Bahamas Express to run from Ft. Lauderdale to Freeport, Bahamas

Bahamas Express ferry service to Grand Bahama Island

This isn’t a new concept. Back in the 1970’s a cruise line called SeaEscape shuttled their Scandinavian Sun back and forth between Miami and Freeport, Bahamas.   It was a great way to feel like you were actually going somewhere, when in reality it was barely a fifty-five mile ocean jaunt. But the ship was an older ferry boat and it chugged along for the trip, nearly five hours each way.  This made for a very long one-day getaway; you departed from Miami at 8am and returned back at half past midnight.

Captain Francisco Jeminez of the Balearia Bahamas Express

Fast forward forty years and there are fast ferry boats running all around the edges of Europe, shuttling people, vehicles and cargo back and forth between countries and continents.  It’s one of these ferry companies, Baleària of Spain, that announcedthat they will operate daily service between Fort Lauderdale and Freeport (actually on Grand Bahama Island) every day except Wednesdays.

The difference is that now the fast ferry will make the crossing in 2.5 hours enabling a later departure time from Ft. Lauderdale at 10:00am, and returning back to Florida well before midnight (10:00pm.)

SeaEscape ScandinavianSunUnlike the old SeaEscape Scandinavian Sun from Miami, the fast ferry ‘Pinar del Río‘,  sails at a speed of 32 knots and has capacity for 463 passengers. The Pinar del Río also boasts diferrent onboard services such as a cafe-bar, duty free gift shop, and tourist and first class accommodation, among others.

Baleària is one of the leading Spanish shipping lines, providing passenger and sea transport services in the Spanish Mediterranean.  The company provides regular services in the Balearic Islands (to the northwest of peninsular Spain) and in the Strait of Gibraltar (the main connection point between Europe and Africa), where it is the second-largest shipping line in terms of passenger numbers.

Seating on the Balearia Bahamas ExpressRestoring regularly scheduled day trips to the Bahamas has been on the drawing board for awhile.  Back in July, Balearia Bahamas Express announced it would soon commence a jet-powered high-speed ferry service between the Port of Miami and the Bimini Bay Resort & Marina on the island of Bimini. The new service was met with interest and anticipation from the travel community, since the two-hour ferry trip would present an appealing alternative to travel by air. As the mid-July start date grew closer, the inaugural voyage was changed to mid-August. Now a third adjustment has been announced.

“We still have some unresolved issues at the Port of Bimini, so we are going to start the line with the fast ferry from the Port of Miami to Grand Bahama Island next month (in October),” said Karen Garrigos McCarthy, operations manager for Balearia Bahamas Express.  “At this time we do not know when we will start going to Bimini. Our plan is to offer service to both destinations from Miami.”

Deluxe seating area on Balearia Bahamas Express

If all had gone as planned, the Balearia Bahamas Express would have made two roundtrips a day. The ferry schedule would have been to depart Port of Miami’s Terminal J at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. and depart Freeport Harbour, Grand Bahama Island at 12 p.m. and 10 p.m. The crossing from Miami to Freeport takes around two hours.  This idea was also scrubbed and the new Ft. Lauderdale itinerary took hold.

Balearia Bahamas Express will be offering four classes of roundtrip fares: the Excursion fare, at $99; the Excursion VIP, at $130; the Economy Class, at $150 and First Class, at $180. Additional charges comprise a Bahamas Departure Tax of $18 and a fuel surcharge of $13.50. Children age 6 and under travel at no charge. Balearia Bahamas Express will also pay commission to travel agents.

Passengers will be able to check schedules and book tickets on the Balearia Bahamas Ferry website www.ferryexpress.com.  The site is still be under construction and presently carries information on Balearia’s Mediterranean ferry services, which are more extensive than the Ft. Lauderdale/Bahamas service. For example, unlike the company’s Mediterranean service, the Balearia Bahamas Express will not have facilities for bringing vehicles onboard and pets will be excluded from the voyage. Questions can be directed to info@ferryexpress.com.

