The Viva Wyndham is a top value all-inclusive in the Bahamas that boasts lots of activities, great cuisine and a friendly staff. In my book, that’s everything you need to make this beach vacation one that’s sure to appeal to every family member.
The Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach lies just 55 miles off Florida’s east coast on Grand Bahama Island (a/k/a Freeport), the fourth largest of 700+ sister islands. Grand Bahama is best known as the filming location for Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean II and Pirates of the Caribbean III, whose success has guaranteed even more visitors to this friendly isle.
Fortunately for families, the island’s old Viva Wyndham, set for a major renovation in late 2014, is one of the greatest values for an all-inclusive resort anywhere in the Bahamas. If your idea of vacation is someplace warm and friendly where you can eat, drink, snooze, dance, snorkel, and lounge to your heart’s content without reaching for your wallet, then Pilgrim, pull up a chaise. The Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach is a casual getaway destination for friends traveling together and families with kids, and a good reason to visit Grand Bahama Island. Additionally, because it’s a partner of the Wyndham chain, children under age 3 are free and children ages 3-17 can stay, play and eat for extremely low prices ($).
The Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach has 274 ocean- or garden-view rooms set in two-story housing blocks nestled in 26 acres of landscaped grounds. The rooms are clean and somewhat worn, simple and furnished in wicker, with two queen-size beds in enough space to accommodate two adults and two younger children – or a crib – in comfort. We like the all-cotton bedding that is so refreshing on those warm tropical nights. Rooms feature easy-to-control A/C, color satellite television, telephone, complimentary WiFi, mini-bars stocked with fruit drinks, soda, water and beer, and a private balcony with sliding glass doors and seats where you can perch and dream away the hours, gazing out over the water, or up at the moon hanging in the balmy Bahamian skies.
The Fortuna Beach resort is convenient, perfectly situated a quick 20-minute ride from Freeport International Airport. It’s just 10- to15-minutes away from downtown Freeport, where the Port Lucaya Marketplace, the International Bazaar and the Isle of Capri Casino – the three local destinations for shopping, gambling and taking in the local nightlife – are located. Getting around is simple and inexpensive. Minivan taxis are regulated by local authorities and are easily gotten. Any excursions or daytrips you’d want to take can be easily arranged, transportation and all, with the resort’s front desk.
Great Beach & Watersports Facilities
One of the Viva Wyndham’s great attractions is its enormous coral reef, the single longest stretch of reef in the Bahamas, which itself has one of the largest reef systems on Earth. The reef is located one nautical mile directly off the beach, and it makes for inviting snorkeling and diving.
An expert on-site diving staff oversees everything from PADI Scuba certifications to group and night dives. They also have a Scuba Pool Experience for 8- to10-year-old divers, as well as daily packages for certified divers. The prices include all materials and equipment, and a certified PADI Instructor or Divemaster is underwater with divers at all times.
Fronting the warm, gentle surf, the resort’s 1,200-foot-long, pristine white sand beach is roomy enough to allow for privacy between sun bunnies and splash sports enthusiasts (parasailing, windsurfing, snorkeling). Sports buffs (golf, tennis, basketball, fitness center, sauna, volleyball) and I-Can’t-Get-Enoughs (free meals, snacks, drinks, entertainment, dance club) can also indulge themselves. Other activities include exercise and step-aerobic classes, meditation and yoga classes, bicycling, archery and dance classes.
Did I forget to mention the giant outdoor Jacuzzi in the middle of the grounds that accommodates a dozen people without crowding, or the children’s 18-inch-deep, kidney-shaped pool within 12 feet of the swimming pool? The Viva Wyndham’s got you covered and all facilities were refreshed in 2014.
At Viva Wyndham, Quality Dining & Drinking
Everyone’s needs are accommodated here. All-inclusive resorts are judged by most travelers on the quantity and quality of their food and beverages, and here again the Viva Wyndham is an excellent value. Varied and well-prepared breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets are served at the renovated Junkanoo Restaurant, a large open-air, two-level room in the heart of the resort, which also serves Bahamian specialties one night a week.
