Raje and I went to Bahamas to celebrate our 15th Wedding Anniversary. On July 4th we flew from Baltimore-Washington International airport, on Sun Pacific/American Airlines, package tour by Apple Vacations. We boarded a chartered flight to Nassau, the capital, on an aircraft called ‘Champion’. It was a fun flight, with all passengers headed to the same destination, with passengers singing in the plane.
As we approached Nassau, the aerial view of the Ocean, was majestic, ocean water glittering with blue and green clear waters, a sight unparalleled to anything we had seen before (including Hawaii). The aerial view also gave us glimpses of the coral formations at the bottom of the sea, the gold, purples, blues and greens made these waters breathtakingly beautiful. With the guaranteed 360 days of sun this view is bound to capture all visitors to Nassau.
Ocean water looked unpolluted since there are no rivers in the Bahamas, no contamination from the rivers. However, the tap water is not safe to drink even at the hotel.
At the Nassau International Airport, we were greeted by the live Bahamian band, playing the calypso music putting us immediately in a festive mood, a pleasant way to start the vacation.
Before I take you on the adventure tour of Bahamas, particularly of Nassau and the Paradise Islands, here’s a brief overview of the Bahamas:
BAHAMAS: Although Christopher Columbus’s first sighting of land in the New World was a Bahamian island, no evidence of Spanish culture remains there now. The islands were ignored for some time, and then in 1629 Charles I of England granted the island to Sir Robert Heath, thus establishing England’s claim to them. A colony for 300 years, the Bahamas became an independent nation in 1973 and a member of the British Commonwealth, official name being the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. A British colony since 1783, the string of islands has its undeniable British facet but its proximity to the United States has pleasantly skewed the Bahamian identity. Bahamians are chiefly descendants of the English settlers, and the slaves from Africa. Tourism is the major industry of Bahamas, the fine straw work, amounts to a large part of the tourist export, other industries produce rum, liquor and there is no tax on income.
Nassau: Situated on new Providence Island, on a 21 by 7 mile island surrounded and shelled by the Paradise Island. Nassau is Bahama’s capital and the focus of its entertainment industry, the city is busy with noisy bars, casinos and yet serious shoppers stay busy at the Bay Street’s line of boutiques. Most of city’s activities center around Rawson Square with its old public buildings patterned after those in New Bern, North Carolina. Architecture is both of Georgian (King George) and Federal style.
The Sights Visited: From airport, we took the Hotel shuttle to our hotel. And after having passed the bigger hotels (Mariott, Raddison), we arrived at our Nassau Beach Hotel a 10 mile trip seemed a lot longer because of those stops, but it gave us an idea of how far the other hotels were that made it coming back to them for dinner/shows easier. Out hotel had a great location with Radisson and Marriott right behind us, where all the action seemed to be, with casinos etc. Our room was with ocean view; we sat in balcony late nights, and admired the long palm trees surrounded by the peaceful waters. As we arrived with other airplane passengers to our hotel lobby, the lobby seemed full of American tourists. After several hours of the wait, we finally got summoned to a meeting place to get our room keys. There the staff briefed us on the Apple Vacation policies of do’s and don’ts, where to go for dinner etc. We were also invited back there in the evening for Manager’s Cocktail party. So we returned to the lobby in the evening, and saw our airplane passengers again, drinking the Bahamian drink ‘Goombay’ punch and rum. From there, we went to the Nassau beach to watch the July 4fireworks. Hotel festivities were catered around the American holiday. Later we crossed over from the beach to the next door hotel (Radisson), which seemed to be holding more festivities. We ended up right on the hotel beach and joined in the evening calypso music, they were singing ‘Hot-Hot’, it was thrilling, with a great pool and a whirlpool. Pool was Blue Lagoon, shaped like a cave and tunnel, it was definitely a sight! We hanged around there till they closed down the place and we got hungry, we ended up with a quick meal at the Marriott (sea-food place), and there we stayed until they closed down!
Next Day: Cafe Johnny Canoe: We crossed over the hotel entrance to go to Cafe Johnny Canoe for breakfast. This indoor/outdoor resort restaurant had great local atmosphere This was nice and gave us a good view of the Bay Street, buses passing by while we enjoyed the breakfast. Stretching east to west across the entire width of Nassau, this busy thoroughfare is a magnet for shoppers. So we decided to catch a bus/ jitney to downtown Nassau. But at night time, as soon as we stepped outside the hotel to go for dinner, we saw a lively, well costumed parade, celebrating the Junkanoo traditional Afro-Caribbean celebration, accompanied by goombay drums “shak-shak” and cow bells, feathered hat costumes, a great local festivity. We had to wait for dinner until the parade passed by. We decided to walk down the Bay Street to look for another place for dinner, we passed a few place, like Rock & Roll Cafe, but ended up back at Cafe Johnny Canoe.
