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Around-the-Clock Food, Festivities and Fun on a Coastal Cruise

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By Fyllis Hockman

I looked tentatively at the load of shrimp, blue crabs, gar, sea trout and other denizens of the deep as they were dropped into the boat. Even more tentatively, I volunteered to hold one and found myself making eye contact with a very cute stingray, and I'm pretty sure we had a moment.

My trip on the Lady Jane Shrimp Boat in Jekyll Island, Georgia, is but one of the many adventures to be had on the American Cruise Line Historic South and Golden Isles Intra-Coastal Waterway Cruise from Amelia Island, Florida, to Charleston, South Carolina.

We learned a lot about the mouths, gills and tails of individual fish, which I actually found more interesting than I would have expected. There are some very weird fish tales out there. Above us on this day were flocks of birds following the boat. They knew what we had onboard.

Overheard from another passenger on the way back to the ship: "If they wouldn't serve us all that shrimp at meals, we wouldn't have to go out and catch more."

So we might as well first discuss mealtimes aboard the American Eagle -- or should I say mealtime, since you can literally eat 24 hours a day. There's the Early Riser Breakfast before the dining room breakfast, the pretty much all-day cafe in the Sky Lounge bracketing the more formal lunches and dinners, and cookie time at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. for the necessary sustenance between meals. One would think the cocktail hour and hors d'oeuvres prior to dinner might interfere with the more-than-generous dining options, but of course that doesn't happen -- and an hour later, no one skimps on the open bar, ice cream treats and popcorn that accompany the evening entertainment.

Rest assured that there is a fitness room to counter all those calories, but no one seems to go there. The saving grace? All meals come in half-portions, which themselves are more than sufficient in this Michelin-wannabe restaurant.

The staff -- who are not allowed to accept gratuities -- are still remarkably agreeable. How often do you request a drink at an establishment that they don't carry -- and by the next night it's there? So it was with my Fireball. Need I remind you that we were on a ship at the time? Just as an aside, this ship -- accommodating only about 100 passengers -- is part of the only line in the world offering small U.S. ships that operate like river cruises along U.S. coasts.

If you can find time in between all the food, multiple daily excursions are offered to St. Simon and Jekyll Islands, Savannah, Hilton Head, Beaufort and Charleston.

On the trolley tour of Savannah, a city I've never been to before, I wasn't expecting much, just another nice Southern town. I was admittedly skeptical when the trolley driver started the tour by claiming that Savannah is the most fascinating town in America -- but by the time the tour ended 90 minutes later, I was in total agreement. The constant patter from Miss Pearl brought this historic wonderland to life. The picturesque streets beg to be strolled upon with singular homes and stores. Some houses date back to the 1700s and 1800s with architectural flourishes of graceful, lacelike ironwork adorning balconies, columns and brackets. Wraparound porches adorned with decorative balustrades and whimsically designed gingerbreading give each structure its own personal charm and distinction.

 

So much history is visible right in front of you, peppered everywhere with almost two dozen parks and squares ennobled with statuary. Even chain stores such as Starbucks, Five Guys and CVS blend into the historic ambience. Surrounding the immersive history are huge oak trees, their gnarled branches dripping with Spanish moss, forming canopies over the streets. I laughed when I passed a sign declaring "Savannah's Historic District," which seemed redundant.

The next mode of transportation was a golf cart traversing Pat Conroy country. It's a good idea to know the author of "The Prince of Tides," "The Great Santini," "The Water is Wide" and others to appreciate even the idea of such an excursion. I qualified. But even if you're not familiar with his books, you might be with the many movies made from them, all of which take place in the city where he lived. Beaufort, South Carolina, is another historic small town, with houses from the 1700s that delight even without the Conroy connection.

Nor are they the only movies for which the town is famous -- and whose settings are great fun to visit. Perhaps you've heard of "Forrest Gump," "The Big Chill," "Forces of Nature" with Ben Affleck and Sandra Bullock or "Glory" with Denzel Washington? You pass settings from the movies, houses the stars rented during filming and the chocolate shop whose candies filled the famous box of chocolates Forrest Gump ate in the infamous bench scene.

And should you wish to stay onboard -- few people do, no matter their disabilities -- ship activities abound. There's "Are you Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" along with movie trivia, an "Outrageous Laws" game -- you probably didn't know that in Alabama it is illegal to drive while wearing a blindfold -- and the ever-popular "Boozy Bingo." As silly or intimidating as they may sound, they are always fun. And the same can be said of the entire cruise.

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WHEN YOU GO

For more information: www.americancruiselines.com

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Fyllis Hockman is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.


Copyright 2024 Creators Syndicate, Inc.


 

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