> Destinations > The Bahamas > Trip Reports > Trip Report
My family just returned from a wonderful, relaxing vacation on GBI. We traveled Air Tran New Orleans-Atlanta-Freeport route at $178 r/t plus taxes/fees of $30. Upon check in at New Orleans,required to show proper identification (Passports for us and raised seal birth certificate for daughter- also had a photo ID made for her at local Dept of Vehicles just in case needed photo and in case of emergency). We were also required to show same ID for boarding at New Orleans as well as Atlanta. Footnote: Met an Air Tran pilot and family who were vacationing at our resort and flew Greensboro-Balitmore route and did NOT have a raised seal birth certificate for 3 children (North Carolina)- were not allowed to board even though pilot with same airline and had to fly back home to obtain- lost a day of vacation. We processed through customs and immigration in Freeport without any diffciulty at all. We were asked "What's in the bags?" and then "Any alcohol?" to which we said "yes" and before we could expand, the agent said "Like 2 bottles?" -confirmed that we were bringing in one bottle of Bourbon and one bottle of wine in carryon. Footnote: We used a hard-sided suitcase to bring in food items for snacks and had no real difficulty with this. We took canned nuts, cheese crackers, Goldfish, the "To-Go" cups of M&M's/cookies, 2 six packs of Coke in plastic bottles, loaf of bread packed in Rubbermaid container, Pringles, Starbucks coffee, crackers for cheese.
For a carryon, we used a small soft-sided cooler and packed with various cheeses, several yogurts, sandwich ham , 3 bottled waters, and 2 deli sandwiches for our lunch en route due to early flight. Obtained taxi to Our Lucaya Resort for $20 for 3 people and 5 bags.
Arrived at Manor House for check-in and was greeted nicely by the many bellmen and with a cup of fruit punch. The front desk was not rude, but rather just sort of "blah" and not the same "Welcome" we received from Taxi driver and bellman. They were unable to provide a non-smoking room as requested, but could accomodate our ocean view (booked directly through the Our Lucaya website at $99 per night plus room tax $14 and service charge $15.60 or $7.80 each adult. We agreed to at least look ("smell") the room and were assured that if the room was not suitable they would try to work with us. We Were taken via van over to the Sheraton. The staff were SO much more welcoming and accommodating at the Sheraton than at the Manor House and remained this way throughout the week. Our bellman, Christopher, was SO nice. He took us up to inspect room prior to bringing in luggage. To our suprise, the room did NOT smell like smoke at all and was very appealing with regards to decor and the ocean view. We approved the room and luggage was promptly delivered. The "Sheraton Sweet Sleeper" bed and 4 down pillow each bed were great!
As we had read the message board and were prepared that the rooms at the Sheraton would not have much of an "ocean view", we were quite pleased with the view we had. We stayed in room 4030 in the West wing. Footnote: Renovations are being done at the Sheraton and the entire first floor of the West wing was closed. There was no inconvenence to gusets and you really had to "look" to notice that renovations were underway. Our room had obviously just been redone and thus no built-up smoke smell- and I have a sensitive nose! Future guests should know that even numbered rooms are the rooms most likely to have some sort of ocean view. The West/East wings have 4 floors while the center has 5. Beware that although you would think that views would be best on 5th floor in center facing ocean, the 4th/5th floor on the center wing overlook the roof/satellite of the Barracuda restaurant. Also, there is noise there from the rooftop AC unit for Barracudas. Likewise, there are rooms on floors 1-4 of the East wing, although facing ocean, that have a direct view of the "Prop Club" only.
Again, I feel that we lucked out where we were and may have had one of the best ocean views of any rooms except rooms 4024,22,20,18 which were being renovated (quietly and unobtrusively) to make one suite (4024) and then the next 3 rooms adjoining with options to open up. These rooms do face the Sugar Mill but you have more of an ocean view than the slide tower. The workers left these rooms open one evening so we took the privlege of viewing. Footnote: Although we packed a corkscrew (remember only allowed in checked baggage), our room was stocked with one. We had a small 3 shelf (dorm size) refrigerator that we did not need to order from front desk. In addition, our wonderful houskeeping lady noted that I had brought my own Starbucks coffe and on our second morning and the remainder of out trip, she left hotel packeaged "Starbucks" rather than the initial "Maxwell House". Other staff who stood out as very accomodating were Teena and Gergeanne at the Sheraton front desk,the 2 ladies at On higher Grounds coffee bar, the security guard on Am shift in lobby-wish I had noted his name. If staying at the Westin, floors 9 and up will have the best ocean view as loser floors will see more of the various pools/grills/huts. The entire resort is set back from the ocean with the exception of the Lanai suites which I thought was the optimal if you do not have children who want to spend their day at the Sugar Mill pool. The grounds of the resort were very attractive!
