We just returned from 5 nights at Old Bahama Bay. I wanted so badly to fall in love with this tiny piece of paradise but there are just a few things that prevent me from adding that last dot.
First, the pros:
This place is paradise on earth! The view from almost every room is incredible and the beach is so private and picturesque. The rooms are beautiful and the professional photos on this site are very much a representation of what we experienced. (we stayed in 1030 in the Banyan building that is in some of the photos). Having the marina on one side and the beach on the other gives visitors the best of both worlds and there's no doubt this is predominantly a location for people who boat in and not drive. The weekend was busier with more boats and people in general. By Monday, I believe we were almost the only people in the whole place. The beach is like nowhere I've ever been! Sting Ray come up to the beach within feet of where you are standing. there are giant shells everywhere! We even found a huge starfish just at the edge of the water. My kids were completely amazed by all the exploring they got to do. It was a daily adventure to find new sea creatures.
As others have also stated, the staff is phenomenal! We definitely got the feeling that there wasn't anything they wouldn't do to try to accomodate us. The staff in the restaurant were great and extremely friendly. Jareth, who I believe runs several departments within the resort, was great and even offered to go out to buy beach toys for our kids because he didn't have any! The next day, a big basket of beach toys were available. I can't say enough about the friendly Bahamian people and their hospitality. During our visit, we renewed our vows. Everything was arranged by Janet, their event planner, and she was amazing to work with. I never doubted that she would arrange everything for us as expected and she even ordered mini cupcakes as a surprise for our kids. She was a joy and I can't say enough positive things about her.
Unfortunately, there's a "but"...
Anyone looking at this can take this for what it's worth. I'm certainly not the pickiest of people when it comes to vacations and have stayed in my fair share of resorts of varying degrees.
This resort, however, is not for everyone. It is remote...and I mean...really remote! We rented a car which made things better for us. The drive is a slow 45 minutes from Freeport. I disagree with those who complain about how horrible the area outside the resort is. It was humbling. The Bahamians definitely don't have it easy but I didn't ever feel uneasy and have been in much worse neighborhoods in the US. Yes, there is poverty but it's not THAT bad! Initially, this is what I was looking for. I didn't want to stay in a major tourist area and was looking for a more genuine "island" atmosphere. I knew this going in and was ok with it but it quickly became more of an issue when we realized the options for food were so limited. Bonefish Folley is closed so the main restaurant isn't available. I've seen a few reviews referencing "Aqua" and I'm not sure what this is but that restaurant isn't there either. There are a bunch of empty buildings by the reception that I imagine, at one point, were buzzing with activity in the resorts heyday that has come and gone. The only option for food is Teasers or Straw Bar (depending on when you are/were there). There is a very limited menu and it's pricey. There are no options for kids so for people travelling with children, it's a challenge. They shared a $15 cheeseburger one night and a $20 fish sandwich that neither of them liked the second night. Side salads that consist of lettuce, tomato and onion are $10. From then on, we decided to eat in our room.
That leads me to my second challenge -
Although the suites come with a full kitchenette (including a stove, microwave/oven and full fridge freezer), there is nothing to cook with! Our suite had 4 of everything and there were 5 of us (the room sleeps 6-8) so we even had to share forks and spoons when we all ate together. There were no pans, utensils, cleaning cloths, dishwashing soap, etc - nothing! When we requested pans, we were brought a large pan and a skillet and one serving spoon. Bearing in mind that we had followed others advice and stopped at the grocery store in Freeport and purchased $150 of food (there used to be a market about 1/2 way but that is now closed), we were now stuck with no way to prepare any meals.
In the end, we made it work and nobody starved! lol We made a trip back into Freeport on day 3 and adjusted our plan to fit into what we had after a second trip to change our grocery strategy. It would just have been nice to sit in a restaurant and eat a nicer meal during our stay as opposed to the casual patio bar on the beach.
The last thing is the fact that the resort advertises "free beach activities" with Kayaking, Hobie Cats, etc. There are numerous pictures showing kayaks lined up the beach. There are no kayaks, no hobie cats, nothing that I would describe as beach activities. When we asked about the kayaks, we were told there was a storm about a month ago that blew everything away and they were left without any.
As I mentioned earlier, they went out and got beach toys for us (which I think were actually loaned to the resort by Janet the event planner) but the fact that all of these things for adults were missing was a let down. I had been looking forward to kayaking out during our stay. For people not interested in these activities, obviously it's not a big deal but just one of those things that was aggravating on top of the other inconveniences revolving around the food.
I had an expectation for a resort of this caliber and for me, it just slightly missed the mark.
It's really sad, too, because you can see the potential at Old Bahama Bay. My husband and I have since talked about our stay and can't decide if the resort will rebound or if it's in decline. It's obviously been hit hard by the struggling economy in the Bahamas and I hope that the new management finds a way to resurrect it to the resort it very well could be. A touch up here and there (fix the broken tiles in the pool and all the broken loungers around the beach and pool area) with a few repairs and reopen the restaurant and this would definitely be a place I would consider returning to. We did see plenty of workers doing maintenance while we were there so hopefully they are on the right track.
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