Trips & Trends
Day Trip From Fort Lauderdale Ferries Passengers To Bahamas
Sunday, September 9th, 2012
By Laura Lippstone
How about a change of country the next time you’re headed to Florida? It’s possible to take a day trip to the Bahamas by ferry. In some cases, less than it would cost to fly.
The high-speed “Balearia Bahamas Express” travels from Fort Lauderdale to the city of Freeport on Grand Bahama, one of many Bahamian islands with British roots. It’s roughly the distance from Philadelphia to New York.
Prepare for a long day. Because international travel is involved, passengers are advised to be at the Fort Lauderdale ferry terminal early morning, returning to the U.S. late at night.
The ferry resembles a mini-cruise ship with far-fewer frills. First class offers more room and movies. Economy-class entertainment consists of ocean views and browsing at the duty-free shop. The company says slot machines and WiFi may be down the road.
The Gulf Stream – the powerful current between Florida and the Bahamas — can make the 2 and 1/2 hour ride a bit choppy.
Once in Freeport, here’s some of what you can see in an afternoon.
Lucaya Beach (named for the original Bahamas inhabitants), in the Freeport suburbs, is easy to get to via the many vans waiting at the ferry terminal. Share the cost with others, and spend approximately $5 one way. (U.S. currency is readily accepted at the same exchange rate.)
The beach — more like Florida during Spring Break than another country — is pretty, though packed with tourists on a spring weekday. Away from the crowd, there are pretty stretches of sand and deliciously warm water.
The Port Lucaya Marketplace offers baubles for every budget. An even-less-expensive souvenir: having your hair braided. If you’ve never done it, it’s a kick.
Food at Lucaya ranges from Domino’s pizza to Agave, an eatery that serves tasty burgers made from conch, a local shellfish.
Unlike Nassau, the busy capital of the Bahamas, downtown Freeport is little more than a bunch of strip malls and a charming little open-air market.
Western Bakery came highly recommended by a local on the ferry. A dense, raspberry-filled cupcake really hit the spot.
Back to Fort Lauderdale and a U.S. immigration line. Everyone was tired; if it felt like we had really been away from home, it’s because we had.
Before You Go:
— You’ll need a valid U.S. passport.
— If going for just the day, it’s possible to squeeze in some snorkeling and other water activities. But leave plenty of time to get from and to the ferry.
— Cellphone service in the Bahamas is charged at an international rate.
— Don’t forget to pack an electric plug adapter for your laptop, tablet or phone charger.
— If you have a few days to explore Grand Bahama Island, the ferry, even at last-minute prices, may be cheaper than flying, which can be more than $200 round-trip. Children under 6 ride free on the ferry.
Click here for more information on the ferry and vacation packages.
Laura Lippstone is a journalist and travel blogger always in search of the unique.
Follow her at planetippstone.com.