Bahamas Getaway

Surprise!: My mother and I went on a six-day getaway to The Bahamas, which we only really decided to do last month; after needing to cancel my last two international trips — first to Bolivia and then to Zimbabwe — I was practically desperate for to go overseas, even if it wasn’t at an animal sanctuary or conservation site, which were my original plans. My mom needed to use her JetBlue credits by a certain time, and we did some research on deals in mid-March, and came across a bundle for flights to Nassau, Bahamas (from Boston) combined with a stay [for the two of us] at Warwick Hotel at Paradise Hotel, an adults only, all-inclusive resort. I know what you’re thinking, and no, “adults only” doesn’t mean what you think it means; it just means that everyone needs be at least 18+ years old. I didn’t want our vacation to be ruined by screaming children. Although, as it turns out, there were other noises with which to contend (see more below). As I did for my sanctuary road trip, I blogged for this trip, with the intention of doing so daily, which obviously didn’t pan out. 

Day 1: Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Technically, our journey began on Monday, March 7, so I’ll briefly cover that: my mom and I took the train (Amtrak) up to Boston, arriving around 6 p.m, with our minimal luggage (one personal and one carry-on item each), and walked — in the rain, mind you — to her brother’s apartment in the city. We ordered some delicious vegan pizza from Blaze Pizza, a chain in the New England area, watched Shrek (it’s still hilarious), and I slept on the pull-out couch. I didn’t sleep well, mainly due to the loud wind outside, but I made do. 

Tuesday morning, around 8 a.m., we took an Uber to the airport, and after that we were wearing masks almost nonstop until we arrived in our hotel room at 5 p.m.-ish. Now, the last time I’d flown was nearly three years ago, when I traveled to Utah to visit (and temporarily work at) Best Friends Animal Society, and hadn’t been overseas since January 2019, when I went on a Birthright trip to Israel. Back then, things were stressful enough without all of these Covid restrictions and mask-wearing, so even though I was excited to go on vacation, I was anxious and stressed about the travel aspect of it all. For the most part, I kept my calm, even though I felt like the mask police and wanted to yell at people who weren’t wearing masks properly — or at all — despite the near-constant reminders, both in airports and on planes. 

I’m also a bit of a nervous flyer, and tend to get freaked out by turbulence; it’s not that I’m worried about anything seriously bad happening — planes are much safer than cars and many other modes of transportation — but that I hate the feeling of turbulence, which is related to my dislike for rollercoasters and also perhaps to my motion sickness issues (I can’t read in the car or really even look at my phone that much). And, even though the pilot had warned us on that initial, short flight from Boston to JFK (no direct flights to Nassau from Boston) that there would be turbulence as a result of the windy conditions, I wasn’t fond of the bumpy-ness and was practically holding onto the armrests (and my mom) for dear life.

Thankfully, that was a very short flight, and we didn’t have to spend much time at JFK for our layover. And, fortunately, on this bigger plane, my mom and I ended up having a seat in between us that we could use for extra storage of our stuff. Even though this flight was a little delayed in taking off, we still arrived earlier in Nassau than anticipated (the flight is shorter than 3 hours). I ended up watching a movie, C’mon C’mon (2021) while drinking soda and eating popcorn and a vegan cookie. I’ve definitely had longer flights than this, such as when I went to Fiji and to Australia, so this was fairly easy and the flight itself was relatively smooth. 

Upon arriving in Nassau, we went through customs, which was also fine, and I could tell right away that The Bahamas was full of cheery, friendly people. Of course, we had to keep wearing masks and at this point I was quite warm from that and from wearing jeans and a sweater (it was cold in MA/RI). I was also pretty tired and hungry, as I hadn’t had a real meal since breakfast at Boston Logan airport. Once we made it through customs, we found the bus that was to take us to our hotel, and I enjoyed looking outside at the varied Bahaman landscape. It wasn’t actually a short drive, as we had to make it to Paradise Island and drop off people at other resorts, so by the time we arrived at our hotel, I was feeling sweaty, tired, and needing a change of clothes. I wished I’d dressed in layers instead. 

