Archive for December, 2009
We spent our last day in Nassau on the beach, enjoying the warm weather. The beach was not crowded, which made it even more pleasant.
As we relaxed on the beach we saw a young couple with their little daughter, I guess she was 3 years old, sitting near us. They had been near us almost every time we were on the beach, so my wife decided to say hello to them. That did not go very well because they could barely speak English, they were visiting from Moscow, Russia.
All I can say is this: I don’t know what the husband does for a living, but if he can leave Moscow in November to go the Bahamas, he needs to keep that job!
We ate lunch at Twin Brothers on our last full day, then prepared for the trip home.
We got up early, checked out of the hotel, and took a cab to the airport and checked in for our flight on American Eagle. We’d fly to Miami, have a three-and-a-half hour layover, then fly to Dallas/Fort Worth, then back to Austin.
I thought that the layover in Miami would allow us enough time to clear customs and still make our flight to DFW, but it turned out it didn’t matter how long our layover was.
We went through the security line in the Nassau terminal, had our passports stamped, went around a corner and saw that we had to go through security again, but this time it was American security. TSA had a customs/immigration/security checkpoint in the Nassau airport! That meant that we could clear customs before we ever got on the plane and not have to deal with it once we got to Miami! That was great and made our trip home much easier!
After clearing customs we went into the departure terminal, grabbed coffee and donuts at the Dunkin’ Donuts, then boarded our American Eagle flight to Miami. An hour later we were back on US soil.
AE parks its aircraft at the far end of the Miami airport; after we got off the plane we had to board a bus back to the terminal. That was not easy, the bus could barely hold all of the passengers. A second bus was behind ours but we could not use it, it was reserved for the four crew members of our plane. So, they had a large bus to themselves, while we were packed like sardines in ours. Thankfully it was only a 5 minute ride to the terminal.
We spent time in the Admiral’s Club, then boarded our flight to Dallas. Sadly, we were on a 737, a nice aircraft but not nearly as nice as the 767 we took a week earlier. Smooth flight to Dallas, a 75 minute layover, and than a quick flight back to Austin. We were home by 9:15 that night.
Looking back, my wife and I agreed that this was the most relaxing trip we have ever had. Considering the fact that we have done 8 trips to Hawaii, that’s saying a lot!
Nassau has several historical sites to visit, such as Fort Charlotte. It has many tourist sites, both old and new, including the botanical gardens and Paradise Island. These are all worth visiting, but we decided not to. Our goal on this trip was to relax, and that is what we did. We had no itinerary, we could have taken off our watches on the first day and not put them back on until the last. There was no site we HAD to see, no place we HAD to be by a certain time. We wanted to relax, and that is what we did.
We have already decided to go back to Nassau next year; we’ll stay at the Sheraton again. And I can guarantee we’ll eat at Twin Brothers again. Maybe we’ll even see some of the sites we missed on this trip.
We came home with many fond memories, and souvenirs too. We look forward to our return trip!
I’ve been a member of Toastmasters, the public speaking and leadership organization, for almost ten years. I’ve earned the Distinguished Toastmaster designation and won a District speech contest. For those of you who are not familiar with Toastmasters, that is all good.
One of the best things I have gotten is the chance to make new friends in the organization. One of them is David Brooks, the 1990 World Champion of Public Speaking. Even though David travels around the world doing presentations, he still needed to do a mileage run today to earn status. Here is his report of that trip.
“If you’re a regular reader of www.HappyFlier.com you are no doubt familiar with “mileage runs.” Many of you depend on them this time of year, but there may still be a few skeptics who wonder if they are worth it. Perhaps this report will put any doubts to rest.
I’m in the Admiral’s Club at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport at the moment in the last leg of a productive one-day run.
I’ve been an American Platinum flier since 1994, having flown more than 2 million miles on all airlines combined. A million and a half of those were on American. Like Happy Flier Bob, I live in Austin, Texas, so we are exceptionally well-served by American.
I am a professional speaker, have spoken in 24 countries and have booked several around-the-world itineraries. This year, due to the economy, a couple of long-haul trips were canceled, so I was faced with the unpleasant prospect of falling just short of the 50,000-mile Platinum requirement.
I’m already Lifetime Gold, but as you know, Gold only gives you a 25% mileage bonus, where Platinum yields a 100% bonus. The difference in bonus miles is definitely worth a mileage run when you’re just short of the 50K plateau.
