(Mirror) One of the best parts of being a travel writer is that there are always unexpected adventures waiting just around the corner. My latest adventure found me in the Bahamas…swimming with pigs!

I took off on a last-minute two-night Bahamas Paradise Cruise to Grand Bahama Island. The cruise set sail from Port of Palm Beach overnight to the city of Freeport. Besides being a fun few days making friends with strangers, stuffing my face, soaking up the sun and having a little exotic adventure on the side, it was a perfectly timed trip that left me feeling refreshed.  

If you’ve never been on a cruise before, Bahamas Paradise Cruises is the perfect way to get your feet wet in the cruising lifestyle. Cruises set sail every day of the week so it’s easy to plan a last-minute trip like mine. You’ll quickly be immersed in all the cruise ship has to offer and it will feel like you’re on vacation in no time at all. With prices starting at $139 per person, it’s affordable too. Here are a few lessons I learned from my recent cruise that will tell you what you need to know to get into the cruising mindset!

1. Make friends.Though this wasn’t a gay cruise, there were many gay and lesbian couples that I encountered. Overall, cruising is a very welcoming atmosphere for everyone. There’s something about setting sail to such a beautiful destination that has people feeling happier and friendlier than usual. Say hello! Ask where they are from. One of the best experiences you’ll find for making new friends is dinnertime when you’re randomly seated with other ship mates to enjoy your meal together. From close friends traveling together to couples celebrating important milestones in their lives, you’ll see there are folks coming from all over the world.

2.Less is more.I loved that as soon as I came aboard the Grand Celebration cruise ship, before we even left port, people were in vacation mode! There was a noticeable change in atmosphere just climbing aboard. Folks had stripped down to bathing suits and were quickly filling up the rooftop poolside deck chairs. Make no mistake, once you’re aboard, the vacation starts. You’ll lose cell phone reception after the ship leaves port and why bother paying for Wi-Fi? It’s an excuse to unplug! Simplify your time on board. Focus on the things that matter and the people you are with. Look forward to the incredible destination you’ll be visiting, but don’t forget to enjoy the journey along the way. 

3. Explore. It might actually feel a bit overwhelming once you’re onboard a ship with nine passenger decks built to hold up to 1,900 passengers. With 750 staterooms and 450 ocean-view rooms, the Grand Celebration quickly lives up to its name. I stayed in an ocean-view room, which was surprisingly spacious with a comfy queen-size bed and attached bathroom. It was all the space I needed for the trip. Even with a beautiful water view though, I didn’t spend much time in my room with so much to do. No matter your desired activity, you’re sure to find something for you: visit Par-A-Dice Casino for gambling, stop by the Indulgence Spa for a relaxing massage, recline poolside, soak in the Jacuzzi, get your competition on playing games, or work out in the fitness center. You can also grab a seat in the Legends Grand Theater for one of the Vegas-style live performances or stop at the top deck Plunge Bar for a frozen tropical cocktail with an ocean view. This was even a family friendly cruise with designated kid zones for those parents who need some relaxation. I remember noticing there were kids on the cruise throughout but they never bothered me.  

4. Say yes!Besides not hesitating to relax during your cruise, don’t be afraid to say yes to adventure. Once my friend Jorge and I arrived at the Port of Palm Beach and were completing the check-in process, which included getting a picture taken for the white key card that is your lifeline while you’re at sea, we made our first dinner reservation, purchased a drink package (which is recommended to save money on cocktails), and also booked on-shore excursions for when the ship reached Grand Bahama Island. There was a bevvy of options including snorkeling, a Jeep adventure, shopping and a city tour. But what caught my eye was an experience I had heard others talk about, but never really thought I’d be in a position to do myself: swimming with pigs. The pictures looked like so much fun, I couldn’t pass it up. 

It was about a 4-hour adventure where the small group was driven out to Crystal Beach once we disembarked. Along the way, our driver gave us a mini tour of the areas we were driving through, showing us the local community on the island. Once we arrived, we had time to relax on the beach and order cocktails and lunch at the beachside restaurant before we were led waist-deep into cool, crystal clear waters. Our tour guides gave us small skewers with pieces of apple to feed to the pigs. They were released and the fun began! The pigs were very friendly and loved the attention (and snacks, of course) while going for an afternoon swim with the group. It was an unusual activity for a tropical destination, but it ended up being the most fun activity during the trip!

It was the perfect, memorable weekend getaway. Cruise out to unwind and leave feeling refreshed, but with memories you’ll be talking about long afterwards.

Online: BahamasParadiseCruise.com