It was at that point, too, when I discovered that we’d need to keep wearing masks, at least indoors and when you’re not eating an/or at a table. That made me very annoyed; like everyone else, I’m experiencing mask fatigue, especially since mask mandates have been dropped in many places back home in RI. Obviously, The Bahamas is behind us, COVID-wise, so I can see why they want to be extra careful. We also had to be tested prior to leaving the U.S., and we’d need to do it again before we left. It’s an extra step that I’m hoping I won’t have to do the next time I travel abroad. 

After finally making it our room on the 8th floor of this relatively small resort, we were greeted by some obnoxiously loud music from the room next door. As it so happens, the walls here are really thin, which is not ideal for an autistic person like myself who’s very sensitive to noise — seriously, that was pointed out on my official autism diagnosis report. I had a minor freakout, as I feared that the vacation wouldn’t be as relaxing as I hoped. Even my new noise-cancelling AirPods weren’t helping, as I could still hear the loud bass of the music (sometimes I wish my hearing wasn’t so acute). Thankfully, stepping outside and staring out at the pool helped calm me down, as did a very strong, very tasty margarita to go along with a buffet dinner (with decent vegan options). 

Even after a filling meal, I was super buzzed from the drink — I don’t drink much, so it affects me greatly — and we explored the hotel a bit before relaxing in our room, unpacking, and catching up on the news. Sometimes, alcohol makes me really sleepy, and that, combined with my lack of sleep the night before, made me want to go to bed early. We planned on relaxing at the hotel today, taking it easy. To be continued. 

Day 2: Wednesday, March 9, 2022

The pool at Warwick Paradise Island Hotel

Wednesday was our first full day in The Bahamas, so we decided to make it a day of relaxing and exploring the resort. I was able to sleep fairly well, although I was worried about the spring breakers next door making too much noise; thankfully, they didn’t, at least not in the middle of the night. After having a leisurely breakfast — the vegan pickings were decent but not fabulous — we found ourselves a solid spot by the pool where we got started on our sunbathing and relaxation. We tried not to overdo it, as we had no desire to get sunburned, although sometimes it’s inevitable, especially the first time out in the warm sun after a long absence. Thankfully, I had minimal redness, and now have a base tan for the summer. 

Even though the loud music by the pool bothered me, after a point I just learned to deal with it. I even decided to swim in the pool, which was very refreshing. For lunch, we ate at the poolside grille, and I had a pretty good vegetable burrito and fries. We took breaks from the sun every so often, and spend some time figuring out events for the rest of our time here. Unfortunately, the swimming with pigs adventure that I wanted to do ended up being sold out. Still, we managed to come up with some things that both of us wanted to do. 

At 3 p.m., I received a pedicure from the (understandably overpriced) spa onsite. It was very relaxing and a nice, quiet environment, compared to where we were before (at the pool) and to when we returned to the room after our appointments (my mom had a massage). And, guess what? Our neighbors decided to play their loud music again, although this time it wasn’t nearly as loud. So, we decided to turn on the TV and just play something to drown out the music. Probably not the best solution, but it was the best one we had at the moment. 

We had dinner in the same restaurant, buffet-style, having almost the same exact meal as the night before, with the addition of a very tasty, strong-but-not-too-strong daiquiri (non-virgin). Then, we listened to a saxophonist in the lobby who played some familiar songs, while figuring out what to do; we ended up playing cards for a bit — War and Gin Rummy (probably incorrectly) — before going back to our room. We tried to find something to watch, but there wasn’t really anything good, so I just worked on this blog post and went to bed, with the intention of being more productive the following day. 

Day 3: Thursday, March 10

After a relaxing day at the resort, we decided to actually go somewhere the following day, our second full day in The Bahamas. After breakfast, we once again hung out by the pool, and then played tennis for a bit; my mom plays tennis regularly, and I used to, so I asked her to take it easy on me. Turns out, I’m still pretty good (not-so-humble brag). 

