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Nassau Bahamas Cruise Port: Tips, Excursions and Weather

Nassau cruise terminal. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license
Nassau cruise terminal. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

The Nassau Bahamas cruise port is one of the most—if not the most—popular cruise ports in the Caribbean region.

Nassau is so popular in part because of its convenient location near the Florida cruise embarkation ports, especially Miami and Fort Lauderdale. It also has a major shopping district, many historical attractions and plenty of other things to do.

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

Nassau and Freeport also are the only destinations for many cruises leaving from the East Coast of the United States on short-term cruises. Some of them are as brief as three or four days.

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 take a short walk on the docks, go through the Nassau cruise terminal and exit right into the downtown area. The terminal, known as Festival Place, has 45 artisans and shops. It also has 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 a low risk of rain 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 without the help of a tour guide.

Fort Charlotte Nassau
Fort Charlotte overlooks Nassau and cruise ship in background. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

A free, quick and easy shopping attraction 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. Shop owners are assertive and often willing to negotiate prices.

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, which are much smaller. 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. Otherwise, take a taxi.

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 also a somewhat lengthy one and a half miles from the cruise terminal. A quick taxi ride will ease the feet. Taxi rates are fixed and set by zone.

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 by slaves out of solid limestone rock. Fincastle and the Staircase are three fourths of a mile directly south of Bay Street. East Street is the quickest route.

It’s easy to visit these attractions without a tour guide, but one in Nassau is worth considering because of the city’s lengthy 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

Nassau Cruise Port Map

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.

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 a large casino. 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. It has beaches, snorkeling, diving and its own swimming with the dolphins. Prices for dolphin excursions there also usually start around $100 per person depending on the program.

Beaches Near the Cruise Port

This video explains the best time to visit the Bahamas and avoid the annual hurricane season.
Full-Screen Version | YouTube Caribbean Channel

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 the most popular beach on New Providence. It is more than two miles long and faces a series of top-rated hotels and 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 smaller beaches lie parallel to Bay Street on New Providence between Nassau and Cable Beach. 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. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

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 so many attractions are located within walking distance of the cruise docks.

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.


Bahamas rainfall chart
Average monthly rainfall in the Bahamas. © 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 Bahamas Department of Meteorology.

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. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
November 29, 2023

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