So this morning I left my house at 5:00 a.m. for 6:00 flight AUS-DFW. (Yes, on a Saturday morning, I actually made that!) I arrived DFW at 6:45, had coffee and muffins at the DFW Admiral’s Club, and walked about 100 yards to the gate for my 8:15 flight from DFW to Seattle. (At 1660 miles, DFW-SEA is a good route for a mileage run.)
Using upgrades, I settled into my first-class seat for a pleasant flight to Seattle. I arrived Seattle at 10:50 PST, and made the short walk to their better-than-average food court for a snack.
Forty minutes later, I boarded the Noon flight from Seattle to Chicago. Another upgrade, and another pleasant 4-hour flight to ORD.
Now at ORD, I have the longest layover of the day–a whole two hours! So as soon as I post this report, I’m departing the Admiral’s Club for dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s (not a bad choice for airport food, by the way)before returning to the gate for my 8:30 p.m. ORD-AUS final leg, again upgraded to first class.
Barring any unexpected delays, I will arrive at AUS at 11:15 p.m.
How much did a day of flying benefit me? Quite a bit, actually, because American is giving double Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM) through Dec. 15. So my day in the air netted me 9,714 qualifying miles–enough to requalify me for Platinum for next year. The cost? A total airfare of $278 and $8 for parking.
Was it worth it? Ask me next year when I’m still racking up double miles as a Platinum flier.
1990 World Champion of Public Speaking
Thank you David, great report! I’m sure it will come as a surprise to some that a person who travels as much as you do would need a mileage run. As you point out, it was worth your time to earn double miles next year.
I’ve probably done the Seattle mileage run more than any other. I’m already looking at them for next year. I’ve earned Platinum status for next year, but on January 1, my mileage total drops back to zero. So, 2010 will be another year of looking for deals!
Note: David let me know that he was home by 11:05. That’s a good trip!
Note: This post from 2009 is horribly out of date. Please read my 2010 post to learn how bad this restaurant has become!
My wife and I were enjoying our trip to Nassau, but had not yet had a great meal. We’d eaten the buffet at the hotel, eaten at the Greek restaurant downtown, and while those meals were good, they were not memorable. Thankfully, that was about to change.
I had visited many travel websites before the trip, and they all recommended going to Arawak Cay, also known as “Fish Fry,” for seafood. The #10 bus that stopped outside our hotel goes by Arawak Cay on the way downtown, so my wife and I took the bus, looking for a good lunch. (If you are going there, just tell the bus or cab driver you are going to Fish Fry, they’ll know what you mean.)
Arawak Cay is a street of seafood restaurants, and nothing but seafood restaurants one right after another. Some are large, two stories tall, while others look like metal sheds with wooden picnic tables in front. They all specialize in Bahamian seafood
We walked down the street, looking at each restaurant. While I had read several articles about “Fish Fry,” I had not seen a recommendation for a specific restaurant. Which one should we choose?
The Twin Brothers Seafood and Steakhouse looked like a nice place: their sign said they had been featured on CBS News and in the New York Times, so we decided to give them a try. This was one of the best decisions of the trip!
We got there shortly after 12 noon, so it was not crowded. The waitress brought the menu: I ordered conch fritters as an appetizer, and cracked conch as the entree. My wife ordered broiled lobster.
We got the conch fritters first, they were so hot that we had to let them cool for a few moments, but it was worth the wait. They were similar to the corn fritters we eat in the states, but definitely had a seafood flavor to them that was pleasant but not overpowering. The waitress gave us a bottle of a spcial sauce to put on them that added to the great taste. If you are not very hungry, the fritters alone would be a wonderful meal.
Then she brought us our meals.
My meal was incredible! I can’t say it was the best conch I have ever had because it is the only conch I have ever had! But I will say that I have eaten fresh seafood in a lot of places known for fresh seafood, (New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Texas Gulf Coast) and I had never had anything that tasted this good!
My wife took one bite from her broiled lobster and was very emphatic that it was the best she had ever had!
We liked the food at Twin Brothers so much that we ate there three times in four days. My wife ate the lobster every time, I had fried shrimp our my final visit; it was easily the best I have ever had. The tails had been removed so I was able to eat the whole thing. The breading was very light so that it did not overpower the taste of the shrimp, but was still crunchy enough to let me know it was fried. If was fabulous.
