January is just wrapping up here in Korea, and I already can’t wait for spring to be here. To help you cope with the dreary winter weather, here’s a guest post from Cody filled with tips on taking a cruise in the Bahamas. Enjoy!
So, you want to go somewhere tropical for a vacation getaway, but don’t have a lot of time or money to spend. Why not plan a Bahamas Cruise weekend? That’s exactly what my college roommates and I did for Spring Break in my senior year of college.
Believe it or not, cruises are one of the most inexpensive ways to travel, so long as you have proper transportation to and from the port. The cruise my group took sails from Miami, and spends 4 days in the Bahamas. There are several companies that provide this trip, and each are in about the same price range, it really comes down to your own style and preferences. My group chose Norwegian Cruise Line, because of their age policies. Tip for prospective Spring Breakers; many cruise lines will not allow passengers on board who are under the age of 21 without their parents being on-board as-well. Norwegian allowed for passengers to travel without their parents, so long as they are at least 18 years of age, and shared rooms with other passengers who are at least 21. This was our salvation for our trip.
Choosing the Norwegian Sky was pretty simple once we understood the rules, and from booking in advanced, the 4-day cruise only cost $459 per person after all of the taxes and fees. That’s a little over $100 a day, which is cheaper than most hotel rooms, and everything except alcohol (entertainment, food, ect.) are all included. Perfect for us cash-strapped college students.
The cruise (which was crawling with college Spring Breakers) visited 3 islands in the Bahamas. First it visits NCL’s private island named “Great Stirrup Cay”, then it visits the port of Nassau (pictured above) and then finally Freeport.
Great Stirrup Cay
Great Stirrup Cay is a pretty relaxing first stop, but it’s run entirely by the cruise ship company. This does have the added benefit however that you can eat all you want on the island from the cafeteria (and take your plate down to the beach). You can go swimming, and tanning, and of course you can get drunk, so what else could you want? Again, the island is run by the cruise ship, so they get to run the monopoly on your alcohol and soda pop prices. They’re not too bad, but you definitely get your money’s worth on the next island.
Nassau, is arguably the best stop on the cruise’s itinerary. When you leave the dock you have free-roam of the city and can actually indulge in the local culture (and the local cooking). You also have the added benefit of much lower drink prices than you can get on-board. When my group left the dock and fought our way through the buskers and the tourist trappers, we decided to explore the streets of Nassau (in search of a local liquor store). We found a shop that claimed to be a Duty Free, that was stocked full of the local varieties of Rum. We selected a large, silver bottle of a rum called “Ricardo” and paid a whopping $7USD for 1 liter of it. I can tell you it was arguably the best rum I’ve ever had. It was so good we even drank it warm, after hours of it baking in the Caribbean sun. Once we had our refreshments we headed back toward the cruise ship, and then followed the ocean-road towards the West, until we reached a shoreline labeled “Junkanoo Beach”.
Junkanoo Beach is a public beach that faces to the North. There’s no rocks or life guards, but plenty of colorful fish and lots of sunshine. Perhaps, even, a little too much sunshine for us pale Michigan men, who burned like bacon in a matter of an afternoon. On that note, PACK SUNSCREEN. It is very difficult to find on the island because the tourists buy it all up. My group spent our afternoon in-port lazing around on the beach, drinking our Ricardo rum, and buying Bahama Mamas from the bar shack that was set up nearby. 2 beers and 2 shots for $2? That’s a good deal any day!
We did have a strange experience in which a woman wandered down to try and sell us necklaces, and when we were uninterested, decided to stay and describe, at-length, her physical…romantic…habits. While bizarre to us at the time, she made for a great story later.
Man cannot live on rum alone (despite how hard we tried to), and eventually the hunger pangs began to set in. Sea air, sunshine, and booze can definitely stir up an appetite, and the locals know this better than anyone. Enter “Fish Fry”; a section of town just a short walk down the beach that is home to small local seafood restaurants. This place redefined for me what “fresh” could mean for seafood, in that we actually witnessed our conch shells being harvested from the ocean in front of us, just before they were served to us as conch fritters.
There are 2 kind of conch fritters; one is fried and always delicious, and the other is a form of cevice, served with citrus. I think the fried is the best bet honestly.
The restaurants of Fish Fry are very unassuming. We were seated on the sidewalk in a plywood table booth and were within arms reach of the bar, but that didn’t change the fact that the seafood was some of the best I’d ever had. After eating our fill (nobody leaves Fish Fry hungry) we retreated back to the beach where we laid in the white sugar sand until it was time to return to the ship. I did some snorkeling and tried to take some photos of the colorful tropical fish that congregate near the shoreline.
The ship itself wasn’t short of entertainment either. It had pools and hot tubs, a casino, restaraunts, and too many bars to count. We often found ourselves drinking Dark and Stormy’s up on the top deck overlooking the pool, or watching the in-room television when we were too drunk to be bothered anywhere else. Another highlight of the ship was the karaoke night at one of the “classier” lounge bars onboard, where I got to witness a flawless rendition of “Smooth Operator” by one of the ship’s entertainers, before belting out my own take of “Piano Man”, complete with a chorus line of high-kicking college students. One friend was taking advantage of the dirt-cheap costs of vices on-board, and was chain-smoking at rates that would shock the Marlboro Man himself. I do NOT suggest that.
By the time we reached Freeport Harbour on Grand Bahama Island, the majority of my group was too burned out to be bothered leaving the ship, and so it was up to me and one other to venture out into the port to admire the view. From the port we hopped into a taxi bus to take us to the other side of the island, with our taxi driver giving us a guided tour as we went. He informed us, much to our surprise, that homes on the island could be purchased for less than $30,000, but that vehicles were too expensive for most people to own. We picked up some seafood lunch in town and wandered the beaches near some of the hotels, and then caught an early ride back to the ship. Freeport is not nearly as interesting as Nassau, and is only recently becoming a more prime tourist destination (you can see them actually construction the welcome sign for the harbor in this photo). If we had brought towels with us we would have been able to go swimming at one of the beaches, but we were too sunburned to think about removing our shirts again that day.
After 4 days of partying harder than any mortal who isn’t named Keith Richards ever should, we made it back to the Port of Miami in plenty of time to catch a flight home. There are shuttle taxi-vans that run directly from the cruise port to the airport for a flat rate of $27 (which when divided between 5 people is super cheap). After checking in at the airport and dropping off our baggage we did have the option to ride some public transit over to the South Beach area. The cruises return to port in the morning, so if you schedule your flight to be in the evening, you can add Miami to your itinerary without needing to book a hotel room. If you’re a die-hard traveler, this should be kept in mind.
For a short-length cruise this one was perfect. Every day was spent somewhere different and the weather was great. Everything we wanted to do and see was within walking distance (or a short walk to the tour), and there wasn’t a whole lot we needed to carry money around for, except food in-town. The food on-board wasn’t as great as some other cruises I’ve been on, but there was always pizza and burgers available, so what did we have to complain about?
If you’re thinking of taking a Spring Break 2016 trip, give it a shot.
Just don’t forget the sunscreen.