Island Time: An Excuse for Sloth, Incompetence, and a Bad Attitude

I got back from The Bahamas late last night and I have to say: I had a wonderful time. I was there for a friend’s wedding.  I don’t get to see that group of friends very often because they’re my friends from Georgia, but when we get together it’s always a wing-ding.  I love it.  So, we had an absolute blast.

I was travelling with two friends from NYC and another friend from GA who met us in Atlanta and caught the same flight down to the island.  We were staying on Paradise Island, Nassau.  We got there in the mid-afternoon on Thursday, settled in, and headed off to find our friends.  Hugs turned into drinks which turned into a full-scale barbecue.  On Friday, we relaxed on the beach and in the evening we had the rehearsal dinner. Saturday was the wedding on the beach.  It was beautiful!  And the reception was held at this cool restaurant that was right against the ocean. We watched the sun go down while eating conch fritters and dancing to Lady Gaga.  And then we hopped into a stretched limo Hummer and continued the party back at the resort.  On Sunday, two of my friends and I walked around Paradise Island. We explored part of the Atlantis resort, which is like a Disneyland for adults, and walked over the bridge to Nassau proper.  Finally, on Monday, we had a relaxed morning in which we packed our things, checked out of the hotel and came back to the States where we were delayed for two hours in Atlanta by heavy rains in NYC.

And now I’m back!  As a bonus, I didn’t even get sunburned while I was there. WOOHOO!

I had a really excellent time in the Bahamas, but it was very much in spite of the Bahamas and not because of it.  Please allow me to list in escalating order the things that bothered me.

Bugs. They were probably sand fleas, but my legs got chewed all to hell every night was there.  Right now, I have about three dozen, itchy, little bumps on my legs and arms.  Not fun.

The Bahamas. I’d been to Freeport on the Grand Bahama Island back in high school and I was not impressed and I wasn’t impressed with Nassau, either.  The beaches are nice, yes, but it seems to be a really poor island nation, which is ironic given all the fees, tips, and taxes they apply to everything.  Nassau was dirty and run down.  Fortunately, we spent most of our time on Paradise Island, which is dominated by resorts which generally do a better job of maintaining their facilities and making it a nice, tropical getaway for vacationers.

Oh! And the country is completely overrun by religious nuts.  The cabbies all had Jesus programs blaring, the local television covered beauty pageants in which the contestants drew comparisons between themselves and heroins from the Bible, and anti-gay sentiment runs rampant.

The Prices. I know the Bahamas is a resort place and maybe it’s the hidden tips (more on that next) but the prices there were stupid high. I firmly believe that if service were improved and prices lowered, traffic would increase and more money would be made.  To give you a hint at the prices: we had lunch for four that consisted of three BLT sandwiches, a burger, four bloody marys and two vodka gimlets and the price was $95.  You can get brunch for cheaper in Manhattan and it will include unlimited drinks.  I’m not kidding.  It was silly.

Gratuity included. Allow me:

gratuity [grəˈtjuːɪtɪ]

1. (Business / Commerce) a gift or reward, usually of money, for services rendered; tip
2. something given without claim or obligation
3. (Military) Military a financial award granted for long or meritorious service

If the rumors are true, Americans are exceptionally generous tippers.  A great number of people I know cannot be brought to forgo leaving a tip even when the service is abysmal.  But a tip is always extra. Unless you’re in the Bahamas where they include a tip on everything. The resort we stayed at appended a 15% tip onto any check over $10.  They also added a $3.50 daily tip onto our bill for the cleaning lady. I’ll get to her in a minute.  This practice was broadly resented by the people in our group who immediately stopped offering tips.  We all agreed that a mandatory tip is actually an unlisted increase in price. Surprise!

The Cleaning Lady. I mentioned her tip, right? We were also charged a daily per person cleaning charge on our room.  Do you know what irked me about her? She didn’t clean! She brought clean towels three of the four days we were there, but she didn’t do anything in the way of cleaning the room even after we called for her repeatedly.  And she copped an attitude toward us when we stayed in our room past 11am each day, as if we were keeping her from her time-consuming task of not cleaning our suite.  And I do partially blame her for the fact that i’m covered in bug bites if only because our apartment contained lots of sand and she never swept the floor.

Island Time. This is the number one thing that irked me.  From my observations, “Island Time” is what our cleaning lady was on.  It is an expression that refers to slow and inattentive wait staff, incompetent and argumentative concierges, and being harassed by countless taxis who can’t seem to understand that you’re on a walk and that the highway isn’t the best place for them to stop their cars and check on you.

Every single service person we encountered while in the Bahamas was slow.  We could sit down in a restaurant and it would take a waiter 20 minutes to check on us for our initial drink orders.  Maybe it was because usually the table only had one menu on it, so if you were four people, you needed the extra time for everyone to read it.  Then, they were slow to bring the drinks over.  And then you wait 20 more minutes before they come to get your appetizer or entree orders, but they won’t take drink orders again at that time even though you’re clearly sitting around with empty glasses. Complaints and protests no matter how politely or tactfully delivered are met with barely contained sighs and eye rolling.

Don’t worry, though! Gratuity is included!

I was very happy to be in the Bahamas with my friends and it’s thanks to all of them that we had such a wonderful time.  But I don’t imagine going back to that country. Ever.


  1. Qwertz March 30, 2010 3:22 pm

    Welcome back! Glad you enjoyed the wedding, but based on your report, I don’t think I’ll be visiting the Bahamas.

    I had some similar experiences with “service included” service in Italy. “Service included” service sucks. They are inattentive, unhelpful, slow, and give you attitude when you ask for them to do something that, had they been working for a tip, they would have done on their own already. There was even one restaurant in Venice where the waiter gave us “service included”-quality service, and then had the temerity to inform us, upon presenting the bill, that service was, in fact, not included.


  2. KC March 31, 2010 8:37 am


    I am a Bahamian, educated in the U.S. and worked for a number of hotels during my career. Your comments about the service in Nassau is on target. Freeport has changed quite a bit and actually the service here on the island is friendly and prompt. I have been home for 6 years now and you can get good service without the hassel. Zorbas’ a Greek restaurant in Port Lucaya is one of the best restaurants on the island. You must come and visit our island and compare the difference. I can assure you that if you decide to visit I will make sure that you receive a proper welcome and a great taxi service provider to pick you up – Ms. Paddy Wildgoose.

    If you wish to call me at 561-300-2034 I would be delighted to speak with you.

    Kind regards,

    Keith Cooper

    • Trey Givens March 31, 2010 2:47 pm

      No, thank you. I have no intention of returning to The Bahamas.

  3. kelleyn March 31, 2010 4:43 pm

    Prior to and during my and my husband’s recent Hawaiian vacation, we were assured by friendly folks both here and there that we would be on “island time” by the end of the week. This was supposed to be a good thing, an escape from the horrendous torture of being in control of and responsible for our lives. Instead, it made me feel helpless. Although it was beautiful there I was relieved to come home.

    Welcome back.

    • Trey Givens March 31, 2010 4:45 pm

      Yeah, I found that I wasn’t on “island time.” I was just tired from all the fretting about how slowly people were moving. It was as if I was on a different planet where human beings had lost their purpose in life and were just meandering around.

      Like you, I was very happy to be home and among people who move with direction, determination, and purpose.

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