When we found the Balearia Bahamas Express it felt like all our Christmases had come at once. For only about $110 we could take a return day trip to the Bahamas from Fort Lauderdale Florida. Yes please!
Advertised as a two hour boat ride from Fort Lauderdale to Grand Bahamas Island, we couldn’t book our tickets fast enough! Unfortunately, in our excitement to visit the Bahamas on the cheap, we had neglected to factor in the time we would need to spend travelling on the day.
Due to the Bahamas technically being an international destination from Miami, it requires the same amount of ‘processing’ and customs time that it does to travel internationally by air. Which meant a lot of our time this particular day was spent on the boat and in customs, and not enough time was spent in the Bahamas – only about 6 hours actually.
Is the Bahamas Express worth it?
Don’t get me wrong, we loved the short amount of time we had on Grand Bahama Island. The water is warm and crystal clear, the town is bright and colourful, with pink, blue and yellow buildings making up the little village of Port Lucaya, and the infinity pools that overlooked the beach were absolutely amazing.
Basically, we just didn’t get to see enough of the Bahamas. We didn’t have enough time to get away from the dock to explore more of the actual island rather than the places that were right near the docks. If we had of known about the Balearia Express before we had planned our USA trip, we would have given ourselves more time to actually spend a couple of days at least on the island, to actually get more of a taste of the Bahamas.
Unfortunately, we had only heard about the option to take the ferry to the Bahamas only a couple of months before we left, after all our international and domestic flights had been booked, so we were really working on limited time and options. But we were still keen to see the Bahamas, so we thought we’d give the day trip a go.
The Balearia Bahamas Express
The Balearia Bahamas Express offers a great alternative to the to international flights, coming in at only a fraction of the price of flying to Grand Bahamas Island. It’s such a great budget option if you’re planning to spend a couple of nights in the Bahamas.
However, it’s really not a great option if you’re hoping to just go for a day trip. You spend more time on the ferry to and from the island and being processed through customs than you do actually exploring the island. Due to limited time you have on the island you really can’t get very far away from the docks so the potential to explore a bit of the island is very limited.
The boat ride itself was relatively pleasant, however very heavily air conditioned so you should bring a big jumper or jacket so you’re not too cold. There wasn’t much to do on the boat either, so bring some magazines or an iPad with movies to keep you entertained. If you’re only visiting the Bahamas for the day you’re able to disembark the boat first and you don’t have to go through customs, which was a good time saver.
The only thing that really annoyed us on our journey back was that someone tried to take fish or some kind of food produce from Grand Bahama Island back to the mainland of Florida. Instead of confiscating these items at the ferry terminal, or just putting this package into quarantine, US Customs officials were alerted, and every single passenger had to be searched before we could disembark the boat.
This meant it took us an extra two and a half hours to get off the ferry after it had docked! We could not have been more frustrated. Thom was actually really sick the day we visited the Bahamas and by the end of the ride home we were so cold and hungry, and we didn’t even have any luggage that needed to be searched! It really felt like the whole situation could have been avoided by just not letting that box of food on the boat in the first place.
Booking the Balearia Ferry
The Balearia Bahamas Express has different departure dates throughout the year, with more services available during the peak seasons. If you’re planning your trip check their website for their full schedule and to make sure the ferry is departing on your dates.
The ferry departs from Fort Lauderdale at 8am on sailing days, arriving at Grand Bahamas Island at 10:30am. On the way back you depart Grand Bahama Island at 6:30pm and arrive back in Florida at 9pm.
Tickets for the Bahamas Express start from about $36 per adult one way. There’s absolutely no way you can get a flight from USA to the Bahamas for that cheap!
Food and drinks are available for purchase on the boat, but options are limited so bring snacks if you have dietary requirements. There’s also a cocktail bar on board, make sure you try out one of the Bahama Mama cocktails while you’re sailing over.
If you’re looking for ideas about what to do on Grand Bahama Island make sure you check out the excursions office on board, where you can book in for everything you might want to do on the island, from snorkelling to renting a car.