Round The World in 100 Days: Nassau, Bahamas

Hey beautiful people, I apologize for the brief absence, but sailing around the world is kind of exhausting, not to mention, the internet is darn expensive out here in the middle of the Caribbean, Atlantic, Pacific, etc. This feature will run every Monday and Thursday as long as the internet gods grant my wishes and show me mercy. Last time we were together I was getting ready to head out for a 100 day trip around the world with these guys, and now that we are well under way I can tell you that this is one of the top five things I have ever done in my young life.

We set sail from Port Everglades, Florida on a beautiful day with calm seas, a beautiful sunset and a fully stocked bar for the faculty and staff. We have been in training off and on the whole time and the topics run the gamut from how to stay healthy while at sea to what to do if there’s a kidnapping, man overboard, pirate attack, etc. really, I’m not kidding. Okay, maybe the last one was a joke, but I won’t confirm or deny it!

The ship is beautiful inside and out. The MV Explorer is carrying almost 1000 people on this voyage including over 700 students. Add to that the Faculty, staff and ship’s crew and you’ve got a full house sailing east around the world chasing the sun. I have an outside double cabin with view of the sea and the lifeboats. But my favorite spot is hanging out on the 6th deck aft, taking in the view. Though I’m working on this voyage, I can’t deny the world class service that comes with a ship of this type. My room is cleaned daily, the food is top notch, the pool is always sparkling in the sunshine and the crew takes such pride in their work that it has inspired the lot of us to work to our highest standard.

Our first port was Nassau, Bahamas where the ship is registered and we picked up the majority of the passengers. The view from the ship was amazing as we sailed into port. The water was so blue that it is hard to describe, the air was warm and I swear it smelled sweet. As the PILOT boat came to guide us into our berth, off in the distance we could see the super resort ATLANTIS taunting us with promises of sexy, grown folks fun. The Bahamas includes an estimated 700 islands and only 30 or so are inhabited. New Providence is the island home of Nassau, the capital and home to almost 100,000 people. Though New Providence is only 21 miles long and 7 miles wide, it is home to more than two-thirds of the country’s residents. Including these guys on Jet Skis!

We sailed into Prince George Dock and immediately tumbled into the Hairbraider’s Center and the Straw Market. At the Hairbraider’s Center you can get your hair braided a la Bo Derek for about $1US per strand, and you can have it your way: with or without beads, with colorful yarn or ribbons weaved in,etc. The six blocks that comprise the heart of Nassau are easy to navigate and we traipsed around shaking our heads at the mixture of colonial charm and western development (Starbucks anyone?).

This didn’t stop us from strolling Bay Street and the aforementioned Straw Market which was full of trinkets, curios, and bargain priced hand-crafted items-but be warned, most of this stuff is imported and chintzy, so give things a good look over. I was so put off by the low quality that I didn’t buy a single thing the entire 4 days we were there. I did however enjoy strolling and peeking in the galleries and my nerd like tendencies necessitated a visit to Parliament Square, the Bahamian Government’s operating center.

We clowned around and took pictures near the stern-faced statue of Queen Victoria and admired the early 1800′s architecture. Because it is so tourist oriented, the main drag closes around 6pm each night as most cruise ships only stay for a day or two and offer more entertainment than the small town, so we bid Bay Street adieu after picking up some duty free refreshment.

Paradise Island was a spectacle of a different sort. Across a long toll bridge lies the sister island to New Providence and home to the mega-resort Atlantis. Paradise Island is a mere four miles long and a half mile wide with pink sands and a nightlife that will satisfy almost every desire and curiosity. Atlantis sits on 14 acres and boasts over 2000 rooms, 21 different restaurants/cafes, 16 bars, 9 swimming pools and an Aquarium. I just had to see it for my own eyes and it was definitely Disney meets Las Vegas. We snuck onto the property/beach and strolled the property trying to look like we belonged there, and enjoyed the pink sands, care-free vibe and diversity of humanity at play.

Anyone who knows me knows that Nassau/Atlantis/Paradise Island isn’t my cup of tea. I’m glad I got to see it, but I couldn’t bring myself to spend any money there outside of food and drink. My favorite Bahamian hangout so far is Eleuthera, one of the out islands that stretches 100 miles long and a scant 2 miles wide, and its sisters: Spanish Wells and Harbour Island.

During a 2001 trip to Eleuthera, we flew into Governor’s Harbor which boasts and airport about the size of an average house in the US, complete with someone’s laundry hanging out to dry in the sunshine and all. I loved the sparseness of the island which has about 8000 residents. We rented a house through vrbo.com and had the entire beach to ourselves. We rented a car and when we went to pick up the (rather weather-worn) Buick, we were told there was no need for a credit card deposit because there was no way we could get off the island without the owner of the rental agency knowing. They literally threw us the keys and shooed us off with a map and a recommendation to carry water wherever we went.

We spent the week snorkeling, cracking open coconuts from the trees around the house with a ginormous knife, driving out to Tarpum Bay and watching the stingrays from the Glass Window (a lookout point that boasts the Atlantic on one side and the Caribbean on the other). We ate at Cocodimama’s, Rosie’s and various Conch Salad stands, and even had some Caribbean lobster. Though I love the vibe and weather of the Bahamas in general, I definitely recommend a visit to the out islands.

Next Stop: Puerto Rico
Previously: Fantastic Voyage