Let's talk about food/meals since the message board has alerted you that the food cost is high on GBI. With the exception of pastries from lobby and burgers at Sugar Mill, we cjose not to eat at the resort restaurants and opted to eat at Our Lucaya Market place offerings to stay within a budget and spend more money on activities. Most mornings for breakfast, I made our Starbucks in the room, then went down to the lobby coffee bar for take-out of croissant (1.35) and a donut for our daughter (1.25). This was sufficient for us and I thought these 2 items were fairly priced. Other items/costs there were bagel (2.50), variuos pastries (1.50) fruit tart (2.50). Note that coffe there (Starbucks) is $3 a cup. If eating out for breakfast and want decent food and fair prices, I would suggest Zorbas at Port Lucaya Marketplace. We ate breakfast there one day and lunch 2 days. French Toast with bacon is $4, 2 eggs/bacon or sausage/toast about $4 and coffee is $1 cup with free refills. For lunch, we had sandwiches one day using the items brought in, ate at Zorbas 2 days ( Gyro with salad or fries $8, steak and cheese sandwich with fries $8, personal pizza (daughter) $4, quarter roasted chicken with salad and portatoes $9 and canned sodas $1 (great!)
The food was tasty and we did not find the service too slow. We noted that the tables were always full throughout the week. For 2 other lunches, we had hamburger/fries from Sugar Mill Grill by the pool while enjoying the sun. The burgers were great! ($10 for burger/fries). Soft drinks were costly ($4) so we opted to go inside to vending machine to obtain our drinks at a $1 each. Another day, we chose Ferry House restaurant on the channel and directly across from the fountain at Manor House. While the dinners can be quite costly here, the fixed price for lunch is a good value with quality food and atmosphere for the island. The menu changes daily. For $21 each, we had choice of soup or exciting salad, a choice of 4 entrees such as sea bass, seafood pasta, grilled chicken dishes, and then ice cream with pastry cookie for dessert. We sat outside on the dock and watched the boats traveling in/out of the channel. Beware there is no "childrens menu". My daughter is too picky to appreciate elaborate dishes, but we ordered her a side of new potatoes and green beans from the regular lunch menu. Lunch is served 12:30 - 2:30. They have a website that you can view menus. The 3 course fixed price lunch is definitely a value when viewing the entree costs if you want to stay within a budget. We frequented Billy Joe's (yellow hut at end of resort property beside Sugar Mill).
Amazingly, several people we talked to on the plane who had stayed at the resort did not notice this wonderful place for local flavor, music, and interaction. Do not miss this! Watching the "conch man" crack and pull out the conch from the wheelbarrow full of beautiful conch shells was quite entertaining. You are able to watch him prepare the conch salad that was being consumed by tons of people daily ($6 a bowl- I think). I tasted it - just because and it was actually good. The hot dog that my daughter had was Not tasty but the plate of fries ($2) was a super island deal that we enjoyed a couple of times while at the pool. Also note that Kalik (local beer that I fell in love with!) is $4 a bottle here which is much less than the various pool bars at the resort. We brought Kalik at Billy Joe's and then poured into plastic cup to take by pool if we wanted. The entertainment (Fri thru Mon) was great! A single local playing organ, singing all types of songs. I would have rather listened to this all week by the pool rather than the loud music being played by the Sheraton outside activities.
