The Bahamas Are Back
with New Flights, Hotels, and a Huge Water Park
The Bahamas is more open to international visitors than it has been since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and clients heading to the islands of the Bahamas will be welcomed back by old favorite resorts and experience some brand new attractions, too.
Since May 1, international travelers fully vaccinated against COVID-19 for at least two weeks prior to departure may visit the Bahamas have been exempted from coronavirus testing requirements for entry and inter-island travel. (Unvaccinated travelers must still present a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test taken no more than 5 days prior to the date of arrival in order to enter the Bahamas.)
As travel restrictions have eased, more Bahamian resorts have reopened, and international air travel options have expanded, as well.
RESORTS, AIRLIFT & CRUISES
The all-inclusive Riu Palace Paradise Island resort reopened in May, for example, as did the Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach, another all-inclusive resort located in Freeport on Grand Bahama Island.
Meanwhile, after a year of airline route contractions, it’s getting easier to get to the Bahamas, too. American Airlines launched new flights from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Texas to Lynden Pindling International Airport in Nassau on June 5, and Frontier Airlines announced direct flights four times weekly from Miami International Airport to Nassau starting in July.
Grand Bahama Island not only had to contend with the tourism challenges presented by COVID-19 but also serious damage inflicted by Hurricane Dorian in 2019. The island’s airport was particularly hard-hit in the storm, but the temporary terminal at Grand Bahama International Airport recently doubled in size to 8,000 square feet as plans proceed for redevelopment of permanent aviation facilities on the island.
Cruising is back in the Bahamas, too, even as the industry struggles to regain its footing in its traditional bases in south Florida. In June, the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation announced that Royal Caribbean’s Adventure of the Seas will be home-ported in Nassau, thus bypassing Florida altogether and embarking on itineraries that include Grand Bahama Island and the cruise line’s private island, CocoCay.
Crystal Cruises was first out of the gate, however, launching new close-to-home “Bahamas Escapes: itineraries July 3, 2021 with 16 seven-night, round-trip cruises from Nassau on the Crystal Serenity and another 16 seven-night round-trips from Bimini beginning on July 4. Both itineraries will include port calls at the Bahamian “sister islands” of Harbour Island, Great Exuma, San Salvador, and Long Island. Cruisers can also extend their visit to the Bahamas with land-sea packages that include stays at the SLS Baha Mar resort in Nassau and the Hilton Resorts World Bimini.
Another revived Bahamas cruise option is taking the Balearia Caribbean ferry from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Grand Bahama Island, with Baleria and the Viva Wyndham Fortuna resort offering all-inclusive ferry and stay packages starting at $495 per person for three-night getaways.
NEW AND IMPROVED
COVID-19 may have put a temporary hold on travel for much of the past 15 months or so, but many Bahamian resorts continued to move forward with plans to renovate, expand, and even open entirely new properties.
The much anticipated Margaritaville Beach Resort in Nassau, for example, officially debuted in July following a soft opening. A new landmark in downtown Nassau, the resort includes the Fins Up Water Park, 10 bars and restaurants including JWB Prime Steak and Seafood, the Parakeets Kids’ Club, and the St. Somewhere Spa.
Sandals Resorts had already embarked on a multi-million-dollar renovation of the Sandals Royal Bahamian resort in Nassau before COVID, adding signature “river suites” and freshening up more than 200 guest rooms at the Cable Beach resort. But Sandals recently announced a plan to go further with the makeover by adding a new lounge concept called Coconut Grove and extend renovations to the resort’s private island, Sandals Cay.
The additions pushed the reopening date of the resort from November 2021 to January 2022. “Keeping this hotel under wraps until it is absolutely ready is the right thing to do,” said Sandals Executive Chairman Adam Stewart. “We’re in an environment of great expectation and when our guests arrive, it will be a place of Caribbean calm and cool that will definitely have been worth the wait.”
Nassau visitors staying at the sprawling Baha Mar resort complex will be able to cool off at a new beachfront water park, Baha Bay, which debuted on July 2 with 24 water slides, infinity pools, a lazy river, private beachside cabanas, al fresco dining options, and an outdoor casino gaming pavilion – touted as the first at a water park. The $200-million water park, set on 15 acres and featuring a 500,000-gallon wave pool and a unique Surf Simulator, is adjacent to the Baha Bay Beach Club, which has a beachfront infinity pool and the 25N restaurant, featuring coastal California inspired cuisine.
The water park is expected to increase the resort’s family appeal. ”As the latest addition to the resort destination’s collection of celebrated adult and family-friendly offerings, Baha Bay will provide our guests with new exceptional experiences, suitable for all ages, as we continue to redefine the Caribbean vacation,” said Graeme Davis, president of Baha Mar.
Baha Mar isn’t the only Bahamian resort working to enhance its beachfront experience. In May, the Resorts World Bimini resort debuted Resorts World Bimini Beach, which features two lagoon pools, hammocks, oceanfront and poolside private cabanas, two bars, and new ocean-view dining outlets.