PCA 2012: Wheels up for Paradise Island

PCA-2010-thumbnail.jpgThere is a shade of blue that's hard to match on a terrestrial color wheel. It looks like a perfect sky, one that shimmers like a drunkard's mirror, one that seems like it was created by some wizard at Pixar studios. It's likely the first thing that will strike you when your plane breaks the clouds over Nassau. The Caribbean water looks like nothing you'll see in Copenhagen, Kiev, or Calgary.

At this moment, hundreds of people from all over the world are either in the air or packing to fly south for the 2012 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure where many will see that water for the first time.

I am among those travelers as I prepare to fly in for my eighth consecutive PCA. Of the few things on which I consider myself an expert, it's the trip from the Nassau airport to Paradise Island. I sort of feel it's my duty to prepare you for the patience required to deal with the final leg of the trip.

Here's how it goes:

The humidity is the first thing you'll notice when you disembark from your plane. There is a thickness to the air you breathe, and no matter if it's night or day, hot or cold, you'll know you're in the Bahamas. The warm clothes you wore from whatever winter climate you left will start to stick to your chest before you have found the signs to lead you toward the exit. Advice: Dress in layers and start stripping the moment you get off the plane. Further advice: Make sure you don't undress entirely. That almost always ends badly.

The immigration line isn't quick, and it's the last thing you'll want to endure after being on a plane. But, off to your left, there is likely to be a steel drum band playing to welcome you to the islands. No one line is faster than the other, so just pick one and settle in for the wait. Advice: Make friends with the people in your line. They are almost certainly there for the PCA, too.

Once through the immigration line, you'll bear to the right (that's where the bathrooms are, by the way) on your way to the baggage carousels. Advice: Go to the bathroom. You're still a long way from your hotel room.

This is a point that can't be stressed enough: the wait for your bags at the Nassau airport will likely be the longest relative wait you have for anything in the coming week. It's a slow, slow process that seems slower because you know that you are just minutes away from being outside and breathing the Bahamian air. There are two ways you can deal effectively and calmly with the wait. One requires deep breathing and ten years of training in a monastery. The other involves a tiki bar on the near side of the baggage claim area. You choose which suits you best. Advice: Choose the latter.

Once you have your bags, turn around 180 degrees to what looks like two bored people who are potentially members of law enforcement. These people are customs agents. If my experience is any indication, one of two things will happen. They will wave you through without speaking to you, or they will try to convince you you are carrying something very, very illegal. When you finally start to look nervous, they will start laughing and pointing at you as if you are the most gullible guy on earth. Advice: Show no fear (and, really, don't bring anything illegal).

Freedom! That's what comes next. A set of sliding glass doors on your right will open. Go through them and walk to your left. That's where The Outside is. Freedom! Except, you're not free yet, because you're still 45 minutes or more from checking into your hotel. This may be the trickiest part for you. There will be town car drivers, shuttle drivers, and licensed taxis all there and ready to sweep you up. Unless things have changed, there will be an official standing on the sidewalk assigning riders to cabs. Advice: Find this official and do what he or she says. It makes things a lot easier.

A taxi (probably a mini-van) will pull up and load you and anyone else going to Atlantis into the seats. The ride should cost between $30 and $40. Advice: Just to be careful, ask how much the ride will cost before you get rolling.

From there, it's just a matter of waiting. The view starts off sort of boring, but before long you'll be zipping along the left side of the road, getting chatted up by a cabbie, and seeing ocean views. Within 25 minutes or so, you'll be in Nassau proper Advice: You went to the bathroom after immigration, right? Because this is where things get slow again.


Depending on the time of day you make it into downtown Nassau, you could be in for some thick traffic. It's going to slow down a bit as your cab cuts back and forth through the streets. Cruise ship tourists might be packing the sidewalks. The bleachers from the recent Junkanoo parade will almost certainly still be alongside the streets. Advice: When you see those bleachers, that's the time to start getting excited. It means you're almost there.

Shortly after you pull out of downtown Nassau, you will see a long, long bridge that stretches over to Paradise Island. Look up and you'll see Atlantis. It's one of the biggest resorts you'll ever see. You'll have one more stop at a toll booth, and then your cabbie will want to know which tower you're going to (Coral and Beach Towers check in at the same place, but the high rollers at the Royal Towers and The Cove will go somewhere else). Within about 60 seconds, you should be pulling up to the hotel lobby. Advice: Pay your cabbie and toss in a few bucks for a tip. Karma, man.

In all, you can expect an over/under of an hour and 45 minutes from the time your plane touches down to the time you arrive in the hotel lobby. Is it fun? Well, it's almost certainly not the most fun you'll have on the trip, but you'll survive if you pack your patience and remember that you're on your way to the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure. That's where the fun is.

So, there. There is your due warning. Now, I'm off to pack a bag and find my passport. I'm told that we'll soon we'll be watching the $100,000 buy-in high roller kick off. We here at the PokerStars Blog have a huge amount of coverage planned and we'll be on top of all the big events beginning Thursday at noon. Join us here for the coverage, or, if you're in the Bahamas, come find us and say hello.