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Final Day on the Norwegian Cruise

Rebecca at breakfast on Nov. 11
Breakfast at the Garden Cafe before we went to the Great Stir-up Cay.

Our seventh and final full-day aboard the Norwegian Sun was our actual anniversary and the day just went in every single direction. There were laughs, tears, relaxation and a lot of sadness over the fact that our peaceful adult-time together was almost over.

The day took us to Great Stir-up Cay, the private island of the Norwegian Cruise Line and our only tendered port. We arrived at 9 a.m. and were scheduled to have our last tender at 5:30 p.m., but as the story goes on, that all changes. We had plans to take the 3:30 tender back to the boat because we wanted to be on hand for the drawing for the free cruise.

Spoiler alert: We didn’t win. Major, major bummer.

We opted to rent snorkel gear on the island because we hadn’t snorkeled during our kayaking excursion in the Bahamas and we wanted to give it a try. Because of that, we didn’t have to get tender tickets to the island. We just got on a boat whenever we felt like it because we had paid for the excursion. Others who didn’t have a planned outing had to get tickets from the activities desk near the casino and wait until their letter was called to disembark.

Tender boat
The little tender boar that would take us from the big ship to the private island.

It was a little choppy when we moved on to the tender boat. We were on the top level and were ready to go in pretty much no time. We cruised over to the island. On the way, I just wanted the tender boat to move faster so we could get there! I wanted a lounge chair. I wanted to relax in the sun! I wanted to snorkel! I wanted to celebrate my anniversary on an island, not a barge.

After what felt like an eternity, we made it to paradise! This island was amazing. Blue skies, blue waters, white beaches and lounge chairs as far as the eyes could see! It was beautiful and I was happy to be there. We went to the dive hut and got our snorkel gear and proceeded to find a spot to plant ourselves for a bit. The wind had picked up that night and it was 9 a.m. so it was a bit chilly.

We laid around for a while and I suddenly regretted finishing all of my books the day before. I had nothing to read. My husband and I decided to take a dip and try out the snorkel gear. It was beautiful. The fish were so close and there was a reef right in the middle that we could explore.

There was so much to see. The waves started to get a little intense while we were snorkeling. It wore us out pretty quickly. We stayed in as long as we could, but then decided to take a little break. We made our way back to our lounge chairs and heard someone saying that they final tender back to the Norwegian Sun was moved up to 3:30 p.m. because the wind was getting so intense.

Rows and rows of beach chairs!
Paradise Island? No! Great Stir-Up Cay. I wish we had more time there.

At that point we revised our plans. We didn’t want to be apart of the mad rush to the tender so we decided to leave about 1:30 p.m. We grabbed some lunch, which was just as good as on the ship, and sat around in the sun for a bit more. It took some pictures and I’m glad I did.

Suddenly, we heard a whistle. I figured that someone was in the water and was being told to come closer to land. Or maybe we were being alerted to the fact that the final tender time was being moved up.

No. Much worse.

We were being told that we were to leave the island immediately. The wind was intense and they were having trouble keeping the cruise boat anchored, though I suspect the real problem had more to do with lining up the tender with the Sun. The waves were becoming huge and it was tough to line up the two boats.

As we heard the announcement, we started gathering our stuff. We flew over to the dive hut and returned our gear and headed over to the tender dock. We were determined to be on the first boat. We didn’t want to wait around. We took a seat in what turned out to be the front of the boat, on the lower level. The  bottom of the boat has walls. When I was sitting on the bench, there was no way that I could see over the walls. Therefore, I had no idea what was coming. And it was big.

Hanging out on the private island on Nov. 11, 2011
The wind picked up. It was a beautiful day, but it became really gusty.

The first big wave we hit caught everyone off guard. The flat-bottom boat was thrown into the air and sent slamming down on the other side of the wave. People from the upper and lower levels screamed together in unison and I felt my eyes well with tears as water came up through every crack in the wall. I wasn’t afraid of sinking of capsizing. I was just afraid. That long trip over from the cruise ship to the island was double as long in the wavy, windy weather. It felt that for every wave we moved forward, we moved three waves back. The boat just could not get to the ship. I was terrified we would have to spend the night on the island.

Mostly, I was just terrified.

Then panic began to set it. I couldn’t stop crying. I felt sick. I couldn’t breath. People were screaming, the boat was tossing and suddenly I was twitching and couldn’t stop. People around me tried to reassure me and my husband was afraid that I would send children on the tender into an anxious state. But I couldn’t stop. Things had already escalated too far in my mind and I was unable to shut it off.

We finally made it to the cruise boat only to learn we would be the last ones off the boat. I figured it couldn’t take long. But we kept sitting there with the tender smashing into the side of the cruise boat and leaving big, long streaks of black as it rocked up against the pristine paint job of the Sun. We crashed up and down and into the Sun and people screamed and clamored to get off the boat. I twitched and cried. I shook like a leaf and finally, my husband had enough.

Five years
Celebrating five years on the beach of Great Stir-Up Cay.

