A travel journal
to Nassau by Jose Kevo
Quote: If a long, cold winter has gotten you down, read this journal to find how you can spend "A Day" at the beach in sunny Nassau with unpublished deals too good to pass up! The Free Form details my bonuses from such frequent budget travels. VUELVERE - I will return!
Nassau's sugary-white sand beaches and tranquil blue waters make for a relaxing day whether enjoying the views or snorkeling in the clear, shallow "bathwaters".
Once you've "parked" for the day, the rest of Nassau comes to you whether it's hotel staff with food/drinks, beach excursion vendors with jet skis, parasailing and other popular activities, or locals selling their handicrafts and services.
After taking an undisclosed personal day from work, to show up in the office the following day looking like "Rock Lobster" and explaining you spent the day at the beach...in Nassau; one of those outrageously spontaneous travel adventures from life that's all but scandalous.
All this can be yours for under .00! read my "Booking the Trip" entry for details.
Nassau's welcomed sunshine can be brutal on travelers at their lightest complexion mid-winter no matter how easily you tan. Slightly cooler than Caribbean temperatures can also lend a false sense of "intake" from the amount of rays...often not detected until the plane ride home. Sunscreens and precautions are in order.
American 's are widely accepted; in fact preferred when making purchases from the locals so there's no need to mess with currency exchange when arriving at the airport.
If you should happen to rent a car, British rules apply including driving on the opposite side of the road.
Attraction | "Booking the One Day Trip"
These opportunities are rarely published and when they are listed in newspaper Travel Sections, such as the NYTimes, you know there's more vacancies than they would care to admit. Information in this journal is based on flights leaving JFK or Newark, though I would have to assume that any East Coast airport with charter and smaller airlines serving the islands would likely have the same type of deals...if you know where to ask and look.
The downfall of this entire opportunity is the smaller charter companies that are here today and gone tomorrow...including Carnival Airline I/we took our three day trips on but no longer exists. Yet I continue to see ads in the Travel Section with various other upstart airlines which tells me these deals are still very real if you're willing to do the research. Even most NYC travel agents are unaware of these options and my first booking, with the newspaper ad as proof, was a learning process for an entire Travel Agency.
The spontaneity of the trip comes because airlines are reluctant to claim a seat "unsold" until all but the last minute. Therefore, don't expect to book the deals more than 72 hours in advance. Also keep a "standby" mentality since they will refund your money if you arrive at the airport and the seat has been booked by a package tourist.
Our flights were advertised as $99-round trip which came out to $137.50 with taxes and entry/exit fees at the airport included. These flights departed JFK at 7:30 a.m. with a 10:30 a.m. landing in Nassau. The flights then departed on the same day at 6:30 p.m. with a 9:30 p.m. landing back in NYC netting an 8-hour adventure in Nassau worth what ever it takes to get you there.
Similar advertised opportunities today leaving Newark are priced at $125 plus taxes. Also, be advised their modified flight times only leave one-day travelers with less than 5 hours in Nassau. I've got to believe similar deals, both cost and longer timeframe, are still out there. And if I get that itch to drag my toes through the sand in the middle of winter and find one again, I'll surely update this entry.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 5, 2001
One Day Trips
Advertised in newspaper Travel Sections
Attraction | "Where to Head for the Day"
I was somewhat confused but with beach bag thrown over my shoulder, I was greeted like any other guest when entering the lobby and from there made my way through the main floor complex to the outer courtyard with terraced gardens, multi-swimming pools, outdoor bars/cafes, and a pristine strip of beach that obviously prompted my lack of need to ever look any further!
The spoof of acting like a guest was not necessary with the Bahamian staff treating me/us like everyone else with no questions asked. Their hospitality was most gracious and their generous servings of food and drink readily came whether beach or poolside or when making a conscious effort to head for the bar and grill. They usually, too refused to accept pay...likely assuming we were more "all-inclusive" guests who'd removed our tacky wrist bands which leave the white ring from lack of sun exposure. Let's just say they were generously tipped.
The beach has what you'd expect from a resort-type facility - towel service, plenty of lounge chairs, thatched-palm umbrellas for shady refuge, and a host of eager locals offering goods and services discussed in other activity and shopping entries. There's also a poolside cabana with locker rooms great for showering and washing off the salt and sand before heading back to the airport.
