|Nassau City Hall|
Sally Carpenter is a mystery writer who has worked as an actress, freelance writer, college writing instructor, theater critic, jail chaplain, and tour guide/page for a major movie studio. She’s now employed at a community newspaper. Learn more about Sally and books at her blog.
Hittin’ the High Seas
Tired of winter’s cold and snow? Then it’s time for a sunny Caribbean cruise!
My new cozy mystery, The Cunning Cruise Ship Caper, was inspired by a trip I took in 1999. The ship’s layout and activities, as well as some things that happened to me, were incorporated into the story.
My trip was a special jaunt set up specifically for Monkees fans. We sailed for three days to Nassau in the Bahamas on board a regular Carnival cruise with activities reserved just for our group of about fifty women.
A cruise ship is a floating city with all the amenities of a resort. One could eat nonstop all day and night (and afterwards work it off in the gym or jogging track.) Besides the dining rooms with wait staff one could eat at the outdoor poolside buffet, in casual cafes, the midnight buffet or at the 24-hour pizza station.
The ship left Miami at 4 p.m. Friday. At the dock, porters attached ID tags to the luggage and hauled the bags directly to individual cabins. What a relief not having to carry my suitcases throughout the ship!
All the guests attended a mandatory lifeboat drill. We were instructed on how to wear a lifejacket and what to do in an emergency. With that note of confidence we set out to enjoy the cruise.
That evening our Monkees group had a cocktail reception in one of the lounges. We met the other fans from across the country as well as our guests of honor: Peter Tork; his then-girlfriend (who was very sweet to the fans); Peter’s long-time performing partner, James Lee Stanley, a fine musician in his own right; and James’ wife.
After the reception our group went to our reserved table in a dining room for supper. Some of us then saw a Vegas-style revue in the largest showroom.
Saturday morning the ship docked in Nassau. Tourism is the island’s largest income source along with banking (the Bahamas are home to those mysterious “off shore accounts.”) The wharf area was a tacky tourist trap full of shops hawking souvenirs. A steel drum band was playing. My friend and I sat in on the bongos for a verse!
One interesting business is hair braiding. The local women grabbed me, set me down on a bench and began making narrow beaded braids in my hair. I didn’t mind until I realized the ladies charged per braid. I stopped their braiding before I went bankrupt.
I set out on my own to explore the real city. Nassau is quaint, quiet, clean city. The city shows its British colonial roots—motorists drive on the left, English is the official language, and the buildings have a distinct British charm.
Here’s a photo of the Water Tower, a structure built to watch for smugglers approaching the mainland. An elevator leads to the top where one finds yet another souvenir shop. The balcony has spectacular views. The Water Tower is such a unique place I used it for a scene in my book.
I strolled over to the ultra-expensive and exclusive Atlantis Hotel on Paradise Island just off the coast. I viewed the indoor artwork and outdoor garden until a security guard chased me out because I wasn’t a paying guest. Really? I bet if I was losing money in the hotel’s casino, he would have let me stay.
BTW, the city’s casinos are only used by the tourists. The residents are too smart to risk their money.
By late afternoon I was back on the ship for the formal dinner. Here’s a picture of me in the dress I bought for the occasion—and still wearing the braids! One of the characters in my book has her hair braided on the island, too.
After dinner Peter and James gave a private concert for our Monkees group. When the concert ended, the fans gathered on the Lido Deck under the stars for some late night visiting.
On Sunday I went on the galley tour to see the food preparation area and learn about napkin folding. I also shopped at the shipboard stores that discounted the expensive merchandise on the last day to clear out the stock.
Since the cruise took place in late October, our Monkees group had a Halloween costume party. Before I left home, I’d found a Southern Belle dress at a local costume rental shop. The store added a row of fabric to make the dress long enough for me. The skirt hoops were made of plastic that I could bend and stuff into a suitcase.
My novel closes with a shipboard Halloween costume gala. I created costumes to fit the personalities of the various characters. During this party my hero reveals the identity of the killer.
On the trip the weather was not too hot or cold. The sky was mostly overcast. In fact, it was too cool for me to swim in the ship’s pool. I didn’t get seasick but I could feel the ship move beneath my feet.
Monday morning the ship docked at Miami. After a final breakfast together the fans said goodbye and we waited (and waited and waited) on the Lido Deck to disembark.
I had a great time on my trip and would recommend a cruise as a fun vacation. While you’re waiting for your ship to come in, you can read a fun tale about a mystery at sea.
The Cunning Cruise Ship Caper
38-year-old Sandy Fairfax is a former '70s teen idol and star of the TV show "Buddy Brave, Boy Sleuth." Now he's rebuilding his career with a series of concerts aboard the SS Zodiac bound for the Bahamas. He makes amends with his estranged sister, Celeste, who is blind and also a musician, so she will join his performances. But their cruise hits turbulent waters when Sandy finds a dead body in his onboard dressing room. He investigates the colorful cast of suspects while avoiding an old flame and trying to ignite something with his beautiful choreographer. When Sandy gets too nosy, the bad guys throw him overboard. Will he sleep with the fishes or escape and unmask the killer at the ship's Halloween costume gala?