Back in September 2014, I spent about a week with my family vacationing in the Bahamas and the Caribbeans. Namely, we saw a selection of islands in each region while taking a cruise, all the while discovering what they had to offer. Plus, it was a calm and laid-back trip that was much-needed before I had to head back to school and figure out my future plans after my final year in college.
From Los Angeles, my family and I took a five to six-hour flight to Fort Lauderdale, where we boarded our cruise ship for the week-long excursion. Growing up, I’ve had my fair share of taking cruises with my family– while I wouldn’t say that they’re my preferred method of traveling and discovering places, I do appreciate the services provided (i.e. good food, lots of alcohol!) and how each port-of-call provides a taste of what the place has to offer. And again, they’re a peaceful way of vacationing, which for me being a student back then was ideal for an end-of-the-summer getaway.
Prior to exploring such regions, I admit that I had little-to-zero knowledge about the Bahamas and the Caribbeans, let alone the differences between them. In essence, the Bahamas is a state formed by an archipelago, which had formerly been under British rule. The Caribbeans, on the other hand is, in general, a region in the Caribbean sea that includes the islands within it. I guess it can be confusing, as there are hundreds (if not thousands) of islands in both places, so I suppose it’s a matter of just visiting each at a time and classifying whether they’re part of the Bahamas or the Caribbean.
In any case, my family and I boarded our cruise ship. Aside from the times we were out on island excursions, we didn’t do much on board, as we weren’t so keen on paying extra for drinks at the bars (plus, my sister wasn’t of age yet, so it wouldn’t have worked out) nor checking out the entertainment they put on at night (as many of them are musicals, and we aren’t huge fans). We did, however, enjoy ourselves during dinner, as there was plenty to eat and drink– it was probably the closest to feeling fancy with the three-course meals, and I can say that my waistline was definitely not the same at the end of the trip!
As for the various islands we visited, our first stop was at Princess Cays, a resort town on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas. We only had a brief stop there, as there isn’t much to see or do besides peddle-boating or having a drink at the outdoor bar. There was, however, a small cluster of cute, colorful bungalows along the shores, which gave the resort some character. Aside from that, Princess Cays is just a commercial hub for cruise ships to make extra money from tourists (something I’m not so keen about).
Following our time in Princess Cays, we continued on to Saint Martin/Sint Maarten, an island in the Caribbean Sea that’s both a French and Dutch territory, as they’re split roughly 60/40 (French to Dutch) by the two European powers. We spent a whole day with a private guide in her car, and she took us all over the island. We started off in Saint Martin (French part), coasting along the glittering blue sea and coming across plenty of lush vegetation
We first visited Saint Martin (French part) where we visited Marigot, its main city, which included Fort Louis, an 18th-century fort located on top of a hill with lovely views of the island and the sea. We wandered around the small, outdoor market before we headed to Sint Maarten (Dutch part) of the island. Compared with Saint Martin, I found Sint Maarten to have more things to check out, including the Princess Juliana International Airport, where airplanes fly so low to the ground upon landing that people have to duck at times! Very thrilling, although I wouldn’t want to get hurt– I don’t think I got to experience it then, as there weren’t any scheduled arrivals when we were there, but in any case, it would’ve been cool to check out!
Also in Sint Maarten, we made a brief stop at Bikini Beach, a resort beach where we indulged in a bit of sunbathing before we headed to our last stop in Phillipsburg, its main city and capital. I found it more bustling than Marigot, as there were more tourist shops, restaurants, and bars for visitors to check out. I also found the colorful, colonial-style architecture quite charming, as a part of the island’s history with the Netherlands. My family and I wandered the historic quarters of Phillipsburg before popping into a souvenir shop and purchasing a bottle of what was called “Guavaberry liqueur.” It was definitely strong, as I had a taste of it when we brought it home, but we never got around to finishing it– no worries, though!
Our next stop was in Saint Thomas, one of the islands part of the U.S. Virgin Islands. There wasn’t much to it, as I only recall heading up to a vantage point and getting views of the nearby islands. It was a really short visit, from what I remember.
Final stop on the cruise was at Grand Turk Island, as part of the Turks and Caicos Island in the Bahamas. It’s the largest island in the archipelago, and my sister and I spent some time snorkeling in the *incredibly salty* waters. Despite getting salty water up my nose (which is very uncomfortable), I managed to see plenty of fish underwater, which made my first time ever snorkeling rather fun.
Overall, our time in the Bahamas and the Caribbeans was short, but relaxing. While I wouldn’t say that they were my cup of tea (as I’m more of an “on-the-go” traveler than a “chilled-out” vacationer), I appreciate having discovered a different part of the world, and I suppose that gave me all the more reason to continue traveling after I finished college that following year– and still am going strong today!
Thanks for reading my throwback travel posts– I guarantee that there’ll be more to come!