On this visit, I saw a note on the menu “Try our delectable daiquiris.” The waitress said I could get two flavors mixed, a half-and-half daiquiri. That sounded good, so I ordered one that was half strawberry, half pina colada. She asked if I wanted alcohol, that would be $2 extra. Since I did not have to drive I said yes to the alcohol. I have to admit I did not expect what she brought me.
I didn’t expect a frozen drink but that it what I got, it looked like something I might get at Dairy Queen. But it was so good! I tried to use the straw to drink it, but it was so thick that the straw was not working. So, I stuck it down to the bottom of the glass where it appeared to be more like a liquid and took a big sip.
As it happens, the alcohol was not mixed in with the frozen concoction, they had simply put a couple of shots of rum in the bottom of the glass before adding the frozen mixture. So, when I took the big sip I got a large mouthful of rum! That’s fine if you’re expecting it, but I wasn’t. Oh my.
Several swallows later I had managed to empty my mouth of the rum but I had learned a lesson: small sips from the bottom of the glass. In the meantime I used a spoon to eat the frozen mixture and it was wonderful, both tasty and refreshing. I wish I could get something like this here at home. I liked it so much that I ordered a second one, but I must admit it was virgin, no alcohol.
The food at Twin Brothers was outstanding, I recommend it to all. We have already decided to go back to Nassau next year, and Twin Brothers will be one of our first stops. If you visit Fish Fry, ignore the rest, go to Twin Brothers! (Here is their website.)
I always do the same thing when I travel overseas: as soon as I clear Customs at my destination I go to the foreign currency booth at the airport and pay an exorbitant fee to get enough local currency to get me through the first day or two. After that, I use an ATM to get my currency. Thankfully, I did not have to do this during our trip to Nassau.
The exchange rate between the United States and the Bahamas is very simple: one to one. One American dollar equals one Bahamian dollar. With so many American tourists visiting, businesses will accept both currencies in payment. You can pay for an item with American money, Bahamian money, or a combination of the two. The same thing happens when you get your change back: it may be American, it may be Bahamian, or a combination of the two. This greatly simplifies things!
It’s interesting to see how banks handle this. I used two ATMs during our visit: neither of these were in a hotel lobby or a shopping area, they were both at banks. One ATM gave me all Bahamian money, the other gave me all American money. No problem, they both spent the same.
The only currency difficulty I had during the trip took place at the Crystal Palace Casino, next door to our hotel. I had a Bahamian $100 bill and wanted to play the slot machines, but the machines only took American currency. I went to the cashier’s window and tried to change the Bahamian bill to American but the lady told me she was not allowed to exchange currency.
“This is all I have,” I said, holding the Bahamian bill. “If you won’t exchange it, how do I play the slot machines?”
“Well sir, you can use it as a bet at the tables.”
“I don’t want to play the tables, I want to play the slots. How do I to that?”
Her solution was for me to leave the casino and go to the front desk at the hotel where they would exchange the bill for me. That’s annoying, but I had no other choice and did that.
Perhaps the Bahamas Gaming Commission prohibits casinos from changing currency. If so, I can understand that. But if they don’t, that was lousy customer service.
One thing that was different in Nassau from the US was the way you give tips for good service. The tips were automatic on this trip. For example, every restaurant automatically added a 15% gratuity to the bill. Normally, I only see that at home for groups of 6 or more. In Nassau you will always pay it.
Tips at the hotel were interesting. They explained the process to me as I checked in. We would be charged a one-time fee of $6 per person as a tip for the doorman. That was $12. Then we would be charged a fee of $18 per person per night as tips for housekeeping, maintenance, etc. So, that was an additional $36 per day! I think that was excessive, but I couldn’t do much about it. On the other hand, they did provide free high speed Internet in the room; normally that costs $20 a day at a luxury hotel, so that helped lessen the pain.
All in all, we liked the exchange rate because we did not have to calculate anything, ten dollars was ten dollars. That was much easier than it was, for example, when we were in Thailand a few years ago and saw that a souvenir cost 825 Baht (approximately 25 USD).
So, enjoy your trip to the Bahamas. If you are American, currency exchange is one thing you will not have to worry about.