But on my recent trip, the people of these gem-like islands were the treasures I saw, their friendships the souvenirs I took home with me. A highlight was the People to People program, which presents an opportunity to slow down and get to know people on a one-to-one basis. Small groups are invited into homes for an evening of ethnic cuisine and usually music as well. My experience rewarded me with delicious food and new friends. The program can expand to include sightseeing and even special programs with children. There are 500 People to People Ambassadors waiting to be a part of your visit. For information, go to www.bahamas.com/bahamas/people-people.
The people are proud of their country and the heritage that generations past have given them. The Bahamas is a Christian country with an influential council that interacts with government officials in matters of social and moral standards. My small group had the privilege to meet with Prime Minister Perry G. Christie in his chambers. A gracious man, he told us of his personal faith and how it molded him into the leader he is today. His mission is to bring the young and older generations together, “to marry the youth with experience.”
The Commonwealth of the Bahamas celebrates its 40th year of independence in 2013 and the party started last November with the renaming of a bridge to honor a native son, Sir Sidney Poitier. It was a grand start to an exciting year, with concerts, speeches, fireworks and celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Jennifer Hudson. The entire year of 2013 will be an exciting time to visit.
Many groups are following the trend of having more free time built into the tour program. My stay was at the Sheraton Cable Beach in Nassau and Grand Lucayan in Grand Bahamas. We enjoyed multiple activities, pools, golf and casinos at each.
What to See and Do in the Bahamas
Enjoy the beaches for all types of water activities, from dipping your toes into the clear blue waters to putting on snorkel gear and exploring beneath the waves
- Walk along the shore and stop to sample local conch specialties for lunch
- Relax on a chaise lounge with a book or chat with friends
- Golf at some favorite PGA courses
Nassau Group Activities
- Festival Place on Prince George Wharf is a colorful marketplace styled after a Bahamian village. Artisans offer crafts and souvenirs. Island tours can be arranged there.
- Junkanoo Expo. At the entrance to the wharf are exhibits of costumes that revelers wear during the annual Junkanoo parades (similar to those at Mardi Gras) held in the early morning hours on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) and New Year’s Eve.
- Queen’s Staircase. In the late 1800s slaves carved 65 steps into a solid limestone cliff in honor of Queen Victoria’s 65-year reign. Queen’s Staircase is located at the top of Elizabeth Avenue Hill, off Shirley Street.
- Pirates of Nassau Museum offers an interactive, educational experience into the 18th century, an era when pirates dominated Bahamian waters.
- Ardastra Gardens and Zoo’s five acres of tropical greenery include an aviary with rare birds and other exotic animals from different parts of the world. The zoo is renowned for its marching flamingos, the national bird of the Bahamas, which perform daily at 11 a.m. and 2 and 4 p.m.
Shopping in Nassau provides the opportunity to purchase unique foods, spices, ceramics, crafts, art and music. Nassau boasts stylish boutiques on Bay Street, outdoor fruit and vegetable stalls, a fresh fish market and the famed Straw Market, which sells locally made crafts, paintings and jewelry.
Grand Bahamas Activities
Lucayan National Park contains upland forests, rare flower species, mangrove creeks and a magnificent beach. It is the only place where you can see all six of the Islands’ ecosystems. It is also home to one of the world’s longest underwater systems of limestone caves, which served as a burial place for the Lucayan people. UNEXSO (Underwater Explorers Society), located at the Port Lucaya Marina, offers a variety of diving and dolphin experiences, including the popular dolphin swims where travelers interact with dolphins in a protected lagoon.
- Pinetree Stables, the biggest stable in the Bahamas, has more than 50 horses ready to head down the beach. The two-hour guided horseback ride takes visitors through endangered pine forests, past orange groves and along the beach and into the ocean. Riding experience is not required.
- Port Lucaya Marketplace & Marina is a harborside complex filled with shops, restaurants and entertainment spots.
- Count Basie Square, named after the famous jazz entertainer, lies in the center of Port Lucaya’s entertainment district.
Consider the Bahamas for an upcoming group travel program. There is something for every age and every mobility level. The islands are just a short flight or cruise away from the coast of Florida.
−By Cindi Brodhecker