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Bahamas Cruise Port Review: Nassau, Freeport, Half Moon Cay
Nassau is the most densely populated island in the Bahamas. According to Wikipedia, "Nassau /ˈnæsɔː/ is the capital, largest city, and commercial centre of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. The city has a population of 248,948 (2010 census), 70 percent of the entire population of the Bahamas (353,658)". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nassau,_Bahamas It is also one of the world's most visited cruise ship ports.
It was the first Bahamas island we had ever visited. My first impression was that it was very dingy. We selected an excursion that took part on a motorboat first and halfway through, you change vessels in the middle of the water by stepping onto a boat that has a porthole viewing area below. It is like a submarine hybrid. During the first portion of the excursion, we rode the motor boat at a decently fast speed and were given a tour of the highlights off to both sides of us. We saw the famous Atlantis Resort, but did not visit it this time around. However, I would love to return to Nassau if nothing else but to visit Atlantis. It looks and sounds awesome.
On the second portion of our excursion, after we steeped onto the other vessel, we went below desk where it was very warm, to say the least. There was a guide to provide details about the various marine life and other sights. We moved spots a few times, but the underwater viewing was somewhat uneventful. If was neat, but lacked that "wow" factor and I was almost too warm to really enjoy it. I would recommend a motorboat ride or tour, but not the mini submarine/hybrid. I would probably have enjoyed the Atlantis excursion more.
We did visit the straw market and it offers most trinkets a tourist would desire, in addition to handmade straw baskets, purses and other items. Very cool, but I did not like the way vendors harass tourists while they are trying to look at another booth.
"Freeport is a city, district and free trade zone on the island of Grand Bahama of the northwest Bahamas. In 1955, Wallace Groves, a Virginian financier with lumber interests in Grand Bahama, was granted 50,000 acres (or 202 km2) of pineyard with substantial areas of swamp and scrubland by the Bahamian government with a mandate to economically develop the area. Freeport has grown to become the second most populous city in the Bahamas." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freeport,_Bahamas
When we arrived in port, I was immediately surprised at how non-populated Freeport appeared compared to Nassua. It looked industrialized because I could see what looked like cranes and cargo ships in the vicinity of the port.
We got off of the ship and exited the gangway to locate our excursion meeting place. The excursion chosen was a resort and beach day. We essentially paid to for the ability to use the resort's pools and beach. We boarded a bus and were driven what seemed like about 15-20 minutes through a bunch of undeveloped land. There were lots of trees and other vegetation. We stopped at the Port Lucaya Marketplace and Village where there is a bus stop or passenger loading area. I noticed there were several nice resort hotels that looked as if they has either closed and were being re-modeled or were actually going to be new resorts. We walked past the Marketplace and to a resort located across from it called Our Lucaya Reef Village. On the beach we were given instructions and wristbands to show we were allowed on resort property and beachfront. We just had to be back to the ship by a certain time and had to board a bus when we were ready to go back to the ship.
The ocean was beautiful and you could see right to the bottom. I feel so much safer swimming in the ocean when you can see what's in it! The pools and lounge area at Our Lucaya Reef Village were especially nice. I imagine this resort would be the equivalent of a five star resort in the US. We lounged and swam for 3 hours or so and it did not feel really hot because of the breeze. We did use ample sunscreen and still ended up sun-burned. My advise would be to re-apply even more quickly than you typically do. We ventured into a few shop and boutiques before heading back to our ship. You can find most anything a tourist would want, in addition to many straw-made items not highly available in the states.
I loved Freeport. It was very clean compared to Nassua, but that's what happens when you have a less dense population. We REALLY enjoyed this excursion and want to go back and specifically stay at Our Lucaya Reef Village for a week sometime.
Our Lucaya Reef Village, Freeport, Bahamas
Half Moon Cay, Bahamas
According to Wikipedia, "Little San Salvador Island, also known as Half Moon Cay, is one of about 700 islands that make up thearchipelago of The Bahamas. It is located roughly halfway between Eleuthera and Cat Island. It is aprivate island, owned by Carnival Cruise Lines, which uses it as a port of call for the cruise ships it operates in the region". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_San_Salvador_Island
There are several excursion options available for for purchase including snorkeling, horseback riding, stingray adventure and much more, but a beach day is free. We selected the free beach day. There is no dock at Half Moon Cay and I am not sure as to whether this is due to preventing damage to reefs, as is the case in Grand Cayman, or because of the expense involved in having to dredge and build. Cruisers are taken over on smaller ferry boats and this was the ONLY downfall for this destination. The line was long and it took a while to get over because of everyone trying to get to the island at once.
When we finally got there, it was awesome! There were plenty of lounge chairs, white. clean sand for my daughter to play in (compared to our the beaches located less than a mile from me in coastal North Caroline), beautiful clear blue water, and the list goes on. They ever had a barrier net to prevent large fish from getting in the swimming area. They had cookout-type food for lunch so we did not have to go back to the ship for lunch. I definitely will return there. If you have never visited Half Moon Cay, I would highly recommend it, but it is a private island of Carnival, so I am assuming you can only visit by taking a Carnival cruise.
Half Moon Cay, Bahamas
The various islands of the Bahamas visited by my family and I varied significantly and each stood out and allows the cruiser to distinctly remember their visit. While each may have had its own respective negative aspect, for me, all visits were worthwhile and I would revisit each destination and opt for the same excursion with the exception of Nassau. When I return to Nassau, I will definitely explore some alternative experiences.