Ken's Voyages Around the Sun

Everglades and Wrap-Up
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It's been a very long time since I last visited Florida (I think it was in the late '70s) so it was good to see the Everglades again on our shore excursion. As a bonus, we saved a taxi fare from the ship to the airport this way because the bus dropped us off at the airport.

On the tour, we got bussed to a place that gives rides in really big airboats (they hold about 50 people and have two large propellers) and had a 'gator handling show. They also sell deep-fried 'gator nuggets, which we bought and ate (yum!). Skimming across grass in shallow water at high speed was great fun in the airboat. (I still think we should have used smaller ones in the Irish lakes so we could get close to shore without fouling the screws or running into submerged rocks.)

On our little trip we saw quite a few 'gators and various other critters, including some gorgeous birds that walk on lilies, fish, turtles, other birds, etc. We got to touch a juvenile 'gator at the handling show and then walk around and look at some big ones in pens. Interesting side trip.

Still had a lot of time to kill in the airport, so we watched Y Tu Mama Tambien and a couple of Monty Python episodes. It's hard watching many of them in row, can take only two or three at a time. Flight turned out fine, got home and caught the shuttle bus with perfect lucky timing and then got the doggers from their sitter.

So... some final opinions on the cruise...

First and foremost, it seems like a way to take a vacation without thinking too much. It's not our type of fun at all. Mostly because the majority of the activities available to us weren't interesting. We're not into any of the games or machines the casino offers. Most of the presentations on the ship were dopey: things like "Staying Afloat in Today's Economy" and "Ebay Online Auctions Seminar" and "The Stock Market; Why Is It Doing These Things To Me?" and, on the last day at sea on the way home, "French Language Lesson." What gives with that? French? After visiting these Spanish-speaking islands and going to Miami? Weird.

Now, they did have various little craft demonstrations like folding napkins, and many tastings of various sorts, but they give so little alcohol and/or charge for them that it wasn't really worth the effort to seek them out. I think that the cruising lifestyle just caters to a different kind of person. Now, had they offered talks about the natural history or archaeology of the places we visited instead of those subjects mentioned above, that would have made all the difference.

Second, each and every little extra costs something beyond the basic cruise fee. Okay, that might be acceptable, but it seemed like every time I turned around the ship photographer came by to snap shots of us. Later, these shots are posted on a wall and you can buy them. For example, the first night at dinner a guy dressed up as a pirate came to our table and the photographer shot him next to each of us. So that's nine flashbulbs going off at our table, which was annoying. And why a pirate? Not like the dinner was themed that way, or that they had a couple of them performing a little show or anything.

All the shore excursions seemed quite pricey for what they offered. It's not that we couldn't afford them and they were fun to go on, but on top of the drinks or tastings, and the casino or arcade or bingo games, and the mandatory tips, and the souveniers, and the other services offered, it adds up. You really feel grateful, after a point, when you get something for free, like the workout sessions or bed-pillow mints or glass of ice-water (but that one does come with a frown, for it garners the bartender no 15% tip).

Third, just not enough time ashore. Now, we didn't pick this cruise and I don't mean to harp on it too much, but one that offered more time ashore would have been nice. I'm sure that there are longer cruises that do, but we had work schedules to worry about so we couldn't take a longer one.

Perhaps in the future we will try another cruise, like one to Alaska or around the Mediterranean with long stops at ports. For now, we'll probably stick with camping / hosteling trips where we have complete freedom to do as we wish, and have more opportunities to engage the brain and learn something at the same time.

Things to take next time: day pack, water bottle, walkie-talkies, dry bag.

Here's the kind of boat we rode on.

Some 85% of the Everglades looks like this grass; and it's drying up fast.

Beautiful bird that walks on lilies.

A wild alligator.

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