At Billy Joes, there are a couple of picnic tables in the sand where you can sit/eat/listen/mingle...Billy Joe is often there (I thought he looked like Danny Glover which he thought was quite amusing!) For dinners, we opted for the following: Pisces (very good), Shenanigans (very good- lots of people there who must either come in on private boats for weekend or own condos on the island---all were greeting each other and you could feel the bond that they shared-shrimp/chicken curry $14/chicken pot pie $12 and gracious plenty- no children's menu but waitress offered 4 items from lunch menu and my daughter opted for chicken tenders/fries $10- chicken wings for appetizer- beer prices about 3.50), The Pub (slow service and fair food BUT good beer prices ($3 Corona's, Kalik,Heineken,Bud,Coors,Becks,Lucayan and $4 Guinness) and bourbon an coke was served in a tea glass for $5)- adjoins La Dolce Vita and their watiers were also serving people inside the Pub at a much faster pace-Husband asked our waiter about obtaining a cigar- did not perform, but when aasked the La Dolce Vita waiter, had a cigar ion less than 3 minutes for strolling around Marketplace, Lucianos (Wonderful food and we opted for the early bird 5:30 - 7:00 fixed price 3 course menu at $25- choice of casear salad(great!) or chicken soup, 4 entree choices of filet, prime rib, grilled fish,duck and then ice cream or sherbert for dessert - We had filet and prime rib and both were GREAT. Sides included french grenn beans and honey glazed carrots and potatoes- plenty of food- We had a $20 bottle of wine which was good. Again, no children's menu but we ordered chicken soup and a garden salad for our daughter and my husband gave her his ice cream which made her very happy. We arrived at 6:30 and opted to sit outside overlooking the boats. It was initially a little warm as the sun was beaming in but nothing unbearbale. The inside was beautifully decorated. The staff was friendly and service was quick. We also ate at Giovannis outside one evening- food was very good (Scampi pasta $15, forgot what my husband had, daughter had chicken sandwich without the sauce $9, appetizers procuitto/melon $6 and smoked salmon $9) BUT service was VERY SLOW- longest wait we had the entire week (20 minutes to get drink, another 25 minutes to get appetizer, and another 40 minutes for entree). Beware that many restaurants were not open for Sunday evening (Giovannis/Shenanigans/Lucianos were the ones that I remember).
Our biggest disappointment with regards to meals was the Fish Fry/Pig Roast at Club Caribe on Sat night. Frist the positives on this: phoned for pick up at hotel and promtply picked up at 6:15 and enjoyed our conversation with the female driver who mas managing the place that evening. SHe said she was not Beth, the onwer, but I do not remmeber her name. The restaurant has a FANTASTIC view of the ocean from the picnic type tables on the covered porch. Some children, who also were transported from our hotel, took swim wear and snorkel equip and changed in the outside cabana/restroom and enjoyed the ocean a while before the buffet stareted at 7. 3 girls who were on a horseback ride (from a new operation that Janice Treco hooked them up with- not PineTree)and tied up for dinner which was nice for them. When we arrived there were a total of 11 guests including us but that number did climb later on to about 17. There were 2 people waiting on tables for drinks (Stanley was our waiter) and I felt that it took way too long to get a drink considering the amount of guests (11) there. En route to the restaurant, the other party commented about wanting burgers for the kids and the driver said that they usualu stick to the Fish Fry only for Sat nite and the grill may have alrady shut down. However, she requested hamburgers for those children (We encouraged our daughter to give up burgers and try the local food and she complied)and they were able to enjoy these. When it was time for the buffet to begin, I guess I was expecting a little more excitement versus "you can go whenever you want to"...The excitement needs to be spiced up here.
The food was a BIG disappointment. First let me say, that we have lived/traveled all over the world to the best and worst countires and we are always open and anxious to try local foods. It was not the food choices that we disappointed in ( Weknew what would be served in advance), but the actually Quality of the food. All food (fried fish with heads on, grilled grouper,mac/cheese, rice/peas) with exception of the pork, was extremely dry and just did not even look tasty at all. The slow was not chilled eben though mayo based. Again the pork was tasty and amazingly I did fill up on this. My husband, who usually will eat anything one time, could not this night and left his food on his plate as well. I felt bad for my daughter who really wanted a burger (they did look good!) and was convinced to try the buffet by us and wound up only eating a bite of pork. Again, it was just the presentation/quality of food- dry and unappealing. Rather than stay for the planned bonfire, we opted to be transported back to our hotel. We were dropped off at the Marketplace per our request and endulged in ice cream at Maria's- another great bargain at $1.50 for small cup and $2.50 for medium cup....very tasty! This is just our opinion of our experience at Club Caribe and we think it is a fair one- I would never go back for the Fish Fry but I might go there for lunch one day to enjoy the view and drink/sandwich. For those interested, the buffet price was $17 per adult and $9 children.
