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Nassau: An Incredible Experience

 

One of the Caribbean ports that attracts a lot of cruise ships is Nassau, partly because of its geographical location as either the first stop or last stop for ships based in Miami and Fort Lauderdale…and perhaps partly because of those constant TV commercials about Paradise Island and Atlantis.

In any event, Nassau is popular.

During our visits to the capital of the Bahamas, of all the places we’ve visited — and for whatever reasons, Nassau is a place where we’ve always had a tendency to go off on our own — the most memorable was a hotel. The Graycliff Hotel.

We stumbled on it, while walking the streets not far from the cruise terminal, where we’d disembarked from the Norwegian Sky, on a four-day cruise. It turned out to be an amazing stumble, and here’s one of the reasons why…

Somehow we wound up in the cellar — a genuine cellar — that allegedly houses the third-largest private wine collection in the world. It’s owned by Enrico Garzaroli, who also owns the hotel — or did — that he bought in 1973. It’s a hotel that’s only had four owners, the German whitefirst of them a pirate named Captain John Graysmith, whose presence clearly had something to do with its name.

That was more than three and a half CENTURIES ago.

It’s important to remember that we just walked in off the street. There was no arranged tour, no greasing the palm of a concierge, no introductions by somebody in high places because we didn’t know anybody in high places in the Bahamas, or anywhere else for that matter.

It was simply our good fortune to wind up in the presence of the cellar master, Sudhir Varot Kangath, and that he was kind enough to show us the corks, as they say. One of them was sealing the wine in a bottle of 1727 Bremen Ratskeller Rudesheimer Apostelwein, a German white that hasn’t been tasted in 46 years. When it was last tasted, the wine passed the test and today that bottle is worth an estimated $200,000.

The entire cellar has been valued at $20 million.

In it, you can arrange for private dining, for $1,000, at a long rectangular table at which the likes of Sir Winston Churchill, Jay Z, Aristotle Onassis and Lebron James have dined. We didn’t ask if that was $1,000 per person…we just assumed that it was. And when we combed through the dusty racks that supported these dusty treasures, it wasn’t like we had to keep our distance. The wines were RIGHT THERE.

On one wall there are maybe 100 bottles that Sudhir calls the "Million Dollar Rack" because that's the total value of bottles worth $5,000 to $25,000 each. According to him, his boss sells "four or five" of them a year. We did spot a 1900 Chateau Lafite, a case of 1982 Bordeaux that is in "high demand", and a couple of Barolos from the '50s. They are all carefully catalogued, of course, and there are cameras everywhere in case any visitors dared.

On the other hand, most visitors would just feel lucky to SEE something that unique.

Like we did.

Today at portsandbows.com: Scrubbers and emission controls

 

Norwegian Getaway
7 nights
January 24, 2015
Miami (return): St. MaartenSt. ThomasNassau 
Inside: $469
Cost per day: $67
www.ncl.com

This Big Three In Serious Port Competition

 

Mention the "Big 3" in Florida and everybody will think you mean Lebron James, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade.

These days, it's not that automatic, and not just because James was making headlines with his Decision 2.0 as to where he'll be bouncing and swishing basketballs. In the cruise world, for example, the "Big 3" are Miami (the port not the Heat), Fort Lauderdale and Port Canaveral.

And not necessarily in that order.

Most cruisers think of Fort Lauderdale and Miami as the main ports of departure. Miami is the world's self-proclaimed busiest cruise port, and there often seems to be an armada of cruise ships at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale.

Port Canaveral (above) is making up ground, or water.

On any given Sunday, you can find as many as five cruise ships there — two Carnival, two Royal Caribbean and a Disney. The port is home to three ships from Disney (Disney World is just down the interstate in Orlando) and so does Carnival. New agreements are signed with Royal Caribbean and Norwegian.

Dredging is taking place to depend the channel and a new terminal is due to be completed in November, so that the biggest ships in cruising can be accommodate. Hello, Oasis of the Seas?

It's a fierce competition for the Florida cruise dollar…almost as fierce as the competition will be now that Lebron James is breaking up the other "Big 3."

Today at Phil Reimer's portsandbows.com: Theme cruise with stars of TCM

Caribbean Princess
7 nights
August 2, 2014
Fort Lauderdale (return): Princess CaysSt. ThomasSan JuanGrand Turk
Inside: $649
Cost per day: $92
www.princess.com

Three Times a Godmother

Unquestionably, there are people who envy or resent the Arison family. It comes with their territory. Wealthy beyond any normal person's means. Owners (or part-owners) of 11 cruise lines under the Carnival banner. Owners of the NBA's champions for the last two years. High up on the list of Miami's rich and famous.

Etcetra.

So there is bound to be that same anti-Arison sentiment when — in New Orleans on November 17 — the family matriarch, Lin, becomes the Godmother of the Carnival Sunshine. She'll also become the only person to be Godmother of three ships — the previous iteration of the Sunshine (Carnival Destiny) and the Carnival Holiday being her other godchild ships.

To which we say…good for her!

Mrs. Arison's late husband, Ted, had an enormous cruising impact that affects all of us who go on ships today. He was part-owner of the cruise line that really introduced the affordable Caribbean cruise. It was called the Norwegian Line and Arison left it after six years to found Carnival, which became a corporation that also owns Holland America, Cunard, Princess, Costa and half a dozen smaller cruise lines.

He was a child of wealth and he parlayed it into greater wealth. His son Mickey became the face of Carnival, the world's 169th wealthiest person and the man who signs the paychecks for Lebron James. His mother has been mostly anonymous, except in Miami. There she is known as a philanthropist, especially for the arts, which she obviously loves. She has dedicated her life to advancement of the arts for young people and last year President Obama awarded her the National Medal.

With such people of privilege often comes a responsibility to help others. But it's not a given. If there were no wealthy people like this, who would step up to help others, in a myriad of ways. Mrs. Arison made doing so her responsibility.

When she wasn't giving "berth" to three ships.

White House photo by Chuck Kennedy

Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas
7 nights
October 6, 2013
Fort Lauderdale (return): Labadee, Falmouth, Cozumel
Inside: $749
Cost per day: $107
www.royalcaribbean.com

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