PARADISE COVE-DEADMANS REEF
We have never been to Freeport/Grand Bahama before, so this would be our first visit to explore. I'm not really sure why, out of all the cruises we have been on, that we've never been on a ship that goes here. I was kind of glad to switch things up a little.
Now, I did a lot of research on places to go here and it seemed like all the fine people here on cc suggested going to either Paradise Cove or to Grand Lucayan Resort. If I had MY choice about it, I would have like to go to Gold Rock Beach, but I know on a cruise, it doesn't seem like it allows enough time for it.
I was convinced that Paradise Cove...also known as Dead Mans Reef was the place for me since it had awesome snorkeling. I spoke with "Larry" and booked our reservations for the day there prior to leaving. They did not require a deposit and you pay when you get there.
In my email back and forth, I was given specific directions:
Please be at the Ministry of Tourism booth at 9:00AM or one hour after your ship docks. The booth is near the shopping area as you leave the ship. Look for our sign Paradise Cove Snorkeling next to the booth and the driver will meet you there.
I was also instructed to ignore the other tour guides. So, this is exactly what I did. However, had we docked right where the Gem was, we would have got off the ship right where this location is at. Instead, we were docked the furthest away and had to find this location.
When we got there, there wasn't anyone there and it was 9am.
From looking at the area, it was a waiting area where the ship sponsored tours meet. You find what excursion you are on (according to the signs they had within this place) and you wait there. I thought it was strange for them to have us waiting in that area, but wait is what we did. We waited, and waited, and waited. Several times I got up to ask various people around the area if we were in the right place and each time I was told this is where they pick us up at and that it was unusual that he was not standing there with the sign way ahead of time.
We're still waiting and waiting and at this point I'm getting nervous! I'm thinking this entire day is going to go downhill from here on out. My family and the kids were getting anxious and irritated. Had I picked the wrong place? Were we being stood up? I just didn't have answers for them. There wasn't even anyone located inside the tourism booth to answer any questions.
At one point, Kendra decided we should just walk back over to the ship and see if anyone might have been waiting there. We took the long hike back there and started asking around. We were told that the guy holding the sign was there a little bit ago, but is gone now. Sigh. This was getting aggravating at this point and I had really wished I had a back up plan because I would have went with it at this point.
We started walking back toward the rest of the family and we spotted them come around the corner and was getting on a bus parked. It was our bus. Geesh!
We got on the bus, which was already crowded and the driver came on his loud speaker and announced he was the "Captain" and continued to refer to himself as such during the entire day. He then also made several rude comments about how WE made others WAIT for the tour because we weren't on the bus! I shouted "Well MAYBE if you were at the spot you TOLD us to be at, you wouldn't have been waiting and neither would WE!" He said they didn't like to leave people behind, but yet they didn't like to keep people waiting...um, well you have kept US waiting this entire time by not being where we were told to be to pick us up. He then stated that the directions were in the email and they kept announcing they were looking for a party of 9. "Yep, I have my directions RIGHT HERE (pulling them out of my bag) which states to meet right in front of the Ministry of Tourism and YOU were not there. WE have been waiting for almost an hour!!!" He continued to ignore me and at that point it just put a sour taste in my mouth. I knew this day was going down hill from there on out. He was first of all rude in the way he was talking to us, rude in announcing this over his speaker phone in front of the whole bus, then rude in not acknowledging anything I said.
He stated that it would be a 30 minute ride to Paradise Cove and gave us a sheet to sign as we pulled away.
Along the way he gave a little information about the places we passed and every once in awhile, he would throw in a nasty comment about "the party of 9". Seriously dude? Give it a rest! WE are the ones that should be pissed for you wasting our time!
There was a speed limit of 45 mph and we were lucky to be hitting 25-30mph if that. This driver was SLOW with a capital S L O W. Geesh, we were NEVER getting there.
Some of the info I caught him saying was..obviously they drive on the opposite side of the road, there was a weird church that looked like it was falling apart and falling down...which was built that way, there was a hurricane in 2005 and there are still houses boarded up from that and roofs gone.
We finally arrived at the site and was told to get in line and stay in line. Yikes!
We got a 10% discount for having our own snorkeling gear, so it cost us $17 for the admission for kids and $31.50 pp for adults. If you don't plan on snorkeling then you could get a package for $28 which included a chair and a free drink. So think about this. I could have just said I wasn't snorkeling, since I had my own equipment, only paid $28 and received a chair and a free drink. I mean it's not like they DID anything for us for snorkeling. We went out on our own. There was no tour, just a "speach".
