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Bahamas Hotel, Resort & Villa Reviews

Pelican Bay at Port Lucaya 01/01/04
Reviewers Rating: Great
Trip Report Pelican Bay Hotel Port Lucaya Grand Bahama Island

Dec. 26 – Dec 31, 2003

HOTEL AND AIR - I booked the trip through Expedia. Airfare from Dallas-Ft. Worth to Miami and Miami to Freeport, 5 nights at the Pelican Bay in a standard room and airport transfers was $1695. I booked the trip in August. We left DFW at 6:15 am and arrived in Freeport at 12:00 noon. It seems to be easier to get through customs if you arrive earlier in the day. We only waited in the customs line for 10 minutes. I heard of several people who got in later waiting up to an hour. I also heard that if you come in on the ferry, the wait was even longer and getting your luggage was a huge hassle. Our taxi was waiting for us outside. We were at the hotel by 12:45. The hotel was great! I can’t say enough nice things about the staff and the property. Even though check in is 3:00, they had out room ready.( I also asked for a 2:00 check out when we departed and they were happy to accommodate me with that for no extra charge.) We were given a welcome drink and a short tour of the property. The room was very nice – nothing fancy. It was fairly large with 2 double beds. I was traveling with my 19-year-old daughter. You can also get a king size bed. Every room has a large covered balcony with 2 nice chairs and a table. Our room overlooked the pool and the marina. There is a TV with cable (large selection of channels, including HBO and Disney), a table with 2 chairs, a large wicker chair and a 6-drawer dresser. There is also a small refrigerator, a sink and a coffee maker. The bathroom is like an average American hotel – tub with a shower. They deliver a faxed copy of highlights from the New York Times in the morning and mints and the next day’s weather report at night. There is a complimentary continental breakfast every morning with sweet rolls, bagels, English muffins, cereal, yogurt, fruit, hard boiled eggs, coffee, juice and tea. The Yellow Fin Bar and Grill is a great option for meals. We found the prices and quality of the food very good and ate there several times. There are 2 swimming pools and a Jacuzzi. The second pool on the other side of the property was usually deserted. There is also a ferry that comes about every half hour to the Port Lucaya Marina. You can charge food and drink to your room there. There is also a ferry to Taino Beach. They are building more suites on the property and another pool with a swim up bar. There is some construction at the entrance that will be finished soon. There is a walkway to the Port Lucaya Marketplace (3 minutes) where you can eat, drink and shop. You can get towels at the reception desk for the pool and the beach. You can rent the safety deposit box in your room for $3 a day (well worth it). For a one time charge of $5 per person, you get a wrist band that allows you access to the Sheraton-Westin across the street, also well worth the money.

FOOD - All of the following are in the marketplace next to the hotel. We ate at Pisces restaurant - $50 for two including drinks. The food and the service were very good. It is better to get there early – they have a long wait after 7:00. We also ate at the PUB at Port Lucaya – about the same price as Pisces, however the service was not very good. Most restaurants and bars add a 15% tip to your bill, so the service varies. We ate at Fat Man’s Nephew. The food was excellent but the service was extremely slow. Try the Guava Duff for dessert. We found it to be a bit expensive for the amount of food you get. Go early if you can, they had an hour wait after 6:30 pm.

PORT LUCAYA MARKETPLACE - I found the marketplace very clean with interesting native items for sale. You can bargain with the vendors. The native Bahamians are great people – very friendly and helpful. There are many places to choose from to eat. Most have a menu outside. There are also a Dominoes and a Subway. The opportunities for shopping are numerous. There are many high end stores – Versace, Cartier, etc. and many jewelry and perfume stores. I enjoyed the local vendors at both ends of the marketplace in the open-air booths. There is a drugstore and a camera store. There are also many restrooms and telephones (you need a calling card). There are also many women braiding hair. There were not really pushy – Just say no. We never felt unsafe or hassled by anyone.

