(NB If you are new to this blog, please see the explanatory notes and historical caveat!) This letter home begins…
SS Yarmouth Castle Cruises, Miami – Nassau
Sunday 27th December 64
Dear Mum, Dad, Carol and Nigel,
Last night we arrived in Freeport, Grand Bahama Island, at about 11 o’clock and we went ashore immediately, and went in a taxi (six of us) to the island’s biggest hotel and casino.
Gambling is illegal in the USA so all the Yanks fly over for a gamble and this has made this one of the wealthiest casinos in the world. It was, as usual, a fabulously splendid place and the clientele amongst the richest and best dressed we have yet seen.
The amounts of money being gambled made our eyes ogle. We saw one man lose $12,000 (approximately £4,000) and he didn’t bat an eyelid. Nearly everyone was gambling with one hundred dollar bills as though they were pennies. We didn’t yield to the temptation and held onto our money!!
We weren’t so impressed with the casino here as we were with the ones in France, as those were more hushed and dramatic and traditional. This place tended to be a bit noisy – true to American tradition.
We left there at 2am and went back to the docks, and went aboard the Imperial Bahama Hotel, which is a transatlantic ship (previously the Italia) which is now permanently moored as a floating hotel. I asked the first member of the crew I saw some directions and believe it or not he’s from Bedminster. He was as amazed as we were.
(NOTE: Dad was from the British city of Bristol – and Bedminster is a district of Bristol.)
It was pretty dead on board by this time (it was 3 a.m), so we returned to our little ship and turned in for the night. Our cabin is beautifully air-conditioned, and for the first time for weeks I had to sleep under a blanket.
Today when we awoke we were well on the way to Nassau, the boat having left at 4am. It was a perfect day with a clear sky and a smooth sea. We all sunbathed on the deck and Herb took some movie film of us all, and by 12 noon we were alongside Nassau waiting to enter the harbour.
Colin, Herb and Vi by the Yarmouth Castle in the Bahamas
Small boats came out to meet us with small native boys yelling for us to throw coins for them to dive for. The water is so clear you can see the coin going down, and they catch them before they reach the bottom. Also you can see fish swimming about, right down near the sea bed.
We had lunch (the meals are very good indeed for a small boat, with menus almost as good as the Queen Elizabeth, the only difference being that the portions are a bit smaller). However we make up for this by having an extra course here and there.
The ship docks right in the centre of the town and we went ashore right into the native straw market where they sell all the traditional native things (beads, hats etc).
It was sweltering in the heat and in the square was a Christmas tree with a nativity scene around it and children singing carols.
We strolled around the town for a bit and then we split up, and Colin and I went for a tour in a horse drawn ‘Surrey’ and saw the Governor’s House – a beautiful white mansion high on a hill (NOTE: It’s Government House), and the native fruit market, and the fishing boats coming in, and a Sunday afternoon game of real English football.
Tony at Government House, Nassau
It’s a beautiful island although it’s a bit confusing. It’s neither one thing nor the other. It has English telephone boxes and pillar boxes, and English money, but all the people are coloured and all the cars American (although they drive on the right).
There are nearly all American goods in the shops, but there are real English pubs selling real English beer. It’s very confusing and I don’t really know what to make of the place. It’s very strange to think it’s British.
George Harrison, one of the Beatles, has been here and has only just returned home.
Tony in a horse-drawn ‘Surrey’ on Nassau
Tomorrow we plan to go out in a glass bottomed boat, and spend the day on Paradise Beach, which is an island with a beautiful beach. It has recently been bought by Huntington Hartford, the American millionaire, and it now costs $2 to go on the beach – whereas before he bought it, it was free.
We are really enjoying being ‘Playboys’ again after our spell of being servile!! We had to fill in some forms before we came on board, and there was a question asking for occupation, so as we were unemployed, we both put ‘Playboys’.
We shall do this each time we are out of work!!
To be continued…