Bay Street: Sitting in the local bus/ jitney, I observed that everyone who got on the bus wished everyone “good morning’, the driver was talkative too. The bus took us to the Waterfront markets. The central portion of Bay Street is downtown Nassau, here we found duty-free empires such as Little Switzerland and John Bull, we went inside Little Switzerland, a very prizy place. This market symbolized duty-free shopping in the Caribbean where one can buy famous china and crystals.
Straw Market: There was the Straw Market that no tourist can resist; here the vendors come to you and haggle till you end up buying something from them. It’s a very tricky way to shop, but haggling is something you learn in a few minutes. We bought some totes, tee-shirts. But there was plenty of straw stuff, beautiful Bahamian straw dolls (costing around $25.00), I never did buy one. This district is peppered with colonial buildings, statues and restaurants, audio shops, where we bought calypso music, previous day we learnt that Byron Lee was the famous Bahamian singer, so we were in hunt to find his music until we bought a couple of tapes.
Walking away from the dock area and the Straw Market, and after having enjoyed the fresh coconut juice, we passed Bennet Hill on Elizabeth Avenue, with its famous Royal Victoria Hotel, with its 65 steps, from the top of which you can see the whole of Nassau and the shimmering Caribbean-below. We never did realize the fame of this place; otherwise we would have made an effort to go up the steps, which represented the years of Queen Victoria’s reign the steps were carved by the slaves in the 1700s, using solid limestone. Then we stopped in an upstairs cafe place and had the Bahamian beer called Kalik, brewed on the island.
King of the Night: We celebrated our wedding anniversary dinner here. Bahamian singer/dancer/comic King Eric is the entertainment dynamo behind this show, which includes fire dancing, limbo dancing and steel-pan and calypso music. For $20.0 per person, you get both an amazing show and a great dinner! This show is followed by live music that keeps the place rocking till midnight.
Crystal Palace Casino: We entered the Casino from Marriott hotel. Craps, blackjack, roulette, baccarat and hundreds of slot machines drew gamblers from all over the island. The slots ranged from 5- cent to $100 and are open 24 hours. The sounds of light jazz floated down from an upstairs bar overlooking the casino floor.
Paradise Island: While we were eating breakfast at Cafe Johnny Canoe, customers on the back table (from Florida) asked us if we have been to the Atlantis Hotel in Paradise Island. The lady portrayed such a beautiful picture of the Atlantis hotel and the sharks in the tunnel that we just had to go and see it for ourselves. So we headed to the local bus/ jitney to catch a ferry to take us to the Paradise Island. An enjoyable ferry ride costing only $2.00 took us across the bridge to the Paradise Island, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Bahamas. From the ferry we came right to Casino Drive, leading to mega-resort and Casino. And here it was the all embarking resort of Atlantis with acres of water theme parks, sharks, tunnels; Vegas style shows, a nonstop casino, international markets, such as the Colombian Emeralds International Jewelers. Paradise hotel, a resort had restaurants and beaches par excellence, an amazing place, worth taking the trip, from any hotel that you are staying at. The visit to Hotel Atlantis, was the best part of the Bahamian holiday.
The previous night we had gone to the Nassau Marriott Crystal Palace Resorts and Casinos, which has their own water theme extravaganza, on the beach front with exciting Crystal Cay across the Bay but Atlantis Hotel was something more, a lot more!
Crystal Cay Marine Park. This park in the Paradise Islands located on the small island of silver Cay, boasts the world’s largest man-made reef; which offers a 360-degree view of a reef ecosystem. There is a shark tank, and a complete mile long amazing tunnel where you can see the sharks going over your head (this is part of Atlantis Hotel), an amazing sight, you come out of the tunnel and then go on an amazing swinging bridge made of ropes and threads which takes you to the tower, the ground flower of the tower is painted with superb art work, a picture place. We climbed over 100 feet (I did), no elevator, up to the top of a tower to gaze out across the ocean, then we descended to an observation tank 20 feet beneath the water’s surface where to glimpse moray eels, starfish and turtles in their natural environment. The whole place was full of waterfalls, flamingoes, trees and plants, the rest of the island is also beautifully tropical. After having toured the Atlantis and the Paradise Islands, we headed back to Nassau to be in time to leave for the airport, while waiting in the lobby, I began feeling shivers in my body and a visit to the nearby beach clinic revealed that I had caught flue and that too just hours before catching the flight back to the States.
Overall our Bahamian holiday was an amazing holiday.