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Is it possible to get from Canada to the Bahamas by train?

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Jan 1st, 2011, 08:25 AM
  #1
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Is it possible to get from Canada to the Bahamas by train?

Answer: Yes. Tee hee, well... *almost*.

Well, this title probably wins as a new low to lure people to read this trip report, trying to get folks who would be irritated by the premise of the question.

So how did I do it?

* I took Amtrak's Adirondack train from Montreal-NYC December 21st, visited my aunt, then NYC-DC on the Acela train December 22nd.
*December 28th picked up the Silver Meteor train from DC-Fort Lauderdale.
*Then caught the Discovery ferry (OK, so not a train, but I went 16/17 of the way by rail) from Fort Lauderdale to Freeport, where I am at present for the first time ever.

I've taken these trains before and the US portion of the trip was mostly about visiting family, but a few things of note on the US section of the journey.

#1. I was surprised that upper Lake Champlain was not frozen while the Chesapeake Bay estuaries were.

#2. It amazed me in some ways to think that the metal tube with wheels that I was riding on left people shovelling out from the piles of snow in NYC and somehow chug-a-lugged its way to palm-tree-in-abundance, orange-grove ridden mild southern Florida. Odd to think the diverse range of climate experiences that train had experienced.

Trip report for Fort Lauderdale will be posted here and the Grand Bahama portion (where incidentally I'm enjoying tremendously) to come in the Caribbean channel. I'll post a link here to it for those who are interested.

Happy New Year! Daniel
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Jan 1st, 2011, 08:43 AM
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Happy New Year to you, Daniel. I always enjoy your trip reports so I look forward to more installments. Enjoy your vacation, it sounds wonderful!
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Jan 1st, 2011, 01:13 PM
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Daniel, so you got back to The Bahamas. I remember how you enjoyed Nassau so hope you have a great time on Grand Bahama. Where did you decide to stay

Have a great time and enjoy the sun......we are all abit green, oh have to go back out and shovel a bit more, sigh....
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Jan 1st, 2011, 01:13 PM
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Be sure to include the rail portions, esp the Silver Meteor
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Jan 1st, 2011, 01:37 PM
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I hope you discovered the USA Railpass. It is well hidden on the Amtrak website under "deals". It can save a lot of money(not on Acela).
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Jan 1st, 2011, 02:09 PM
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I'm looking forward to them also. It's always nice to hear the experiences of another train buff.
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Jan 2nd, 2011, 12:15 AM
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A man after my own heart, precisely the way I'd have chosen!
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Jan 2nd, 2011, 04:11 AM
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Nice lure, Daniel, I'm hooked! I didn't know a ferry existed between Ft. Lauderdale and Freeport, tell us more. Look forward to reading your report. I love the train and love that you were able to travel from Montreal to the Bahamas, tee hee.

Enjoy a wonderful stay and Happy New Year to you!
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Jan 2nd, 2011, 05:14 AM
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Jan 2nd, 2011, 07:09 AM
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Thanks LoveItaly, travelbuff (hard to believe it's been 10 years since I went to Nassau! Time flies too fast...), Dukey1, dwooddon, Man_in_seat_61, AnnMarieC and bardo1 for tuning in!

I look forward to telling you more, but for today I go scuba diving (bit anxious) for the first time ever and tomorrow I go on an Eco-Tour out to Port Lucayan National Park, just hitting an Internet Cafe.

As long as I don't get eaten by a shark today (if I do, I must tell you that Junkanoo last night was an experience of a lifetime), I promise I will post more in a few days.

Wishing lots of love for you all in this upcoming new year!

DANIEL
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Jan 2nd, 2011, 08:16 AM
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Happy New Year. You got my attention.
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Jan 4th, 2011, 07:49 AM
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Hello again,

Here's just a quick update (on the off chance you were worried) to let all know I was *not* eaten by sharks during my SCUBA diving adventure (I'll write a report on Grand Bahama including that in about 5 days or so).

A bit on the train:

Took a roommette from DC south to Fort Lauderdale. The train was 2 hours late arriving in DC, but most were quite understanding given that New York City where the train originated had just been socked by that heavy winter storm. We were about 2 hours 45 minutes late getting into Fort Lauderdale some 24 hours later on the Silver Meteor.

I enjoyed chatting with people in the dining car as usual. The thing I love about the Silver Meteor (in winter) is that you leave coat-necessary weather and arrive somewhere where only a sweater (if that) is required. I've taken this train before but I loved as much as always the experience of the dramatic change in climate zones moving south.

