Bahamas Stories and Tips

Highlights of Nassau

Soft pastel colors Photo, Nassau, Bahamas

Before John and I headed out to our shore excursion we had time to walk around and take in the beauty of this amazing city. Over the years working in the travel industry I have heard some agents say some very unsavory and unkind things about this city. Yes, this is still somewhat of a third world country. Yes, locals do tend to swarm around visitors like bees to flowers. Yes there is some crime and bad elements. Tell me a city, especially a major city, that doesn’t have that.

When out traveling just use your common sense. When pounced on by the locals, just smile and politely say no thanks. For the most part, they will leave you alone. US$ are accepted here, but use a major credit card for large or expensive purchases. Many of the major cruise lines now work with local vendors assuring you of their quality and reliability of the company. And if there is a problem the cruise line will be there for you. You will be offered drugs, again just say no thanks. Bring small bills for tips since often children will be around and want a tip. Lastly stay in well populated areas. Do this and you will find Nassau exciting and an inviting place to spend some time. Now on for my highlights.

As soon as we hit the docks in Nassau we had women waiting to braid our hair. Especially John with his almost waist length hair. Course he was having no part of that. Just off Rawlings Square is where the braider’s center was. Most women that come here, end up getting at least a few strands of hair braded. After all nothing makes you feel more exotic that braided hair and pony beads. I wanted my hair braided so I gladly told one of the women yes and she took me to her booth. The average is about $2 per braid. I got about a dozen braids in my hair. The women move with lighting speed and generally the braids will last for many weeks. Mine ended up lasting about 2 months. Also giving you another way to brag on your travels when you return. Several people told me they liked my braids and I made sure to mention "this? Oh thanks. I was just on a cruise and got this done in Nassau." In my mind? What a world traveler I am! These ladies only accept cash and make sure you tip.

After getting my new do we went and found the surries. These are horse or mule drawn carriage rides and can easily be spotted by the fringed tops. We hoped in and our driver and mule clip clopped through the streets of Nassau. We were taken by some of the beautiful and historical buildings, past grand hotel resorts, and by breathtaking ocean views. Our driver made sure to give us a history on the island and a history lesson on what we were seeing. Our 45 minute surrey ride cost $10. There was a young boy who offered to take our picture and then expected a tip (yes there is a small price to be paid in paradise). We were out of ones so we gave the driver a $5 tip and ask him to give the boy $1. Now whether he did or not, we will never know. The surries line up near the cruise ship docks and are often there bright and early to catch passengers before the shops open up.

After going to the Hard Rock I ducked into a spice shop that we had passed on the way in. The Bahamas are not among the spice islands of the Caribbean and not well know for their bountiful spices. What they do have is the famous Caribbean jerk spice. This is exactly what I wanted. Most places carry a variety of sized bottles and degrees of heat. You can get just regular jerk seasoning or as hot and spicy as you can stand. I also picked up a bottle of Jamaican vanilla extract. This vanilla is much smoother that what you find on the shelves here. It doesn’t have that metallic taste often left by commercial brands. I spent less than $20 for both and had two huge bottles. Just make sure that any food items you bring back are in sealed containers or bags. You are allowed to bring food stuffs back into the states; they just can not be opened.

Everyone who comes here also comes to go to the straw market which is legendary. This open air market produces local products and crafts. They turn out some really unique and one of a kind gift for your self and for friends back home. Part of the big drawl here is haggling over prices. That is something though I didn’t inherited from my mom. She is a great haggler. Me? I prefer to just know the price and be done with it. Some of the vendors know not every one gets in the barging spirit. Some vendors even post signs letting you know they don’t haggle. Giving those of us who also don’t a place to shop hassle free. I did find 2 ladies that I shopped with. One was a straw vendor and picked up several bags for family at home and picked up a lovely sarong from another.

John and I also took the time to just enjoy walking the streets. The buildings here are in soft shades of the island such as powder blue or soft pink, while others burst with bright colors such as orange and yellow. We passed by several old churches and several beautiful resorts.

Our last stop was a place called the T-Shirt Factory . It is directly across from Rawlings Square. This place is huge and they have souvenirs galore. You want it, they got it. Post cards, spoons, snow globes, coffee mugs, magnets, towels, and of course…T-Shirts. I loaded up on my co-workers gifts here and it didn’t break my budget. Inside the shop they also have the Bay Street jewelers . They have quality jewelry and great prices. I got a set of blacked string pearls for me and white for my mom. $30 each! Now this was one of the stores backed by Carnival so they back that you are getting quality goods. After returning home I had John to take it to a jeweler he knows to make sure they were genuine pearls. They were indeed. Value of the set? $300!

Make sure if your on a cruise to take the time and enjoy this great city and ignore the nay Sayers who say it is a slum or dangerous. The city is beautiful and so are its people. Every where we went people were kind and glad to help us. We were always greeted by those brilliant Caribbean smiles and that wonderful accent.

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