Our vacation to the Bahamas in March 2011 was a spontaneous decision. We first became aware of a great West Jet vacations package out of St. John’s while we were in Florida in February. We had our Netbook with us and while reading my Travelzoo notices a five day, four night package vacation, air, hotel, transfers and some meals on Grand Bahamas Island was posted for $1465.00 for two out of St. John’s. An amazing Price!
After a couple of weeks battling the snow drifts when we returned home we decided to buy the trip, our first through Travelzoo. At that price it was difficult to think of a reason why not!!! We checked out the hotel on www.tripadvisor.com and it was a four star hotel ranked No.2 on Grand Bahamas Island.
Pelican Bay Resort from Port Lucaya Ship Channel
Hotel room rates were listed at around $200.00 per night. Pictures on the hotel web site looked really nice. The $1465.00 price looked like a real deal for sure. The name of the hotel was the Pelican Bay at Lucaya.
Our West Jet flight to Freeport via Pearson was uneventful. I must say that the flight attendants were really friendly. We had a 5 hour stop over in Toronto and our Freeport flight was a little late leaving. The flight attendants on the flight were actually very entertaining with one of the flight attendant cracking jokes and making remarks about us being so lucky to spend time in Freeport. In fact she took over the mic and had everyone laughing and cheering all the way down. The view from the plane before we landed was amazing with the azure blue ocean washing the whitest sand I’ve ever seen on such a flat surface.
Old Shipwreck: View From our Room!
Coming from Newfoundland and Labrador where there are so many mountains and rugged landscapes this seemed almost unbelievable to me. I was sitting in between Hubby and a West Jet Flight Attendant who was on her way to Freeport for a 10 day holiday and she was very helpful with her tips and knowledge of the Island. I was surprised when we were leaving that she put on a pair of rubber gloves and helped the working attendants who were cleaning up the plane for the trip back to Toronto. Never saw this on Air Canada!
When we landed in Freeport we could see that the terminal was a brightly colored yellow and when we arrived inside and went through Bahamian Customs. It was all quite easy, just asked a few questions about our trip and stay and there was lots of tourist information available to pick up as we exited the terminal. The Freeport Terminal looked like something out of an old Bogart movie with its colonial appearance.
Colorful living Room and Pictures
The ground transportation which had been arranged and included in the package by West Jet was not efficient though. The bus driver was quite a nice fellow but had to go through the bus and individually pick up your one page voucher for transportation (which obviously was a must to get on the bus and must be printed off and carried with you and presented). He then preceded to hand out again individually a package of side trips, restaurants, etc and it took almost an hour for him to complete these tasks. The bus was old but comfortable and it was dark so we could not see much on our way to the hotel which was a shame as it would have been good to see some of the local sites on route.
The Pelican Bay did not disappoint. The check-in was quite speedy and very organized. The room was large, nice living room with a large flat screen TV, microwave, coffee/tea maker, a small fridge and A/C. The separate bedroom had a queen four poster bed which was super comfortable (again like something out of an old movie). The room had Wi-Fi which cost $12.95 per day. It was difficult to use your cell phone and if you wanted to make a call you had to use the in-room telephone.
Yacht cruising out of Port Lucaya; Taken from our Balcony
Our room was located on the fourth floor and had a large balcony overlooking the beautiful waterway which leads into Port Lucaya. We counted almost 100 yachts tied up in Port Lucaya, many of them from the US where a lot of Americans cruise over from Florida to take advantage of the duty free goods and services. Every morning you woke to a basket with apples, Danish or muffins which were inserted into a box in the door of your room. While we were there I got a bacterial infection, not sure from where but you couldn’t buy Listerine to gargle or any kind of good throat lozenges to sooth the throat until I got back to Canada. You should bring something for allergies and small infections when you come here!
The Pelican Bay offered a free daily breakfast as part of the package. We took advantage of the breakfast because it was available until 10:30am and was certainly well worth having and a real bargain if you like breakfast and don’t want to eat much else until dinner.
Hubby having breakfast on the Roof Top Terrace of the Pelican Bay
You name it, they had it: muffins, toast, croissants, cheeses, Danish, lots and lots of fruit, cold cuts, sausages, ham, bacon, scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, all sorts of juices, milk, tea, coffee (all refilled if you want). I would have to say one of the best breakfast menus available anywhere and you could eat, indoors or outdoors (wrap around deck) on the 6th floor of the new building added to the hotel where breakfast was served. Eating breakfast outside in the warm morning sun was very enjoyable and the table service was outstanding!
The Pelican Bay at Lucaya is located right next door to UNESCO which provides some of the best diving experiences in the Bahamas.
Port Lucaya Main Street Entrance
Pelican Bay at Lucaya is 5 minute walk from Port Lucaya Marketplace which has several restaurants, shops, bars, liquor stores, fast food joints like Subway etc. This was very convenient, however, the liquor stores only stay open during the day. We didn’t see any open at night!
The Pelican Bay Resort is not located on the beach but only a short 5 minute walk across the street which you can enter from many accesses which are open to the public including the Radisson. Lucayan Beach is a beautiful long beach and great for walking and swimming, not normally crowded at all except during spring break.
Hubby and I are ardent walkers so we made the most of walking Lucayan Beach every morning or afternoon. You need to be careful though as even seasoned travelers can get sucked in to going too far to explore. We ventured up to the end of Lucayan Beach where there were few people, only those who were liviers and had no possessions on them. We sat for a while admiring the ocean view and suddenly two men came out of the woods nearby and proceeded to approach us.
The end of Lucaya Beach
The radar immediately went off and we both started to move quite quickly for two old folks. We managed to get ahead of these guys and ran into some other tourists and the two guys booted it into the trees. We managed not to get mugged! Advice: Be alert even in safe areas you need to be aware of who and what is around you!
The Pelican Bay Resort also offered free shuttle boat trips to and from Tanio Beach which is separated from LucayanBeach by the ship channel into Port Lucaya. I found that although this feature was mentioned it was not well known unless you asked and the Pelican Bay Resort would provide new towels to take over with you to lay on the beach or to sit by the pool of their smaller sister affiliate hotel. We did take advantage of the free trip over and back but didn’t spend much time there as Tanio Beach is much shorter than Lucayan Beach, was quite crowded. People live there as well and it did seem to be frequented by a much younger crowd who took advantage of the cheaper hotel rates offered at this part of Freeport during spring break!
We had four nights in Port Lucaya. The restaurants we visited were:
Sabor Restaurant located at the Pelican Bay Resort; Billy Joes on the Beach; Pisces Seafood House and Pizzeria; Giovanni’s Cafe; Zorbas Greek Restaurant; Shenanigan’s Irish Pub.
Sabor at Pelican Bay: Its an attractive but small restaurant located poolside and overlooking the Port Lucaya Waterway. When we arrived the first night in the dark we ate there because we didn’t have our bearings. The menu is small, the service was very slow and the food was inconsistent. My husband enjoyed the Blackened Grouper, but I did not enjoy the conch at all, it was dry, cold and very stringy (almost didn’t try it again at Billy Joes). We ordered the Bahama Mamas which came with the meals free and unless you like really sweet rum drinks (I couldn’t taste the rum) then you would be really disappointed in the drink of the Grand Bahama Island! The Kalik beer is much better!
Hubby on the Boardwalk around Pelican Bay Resort
We spent all of our beach time at Lucayan Beach which is really great for swimming, walking and just relaxing in the sun. This is where we found Billy Joes on the Beach where the local Kalik Beer is a favorite with all and also the local Bahamian delicacy which is conch. Conch( which is pronounced Konk) is a shellfish which the locals deep fry after they remove the stringy beasts from the conch shells. We would watch the locals split open the shellfish caught earlier to get to the meat inside. They do this right next to the restaurant which is an open air bar and quite rough by our standards and right on the beach.The bar is open early and closes late. After our walk along the beach in the hot sun there was nothing like a cold Kalik at 11:00am when you are parched. It was definitely a fun place and quite popular with the kids and tourists alike. You could always find a seat when we went and if you couldn’t you could take your food and beer and drink and eat on the beach!
The Boys in Speedos!
The conch was good, a bit stringy and definitely not as tasty as cod tongues. It was such an interesting place and we even got to see some young lads who wanted their pictures taken with some older ladies and the young men were dressed in speedos. I guess you’ll want to see this pic!
Pisces Seafood House and Pizzeria: This restaurant fronts right on the main road in Port Lucaya. We ordered a large pizza which was surprisingly good, however the service was quite slow. They were busy, and not apologetic about how long it took to either get served or get the meal. We ate on a patio on the street which was quite nice in the warm evening air. The wine a good deal and the liter of red held us over until we got our pizza. But overall it was a nice evening!
Lucaya Town Centre Stage
Giovanni’s Cafe: This was a better restaurant. We had chicken marsala and chicken parmesan served outside in the warm evening air, but the wine and food was expensive. A dinner for two with wine cost almost $80.00. The service was good and the atmosphere was great!
Zorbas Greek Restaurant: This restaurant we liked. They serve all sorts of Greek food and American/Canadian food. The Gyros, souvalki were great and the hamburgers and fries were delicious. While the service was slow, the prices were great. The most reasonably priced restaurant in Port Lacaya which explains why it was always full with tourists and locals!
Shenanigan’s Irish Pub: We found this restaurant/pub on our last night in Lucaya. The food was excellent. The Sheppard’s Pie had nice big junks of tasty lamb and the Chicken Pot Pie was quite good as well. It was reasonably priced with dinner for two at less than $40.00 and the beer was very cold. The atmosphere was quite casual and relaxed. If I were to return to Freeport I would definitely eat at Shenanigan’s again.
The restaurants are somewhat pricey and they love to take American money even though they have their own currency, the Bahamian dollar which is on par with the American dollar. You need to be careful when you give the servers money or credit cards to pay for your meals. We did encounter some problems with the servers not returning with your change, which could be substantial if they were breaking $20.00 bills and they weren’t always pleasant when you asked for your money back so you could provide them with an appropriate tip! We did witness on a couple of occasions, tourists who complained that they did not get their credit cards back and there was quite a bit of banter back and forth until they seemed to get or not get their credit cards back. We witnessed this early on and so paid with cash wherever we ate or drank (exception the Pelican Bay Resort which was quite safe.)
MK Enjoying the Beautiful Bahamas!
Overall the restaurants we visited were ok with Billy Joes being great for the really cold beer and the conch meals and snacks and the breakfast at the Pelican Bay Resort was the best we’ve ever had.
The rain finally arrived as we caught our bus back to the airport which is a different terminal than the one we arrived at. The West Jet airplane was parked at the terminal where we landed and we were were bussed to the arrival terminal to return to Toronto. This was somewhat chaotic and made for delays in getting the return flight out on time. The bus had to make three trips to bus us all to the airplane. This seemed a little bizarre, but I guess the Bahamian Government must have some reason for doing it this way. You should purchase your duty free goods at the Port Lucaya Market as there is no duty free shopping at the airport!
I would have to rate the Freeport trip 4 stars out of 5 for just the overall experience and the relaxing nature of the trip. The weather was great every day, sunny 22-26 C with a nice breeze.
With the trip the the Bahamas, we had to overnight in Toronto so we went downtown where we got a great Hotwire rate on a room at the Sheraton Centre. As the flight was late getting into Toronto we decided to go across the street to the Keg for a great steak. In our opinion, the Toronto Keg on York Street has the best steaks of any of the Kegs that we have eaten in. Prompt service, steaks that are cooked to perfection and a super atmosphere. We managed to get our order in before the hockey crowd arrived from a Leaf’s game. Hubby gloated that the Leafs lost as usual!
Our flight the next day to St. John’s did not leave until 7pm so we had a day to relax at the hotel before heading to the airport. We did some shopping at the Eaton Centre and had a late lunch across the street at Jack Astors Restaurant at Yonge and Dundas Streets. We had eaten at Jack Astors in Barrie a few years previous and the food and service was good. Hubby was wowed by the gorgeous waitresses who were all young, beautiful and clad in black shorts, short skirts or dresses. We had chicken with their famous parmesan bow tie pasta which was delicious. Not too expensive, around $40.00 for lunch with two cold beers. I would recommend Jack Astors on Yonge and Dundas!
This is why you want to return to the Bahamas!
The trip back to St. John’s was uneventful, which I always like. We thoroughly enjoyed our week away in March to a warm and relaxing Freeport and the price for two of $1465.00 couldn’t be beat especially living in St. John’s where such deals are very rare. We will be keeping our eyes peeled for similar great deals in the future. Patience is definitely a virtue when traveling. Save your money as the guy on ING says!