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A Look into a Cheap All-Inclusive Trip – Paradise Island, The Bahamas

Posted in Airlines, Bahamas, Bahamasair, CheapCaribbean, Travel Tips, Trip Report with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 22, 2011 by getgowing

This is a guest post from my friend Patrick.  He is still a little wet behind the ears in this travel game, but he’s learning quickly.  I also may be the reason there is a little more plastic in his wallet.  🙂  Recently in early May Patrick went on a trip to the Bahamas.  As I do not have any experience in the Caribbean or all-inclusives, I’ll let him fill in some gaps in my travel resume.

So if you are like me, you are always wanting to travel, but may never have the available funds to go to that 5-star resort you are dreaming about. Don’t fret though! There are still plenty of options available to you! Let me start by saying I was and have always been skeptical of those online websites advertising unreal prices for these resorts in Mexico, Aruba, The Bahamas, Jamaica, etc. Maybe it’s that I like dealing with people in general, atleast making it feel more legit. Well I came across a website: I began looking through their online deals, and boy was their some great ones! Of course though, I was crazy skeptical of the whole website, I mean there had to be a catch right? For their prices to be so cheap, how could there not be. Well I decided to book a vacation to the all-inclusive resort: Paradise Island Harbor Resort in The Bahamas. As advertised, it was around $450 per person after taxes which included: flight (from Fort Lauderdale to Nassau), hotel room PLUS a free upgrade by booking through their site, all food and drinks paid for (all-inclusive), as well as access to all the activities of the resort (free scuba diving class, conk cracking demonstrations, access to weight room, access to rental bikes, etc.). Still, after booking, I was still skeptical. I figured we would get there and there be a limit to food/drinks, limited access to resort options unless you pay an extra fee while there and what not. Boy was I wrong…

Our trip began by me driving to Fort Lauderdale to catch our flight. Living in Auburn, AL this was obviously kind of a long trek just to get to a flight. Well they did offer other flights out of major airports (ATL being one of them), but decided not to take that offer since it would have bumped up my overall price by around $100 or so. In hindsight, I should have taken up that offer since gas prices as of recently ended up costing me more than the $100 to drive there and back. I can say, when we got to the Fort Lauderdale airport, I was not impressed with how it was run at all. Coming from one of the more efficient airports in ATL to this smaller airport with terrible parking was not so great. We got in line for our airline (Bahamasair) around 2 hours before our flight, which I figured would be PLENTY of time. Unfortunately, there were around 30 people in front of us, and the employees seemed way more interested in talking to one another than checking people in.

FLL Bahamasair nonproductive check in counter

As we watched the time tick by, we realized that:

  1. We were not going to have our bag checked in time.
  2. We were not going to be checked in in time to make the flight.

Fortunately for us, the entire group around us was on the same flight, so the flight was able to be held until everyone was checked in. Overall that whole experience was quite stressful and I honestly contemplated calling a manager of that airline about the problems I had checking in, but elected to pass on that since we did not miss our flight.

We left Fort Lauderdale around an hour and a half behind schedule and landed in Nassau, went through customs, grabbed our bags, and headed to the taxi area. FIND SOMEONE TO SPLIT THE CAB WITH! Most people flying into the airport are headed the same general direction, so ask around, fill up your cab. It will save each person $10-$15! All in all, we only spent $10 on our cab out to the resort, as the guy who rode with us actually overpaid for his portion of the cab (by his own account, not a mistake). So the total for the cab for us was $15, not too shabby to start the trip. As we arrived at our resort, I was honestly not expecting much. I knew it was a 2 and ½ star resort, so I figured it would be nothing fancy. Honestly, I was very impressed overall with the building itself. It was a bit outdated inside, but for the price, it was completely reasonable. We were greeted by a very nice bellhop who offered us drinks the minute we walked in. A Bahama mama in hand less than 2 min after you arrive is DEFINITELY a good thing for me!