Directly behind the Junkanoo is the Main Hall, where the bar and lounge area is, and during the afternoons it becomes Snack Attack Central where your cravings are met with small sandwiches, cakes, and pizza which are served between lunch and dinner. It is very easy to make a meal of these tasty snacks, especially if you get caught up in a game of billiards or watching a major league sports franchise on the big screen TVs. There’s also a reservation-only à la carte Asian-themed restaurant, Bambu.
The bartenders are happy to whip up tropical drinks, some of which they’ve invented, and are equally attentive to those ordering coffee or water as they are to tipplers. Kids can ask for juice or sodas without bugging you for change. The food, beverages, activities and entertainment, with the exceptions of scuba diving and various day trips away from the resort, are part of the all-inclusive package and won’t cost you a cent.
The expanded Viva Cafe, with an Italian accent, serves both pasta and pizza dishes that are part of the all-inclusive plan in addition to escargot, lobster, steak, wine and other favorites for an extra charge. It also has a nice veranda for outdoor dining that is just a few yards away from the Club, a/k/a Party Central, where around 10:30pm you’ll be able to work off some of those calories on the dance floor, either with your companion or with members of the staff.
Viva! The Kids Club & Staff
One of the great features families will enjoy here is the complimentary Viva Wyndham Kids’ Retreat, open daily for kids ages 4- through 12-years. The club has a full schedule of fun activities, from painting, drawing and reading to basketball, Ping Pong and games on the beach, and there are always two or three trained staffers with the kids at all times. Activities are interspersed with snacks and a Disney video break in the afternoon, and in the evenings there’s even a mini-disco for kids to learn the latest moves. Babysitting is also available if Mom and Dad want to slip off for a romantic rendezvous.
The Fortuna Beach staff, who seem to be everywhere all the time, want guests of all ages to have a great time. Consisting mainly of young coed European and Latin American college graduates and alumnae from other Viva Wyndham resorts, the staff is multi-lingual and multi-talented as well. The Italian girl or Venezuelan guy who leads your Merengue dance class in the afternoons is likely to star in that evening’s show (which are really terrific), and odds are they will be handing out towels on the beach the next morning after dancing the night away. Across the board the staff was just great, particularly with kids.
Fun Excursions to Appreciate Grand Bahama Island
If you want to see more of this “movie star” island, or catch a peek at vacationing celebs, here are three excursions we enjoyed. The Dolphin Experience, the Nature Tour and a kayaking trip through the mangroves of Lucaya National Park are all great daytrips. The Dolphin Experience involves taking a boat to a dolphin research center about 40 minutes away and watching as the handlers have the dolphins perform tasks via hand and whistle signals. The visit includes interacting with the dolphins in their habitat, and actually standing next to and touching them in a four-foot-deep wading pool while their handlers answer any and all questions regarding these magnificent mammals.
The Nature Tour is a five-hour walking tour through Lucayan National Park, where we hiked for an hour through the flora, fauna and underwater caves of one of the Bahamas’ six eco-systems. We then headed over to another part of the park, where we explored a different eco-system leading to an amazing beach and… a light lunch. Our guide was exceptionally well versed in the history and settlement of the various Bahamas islands.
The kayaking tour through the mangrove swamps in the National Park was invigorating, exhausting (try extricating yourself from a mangrove) and worthwhile, particularly if you or your family worship at the Temple of Mother Nature.
Vacation Planning Details for the Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach
The Viva Wyndham Fortuna Beach is located at Churchill Drive & Doubloon Road, Freeport, Grand Bahama Island, 42398 Bahamas.
Seasonal rates for this all-inclusive range from $$ – $$$ per night per family and range as low as $100 per person per day. You won’t find the variety of dining choices or posh amenities you’ll get at a five-star resort, but for the money, this place deserves an A.
Note that the Wyndham website offers air/land package deals as well and, after closing for two months of renovations in the fall of 2014, is likely to have construction specials for the next year or so.
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