Memories Grand Bahama

Memories, Sunwing spark Canadian interest in Grand Bahama Island

GRAND BAHAMA ISLAND — Grand Bahama Island may have fallen off the radar with Canadians, but the opening of Memories Grand Bahama Beach & Casino Resort is expected to bring the Bahamian island back into the limelight.

The new, all-inclusive resort and casino, part of Blue Diamond Hotels & Resorts, officially opened its doors on Feb. 1, located on a kilometre of white-sand beach just outside the town of Freeport.

Memories is the only four-and-a-half-star resort on the island, featuring 492 rooms, six themed bars and four à la carte dining experiences.

In February, Sunwing Vacations launched nonstop service from six Canadian cities: Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg and Edmonton. More gateways are being explored, such as Calgary. The Toronto service operates year-round; the other gateways operate during the winter season, which starts in November.

“We definitely feel that Memories is the stimulator (for the Canadian market), because not only is it an all-inclusive … but also because it’s a Canadian operator that has made an investment in the destination, not just providing the air but actually being a stakeholder by developing a new hotel product,” said Betty Bethel, director of Grand Bahama Island with the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism.

“What’s special about this product is you’re not confined to the hotel,” said Bethel. “Our studies have shown that a large majority of the guests that have come so far have all taken excursions.”

Grand Bahama Island, which features a mix of modern infrastructure and historical architecture, also has one of the world’s largest underwater cave systems, as well as three national parks.

Memories Grand Bahama

The Garden of the Groves on Grand Bahama Island.

“We encourage our guests to go out beyond the walls of the resort and really get a feel for the local flavour and pulse of the destination,” said Denise Adderley, Bahamas director of sales and marketing with Blue Diamond Hotels & Resorts.

Compared to the hustle and bustle of popular Nassau, Grand Bahama Island “is a little less touched, less explored,” said Adderley. “We operate and move at a more relaxed, laid-back pace.” But, she adds, the island is also being billed as a soft adventure destination.

Water sports include snorkelling, scuba diving, sport-fishing, kayaking, parasailing and glass-bottom boat tours. On land, Grand Bahama Nature Tours offers a range of options, from jeep safari, biking and birding tours, to exploring caves and kayaking through mangroves in Lucayan National Park. And UNEXSO offers dolphin encounters that allow visitors to interact with dolphins up close and personal. Memories also has an in-house tour operator, Nexus Tours, for booking excursions.

By traveling to the east or west, visitors can experience the more cultural side of the island, “having a people-to-people experience, where you have a little conch salad on the side of the road,” said Bethel. “Those are the special features of the destination that we believe make Canadians want to come back.”

Visitors can arrange jeep or bike tours in idyllic West End, where they can sample conch fritters from one of the many street stalls or sip some rum in a bar that Hemingway once visited. Or, they can head to the high-end Old Bahama Bay Resort & Yacht Harbour for lunch. The private West End Airport re-opened on June 1, opening up the island to the luxury market.

The target market for Memories is anyone looking for a quick getaway, said Bethel, adding that it’s suitable for couples, families, even singles. Because Memories is located opposite the open-air entertainment and dining complex of Port Lucaya, it’s easy to find entertainment and dining options off the resort (such as Flying Fish, a Canadian-Bahamian-owned restaurant that offers a modern take on seafood and was awarded a 4-Diamond rating from AAA).

Guests can also purchase a day pass for the Grand Lucayan, located next door, and enjoy the facilities and restaurants such as Churchill’s, one of the island’s premier restaurants under the direction of Michelin-starred chef Gianfranco Chiarini.

But there’s plenty on tap at the resort itself: Memories offers unlimited, reservation-free dining and drinks at four à la carte restaurants, including H Steakhouse, Nagano Japanese Teppanyaki & Sushi Bar, Bella Cucina and Selections international buffet, as well as Prop Sports Bar and Beans Café.

Memories Grand Bahama

Memories also features a pool built around a stone-walled sugar mill, non-motorized water sports, evening entertainment and a Vegas-style casino. Family-friendly facilities include a splash pad with slides, a Kids Club (ages four to 12) and a Teens Club (ages 13 to 17).

The Diamond Club package provides additional services, including personalized check-in, an exclusive beach area with dedicated bar and waiter service, private Diamond Club Lounge access, premium drinks menu and luxury in-room amenities.

All guests have access to ‘All-In Connectivity’, which features free Wi-Fi throughout the resort, unlimited in-room calling to North America and most of Europe, as well as a Memories mobile app offering free app-to-app texting (currently available on iPhone and iPad).

One of Memories’ mainstays is destination weddings, and the resort offers several wedding packages for a range of budgets, as well as honeymoons, vow renewals and custom religious services. Custom add-ons include a bridal party spa experience, late-night food station and romantic beach dinner for two.

Memories also offers free green fees at the nearby Reef Club Golf Course, an 18-hole par 72 course. Grand Bahama Island was historically marketed as a golf destination; there are a number of golf courses on the island, many of which are not currently operational. “We’re looking to bring them back on-stream,” said Bethel. “We have a significant golf product — it simply needs to be dusted off.”

Travel agents can contact their Sunwing rep for more information. They can also keep their eyes peeled for new announcements over the coming year. Bethel couldn’t provide specifics, but said “there may be some new hotel product coming on-stream next winter — we’re looking for more product similar to this as well as high-end.”

Read the On Location blog: Conch fritters and rum smoothies: Getting off the resort on Grand Bahama Island

See the Photo blog: On and off the resort at Grand Bahama Island

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