Special reprint from the original Flightbag
Special reprint from the original Flightbag
I am sure that some of you will be first time visitors to The Bahamas, either to Freeport or Nassau/Paradise Island. This is just a short blurb to let you and others know what to expect. I will be giving you a typical scenario of a trip to Nassau, via one of the consolidators, Apple Vacations, from the Washington, DC /Baltimore Maryland area:
To begin with, BWI is quite a large International airport. If you are fortunate, you'll have someone to drop you off and pick you up, or you might want to hire one of those airport vans that will pick you up and drop you off, well before flight time. Please be aware that for international flights, it is recommended that you arrive at least 2 hours before your flight leaves. We have been "late" as much as 30 minutes, and others have been "late" as much as an hour and a half outside of that window. I wouldn't chance it. Arrive early, check your luggage if necessary, eat a nice leisurely breakfast. After all, this is really the start of your vacation.
Airline food can be a bit pricier than anywhere else. But, what choice do you have except brown bagging it? Anyway, get check in and get your seat assignment before you eat. Apple uses charters such as Private Jet, Allegro, and at one time Carnival (Airline). They will board from BWI's international pier. About a half hour before boarding, find your way to the gate. Once, a few years back, our charter left early because all of the passengers had checked in and had their boarding passes. On to the plane.
Like a lot of airlines, nowadays, there are certain restrictions: no cell phones, or electronic devices during take-off and landings. Carry-on may be restricted by size. That is why I recommend a "flight bag" (oops, another plug) of about 19-20 inches in height and about 4-5 inches deep. It should fit nicely in the overhead compartment.
Airline food to some is an oxymoron. Many will simply say, it is neither airline nor food. You may have your own conclusion. At least they try. They want to give you a little something to hold you, such as: ¾ of a sandwich (I kid you not!), a ¼ of ham, chicken and roast beef; some soft cheese and some crackers, something sweet, (like a candy bar) and a beverage. Please remember that you are not dining in a 5-star restaurant, and that these 3-5 flight attendants have to feed, and then pick up the litter from about 100-125 passengers in less than an hour. Their man concern is to transport you from point A to point B. If this can be done at a very reasonable price, I'll bring my own snack (it will no doubt be better anyway).
While in flight they will distribute a Bahamas Entry Card. You must fill this in and present it to Immigration (or is that Emigration? I always confuse the 2) you'll need your passport, birth certificate (official with raised seal) or other proof of citizenship. After your meal, and the trash is taken up they will make sure you have one. You will need one for every person. Be sure to sign it.
As you descend from the clouds, you will be able to see New Providence Island at a distance. After landing, you will exit via the new jet-way. These are fairly new to Nassau. At one time you had to deplane and board via the old rolling stairway, but those days are over. Walking along, you make your way to the immigration desk. There are usually lines at each station. Please note, there are separate lines for those Bahamian nationals returning home, as well as those who will be traveling on to other destinations. If in doubt just ask someone. If you arrive during the day, there'll be a band playing lively calypso music while you are waiting in line. It has been said that in the Bahamas there are only 2 speeds, "slow" and "stop". While that may or may not be the case with you. Please remember that with sometimes 2-4 planeloads of people deplaning at the same time, that is a lot of people to process-please be patient.
Surprisingly, once you get at the front of the line and finally get waited on, the process isn't that bad, provided that your form is filled out correctly. You will be given a portion of that form. PLEASE KEEP IT, AS YOU WILL NEED IT WHEN YOU LEAVE. It now time to claim your luggage. On the way, the local liquor distributor, Butler and Sands, has a stand that will give you a little sample of the Bahamas, with a small taste of their rum punch or other island drinks. After this, find your luggage on the carrousel. You must next present your luggage to an inspector who will then pass you through. Oh by the way, WELCOME TO THE BAHAMAS!!
Now with your luggage in hand, or in come cases on a cart, what do you do? Since you've gone via Apple Vacations, Go-Go Travel, or some other vacation consolidator, part of your "ground" (that is to say, what is included in your package once you arrive-the "air" is your airline transportation and the "ground" usually includes your transfers to your hotel, as well as your hotel accommodations), is your transfer. Apple Vacations uses Majestic Tours. They are very efficient and reliable. Just outside the airport, you'll find a lot of mini-buses. They are a little bit larger than a van, but smaller than the buses we are used to stateside. Provided in your documents are coupons for your transfers, one inbound (to the hotel) and one outbound (from the hotel to the airport). The name of the carrier is on the coupon. With the large companies like Apple Vacations, they will provide name tags for your luggage. It will include as well as your name and address, the name of the hotel/resort you'll be staying at and the dates.
The driver who will take you to your hotel will tell you where to put your luggage. It will go in a separate truck. Now you'll be separated from your luggage for a while, but rest assured, they do this all the time. Given time (usually in less than an hour, your luggage will arrive where you are-ASSUMING THAT YOU FILLED OUT YOUR TAGS AND SECURED THEM TO YOUR LUGGAGE.
Now the fun begins. Bahamians have made using all available space in those mini-buses a science. Upon boarding, fill up from the rear. If you are sitting in an aisle seat, you'll notice that the "armrest on your left, sits a bit high. That's not an arm rest-that's jump seat that will fold down, so now there will be 4 seated across in the middle of the bus as it is in the back. Even the motor "hump" is a seat towards the front.
As you leave the airport, you will see a vintage jet aircraft (ca.1960s) as you travel towards your destination. You also will notice that the driver is driving on the wrong side of the road. Don't worry. Since the Bahamas was once part of the British Empire, they, like the British drive on the left. Majestic will stop at the first hotel along the way. You might have to get up to let passengers out. But there are other things you won't see: road rage, traffic jams, the snow you left behind, the work you left at your office-it's all gone. They're not here. Instead the sun is shining, the beaches indeed DO have pink sand and it's yours for the taking. Make the best of the time you are here. Whether you're on New Providence, or Grand Bahamas, whether you're on Cable Beach, Paradise Island, Lycaya or Freeport-enjoy yourself. Leave your troubles, and stresses at home. Because here in the sun and fun, you might not even want to wear a watch! REMEMBER, IT'S BETTER IN THE BAHAMAS!!
by Wilmer T. Frazier Jr.