By Jim Ferri
My wife and I, both under pressure with work, decided to take a short three-day cruise from Miami to Nassau in The Bahamas.
Our plan was to get away for a few days of reading and relaxing, and do absolutely nothing. In fact, we had even planned to stay on board once we reached Nassau, to have the ship to ourselves when all of our fellow passengers went ashore.
It didn’t quite work out as planned.
Many others apparently had also planned to stay aboard and as the volume escalated around the pool on the aft deck, we decided to jump ship.
An Unexpected Tour of Nassau
In retrospect, we had a much better time just wandering about Nassau and Paradise Island for a few hours than if we had lounged by the pool. It’s a pleasant place to walk about if you take the same you would in any city.
Off the gangplank we went, pushing our way through a swarm of touts and taxi drivers offering Bahamian knickknacks, tours of Nassau, rides to the megaresort Atlantis or anyplace else we wanted to go on the postage-stamp of an island.
We were quickly outside on the street and began walking. It was Sunday morning and everything was quiet, and the street fairly devoid of traffic. We just wandered aimlessly for an hour or so, enjoying the kaleidoscopic street scene, pausing for a while to poke about the straw market where we decided the goods offered back on the pier were of higher quality.
The Queen’s Staircase
On our way again we soon came to the Queen’s Staircase, also known as the 66 steps. It’s a major landmark in town, a staircase hewn out of limestone rock by slaves back in 1793 to provide better a quicker route between Fort Fincastle at the top of the hill and Nassau town down below.
It was named in honor of Queen Victoria but really only has 65 steps since the first was paved over when the road was modernized.
I wasn’t excited with the idea of climbing the staircase but was enticed to do since all the vegetation about it made it a cool oasis from the hot sun. The fact my wife was already a quarter of the way up was another motivating factor.
Little Fort Fincastle
At the top we turned right towards little Fort Fincastle but had to first pass by a bulwark of tourist kiosks, all selling the same stuff we has seen downtown.
We continued along past the kiosks, and in a few minutes came to five men building signs for Bahamas Independence Day, just a few days off. Talking with them we found they were brothers, ranging in age from the mid-40s to 70.
Deyanza, the eldest, and obviously in charge of his younger siblings, told us the signs were going to be put on top of towers, and he shared a bit about the history of the area. When we told him we had arrived that morning by ship we learned he and his wife loved to cruise and would soon be off on a cruise to Europe.
We were soon off as well, to look at Fort Fincastle atop Bennett’s Hill, the highest point on the island, although not as tall as the upper deck of our ship, close by in the harbor below. It was quite small as forts go, one of several built between 1697 and 1798 to serve as protection not only from pirates, but also from any expansionist efforts by Spain, France, or the government of colonial America.
We walked on back down to the cruise terminal and again entered the crush of taxi drivers all offering to take us to Atlantis. We finally found one that would only charge us $4, but learned too late that we had to wait until he filled his minivan with other passengers as well. After a half hour we finally left with the driver playing music so loud that we couldn’t hear one another speak.
We hadn’t brought any bathing suits and just wanted to walk back to Atlantis’s much ballyhooed pool area and see its beach, but as non-guests weren’t allowed beyond the lobby. We were instead given directions to access the adjacent public beach down the road.
It was only a five-minute walk, and although it shared the same sand and water with the resort, its entrance certainly lacked the cachet of its neighbor.
We walked along a dirt path past a gaggle of entrepreneurs selling everything short of bathing suits anyone could want on the beach – towels, chairs, umbrellas, cokes, beer, etc. and continued out onto the sand. We spent all about two minutes looking at the beach and the aquamarine sea before heading back to the hotel lobby. We took the first taxi that came along back over the bridge to Nassau.
A Delicious Lunch
Our destination was the Poop Deck, a small Bahamian restaurant highly recommended by a friend because of the quality of its seafood and the ambiance of its marina location.
Once at our table we quickly ordered two cold local beers to compare, a Kalik and a Sands, along with yellow-tailed snapper and mahi-mahi. All four were excellent.
The only surprise was the dessert of piña colada cake (which turned out to be similar to a very large cupcake infused with pineapple juice and rum with a coconut cream icing) and the numerous signed photos on the wall…Sally Jesse Raphael, John Kennedy Jr., Sean Connery, Philip Michael Thomas, Ed Begley Jr., and about 50 more whose signatures I couldn’t even begin to decipher.
It was an enjoyable and relaxing few hours. We were back onboard around four, greeted by the music still blaring on the aft deck.
If you go:
Bahama Ministry Of Tourism
1200 South Pine Island Road Suite 750
Plantation, FL 33324
Tel: (954) 236-9292