On our last Bahamas cruise, we stopped for a day in Freeport. I was super-excited to find out that Freeport now has its own adorable swimming pigs! I booked tickets for a five-hour shore excursion so Mr. SBC and I could visit Crystal Beach and go swimming with the pigs in Freeport.
Have you ever wanted to swim with the famous Pig Island pigs in Exuma? Me too! But the trip is too long to do as a shore excursion from any of the cruise ports in the Bahamas. Swimming with the pigs in Freeport is only a 30-minute ride from the cruise port.
Freeport’s cruise port
If you’re stopping at Freeport for the very first time during your Bahamas cruise, you should know that there’s not much to do within walking distance of the cruise port. There’s Señor Frog’s, and also a small straw market that operates just for cruise passengers, but that’s about it.
Unlike in Nassau, where you get off the ship and you’re right downtown, the area around Freeport’s cruise port on Grand Bahama Island is very industrial. If you’re getting off the ship in Freeport, you really have to have something planned including transportation.
Our shore excursion included a guided coach tour to Crystal Beach, which is 13 miles (21km) from the cruise port. After the beach, we’d have the opportunity to do some shopping before returning to the ship.
David, our guide, narrated the drive with his impressive knowledge of nearly every structure we passed. Whether it was an industrial site, a group of oil tanks, or a municipal building, David told us all about it and how it fits into the local culture or economy.
After leaving the industrial section by the cruise port, we passed through a business district, the suburbs, and then to a more rural landscape. I was struck by how much damage there still is from Hurricane Dorian, which hit the Bahamas in August 2019. The Category 5 hurricane was the worst natural disaster in the history of the country.
Piles of debris were everywhere, and many damaged homes and businesses still have not been repaired. I know that Freeport is one of those ports where many cruisers choose to stay on board the ship. If you’re cruising to Freeport, I encourage you to book a shore excursion and help support the local economy.
Arriving at Crystal Beach to swim with pigs!
I was hoping for a sunny beach day, but the overcast skies looked like they had other plans. I crossed my fingers that the rain would hold off until after we met our new piggy friends.
Crystal Beach is small, but thankfully wasn’t too crowded when we arrived. You can access the private beach for $5 per person if you’re not doing a pig excursion. However, it looked like everyone was here for the pigs!
Loungers and picnic tables were available for guests, and we settled in at a table to watch a group that was getting ready to meet the pigs. The group of about 35 people waded out into waist-deep water, and then pigs of various sizes and colors came trotting down the beach and right into the ocean!
Many of us wanted to get a peek at the pigs (it wasn’t our turn yet, but we were all excited), but staff was on hand to make sure we didn’t get too close to the group that was enjoying their own experience.
We meet the General
Soon enough it was our turn, and David called for us to line up under a covered shelter. A rather stern-looking older gentleman appeared and loudly introduced himself as “General Brooks”. Drill-sergeant style, he ordered us to form straight lines. We were all a little nervous as he barked out more orders – I was half-expecting him to make us drop and do pushups!
But soon he laughed and his intimidating demeanor evaporated. I think he was trying to make sure he could command our attention while he gave us a safety briefing about how to interact with the pigs. We’d be feeding them apple chunks from wooden skewers, and you have to be careful not to poke them with the sharp end. The pigs also have pretty powerful jaws, so keeping your fingers out of the way while feeding them is really important.
Here come the swimming pigs!
Safety briefing over, we headed into the water with our skewers and loaded them up with apple chunks. The pigs came running down the beach, eagerly anticipating their treats.
The pigs swam out to where we were waiting, and boy do they like apples! Brooks had plenty of apple chunks for us to refill our skewers, and the pigs eagerly gobbled them up.
We had about 45 minutes during our turn to meet the pigs, so we didn’t feel rushed at all. The pigs followed us back to the beach so we had more chances for photo opportunities.
After their apple snacks, the pigs chowed down on a meal of grain pellets from a trough on the beach.
As a final surprise before our pig encounter came to a close, staff members brought out baby pigs for us to hold! The piglets’ caretakers stayed close to make sure that guests were gentle with the babies.
A few warnings about swimming with pigs in Freeport
The shore excursion is called “Swim With the Pigs”, but it’s really only the pigs that do the swimming. They have hard hooves, so you really don’t want to be swimming next to them! For this reason, and also because they have such strong jaws, I don’t recommend this excursion for little kids. There were a couple of seven- or eight-year-olds in our group, which is about the youngest I’d consider taking on this tour.
If you do have a young child, please be sure to supervise them while feeding the pigs, for their safety as well as the animals’. If they want to hold a baby pig (and you allow them to), please make sure you stay with your child to assist. The piglets can be squirmy!
One last warning: poop. After the pigs eat their snacks, some of them will poop. In the water. Where you’re standing. If this grosses you out, this is not the shore excursion for you. I’m not exactly a fan of standing in poop-water, but it was worth it to me to see the swimming pigs. There are outdoor showers if you want to rinse off afterward.
Is the Swim With the Pigs excursion ethical?
In April 2019, a Canadian travel influencer wrote a viral Facebook post about the Swim With the Pigs excursion at Crystal Beach in Freeport, alleging that the pigs are mistreated. Bahamas tourism officials visited the operation after the allegations were made, and reported back no evidence of mistreatment.
