The Fun Side of Freeport

Freeport is a relatively young city, having been formed largely post-World War II. It's also largely abandoned: this entire building is up for sale. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Freeport is a relatively young city, having been formed largely post-World War II. It’s also largely abandoned: this entire building is up for sale. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

It’s hard to believe but this morning Carnival Cruise LinesCarnival Pride came alongside our last port of call: Freeport, Bahamas.

Freeport is one of the most polarizing Caribbean ports of call. Some people love it. Others can’t wait to see it recede into the distance as they sail away.

Ships dock in a very industrial area that has little more than a planned shopping pavilion for disembarking guests. The actual town – and most of the other amenities, like beaches and the Port Lucaya Market – are a fifteen-minute taxi ride away.

Out on deck at 7:00 a.m. as Carnival Pride eases alongside in Freeport, Bahamas for the morning. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Out on deck at 7:00 a.m. as Carnival Pride eases alongside in Freeport, Bahamas for the morning. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

What's at the pier in Freeport? A small manufactured market. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

What’s at the pier in Freeport? A small manufactured market. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Despite having a massive history here on Grand Bahama Island that dates back to the times of Columbus, there’s just not that much to do if you’re not into the whole beach-shopping-drinking spectacular. If you are, gear up: it’s going to be a fun day filled with rum runners, conch (pronounced conk) fritters and high-pressure sales that seems to be typical of the Bahamas.

I’d seriously considered staying on the ship this morning. After all, we’re only docked here until 1:30 p.m. before we set sail again. Would I really be missing anything by skipping Freeport? I decided that yes, I would be. Even if I end up hating Freeport, I owe it to myself to at least set out and explore it. So, I booked the one excursion I was truly interested in: the $44.99 Brewery, City and Downtown excursion.

Our first stop on our tour was at The Perfume Factory...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Our first stop on our tour was at The Perfume Factory…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

...situated in a colourful, Colonial-style house. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…situated in a colourful, Colonial-style house. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

At three hours in duration, this excursion stops at a local perfume factory (Island Fragrances) before travelling on to the Port Lucaya Marketplace for some retail therapy. Then, it continued on to the Bahamian Brewery; a 100-percent Bahamian-owned brewery opened in Freeport back in 2007, for a tour of the facilities and – most importantly – a tasting of the company’s authentic Bahamian brews.

While it was interesting to see the way perfumes were made...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

While it was interesting to see the way perfumes were made…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

...let's be honest: this is a shopping stop, with dozens of perfumes and colognes on offer. On the plus side: they're all made right on-site. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…let’s be honest: this is a shopping stop, with dozens of perfumes and colognes on offer. On the plus side: they’re all made right on-site. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

I also picked it primarily because of the overwhelmingly-positive reviews of the excursion on Carnival’s shore excursion site. Carnival invites guests to leave comments about their shore excursion experience, and makes no attempt to censor them if guests are unhappy. It’s a bit like TripAdvisor, but for shore excursions.

There were two highlights of my tour: our guide, Tiny; and the Bahamian Brewery.

Stop Number Two: the Port Lucaya Market. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Stop Number Two: the Port Lucaya Market. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Nestled by the harbour, Port Lucaya is one of Freeport's most attractive sights. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Nestled by the harbour, Port Lucaya is one of Freeport’s most attractive sights. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

The main purpose of Port Lucaya? You guessed it: shopping. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

The main purpose of Port Lucaya? You guessed it: shopping. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Tiny was fun, knowledgeable, and a wonderful ambassador for his country. He was high energy, authentic, and easygoing. He was one of the best guides I’ve had in the Caribbean, and he was quick with a joke. To get everyone in the mood, Bahamian and traditional Caribbean-themed music was pumped over the bus speakers between stops.

At Port Lucaya, I also managed to snap a shot of this little lizard, who was zipping around in among the flowers. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

At Port Lucaya, I also managed to snap a shot of this little lizard, who was zipping around in among the flowers. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

The Bahamian Brewery is a real Bahamas success story. This was one of the only things I saw – aside from the very industrial port – that is a clear economic driver for the island. We were invited to taste five different brews, from their Light ale to the rich, dark Stout, and then we were allowed to enjoy a few complimentary pints.

While the perfume factory was interesting, it was really a thinly-veiled shopping stop. Ditto for the Port Lucaya Marketplace; the saving grace here was that we only had 30 minutes at this stop before heading off to the Brewery.

Our last - and most awaited - stop was the Bahamian Brewery. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Our last – and most awaited – stop was the Bahamian Brewery. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Inside, guests were treated to an overview of the (very hot) production facility. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Inside, guests were treated to an overview of the (very hot) production facility. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

If you've never seen a bottling plant before, it's quite the sight! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

If you’ve never seen a bottling plant before, it’s quite the sight! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

In the end, I enjoyed my tour, thanks largely to Tiny’s insights into all things Bahamian. I have a better respect for the Bahamas now, and a greater appreciation for Freeport because of him.

As a cruise port, though, Freeport’s a flop. There’s little to do for the average guest who doesn’t want to take an excursion, and although it feels vastly safer and less pushy than Nassau, I heard more than one guest complain about being ripped off by the local taxi service.