Everything they did had "tickets" with writing on them. If you needed snorkeling equipment, you got a ticket... you need food, you got a ticket...you need a drink, you guessed it, you get a ticket. So you get your "ticket" and then have to take it over to the snorkeling booth.
I have to admit, they had some really neat snorkeling floats and it's MUCH easier to use them for snorkeling than a blow up snorkeling life vest that rides up you and is uncomfortable along with wanting to climb up your face. I'm going to have to invest in a few of these and do away with the vest.
If you want to purchase a chair it's $4.00 for the day. Soda is $1.50, Hamburgers $3.75 with cheese add .50. Hotdogs were $3.75-they were the footlong and fries were $2.00. All very reasonable IMO.
We'll take a quick look around the building area to start with.
There's a booth where you pick up your snorkeling equipment. Behind the building is the restroom area. When you pay for food and get your "ticket", you then walk across from there to turn your ticket in and they make your meal.
They then tell you to sit at the picnic tables under the roof and listen to a speech for the snorkeling. They give you their "rules" for snorkeling there, which included following this buoy line and that buoy line and then go this way and then go that way, then you see the sea grass and stay off of it unless you only need to stand on it for a minute and then go back to snorkeling and and and and and..... sigh*
At one point they passed around a cartoonish paper that looked like someone like Sakari drew pictures of the coral on it and told us to familiarize ourself with each type and what to stay away from.
Right away they mentioned "fire coral" and shortly after they ask for questions. Immediately Sakari raised her hand and told her "fire coral story" from our cruise the previous week and being stung by it...while pointing at the picture. He told her to "bring the picture paper back to me" and then went on with his speech. Ok, for the poster that said "it's a Miami thing to be rude"...can you tell me if a Freeport thing too? If so, I hope I never return here again...like ever...like seriously.
After a good 20 minute speech, we were "turned loose".
We headed out to the beach and picked our "spot" in the sand and planted our beach chairs and things and headed to check out the water.
Ok, so the beach looked pretty enough to hang out there for the day and for me to be able to get over all the rudeness I had encountered up to this point.
Time to head out to the water. Pictures coming right up....or maybe not. Not "right" up because it will take me awhile to get out in the water to take more pictures. Why you ask? Because it's nothing but very slippery rock along the beach water line. VERY slippery! We would all be holding on to each other taking very slow steps trying to make it out in the water.
Ok, I made it far enough out to turn back and take a picture of the family, who started out at the same time I did, still trying to make it to where I was with all of their gear. Come on youngins, even your momma is faster than that.
Can you see the buoy lines in the water? They are like the kind you see in swimming pools. It kinda runs along the sea grass area. If you look really close, you'll see them. You can also see the "land" or rocky area out there. That's where the "reef" is at.
Meanwhile, Sakari was slow in getting her stuff on and I told her she was not coming out without having her puddle jumper on. By the time she managed to get geared up, she was a little too late and we had left without her. She stayed back and did her thing...which is make friends with anyone around. Hey girl, where'd ya get that tan? Oh that's right, I found you in Mexico last week. hehe
Ok, honest truth here...the main reason I picked this place wasn't actually for the snorkeling or the reef. It was because from everything that I had read, there seems to be a LOT of turtles spotted here and even stingrays. I have YET to spot a turtle when snorkeling and I just knew this was going to make my day.
I had inquired where the turtles were usually found and pointed to the left of the beach and they said over by the "fake reef". So, I decided we all should head over toward that way to take a look around.
I had no idea what the "fake" reef was and I tell ya when I come up on it while snorkeling, it totally freaked me out!!! The water wasn't the clearest today and we were in water that you could stand in. Every time someone would stand up to adjust their equipment, it created a small sandstorm in my face. It's about that time I ran into one of these "reef balls" and I completely almost gave myself a heart attack and swallowed some salt water. I mean with the water stirred up and then all of a sudden...BAM, it looked like this 4 eyed monster just hit me in the face (reef ball?)
Ok, take a look at this sign they had posted on the beach with the rules...NO lifeguard on duty....swim at your OWN RISK.
I'm here to tell ya....FALSE information. Seriously. These guys are up at the deck with this mega phone screaming in it at everyone snorkeling. They are yelling which way to go, turn around, back this way, wrong way...and so on. No worries, you won't get lost in this place.
Here's their "reef ball" program picture. I guess they want you to adopt these things??? To me, they are ugly. You can't see anything in them, they are too dark. Not too many fish around them and not many peeping out of them. They line them up to the point where it's next to impossible to get around them and get out to the ocean. Once you do get on the other side, it's next to impossible to find your way back out to come out of the water. I just absolutely hated them! Notice in the picture, you see the opening that you can get to the other side? Well without knowing about this "program" and where the balls are located, you make it to the other side and not knowing if/where/when there might be another opening to get out...you're screwed pretty much. Did I mention how much I didn't like these? Like seriously. At least make some openings every so often so swimmers can get in and out with some type of ease. They were just freaky IMO.
