It was some of the clearest blue water I’d seen at a beach. I was standing on the sand and taking in the scene around me. Palm trees waved in the slight breeze as the ocean waves lightly touched the shoreline. The atmosphere was festive, exactly what one would expect for a tropical vacation destination. Staring over the vast expanse of blue, I noticed the kayaks, jetskis, and even the parasails flying overhead. I was in the Bahamas.
This summer marked the first summer of my working life, so I knew my vacation had to be a memorable and relaxing one. My college friends Kevin, Kim, Jay, and I had been planning our Orlando trip and five-day cruise to the Bahamas for months now, and this marked the second half of our journey – our stops at Freeport, Nassau, and Half Moon Cay in the beautiful Caribbean islands of the Bahamas.
This post is a recap of our at-port days. Click here to read about our experience at the Orlando theme parks (Kennedy Space Center, Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and Magic Kingdom).
After a day at sea enjoying fun activities and learning the ins and outs of our Carnival cruise ship, we docked at Freeport, a more northern island of the Bahamas. We didn’t plan out our visit in advance so played this one by ear, catching a taxi van from the port to the city’s famous beaches. During the ride we drove past the more industrial areas of Freeport, and it was apparent that this was a smaller city. Still, when we reached the beaches, we knew we were in for a treat.
The beach we went to was conveniently next to a private beach owned by a resort. Our free beach was pretty awesome, because we’d hardly set foot on the white sand before being bombarded by the sights and sounds of the activities ahead of us. People were swimming in the water, sunbathing on the sand, rowing rented kayaks, racing rented jetskis, and flying above the water in parasails. It was very festive and since we weren’t in a rush to try everything at once, we decided to just have a relaxing day at the beach.
Sun block was a must since it was very sunny and hot. The water felt amazing as soon as we waded in. Over the course of the next several hours, we interspersed our cooling down in the water with some nice naps in the sand, soaking up some rays. I had the most amazing nap and jumped right into the cool water when I woke up. We left the beach to return to the port in high spirits and ended our visit to Freeport with some fresh coconut water, chopped in front of us by the people selling coconuts at the stand.
Nassau was the main port that we visited on our cruise. As the capital of the Bahamas and home to almost 250,000 of the 320,000 residents of the entire country, it was a larger, more densely packed city compared to Freeport. It was fitting that as soon as we got off the cruise ship, we were bombarded by local tour guides offering tours of the city. Since we had an entire day in Nassau, we decided to go with one of the tours that would take us around the historical sights of the city.
Our tour guide resembled Carlton from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, wearing green pants and sporting a Bahamian English accent (think softer Jamaican accent). We drove around the entire city, passing by government buildings, rich neighborhoods, poor neighborhoods, and everything in between. Our first stop was at Fort Fincastle, a fort built to protect against pirates – Nassau was the pirate capital of the world in the 18th century. Walking to the top-most portion of the fort gave us an impressive view of the city, with cannons below us overlooking a lot of greenery and buildings. We also walked on the Queen’s Staircase, 66 steps carved by hand next to the fort, before making a quick stop at the famous Atlantis resort.
After the tour we enjoyed lunch at a local restaurant. Jay and I split an order of conch fritters (amazing) and I ordered a jerk chicken plate (just as amazing). With full stomachs, we wandered over to the Pirates of Nassau Museum, where we walked through exhibits of pirate ship replicas and learned about the story behind the pirate life in the Caribbean. Our visit to Nassau ended with some shopping on the well-known Bay Street, and it was back to the ship after an eventful day.
Half Moon Cay
Our final stop on the cruise was a special one – Half Moon Cay was a private beach and resort owned by the cruise lines, so everything about it was clean, beautiful, and fun. It couldn’t have been a more proper oasis and vacation spot. The beaches here had blue water that was simultaneously crystal clear, and the sand was the finest and softest I’d felt. Our tram tour took us around the entire island, where we saw a lot of the activities going on, including horseback riding, manta ray petting, kayaking, and jet skiing.
Soon it was our turn to try out one of the events. We picked tropical kayaking, where we’d have the opportunity to explore the plants and animals native to the area. Our guide led us through the ocean water as we rowed our kayaks, and halfway into our trip we reached a small island where we stopped to rest and wade in the water to look for sea creatures. As our guide walked further out into the water, I began to increasingly feel a stinging sensation on my legs and thighs. I thought I was going crazy but noticed that other people seemed to be experiencing a similar feeling. And then our guide told us – we were stepping on upside-down jellyfish, which release a slime that causes temporary discomfort.
Great, he told us after the fact, but thankfully the discomfort really was temporary, and we spent some time in the water picking up sea stars, conches, and yes, even upside-down jellyfish. The water was calm as we rowed back to shore on the other side, and afterward we made our way back to the beach to relax and swim in the water. I sipped a Miami Vice while dozing off in the sun, and I knew that this was an amazing vacation. After another quick cooling-down session in the water, it was time to return to the ship. What an amazing vacation, filled with lots of fun, relaxation, and most importantly good company!
Check out the video recap of our trip to Orlando and the Bahamas below: