The Bahamas is not one destination, but many. The Bahamas is a 600-mile long archipelago of about 3000 islands but only 30 of them are permanently occupied. Each island is unique, but they are all part of a whole that Bahamians refer to as their "Family of Islands". Some of the better-known Islands of the Bahamas are New Providence, Paradise, Grand Bahama, Abaco, Exuma, and Eleuthera. Each island has its own personality and each is surrounded by pristine, colorful water, fanned by gentle trade winds, and graced with miles of untouched beaches.
WELCOME TO NASSAU
Some 808 nautical miles from Hamilton, Bermuda our Silversea Silver Shadow arrived at Nassau. Although most people call Nassau an island, it is not an island. Located on the island of New Providence, Nassau is the capital, the commercial center, and the largest city of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. The city's population of approximately 250,000 is 70% of the entire population of the Bahamas. Yet no one calls the island New Providence. They mistakenly call it Nassau. Confusing? You bet!
Nassau's history can be traced back to 300-years of British rule. Its commercialism can be traced back to the passengers of the many cruise ships that ply its harbor. I, too, arrived on a cruise ship...Silversea's Silver Shadow, the most elegant of the four cruise ships docked in the harbor that day.
SILVERSEA SILVER SHADOW...THE MOST ELEGANT SHIP IN THE HARBOR
Highlights of my day in Nassau included:
THE QUEEN'S STAIRCASE: Take an historic walk up (or down) the 66 steps of the Queen's Staircase, Nassau's most visited attraction. In the late 1700's, the 102-foot staircase was hand-carved by approximately 600 slaves, who used pick axes and hand tools to cut their way through solid limestone. The entire staircase took over 16 years to complete. It was only decades later that the impressive staircase was then named in honor of the 65-year reign of Queen Victoria, "who had signed a declaration to abolish slavery on her ascension to the throne in 1837." Today, the Queen's Staircase still acts as both a passageway to Fort Fincastle and a shortcut to Bennet's Hill.
THE QUEEN'S STAIRCASE
ARDASTRA GARDENS & ZOO: Originally created as a nature preserve by Jamaican horticulturalist Hedley Edwards in the 1950's, Ardastra Gardens & Zoo has developed over the decades into a tropical garden, conservation center and boutique zoo. The tranquil Ardastra Gardens is home to a brilliant array of plant life. As the first and only zoo in the Bahamas, The Ardastra Zoo features a wide range of animal species including the national bird of The Bahamas, the Caribbean flamingo. Be sure to watch the world-famous marching flamingos in action. From the cute and cuddly to the big and powerful, the Zoo at Ardastra is a peaceful retreat with the wildest population in town!
"THE FISH FRY" AT ARAWAK CAY: To get a true taste of the Bahamas, head to Arawak Cay on West Bay Street in Nassau. With a nickname like "The Fish Fry" it's not surprising that Arawak Cay is home to a community of Bahamian restaurants that specialize in seafood delicacies. A plethora of seafoods are served with sides like cornbread and mac and cheese. Conch, be it cracked (battered and deep fried) or scorched (spiced with lime, onions and peppers) is one of The Bahamas' most popular foods. Kalik, dubbed "The Beer of The Bahamas", is the country's best-selling beer. Of course, there are always "Bahama Mamas" or "Sky Juice". The latter is a combination of gin, coconut milk/water, sweet milk, sugar, ground cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg. If you go to Grand Bahama Island, "Sky Juice" is known as "Gully Wash".
CHECK OUT COLORFUL ARAWAK CAY FOR A TRUE TASTE OF THE BAHAMAS
GRAYCLIFF HOTEL: This historic colonial mansion is situated next door to the Government House on a quiet street in Old Nassau. It is only a few minutes away from Nassau's white sand beaches. This 17th-century manor, that over the years has played host such illustrious luminaries as Sir Winston Churchill, Aristotle Onassis and The Beatles, is a world away from the city's glitter and casinos. Graycliff mansion was originally built in 1740 by Captain John Howard Graysmith, a famous pirate. His buccaneering made him rich and famous. After more than two centuries of varied owners, Graycliff was purchased in 1973 by Enrico and Anna Maria Garzaroli who turned the private home into a hotel complex. In 2000, the Graycliff Cigar Company, a robust cigar factory, was added. Graycliff, a Bahamian landmark, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
GRAYCLIFF HOTEL IS A BAHAMIAN LANDMARK
JUNKANOO MUSEUM pays tribute to the street parade that takes place in many towns across the Bahamas on every Boxing Day (December 26). Here you can see many of the costumes, learn of their history, and how they are made. The personable owner will even introduce you to Rake n' Scrape, the eclectic music of the Bahamas. Percussion instruments, made from household items like a saw and washboard, combine with the beat of the drum to produce an authentic Bahamian sound.
COSTUME AT JUNKANOO MUSEUM COMES COMPLETE WITH HAIRDO
To the North of Nassau lies Paradise Island. A short land, or water, taxi ride from Nassau will take you to some 685 acres of pure euphoria.
ATLANTIS: This resort and waterpark is located on Paradise Island. Accommodations at the resort that officially opened in 1998 include: The Beach Tower, Coral Towers, and Royal Towers. The Royal Towers contain the "Bridge Suite", once ranked as the most expensive hotel room in the world. In 2012, the Bridge Suite, billed at US $25,000 per night, was listed at number 10 on the World's 15 most expensive hotel suitescompiled by CNN Go.
THE ATLANTIS DOMINATES THE SKYLINE ON PARADISE ISLAND
ONE & ONLY OCEAN CLUB: This jewel in the crown of Paradise Island nestles peacefully along the shore of a delicate white sand beach...a treasured sanctuary of privileged perfection. Under the deep blue of an endless Bahamian sky, wrapped in the turquoise waters of an exuberant sea, the Ocean Club was once the private estate of Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (a.k.a. A&P) heir Huntington Hartford II. Today, this alluring 105-room beachfront hideaway reflects the glamorous ambience and posh exclusivity of a grand colonial manor, welcoming generations of the world's traveling elite. Expansive manicured lawns and towering coconut palms provide an enchanting backdrop to the pristine beaches of The Ocean Club. Little wonder that it was the perfect setting for OO7's "Casino Royale" that was filmed there.
TRANQUILITY AND A PRISTINE WHITE SAND BEACH
The British Colonial design of the resort's chic Dune Restaurant, perched atop a white sand beach, was created by famed French interior designer Christian Liaigre. Our lunch was an innovative blend of French-Asian cuisine along with a drop-dead dramatic ocean view. Tuna Tartar Avocado/Radish Ginger Marinade...Bahamian Conch Salad...Lobster Daikon Roll/Rosemary Ginger Dip...Local Grouper/Ginger Chili Vinaigrette/Bok Choy...one of the most memorable lunches ever.
TUNA TARTAR AVOCADO WITH SPICY RADISH GINGER MARINADE
Paradise Island is a fitting name for the location of the One & Only Ocean Club. This place is paradise personified! The One & Only Ocean Club is a testament to the Bahama's logo "It's Better in the Bahamas".
ONE AND ONLY OCEAN CLUB IS PARADISE PERSONIFIED
JANET STEINBERG is an International Travel Consultant, Travel Writer, and the winner of 40 National Travel Writer Awards.