They had a display reef ball up by the gift shop.
Ok enough ranting about the ugly balls that scared the living crap out of me. On with the snorkeling.
We really didn't see much of anything. A few of your normal small fish here and there, but nothing exciting and nothing on the other side of these balls toward the sea grass. Once we were yelled at by the loud speaker...they said we were going the wrong way. At this point I was frustrated and felt like I was a kid in grade school be punished for everything possible that day. I had had enough and told everyone I was headed back.
We ended up just coming out of the water where we were at and trying hard to walk across the very slippery rocks along the shore to make it to the beach and walked back.
Of course I mentioned how I was disappointed that we didn't get to see any sea turtles and the guy up at the picnic table areas with the speaker stated, "well there was just one out there earlier. He'll be back in a little while"....like if you know he's due back at such and such time. At that point I felt like it was just a scam (but know that others have seen them there)...but it was just the way it was said like these turles were on a scheule.
Meanwhile, Sakari had found her some coral on the beach and was eager to show me.
We were all getting a little hungry and decided to head up and place our order. The menu...which the owner says he don't publish online or give out when you email him because the prices change all the time...oops, well here it is.
The food was tasty enough and it hit the spot. It was obviously tasty enough for the bees too that would NOT leave us alone or our drinks and food. The bees were BAD! You had to put your hand over everything...whether it was at the lunch table or on the beach. There was no escaping them. We wasted more sodas that day than I have in my life.
As we sat here eating, I couldn't help but notice this megaphone sitting on the table...my enemy! Where did the drill Sargent go? Is it possible that he retired? Nope, he was back in no time and giving orders again.
When we were done eating, I headed over to the gift shop. They had a glass display cabinet with some huge coral and conch shells. Sakari wanted one so bad, but they were not for sale. I ended up buying her a sea biscuit and sand dollar.
The sea biscuit made it home in 1 piece, the sand dollar did not.
After a little bit of shopping, I told the kids since our snorkeling for turtles was a bust, I wanted to head out to the reef...the real reef.
Kendra said...let me rest for a minute and plopped down on a towel and continued to put me off for quite some time.
Kendra does a good Miley Cyrus face...
I don't think her boyfriend moved from this spot all day. He's a little timid when it comes to getting in the water...you know, there's fish in the water and you never know what can bite you. LOL We thought by now we would break him of this bad habit. It's not working yet and we have taken him swimming with the dolphins and he managed to stay on deck and take pictures. We've taken him to Stingray City in Grand Cayman and he stayed on the boat...only diving into the water to get cooled off and when we caught him do that, we yelled "there's a stingray" and I have never seen him swim so fast to get back on the boat before. LOL I guess we don't help the situation any.
Kolin decided he was going to burry his little sister in the sand. I didn't see this turning out to be a good thing and I just knew he was going to piss her off somehow and then I would have to make things all better. You know how big brothers like to aggrevate little pesky sisters.
All went well to my disbelief, but nothing ever goes perfect. He just had to give her a set of boobs.
Next up was the resting beauty queen who claimed she couldn't go snorkeling until she rested for awhile. That didn't take long and she was up and ready to be next on the list to be burried in the sand.
Next up was my son. They felt the need to pay him back...with a set of boobs of his own.
My sons girlfriend was up next and they decided to give her a prego belly
OK ENOUGH ALREADY...let's go snorkeling!!!
We gathered up our things and it was time to head out to the reef. I once again made it out passed the slippery rocks and on stable ground and I see that the kids are still struggling with making it out. As a matter of fact, they weren't moving. "What's the hold up???" I get a "MOM, COME LOOK!!!" This meant I had to race back across the slippery rocks to see what was going on.
Here's what they spotted...a stingray!
He was just swimming along the shore line and I was busy snapping pictures. He was so cute.
We all headed back out past the slippery rocks and the girls were having every issue possible. Their flippers were hard to put on, the life jacket didn't feel right, the snorkel was getting water in it, the goggles were fogging up...geesh. Can't take these kids anywhere. At one point the "family" member (11 year old) lost one of her fins. Like seriously lost it...never to be found again. The girls were busy looking for it and at that point I gave up on them coming. My son and I headed out on what would be one of the longest, most difficult journeys ever.