ACTIVITES – You can spend lots of money doing all the different activities that are offered. UNEXSO – This is right next to the Pelican Bay. You really need to make reservations for their activities ahead of time. I did this by e-mail. They fill up very quickly. They have many different activities. We did the Swim with the Dolphins. The cost is $169 per person. It is a bit pricey but worth every penny. You go on a boat to Sanctuary Bay, about 15 minutes. You are given some basic information about the dolphins then the group of 10 is divided into 2 groups. The first group gets about 30 minutes in the water to swim with 2 dolphins. The other group watches from the dock. The dolphins are very interactive and seem to love to swim and play with the people. Then each person gets about 5 minutes alone with the dolphin while the dolphin does some tricks. Then the next group does the same. This is an awesome experience!! They also have a Dolphin Encounter that goes out with this group, but there were about 50 people and from what I could see, they most just watched the dolphins do tricks and they got in the water with the dolphins only long enough to take a picture. This activity cost $70.

PINETREE STABLES – We went horseback riding at Pinetree. $75 per person. My daughter really enjoyed this. Basically, you just walk the horses on a trail through the pine forest, the mangrove forest and out to the beach. The horses really didn’t want to go into the ocean. It is a pretty beach next to the Island Seas Resort. It is an interesting activity. E-Mail:

EAST END CAVE EXTRAVAGANZA – I booked this through Expedia when I booked my air and hotel. It was $30 a person. It is done through Forbes Charter. I have a few complaints about this tour. You call to book your day when you get to Freeport. I asked the representative about lunch, as the tour was scheduled from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm. She said it was not included and there would be no opportunity to buy lunch anywhere. So I did not bring much cash . They were suppose to pick us up in the lobby of the hotel at 9:10 but did not arrive until 9:35. Then we picked up groups of people at several other hotels. The bus was an old New Jersey Transit bus. Then we stopped at a convenience store for snacks and a bathroom break. We drove out to Lucayan National Park. We visited 2 caves. Not really worth seeing – really just large carved out places in the rock. However, then you walk across the mangroves to the Gold Rock Beach, which is stunning. It is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. You spend one hour at the beach and then the driver took us to the Banana Bay Restaurant for lunch. Since the Forbes rep had said there would be no opportunity to buy lunch, I really didn’t have enough money to buy more then a couple of Cokes. The beach around the Banana Bay is beautiful. It would be better to rent a car for a day and go to the Gold Rock Beach on your own and spend your time there.

SHERATON/WESTIN/OUR LUCAYA – This is a beautiful resort area directly across the street from Pelican Bay and the marketplace. There is also a newly opened Isle of Capri Casino on this property. There are several different hotels. We went into 3 of them just to look. This is where you need the wristband. If you have a wristband, you have access to all of the facilities. There were a lot of security guards around and they seemed to be watching to make sure you had a wristband. The Sheraton seems to be mostly for families with children. We looked in a few rooms and they seemed to be very standard. The Breakers Cay is a very large multistoried hotel. This seemed to be also a lot of families. The Westin had a very elegant lobby and seemed to be more couples, as did the Lighthouse and the Lanai Suites. The Lanai Suites were beautiful and seemed to be the quietest. The beach is really nice. Again, with your wristband you can use the chairs on the beach. The beach near the Lighthouse/Lanai Suites was the quietest with the least amount of children and no wave runners or banana boat rentals. The further down the beach you go, the more active it becomes. The Infinity Pool next to the Lighthouse/Lanai Suites is beautiful. It appears to disappear into the ocean. Well worth going to look at even if you don’t want to swim. Wave Runners Bar and Grill is ridiculously expensive. $2.50 for a small glass of Coke. There are two or three more pools on the property that you can use if you purchase the wristband. The Sugar Mill Pool is also beautiful as is the Serendipity Pool. They also have a water park like slide for the children.

DEPARTING – The airport is kind of a mess when you depart. You will need most of the two hours to get through it. You go through US customs at the Freeport airport before departing which is nice to get it over with. However, you do have to carry your luggage around with you quite a bit. Pack light. We spent most days in our bathing suits and really needed very few clothes.

CONCLUSION - I did enjoy Grand Bahama Island. I have spent a lot of time in the Florida Keys and in Cancun and in Playa Del Carmen. GBI is expensive as far as food and entertainment go, but you can find good deals out there. I heard several people complain about the Viva Fortuna and the Crowne Plaza. My suggestion would be to stay near the Port Lucaya area. There is a lot to do there and no need to rent a car for more than one day. They do drive on the opposite side of the road. They also take US money. I brought most of my money in $1 and used my MasterCard. Few people take American Express and there is a charge for using traveler’s checks. Email me with any questions.

Lisa Miears

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