Beach waters are shallow allowing you to walk/snorkel well beyond the roped-off beach area without any problem. To the right of the facility are other large resorts you can pass through; which also seemed to have more of a Spring Break crowd/atmosphere going than the upscale and laid back ambiance of the Radisson.
To the left of here was what I considered the best bonus...like spending the day here wasn't already enough! During my last visit here, the Radisson was still the last hotel on the strip. Walking to the left along the sugary sands was certainly more "authentic" with the natural vegetations and walls sealing off back yards of beach villas. For those looking to get away and enjoy a private moment, this is definitely worth the effort of getting up from your chair with the walk surpassed only by the vistas back out across the sea.
Sheraton Nassau Beach Resort
West Bay Street
Attraction | "Water Sports & Excursions"
Water activities include wave runners, rides on water wienees, parasailing, snorkeling or fishing runs and glass-bottomed boat rides. As you might expect, prices vary based on the rep you're dealing with and you're willingness to play the bargaining game. Sales pitches I heard included 30-minute wave runner rentals for $30 up to $125 larger-scale boating trips which also included lunch and drinks.
On the trip when I went with four other friends, three of us decided to try parasailing and we got a "group rate discount" of $50 each for the 15-minute or so ride. (Actually, I couldn't tell you how long we stayed up, but I wish it never would have ended!) You're shuttled from the beach to a floating dock somewhere out in the bay where you harness up and take off. For this, my first and only attempt at trying the sport, I can't imagine a better place to have done it than in the Bahamas! The beautiful shallow turquoise waters and random white sand bars were beyond description...kind of like that Bahamas Tourism TV commercial where the water plane lands out in the middle of no where and all the bikini-clad honies are just waiting...unfortunately, of which I found/saw none this adventure.
This is/was an experience I'm not sure you could put a $-value on no matter what they're asking...cause it'll be worth more! And if there's such thing as advice from a first/one-timer, try to relax in the harness or the muscle tenseness from soaring like a bird will net soreness later. Your mouth will also likely be wide open, but don't gasp for air. There's something about the thick salty air coupled with the experience and constrictiveness of your confines that can all but take your breath away.
Calmy back at the beach, snorkeling is readily available though you're really not going to see a lot close by. Unless you plan on taking one of the larger excursions which takes you further out to deeper waters, leave the flippers at home. You can walk forever in the shallow waters needing nothing more than your mask and tube. Just be aware that all of that "bent over" exposure to your back can get you roasted fairly quickly.
AS A PRECAUTION - Especially if traveling alone, never take an excursion or venture too far on land or water and leave your things "unguarded" on the beach. There's a lot of foot traffic...and it's not like this place owes you any security or duty of monitoring your things since you're NOT an offcial guest.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on November 5, 2001
Attraction | "The Beach Shopping Network"
Other walking vendors sell all kinds of hand-crafted items, weed, and tourist junk...or, the "Perfect 10" look for those looking to get a Bo Derek braid job. The jewellery items, made from broken conch and other shells, come in a large assortment of styles, necklaces/bracelets/earrings/etc. and are not only dirt cheap but durable as we've still got some 5+-years later. Actually, the long shards of shell will break off before the stringing ever does.
Other than George, my favorite vendor is a dread-locked guy who pulls a surfboard in ankle-deep water along the coast with conch shells and other marine life for sale including some of the largest starfish and sea urchins I've ever seen in my life! Items are priced at $10 each, but he's given me a deal of three for $25.
Inside the Radisson on a lower hallway are the hotel's galleries and shops with some interesting finds that are definitely more upscale and pricey as you'd expect from their levels of clientele. Aside from a lot of clothing, they've some really nice forms of local art that's obviously original works and not mass-produced to look that way. If you've still time and looking for the good buys, head across from the Hotel to the "can't miss" typical Caribbean market. You'll basically find what you expect...including aggressive vendors applying pressure in desperation to make a sale. (If "only looking" would ever be acceptable in these places!)
Clearing customs when leaving the country is somewhat interesting...like "I've only been here for the day" isn't enough to get their attention. They've always checked my/our bags though they never really look and I know there was once I was over the legal liquor export level. I also question about the legalities of the shells and such? Took a chapter from one of my Bermudan friend's travels back to her homelands and this advice - 'Any time you don't want them looking, wrap the stuff inside your wet beach clothes, towels, socks and dirty underwear!' It worked for her and it worked for me...including when reentering the country and customs check again at JFK.
