By Dr. Claribel Young, History Department
Over the Columbus Day holiday, three GCU professors and a former colleague journeyed to the Bahamas on the ship “Majesty of the Seas”, a Royal Caribbean cruise liner captained by Karin Janson, the only female captain of a major cruise ship. The ship was registered in Denmark. The captain was a native of Sweden. The natives of over 600 different countries make up the crew. Interaction with the passengers and crew adds to the interest, delight and knowledge of other cultures and places. For instance, our cabin boy was from the Ukraine, our waitress was from China, the table captain was from Puerto Rico, the hairdresser was from England, etc. While on-board facilities provide a number of activities, we were more interested in going ashore at Nassau.
Visiting the capitol of the Bahamas, Nassau, gave us an introduction into a different culture and governmental organization. Our tour guide there was an uncommonly knowledgable and mannerly young man named Darron. We toured the island and learned about the country which established its independence in 1978. There are no income or real estate taxes on the islands. The government derives its income primarily from Tourism, Banking and Customs. Customs fees are high, 80%. Thus, an imported used automobile (and all cars are imported), valued at $10,000 would be sold in Nassau for $18,000. Banking is big businesss since the Bahamas are a tax haven for many who wish to hide earnings from their own governments. This applies particularly to the U.S. While Tourism is the greatest source of income to the islands, it provides mostly low income, service jobs. Although many services are supplied by the government to its people, there are many low income familes on the islands. It provides its citizens with free education and health care. The highest paid employees on the islands are customs officials, teachers and police. Other professionals are in private business and not paid by the government. They live in more expensive homes in the high lands of the island. The Bahamas, a former British Crown colony, is part of the Bristish Commonwealth and recognizes the royal family.
Part of the local experience incudes eating conch. We had it in salad and deep fried — very tasty. A rice dish prepared with chickpeas and cooked in tomato paste appeared on most entrées as a main dish. Transportation between the many islands is by ferry and costs about $9 each way.
Many cruise ships visit the Bahamas and add to the local economy through the visitors, the port fees, and exchanges of goods. Bahaman dollars are at the same rate of exchange as American dollars. Hotels and bed and breakfast accomodations are available for those who wish to stay a wile. A new, very large hotel is being built by the Chinese in the port of Nassau. Some people are so in love with the beautiful beaches, fishing, warm sunshine and constant breezes that they make their homes here. from the port of Nassau we could see Eddie Murphy’s private island. It is possible to buy an island in the Bahamas as he and others, such as Oprah Winfrey, have done.
Our short visit was most enjoyable, entertaining and informative. It was a profitable use of our vacation time. Our previous travels have taught us to observe as much as possible about the countries we have visited.