He stood me up and told me to go. We started walking toward the stairs. People tried to hand me sea-sick bags, but I wasn’t sea-sick, just incredibly scared and in a state of panic. As we got up the stairs, no one gave us trouble about getting off the boat. They told us it wasn’t out turn but one look at me probably reassured them that something was just not right.

We climbed the stairs and it revealed how bad things were. Every member of the tender team was wearing a life-jacket and forming a human chain to keep passengers from falling down, off the boat or back down the stairs. When we got to the gang-way, it was moving up and down and back and forth violently. We were being told to go one at a time as crew member hung on to our arms in the event that we started to fall. I passed over the gang-way quickly and was never happier to be on “solid ground” or the bigger ship.

We made our way up to our room in a relatively empty ship and realized that they process of moving cruisers from the island to the boat was going to take a while. I took some Xanax to calm myself down and then took a nap. The cruise boat didn’t really feel like it was rocking too much. That oddly shaped tender was just having a tough time in the wind.

While I rested and relaxed, my husband spent time out on our balcony conversing to the neighbor from Texas and just looking out over the sea. At one point, he yelled for me and the camera because he saw a SEA TURTLE! In the sea! It was swimming around off the rear of the boat and we were in a prime location to see it!

Sea turtle from our balcony
Do you see the sea turtles head popping out from the water?

Once I saw that, I was up. My husband ran down to find out that we did not win the free cruise in the raffle drawing.

Dang. Not that I really thought we had a chance, but I thought it would be fun if the average Joe walked away with the free trip.

We got up and started to get ready for dinner at Le Bistro. It was our anniversary after all and we still had our reservation, no matter how much panic I had been in, life needed to move on. I got up and showered and got dressed and prepared to head up to Le Bistro.

We weren’t sure what to expect out of a French restaurant. I was expecting baguets and croissants or something. Maybe pasta. I really wasn’t sure.

I know I wrote this in Paying for food on the Norwegian Sun, but I will revisit it here in case you missed it.

We ordered a bottle of white wine since we had so much red during the week. The wine was part of our dinner package.

For starters, I had a scallop appetizer. I love scallops and this did not disappoint. My husband opened his meal with cream of mushroom soup. He had this soup earlier int he week at the Seven Seas and he loved it. He was very excited to have it again. The waiter even brought him a second bowl because he loved it so much. The chef sent out some salmon mousse with crackers in addition to what we ordered. It was great, and I’m not much into salmon or fish made into mousse. In my opinion, the only thing that should be moussed is chocolate, but this salmon changed my mind.

For our entrees, we both had another beef dish. Perfection. The steak was cooked so perfectly, I took a picture of it. It was served with cheesy potatoes and carrots. All of it was so yummy. I was so full I wasn’t sure I’d be able to eat again.

Our waiter than pushed us into a dessert, not that it took much pushing. We went “healthy” and got the fruit fondue. It was Heaven. I wanted to drink the chocolate right out of the bowl.

If that weren’t enough, this happened:

That’s right. The waitstaff sang for us.

Then they fed us cake. This ship has the most amazing cake. Not only is the cake moist and tasty, the frosting makes me want to lick the plate when I’m done eating. I was so afraid they were going to have to roll us out of the restaurant when dinner was over. And the waitstaff was so amazing that we immediately went to our room and wrote a comment card for the entire staff and dropped it off at the front desk. They were so attentive and yet gave us some privacy. Then they SANG! And the waiter even took my camera to film us while they were singing. It was so perfect and memorable. I can’t speak highly enough of the care and courtesy we received there and the food was great.

Amazing anniversary dinner at Le Bistro
My amazing anniversary dinner at Le Bistro.

Despite the panicky day, the time cut short on the Great Stir-up Cay and the crazy waves while we were snorkeling, that dinner was amazing and so was the cake.

After we finished our amazing meal and stuffed ourselves silly on food, desserts and wine, we headed down to the Stardust Lounge for the final show on the ship: “The Stardust Variety Showtime: Charles Peachock and Nadeen the Queen of Hypnosis.” We loved both of them as performers so we were really looking forward to it. We were a little disappointed that we had to miss the crew talent show, but it was at 7:30 and our dinner reservation was for 7 so there was no way we were going to make it.

The show was awesome. Nadeen did some hypnosis and most of the people she plucked from the audience were really receptive and ready to participate, which made the show all that much more entertaining. Once she was done, Charles Peachock took the stage and was amazing as usual. His juggling was top notch and he did some great tricks and even brought some members of the audience up on stage for part of it. He was funny and engaging and the show was awesome.

Once that was over, we took a little walk up to the pool deck to see what was going on and then returned to our room to get our things ready to go. We needed to make sure that everything was packed up because the next morning, we would be in Port Canaveral and ready to disembark from our cruise of a lifetime. It was sad, but we knew we had to do it. We were taking the option to carrying our own luggage off the boat rather than having it delivered to us on the other side. We figured it would be faster and would give us a little extra time in Florida. So, of course, we had to be prepared.

After everything was together, it was getting late and we had to turn in for the night…our final night aboard the Norwegian Sun.