“Make way for this beautiful lady…!”
The captain of the ferryboat took my hand and helped me onboard, smiling charmingly.
“Go, have a seat in the VIP section! Take your time!” he said, pointing towards the bow where there were some vacant spots.
I blushed – I always blush at that kind of thing (I’m British, so it’s expected) – and went to sit down. CM got on behind me, no doubt rolling his eyes at my simpering reaction, and we sat down, waiting for the other passengers to board the boat. I could hear the captain’s voice at the harbor wall, talking to them.
“Make way for this beautiful lady! Go, have a seat in the VIP section! Take your time!”
That made me laugh; you can’t but admire the patter that he came out with. The locals in the Bahamas rely on tips and as well as offering an amusing commentary during the journey, this guy knew how to work the crowd.
CM and I were spending a week at Harborside, a Starwood Vacation Ownership Resort on Paradise Island, Bahamas. I’d travelled from London, leaving the nine-year-old with her grandparents; he flew from Los Angeles; and we had met up in Miami and flown the short distance to Nassau together. We went with American Eagle, which has regular shuttles to cover the 180 miles from the US to the main island of the Bahamas. Flying over the Caribbean Sea had been a high point. To me, being a city girl, it really had looked like paradise.
Harborside resort lies next to the enormous complex of Atlantis, which occupies Paradise Island, a small island joined by Paradise Bridge to New Providence Island (the capital of which is Nassau). This Starwood resort is made up of neat, attractively colorful, three storey buildings housing different sized vacation rentals. They are beautifully appointed, spacious and well equipped with proper kitchens which are most definitely not merely some vague nod to domesticity, meaning that self-catering is simple and economical. The dining table was considerably larger than mine at home, but we rarely used it, preferring to sit out on the balcony. And our unit had a large master bedroom, with an ensuite that was so huge not even I could realistically complain about CM draping his scuba gear all round the tub to dry.
It is an easy walk, or a short trip on a courtesy shuttle bus, to any part of Atlantis, and residents have access to all the amenities available at the Atlantis complex – the numerous pools, kids’ activities, casino, restaurants, bars and the beach front are all within easy reach. It was great to have the choice at each meal whether to self-cater in the apartment, dress up and go out to somewhere swanky, or opt for something more low key.
The slightly detached location of Harborside means that it is ideal for families and those who want a little more space during a vacation. I enjoyed being able to pick and choose when to dip into Atlantis life, sometimes preferring to lie by the large, quieter pool only seconds walk from our timeshare rental and wandering round the shops and admiring the yachts in the marina. Having seen my vacation photos, the nine-year-old has decided that next time she simply must come, too, and in spite of my wanting to keep the place as my secret getaway, I have to agree with her that it would be just as perfect for the three of us.
This particular afternoon, CM and I had taken the ferryboat from the dock outside Harborside to New Providence, to see what real life was like outside of the resort. Nassau is famed as a destination for cruise ships, so the shops along well known Bay Street do a great trade in both designer merchandise as well as locally crafted products. The refurbished Straw Market houses countless stalls selling handmade specialties. And after we’d had enough of the bustle, and CM had openly mocked my idle wish to have my hair braided, we simply got on the ferry and headed back to the resort.
Vacationing at a timeshare resort, such as Harborside, is an attractive option. You have the best of both worlds: the opportunity to be pampered, looked after and entertained in one location, never having to stray far. For example, the spa at Atlantis was one of the best I have ever experienced, the restaurants were first rate and the resort staff were friendly and knowledgeable. You also, however, have the chance to use the resort as a base for exploring the island and going off to do your own thing.
There is a host of activities to choose from – day boat excursions to other islands, diving, exploring the beaches, taking a catamaran trip to a reef to snorkel – there is plenty of choice. CM and I did a couple of trips, my favorite being a powerboat ride to spend the day on Ship Channel Cay; a tiny outlying unspoiled island in the Exuma chain. We fed stingrays, watched sharks being fed, snorkeled the length of a reef and ate freshly caught fish.
The only thing that isn’t catered for? Post-vacation blues. So make sure you do as you’re told and take your time. You’re only in paradise for a while.