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Bahamas

All Cruise Ports in the Bahamas

Nassau, Freeport and 5 Private Islands Offer Many Amenities
The Atlantis resort, beach and water park dominate Nassau attractions.
The Bahamas cruise ports are the most active in the Caribbean because they receive more than 3 million visitors a year -- the most in the entire region.

Eastern Caribbean cruises make the Bahamas a common stop because they are so close to Florida. The islands also attract cruises just to the Bahamas that last as briefly as three or four days.

The area is unique for the number of private islands owned by the cruise lines. Cruises often stop at these day-visit resorts.

Longer cruises include the various Bahamas cruise ports on their way to Turks & Caicos, the Virgin Islands and other popular stops on eastern cruises.

Nassau on New Providence island is the dominant port in the Bahamas. It is followed by Freeport on Grand Bahama island. Cruise lines also visit these private islands:

  1. Castaway Cay (Disney)
  2. Coco Cay (Royal Caribbean)
  3. Great Stirrup Cay (Norwegian Cruise Line)
  4. Half Moon Cay (Holland America Line and Carnival)
  5. Princess Cays (Princess Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises)

Fast Facts


  1. Freeport and Nassau are the main cruise ports
  2. There are five major private cruise islands
  3. Best time to go is late spring to early fall


Following are brief profiles of the Bahamas cruise ports.

Nassau


Bahamas photo
Fort Fincastle is a Nassau attraction; photo courtesy Bahamas Ministry of Tourism
Nassau on New Providence is the capital of the Bahamas.

Cruise visitors will walk right off their ships, through the cruise terminal and into one of the largest shopping and dining districts for tourists in the entire Caribbean region. We could easily spend the entire afternoon there on our visits.

Major hotels and resorts are mostly concentrated at Cable Beach and the more expensive Paradise Island. It is a second small island of 685 acres that is connected to New Providence by two bridges.

Attractions. Besides the tourism district, attractions include Blue Lagoon Island, which is 20 minutes away by sailboat and has beaches, snorkeling, diving and swimming with the dolphins.

Nassau golf courses include Cable Beach Resorts Golf Club and South Ocean Golf & Beach Resort. The Nassau Botanical Gardens and Ardastra Gardens, Zoo and Conservation Centre will appeal to nature lovers.

Local historical attractions include Fort Charlotte, which is the largest on the islands, and the smaller forts Montagu or Fincastle. The Queen’s Staircase of Sixty Six Steps, right by Fort Fincastle, is a popular tourist attraction that was hand carved out of solid rock. Fincastle and Queen’s Staircase are a 15-minute walk from the tourism district.


Beaches.
Cruise visitors will arrive at the Nassau port on the northeastern side of the island near Atlantis. If the cruise line offers any beach excursion, it is likely a visit to the five-mile long Atlantis beach.

The Atlantis towers are visible from the docks. Note the bridge to the east that crosses from New Providence Island to Paradise Island.

Junkanoo Beach, also known as the Western Esplanade, is within walking distance of the cruise docks. This area joins the beaches at Arawak Cay and Long Wharf. Take a right as you walk out of the cruise terminal.

The beaches here are popular with both tourists and locals. It has benches for sitting and viewing the ships that arrive or leave the harbor. Horseback and pony rides also are available.

Shopping and Restaurants. Nassau has plenty of duty-free shopping. Popular shopping destinations include the Straw Markets, which showcase local arts and crafts. They are located a few blocks from the cruise terminals. Visitors just need to turn right outside of the terminal and walk only a few minutes to reach them.

Paradise Island has shops concentrated at Marina Village, Crystal Court (inside Atlantis Royal Towers) and The Craft Centre, which features local artisans.

Bay Street is the dominant shopping area and is lined with many shops, cafes and restaurants. It is easily accessible from the cruise docks and runs parallel to the waterfront. Festival Place shopping is located right by the docks, and Straw Market is nearby on Bay Street.