You can opt to stay overnight at one of the many hotels on Freeport.  So what about bringing luggage?  “We do not have weight restrictions but, of course, there is security,” said McCarthy. “Our policy in Spain is that each passenger has to carry his or her own luggage onboard in one trip.” The residents of Freeport have also used these ferry boats as a way for a one-day shopping trip to Florida.

The shift from Bimini to Grand Bahama Island has the potential to appeal to more travelers. The family-friendly island is only 55 miles east of Florida. The island has several national parks, dive facilities, gaming and opportunities to swim with dolphins at Sanctuary Bay. There are also a wide range of accommodations choices, including an all-inclusive option at Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach All-Inclusive Resort. Freeport, where the ferry docks, also offers duty-free shopping.

McCarthy also noted that, in the event that the U.S. eases travel restrictions to Cuba, Balearia will consider the possibility of offering ferry service to Cuba. This would hearken back to the glory days of Florida/Cuba travel, during the 1940s and 50s, when tourists would make the quick trip by sea from Miami to Havana.

How exciting would it be to travel on the first passenger ship from the United States to Cuba in over half a century.  Count me in.

Source: Balearic Bahamas Express
Photo credit: Balearic Bahamas Express, Simplonpc.com

 

Comments

  1. Cruise Maven (Sherry Laskin) says

    Hi Barb,

    Thanks for reading my article. Sorry, but I’m a writer, I don’t know about the currency state of affairs at Bahamas Express. It’s probably best that you call them to see how things are shaping up. Yes, I’ve heard that in the beginning there were some “issues.” In the 1970s, I used to take the old SeaEscape back and forth to Freeport. It was a lot of fun.

    Thanks again. Have a good trip!

    Sherry (Cruise Maven)

  2. Barb P says

    Sherry,
    We are taking a trip in Nov. to the Grand Bahama Islands. After what I read not sure it is a good idea to take the ferry. Do you have everything worked out? We do not get many trips and would like to totally enjoy our time off. Why did the cost go up so much? I looked for a specific date and couldn’t pull it up I thought you made daily trips. Very confused never had a problem with the old tugboat.

    Barb P

  3. sylvia figueroa says

    We are planning to go to Abaco at the beginning of August and would like to have some information about your ferry.
    Please give us price, schedule and port of call.
    We will be going on the 3rd and returning on the 12th.
    Thank you

  4. Cruise Maven (Sherry Laskin) says

    Ryan,

    Normally I would not post such a long comment/rant but you did raise some interesting points. I hope that the cruise line has contacted you in regards to all of your concerns. Intelligent raves and rants are ALWAYS welcome on this blog. Thank you for taking the time to post.

    Regards,
    Sherry (Cruise Maven)

  5. Ryan B. says

    I would STRONGLY advise you to NOT take this ferry. The cost of the flight is not much more than the first class fare on this boat, and the flight is MUCH safer. I’ve pasted part of a letter I wrote to Balearia (which went unanswered) to give you some details of our experience:

    I am writing to express my profound disappointment with our experience on Monday, April 23rd, 2012, crossing from Fort Lauderdale to Grand Bahama.

    My party had three (3) first-class tickets for the trip to Grand Bahama. We boarded the ferry at 9:30am on Monday morning. When all was said and done, we were able to disembark from your vessel at 3:45 that afternoon. We spent over 6 hours on the Balearia Express for what was to be a 2.5 hour crossing.

    I am extremely frustrated with a number of issues from that day:

    1) ZERO communication from anyone in command of the vessel that our voyage was going to be more than THREE times the scheduled time.

    2) A CLEAR disregard for the safety of all passengers on board by allowing the boat to enter into such dangers marine conditions.

    3) The crew of the ship began to inform us that we were so significantly off course that we could apparently see Bimini to the south as we passed by the island. They told us that the captain was LOST. Can you imagine? Out to sea and your crew tells you that the captain is LOST!!

    4) The last crew member we talked to informed us that this captain was NEW! My point above (Number 2) is further clarified when we learn that we have a new captain, who can’t FIND Grand Bahama, and should in NO WAY be allowed to manage a passenger vessel in 6-9 foot seas.

