, and other newer songs) have not yet made it to an album. Here's hoping they do!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Concert Review - The Guess Who

Once again Southern Man has procured season passes for the local water park and local amusement park (both owned by the same outfit, so the passes get us in to each) and Southern Man and gf and nearly-ten-year-old daughter spent the entire day at the parks eating and reading and swimming and riding and generally having a good time. And tonight was a "free" concert at the amusement park so that's were we ended up to end the day.

The Guess Who were old when Southern Man was still in short pants but they are still touring with two of the original members (drummer Gary Peterson and bassist Jim Kale) and three relative newcomers. They did a fairly enthusiastic show for a fairly thin crowd (Styx and REO Speedwagon were also in town that night; Southern Man is continually amazed at the number of bands from his youth that are still active), playing all of their standards and a few more and clearly having a good time doing so. New lead singer Derek Sharp is a fine addition to the band. If they are in your area it is well worth the time to hear this classic Canadian act.