Alex Cardona had been looking for a special way to propose to his girlfriend Melissa Swancey for a quite some time.
And so he signed up for a People-to-People experience to surprise his girlfriend while they vacationed in The Bahamas earlier this month.
The special proposal was organized through People-to-People ambassador Kwame Russell, who was happy to assist Mr. Cardona with his surprise at Rose Island.
“This was the first time for me as a People-to-People ambassador to assist with organizing a wedding engagement and the experience was like no other,” Mr. Russell said.
Having been featured in Ministry of Tourism's most popular show, Tourism Today, there is a profound sense of obligation to the Tourism product, services we provide and the impact of long lasting impressions. As service oriented country, the Bahamas continues to complete on the world stage of hospitality, with impeccable service and industry standards.
As the region's pioneering tourism leader, it is with great expectation that we consistently and proactively create new and innovative ideas to redefine the tourism product and bring it to our guests the unimaginable.
'Although the process of getting to the Bahamas was an ordeal, what I was about to experience made it totally worth it!', These were the words of Blaine Nickeson, Associate Editor at Airlinereporter.com.
Above photo from left to right: Laura Motta from Sherman's Travel, Kwame Russell People-to-People Ambassador, Mrs. Bernadette Bastian Program Manager - People-to-People and Blaine Nickeson from Airlinereporter.com
Featured from left to right: Laura Motta from Sherman's Travel, Photographer Patrick Robinson and Blaine Nickeson from Airlinereporter.com
This was my first hosting for two members of an internationally based associated press and by extension this was their first People-to-People encounter ever. Both Laura and Blaine had no idea what a Bahamian family and friends had planned for them let alone an evening of fun and excitement. This encounter, like the many I've done, is indeed the true essence of hospitality and bears testament to the age ole statement of 'friends for life'.
Featured from left to right: Laura Motta from Sherman's Travel, Chef Paul Rolle and Blaine Nickeson from Airlinereporter.com
Another great weekend spent entertaining, as my family and I hosted some great friends and guests from out of town. Encounters are like no other and are usually filled with anxiety and uneasiness during the initial stage of ‘getting to know’.
What followed thereafter is nothing short of the term ‘friends for life’ and further solidifies a bond between persons who were once strangers. My friends, family and i did a great job at hosting LeToya, Latoya and Amy and we look forward to their return to our beautiful country. It's better in the Bahamas..
I am a relatively frequent traveller, but always find that in most of my travels I neglect to explore some of the more local culture and fully immerse myself. Since this was my first trip to the Bahamas, I went in search of something new to try which is when I came across the people-to-people program. First off, I have to say it is a shame that more foreign tourist destinations do not offer a program similar to this. After discovering the program, it didn't take long before I was completing the application and registration processes. Not long after that, I got a message from the host that I was matched with. They do a great job of trying to match individuals with similar interests. Our host Kwame Russell contacted me shortly after we were matched to explain how to contact him, and some of the things he planned for us to do. It started before we even arrived that he sent me a couple of videos about him, and what he was all about. I certified air traffic controller, he made sure to get our flight numbers so that he could make sure that we arrived safely and on time.
Although we were staying at Atlantis, Kwame and his friends made us feel more like we were family than guests of the island. Where some hosts only spend a day with their partners, Kwame made a point of seeing us several times over the period we were there. We spent time with him on his boat, where we drank lots of Kalik (THE local beer to drink when you are here) at SUBSTANTIALLY lower prices than what you would pay at the resort. This is when I got to meet Charles, his co-boat captain and long-time friend who was also a boat mechanic. All of them gave us a warm welcome. What you soon realize is that the people here are not much different than where we are from. The big difference is that they value friends and family more than we do here in North America. He always made sure that we got back to our resort safe and sound, and always kept in touch about what the plans were for the next time we saw him.
On another day, we went with a local producer who was filming a tourist advertisement and documentary. He took us to the local zoo, and then to the more local area fish fry which is also a tourist destination, but being with the friends we knew exactly which place to take us to, as they eat there frequently. The restaurant we went to was fabulous, the food was excellent, and portion sizes HUGE. My girlfriend ordered conch fritters, and got 10 and could barely eat all of them. I got the chance to try something entirely new to me in grouper fish, but more importantly was the company of more of Kwame's friends and we got to finally meet his friends wife who we had heard so much about on the boat trip the day prior. Kwame's friend also gave us run of the land, and we got to see the parts of the Island most people never get to see. He told us about the history, and where he grew up, how he got to where he was and all about the tourism in the Bahamas.
On our last day with Kwame, he invited us back to his home where you get to see just how important family is to them. Although he lives with his mom, he has separate living quarters and they rent out several rooms to other individuals. Kwame is a consummate professional, and wears many hats other than Boat Captain, and Air Traffic Controller. He is also a car fanatic, handy man, and just an all-around good guy. Here his friend Paul, an IT professional by day and chef by night prepared a wonderful array of various types of food. We had wonderfully prepared chicken, along with seafood, potato salad, macaroni salad, but unfortunately no conch salad (bad Charles! smile emoticon although we did get to try some before we left. I got to meet most of Kwame's family, including his wonderful mother, and his son. We drank, and ate and told stories, until late even though we were supposed to be leaving the next day. It was unfortunate that we didn't have more time, but alas vacation's never last forever.
The most important thing and Kwame said this from the beginning is that being a part of the people-to-people program you are friends for life. Even though we are 1,000's of miles apart we still keep in touch. I have even helped him find out information about becoming an ATC here in Canada, and when we went on a cruise that stopped in port, instead of booking an excursion we made arrangements to hang out with him and his friends and family again. I wouldn't have had it any other way. Kwame was even going to come up to Canada to watch me graduate, but unforeseen circumstances prevented that from happening, but I know that he was there with me in spirit. In the end all I can really say is that the people-to-people program is truly one of the most memorable travel experiences I have ever had, and despite staying at a high end luxury resort, meeting Kwame and experiencing the real Bahamas was the highlight of my trip. If you have the chance, I highly encourage everyone that travels her to take advantage of this free and wonderful experience. It is one that you will never forget.