Guest Author - Candyce H. Stapen
Kayak Adventures Carnival Pride, Baltimore
By Candyce H. Stapen
From the mid-Atlantic, you can get to Freeport, the Bahamas, as well as to Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos, the Caribbean, on one tank of gas. That’s because the Carnival Pride began offering six, seven and eight-day cruises to these places in April 2009. Starting in September, the ship sails alternating seven-day cruises with ports that include Grand Turk and Freeport or Nassau and Freeport.
What to do with the money you save because you don’t have to purchase airfare? Try kayak adventures. No previous experience required for these easy eco-adventures on mangrove lined creeks. The double kayaks meant that my husband David and I could share the work. Called “divorce yaks” by guides, the two-seaters also meant we shared some choice words too.
On Grand Turk, Oasis Kayak drove us to North Creek National Park. Because of low tide in the inner creek, we paddled the outer waterway where the creek met the ocean. That meant two things: strong current and waves. After basic instruction, we operated our kayaks. Within minutes, both David and I snarled “what are you doing” as the kayak bobbed precariously. Eventually, we learned not to smack paddles, not to drip water on each other and not to mumble cuss words, at least not too loudly.
As we paddled, the guide showed us conch beds, told us that the pulsating gray and black spotted critters in the water were mangrove jellyfish and pointed to the school of three-inch snappers darting in and out of the mangrove roots. Instead of skill to navigate the wide creek, we needed the power of coordinated strokes or we floated backward to the put-in point. Eventually, we hit our rhythm.
And when we followed our leader into the ocean, we hit waves. As the surf broke over us, we screamed, not at each other, but just because we didn’t know what to expect. “Not that way, “yelled our guide, “point the front of the kayak into the waves, not the side.”
Who knew? I “yahooed” with each breaking wave, enjoying the thrills, but David, concerned with the kayak’s swaying and several inches of water, wanted to head back. He persuaded me—okay—demanded that we paddle out of the sea and into the calm channel.
Buoyed by our Grand Turk experience, we tried kayaking again in Freeport. Grand Bahama Nature Tours took us to Lucayan National Park about 40-minutes away. Chad, our guide, bantered in a friendly manner with our group, referring to us as “family” and asking us to call him “Uncle Chad.”
Our task: paddle the 2 ½ mile, mangrove lined trail, about a 75-minutes paddle for our inexperienced group. We seemed, at times, to be playing bumper kayaks as we smashed into each other as well as into the mangrove roots.
Since Gold Creek twists and narrows for several long stretches, it required some technical skill. We and the others had none, but we paddled on, learning as extricated our kayak from the overhanging branches and the bank of mangrove roots.
With all of our mistakes, back paddling and turn arounds, we really liked gliding along, admiring the reflection of the leaves in the sunlit water and listening to the birds, especially when the grousing by others and ourselves didn’t drown out the bird songs.
Our looped trail ended at a boardwalk that led to Gold Rock beach, famous for its 60-foot wide swath of soft sand at low tide. We, however, arrived at high tide when the ocean reached the fringing casuarina trees and when a storm rolled in. We watched funnel-like waterspouts that appeared as mini-tornadoes form offshore. Thunder crackled and the rains came as we ran back to the van for an early arrival at the ship.
What to do onboard the Carnival Pride? Go to the spa, dine at David’s for wonderful steak, try your luck at the casino, and our favorite, read a book while sitting on your private balcony, admiring the expansive sea views