Here I am, in the thick of it with kids, husband, dog and life. Last year proved to be the most challenging of my life — seriously, more drama in one year than in the previous ten years combined.
But, enough about that… because the year ended far better than it began.
It seems the Bahamas knows a bit about having a bad year, too… Just mention Hurricane Dorian and this string of 700 islands comes to mind. A friend of mine posted on social media that she is headed to the Bahamas soon, and someone commented that the Bahamas is closed. The discussion went on to discuss damage, ask about restaurants, activities and more.
And while Grand Bahama and Great Abaco Islands did suffer major damage, the rest of this island nation was largely spared, is open for business and WANTS YOU to come visit!
Take the cruise (read this post to see why a Bahamas getaway is so wonderful). Not into cruising, then visit the Eleuthera Islands and discover this gorgeous slice of paradise.
But if you can’t travel to the Bahamas this year, many organizations are helping with recovery efforts. Maybe you can’t go and serve like the Miami Dolphins Football Team. But, you can consider a donation to a reputable organization to help this tourism-dependent nation recover from the storm. I recommend Samaritan’s Purse, which has a field hospital running and has other programs to support this region. (Interestingly, my husband went to Haiti 5 days after their earthquake on medical missions. He worked alongside doctors from Samaritan’s Purse, which knows how to function where there is no electricity or fresh water. Important for this type of relief effort.)
If nothing else, PLEASE SHARE THIS POST on your social media. Use the hashtags #bahamasstrong and #Ilovebahamas to let the world know the Bahamas is open for business! (There are quick, easy links at the end of the post… just click them and share away. Let’s help the world know that the Bahamas is OPEN FOR BUSINESS!
Now, back to that Bahamas cruise
My husband knew I needed a break and sent me on a fabulous girls’ getaway cruise with a dear friend. You know the kind of friend who you can spill your guts to uncensored, knowing you’ll be loved 100% no matter what you say?
She had a really tough year, too, and her hubby is awesome like mine. So, he agreed to our getaway and a cruise for two was planned and booked in record time!
We chose Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas 4 night cruise to the Bahamas. The departure port, Port Canaveral (Orlando) is a one-day drive from home, so cost effective. And four nights allowed us enough time to truly unwind — any shorter and we definitely wouldn’t have been ready to go home! But, it was long enough to miss the hubby and kids, at least a little bit.
Why Enchantment of the Seas
Enchantment of the Seas was a great choice for our cruise. The ship is large enough to have plenty to do, but not so huge we couldn’t do it all! We challenged our trivia skills, ate to our hearts’ content, relaxed pool side, danced till we couldn’t dance anymore, and so much more. Of course, in real girls’ getaway fashion, we talked, laughed, cried and laughed even more!
The cruise took us to two ports: Nassau, The Bahamas and CocoCay, Royal Caribbean’s private island. Both days greeted us with perfect sunshine, temperatures in the low 80s and calm seas.
In Nassau, we lounged the day away at the Hilton British Colonial Resort, which is located near the port. That port stop happened to be the perfect place to celebrate my friend’s birthday with cake — served by the singing chef!
At the private island, we found lounge chairs near the shore and relaxed to the sound of gentle waves lapping on the shore. We brought inflatable pool noodles to float in the calm waters. We drank fruity concoctions out of adorable pails. And, we enjoyed snorkeling in the shallow waters — so cool to see sting rays, nurse sharks and other sea creatures up close!
I am not sure when I’ll get to go again, but I look forward to experiencing Royal Caribbean’s all-new Perfect Day at CocoCay! The water park alone looks like so much fun — and I don’t mean just for kids! And, I’ve long wanted to go “zorbing” — not sure if I’ll chicken out, but I sure hope to give it a try in the next year or two!
Driving home after the cruise, we knew this would not be the last girlfriend cruise we took together!
How to plan the best girls’ getaways
Short cruises, like our 4 day cruise from Florida, are ideal for girlfriend getaways. The planning is largely done for you since dining, lodging and the majority of entertainment are included. It’s almost an all-inclusive getaway for girlfriends! At the same time, those who want to shop or drink can easily do so.
Tips for planning the best girlfriend cruise getaway
- Select a cruise port that’s in easy driving distance to keep costs down. We chose Port Canaveral, about 10 hours from home, and booked a hotel the night before the cruise to keep the stress down. If you live on the west coast, consider 3 days cruises from San Francisco or 4 day cruises from Long Beach. Not flying, we kept costs down (which means we will probably go again sooner rather than later).
- Look for cheap weekend cruise and weekend cruise deals online to save. Last minute cruises, especially in the shoulder season, are a great way to save on a getaway.
- In the alternative, if someone in the group has cruised before, have them book the cruise. Included perks, like cabin upgrades and expedited check in, are great budget stretchers.
- Make sure each member of the group attaches their own credit card to their cruise account. I know someone who cruised with girlfriends, and one of them constantly “forgot” her key. She bummed free drinks off of the other people in the group and didn’t pay her gratuities. It’s one thing if you have a group member who can’t afford to travel and others want to chip in. It’s entirely NOT COOL to be a freeloader when you don’t need to be!
- Share all the costs of travel. My friend has a really comfortable SUV and loves to drive. So, I paid half our gas costs, half the hotel and bought dinner on the drive down. Just because someone offers to drive doesn’t mean they should get stuck with the fuel costs!
- Choose a cruise long enough to relax. This is important, whether you’re planning a girls cruise or couples’ escape. Short cruises are cheap, but they’re over before you get a chance to catch your breath. When you book 4 day cruises, it allows enough time to turn off the brain and reset. Beyond that, it also lets everyone get a chance to do something they really want to do.
- Don’t think you have to be together all the time. No matter how close you are, you and your friends might not all want to do the same things. I love challenging myself on the rock wall. My friend did not share my enthusiasm. So, on a sea day, she took a much desired afternoon nap (her youngest is only two), and I hit the rock wall. Literally, but that’s a story for another day!
- Plan shore excursions with everyone’s interests in mind. I’m adventurous. I’ve been to Nassau many times and am very comfortable exploring the island on my own. My friend is more cautious. We took that into account and planned a shore excursion that met both our needs. It’s the art of compromise, so I recommend each person share what they like to do and how much they are willing to spend. Don’t book the $300 high adventure excursion if someone in the group is not comfortable with the activity or the price. But…
- If traveling in a large group, like a bachelorette cruise or a reunion cruise, choose a couple of shore excursions and let people pick which one they want to do. It’s okay not to be together 100% of the time!
What if a cruise won’t work for everyone
Cruises are one of the best girls getaways because of how easy they are to plan. But, not everyone wants to cruise. All-inclusive resorts are another easy option, but they can be pricey, so consider whether everyone in the group can afford an all-inclusive. The same tips apply, though.
Beyond short cruises and all-inclusives, any place can be a great getaway for friends. Here are some of my favorites:
- St. Simon’s Island, Georgia,
- Charlottesville, Virginia,
- Hocking Hills Area, Ohio,
- Annapolis, Maryland,
- Savannah, Georgia.
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