Daniel
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Jan 4th, 2011, 03:12 PM
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You hooked me Daniel. Expected this to devolve easily. However, had you been in Sicily, the last 17th would have been on the train. DH and I were totally amazed that the train was actually loaded unto the ferry that crossed the Straits of Messina.

Looking forward to your TR!

Oh, how was the roommette? I'm taking the AutoTrain to Florida soon.
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Jan 5th, 2011, 06:29 AM
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Hi TDudette

Love that the train boarded the ferry to Sicily! I didn't even know trains ever did that. Who knows, maybe one day in some far-distant future there actually *will* be a train to the Bahamas?

The roommette is not glamorous; it's quite small and is pretty basic, but is private and I've slept well on the provided mattress and pillows (I'm 6 feet tall; some taller people have reported feeling cramped). I've never been on the AutoTrain so can't speak as to the type of roommette you get (different routes I've noticed have different styles of roommettes) but on the Silver Meteor there is a sink, mirror and toilet (having that in the room may or may not be appealing to traveller). There's a variety of lights so the lower bunk passenger can let's say read while the upper bunk passenger sleeps.

I enjoy the whole experience of long-distance train travel; in fact, I enjoy it so much, I sometimes pick destinations to try to incorporate a train journey as part of the trip. It's not for everyone but since you've booked it, I hope it works out for you...
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Jan 7th, 2011, 11:22 AM
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OK I'm back and this time with a little bit of time on my hands, here continues the trip report...

*Final words on Silver Meteor train*

I just wanted to add that Amtrak offered tiramisu and curry chicken on brown rice as dessert & main dish specials in the dining car that were quite good. I really feel that somebody in Amtrak is making an effort to try to make things pleasant.

*Night in Fort Lauderdale before catching ferry*

Departing the Fort Lauderdale train station, it was around a $20 cab to Hyatt Place, which I had booked via Priceline with a $100 bid. A standard chain hotel for businesspeople, but I was glad I stayed there for the *free shuttle to Port Everglades* in the morning.

*Discovery Sun Cruises Fort Lauderdale-Grand Bahama and back*

This boat regularly gets slammed on TripAdvisor. I knew that going in, but wanting to do a trip without flying and knowing that this was one of only two ferries out of mainland North America to the Bahamas (the other being Bahamas Celebration, an overnight cruise out of West Palm Beach) or for that matter I believe anywhere in the West Indies, I decided I'd give it a shot anyway. I thought: if I can handle Greyhound for 12 hours from New Orleans to San Antonio with changes, I can survive a boat for 5 hours.

Anyhow, getting on the boat in the USA actually was better organized than I expected: first security, then embarkation cards checked for Bahamian immigration purposes, then line up to show tickets, hand ticket in and then you're on the boat. It takes a little while and some people on line were already complaining, but I thought it was pretty standard waiting times for international travel (especially for holiday season December 30th!).

*Word of Advice about the Cabins*

I had decided to get a cabin both ways ($27)in my mind as a convenient place to plop my luggage, and here presented a surprise that I-who-think-of-myself-as-a-hardy-traveller-who-can-pull-through-most-things actually couldn't stomach. The cabin had a lingering smell of diesel fumes before the ship left the port that started me off feeling a little queasy and off-kilter (and I don't get seasick).

So how did I manage to deal with this on the 5-hour-journey, you ask? Well, on the way to the Bahamas I found a chair on deck which offered fresh air leaving Port Everglades and *here* I managed to dispel that feeling of nausea as I'd read my book and admire the scenery. I ended up only returning to my cabin when I needed to use the washroom and when it was time to leave. On the way back, thanks to the advice of my B&B hostess in Lucaya, I upgraded for $25 to an available suite which had no smell, offered a lovely place to sit and had a comfortable bed where I actually sat. So, my advice: either don't take the cabin OR if you feel you want a space to crash on Discovery Sun (unless you're a hardier soul than I) do go for the suite!

*The ride itself*

From pulling out of Port Everglades [what with the colourful mansions, humongous cruise ships (including that bohemoth that is Oasis of the Seas) and waves gently lapping against the sides of the extensive beaches] to watching the coastline of Southern Florida gradually disappear (we left at 9:30am, I could still see the skyscrapers at the horizon at 11:00am), once the queasiness, I really felt quite contented on the 71 degree F clear-blue-skied day.