    5) Upon arrival to Grand Bahama, the NEW, INEXPERIENCED captain took over an HOUR to dock the boat. It took no less than 4 attempts to dock the ship. There was NO wind and yet, this captain is completely unable to perform the most basic of boating maneuvers.

    Trust me, once we saw this captain unable to dock a ship, that is when we realized the magnitude of the danger that you company exposed every one of the passengers to on that day.

    Then, when the boat was finally docked, we were boarded by Customs and Immigration who entered the captains cabin alone and interviewed him for upwards of an hour. Again, no communication from the ship – we were just forced to sit on the boat while your captain was apparently interrogated by officials from the Bahamas. Your cabin crew simply informed us that this has ‘never happened before’.

    Many rumors circulated the boat in that hour that the captain was detained by customs officials. Some said the captain was drunk. Some said it was his first day. Others told us they heard we were not going to be allowed off the boat and forced to return to the United States. This was a HORRIBLE experience.

    We paid for First Class tickets. As we got out to sea and so many of the passengers began to experience severe sea sickness, the stewards of you vessel decided to turn the first class lounge into the on-ship infirmary. So we got the pleasure of sharing our cabin with 20+ vomiting passengers. I don’t think this is the kind of ‘amenity’ that most First Class passengers are used to receiving for the premium dollars they spend for their tickets.

    We all understand that seasickness happens, and understand that there is a need to place sick people somewhere. At the VERY least, you crew could have communicated with us.

    Upon arrival in Grand Bahama, it became very clear that, as intelligent individuals, none of us was willing to put our lives into the profoundly incapable hands of the crew of your ship. We were forced to book an extra night in the Bahamas and return to Fort Lauderdale via plane.

  6. Cruise Maven (Sherry Laskin) says

    Hi – thanks for your comment. You’ll need to contact the company directly at BahamasFerries.com. Congrats on your new contract.

  7. Patrice miller says

    Hello we are so excited to have this option we will be the new contract with Bahamasaire flying into and out of the states twice a day so every 2 weeks for 7 months we will be coming from fort lauderdale to Freeport We would love the option to take your boat is there any special rate we could get by chance ? We are very excited (:

    Thank you Patrice Miller
    F/A Xtra airways/Bahamasaire

  8. Cruise Maven (Sherry Laskin) says

    Hi Jim,
    Thanks for your questions. I’ve only reported on their new start-up cruise. For the most accurate and up-to-date info, I’d suggest checking their website at http://www.ferryexpress.com and contact someone in their office.

    Regards,
    Sherry

  9. Jim Gibson says

    Like Melissa, I am curious if you have worked out the details to enter Bimini Bay Resort yet. If not, do you foresee this happening prior to June 2012?
    Best regards,

    jim-

  10. Cruise Maven (Sherry Laskin) says

    Hi Steve,
    I apologize for my late reply. You’ll need to directly contact the cruise line in question so that you have the correct (and legal) answer. Good luck!

  11. Steve Davis says

    Can we travel with you on ESTA visa waivers? If so do we need a copy of the ESTA or are you in the ESTA program?

    Regards
    Steve Davis

  12. Cruise Maven (Sherry Laskin) says

    Hi Donald, thank you for sending your question. From their website, it states that everyone over 16 yrs. must have a valid passport to travel as this route is not considered a “closed loop” cruise. Here’s a link to their website for more detailed passenger information. I think this sounds like a great getaway for a day.

    http://www.ferryexpress.com/wps/portal/corporativo/web?WCM_GLOBAL_CONTEXT=/corporativo/en/SeccionesBimini/Guiadelpasajero/Guiadelpasajero/Documentation

    Thanks!
    Sherry (Cruise Maven)

  13. DONALD WELLS says

    what kind of ( ID) do we need. would love to bring grandkiids on a trip, to somewhere they never been, we take them on vac. once a year, and this sound like somewhere we would love to take them, also our aldut kids

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