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Oyster Hotel Review
A yachtsman's paradise on the remote West End of Grand Bahama Island
The on-site marina
"Dead, but beautiful." I wrote this in my notebook upon arrival at Old Bahama Bay. The resort is on the site of the old Jack Tar Resort, which catered to wealthy fishing enthusiasts in the 1950s and '60s. Bobby Ginn, a Florida real estate developer, purchased the property in the early 2000's with plans to build a 4,400-room resort and casino that would rival Atlantis. But given the stale economic climate and pending environmental approval, the land, and its construction vehicles, sits empty for the indefinite future.
For now, Old Bahama Bay's quiet village of 13 colorful cottages and its adjacent marina feel classier and more relaxed than the jumble of hotel towers in Freeport and Lucaya. It's also emptier. Unlike many other resorts in the Bahamas, the only drinking you're likely to see here is someone sipping a beer at the beach bar (which closes at 8 p.m.). For entertainment, there's only the occassional, very tame, live music.
In front, the main building houses a small reception area, as well as a resort shop and a real estate office. Old Bahama Bay allows people to purchase individual units for a required minimum stay each year, and then take a cut of revenues when guests rent out their unit. All of the other resort guests present during my stay were owners. And since the resort is anchored by its marina (people who dock their yachts there have full access to the resort's facilities), most guests come back to the property year after year. The management seems to know these guests by name, making the experience of staying at the resort feel a bit like visiting a private yacht club.
Luxury-level efforts; inconsistent follow through
Unlike the typical time-share-style hotel, Old Bahama Bay makes every effort to rival a more traditional luxury resort by offering a welcome cocktail upon check-in, an evening turndown service, and a staff driver to pick guests up at the airport (for an extra $20). But despite these efforts, the hotel doesn't exactly maintain a true luxury level of service -- my welcome drink never materialized and I was routinely left waiting for service in the restaurants.
- Full-time driver who picks guests up at the airport 45 minutes away (transportation one-way costs $20).
- Prompt porters who transport guests to their rooms in golf carts
- No drink service by the pool and beach, but beachfront Straw Bar is easily accessible
- No set room service menu, but guests may order meals from the Old Bahama Bay Dockside Bar & Grille delivered to their rooms
- Twice-daily housekeeping (including turndown service)
- No concierge, but the front desk staff is happy to arrange excursions, including scuba diving and fishing trips from the resort's marina
Isolated location -- 45 minutes from the airport -- on Grand Bahama Island's West End
Old Bahama Bay is located on the narrow West End of Grand Bahama Island. West End is also the name of the small village about a mile from the resort, but there are few restaurants or anything of real interest in this sleepy port town. To visit any of the attractions on Grand Bahama or to eat anywhere outside the resort, plan on a long drive.
- 25-mile, 45-minute drive from the Grand Bahama Airport and the main tourist areas of Freeport and Lucaya
- 20-minute walk (or 10-minute bike ride) from the small village of West End, which has a couple small restaurants purveying local specialties like conch (the most popular is Ella's)
- 64 miles east of Palm Beach, Florida, the West End is the Bahamas' closest port to the United States, making it a popular boating destination.
Placid, warm waters and far more privacy than you'd find on any other beach in Grand Bahama
Because the beach faces a protected cove to the north, rather than the Atlantic Ocean to the south, the water in the bay is very calm and warmer than it is elsewhere in the Bahamas.
- Calm, warm water -- great for young swimmers
- Long, fairly isolated beachfront
- Free nonmotorized water sports: kayaks, sailboats, and snorkeling gear
- Guests never have to fight for lounge chairs and the resort provides beach towels.
- Light snacks, fried food, and drinks are available from the beachfront Teaser's Tiki Bar.
The Junior Suite Ocean View room
All of the guest rooms were constructed in three distinct phases; "phase one" rooms were built nine years ago whereas the "phase three" rooms were constructed in 2007. Naturally, the newest rooms are much better, and include washers and dryers, full-size fridges, flat-screen TVs, and separate jacuzzis and slate showers in the bathroom. But shockingly, the newer rooms cost the same as the older rooms (room types only vary by view). Be sure to request a room built during "phase 3."
- "Junior Suites" -- the standard room type -- start at a large, 550 square feet and all include an extra sink and microwave in the common area and sitting area; two-bedroom suites also available.
- Some suites have flat-screen TVs; others have a 31-inch tube TV.
- Comfortable beds topped with 400-thread-count sheets, a silk duvet, and fluffy pillows
- Some kitchenettes include only a sink, mini-fridge and coffeemaker; newer units come with dishwashers, full-size fridges, and even washing machines.
- Marble bathrooms include separate showers and soaking tubs.
- All rooms have spacious terraces with two big, comfy wooden chairs and a small wooden table.
World-class destination for fishing and diving; good pool and gym, to boot
Complimentary cruiser bikes
- Bi-level pool and an upper level "hot tub" (guest complain the tub is actually lukewarm)
- Up-to-date gym: two treadmills, an elliptical, weight machines, free weights bikes, and a water cooler (none of the machines have personal TVs or iPod docks)
- Spa treatment room, adjacent to the gym, with a full assortment of body treatments; in-room spa treatments also available
- Free cruiser bikes for exploring the area
- Free Wi-Fi throughout the resort
- Small marina; resort provides showers and a filling station for boats
- Fantastic fishing charters from the marina: fly-fishing, bonefishing, snapper, grouper, and deep-sea sport fishing including marlin, tuna, and wahoo.
- Several scuba diving outfits depart from the marina.
Good choice for families: spacious suites; safe, quiet location; large, calm beach
Although it's definitely quieter and more reserved than the activities-packed Our Lucaya resort or the all-inclusive Viva Wyndham Fortuna, Old Bahama Bay is an excellent option for families.
- Calm, safe waters at the beach
- Reasonable pool, but nothing compared to the enormous pools at most other Caribbean resorts
- Large standard rooms (all "Junior Suites"); sleeper sofas by request
- Two-bedroom suites also available
- Free cribs
- Kitchenette in every suite; washing machines in some suites
- Kids' menu at Dockside Bar & Grille
- Quiet, isolated location -- no crowds or traffic
Good shape; not entirely spotless
Overall, Old Bahama Bay's grounds, main building, and guest rooms are very well cleaned. However, there was a good deal of mildew on the patio door and patio chairs -- a consequence of the enviornment.
Just two casual restaurants and a few local joints nearby
- Old Bahama Bay Dockside Bar & Grille, a casual spot for conch dishes and fresh fish, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- Teaser's Tiki Bar, a breezy daytime spot on the beach, serves sandwiches and fried food (food service from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.).
- All rooms have a mini-fridge and most have a microwave; there's a small market for provisions on-site.
- Couple of small restaurants -- the most popular is Ella's -- purveying local specialties like conch in West End, about a mile away. Show up early, though. By 2 p.m., Ella's could be out of fish for the day.
A small, isolated, time-share-style hotel with big, beautiful suites, a marina, a friendly staff that zips around on golf carts, and managers that greet returning guests like family -- Old Bahama Bay feels more yacht club than resort. But activities are limited -- just boating or lounging by the isolated beach or pool -- and to some travelers, it's boring.
This Hotel Also Featured In
Things You Should Know About Old Bahama Bay Resort & Yacht Harbour
- Bayshore Road, West End, Grand Bahama Island, BS
Hotel Is Also Known As...
- Old Bahama Bay
- Old Bahama Bay Hotel
- Old Bahama Bay Resort
- Oceanfront Junior Suite
- Ocean View Junior Suite
- Pool View Junior Suite
- Two Bedroom Suite