TRAVEL -- Exploring James Bond locations in the Bahamas can sometimes make you feel a little nostalgic. Many of the classic locations have undergone radical changes, and in some cases, they’ve vanished entirely. If you’re starting to feel a sense of loss for certain locations from the golden age of Bond, the cure for that feeling is the One & Only Ocean Club, on Paradise Island, Bahamas.
In my humble opinion, there is no existing James Bond location that’s as authentic, untouched, and accurate as how it’s portrayed in the film. At no point did the producers go off and shoot interior shots in studios. All of the filming was done on location at the Ocean Club, and while many films will stitch together various locations and angles to create a desired effect, the Ocean Club scenes in Casino Royale are almost documentary-like in it's faithfulness to the location. If you’ve seen James Bond exploring the Ocean Club in Casino Royale, then you too can walk in the front door, and know exactly where you are. So if you really want to feel as if you’re walking in Bond’s footsteps, there’s probably no better place.
It's difficult to describe the Ocean Club without over-using terms like “totally accurate,” or “just as it was in the film,” but as soon as you arrive at the Ocean Club, you'll know exactly what I mean.
When your taxi first pulls up to the front of the Ocean Club, you're immediately thrown right back into Casino Royale. The beautiful front facade of the Ocean Club with its white columns and tiled floors will be an incredibly familiar sight to see. The club entrance looks and feels exactly as it does in the film, so you will immediately feel as if you have stepped into the world of James Bond.
Once you’ve walked through the front doors of the Ocean Club, you'll find yourself in the reception area, and (again) you will immediately see that everything here is laid out and functions as it does in Casino Royale. When James Bond walks into the reception area, just after setting off all the car alarms, he turns right down a small hallway and facing a double set of French doors. Again, exactly like in the film, that’s exactly what you’ll see as you turn right. If you walk through those French doors and look to your left, you’ll see the same door that Bond enters to access the security area, to find Alex Dimitrios on the closed-circuit cameras. Here is where the film takes a minor liberty (in real life, this door leads to a broom closet).
If you walk back through the double doors, past the main entrance, which is now on your left, you’ll walk through to the reception area, as Bond does. To your right, you can see the same area and the very same desk where the attractive receptionist looks up to James Bond and says, “Welcome to the Ocean Club, sir. Checking in?”
Just beyond the reception area, (if you walk in the main entrance and kept walking straight), you will enter the Library. The Ocean Club Library is where the scenes of the poker game were filmed. Walking into this room is absolutely thrilling. This room is still true to how it appears in the film, and I mean right down to the details. If you walk into the room and look to the left, you’ll see the same art-deco painting on the wall, that you can see behind Solange as she makes her entrance. On either side of the painting are the bookcases, and even the items on the bookcases – the books, the statuettes and sconces – are the same ones as shown in the film. If you turn and look to the right, you will be facing another very familiar site. Here is the bar where that James Bond is leaning on, just before he orders a cocktail. So to relive a terrific Bond moment, be sure to slide up to the bar and say, “Good evening. Large Mount Gay and Soda.”
In case you were wondering, these areas are open to the public. You don't need to be a guest of the Ocean Club in order to enjoy the reception area, library and bar, so feel free to relax with a cocktail. It also bears mentioning, that this luxury resort is not for the frugal. On my first visit to the Ocean club, I was there with my girlfriend and two other couples, and while my group of six relaxed in the library, we each had two cocktails before going to dinner. The bill for the cocktails was $240. Even though the experience as well worth the money, just be aware that drinking and dining at the Ocean Club is a small extravagance.
When you walk through the glass doors of the library to explore the beautiful Ocean Club grounds, be sure to turn around and take a look at the Library from the back. You'll immediately recognize another familiar view. This is where you can see James Bond entering the library area, just before the poker game, demonstrating once again how true to life these scenes were filmed. This is another truly iconic view, so be sure to have your camera.