Then, after lunch, we took a taxi to Graycliff, which is not only a hotel but also a chocolatier (among other things) — the latter being the primary reason we visited the area, as who doesn’t want to try some chocolate? We ended getting a private tour of the small, albeit impressive chocolate factory and getting to try some samples and see how the process works. Unfortunately, only the dark chocolate is vegan, as the white chocolate does contain a bit of dairy, although there were still plenty of goodies from which to choose in the shop before we left. The temptation was not to eat it all at once, especially since we were saving some to share with my dad back home. 

We then decided to check out the hotel next door, which is very cool-looking and old and historical. I mean, just look at this pool (below).

The prettiest pool I've ever seen!

Then, we ended up waiting quite a while for a taxi to get us back to the hotel; it was apparently a very busy time, which couldn’t be helped, but I was worried about our precious chocolate melting. Thankfully, we finally were able to get a taxi and return to the hotel with then chocolate safe and sound and promptly put in the fridge. We then returned to poolside, where we chatted with some new friends we’d made and just enjoyed the sunshine. 

That night, we experienced a new restaurant: an Italian-themed one, whose more subdued atmosphere I preferred to the buffet-style of the main one. Fortunately, too, this one and the Edgewater Grill (which we visited on Friday) have a separate vegan (and gluten-free) menu, with plenty of options to satisfy even my sweet tooth. I had pita chips with hummus, a couple rolls (sans butter), falafel balls with sauce, and a chocolate mousse. This ended up being the most full I (and my mom) had been thus far, and we went immediately upstairs afterwards. 

Day 4: Friday, March 11

This was easily my favorite day of the trip, for the sole reason that I got to see and spend time with animals in a humane setting. Before we did that, I had yet another decent yet somewhat unsatisfactory breakfast, then we got ready to go Ardastra Gardens & Wildlife Conservation Center, just a few minutes from the hotel via taxi. 

We ended up arriving before the place even opened (at 10 a.m.), so we awkwardly waited around until it opened, which was really fine. Then, we explored the grounds, and there were many more animals than I’d expected. And, because it’s primarily a rescue — it started out as a zoo — I feel like our money and time was well-spent, as I aim to be as ethical as possible. Here’s just a sampling of the animals who reside there: flamingos, geese and ducks, capybara, raccoon, owls, goats, pigs, peafowl, monkeys…and, the animals with which I am most familiar, parrots (namely, macaws, African greys, and amazons). 

I pretended I was a flamingo during the super cool flamingo show

Feel free to check out my Instagram to see more pictures from this particular excursion. When we returned to the hotel around mid-day, we had lunch and, once again, hung out by the pool. That night, we had dinner at another restaurant onsite (Edgewater), with a really cool atmosphere. It’s outside, but has some cover to keep the wind out. We were, once again, fairly full, although the tofu in my entree was rather bland; apparently, not everyone knows what to do with tofu. The vegan tiramisu was delicious, though. 

Day 5: Saturday, March 12

After the extreme joy and fun I experienced on Friday, Saturday was somewhat disappointing, even though it doesn’t make sense to complain about being in literal paradise (Paradise Island, Bahamas). Anyway, we got up at 6 a.m. (even pre-Daylight Saving Time, it was still early) and missed out on breakfast because it started at 7 a.m. and we were meant to check in for the Blue Lagoon boat ride by that time. You see, this is not the Blue Lagoon in Iceland — where I went with my family in 2017 — but rather a private island with all kinds of activities and marine life that honestly wasn’t my first choice, but it still sounded like fun. 

So, we arrived at the designated check-in location, but we had to wait a bit before we could check in. Then, we had to wait and wait and wait to even get onboard the boat, and I’m really not a fan on the need to wait for people who are late to check in. Although, perhaps we didn’t need to get there as early as we did. Regardless, we finally boarded the boat around 8 a.m., and then didn’t leave until closer to 8:30. I was very anxious to get going, and I was annoyed with the constant need to wear masks, despite technically being outside. The ride to the island was pretty short, thankfully, but then it ended up being quite windy when we arrived. 

