Bahamas family vacation: Part 1 – The boat and Nassau

I just returned from a great family reunion in the Bahamas. Originally I was going to make this one post, but it started getting a little long, so I decided to split it into two. Our family went on a short Carnival cruise, which stopped at Nassau, on New Providence island, and Freeport, on Grand Bahama island. We also had two busy but relaxing days at sea, where we were able to enjoy beautiful views of the ocean and the sunset.

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During the two days at sea (the first and last days), we took advantage of many of the activities on the boat. There were several musical shows and comedians, as well as multiple bars/lounges with live music. Another fun part about the cruise was that the crew members came from all over the world. I met people from Jamaica, Indonesia, South Africa, Croatia, India, Canada, and Australia. But the best of all was the food, which was delicious and aplenty!

Now our first stop was to Nassau, which is the capital of the Bahamas. For a little background information, the Bahamas are made up of around 700 islands with about 2000 rocks and reefs included. However, only around 30 islands are actually inhabited. The population of the Bahamas is roughly 320,000 people, and around 250,000 of those people live on New Providence island and Nassau. New Providence island is only 21 miles long and 7 miles wide, so that is a lot of people in not a lot of space, which is felt when you arrive on the island. Nassau is a crowded city full of both locals and tourists, with congested streets everywhere. While Nassau might be a crowed place, there was still a lot of interesting things to see, so we found a local tour guide to show us around. This guide added a little flavor to his tour and did a sort of Cash-Cab game while we drove around. He would ask us various trivia about either the Bahamas or United States and give us Bahaman coins as a reward. I managed to win a unique 15 cent coin, which was square.

This tour started us in downtown Nassau, which is full of shops from both simple straw markets, which sell basic Bahamas-branded tourist souvenirs, to upscale stores such as Prada and Gucci. From there, our guide took us to a local restaurant/bar, which specialized in conch. Conch is a staple of the Bahaman diet, and this place we went to was actually built on a foundation of hundreds of thousands of conch shells.

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As the restaurant continued to sell conch, they would chuck the shells in the bay, and after many years, they build a new restaurant onto of the new land they made from the shells! In addition to showing us this interesting place, our guide had us try some conch fritters, which were like hush-puppies but with conch meat. They were very good! He then showed us how to get the meat out of the shell and prepare the conch. Our guide also ate some strange gel-like substance that the conch produced, which I am afraid to discover what it actually is.

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After that, we used the non-eabile part of the conch to attract a bunch a fish and other animals in the bay.

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Then we went through the rich area of the island and saw a bunch of large and expensive homes. It made the tour feel a bit like a real-estate show, but it was ok. We were able to then see the new giant hotel that is being built on the island, which is supposed to compete with the Atlantis resort, another big and famous hotel/resort on the island. Nassau is pretty highly developed, especially for tourism, but luckily the rest of the tour, except for the end, was more about the history of the island. From the developing hotel, we went to the other side of New Providence, to a small cave. This was a special cave though, because it is believed that the first people to arrive on the island lived in the cave. Then the cave was a hiding place for contraband, such as rum, during prohibition. Now the cave is home to many bats, such as the buffy flower bats.

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Aside the cave, was some of the beautiful Bahaman beach, which is the main attraction to the islands.

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Then we continued our tour across the island to the old fort, built by the English to protect the colony of Nassau from French invasion. Fort Fincastle was never used, but has had to stand through many hurricanes.

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Next, we went to another historical site called the Queen’s Staircase. This was originally built by slaves as a quick passageway from the fort to the town of Nassau, but was later renamed in honor of Queen Victoria, who abolished slavery. The staircase was cut directly from the solid rock wall, which now create a really neat passage way full of lush vegetation.

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The end of our tour took us to the Atlantis resort, which we didn’t stay at for long. To get to Atlantis, you have to travel across a bridge to a small island called Paradise Island. Now something funny about this is that to get to the island you have to pay a toll, which has toll booths on the left side of the car because the resort was built by an American. However, in the Bahamas, they drive in the British fashion, with drivers sitting on the right side of the car. So when people go to Paradise Island, they have to awkwardly reach across their cars to pay the toll. Great planning there… My family and I then walked to a nearby beach, Juckanoo beach, to relax some, before heading back to the boat. We had a full but great day in Nassau and were able to really see the whole island! In my next post, I’ll talk about our off shore adventure on the Grand Bahama island, which was quite different!

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