Exploring The Bahamas with the Carnival Sensation

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, choosing a favorite country out of all I’ve visited is just impossible… almost every place I’ve been has a story and a special place in my heart.

Welcome to The Bahamas. Stretch out. Get some sun.

Welcome to The Bahamas. Stretch out. Get some sun.

BUT. If I absolutely had to choose, I might just pick The Islands of The Bahamas, a nation comprised of 700 islands, surrounded by the clearest water in the world, filled with lovely people and delicious seafood, and practically located in my backyard. In my past life as an agency publicist, The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism was my favorite client – and why wouldn’t it be? I was fortunate to be able to host meetings, video and photo shoots and press trips on some of the most gorgeous beaches in the world. I learned to scuba dive in the Abacos, crowned 2009’s Miss Universe at Atlantis and searched for pirate hideouts in the Exumas. (Pirate hideouts = Johnny Depp’s private island.) It’s no wonder I have such an enduring fondness for the country!

When I was faced with the difficult choice of which Carnival Cruise to take in December, I considered Mexico, Jamaica, Grand Cayman… but when I saw the quick 4-day dash on the Carnival Sensation from Port Canaveral (only 90 minutes from Angie Away Base Camp) to Nassau & Freeport, I knew that was the ideal place for my winter escape.

Jet skiing with Smash at Port Lucaya. Look at that water!

Jet skiing with Smash at Port Lucaya. Look at that water!

My travel companion was using his passport for the very first time, so I thought The Bahamas would be a great inaugural international excursion. I could introduce him to conch in every format and that ethereal turquoise water I never stop thinking about, and our brief port calls could be like an amuse-bouche for a longer visit in the future.

So what did we do in Freeport and Nassau?

Now, let’s get real for one hot Bahamian second, because I know there are tons of folks out there who have only been to Nassau and Freeport, and as a result, perhaps they weren’t so impressed with The Bahamas. To them I say, cruise ports are simply not representative of an entire nation. They’re a great place to start, and certainly great locations to seek out fun in the sun, but with 700 islands, Nassau and Freeport represent a very small, sometimes hectic and rather commercial part of an otherwise laid back and carefree place.

With that out of the way, let’s see what Smash & I got up to on our visit!

Grand Bahama Island

First we hopped a shared taxi ($10/each roundtrip) to Port Lucaya, about 20 minutes from Freeport on Grand Bahama Island. We walked along the beach at Grand Lucaya and found our way to a jet ski rental hut. Why not, we said? It’ll be fun… right?

Well, it was fun… but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little scared with Smash in the driver’s seat!

After about an hour of bone-rattling wave-jumping, I was ready to get back on land and find some conch. Just up from the water sport hut is Billy Joe’s Conch Shack, a Grand Bahama institution. This colorful seafood shanty is right on the beach, so you can order up fresh – seriously, made to order right in front of you – conch salad, or some cracked conch and lobster plates, too. Grand Bahama Island is also the home of the Sands Brewery, so it’s the best place to have a taste of this local beer.

Fresh conch plucked up from the sea floor, just for you!

Fresh conch plucked up from the sea floor, just for you!

Billy Joe's Conch Shack is the perfect place to get your conch fix.

Billy Joe’s Conch Shack is the perfect place to get your conch or lobster fix.

Conch salad, anyone? Trust me, you've got to try this stuff!

Conch salad, anyone? Trust me, you’ve got to try this stuff!

Nassau / Paradise Island

Having spent the day in Grand Bahama lollygagging & jet-skiing at the beach, Smash & I wanted to do something different during our day in Nassau. At the Carnival Sensation excursion desk, we booked full day passes to Atlantis Aquaventure, one of my favorite water parks in the world. I knew Smash would like both the water slides and The Dig, Atlantis’ epic aquarium, so even though I’ve been there, it seemed like a great way to pass a sunny day in Nassau.

The jellyfish exhibit at The Dig is mesmerizing.

The jellyfish exhibit at The Dig is mesmerizing.

Trying out my new selfie stick with Atlantis Resort in the background. What an enormous place!

Trying out my new selfie stick with Atlantis Resort in the background. What an enormous place!

We spent so much time exploring the various exhibits inside The Dig, we could only do a few of the slides. Naturally, I HAD to do the Serpent Slide… which ends in a shark tunnel. YESSSSSS!

And I couldn’t stop raving about my last visit when I tried out the lazy river… which at Atlantis, is anything but lazy.

Last time I was at Atlantis must’ve been late 2010, right before I quit my job and embarked on my RTW adventure. The resort has added many activities in those years, and I had no idea how much there was to do. Dolphin encounters, sting ray feedings and my favorite offering, scuba in the shark tank! Unfortunately our brief stop in port didn’t give us nearly enough time to do all that we wanted, so we’ll have to come back. 

In my element at Atlantis.

In my element at Atlantis.

We didn’t have enough time — but I’m not complaining. I actually think that’s one of the great reasons to cruise. You can visit several places, never have to unpack and you can get a little taste of each location, just enough to decide where you’d like to visit for longer on the next trip.

Have you ever seen a cooler water slide? AND you can scuba dive in this tank.

Have you ever seen a cooler water slide? AND you can scuba dive in this tank.

Art or aquarium? Hard to tell at Atlantis.

Art or aquarium? Hard to tell at Atlantis.

Even though I’ve spent more time in The Bahamas than just about any other country aside from my own, it’ll always be at the top of my travel wish list.

So tell me, have you ever cruised? What’s your favorite cruise port? Ever visited Atlantis?

Thanks to Carnival for hosting me on the Sensation. All opinions, as always, are 100% my own. 

COME AWAY WITH ME!
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