The initial problem was that we hadn’t scheduled any activities or animal experiences, which included up-close encounters and swims with sea lions, dolphins, and stingrays. This sounds like the kind of thing that was right up my alley, although because we hadn’t done it ahead of time, these things could have gotten booked up; plus, they were rather pricey, and I could pretty much do the same things at the Mystic Aquarium, where I am a member and used to work (except that they don’t have dolphins). Regardless, we did take some time to see the marine residents, although it was difficult to get good pictures or video without the risk of dropping my phone in the water. 

Despite the wind, you can't beat the location and the weather

After walking around the island and exploring what they had to offer — with the possibility of returning and trying one of the animal encounters — we had lunch, which was included, and surprisingly vegan-friendly. Then, we’d been told to prepare for pre-boarding the boat for the return to Paradise Island at 12:45, so we did as instructed. And, lo and behold, not only were we waiting for probably 30+ minutes to get on the boat, the group before us didn’t even load their boat until after we’d been expected to depart. As you can imagine, the autistic, impatient part of me was not having it. It was insanely uncomfortable to be standing in line in the hot sun with the expectation that we’d be all masked up. And then, once we’d finally boarded the boat, we were once again required to wear masks and I tried to get away with not wearing mine, and then a Blue Lagoon staff member told me to put it on. I was annoyed, because it seemed that there were plenty of others who weren’t masked, so why was I singled out? Regardless, I made sure to mask up, at least when worker bees were around. 

When we returned to the hotel, it was early afternoon, with plenty of sunshine left to enjoy. At that point, though, the poolside was basically full, although we eventually managed to snag a couple of chairs. (Before that, my mom grabbed chairs that we thought were free, and apparently someone else had told her [probably as a joke] that the people had previously left, when they hadn’t. Some people can be cruel). That night, we once again ate at the Italian restaurant, and this time I instead had two small entrees, as the usual vegan appetizers were not available. 

Day 6: Sunday, March 13

On our final full day in The Bahamas, we unfortunately had to get up early once again for a COVID test at 8 a.m. And, as seems to be the case in this country, where nobody is in a rush, things were running late, although that could have perhaps been due to the DST change. Luckily, though, we arrived early enough that we were among the first people to receive our tests. The weird thing was that all we needed was cash; no IDs, vaccinations, or anything like that needed. It’s almost like they just needed the cash and everyone ends up receiving a negative test result. The word “negative” was actually already written on the form which we filled out, so who knows? 

Since we wouldn’t be able to pick up our test results until after 12, and the weather was iffy — cloudy and breezy — we weren’t sure what to do. I had yet to use the fitness center, so I decided to check it out for a bit. Then, we went for a walk and explored the Atlantis resort and village shops, even though it was still insanely windy (seriously, sometimes I felt like I’d blow away!). We really only went into one store, and we didn’t get anything, as we figured we’d bought enough and since we weren’t checking any bags, we didn’t want to overstuff our carry-ons. The best part of our little walking tour was getting the chance to see some really fancy yachts up close, and wishing I had the money or at least knew someone who knew someone. (I used to work at a yacht brokerage, and once got to show a $1.8 million Grand Banks). At that point, the sun was resurfacing, and of course I wanted to soak up the sun for our final day in The Bahamas.  

We spent the majority of the afternoon relishing the sun on our skin, and I had my final lunch onsite; one of the restaurants makes a pretty darn good vegetable burrito (I took out the beans, because I’m a weird and picky vegan) and fries. Even though it was a bit cloudy, when the sun did peak through it felt glorious. Somehow, too, my sunburn was minimal and has since faded. 

Then, we had our final dinner there, this time again at Edgewater Grill. I had hummus and pita chips, penne pasta, and tiramisu. Once again, I’m so grateful for the vegan options. 

This vegan tiramisu was delicious

We did some more packing, which we’d started before dinner. We knew we’d have to be up again quite early the following day for our return journey. 

Day 7: Monday, March 14, 2022

I’m not going to go into detail regarding our relatively long yet also relatively stress-free travel day, which consisted of nearly constant mask-wearing. I will say that, although I’m not sure when I’ll be back to The Bahamas, I hope to do so and I’m glad I got the chance to get away for a bit. That said, my preference for travel is to combine it with volunteering for animals. The last two volunteer trips got canceled, so hopefully I’ll be able to figure something out for the near future. 

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