We were swimming against the current and the current was rough and strong. It took everything this old lady had in her. Several times my son took in water in his snorkel because of the current (they had the cheap snorkels for rent that didn't have the valve in it to keep water out) and at one point he gagged and choke from all the water. I thought he was going to puke right then and there. It really concerned me and I was in no shape to haul him back to the beach. He finally over came it and I ask if he wanted to go on. He said he would and off we went.
The water was very deep in areas and we were really struggling. I know at one point I wished that I had just decided not to go. But, I had to see what was out there. About half way out they have a float in the water. It's their "resting float". It's just something to hang on to mid point to rest. Several people coming back from the area said "it's a great reef, you're almost there" and pointed us in the direction right in front of the rocks...which didn't look like we were "almost there" to me. Everyone we talked to told us the same spot for the reef and said how great it was. I snorkel everywhere I go...I "think" I have a pretty good idea of what is considered "good"...but...who knows.
We finally made it out there and honestly, I would never waste my time at this place again. Yes, there was coral...here and there. Nothing to write home about and definitely nothing I would personally consider "good" under my definition of good. It also nothing I would ever want to return here for and if I could do it over, I would have never even bothered to go out there. But, you know me, I have to experience it for myself.
I mean this was pretty much the "reef" everyone that returned from there was raving about? Seriously? A coral piece here a coral piece there...that's not a reef, that's just coral spread out all over the place IMO.
I guess the only positive thing in this area was it wasn't deep. You were able to actually stand up here and there were plenty of placing to stand with sand and not worry about touching the coral...and rest. Whew, did we ever need rest.
Ok, I won't bore you with anymore pictures. Yes, there was a wide variety of coral (as listed on the cartoon page), but it was just so scarce that it really didn't interest me. I guess I will chalk this up to valuable time with my son alone...since I don't get a lot of this these days. I'm actually pretty glad the girls didn't end up coming out. His gf is not a very good swimmer and I know she would have had problems.
We decided we had enough time to rest and was prepared to kick our little hearts out to make it back to shore.
Thank goodness going back was a tad bit easier since we were going with the waves...but they were big.
Now one thing that was mentioned in my many emails back and forth to the owner was this...
We are able to snorkel when other cannot because of our protected cove.
Sorry that protected reef felt like a sea storm to me today. I was never so happy to make it back safely. I was beyond done snorkeling for the day. i made it to the shore and the girls were still out in the water, about the same spot they were the last time we seen them. They yelled back at me to come back out because they had found a hole and there's something in it!!! I told them they were crazy, I'm not moving! They tried and tried to get me to come out but I wasn't about to move from the spot on the lounge chair. I was tired and my muscles ached. They said there was a huge hole and something would start to come out and then go back in. I told them it was probably an eel or something and they are lucky they didn't get their fingers bit off. They laughed and stayed out there for awhile. They managed to come back in with all fingers still intact.
We had brought our small laptop because we were told they had wifi there. What we didn't realize is that it cost $5.00 and could only be used up at the building and not on the beach. They also don't give you the password, but put it in for you.
They gave us the option of leaving at either 12:30 or 2:30pm. We of course decided on the latest time since most of our morning was wasted on waiting for our driver to find us in port, the LONG 30 minutes (HAHAHA) slow drive there, then the 20 minute speech on how and where to snorkel. I'm not about to pay close to $40 pp to stay for an hour or so.
I spent the rest of my day taking pictures. It was cloudy off and on and looked as if it just might rain. But it made for some interesting pictures I guess.
It was almost time to go and we gathered up our things and the kids returned their snorkeling equipment...minus 1 fin of course. They made them pay $10 for it.
We stood up on the deck and it began to sprinkle a little. I just knew it was coming.
The guy with the attitude told everyone to gather at the picnic tables. I seen a few trying to get out of the rain and under the roof right in front of where you check in...which is under the same roof. The guy started yelling for them to get over here, not over there. I mean come on, everyone can hear your big mouth and mega phone...is this rudeness really necessary? He was yelling at anyone that wasn't standing right ther by his side.
When they finally told us it was time to head to the bus, we started walking toward that way.
The bus held a total of 28 people. He came on the bus and said he had people to drop off at a hotel and they would be adding 4 more people. Um WHERE??? All the seats were full!!! He told those of us that have children to have them sit in our laps. Now these seats were not luxury seats. When you sat in them, your legs were up against the seat in front of you. I purposely sat in the isle seat so that I could have my legs out in the isle and not bump my knees on the seat in front of me. Now they were wanting us to cram people on top of people.
