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Bahamas

Nassau Bahamas Cruise Port Guide

Nassau cruise terminal. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license
Nassau cruise terminal. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license
Nassau is one of the most -- if not the most -- popular cruise ports in the Caribbean region.

Even though the Bahamas aren't in the Caribbean Sea properly, they serve as a common stop for many eastern Caribbean cruises.

They also are the only destination for many cruises leaving from the East Coast of the United States.

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

Cruise visitors will arrive at the Prince George Wharf right by downtown Nassau. They can see Paradise Island and the massive Atlantis resort complex right from the docks.

The wharf can accommodate up to seven ships. Some days Nassau will be packed with visitors and other days it may be quiet.

Visitors will take a short walk on the docks, through the terminal and right into the downtown area. The terminal, known as Festival Place, has 45 artisans and shops along with tour information, a post office, communications center, phone cards, Internet access and information on taxis and ferry boats.

Once through the terminal, go one block south (in the opposite direction of the wharf) to reach Bay Street, the center of Nassau's tourism activity.

Quick Travel Tips


  • The Atlantis resort complex is the most popular attraction.
  • Most beaches require transportation to reach them.
  • The best time to visit for weather is late spring.

Attractions and Shore Excursions


Walking Around Attractions


Nassau has plenty of attractions and shore excursions for people to do on their own.

Fort Charlotte Nassau
Fort Charlotte overlooks Nassau and cruise ship in background. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license
A free, quick and easy one is the Nassau Straw Market on West Bay Street. Just walk off the docks and take an immediate right. It's only a few hundred feet away.

This hectic market is often packed with tourists because it is so close to the busy cruise docks. By the way, the market doesn't sell plain straw. It sells a lot of souvenirs, arts and crafts. Only some of them are made out of straw.

Anyone with an interest in history will want to tour the local forts, especially Fort Charlotte, which is the largest on the islands, or forts Montagu or Fincastle. Charlotte is the best option among the forts. For moderately fit walkers, it is about 1.5 miles west of the docks by Clifford Park.

The Nassau Botanical Gardens and the nearby Ardastra Gardens, Zoo and Conservation Centre off Chippingham Road will appeal to nature lovers. They are right by Fort Charlotte and a somewhat lengthy one and a half miles from the cruise terminal.

The Queen's Staircase of Sixty Six Steps is right next to Fort Fincastle. The staircase is an impressive historical attraction that was hand carved out of solid rock. Fincastle and the Staircase are a half mile from Bay Street.

One useful way of getting around and seeing some of the above sites is a guided walking tour. Although many cruise ports in the Caribbean have walking tours, the one in Nassau is especially worth considering because of the city's history. The cost usually starts at about $30 per person.

Nassau is a popular golf destination throughout much of the year. Golf courses include Cable Beach Resorts Golf Club and South Ocean Golf & Beach Resort.

Shore Excursions


Anyone who can't or doesn't want to walk so much to see the above attractions can take a shore excursion with transportation for about $60 to $70 depending on the length (up to four hours) and excursion operator. Other stops include the Parliament Buildings and the Atlantis Royal Towers. A shorter 1.5-hour walking tour will cost only about $40.

Atlantis isn't only a major resort destination. The massive complex on Paradise Island is among the most popular attractions because of the resort marine habitat, Dolphin Cay and the Predator Lagoon.

The island is accessible by bridge on the northeast coast of New Providence within a somewhat long walking distance from the cruise port. It is the well-developed complex of hotel and resort properties including Atlantis Paradise Island Resort & Casino.

It has a water park, the world's largest open air marina, a massive hotel property and, of course, a large casino to go with it. The water park is a common shore excursion with costs starting at about $100 per person. Atlantis shore excursion prices vary widely depending on whether visitors go to just the beach, the waterpark, the marine habitat, swimming with dolphins or all of them.

Other attractions include Blue Lagoon Island, which is 20 minutes away by sailboat and has beaches, snorkeling, diving and its own swimming with the dolphins. Prices for dolphin excursions usually start around $100 per person depending on the program.

Beaches Near the Cruise Port


The best beaches on New Providence and Paradise Island require a taxi, rental car or excursion bus to reach them. There is one beach within walking distance of the cruise terminal.

Junkanoo Beach, also known as the Western Esplanade, is a half mile west of the cruise docks or about a 10 minute walk. This area joins the beaches at Arawak Cay and Long Wharf. Take a right as you walk out of the cruise terminal.

Cable Beach is more than two miles long and faces a series of top-rated hotels or resorts. It also has a golf course, nightlife and the largest casino in the Bahamas. It is about six miles east of the cruise terminal.

Three beaches lie parallel to Bay Street on New Providence. They are Saunders and West Esplanade on the west side and Montague on the east side.

Paradise Island beaches include Colonial, Casuarina, Arawak and Smugglers. Cabbage Beach on Paradise Island has been called one of the best in the Caribbean. Beach excursions usually cost $75 to $100 per person depending on the length of visit and amenities.

One interesting beach excursion involves taking a ferry to Balmoral Island for a half day. The package includes transportation, lunch and beach chair for about $80 per person. Recreational activities include volleyball and swimming pools.

Shopping and Dining


Nassau Straw Market
Nassau Straw Market goods for sale.
Nassau has a massive tourist district by the cruise docks and plenty of duty-free shopping. Popular shopping destinations include the straw markets, which showcase local arts and crafts, and Bay Street, which is lined with shops, cafes and restaurants.

Bay Street on New Providence is easily accessible from the cruise docks and runs parallel to the waterfront. Festival Place shopping is right by the docks, and the well-known Nassau Straw Market is nearby on Bay Street.

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

Restaurants are heavily concentrated at Paradise Island, downtown Nassau and Cable Beach, which lies west of downtown and the cruise docks.

Transportation / Getting Around


Nassau is a rather odd port in that it calls for a lot of walking because of where everything is located.

Shopping is conveniently on Bay Street right by the cruise terminal. Other attractions range from a half mile to one and a half miles away. Moderately fit people may walk to most of them as we did, but it was a tiring day. Others might rely more on taxis and other transportation.

Taxi rates are set by the government according to zones on New Providence. Rates include the zones, the number of people, the number of baggages and wait time. There is no public bus system.

Several local and international rental car companies including Avis, Budget and Bowcar have locations in downtown Nassau that serve cruise visitors.

Weather


Bahamas rainfall chart
Average monthly rainfall in the Bahamas. © 2018 Scott S. Bateman
The best time to visit the Bahamas is in the spring, especially March, April or May. Cooler temperatures make the ocean water uncomfortable for swimming in January and February.

Nassau Bahamas has an average monthly high temperature of about 84 degrees Fahrenheit and the average monthly low is 69 degrees, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

The average high reaches its peak of 89 degrees from July through September and bottoms at less than 80 degrees from December through March. But the hottest months are some of the wettest.

Rainfall historically hits a high point in June and August, while July, September and October tend to have heavier rain as well.

At least seven inches or more falls each month from June through October. The wettest month of all is August, which has more than 9 inches of rain and 19 days of rain on average.

In contrast, December through March experience less than 2 inches of rain. Cool weather comes with the lower risk of rain.
Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas.

 > Category: Cruise Ports   

February 06, 2020
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