What did I think? I saw no evidence of abused pigs. The animals looked healthy and didn’t seem to be over-or underweight. I wasn’t able to tour their living facilities (the pigs’ living area is located just adjacent to the beach but is off-limits to guests), so I can’t make a judgment one way or the other about that.
I didn’t see any staff members forcing pigs to go into the water, or not letting them leave the water to go onto the beach. The staff seemed to truly care for the pigs and helped ensure that we and the pigs were safe during our interactions.
Of course, some people believe that no business should make money from animals. If you believe in supporting only ethical animal attractions, I saw no evidence that the staff at Crystal Beach mistreats their pigs.
What else is there to do at Crystal Beach?
Since you’ll likely have time before and after meeting the pigs to hang out, you may be wondering what there is to do at Crystal Beach. Most people from our group just relaxed on loungers, but several of them took advantage of the beach volleyball net and played a few lively games.
If you really want to relax, Crystal Beach has hammocks available for guests, strung up on a wooden frame in the far corner of the property.
Free WiFi is available for guests on the property, and the password is posted on the wall at the bar.
Kayaks and snorkels are available to rent, but you won’t have a lot of time to use them. Although I love to snorkel and always bring my own equipment, I wouldn’t feel comfortable swimming or snorkeling at this beach. With the number of times the pigs poop in the shallow water each day, I wouldn’t risk it. The swimming part of the beach is roped off from the pig part of the beach, but it’s just too close in my opinion.
Food and drinks at Crystal Beach
Crystal Beach has a small bar and takeout restaurant, and you can eat on their covered porch or at a picnic table on the beach. We ate breakfast on the ship, so we decided to wait until after we interacted with the pigs to have a snack.
The small menu included fried or grilled fish, hamburgers, and chicken wings, along with various conch specialties like fritters and conch burgers. Non-meat options including nachos, mixed veggies, and french fries were also available. Prices ranged from $4 for sides to $15 for a cracked conch entrée.
The bar menu included frozen and regular cocktails, beer, soda, juice, and coconut water.
Don’t wait until after swimming with the pigs to order your food
With about 45 minutes before we needed to get back on the coach, we figured we had plenty of time to order something small and eat it before we had to leave. Wrong!
Mr. SBC placed our order at the takeout window for a side of conch fritters to share. Then we waited. And waited. After a half-hour, we knew something was up. We watched guest after guest placing orders at the window. Orders were going in, but no food was coming out.
Our guide called out to our group to give us a ten-minute warning. I let him know that our food should be arriving shortly. Another guest mentioned she had been waiting 40 minutes at the bar for a Mudslide that never arrived, so she was waiting for a refund, which also wasn’t happening.
With the assistance of a staff member who overheard our conversation, we finally got our food (and the other guest had her refund). David kindly allowed us to take our snack on the coach. If you choose to order anything at the beach, be sure to do it before you meet the pigs. Or wait until the next part of the shore excursion when you’ll have plenty of time to eat and a choice of restaurants and bars.
You may also like: 15 Delicious Foods in the Bahamas You Need to Try
Souvenir shopping in Freeport
Back on the coach, it started to rain as we headed to our next stop, the Port Lucaya Marketplace, where we’d have an hour of free time before returning to the ship.
An open-air shopping center wasn’t exactly where we wanted to be on a rainy day, but we looked around the shops and restaurants during our free time. In addition to more than 40 stores and boutiques, the marketplace also has two straw markets. Pushcart vendors also usually set up here when the weather cooperates.
Port Lucaya Marketplace also has sixteen restaurants and four bars. If you’re able to wait until after leaving the beach to eat, you’ll have plenty of choices here from Irish to Greek to Latin American cuisine along with Caribbean options.
I wasn’t overly impressed with the shops, but there were certainly plenty of them! If you’re looking for colorful crafts to take home as a Bahamas souvenir, you’re in luck.
For anyone looking for a higher-end Bahamas souvenir, be sure to check out the many jewelry shops in the marketplace. Gorgeous rosy-pink conch pearl jewelry is available in several of the boutiques, but prices may shock you – conch pearls are quite rare and valuable.
Booking tickets to swim with pigs in Freeport
I booked our tickets for swimming with pigs in Freeport directly through Norwegian Cruise Line for $119 per person, although I usually avoid buying shore excursions through the cruise line. Why didn’t I book through an independent tour operator or a booking site that I trust and save some money?
I read too many reviews that said this particular tour is often canceled without notice by the independent tour operator on Grand Bahama if not enough people sign up. Since meeting swimming pigs has been on my bucket list for a while now, I just didn’t want to take a chance.
The price that NCL charged was also less than buying tickets via a booking site (which is rare)! But if your cruise line doesn’t offer this excursion, you can book through Viator here:
Don’t forget to check out these resources before your Bahamas cruise:
- What to Pack for a Caribbean Cruise
- What to Pack in Your Cruise Carry On Bag
- 7 Best Beaches in Nassau Bahamas for Cruisers
Have you visited Freeport on a Bahamas cruise? Ever thought about swimming with pigs in Freeport? Let me know in the comments below!