For Thanksgiving this year, Katy and I thought we would do something a little different, travel without Ella. In fact, we decided that for four days we would travel the way most North American’s do. Get on a plane, go somewhere warm and experience little or nothing of the local culture. It’s not that we’ve changed our approach to travel, far from it, but it’s been a busy year and a little time to just sit with nothing to do but read a book sounded like a nice way to spend a long weekend.
After a quick look around the internet, we decided on a package deal to the Bahamas. We decided on a Sandals resort. Afterall, if you’re going to leave your toddler behind and get away for few days, it might as well be to somewhere that is totally kid-free. Of course, it’s debatable that the drunk adults at your typical all-inclusive are any better than kids where noise is concerned. They can be entertaining to watch though.
The goal for this trip was simple, relax and try not to spend time connected to the internet or work during the holiday. So, we shipped in some grandparents to take care of Ella and hopped on a budget flight to the Bahamas that was part of our all-inclusive package.
Forgive me Bruce, for I have sinned
The flight to the Bahamas is a relatively short and painless one from Toronto. We had an early morning flight with Air Canada Rouge, our first with the budget brand. All-in-all, it wasn’t bad as a cheaper option. Like most domestic flights these days, you don’t get much beyond the seat, but I was impressed with the entertainment system you could access through your own mobile device.
While Katy tested out that system, I went old-school and read a book…made of paper. The book, Looptail by Bruce Poon Tip, was a bit of an odd choice for this trip. You see, if you don’t know, Bruce is the founder of G Adventures. A company founded largely on the idea that travel can, and should, be so much more. That what we were doing was exactly the wrong kind of travel. First, you get little to no interaction with the local community and culture (definitely true). Second, little of the money you spend actually stays in the community you visit, with most of it going back to international conglomerates (almost certainly true in this case).
I can’t argue the second point, but to the first, I can only claim that at least we weren’t doing it out of ignorance. While we normally favour exactly the kind of travel that G Adventures stands for, as evidenced by how much of our income we’ve happily given to them over the years, this trip was different. We weren’t looking for an experience, just a beach and a warm climate. We’ll be back to our more normal travel style when we head to South Africa in December. Sadly, it won’t be with G Adventures, but that’s just because you can’t take their family trips until your kids are at least 5 years old and we don’t want to leave Ella behind for that one.
So, while he’ll never read this, I hope that Bruce would forgive us this transgression. Oh, and buy his book it’s a very readable business book and one more companies should learn from.
A Third Species of Traveller
One of the nice things about choosing the Bahamas was that with an early morning flight, we were sitting by the ocean having a drink and some food before noon. That we are not your typical resort travellers helped speed the process. Half of the people headed for the islands had giant bags that had to be checked, and I thought I had overpacked my carry-on backpack. What on earth do they have in those bags?! Being either business travellers or frequently on the move as adventure travellers, we’ve learned to pack a little lighter. So rather than share a big bus to the hotel, we had a private van as the driver didn’t see the need to keep us waiting for the others.
We decided to spend the first day just sitting by the pool. This gave me some exposure to what was in those bags. People adapt you see. So, if your travel is not based on speed and mobility, it’s based on preparedness. Much as a business traveler can get through security with their eyes closed, the all-inclusive traveller has a few tricks of their own. Tired of your drinks getting warm while you laze about in the sun? Bring your own large insulated cups. Or even better yet, a cooler. Tired of your towel blowing in the wind on your beach chair? How about his and hers clips to hold them in place.
Segways of the Sea
We did make one exception to our all-relaxation-all-the-time approach for this trip (three if you include our morning runs and evening tennis). On Sunday morning we took a SUB tour (Scenic Underwater Bubble). What exactly does that entail, well, I think the picture below is fairly self-evident.
I know what you’re thinking, those things are ridiculous. Well, yes, they are, but that was kind of the point. As Katy said, they’re the segways of the sea. You can’t help but look stupid doing it, but it’s kind of fun to try. We booked the trip with Stuart Cove’s dive company, who also offer snorkelling and diving trips. If you’re in the Bahamas and looking for that kind of activity, we would highly recommend them.
It’s definitely an odd thing to drive around in your own little personal bubble while fish swim up to the glass, occasionally coaxed into it by the food the guides are offering. The highlight for me though was Katy. Where I got a very slow SUB, Katy’s seemed to be a bit quicker. Not only that, but she had a bit of trouble with the steering, she claims it was the machine’s fault. Either way, the result was that any time I looked at where the group was heading (typically from the back of the pack), Katy would be travelling at a 90 degree angle to the rest of our underwater companions. Zig-zagging, this way and that. Hugely frustrating for her, immensely amusing for me. It also sold me on the idea of buying a GoPro because that’s the kind of comedy I should be able to share with you in pictures and video.
“What about the hotel”, you say? “Is it the ultimate in romantic luxury?” In short, no. The Sandals property was nice enough, if a little dated. I will also admit that I liked the cashless aspect, no tipping and almost everything is included. But as for luxury, not really, at least not my kind. Luxury isn’t a huge priority for me, but I do appreciate it. I think the true sign of luxury is when it seems like magic. Here things were a bit forced. For instance, the need for reservations at a few of the restaurants, in addition to dress codes, didn’t make them feel nicer in anyway. They were just a nuisance, especially when you have a hassle getting a reservation only to find the restaurant half-empty when you arrive. It’s also hard to keep it classy when a segment of the diners is half (or all the way) in the bag from 8 hours of drinking in the sun.
A highlight, for which I sadly have no picture to offer, was a couple a few tables down from us at dinner one night. Upon being told that the man needed pants to dine in a particular restaurant, they proceeded to rush back to the room where he put on his wife’s pants, capris no less. That he fit in his wife’s pants is impressive to me. I would destroy Katy’s trying the same thing. It also highlights that just because you have pants on, doesn’t mean you’re at your classiest.
That said, I don’t have a lot of all-inclusive experience to compare it to, but the food was perfectly edible and the staff were nice, if not warm, and ready to help with any questions. Would I recommend it? If you’re looking for an all-inclusive, sure. One great thing about this hotel was the small private island off the coast that you could access. The beach there was beautiful and it was much quieter and laid-back than the main resort.
Would we go back? Probably not. Even if we were looking for another quick get-away to do nothing, we’d probably look for something a little smaller and more boutique.
That’s not a complaint. I can certainly see the appeal of little thought and less action, but I think we’ll get back to our regularly scheduled programming. Less than two months to go until we head to South Africa.