Guests were invited to taste five different types of beer, from Sands Light to the premium Sands Strong Black Stout. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Guests were invited to taste five different types of beer, from Sands Light to the premium Sands Strong Black Stout. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

After tasting five beers and enjoying a pint of our favorite, guests were taken back to the coach...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

After tasting five beers and enjoying a pint of our favorite, guests were taken back to the coach…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

...for a stormy drive...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…for a stormy drive…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

...back to the Carnival Pride. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…back to the Carnival Pride. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Re-boarding Carnival Pride at 12:45 p.m. Carnival used both forward and aft gangways to re-board guests as sailing time approached. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Re-boarding Carnival Pride at 12:45 p.m. Carnival used both forward and aft gangways to re-board guests as sailing time approached. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Carnival includes Freeport on a lot of its itineraries to the Bahamas – which means there’s a decent chance that you (and I) will be here someday. If you are coming here, I’d recommend the following:

  • Take a ship-sponsored excursion. That way, you know what you’re getting and have some sort of recourse if it isn’t delivered. Although nothing on offer is terribly cerebral (what is in the Caribbean?), Carnival does offer 30 different excursions here on this itinerary.
  • Stay on the ship. If you’ve been here before and have no interest in Freeport, I’d stay on the ship and treat it as your own, reasonably-deserted palace.
  • Treat taxi’s with caution. Nearly every horror story I heard today involved the local taxi service, which seems to have a monopoly at the port. Agree on a price before getting in, and have a clear description and idea of where you’re going (don’t just say, “take me to a beach!” Pick a specific beach). If necessary, get the exact name or address of the place you want to go before you even leave the ship by using your phone or the onboard Wi-Fi internet.
  • Take the Carnival FunTimes with you; the Port Agent’s emergency phone number is located at the top of the first page behind the cover page. Useful if you run into problems and might be in danger of missing the ship.

But there was a bonus to Freeport: in addition to being docked alongside the 2,052-guest Carnival Elation, we were also moored within a stone’s throw of the Grand Celebration – which you might remember better as Carnival’s old Celebration of 1986. After a stint overseas, it’s nice to see her back in the Caribbean again – even if she’s no longer a FunShip.

Look who's here! It's Carnival's snazzy Carnival Elation, which made her debut in 1998. Fun fact: she was the first cruise ship fitted with azipod propellers! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Look who’s here! It’s Carnival’s snazzy Carnival Elation, which made her debut in 1998. Fun fact: she was the first cruise ship fitted with azipod propellers! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

We also passed another old friend as we left: Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line's Grand Celebration, which you might remember better as Carnival's former Celebration of 1986. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

We also passed another old friend as we left: Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line’s Grand Celebration, which you might remember better as Carnival’s former Celebration of 1986. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Carnival cruise ships, past and present, in one shot. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Carnival cruise ships, past and present, in one shot. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

At 1:30 p.m., we sailed away from Freeport, leaving it – and a brooding thunderstorm -behind us. Out in the open Atlantic, the skies cleared up and the deep blue seas were calm, with almost no wavelets present until mid-afternoon.

Before long, Carnival Pride was making an easy 24.2 knots across the open ocean as guests settled into their shipboard routines once again.

The newer Carnival Pride leaves her current and former fleetmates behind as we head out of Freeport in advance of a nasty-looking storm. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

The newer Carnival Pride leaves her current and former fleetmates behind as we head out of Freeport in advance of a nasty-looking storm. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Before long, we were on the Atlantic, and back in the warm weather this afternoon! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Before long, we were on the Atlantic, and back in the warm weather this afternoon! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

I’m a creature of habit, so I find it very hard to break with my shipboard routines – which are darn near set in stone – and try new things. Fortunately, I’m all about trying new things on this voyage, so I kept today’s beer theme alive in the RedFrog Pub on Deck 2 forward, where I indulged in the sampler paddle of four beers on tap for $5.75.

Keeping the beer-theme alive...Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Keeping the beer-theme alive…Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

...in the RedFrog Pub on Deck 2! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

…in the RedFrog Pub on Deck 2! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Carnival's own ThirstyFrog Ale is a delicious addition to the lineup of local Caribbean beers (plus some standard American ones) served up here. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Carnival’s own ThirstyFrog Ale is a delicious addition to the lineup of local Caribbean beers (plus some standard American ones) served up here. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

While I enjoyed my brews (well, sort of – the first one was the completely-undrinkable Bud Light), I listened to the smooth Caribbean sounds of the onboard band, Island Fever. That’s the other thing about Carnival: it offers plenty of live music from the afternoon straight into the evening. Today, live music is offered up on Lido Deck 9 Midships between 11:30 a.m. and 5:15 p.m; in Serenity aft on Deck 9 from Noon until 4:45 p.m; in the RedFrog Pub on Deck 2 between 6:30 p.m. and Midnight; in the Atrium Lobby on Deck 2 between 7:15 p.m. and Midnight; and in the Ivory Piano Bar on Deck 3 forward from 9:00 p.m. until “late.”

Tonight, we’re headed back to Baltimore, where our voyage will come to a close on Sunday morning. But it’s not all bad news: there’s still another wonderful Fun Day at Sea separating us from the end of what’s been a really spectacular cruise.

Another gorgeous sunset at sea from the stern of Carnival Pride. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Another gorgeous sunset at sea from the stern of Carnival Pride. Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Goodnight! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Goodnight! Photo © 2016 Aaron Saunders

Our Live Voyage Report aboard Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Pride will continue tomorrow as we spend one last Fun Day at Sea! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog.

Carnival Pride - Eastern Caribbean from Baltimore

DAYPORTARRIVEDEPART
Sunday, August 14, 2016Baltimore, MDEmbark Carnival Pride4:30 PM
Monday, August 15At Sea
Tuesday, August 16At Sea
Wednesday, August 17Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos8:00 AM2:30 PM
Thursday, August 18Half Moon Cay, Bahamas8:00 AM5:00 PM
Friday, August 19Freeport, Bahamas7:00 AM1:30 PM
Saturday, August 20At Sea
Sunday, August 21Baltimore, MD07:00Disembark
 

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