On the first full day of my recent cruise on the Norwegian Sky, my first port day we stopped at Grand Bahamas Island, which is also known to tourists as Freeport, Bahamas. While experienced cruisers might not view this port as one on their bucket list, it’s still a port that shouldn’t be overlooked. After two major hurricanes hit the area in 2004, the number of visitors have dropped, but it hasn’t eliminated tourism. While it has taken several years to recover from the hurricanes, they are now welcoming tourists back, many of whom head to hotels and beaches in large numbers.
Freeport, Bahamas is the second most populous Bahamian city, is a 230 square mile free trade zone on Grand Bahamas Island, and is located a mere 65 miles off the coast of Florida. It is one of the largest container ports in the world and serves as a major drydock for cruise ship refurbishing.
Once the ship docked at 8 am in Freeport, Bahamas, we were cleared by local officials, and we were able to get off the ship and start the day. One of the crew members told me how lucky we were on this cruise as it had rained every day a week earlier.
The port area itself is not somewhere where you might spend the day, but it serves its purpose. If you’re on an excursion organized by the cruise line, you’ll meet up close to the ship under the covered awnings. If you’re on your own, walk toward the cab area where you might see someone here helping with taxis. If not, head over to where you see vans lined up as those are the taxis. There’s a rate list printed up and affixed to a nearby wall if you need to check prior to boarding. They sort passengers by destinations so you most likely will need to wait until there are enough passengers for a taxi to depart.
For my trip to Taino Beach the cost was $7 each way. Immediately, I became suspicious that I might get left at the beach without a return ride after being forced to pay both ways in advance. The last picture above is the inside of my taxi, where the driver had to stop to get gas before driving us all the way to the beach, about 12 miles from the port. Once you arrive at Taino Beach, pay the driver, get your ticket, and then you’re introduced to the taxi contact person you’ll need to locate prior to your return back to the ship. The last return trip was at 3pm and the taxis run hourly.
Located five minutes from Port Lucaya Marketplace, I opted for Junkanoo Beach Club on this trip instead of the Grand Lucayan Resort. Why? Junkanoo was free and the Grand Lucayan was $20 per person. I had been to the Grand Lucayan previously and wanted to to try something new so this was perfect. That and the fact that powdery white sand is some of the softest here that I have ever felt and I knew I was staying. Enough said.
Junkanoo Beach Club is open 7 days a week from 10 am until 6 pm. Restrooms are available near the entrance and the main building houses a massive bar and seating area. Also near the entrance is a shopping area if you are looking to buy souvenirs, which you can do here or from the beach vendors. Walk down the steps toward the beach and on the left you can lay on the beach for free on your own towel where it never really got too crowded throughout the entire day. To the right of the pier is an area where you pay $5 per person and get a lounge chair and use the paddleboards and kayaks for free. Other motorized water activities such as wave runners and banana boat rides, are additional. The pier has a sign that stated for pictures only, but people would walk down to the end and when security wasn’t present, some were jumping in the water. Crazy as the water isn’t deep there at all.
TSG Tip: Advise the beach attendant that you prefer to be seated in a non-smoking area. There were several smokers in my immediate area and I wished I had thought to mention this when I was spotting out my chair.
There are beach attendants, like Donahue, that can get you food and drinks off the small menu that include items such as conch, conch salad, as well as beer, frozen drinks, and my drink of the day, a Yellow Bird. Drinks are $6 for a small or $9 for a large. That’s a large above so I’d hate to see what a small looks like! Beers were 2 for $7 for Kalik. You can pay by cash or credit card to your attendant directly.
I opted to go inside to get my drink so I could use the resort’s free WiFi. If you want a drink, you have to pay cash to the attendant at a table, get a ticket, and then give that to the bartender. There are great views to be had from open air building and if I wanted to sit inside and eat, there are many tables to choose from although on this day they were reserved for a tour group. Outside under the red umbrellas is additional seating as well.
When it was time to head back to the ship, I looked for Evan, my taxi contact person who was near the front entrance. His job is stay there all day and get people back to the cruise port so don’t worry – he’s not going anywhere. I only had to wait a few minutes before there were enough people to fill up the taxi and I was soon on my way.
Back at the port, if you want to stop for a quick drink at Fat Tuesday or Señor Frogs or maybe do some quick souvenir shopping, you could do it here. It’s not a traditional port, but it definitely does its job.
With temps in the 80’s, it was a gorgeous day full of sun and fun. The Norwegian Sky looked right at home set against a backdrop of palm trees, but it was time to board and head onto my next port of call, Nassau, Bahamas.
Would I recommend Junkanoo Beach Club while on a cruise to Freeport, Bahamas? Absolutely! It was an inexpensive beach day and it gave me everything I was looking for and then some including great weather, sun, soft sand, great water, drinks, and free WiFi. While Freeport, Bahamas may not offer many of the amenities that other more built up ports offer, they are well on their way and can offer cruise ship passengers a fun and exciting beach day while in the Bahamas.