Although situated in the Atlantic Ocean, the Bahamas are typically considered part of the Caribbean. And it’s clear why with turquoise waters surrounding white sand beaches similar to the ‘tropics’.
Residents speak in a lilting British accent and tend to function on ‘island time’, a catch-all describing the laid-back, ‘no problem’ demeanor. Island history ranges from Columbus landing here as he ‘discovered’ the New World, pirates, the slave trade, and the British Empire’s forward posts, such as Fort Charlotte, built in 1788.
Most cruise passengers sailing into the Bahamas are only familiar with the busy capital of Nassau, however, the archipelago actually consists of around 700 islands, with fewer than 40 of them actually inhabited.
Nassau is either about relaxation or shopping. If you want to switch sunbathing from the ship’s lido deck to the sand, take a taxi to four-mile-long Cable Beach. To get a feel for the city, step aboard a horse-drawn surrey just beyond the ship’s wharf, in Rawson’s Square. Also in the Square are pitchmen for diving, fishing and boating excursions – who tend to emphasize the rum-soaked nature of their voyages.
Within walking distance from the wharf are also museums, examples of 18th and 19th century British Colonial architecture and, of course, the shopping. It begins at the bustling ‘straw market’, where some locals create straw goods and carve wood on the spot. Most passengers have been briefed aboard ship about the duty-free stores on Bay Street, bordering Rawson Square.
On neighboring Paradise Island is the extravagant resort Atlantis, which conducts property tours (for a fee) and also sells admission to its 34-acre water park, full of slides, waterfalls and breathtaking underwater walkways through the world’s largest outdoor aquarium.
• Straw Market
• Bay Street
• Pompey Museum, on the slave trade
• Ardastra Gardens, with flamingos, parrots, monkeys and jaguars
• The Queen’s Staircase, a 102-foot climb up limestone steps
• Forts Charlotte and Fincastle
Bahamas Tourist Board
Rawson Square, Bahamas
Tel: (+242) 326 9781.
Prices on Bay Street tend to be standard from store to store, but careful shoppers can find bargains on jewelry, watches, cameras, liquor, china, glass and silver. Finer local products include seashell jewellery and woodcarvings.
There is a wide choice of restaurants and bars. Specialities include conch (pronounced konk, this snail-like mollusk is served steamed, grilled, broiled, in chowders and as fried fritters), grouper, crab and red snapper. Fruit includes pineapple, mango, breadfruit and papaya. Local drinks are all about rum; the island beer is Kalik.
When to go:
Temperatures seldom fall below 15̊ C (60̊ F) or rise above 32̊C (90̊ F). May to October is the hottest, and rainy, season. Hurricane season is June through November.
2.5km (1.5 miles).