Who knew? A ferry from Florida to the Bahamas

I’ve traveled by ferry on four continents but didn’t know about something almost in my backyard.

Balèaria Bahamas Express

A high-speed boat from Florida to the Bahamas. A chance to pop over to that island nation with British roots to see what I could for the day.

The route is run by a Spanish company that’s been doing this kind of thing in the Mediterranean for years.

The boat goes from Fort Lauderdale to the city of Freeport on Grand Bahama, one of many Bahamian islands. It’s roughly the distance from Philadelphia to New York. The trip takes  2 1/2 hours, weather permitting.

There’s the catch. I’d read where bad weather could delay things even more — or scrap the journey altogether. And there’s that little matter of the Gulf Stream passing between Florida and the Bahamas — the current that can make the crossing a real gutwrencher.

I forgot to pack Dramamine and expected to be pasted to the bathroom floor per usual, but was thankfully spared. Though it was raining slightly, it was smooth sailing, as they say.

But because of immigration rules, we had to be there two hours early. I was nervous about getting lost in the massive maze of the Fort Lauderdale cruise ship terminal.

The place was packed with tourists going over to Freeport for the day or several, and  well-heeled Americans and Bahamians commuting back and forth for things like shopping and doctor visits.

And an Australian couple who’d come to Fort Lauderdale to buy a boat, and planned to sail home. I asked if they could use another hand. Oh, well.

The boat looked like a mini cruise ship. Spacious, but not as fancy.

First-class sported airline seats that looked a little strange on a boat. And a safety presentation followed by a movie. Impossible Mission with Tom Cruise, one of the friendly bilingual staff  informed me.

The only other entertainment on board was a snack bar with Cuban coffee and Dr. Brown’s soda, Bob Evans sandwiches …

… and a duty free shop that sold M&Ms. No Wi-Fi at the moment, or phone service. I’m told slot machines may be in the works.

Somewhere in the middle of the trip, my iPhone switched to international coverage. Oops. Disabled the phone part but quick. And though I brought my charger for the camera part of the phone, I didn’t have a European plug. The concession folks were nice enough to charge it up for me.

Over in Freeport, we day-trippers were spared waiting in the immigration line, leaving the afternoon to explore.

If I were staying for a few days, there are any number of beaches to explore on Grand Bahama Island. But because my time was limited to the Freeport area, I took a $5 van  (U.S. currency is widely accepted) packed with other sightseers from the ferry terminal to Lucaya Beach (named for the original inhabitants), in the suburbs.

My plan was to check out the beach and then wend my way to downtown Freeport on the way back to the terminal. I was eager to try a local eatery recommended by a Bahamian ferry passenger.

But when I told the van driver I wanted to head to downtown Freeport after the beach, she asked why. (I’d find out soon enough.)

Lucaya Beach — more like Florida during Spring Break than another country — was pretty, though packed.

My little taste of the Bahamas beach was delicious.

When in the Bahamas …

… make like a Bahama Mama and braid your hair. Yeah, not exactly Bo Derek.

There were the obligatory tourist shops.

Including a jewelry store that reeled me in with a divine ring. When I found out it was around the price of a MINI Cooper, I bolted. At least the MINI is a tad more practical.

I settled for a conch burger — that’s it buried under all the cheese — to tide me over until I got to Freeport. Pretty good. But couldn’t stomach the breaking news on CNN about the John Edwards trial. No getting away …

Took public transit to Freeport. Though it was knee-to-knee, everyone was cordial, wishing each other a good afternoon. The females were called Mum by the males and sister by the women.

When I finally arrived in downtown Freeport, I understood why it wasn’t a hot destination. Unlike Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, there really was no there there. Save for a lovely bunch of coconuts.

Lunch at Western Bakery, the local eatery I’d been so curious to try, was over. With that, I hopped on another bus to the harbor for the return trip back to the U.S.

On the ride back, treated myself to a Dr. Brown’s. And had the pleasure of shooting the breeze with a very gracious couple.

