Bahama Bound

If you knew you could leave Louisville and land in the Bahamas in less time than it takes to drive to Nashville, and you could do it over a three day weekend, would you go?

We did, and we’d do it again in a heartbeat.

On a recent Thursday evening, The Voice-Tribune Photographer Chris Humphreys and I packed our bags – and our passports – and headed to Louisville International Airport. After an easy check-in, we boarded a flight bound for Grand Bahama Island via Vision Airlines. Estimated travel time: 2 hours and 20 minutes. The pilot got us there a few minutes early.

By 9:30 p.m. that first night, we’d checked in to Grand Lucayan Beach & Golf Resort and were seated on wood chairs listening to the ocean while sipping cold bottles of Sands Light, a beer brewed and bottled just a few miles down the road.

Over the next few days, Chris and I explored as much of Grand Bahama Island as we could – starting with our respective rooms. Grand Lucayan’s rooms either overlook the marina, which is beautiful, or the ocean, which is even more so. My fifth-floor suite was on a corner, which gave the illusion of floating over the massive body of water. Each morning, I rose early enough to run along the beach, grab coffee from the on-premise Starbucks (which can’t compare to our local coffee shops) and sit at least for a few moments on my balcony in silence. That’s my idea of a true vacation – to sit and do nothing but be – but since the purpose of this trip was to conduct “research” for a travel piece, Chris and I filled nearly every moment.

Donna Mackey of the Ministry of Tourism accompanied us on much of our visit to Grand Bahama Island. Charismatic, witty, jubilant and accommodating, Donna was an invaluable guide. She took us to several spots that are obviously geared toward tourists, but she also shared destinations and information that would make a visitor feel more like an insider. When I return one day soon, I’m going to take Donna up on her suggestion to visit the west end of the island, an area that is inhabited mostly by residents.

But this go-round, Donna took us on a whirlwind tour.

We visited The Perfume Factory and made our own scents. We went to Parliament Square, a cultural center, to learn about the Bahamas, its people, arts and history. We visited the Bahamian Brewery & Beverage Company, which produces several beers. We ate lunch at the Garden of the Groves, a 12-acre botanical garden dedicated to the founders of the city of Freeport.

Chris and I followed Donna into the Lucayan National Park, one of three national parks on Grand Bahama, which features all of the island’s ecosystems, as well as openings to an underwater cavern system, and access to one of the most beautiful beaches, Gold Rock Beach.

We went on a Dolphin Encounter with UNEXSO, which is located at Port Lucaya Marina. The company offers various water excursions, including scuba diving and opportunities to interact with shipwrecks, sharks, reefs and dolphins.

Chris and I spent one afternoon exploring the Port Lucaya Marketplace watching the shop owners weave baskets, braid hair, string bracelets and draw pictures. We ate fried conch fritters and sipped fruity drinks, like the Goombay Smash and Bahama Mama.

One evening we dressed up to eat dinner at Irie’s, one of Grand Lucayan’s many on-premise restaurants. The delicious meal of conch salad, rock lobster and coconut cheesecake nearly put us both in a food coma, so we headed to a local nightclub and danced to Caribbean tunes and songs from America’s Top 40.

Another night, we ate dinner at Luciano’s, which specializes in French/European cuisine, and is nestled on the second floor of a building in the marketplace that overlooked Count Basie Square. The square was packed with locals and tourists mingling as performers sang opera into the soft, starry night. Chris and I stood watching the magical action below, each of us smiling to ourselves.

At the end of the weekend – which did include a few moments of R&R, though I’ll be sure to include plenty more when I come back for a return trip – we hopped back on Vision and flew home, landing in Louisville inside of two and a half hours. Had we visited Nashville, Chris and I realized, we’d still have at least another 30 minute drive to go.

What To Know Before You Go

  • Be prepared to pay $15 to check a standard size bag if you take the direct via Vision.
  • Even though Grand Bahama Island is only 55 miles from Florida, you will need a passport to enter. Also, don’t joke around when going through customs, no matter how happy you are to have landed in paradise. Trust us on that one.
  • ATM fees ranged between $3 and $5, and you can specify American or Bahamian currency, since they’re equal to one another.
  • Don’t worry about setting your watch: Grand Bahama Island is in the Eastern Standard Time Zone.
  • Hotels, bars and restaurants will often add a 13 to 15 percent gratuity charge onto your bill. Even Starbucks added a gratuity charge. Also, the hotels tack on a daily service charge. Three nights at Grand Lucayan amounted to about $64 total in service and gratuity charges.
  • The highest point in the Bahamas is 40 feet. No joke.
  • The official language is English, though the varying dialects and slang may make you wonder on occasion.
  • Automobiles drive on the LEFT side of the road, which is a complete trip when you’ve spent your entire life doing the opposite.
  • As a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, The Bahamas recognizes Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State. The Governor-General is Her Majesty’s representative in The Bahamas. (No, William and Kate haven’t been to Grand Bahama Island – yet – but the residents look forward to their visit.)
  • Be sure to check in with your cell phone service provider before you go to see about available international plans. We kept our phones mostly on airplane mode and took advantage of Grand Lucayan’s free WiFi.

Our Voice

Sign up to win your own trip for two to Grand Bahama Island, courtesy of Grand Lucayan resort and Vision Airlines, by going to www.voice-tribune.com/bahamas. We’ll pick a winner in a random drawing on Monday, Feb. 27.

Explore More

For more information about Grand Bahama Island, go to www.grandbahamavacations.com. To learn more about Vision Airlines’ direct flight to Grand Bahama Island from Louisville, visit www.visionairlines.com or call 1.877.359.2538. Contact Grand Lucayan Beach & Golf Resort at www.grandlucayan.com or call 1.855.582.2926.

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