*Activities on Board Discovery Sun*

A breakfast buffet is included on the islands-bound journey (which I can't comment on too much as I only had some melon, cheese and a few strips of bacon, as I wasn't feeling all that hungry). To get people into good spirits, an attractive Eastern European coordinator had a host of activities going on in the deck above the pool area from a drinking game to bingo to teaching passengers an "island dance". I found myself smiling as she was getting middle-aged guys with logoed T-shirts and birkenstocks "dancing?" to the island song "Five Cent-Ten Cent-Dollar". Five Cent, jerk the hip to the left, Ten Cent, swivel the hip in a circular motion around to the right, Dollah, pelvic thrust with fists and elbows moving back.

By the way, on the way back, I had the Gourmet Supper ($25) upgrade in the Grand Bahama Grill and I would very much recommend that. (Tenderloin beef risotto as appetizer, rosemary-thyme grilled chicken breast with vegetables as main dish, complimentary glass of wine and apple pie as desert: I thought all was tasty and thoughtfully prepared.)

*Arrival in the Bahamas*

It take awhile to depart the boat itself, as the day-trippers are let off first and then people who are staying one night or more. It's quite chaotic, especially so apparently during the December 23rd-January 2nd period when I travelled. Waiting for awhile in corridors as the day-trip passengers got off, it seemed we could leave the boat, but instead we were herded into the "Starlight Lounge", so I'd actually recommend going THERE on the early side or waiting in your suite. They let people off in groups of 15 or so (I think so Bahamian Immigration won't be too overwhelmed), and I think some passengers were getting antsy, confused and frustrated. It was perhaps only an hour waiting in the corridor and the Starlight Lounge once the boat had docked in Freeport, so not TOO bad; I think it the uncertainty that most got to people.

Bahamian Customs & Immigration as well seemed overwhelmed with 6-8 immigration officials processing the passengers. They told us there were 1100 passengers on board, 400 of whom were Bahamian (who stock up on goods in South Florida, so take awhile longer than usual to be processed).

Once past the immigration officials, things were again quite chaotic, with an area for checked luggage and some officials letting you out of the checked luggage area. Then in a final room, unmarked where I thought I'd gone through all the steps, they did luggage inspections. It was all very confusing: a middle-aged official waved me through, then he said "wait, are you wit that woman?"... I said "no"... he said "den come back, why you go trough?"... I then said perhaps wrongly (don't like to seem cheeky with officialdom) but they were the only words I could find "because you waved me through?"... he then smiled, seemed less stern and asked some usual questions if I were bringing food, tobacco, alcohol, etc... in my luggage. Then said "ok, you're good then", so I then went to a door that seemed like the exit that I'd just seen someone else pass through, walked in a corridor and was about to walk out the door to the outside when another middle-aged Bahamian male offical says crossly "wait, wait, where you going?" I replied "I was told I was good?"; he says "no, no, you got to come trough dat corridor" pointing toward another corridor and he herds me that way. So I walk a few steps, do a 360, and come down that corridor and slink outside. Very bizarre. I still have no clue why coming down that corridor was so imperative.

Incidentally, the whole customs process (from leaving the Discovery Sun to getting processed in the USA) was much more manageable coming back January 4th (a little past prime tourist season, so the boat was significantly less crowded).

Anyhow, despite the dieselly cabin, despite the chaos exiting the Discovery Sun and passing through Bahamian Customs & Immigration, it was all worth it (and I'd do it again!) to expose me to all the eye-opening, amazing visuals and experiences that awaited me during my 5 day stay on Grand Bahama!

*Experiences on Grand Bahama coming up on Caribbean channel*
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Jan 7th, 2011, 03:11 PM
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I've linked the Grand Bahama portion in case there's interest.

http://www.fodors.com/community/cari...-guidebook.cfm
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Jan 8th, 2011, 03:50 AM
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Hi Daniel, I enjoy the way you write. Interesting report so far--thanks for details on the ferry, good information and insight. Look forward to the reading about your time on GB so thanks for the link!
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Jan 8th, 2011, 04:13 AM
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Daniel I chuckled when I saw the heading of your post and thought to myself, I cannot believe a seasoned traveller like Daniel is asking such a question. Great post - will have to visit the Bahamas the same way soon! I just posted about my trip to Maui with 3 of my girlfriends - what an excellent time we had.
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Jan 8th, 2011, 05:41 AM
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Great chapter in Travels with Daniel.
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Jan 8th, 2011, 07:15 AM
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Great report always enjoy reading Daniel...

Happy Journeys,
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