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Bahamas Breeze: Family Fun at the Sheraton Cable Beach

By Melissa Klurman

Choosing the right place for your Caribbean family beach vacation can be a tough task. There are glitzy resorts in the Caribbean, bare bones B&Bs, and high-priced mega-hotels offering such an incredible laundry list of activities that you may not see your family again until after you check-out. But where can you go if you’re looking for a family beach vacation that actually revolves around spending time with your family - and won’t break the bank to boot? Consider the new Sheraton Cable Beach Resort in sunny Nassau, Bahamas.

Located just 15 minutes from Nassau Airport, this family-friendly hotel features the company’s first “Love Your Family” program outside the U.S. and is set on a protected 1,000-foot stretch of pristine beach. With three restaurants, three pools, and super sand and surf - all at a moderate price - this is the perfect spot for an easy, affordable, family island vacation.

Sheraton’s “Love Your Family” program offers fun outdoor activities throughout the day without being oriented only towards one age group (in fact, not all resort guests have kids, but everyone loves all the activities here). Evening entertainment during our stay included a “Dive In” movie with great sound and picture - you can enjoy the show, and popcorn, from inside the pool or from a lounge chair - and a Bahamian culture night with dance lessons in the sand. During the day, there is poolside bingo (try sitting at the pool bar while you play – the kids think this is awesome!), trivia contests, and even a Bahamian spelling bee.

The small Kids Club is conveniently located across in the pool area and has a glass front wall that allows children to see you if they want (or for you to see in). There are lots of crafts projects, games, and a warm and friendly staff. Until the promised Nintendo system is installed, children over 10 will probably be bored here. There are three sessions a day, morning, afternoon and evening, each priced individually. The evening session, which runs from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., is perfect for parents who want to have quiet dinner on their own.

The nearly 700 rooms and suites here are bright and airy and relatively large for the price. All have balconies with chairs and tables. Higher rates bring better views, but not bigger space. A multi-million dollar renovation installed super comfy beds and linens, Bliss toiletries (yum!), and flat-screen TVs that have Nintendo systems and both Disney and Nickelodeon channels.

Outdoor Fun

There are three separate pools - two chlorine and one salt water - as well as two mega hot tubs, big enough for a party. The main saltwater pool tends to be a little warmer than the other two pools and is also the location of the swim up bar as well as much of the outdoor entertainment. A DJ holds court poolside, running games throughout the day and playing an assortment of beachside tunes. Kids and adults alike loved this on our visit.

One pool has a gradual-entry, which makes it easy to access for small children. You can bring floats and floaties in any of the pools, although you may want to consider bringing your own blow up mats and inner tubes in your luggage since resort lenders are for the ocean only.

We loved the outdoor ping-pong tables by the main pool, and walking between the Sheraton and the Wyndham we found outdoor, over-sized chess and checkers sets as well as a small jungle gym.

The beach here is a real draw for families: 1,000 feet of sheltered cove and calm, crystal-clear waters. The resort offers floats, snorkel gear, giant-wheeled beach/ocean bikes (kind of like a paddle boat and bike combined that fits up to three people), and small kayaks for free. Note that towels are only available at the booth by the pools – they also have sand toys here for loan.

On the edge of the Sheraton’s beach (between the Sheraton and the Wyndham), a private consortium offers motorized water sports for a fee (about a 2-minute walk from the free stuff), including jet skis, water skiing, banana boats, and parasailing. Older teens will be able to handle most of these on their own and you’ll still be able to see them from your beach chair.

There are about a dozen tiki huts, first come first serve – usually available until mid-morning. Make sure to put more than just your hotel towel down on a chair to reserve one in the shade. Since this is not a luxury property, there are no chair attendants or waiter service on the beach.

