A week ago, I went on a seven-day Caribbean cruise on the Norwegian Getaway. This cruise stopped in St. Maarten, St. Thomas, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Nassau.
We were a group of 28 family members and friends. The cruise was most enjoyable, and on several occasions while we were aboard the ship, fellow guests told us how lucky we were to live in The Bahamas.
Both St. Maarten and St. Thomas were interesting stops. We found a very organized taxi system in both places and there was a very large shopping area on both islands. The tourist areas were clean and attractive, especially on St. Thomas. It is small wonder that St. Thomas is the most visited port in the Caribbean. It is certainly prepared and ready to receive large numbers of tourists!
I do not know if I can say the same for my beloved Bahamas. The first inkling that there might be a problem was when we received two safety warnings about Nassau in the daily brochure. I understand from some members of my group that there was also a sign on deck six, Guest Services, about safety and the danger of taking valuables ashore.
The safety notices warned the passengers that Nassau was a high crime area and that they should take every precaution to be safe. By the way, we did not receive any such warnings about the other two islands.
When I set foot on the Bahamian shore, I was most embarrassed and ashamed when I saw the condition of the port and its surroundings. I was greeted by weeds along the entire pathway to the shore and everything seemed to be in a state of disrepair. I do not know how we can claim it is better in The Bahamas. This was in stark contrast to the cleanliness, orderliness and picturesque scenes that we saw when we arrived in St. Thomas, the previous stop.
While I can understand that the Festival Place is being renovated, I must ask why we allowed it to get into such a deplorable condition in the first place. The port should be properly maintained all year round.
I am told that over 3 million tourists come to The Bahamas each year by ship. If this is the first thing that they see on disembarking, then they might not want to come back to The Bahamas. I can tell you that it is not a pretty sight for passengers stepping off the ship, if they dare to do so after the safety warnings about Nassau!
The only saving grace about the Nassau port was the calypso music provided by a small combo and the performance by a Junkanoo group. Thank God for Atlantis, which offered four different tours. The majority of the tourists who disembarked went on the organized Atlantis tours.
I was further chagrined when, as I was waiting for my ride to go home, I saw a surrey pass by. The poor, skinny horse, which had obviously seen better days, struggled to pull the surrey with the driver and the two passengers along the street.
The driver gave him a good lash with his whip and the horse moved a little faster, clearly afraid of feeling the sting of the whip a second time. I daresay that if we were in many other countries, we would be prosecuted for cruelty to animals.
If we truly want to make it better in The Bahamas, then let us clean up our streets and our neighborhoods; complete the modernization of Bay Street, especially the eastern section of this main roadway (it is an eyesore), and let us bring crime under control. Let us make this a safe place to live and a safe place to visit. Let us show appreciation for the wonderful beauty which the Lord has endowed us with and let us demonstrate pride in our country in all our actions!
I hope the authorities are listening. If we are not careful, we could lose a substantial portion of the tourism market. And this would have dire consequences for thousands of our people.
I remain a proud but disgusted Bahamian.
By: Rhonda Chipman-Johnson