side·track (sīd´trăk): n. 1. A diversion from the main course. 2. A detour taken with children that you would never, ever take without them.
What and Where:
The Underwater Explorers Society Dolphin Experience. Grand Bahama Island, the Bahamas.
To my unending delight, the kids and I were recently invited on a 7-day press trip cruise from New York to the Bahamas aboard the Norwegian Gem.
To give us the full cruise experience, they laid on all sorts of cocktail parties, dinners, spa treatments, and shore excursions (including this one). There may have been one or two jaded journalists on board that ship, but believe me, I wasn’t one of them.
On the boat ride to the 9-acre lagoon, our dolphin handler asked us please not to wave or point at the dolphins when we saw them. Apparently hand motions can be interpreted as commands, and it’s bad to give a trained dolphin a command without a fishy reward.
We blew that one right away.
Next the trainer told us to sit around the dock and put our feet in the water. Incidentally, when large, gray animals with dorsal fins are speeding by just inches below your toes, your every instinct screams at you to pull your feet out of the water. Also, the soundtrack from Jaws plays in your head, but I digress.
In groups of six, we climbed into the lagoon and stood on a platform in waist deep water where we could pet, hug, kiss, and be kissed by the dolphins for about five amazing minutes.
Our dolphin was Exuma, a curious, rambunctious female who mostly listened to her trainer, but had to be put into a little marine mammal time-out when she didn’t mind a few gentle commands (sound familiar?). My son Max wasn’t quite tall enough to stand, so I slung him on my hip. Avery meanwhile looked like she’d died and gone to heaven.
The Low Point:
Getting out of the lagoon, so that other paying customers could have a turn.
The Kids’ Take:
Avery and Max have wished aloud and often that we could go back and do it all over again.
The Bottom Line:
A major thrill that is well worth the splurge (even if you have to, you know, pay yourself). This is one detour that’s worth taking with children or without them.
Kissing photo courtesy of Eileen Ogintz from Taking the Kids. Thanks Eileen! Nice shot!