Although they are often included in Caribbean cruise itineraries, the Bahamas aren’t in the Caribbean at all they’re in the Atlantic, north of the Caribbean and less than 161km (100 miles) from Miami. Holdovers from Great Britain’s long colonial occupation linger in some architecture and culture here, but the general vibe isn’t all that much different from parts of Florida. The temperature is similar, too, meaning you aren’t guaranteed beach weather in winter.
Freeport, on Grand Bahama Island, is the second-most-popular destination in the Bahamas (after Nassau see p. 52 ). Technically, Freeport is the landlocked section of town, while adjacent Lucaya, where cruise ships dock, hugs the waterfront. Though they have none of Nassau’s colonial charm, they do have plenty of white-sand beaches, golf, tennis, and watersports. top beaches A 20-minute ride east of Lucaya, unspoiled Gold Rock Beach in Lucayan National Park may be the island’s best for getting away from it all. Barbary Beach, slightly closer to Lucaya, is great for seashell hunters. for nature lovers Based at the Lucaya marina, UNEXSO (http://unexso.com ) organizes dolphin swims in a protected lagoon or diving experiences with dolphins and other marine creatures. smell the roses The well-shaded Garden of the Groves (www.thegardenofhegroves.com ), once the private meditation garden of Freeport’s founder, Wallace Groves, is a peaceful retreat with waterfalls, flowering shrubs, tropical birds, and other wildlife. shopaholics alert The village-style mall Port Lucaya Marketplace, across the street from Lucaya Beach, offers one-stop shopping and dining right by the cruise ship docks.