Check in went smoothly, got our free room upgrade (went from 8th floor facing the island to the top 12th floor facing the marina). The room itself was outdated. TV was old, sheets looked rather old, some minor paint problems, but honestly, we didn’t spend much time at all in the room and the view from the room more than made up for it!

It should be noted though that when we first turned on the water for both the shower and the bathtub, the water was very brown coming out. I am not sure if the room had just not been used in a while or what, but that was a down part of checking out our room.

The water did clear up very quickly though (4-5 sec of running the water), so it ended up working out. We dropped our stuff off and headed for the pool area.

An overview of the pool area: the pool was actually very nice. Small waterfall, large swimming areas, hot tub, no deep end. I thought the pool was great, and it ended up being where we spent the majority of our time. The beach area near our resort though was not that great. The sand was nice but it was quite small and the actual swimming area was not large at all. With the resort being on the marina side of the island, they had to block off an area of swimming so that no one swam out and was killed by a boat driving in….obviously an issue. The water was not that “crystal blue” water you think of when you think of the Caribbean either.

But if beaches is what you want, don’t worry! On the other side of the island (a 10 min walk) there was a gorgeous public beach. White sand, blue waters, tons of swimming room.

This was EXACTLY what I wanted. We only spent 1 day there though, as we liked hanging around the pool for the food and drinks.

Speaking of food and drinks, I was honestly floored by what we got. I was expecting a limited amount of food per day, horribly mixed drinks, etc. because the price was so cheap. Man I was WRONG WRONG WRONG! The food was MUCH better than I anticipated. There were options: you had a buffet for all 3 meals inside (with a good bit of options per meal), a pool bar and grill that offered conk fritters, burgers, fried fish and what not. There was also a fine dining room you had to make reservations for, but we only did that one once. The ‘fine dining’ experience was not the best. The menu was VERY limited (only 3 entrée choices if I remember correctly, limited appetizer choices, etc). The wait staff did a great job making sure we were always taken care of though, so that was a definite positive. I personally loved the buffet. I thought the quality of food was much better than I expected, and there were a lot more options per meal than I expected as well! Fish, beef, chicken, all kinds of different options for food. The pool bar and grill was pretty good as well. It did sometimes take them a while to get you your food, but in the process, they were very quick about refilling your drinks to keep you happy in the meantime. Speaking of drinks, they offered a great selection. Bahama mamas, Bahama papas, Yellow birds, Pina Coladas, Strawberry Daquiris are just a few of the options.

They used house liquor, which to be honest, I could not tell a huge quality difference than what I normally drink. I did meet a guy there who complained of the quality and said he planned on buying his own liquor there (cheap in The Bahamas), but honestly, I thought that was ridiculous. I was all for the free drinks. Definitely a great part of my trip was sipping those by the pool enjoying the sun!

In our free time, we went to Atlantis resort to go to the casino and the aquarium, went snorkeling, went to the public beach, and went to the straw market. Atlantis was fun. I do not understand why people would pay so much more money to stay there though. Yes they have a spectacular pool area. Yes they have a ton of beach space. Yes they have an aquarium. But you know what? We got almost the same experience just by going there at the right times. I’ll explain.

If you go to Atlantis in the day, they charge you to go to the aquarium (I want to say around $30 per person). But if you wait until nighttime (my fuzzy memory thinks its after 7pm), they open it up at no charge.

