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2006/08/19 23:36 EDT
Grand Bahama Island Getaway
We just took a quick four-day trip to the Bahamas, Grand Bahama Island to be exact. Or better known as Freeport which is the second most popular destination in the Bahamas after Nassau on New Providence Island. This was our last fling before "the baby" comes.

The Bahamas could be considered foreign travel lite and is a place I would recommend for any American nervous about traveling out of the country for the first time. English is the primary language. The people are friendly and not pushy and seemed to enjoy a relatively high standard of living. And American money is accepted everywhere so there's no need to deal with currency exchange. Plus it's very close and accessible to the U.S. All this adds up to an easy foreign vacation.

Of course there are downsides, the number one being that just about everything is imported from the U.S. so there is not much "foreign" influence in the products are the food. One is simply paying more money to buy or eat the same things they can get at home. There are a few exceptions, however. For example, the various foods containing the conch mollusk -- conch fritters, conch chowder, etc. And although there was no Bahama beer as far as I could tell, I could get a Jamaican Red Stripe.

We stayed at the Westin Lighthouse. Actually we reserved a room at the Sheraton via Hotwire but they ended up putting us at the Westin which is, apparently, nicer. The lighthouse is actually the old, original hotel but it had been refurbished so it was quite nice. It was a bit out of the way but that meant that the pool was less crowded and there were fewer children. And it was convenient to UNEXSO the scuba operator which was across the street. So it worked out well.

I got a great deal at Hotwire. Only $73/night ($111/night after all fees & taxes are put in) which is very reasonable for a resort hotel like this. I guess they figure once they get you in the door they can try to get you with all the other charges -- activities, meals, etc. One nice thing about this location, though, is that there is a nice little shopping area across the street called the Lucaya Marketplace where there are cheaper meal options including a Subway sandwich shop and Dominos pizza. Oddly there were several Greek restaurants there. That's common here in the Detroit area but I was surprised to see this in the Bahamas. I didn't see any Mexican restaurants although I'd have certainly expected to see Mexican places before seeing Greek restaurants.

The food we had was generally okay. Here's the rundown:

  • Rum Runners - this was a bar we found when we walked around the marketplace while waiting for our room to be ready. I had two Red Stripes for $5. I had a burger and my wife had a veggie sandwich. Plus we got some conch fritters. The burger was okay. The veggie "sandwich" was actually a veggie burger which tasted terrible. My wife ditched the burger and put the lettuce & tomato in the bun and ate that instead. The conch fritters were kind of like hush puppies, little fried bread balls basically. I couldn't detect any conch in them. I don't know if this is normal or if it was because we were at a cheap place. This all cost about $20, a cheap meal by local standards. I'd go back there for drinks and a snack but probably not for a meal.
  • Giovanni's - for dinner we went back to the marketplace and wandered around. There are several Italian and Greek restaurants there and we settled on this one. The conch fritters were still weighing in our stomach so we split a seafood spaghetti and an appetizer of mozarella/tomato salad. The spaghetti was heavy on the conch pieces but was pretty good and the portions were quite plentiful. I was glad we hadn't ordered two dishes. Prices were reasonable by local standards. I think I ended up spending $40 which was very cheap considering we didn't have two full meals and no alcohol.
  • Westin Room Service - the next morning we had breakfast in our room again splitting a meal. This time a two-egg, bacon, toast breakfast. With service charges it cost about $20. Quality was good and it was a nice, relaxing way to start.
  • Sugar Mill Bar & Grill (Sheraton) - for lunch we didn't feel like leaving the pool/beach area so we went with the closest option which was the nearby pool bar. We split a veggie wrap and a fruit salad. I thought the fruit salad might contain some tropical fruits but it was exactly the kind of thing I'd see in Michigan (cantaloupe, honeydew, strawberries, blueberries and pineapple). Kind of boring but it was good (except that one of the strawberries had fungus on it). Sandwich was good. Any meal on a hotel property is a relatively pricy option but since we ate light and split a meal we got off cheaply. I think our total was about $20.
  • Prop Club (Westin) - that night I took a night dive and didn't get back until about 10pm so we went to the Prop Club which is a bar/disco and restaurant. I had a grilled salmon salad. My wife tried the conch chowder & 1/2 sandwich which was ok. We spent $32 there. They have some relatively cheap options there so you can get by somewhat inexpensively. Food was decent.
  • Dive-In - for breakfast, since I was going diving again, we had breakfast across the street at UNEXSO's little bar and grill. They have a good selection and it was pretty good. I had a breakfast sandwich and my wife had pancakes (or waffles, I forget) which were both decent. I think we paid about $15.
  • Subway - after I got back from diving, we went for a quick bite across the street at the Subway sandwich shop. It was exactly what you see in the U.S. Prices were a little higher but not much. We spent less than $10 so it probably our best value of the trip for meals.
  • Iries (Westin) - this being our final night we had our "nice" dinner at Iries, a Caribbean seafood restaurant. It was pricy but our meals were both quite good. I had Mahi Mahi and my wife had a dish with lobster, clams, etc. We got by with an $86 bill for two entrees and one mixed drink.
All in all we ended up spending about $100/day on food. Or $200/night for food & lodging so not at all bad for a nice tropical vacation. Given the proximity to us, I'd definitely go back for another relaxing tropical vacation.

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