Over time, I've gotten less cocked eyebrows and loaded questions from my staff and students when disclosing I'd be gone...AGAIN for a few days. They've simply learned that travel is my thing; my passion and motivation as well as my greatest means of surviving the often day in - day out tense and hostile environment they accept as normal. Unfortunately though, travel has too long been associated as something ONLY for the rich and famous despite the obvious changes. For someone like myself living and working with the poor, and not really any better off financially, it's potentially caused a Grand Canyon-sized perception gap I've worked to educatively close.
The key word has been "BUDGET" plain and simple and I'm not just talking about what/how I spend money once I arrive somewhere. Financially budgeting of my meager income is the bottom line to ensure my priorities and love for travel are going to be met as often as possible. And it's been quite interesting to see how others have watched, questioned and began to learn how they, too can fulfill their desires of life whether travel or something different.
While most of my people wouldn't think twice about booking a highly inflated, last-minute ticket to go see family in the islands, they never would consider spending $137.50 to spend a day in Nassau just for the heck of it; one of life's rewards which we've all certainly earned.
Of course, they would and do regularly spend more for gold chains, new pairs of Timberland boots/sneakers, or other necessary ghetto gear known as "props"...not to mention lottery tickets and other addictive sources that drain cashflow. And for those youngsters illegally "working" on the street corners making more in a single weekend than I will in two or three weeks, don't you know I've a full arsenal of ammunition based on turning the tables when it comes to my travels vs. their excesses and extremes of poor investments.
Living in the inner-city is a trap only a small percentage will ever fully escape - something evident whether I'm returning from the day or a two week trip half-way around the world only to annoyingly find everyone exactly in the same spots I left them. It never ceases to amaze me how I'll round-up a group of these born-and-bred New Yorkers to take them out and about in the city...to places they've only seen and heard of despite just being a short subway ride away! And I'll never forget one 11-year old's astonishment standing on the corner and looking up for his first close-up glimpse of the Empire State building...something he'd only seen everyday of his life looking out the bedroom window of his upper-floor Projects apartment 78 blocks away. These children, teens, and even some adults can still find unexplored adventure and excitement right here that seems as far away as the stuff I've always got to get on a plane and go seeking. But when it comes to such lessons in life, I've got to believe they've been blessed with a well-practiced role model; a budget traveler at that!
Once they figured out I always came back from my many trips and wasn't trying to give them the slip in abandonment, their apprehensiveness turned to eagerness based on learning more about where I'd been, what I'd done and what things I might've brought as behavior incentive rewards. Some have even "dared" to venture out beyond the city with me for summer camp, day trips and weekend camping trips up and down the East Coast.
You'd likely be amazed as I how these adults and youngsters daily face in the 'hood assorted forms of crime and violence, cat-sized rats, humongous cockroaches and such to think nothing of it. But the "we bad" homeboy facades quickly melt into the innocent, scared people they really are with every spider, shadow and thing that goes bump in the night in other new, strange environments...like most of you would be terrified visiting where they/we come from!
With NYC's lacking public schools, I've also became the stand-in geography/history teacher through my travel stories and photos...something desperately needed since students can stand on the banks of the Hudson River and see the cliffs of New Jersey but couldn't find their neighboring state on a map - if they even knew it was Jersey to begin with! 'Home Field Advantage' is a curriculum I've developed teaching "boring" U.S. geography using what they already know about professional and college sports with the insignias and mascots that fill their clothing. Otherwise, don't talk sports unless you can find the city and state on a map and know if it's the capital or not!
I can't imagine life without traveling, but the double bonus is not only being able to see the world but also bringing it back to teach and inspire. There's a whole lot more out there than what we often settle for...regardless of WHERE we come from. So why would I write to tell you this? Consider - are you really any different than people from the inner-city when it comes to acknowledging and fulfilling your greatest desires of life? And for this audience, that would likely involve a long-list of "yet to see" or "ready to return" travel destinations. Whether extremely excessive or seldom; budget or first-class, it's only up to you. I'm a firm believer that regardless of backgrounds and circumstances, if there's something we want out of life but don't have it - we simply didn't want it bad enough! Now, about that winter day on a tropical beach...