Freeport


The Freeport cruise port is on Grand Bahama Island, which is the second most popular tourist destination in The Bahamas after Nassau and Paradise Island.

Port Lucaya Marketplace; © Big Stock Photo
It is one of the northernmost islands of The Bahamas, the closest to Florida and is known for two areas in particular – the resort center at Freeport and the suburb of Lucaya.

Freeport is the dominant city on Grand Bahama with its own cruise terminal and the Grand Bahama Island International Airport. Lucaya also has a cruise terminal and is a major hub for cruise ships, shopping, restaurants, hotels and entertainment.

Attractions. Attractions include Lucayan National Park, which has one of the world’s largest underwater cave systems, and Peterson Cay National Park, a protected area a mile offshore with coral reefs and opportunities for picnicking, snorkeling and scuba diving.

Another favorite attraction is Pinder’s Point Lighthouse, the birds and nature trails at Rand Nature Center or the Garden of the Groves, which has more than 10,000 species of plants and animals. Visitors can swim with the dolphins at Dolphin Experience Lagoon.

Shopping. Shoppers will find plenty to browse and buy at the 12-acre Port Lucaya Marketplace or at the International Bazaar, one of the oldest shopping areas in Freeport. It’s a common shore excursion about a 20-minute drive from the cruise terminal.

We spent the afternoon there on a rainy day and found plenty to do, although it isn’t as large as the Nassau district. It also has regular entertainment and can fill several hours of time during a shore excursion visit.

Golfers will be able to use two courses – The Lucayan Golf Course or The Reef Golf Course.

Castaway Cay


Castaway Cay is Disney's private port and provides activities such as snorkeling, boating, swimming and sunbathing. Amenities include:

  • 325-square-foot private and furnished cabanas at Castaway Family Beach (for families) and Serenity Bay Beach (for adults)
  • Two water play areas
  • The Hide Out, a teens-only activity area on the beach
  • Open-air BBQ dining locations, two shops with gifts and souvenirs, and tram transportation
  • Swimming, kayaking, water sports and other activities at the various areas
  • Open-air massages with an ocean view, a yoga class and a bar at the secluded, adults-only beach, Serenity Bay
  • Excursions including stingray interactions, glass-bottom boat tours, parasailing and fishing
  • Free childcare at Scuttle's Cove, a child's area supervised by Disney counselors
  • Disney Character Greetings, including a Dance Party with Lilo and Stitch

Coco Cay


Coco Cay, just south of Freeport, is a private island owned by Royal Caribbean. Amenities include:

  • Hiking, parasailing and kayaking
  • Waverunners, the most popular activity
  • Caylana's Aqua Park, a floating playground
  • Seaside barbecues
  • Snorkeling among sunken wrecks
This private island doesn't have any restaurants or shops, but the private beach offers mixed and frozen drinks.

Great Stirrup Cay


Norwegian Cruise Line owns Great Stirrup Cay, which is north of Nassau. Amenities include:

  • WaveRunners and parasailing
  • Snorkeling
  • Kayaking and boat tours
  • Complimentary dining.
  • Straw market; Bahamas arts and crafts for purchase.
  • Kids play area and Hippo water slide

Half Moon Cay


Half Moon Cay is farthest south and east of any Bahamas cruise port. Holland America Line and Carnival Cruise Lines use it more than other cruise lines. Amenities include:

  • Horseback riding
  • Snorkeling
  • Stingray interaction in Stingray Cove.
  • Shore excursions
  • Two-mile beach
  • Children's water park
  • Interior lagoon

Princess Cays


Princess Cays is a 40-acre resort owned by Princess Cruises on the island of Eleuthera. The island is 100 miles long and only two miles wide. Amenities include:
  • A half-mile beach
  • Observation tower
  • Complimentary beach barbecue
  • Local craft market
  • Beach volleyball
  • Water sports equipment
    Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

     > Category: Cruise Ports   

    May 23, 2018

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