Dining on Property

There are three main dining options at the Sheraton: for breakfast, the buffet at the Bimini Market is a good choice with eggs made to order and enough variety to satisfy even picky eaters. The lunchtime buffet isn’t quite as appetizing (a new, non-buffet dinner menu was being introduced here at press time); however, the Dolphin Grill casual beachside eatery is a surprisingly good option. Boxed kids lunches are big enough to satisfy even a teen appetite and come complete with a giant cookie and a drink, all for less than ten dollars. Amici, A Trattoria, Italian restaurant offers several fabulous options. Try the grouper Siciliano, fettuccine Alfredo, and the excellent Caesar salad. There is also a well thought-out children’s menu at this restaurant that includes crudités and pasta. Eat here early if you have little ones, before the main rush (around 7:30) when food service tends to slow down and a quieter adult vibe sets in.

Exploring Nassau

At some point, you’ll want to stretch your legs and get out of the pool. Take this opportunity to catch a bus or cab and take the short 3-mile ride to the charming British Colonial town of Nassau. Lots of shopping opportunities abound, including everything from Gucci bags to woven straw purses.  If you really want to get a flavor of the area, however, sign up for a guided tour of the area with Educulture Bahamas (www.educulturebahamas.com). Former teacher Arlene Nash Ferguson is great at engaging kids in the Bahamian culture, with stories about pirates, forts, and treasure that are part of the history of the area. The tour highlight (which you can also visit on your own) is Arlene’s own Junkanoo Museum. Kids (and their parents) get to ring bells, beat drums, blow their souvenir whistles, and get ready for the carnival atmosphere of Junkanoo (held officially on Boxing Day, December 26, but happening everyday at the museum). For even more fun, make sure to sign up for the costume-making workshop here.

A great dining option just a 10-minute cab ride from the Sheraton and on the way back from Nassau is Arawak Cay, better known in these parts as “The Fish Fry.” Popular with locals, this pedestrian-friendly restaurant zone offers the freshest fish of the day served up Bahamian style at bargain prices. There’s plenty of conch on the menu along with fried fish and also some meat and chicken for landlubbers. A particularly family-friendly option at the Fish Fry is Two Brothers, where you can sit inside in air-conditioning if the heat is wilting your wee ones.

If You Go:

*All family members need a passport to travel to the Bahamas. When you leave the island, you will go through both Bahamian customs (you can leave your shoes on, but no drinks) and then U.S. customs (shoes off, no drinks). Make sure you arrive 1.5 to 2 hours before your flight in case one of these is running on island time. The good news is you won’t have to go through customs again back in the States.

* The resort is a good fit for 4 to 16 year olds. Unfortunately, there is no baby pool for little ones, and no lounge area for older teens.

*Be sure to ask about the “Love Your Family” package, but also ask your reservationist about other available specials.  At press time a 4th night was free when you booked 3 nights and included a $100 resort credit.

*Children 5 and younger eat for free throughout the property; kids 6 to 12 receive 50% off menu items. (“Love Your Family” packages often include a $100 resort credit per day.)

*There is a small coffee bar, Caribe Café, off the main lobby with a selection of gelato and light snacks. Prices are a little steep: stock up at home on granola bars or other easy bites for kids who need a constant supply of nibblies.

* An underground passageway connects the Sheraton Cable Beach Resort to the neighboring Wyndham Nassau Resort and Crystal Palace Casino, making walking easy between hotels.

*Only suites have mini-fridges. You can rent a fridge from the hotel, but ask in advance since this is not advertised.

*Rooms on the first floor have direct access to pool and beach and private patios with lounge chairs and umbrellas; great if you want easy room access and don’t mind an action-filled view of the resort, but a little tricky if you need a quiet, relaxing spot for small children to chill out.

For more information about the Sheraton Cable Beach Resort, visit their website at www.sheraton.com/cablebeach, or call (866) 716-8106.

Melissa Klurman is an award-winning travel journalist who has worked at both Frommer’s and Fodor’s Travel Guides, covering everything from Southern Florida to Southern Africa, where to take a family vacation to how to pack. She lives in NJ with her husband and five-year-old son Aidan, who luckily loves airplane food and miniature hotel soaps.

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