As you leave the Library and make your way down the path toward the water, you’ll be lead right up to the Ocean Club’s Dune Restaurant, overlooking the spectacular Bahamian waters. If you decide to stop by the Dune for a drink, you may notice something interesting on the cocktail menu. One of the specialized cocktails is called a ‘Casino Royale,’ which happens to be made of vodka, gin with a splash of Lillet; a cocktail better known to Bond enthusiasts as a ‘Vesper.’ Be sure to ask the waiter to add a thin slice of lemon peel.
In addition to the Dune Restaurant, there are several areas of the Ocean Club for dining, including in the library, the clubhouse, and the Pool Terrace Café. On my first visit to the Ocean club, my companions and I had dinner at the Courtyard Terrace. Dinner for me would be a lobster tail, followed up by another ‘Casino Royale’ cocktail.
As you continue to explore the Ocean Club grounds, you’ll continue along the path until you reach the Versailles Gardens. As you turn towards the gardens, the first thing you will see is the Versailles pool. You might remember a shot of Daniel Craig was walking up these steps, adjusting the cuffs of his black Alfani shirt, as he heads to the poker game, with the crystal-blue Versailles pool glistening in the background. Beyond the pool is the multi-leveled, magnificent Versailles Gardens. You might recall seeing some publicity shots of Daniel Craig before the release of Casino Royale, wearing a white tuxedo-like shirt, and with his arms around both Bond girls. These publicity shots were taken at the Versailles Gardens. The gardens were designed after the legendary Palace of Versailles, with seven individual terraces featuring marble and bronze statues, including a 12th-century statue of Hercules, and two of the Empress Josephine.
After a very satisfying meal, and a walk around the gardens, you must not leave this place without checking out one more spot – the magnificent ocean-view villa where Bond had stayed. It was probably not very likely that Bond would be able to stay in one of these villas without a reservation, as these villas are extremely exclusive, extremely expensive, and booked solid for months in advance. But, even without being a guest, you can still make your way over to Villa #108, just don't try to go inside (unless of course you really are a guest). This is the exact villa where Bond stays, and (again) it’s where all those interior shots were actually filmed.
On my first visit to the Ocean Club, the best I could do was to sneak around the front of the villa, (or rather the back), to see the side that faces the ocean. You can see the beautiful back deck, complete with the same deck chairs that appear in the film, and I could see the beautiful pool just beyond the deck, which overlooks the water.
It was on my second visit to the Ocean club, that I was actually able to get inside the villa, courtesy of Richard Skillman and the Theme Party People who organized the trip.
When you first enter the villa, and you make your way into the beautiful living room, you can see exactly where Daniel Craig was working at his laptop, while facing the large open doors to a private deck overlooking the aqua-green Bahamian waters. You can see that the filmmakers knew that they didn’t have to change or add anything to make this room feel as exotic and luxurious as it needed to be for a James Bond film. It’s also in this living room where they filmed the scenes of Bond seducing Solange, (although it seems like Solange is guiding the seduction).
What you can’t fully comprehend from watching Casino Royale is the impressive size of the villa. Off to one side is a magnificent, fully functioning kitchen complete with a stocked bar and wine refrigerator, which is fully stocked with bottles of wine. On the same side are two large master bedrooms, which also have clear views of the Bahamian ocean. Each have a large bathroom, with showers that are surrounded by glass windows, giving you the feeling of showering outdoors. On the other side of the living room is a hallway leading to another huge master bedroom. This is where Solange disappears into as she waits for James Bond to join her, but unfortunately, he leaves her with a bottle of chilled Bollinger Grande Annee and Beluga caviar, “for one.”
It was certainly the opportunity of a lifetime to be able to see the inside of Villa #1085 since (with rates beginning at $7,950 a night) reserving the room for myself is probably not in my immediate future.
If you’re a modern James Bond fan like myself, and if you enjoyed Casino Royale as much as I did, then I absolutely recommend checking out the One & Only Ocean Club. You will truly feel as if you have set foot into the world of James Bond, and it’s adventures like these that remind you why we try to live like James Bond; because living like Bond always provides the most amazing life experiences.