The Bahamas is a bucket list destination for many Brits seeking beaches and warm weather outside of Europe. Although travelling there might seem unattainable, there are budget-friendly ways to do it — the least expensive one being a cruise.
The most affordable Bahamas sailings leave from Florida ports in the United States — most commonly Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando — offering an opportunity to enjoy warm weather while exploring America for a couple of days pre- or post-cruise.
In addition to private islands, you’ll likely call on one of two ports during your trip: Nassau or Freeport. Below, I recommend five things you won’t want to miss while you’re in Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas and the region’s most popular cruise destination.
- Get water sporty.
If you’re an active traveller, you’ll be happy to know that the Bahamas has some fantastic spots for snorkelling and diving. In fact, it’s home to several blue holes, including stunning Dean’s Blue Hole on Long Island (less than an hour’s flight from Nassau for those not visiting by cruise ship). You can also find personal watercraft rentals, glass-bottom boat tours, banana boat rides and parasailing. Note: Tour operators in the Bahamas don’t always uphold safety standards. Book excursions, guides and equipment rentals directly through your cruise line or via a reputable third party, such as Viator. (Just verify that your tour will have you back to your ship on time if you book it through a third party. Otherwise, you could be left behind.)
Let’s not forget the reason you’re likely salivating over the chance to travel to the Bahamas in the first place — the weather. If all you crave is a cold drink and some warm sun and sand, either head to one of several free public beaches (which are likely to be more crowded), or purchase a day pass at a local resort. (We recommend Atlantis Paradise Island. See below.) Don’t forget your sun cream!
- Visit Atlantis.
Even if sunbathing isn’t your idea of fun, Atlantis — on Paradise Island, which neighbors the island of New Providence, where Nassau is located — still offers plenty to do. Grab lunch at one of the on-site restaurants; check out nearly two dozen waterslides, one of which is transparent and runs through a tank full of sharks; or try your luck at the casino, which is directly connected to the resort. Good to know: Casino access is free, but a trip to the water park will cost you.
- Eat local.
The Bahamas is known, among many things, for its delicious island cuisine, and no trip there would be complete without indulging in a fish fry. The meal — generally anchored by conch, grouper, snapper and sides like rice and plantains — can be had at several well-known establishments, such as Goldie’s Conch House or Twin Brothers. But one way to add a more intimate touch is to book a food tour, many of which also include samplings of local rum and other boozy delights.
- Go shopping.
If you’re in the mood to hunt for souvenirs, get a dose of retail therapy at Nassau’s frenetic straw market, found on Bay Street. It will be loud, hot, bustling and crowded, and many stall owners will compete for your attention while trying to convince you their (all very similar) products are the best. But it’s worth experiencing if you’re on the hunt for a great deal on a beachy bag or a tacky T-shirt (to be worn ironically at home, of course). Tip: Make sure you have cash, as many stalls don’t accept credit cards. Both Bahamian and U.S. dollars are accepted; pounds sterling are not.
Don’t get into a cab without a fare quote.
Bahamian locals are generally warm and welcoming, but with tourism accounting for roughly 60 per cent of the country’s revenue, they’re shrewd when it comes to business. Although cab fares are regulated by the government, not every driver sticks to them. Before you hop into a taxi, be sure to ask the driver how much your fare will be, and set a drop-off point in advance (along with a pick-up point and designated time if you’ll also need a ride back from an area where taxis aren’t plentiful).
Don’t let your guard down.
Crime rates in the Bahamas — particularly in major cities like Nassau — have risen in recent years, prompting the UK government to issue travel advice for the region. It’s common sense and can be applied to any place to which you travel, but don’t venture too far from the main tourist areas, especially at night, and leave any unnecessary money, jewellery and valuables in your hotel or cruise cabin safe (or, better yet, at home). Keep copies of your passport and credit card(s) with you at all times, separate from the real things in case they’re stolen, and be sure to carry the phone number and address of the closest British High Commission, which is in Jamaica.
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