Asher on Aspen: Cruising the Bahamas |

Asher on Aspen: Cruising the Bahamas

Shannon Asher
Asher on Aspen
(Getty Images)

It was my first time. Admittedly, I was nervous and a bit hesitant. It all happened so fast. Like really fast. The sheer fun of it all was overwhelming. Luckily, my mother was there with me to experience my first-ever cruise vacation.

Seeing the ship for the first time felt similar to seeing Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World for the first time as a kid. I was in absolute awe of the massive structure standing before us that we were getting ready to board. The plan was to embark on the Royal Caribbean’s Odyssey of the Seas inaugural two-night sailing. The ship held 5,500 passengers and boasted 16 total decks. It was enormous. As Tom Hanks would say in Sleepless in Seattle, “It was like magic.”

Upon arrival, we were required to present our passports, vaccine cards, and a negative COVID-19 test that had to be taken within 48-hours. There was a strict, but necessary boarding process that involved going through security and answering several health questions. With all these mandatory stipulations, it felt like an extremely controlled environment that was presumably safe from the virus.

The brains behind this entire trip was my travel agent mother who loves to travel. Though I have always been hesitant about cruises, my mother was able to convince me as this was just a two-day sail that was only traveling to the Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas called CocoCay. I reasoned this was just enough time to assess the cruising lifestyle and find out whether it was for me.

When it comes to cruise vacations, people tend to fall into one of two opposing categories: passionate advocates or cynical skeptics. Before this trip, I admittedly fell into the latter category. I imagined a sea full of Hawaiian print button-downs that hovered over the buffet table, large family reunions wearing matching t-shirts with cookie cutter itineraries, and cheesy, lackluster activities that I believed wouldn’t interest me.

To my surprise, this unpleasant depiction was certainly not my experience. It was quite the opposite. Rarely do you interact with a large group of people who are all on vacation at the exact same time. Think about it. When you travel to a new city, most people you meet are on their own schedule and are living their own lives. They are not in vacation mode like you are. But when you’re aboard a cruise ship, it’s a different story entirely. Everyone is on the same page, and that equates to a lot of really happy people who just want to have a good time.

From the moment we walked onto the ship, we felt like celebrities. Everyone was so excited that the Ashers had arrived (or so it seemed). They certainly knew how to make us feel special. Almost immediately upon boarding, we were handed vodka martinis to toast our arrival. It was 1 p.m. but my mom and I decided to indulge in celebration of our mother-daughter mini trip.

After completing our muster drill that walked us through the safety protocols, we took to exploring the ship. The top deck was action-packed, and it almost felt like an amusement park. An observation capsule lifted us 300 feet above sea level to marvel at the panoramic views. There were skydiving and surf simulators, bungee trampolines, a rock-climbing wall, and various neon-colored, resort-deck pools scattered throughout.

It was baffling to think about all the activities, events, restaurants, and bars that were located on the ship. Live music presented itself at nearly every venue we walked into. World-class shows were presented in the Royal Theater, and we were even able to catch a Broadway-inspired production. There was a basketball court, music hall, solarium, library, casino, spa and fitness center, various whirlpools, among many other things. There was never a dull moment, and we didn’t even begin to check everything off our list.

The second day we docked at Royal Caribbean’s CocoCay for the day. The first thing we did was take a walking tour of the island which was divided into two sections: Thrill Island and Chill Island. Thrill Island contained a massive water park with one of the highest water slides in North America and Chill Island offered some relaxing beach time with various ocean excursions. We opted for a beach day and hung out at Chill Island most of the day.

It was a jam-packed 48-hours that was incredibly stimulating with a never-ending list of things to do. More importantly, it was time well spent with my mother that I will never get back. We experienced it all together and that made it even more meaningful. This cruise wildly exceeded my expectations, and after this trial-run, I have to admit that I am now a cruise enthusiast. Where to next, Mom?

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