We actually did this twice since it was a pretty cool aquarium.

some lobsters


The Atlantis pool area was around $100 to get a 1 day pass, so we obviously passed on that opportunity. As for the beach, it is built on the same side as the public beach we went to, so walk down the road 5 min and you can go to the same beach for free as opposed to the $30 they charge you to use “their” beach. The casino was pretty nice, though the table limits were out of my budget. The cheapest I ever saw a blackjack table get to was $15 per hand and on the weekend the cheapest I saw was $25 per hand, so no gambling for me this trip. Another option you have for fun is snorkeling/scuba diving. We decided to go snorkeling as opposed to scuba diving because:

  1. It was around $40 cheaper per person
  2. I am not scuba certified (which isn’t a problem, you can still go, they just hold your hand basically the whole time, and I have never liked that)

Snorkeling cost around $50 per person and it was WELL worth the money. We drove about 30 min out to “Cannonball Reef” and jumped in. There were not a ton of different species of fish, but there were plenty of those species there. The water visibility was wonderful. Probably the highlight of the trip for me. The scuba diving, from what I saw, did not seem like it was worth the money. I was able to free dive to the same depth as the scuba divers, but I guess if you really love scuba diving and have the extra cash, go for it, I just didn’t think it would be worth it. The last major experience we had was the straw market.

I LOVED the straw market. It was packed with all kinds of fake designer watches, fake designer bags, homemade straw items, and many many other items. If you like to heckle prices with people, go here! Tons of fun.

Overall, I recommend this trip to anyone! I think the best thing about this trip was getting there and really not having to worry about ANY money. I would do all-inclusive at a resort like this anytime I travel, mainly because you can still go to all the other “expensive” resorts and see what is going on there if you really want to. So if you are like me, love to travel, but are on a very limited budget, go this route. You will not regret it!


Hotel room upgrade $20 trick

Posted in Hotel, Las Vegas, Travel Tips with tags , , , , , on May 20, 2011 by getgowing

This weekend, several of my friends are convening in Las Vegas for an Advisory Board Meeting for Winter Guard International.  I recently made a trip there in February and used a trick to score this room/suite in the Planet Hollywood Hotel & Casino Resort.

The "Boulevard Suite"

View from the front door (double-door entrance; the bedroom had its own entrance, too)


The room also came with 2 sets of robes and slippers

My favorite amenity in the room.

View from the windows

View from the bedroom window in the morning

Our original room was a standard room, though comp’ed (complimentary through some channel, this instance being Harrah’s) through our gambling time in Atlantic City.

The technique used to possibly get an upgrade is called the $20 sandwich.  When checking-in to the hotel, when they ask for an ID and credit card, fold a $20 bill small enough so it fits in between the two cards.  Hand all of that over to the agent.  In the midst of checking in, ask if there are any complimentary (though not exactly cause you just paid $20) upgrades, or ask if there is anything nicer available that you can check in to, etc….  And that’s it.

It helps if you are friendly and cordial.  Strike up a conversation.  Ask them how their day is going.  How much longer is their shift?  Give them some chocolate…everybody likes chocolate (except my friend Sarah).

Now a few other things that I didn’t mention earlier.  My friend who checked in for us also has status with the casino.  AND, the woman who helped us was from Northern New Jersey, so maybe some Jersey pride helped a little bit too.

Here is another recent example (from early April 2011) of getting hooked up in Las Vegas at check-in at The Cosmopolitan from my friend Kim.

She originally had a studio room, or something like that, booked.  She had two nights comp’ed.  And had no status with the hotel/casino.  She told the man at check-in that she was planning a Bachelorette Party for her sister, and gave him a $40 sandwich.  She ended up getting an upgrade to a two bedroom wrap around suite (I’m assuming it was a corner) on the 55th floor.  Granted, she’s a tall, beautiful, blonde woman and a guy was checking her in.  He also gave her 2-for-1 bottle service coupon at the hotel/casino’s nightclub.

Sweet balcony

View from the balcony

Suites are the ultimate upgrade, but many times, you can get a room with a better view, newer amenities, late check out, or a higher floor to name a few.

This technique may not work at the properties in the big hotel chains:  Starwood, Marriott, Hilton, InterContinental Hotels Group, and Hyatt.  I have only heard of this trick working mostly in casino hotels, but I have personally not tried it in the big chains and been denied.  Try it out.  Maybe the stars will align for you making your dream vacation that much dreamier.

Your Mileage May Vary

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