Living in Florida, the Bahamas is a simple little 40 min flight or even a day boat ride and back. It’s been three years since I moved to Florida so when I finally had the chance to take that hop, skip and a jump, I did.
My brother had the good fortune to have a 4 night stay at Atlantis given to him by a casino franchise. I was invited along and quickly booked the $220 round trip ticket.
Now I know that the Bahamas was not very gay friendly, but I searched the Internet just for good measure. I read of one gay bar in Nassau on some street. The bar was only identified by a neon OPEN sign. I decided not to write the information down, but one bit of advice that was prevalent was that I should not go over the hill, whatever that meant. It sounded like the hill would be recognizable so I would wait until I was in Nassau to check it out.
The flight to Nassau, Bahamas was simple and quick. If you are staying at the Atlantis, book the shuttle ahead of time for it will save money. If you do not, make sure you set the cost of the fare ahead of time with your taxi driver which should be about $32 plus or minus a couple of bucks and then add tip. The Atlantis shuttle would be around $32 round trip or half the price.
The road away from the Nassau Airport, built with the assistance of Chinese investors, is the best road you will see on the island. There’s a story of Chinese partnering with the Bahamian government, building the road with Chinese funds with the understanding that the government would pay the Chinese back. Now that there is a new Bahamian regime in charge, the old deal may be off and reimbursement may not occur. You learn a great deal from your taxi drivers.
Getting to Atlantis, the first thought is how much did this place cost to build!?! Arriving at the resort, what comes to mind is a marriage of a Las Vegas Casino and the Aquarium in Atlanta, Georgia. There are literally miles of walking around the 141+ acre complex with marine wildlife everywhere you look. Unfortunately due to destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew, the hammerhead shark exhibit was off limits.
Since our stay at the Atlantis included passes to the attached water park, we used most of our first day to get very wet and go very fast. Some of the slides required tubes/floats while others were just cross your arms and ankles and go. If you did not stay at Atlantis, you could purchase a day pass to use the facilities.
For our first night on the island, we decided to venture into the area known as “The Fish Fry.” It’s a short cab ride from the resort to an area that’s basically a bunch of houses on a row that have been turned into eateries. Be prepared to be hounded beyond belief by the callers, trying to get you to eat at their establishment. They’re pretty vicious. We tried ignoring most of them while looking for a well attended establishment and one with food we wanted to eat. Settling on “The Big Yard,” we sat at the bar with Lorrette who took care of us very nicely. Pay attention to if they offer you something as a bribe to eat at their restaurant. We had to ask for the free conch fritters and 2 free shots, but we got them and they were good. I wouldn’t recommend walking around too much at night, but the two pilots that sat down next to us walked from their downtown hotel to “The Fish Fry” and seemed okay with it.
My brother and I are drinkers, so when we heard there was a distillery and a brewery on the island, we had to investigate. The second ful day in the Bahamas, we cabbed it to the John Watling Distillery for a simple tour. Aeisha greeted us at the door with a sample sized pina colada. I hate pina coladas and this was amazing. Drink it. She then took just my brother and I on a free 10 minute tour (gratuity suggested) which ended up in the gift shop and tasting room. Offered the chance to taste three rums, and another, plus a vodka made there at the distillery, we most definitely did, mind you, on an empty stomach. They were all very good with the cheapest and most expensive being my two favorites. The least expensive being smooth as silk and the other reminding me of turpentine. I would have bought both.
Walking from the distillery, we passed a chocolate factory on the way to down town. Yes, there’s a Wendy’s KFC, McDonald’s, and Burger King, but definitely bypass that for the local food. Walk around and see what everyone has to offer. There’s a bazillion little nooks in the Straw Market, but once again, they are there to make a buck. My brother and I walked into Senor Frogs and right back out as we were looking for something not as loud, which is hard to find since they love to play their music loud in Nassau. We were both craving ribs so we actually needed to exit down town, leave the jewelry and watch shops (yes, I was eyeing the $107,000 Breitling), and head out to the Bahamian Grill. Pricing out the meals and realizing it was 3:30, we hadn’t eaten all day, and we still have all that rum in vodka in our system, we order the rib meal that could feed four. It was the same price as two meals, honestly! If you have a chance, definitely try the macaroni / mac and cheese on the island. It’s baked and very very good. They also have lemonade and ginger lemonade made on the island which is worth ordering.
We put the food away and headed back down town to have a flight of beers at Pirate Republic Brewing, sat on the second floor balcony, and watched the people board the cruise ships. After the flights, we boarded another taxi and went back to Atlantis.
Craving another ginger martini from the Seafire Steakhouse in the Atlantis Marina, we headed back there and walked through the shops, admired the boats and got our drink on. Most of the nights we spent around the craps table as well as walking around the pools, aquariums, and drinking. If you are lucky enough to get a priority gambling card, they’ll throw in some free drinks and meals around Atlantis. The free 2 bottled waters a day per room were great as well.
So was it a good vacation? Most definitely. Was it one I would recommend all LGBTers? I would say yes, but with caution, a good amount of caution.
I saw the hill that I mentioned before. The distillery was at the top of it so I made sure to go down hill toward the cruise ships when we left.
I talked to many boys on the grid (sex apps). Some in the resort and some not too far away on the 21 by 7 mile island. The locals said there wasn’t a gay life to speak of on the island. The men that were at the resort were … hate to say it … passable. There weren’t any obviously gay men, except for the pack of bears that would wander around together. I did chat with a couple of different groups of gay men. They said they just wanted to come. One single guy was there as a shipmate on a British luxury yacht. He sat next to me at one of the bars one night. My brother recognized him and said, “I think he’s a famous actor.” I responded with the information I had gathered from my chat with the very attractive 20 year old.
I also saw something that was a little uncomfortable. As I watched my brother “crap” away his money on the craps tables, I noticed a couple of younger guys in my peripheral vision standing very close to each other. The hair was on point, the outfits, and I knew they were family. Of course, my peripheral vision exploded when they decided to hug each other and it wasn’t a bro hug. In the pit area behind the crap tables, there were three employees in suits watching the progress and gambling on the 4 surrounding tables. When they saw the affection being displayed between these two men, they all flipped out. One pointed and flailed in the direction of the two men whom were proceeding from behind my left shoulder to my right and then off in the 2 o’clock direction. All of the men in the pit watched in … I guess shock and a little disgust at what they were watching. I could not hear what they were saying but they were not happy and I feared for the safety of those two men. If this was happening in front of my eyes in this large Bahamian casino, I would gather it may be worse if it happened at the Fish Fry, down town, or just over the hill.
Would I go back? It’s not a definite yes and not a definite no. Many people go to the Bahamas as part of a cruise and are there just for a short stay, hours during the day light. While we were there staying in our harbor view room, we would watch the cruise ships come in and out, five new ones each day with only two staying the night, but gone in the morning, making room for new cruisers to experience Nassau.
If I went back, I may want to stay at Atlantis again because of the amenities, the water park, the wildlife, the casino, and the marina. But the rooms were on the average of $340 a night, or so the back of the room door says. If I went back, I may also consider what others do in the Bahamas … island hopping. Nassau is on one of the most populated islands, but there are so many more to see, supposedly 364 more.
Ask me in a while if I would go back. As for now, I know it is not very accepting of us LGBTers, so if you go, be safe and be smart.