It's better in the Bahamas? I don't think so!!
Well, first of all, let me say that I was not in the best frame of mind when I visited this island. I had just gone through a nasty breakup and needed to get away. So I may not have the most optimistic view of this location.
I did not like the Bahamas.
I found the downtown core dirty, poverty striken (more than I expected), and dangerous. I would not walk alone in this area after dark. Frankly, it reminded me of an area of my home-city that is the home of drug addiction centers and prostitutes. Not exactly what I'm looking for in a vacation spot.
I found the locals not very friendly or helpful. They couldn't tell me where to eat, how to get around, or where to find groceries unless there was something in it for them.
I did not find the beaches to be nice - public beaches were dirty, smelled like diesel fuel from all the jetski operators, and you were hounded by vendors from the time you sat down until the time you left. One exception - the beach belonging to Radisson at Cable Beach was great - and the hotel didn't mind that I wasn't staying there. Great set up!! Restaurant, bar, and lots of chairs. Wonderful, and wonderful staff!!
The scuba diving on Nassau is great - much better than I expected. There are reefs, walls, wrecks, blue holes, and sharks!! And it is priced very reasonably, compared to other vacation locations.
Most of my time was spent underwater. I dove 5 out of 7 days. That usually left afternoons open, where I tried to hit the beach, take a walking tour (unsuccessfully), or gawk around Paradise Island and Atlantis.
So, overall, would I go to Nassau again? Not likely!! But if I did, it would be to dive and I would stay at the South Ocean Resort so I didn't have to deal with the rest of Nassau
Highlights (i.e. best things to do, memorable moments, etc.)
Best Way to Get Around (i.e. walking, driving, taxis, public transportation etc.)
Very basic accommodations - comfortable bed, large bathroom with tub and shower, mini-fridge, satellite TV with all usual U.S. and CANADIAN channels!! I was visiting in January and it was very odd to have a Caribbean breeze blowing through the window as I watched figure skating on the station I tune into at home.
You must be "buzzed" into the lobby - I guess security is a problem. The desk staff is not extremely helpful or knowledgeable (where can I eat? I don't know -- I eat at home), but if you push them they will assist you.
There is an elevator that works sporadically, but when it works, it is fast. And you can hold the door open by turning it off so that you can unload your luggage - there is no bellstaff.
Clean, centrally located and cheap, but that's about it. It is noisy in the mornings from traffic going by on the main road of the island. It is noisy at night from the "Jerk Shack" in the "empty" lot next door - it looks as if a building was torn down and a shack was put up to serve take out jerk chicken and play loud music in the evenings.
There is a restaurant attached - I didn't eat there, but it did smell good!! There are no grocery or convenience stores nearby - you have to go "downtown" into the cruise ship area. On the way to the grocery & convenience stores you pass several restaurants - some 24 hour, some daytime, some all meals where you can get lots of tasty food for any palette.
You are about 5 minutes (right across the street and up the road) from what is a decent beach (Junkanoo Beach) - I didn't realize this until day 6 because the hotel staff told me the closest beach was Cable!!! And when you cross the street there is a very pitiful beach that is dirty and unswimmable - believe me, I tried. Also, close to Ardastra gardens and fresh fruit stand heading towards Cable Beach.
The Straw Market
There are more stalls than you can count, all selling the same junk!!
This market was a total let-down. I had heard of the legendary straw market - how you had to go, how it was wonderful, how the locals were great.
Well, maybe it all has changed because of the fire in the fall of 2001, but it just plain old sucks!!!
Lady, pretty lady, buy a necklace, buy a doll, buy this, buy that. OK - I expect that from a market, but can you at least provide me a selection of items to purchase? No - everyone has the same stuff, there is little bargaining, and the quality is very low. I didn't find anything worth buying - even the straw bags were imported. Why bother buying something in the Bahamas if I can get the same thing at home?
And the vendors were rude when you asked them to bargain. It was if I was insulting them when I suggested a lower price for their crappy thing that someone in the next stall was selling, too. Please!!!
Atlantis Resort & Casino
What the hell is this, anyway? A resort, a casino, a theme park, a shopping centre?
I don't think you could see everything in a one week vacation. I spent a day here and was completely boggled by the variety of things to do, and things to spend your money on.
This is a good place for parents to take their kids - but expensive.
But don't think you can use the beach!! You have to show your hotel key before you are allowed access to the shore. The staff directs you out of the resort and up the road to the "public" beach that smells like diesel fuel (from the jetskis) and has the constant hawkers wanting to sell you necklaces, t-shirts, coconut drinks, and braid your hair.
Paradise Island did not win me over - a little too Vegas for my liking.
Stuart Cove Dive South Ocean
This is a professional operation that I cannot recommend more highly. The staff is knowledgeable, the rental gear is new and well-maintained, the boats are pristine, and it is very competitively priced.
There is a photographer on each dive, so if you need that photo of you and the shark, you can get it. Shark dives (and other select dives) have a videographer along, so you can pay exorbitant prices for a 30 minute tape!!
The price of your diving includes transfer to and from the dock - the only drawback is that it's 1/2 hour drive each morning from downtown (20 minutes from Cable Beach) to dive. But it's well worth the schlepping!! One morning the van forgot to pick me up, so the dive shop sent a stretch limo for me!! Now that's classy!! And if you really don't want to drive the 1/2 hour each day, you can stay at South Ocean, Stuart's own hotel - it looks nice!! And it's within limping range. The price was about $70 per 2-tank dive, $115 for shark feed 2-tank dive (if you pay in advance, otherwise it's about $10 more per outing).
The staff would canvass the divers to choose the best site - what do you want to do? reef? wreck? (diving with sharks - and a shark feeding - is also available daily, but for an additional cost -- it's well worth it!!!)
The James Bond wrecks, numerous reefs, and a couple of walls made my underwater vacation memorable - diving is "Better in the Bahamas"!! The diving and visibility is so good here that PADI uses the shop's personnel, boats, and facilities for many of their training videos - most recently the Underwater Photographer Course!!
Thank you Stuart Cove's!!
Professionally Guided Walking Tours
All the tourist information I read on Nassau said,
"Visit Nassau citys historic sites and major Points of Interest on an interesting walking tour. Tour Times: Daily 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.; however, call to check on Tue., Thu. and Sun. tours. Tours depart from the Tourist Information Centre at Rawson Square, downtown Nassau, and are conducted by independent Bahamahost trained Guides. Groups can be pre-arranged. Donation: $2. For further information and group tours, telephone the Ministry of Tourism, Transportation & Tours Department at (242) 302-2055 or the Tourist Information Booth, Rawson Square at (242) 326-9772/328-7810."
As mentioned previously - and I am very bitter about this -- I tried to do this tour twice - I called and was assured that someone would show up and walk a group around Nassau. Twice I went to Rawson Square, twice I waited for someone to show up, twice I was disappointed.
This sounds like a great tour - there must be a lot of historic and beautiful things in Nassau, but I didn't know where to look, feel safe walking around by myself, or want to pay $25 for a carriage ride around the island. So I didn't get to see it. The closest I came is one day when the dive shop van took the long way back to my hotel - then my mouth drooled at the architecture, greenery, and adorable little streets with adorable little pastel colored houses.
Too bad the walking tour never panned out!!