Photos and Review by Oyster.com Investigators
A yachtsman's paradise on the remote West End of Grand Bahama Island
"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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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
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.