I took the Fast Ferry to Grand Bahama Island and I liked it. Everything you need to know and some things you don’t about the Balearia: Bahamas Express.
It’s never been too hard to get to Grand Bahama Island, especially from Florida. At 70 miles from the coast, you can basically swim there. So on this recent journey to Grand Bahama Island, I took the Fast Ferry to see what it was like, and I was pleasantly surprised. Here are some things I saw, some tips, and some adventures I got into along the way.
Getting to the Boat:
The Balearia: Bahamas Express or Fast Ferry to the Bahamas loads up at Terminal 1 in Port Everglades. There’s plenty of parking and check in is no big deal.
It says on the Balearia website to get to the port an hour early at 8am for a 9am departure. And that’s about right. It shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes to check in unless there’s a rush. But if you’re bringing a lot of gear, and many people do, getting there at 7 is the best recommendation.
I bumped into a film crew shooting a commercial for the Grand Lucayan Resort, and they were throwing all of their gear into big metal containers and shipping it over, which seemed to be a heck of a lot cheaper and way more convenient than lugging it all the way through customs and then through baggage check and then having to search for 100 pieces of luggage at baggage claim.
The Tour of the Balearia:
The Balearia is surprisingly spacious, two full stories with nearly endless rows of seating. It’s fully enclosed, so there’s no going out and taking in the fresh air, but it is well air conditioned and stays pretty cool throughout.
Passengers have the choice to sit against the window or in the middle isles similar to those of an airplane only more spaced out. There are also tables and comfy chairs in the lounge by the snack bar. But you don’t have to stay seated for long. There’s plenty of room to wander and check out the ship. And once the snack bar and “the other kind of bar” open up, nobody’s sitting down anyway.
First class is located on the first level, and it’s 100% worth the money. For literally a few dollars more, you get cushioned seats, a room that’s closed off from the rest of the ship, a bar, a movie to watch, and what amounts to table service with a roaming waiter who will take your order and bring it back to you in your seat. This option is a heck of a lot better than waiting in line at the snack bar, because the line can get long.
You’ve basically got your choice of pre-made sandwiches which aren’t the best, and pizza, which is the best. I would stick with the pizza which not only tastes pretty darn good, but it’s the biggest bang for your buck, big enough for two people to share. Other snacks include candy, cookies a variety of chips and drinks.
We watched Mission Impossible Four. So really your enjoyment depends on whether or not you like Tom Cruise. And I just happen to love Tom Cruise. So it was pleasant. The movie changes each trip though, so you may not be as lucky as I was.
Bring it. Don’t be a fool. The seas aren’t always rough, but they were the day I traveled and everyone that didn’t have dramamine regretted the moment the day before when they thought about getting dramamine, but decided that they’d be okay without it. Otherwise, you’ll have to fight seasickness the old fashioned way, through pure willpower and repeating this one phrase over and over, “I will not get sick. I will not get sick.”
Passengers range from day tripping couples heading over to spend the afternoon snorkeling and lounging at the Grand Lucayan Beach Resort, to native Bahamians who go back and forth often and like the cheaper fares, to film crews hauling tons of gear over to Grand Bahama Island, to families shooting out for quick and easy family vacation in the Bahamas at one of the many Grand Bahama Hotels.
The crew of the Balearia are truly first rate. They were nothing but pleasant, always courteous and smiling. You’ll want to tip them. They will try to refuse, but keep pushing. They deserve it.
Day Tripping at the Grand Lucayan
If you’re heading over for the day and looking for some relaxation, sun and fun. There’s really only one place to go, and that’s the Grand Lucayan Beach Resort. For ten bucks, you can gain access to their property. Rent jet skies, jump off a giant inflatable trampoline into the ocean, or chill out in their infinity pool.
Some other things to check out while you’re there:
Underwater Explorers Society (UNEXSO) | http://www.unexso.com
Garden of the Groves | http://www.thegardenofthegroves.com
Basic rates range from:
Economy $75 – $93
First Class $90-$108