Several times he said that the children should go to the back seat, which was a seat that went all the way across. We already had our kids in the back and Sakari on my lap and there was an older gentleman that was back there as well. He was all spread out with his bags and beach towels taking up space too. He refused to move. He refused to scoot over. The kids were completely squashed. He yelled at me to put Sakari in the back with the kids to make more room and I yelled back..."what? do you think that you are going to sit someone on MY lap if I put her back there???" I mean what difference was that going to make? She was sitting on my lap!!! Come on old man, I've had ENOUGH OF YOU AND YOUR ATTITUDE!! It's time to retire and be a grumpy old man at home on your front porch. Seriously. I had a major attitude at this point. Then once we got rolling he had the nerve to ask "Is everyone comfortable?" Seriously? You just jammed 4 more people on an already full bus that is past it's capacity. Seriously. I'm not a happy camper at the moment.
They decided that the Sky would be the first "stop"...of course which meant that our entire ride would be packed with no room to move. Needless to say, my legs were asleep by the time we made it there. A 55# child (who probably gained 3-5 pounds on the cruise the week before by the looks of her eating) is not a light child by any means...am I comfortable...pppfffftttt
I was never so happy to return to the ship as I was at that moment.
So my final thoughts on Paradise Cove/Dead Mans Reef.
As you all can probably tell, this just wasn't the place for us. It did not live up to what I thought it would be. It kinda sucked that this was our first visit to this island and we ended up at a "not so great" excursion.
The beach itself was ok. It was pretty. It wasn't anything I would call "beautiful and breath taking". It was ok.
The water was the worse with it being VERY hard to enter the water no matter where you were at. The shoreline is nothing but slippery rocks and does not make for a good place to swim or for little ones to play in the water. So I would call this a not-so-family-friendly place to call a beach day.
The biggest draw to this place was to be the snorkeling. Which, IMO it wasn't great. We thought the fake "reef balls" were hideous and actually a hinder to trying to snorkel. While I'm sure they serve a purpose for the sea life, it serves no purpose for the snorkelers and any sea life is hidden down inside of there I'm sure...nothing for you to see. The placement of these without several entrances and exits is just the worse IMO.
The reef, it just wasn't what I expected and not what I call a "good" reef. The swim is also exhausting...especially if there are waves like there was with us.
I have to mention the snorkeling equipment that you rent. They are the cheapest of the cheap. The snorkels are just a plain pipe with no valves in them. Expect to get a mouthful of water with them. Also, several of ours had duct tape around them...obviously holding some cracked ones together. Just not good equipment.
The food was decent and the price of the food was decent...along with the drinks (soda).
I don't know if they always have a bee problem, but it was annoying and you didn't dare set your soda down for one minute. You were swarmed the entire time, even if you had a soda in your hand that was covered. They didn't think twice about landing on your hand either.
The staff...well, they are probably the absolute rude and nastiest staff I have ever encountered on an excursion or at any establishment that I have done while in port. By far!
The seating situation on the bus...just unacceptable.
Paradise Cove...far from anything that looked like paradise to me.
Dead Man Reef-yea probably because there doesn't seem to be much reef around so maybe it died.
Now as I have told others...this is only my experience. That's all I can comment on. Others may go here and love the place. They may have no issues. They may not have the staff yelling at them. They may like the reef. They may think it's beautiful. This is just my opinion and mine only.
I do NOT do my reviews to encourage people to go there or discourage them to go there. I simply report my experience. I always suggest that you do your own research. Get multiple opinions. Look at multiple pictures and then decide on your own if it's the type of place, putting all the bad things aside that you may have heard or read, and figure out if it's the place you would like to go to. The one thing I have learned in all my years of cruising, everyone has a different opinion of things and places. Two families can go there on the same day and have two totally different experiences...on the opposite side of the spectrum. This could be the case if you decide to go here. Just take everything into consideration when you decide.
Just my opinion, I would personally never go here again. End of story. Moving on to another place if we ever return.
Oh wait, second opinion, if you ever do go here, please steal and smash the megaphone. I will love you forever.
I am going to say that after posting my review on TA, I did receive a message from the owner, Barry, about my post, apologizing for the rudeness of his staff. He said he would address it and even though I said I would never return to Paradise Cove, he did extend an invitation for us to return, free of charge, and he would personally show me around...including the reef.
I did want to add this to show that even though it might not be the place for us, the owner does care about what people think and I think that was a nice gesture.
We have returned back to Freeport, but we did not take him up on his offer. I do like to experience different places each time I visit a port, and even though he seems to think I didn't make it all the way out to the reef, I don't think returning is going to change my mind too much. I mean the rocks at the shoreline will still be slippery if just trying to swim or having younger children there and safety concerns, the place and beach will still look the same, the bioballs will still be there...and so on. Those things won't change. It's just not "my" type of paradise or place.