Let's talk about activities. We enjoyed the Sugar Mill Pool daily and the Serpentine pool/hot tubs. We rode the banana boat ($10 each), kayaked in the ocean ($20 for hour), jet skied (3 people $60 for half hour). ALl of these actiivties were done diectly in fornt of the Sheraton on a walk-up basis. There were free scheduled activities daily by the Sheraton pool which we all enjoyed- coconut bolwing (I won 1 x), limbo, local dance lessons, hula hoop (daughter won 2 x)contests, bingo, pool volleyball, beach volleyball, water ballon tosses, scavenger hunts (we won 2 x), etc. The bonfire (forgot which night), started but fizzled out before we could get there form dinner due to rain. There is a basketball goal beachside as well as pingpong poolside. We had a drink at the swim-up pool bar at Westin one day. Note that drinks are very pricey at the pools- 2 tropical or frozen drinks will run about $18....but the Mango Daiguiris' were great! Remember Billy Joe's for beer and this will save some money. ALthough we brought in 3 small bottled waters and then refilled with tap water during the week (tap water was fine), we did buy 3 bottled waters at pool bar one day for some reason and this ran $7. The tap water was perfectly fine for drinking. We enjoyed the nightly music/dancing at Count Basie Square in the Marketplace.
A highlight of the trip was our evening fishing trip with Captain Les of Lil B Fishing. We were picked up by his wife Janice at 5:20 and transported to their place on the water and departed at 5:30 for bottom fishing. The Trecos have lived on the island for 12 years and Janice was very helpful in answering many questions for us prior to our arrival. Capt Les was entertaining and quite knowlegeable about fishing. We fished for "Whatever Bites"- his boat name and caught variuos types of snapper, otehr fish with funny names, and a big barracuda that wanted to chase our fish away. We chose not to keep any fish, but Les would have cleaned them if we wanted. My husband enjoyed catching the barracuda and he and Les were happily challenged by this. My daughter caught the most fish and enjoyed the trip until she pooped out at the end. Les gave her some lessons on the Fish Finder which she was entertained with. We fished until about 9 and then started in. We could hear the lively Smith Point Fish fry (Wed night) that is a popular local choice and wished that we had opeted for that instead of Club Caribe. Les also works for Reef Tours and sails their catamaran. For personal service and a fun fishing trip, i would highly recommend Les. He has a web site and he can also be contacted through his wife, firstname.lastname@example.org. The trip was a 4 hour trip at $45 each with a min of 2 people and max 4. We enjoyed meeting his 10 yr old son Brian who we hear is the luckiest fisherman on in the island. Les was anxiously awaiting lobster season which was about to begin when we left.
Another highlightm turned fatal, was visiting Blackbeard's at Coral Beach Condos- oceanfront bar and spending time with the bartender Charmaine-beachfront and happy hour 4-7 with 2/1 drinks except frozen- no credit cards-from Shearton, walk right on the beachside for about 10 minutes...nice walk and this is also a nice stretch to enjoy the beach in a less-congested manner than beachfront at Sheraton. We enjoyed Charmaine and another gentleman who lived down the beach. Mistake was letting Charmaine pick out my 2/1 drink- VooDoo Juice-truns out it had 5 different rums in it and by the time we walked back to the hotel, I had lost my sunglasses, was stumbling, and eventually got sick- what a way to spend the first night on the island- So beware of the Voodoo juice but do go visit Charmaine. Only wish they had been serving food there (grill closed at 4 and we were there around 6).
We enjoyed our week. Be sure that you arrive 2 hours prior to flight out of Freeport as the line and wait was very long. Waited in line with luggage to chek in at Air Tran for one hour...then pulled luggage to another line to go thru immigration, another line for security, another for customs. Unlike coming in to GBI, we were only required to show passports one time in Freeport and one time at baording in ATL...flight 3 hours delayed in ATL due to bad weather on eastern seaboard. I was flagged at customs in Freeport as x-ray was picking up food items and something suspicious. This was no big deal- just looked in soft cooler and then in hard suitcase. Inspected daughter's large rock-like sand dollar and then put stickers on outside on gas to show "all clear". We were expecting to pay a departure tax in "cash" that we had heard would be about $20 each but this never happened so that was $60 that we had planned to give up but did not have to...do not know about this- just know we did not pay anything leaving FPO...YOu do US customs in Freeport and not in the US . I would like to thank all who helped ansewr ?'s prior to our trip (Janice Treco, Diane Patterson, Carrie, Danny Ditson, and Sigmond (sp?).
If anyone has any questions that I might help with, please e-mail me directly. Enjoy your vacation as much as we did!
Thanks to Lisa for this trip report ...