We discussed life, travel, and the sublime taste of Cadbury Crunchie candy bars. They offered me some of their supper — turkey sandwiches that they’d packed, and half a Crunchie. I declined; didn’t want to come off as a complete glutton.

They were so understated, I was floored to find out this was them.

After a long day …

Back in Fort Lauderdale with two gigundo mosquito bites as souvenirs. And the glow of an intriguing time.

Key points: If you want to stay over in the Bahamas, the ferry may be cheaper than flying. But keep in mind that you can’t board unless you have a passport.

For more info, click here.

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22 Responses to Who knew? A ferry from Florida to the Bahamas

  1. Spencer says:

    Hi,

    My friends and I are planning on doing a fishing trip in Nassau in May. We were originally going to fly but this looks like a nice cost saving option. Just wondering, what is the cost for the ferry and how do you book a place on the ferry?

  2. Bill Malie says:

    I can’t believe there is a Ferry that goes back and fourth! I’ve been to the Bahamas twice, only on a cruise, and have been looking into all-inclusive resorts and such in that area, and came across an eBay auction that included a Ferry from FLL. I was like, what the heck, and then found your website. Love the detail and info. Thanks.

  3. Simon says:

    Can anyone suggest a reliable operator that’s still running a Freeport Bahamas ferry service from Ft Lauderdale using largish ships (around 8-10000 tons or more) on Saturdays in May 2013? Discovery and Cloud X have gone, Bahamas Express is too risky (weather sensitive) and that’s the problem!
    Many thanks!

    • planetlippstone says:

      Some of what I’ve seen on the Internet looks repetitive. It’s all variations of this page. Looks like it’s the Bahamas Express again, with some other companies thrown in. I can’t vouch for the other companies. But maybe it’s a starting point.

      http://www.2daycruise.com/

  4. Marie says:

    Is there a ferry / or water transportation between Fort Lauderdale, Port Everglades, to Nassau where West Bay street is located? If yes, who should I contact? I am not looking for a 1 or 2 day cruise. Thank you. Marie

  5. Amy says:

    Do you need a Passport to travel on the ferry from Ft Lauderdale to the Bahamas?

    • planetlippstone says:

      Yes.

      • Nicky says:

        How abt just a birth certificate if don’t have a passport can you still go

      • planetlippstone says:

        It looks like a birth certificate may do. This is on the website of the ferry company I went with:

        U.S. Citizens
        For round-trip sailings (cruises that depart from and return to the same U.S. port), you may sail with either a valid passport, proof of citizenship and a valid government-issued photo I.D. (driver’s license with a photo), or any other WHTI compliant document.
        Proof of Citizenship examples include:
        State certified U.S. birth certificate

        For more info, contact them at (866) 699 6988.

  6. Doug McDonald says:

    If I take a fishing trip at Freeport, will I be permitted to take my catch of fish back on the ferry? If not, how can I get my catch back to Florida?

  7. La'Theldria Neal says:

    I live in jacksonville, florida and I want to caught a ferry to nassau. I know I would haveto drive to fort Lauderdale to caught ferry. Can you tell me what is best for me.

  8. La'Theldria Neal says:

    Is there a ferry that goes from freeport to nassau

  9. Jim says:

    I apologize if this sounds like a repetitive question but are there any cruises/ferries etc. that go from Florida to Nassau or vice versa?

  10. inna_cana says:

    My question is a repeat to what Jim asked above, and can’t find any definitive answer. Is there any ferry or boat service from Fort Lauderdale/Miami to Nassau only? Or vice versa? Specially one way. I would like to fly back from Nassau.

    • planetlippstone says:

      Last I checked, there was no ferry service from Florida to Nassau, just Freeport. That may have changed, due to what seems like a definite demand.

  11. kelly campbell says:

    We would like to use the ferry from Ft Lauderdale to freeport Bahama for week. would it be cheaper to just buy 1 way to and then when we were ready to come back to Ft Lauderdale buy a 1waybach?just not sure what island we want to stay at.

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