The Bahamas, officially the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, is an archipelago of nearly 3000 islands, cays, and islets stretching some 500 miles (800± km) in a gentle arc paralleling the northern coast of Cuba. Despite being located in the Atlantic Ocean, The Bahamas partake of many aspects of Caribbean culture.

  Columbus' first landfall in the New World in 1492 was on one of the Bahamian islands—exactly which one is still disputed. He found the islands inhabited by Amerindian Taino people; the Spaniards who followed him depopulated the islands through imported diseases and by carrying off the natives for use as slaves in other Spanish settlements. The islands remained largely uninhabited until the late 17th century when British settlers began arriving and pirates discovered safe havens on secluded islands. The Bahamas were made a British crown colony in 1718 and the pirates were suppressed. After America's independence, some 7,300 British Loyalists and their slaves moved to the Bahamas from New York, Florida and the Carolinas. These Americans established plantations on several islands and became a political force in the capital, Nassau. The small population became mostly African from this point on. In 1973, The Bahamas became fully independent, but retained membership in the Commonwealth of Nations with Queen Elizabeth II as Head of State.

  The Bahamian economy has prospered since the 1950s, built upon tourism and offshore finance. Tourism alone accounts for over 60% of the nation's GDP, and its proximity to the United States makes it a popular destination for Americans who are afraid to travel very far from home shores. They speak English there and US dollars are still welcomed. I've stopped in one or another of the islands on several cruises—Princess and Holland America both have 'private' islands there and each does a nice job of providing a safe, sheltered, low-occupancy escape from the rigors of ship life.

The shallow waters around The Bahamian Islands can be seen clearly
The shallow waters around The Bahamian Islands can be seen clearly
Princess Cruises Lines’ private island
Princess Cruises Lines’ private island
Ferry boats instead of ship’s tenders brought us ashore
Ferry boats instead of ship’s tenders brought us ashore
The well-protected cove makes for a safe swimming area
The well-protected cove makes for a safe swimming area
Soft sand and palm trees make February a bit easier to take
Soft sand and palm trees make February a bit easier to take
Games and food are provided
Games and food are provided
The rest of the island is pretty scrubby
The rest of the island is pretty scrubby
Some birds join the tourists
Some birds join the tourists
NASSAU–Four cruise ships equal about 10,000 tourists per day
NASSAU–Four cruise ships equal about 10,000 tourists per day
NASSAU–Waterfront at Nassau, the country’s capital
NASSAU–Waterfront at Nassau, the country’s capital
NASSAU–The Bahamian Parliament Building...
NASSAU–The Bahamian Parliament Building...
NASSAU–...still overseen by Queen Victoria.
NASSAU–...still overseen by Queen Victoria.
NASSAU–One of several forts in the islands
NASSAU–One of several forts in the islands
NASSAU–View of the ramparts
NASSAU–View of the ramparts
NASSAU–Bright flowers against a stone wall
NASSAU–Bright flowers against a stone wall
NASSAU–A narrow corridor and staircase allow entrance to the fort
NASSAU–A narrow corridor and staircase allow entrance to the fort
NASSAU–Tourists explore the storehouses
NASSAU–Tourists explore the storehouses
NASSAU–An original 19th century cannon on a reproduction mount
NASSAU–An original 19th century cannon on a reproduction mount
NASSAU–“Victoria Regina”
NASSAU–“Victoria Regina”
NASSAU–Another view of the ramparts
NASSAU–Another view of the ramparts
NASSAU–Rooftops and church towers of Nassau
NASSAU–Rooftops and church towers of Nassau
NASSAU–Nassau and the over-the-top megaresort, Atlantis Paradise Island
NASSAU–Nassau and the over-the-top megaresort, Atlantis Paradise Island
NASSAU–A small old Anglican church
NASSAU–A small old Anglican church
NASSAU–Headdress for the Junkanoo Festival...
NASSAU–Headdress for the Junkanoo Festival...
NASSAU–...celebrated on Dec 26 and New Year’s Day.
NASSAU–...celebrated on Dec 26 and New Year’s Day.
NASSAU–Glitter and glitz
NASSAU–Glitter and glitz
NASSAU–Full suit costumes made of discarded papers...
NASSAU–Full suit costumes made of discarded papers...
NASSAU–...and one made of sponges.
NASSAU–...and one made of sponges.
NASSAU–Some of the noisemakers of Junkanoo
NASSAU–Some of the noisemakers of Junkanoo
NASSAU–Junkanoo costumes are traditionally made of ‘trash’
–discarded paper, cloth, and other recyclables
NASSAU–Junkanoo costumes are traditionally made of ‘trash’
–discarded paper, cloth, and other recyclables
NASSAU–A costume in progress at the small Junkanoo Museum
NASSAU–A costume in progress at the small Junkanoo Museum
NASSAU–Yeah, I just had to try one on!
NASSAU–Yeah, I just had to try one on!
NASSAU–Fort Charlotte, built 1789, is near the cruise harbor
NASSAU–Fort Charlotte, built 1789, is near the cruise harbor
NASSAU–Blockhouse and walls of the fort
NASSAU–Blockhouse and walls of the fort
NASSAU–The cannons were never used in battle
NASSAU–The cannons were never used in battle
NASSAU–Graffiti scratched into a wall of the fort–note the sketch of a sailing ship
NASSAU–Graffiti scratched into a wall of the fort–note the sketch of a sailing ship
NASSAU–One of the ramparts of the fort
NASSAU–One of the ramparts of the fort
NASSAU–A brick oven in the kitchen area
NASSAU–A brick oven in the kitchen area
NASSAU–Soldiers’ barracks
NASSAU–Soldiers’ barracks
NASSAU–The old Straw Market burned down...
NASSAU–The old Straw Market burned down...
NASSAU–...but tourist shops are not hard to find.
NASSAU–...but tourist shops are not hard to find.
NASSAU–Nice masks and figures by a local artist inspired by Junkanoo
NASSAU–Nice masks and figures by a local artist inspired by Junkanoo

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