Nassau (The Bahamas)
Cruise Port Guide and Review (2021)

Cruise ships docked in Nassau cruise port

Ultimate guide to Nassau cruise port: where ships dock and the cruise terminal, top things to do, beach-day passes, highlights, activities, landmarks, shore excursions, shopping, dining, and more.

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The Cruise Port in Nassau is not everyone's cup of tea, has been a preferred target of bad reviews and many cruise visitors do not even leave the ship when calling at the most visited port in The Bahamas.

Review contents

  1. Where is Nassau
  2. Where cruise ships dock
  3. Things to do in Nassau
  4. Top highlights
  5. Beach-day pases
  6. Active pursuits
  7. Major landmarks in Nassau
  8. Shore excursions (Shorex)
  9. Shops and shopping
  10. Lunch and quick bites
  11. Safety and basics

If you browse the Internet or read many social-media commentators, it is guaranteed that all sorts of scaremongering will be found. It is true that Nassau can be a bit of a hassle. The cruise terminal has been under constant renovations for over a decade, the building gets crowded all day long, and at times is chaotic to move in and out of the terminal.

Photo of Festival Palace Terminal in Nassau

Festival Palace Terminal in Nassau

Photo © IQCruising.com

Definitely, there are way too many locals offering taxi rides, tours, scooter rentals, jet-skiing, beach breaks, hair braiding ... you name it. Yes, it all can come across as pestering at best or harassment at worst. But the cruise port in Nassau is not as bad as many paint it.

Panoramic Photo of the Port and Paradise Island in Nassau

Nassau Cruise Port and Paradise Island

Photo: Public Domain

Where is Nassau and the cruise port

Nassau is the most visited port in The Bahamas and one of the most popular cruising destinations in the Caribbean itineraries. Located in the island of New Providence, off the coast of Florida, Nassau is 180 miles southeast of Miami enjoying a mild weather in the winter, which is ideal for water sports and activities.

Map of New Providence Island and Nassau

Image with Map of New Providence Island

New Providence is a relatively small island - 80 square miles, a bit bigger than Washington D.C. (68 square miles). Although Nassau has a large population (close to 250.000 inhabitants) expanding south and east of the cruise port, the historical center is quite small and is where most landmarks and attractions are found. Right across Nassau, the Paradise Island (home of themed Atlantis Resort) is one of the main attractions of The Bahamas - 2-miles from the cruise port.

Where cruise ships dock in Nassau

The piers and cruise terminal are right by Nassau's historic downtown. As already mentioned, the terminal building is not the easiest to navigate and gets annoyingly overcrowded but the proximity to the capital city is priceless. The Festival Place cruise terminal or Prince George Wharf as it is officially named offers the following services and amenities:

  • Shuttle Bus
  • Tourist Info
  • Phones
  • Post Office
  • Pharmacy
  • Taxis
  • Car and Scooter Rental
  • ATM and Bank
  • Restrooms
  • Dutry-free shopping
  • Food court

Map of Nassau cruise port and city

Image with Map of Cruise Piers and Teminal in Nassau
 

Best things to do in Nassau cruise port

Photo of Junkanoo Beach in Nassau

Junkanoo Beach in Nassau

Photo © IQCruising.com

Regardless of all the bad mouthing and press, the cruise traveler will find that the Cruise Port of Nassau has a lot to offer both in quality and diversity. If you are cruising on a budget, there are many affordable (an even free) things to do. Both Junkanoo Beach (within walking distance from the cruise port) and Cabbage Beach ($10 USD taxi ride) are free.

In downtown Nassau (2-minutes walk away) there are very nice and interesting landmarks and museums to visit. For those that wish to enjoy more upscale beaches, there are excellent day-passes offering all-inclusive beach-breaks including the iconic Atlantis Resort.

Photo of Pearl Island in Nassau

Pearl Island in Nassau

Photo: Public Domain

The cruise traveler that prefers secluded sites will discover close to the port stunning private islands (like Pearl Island, Blue Lagoon or Balmoral Island) which can be enjoyed on shore-excursions. Scuba diving, snorkeling, Semi-submarines and Glass-bottom boats invite visitors to explore the spectacular underwater world of the Bahamas.

Bay Street - the main street in downtown Nassau - is known as a shopping paradise. Nassau boasts restaurants for all pockets and tastes. And if luxury is your thing, there are a few treats not be missed. The Graycliff Hotel, in particular, offers memorable experiences. With so much to choose from, if you decide to stay onboard, you have no idea what you may be missing.

Top attractions, highlights and sights

There are many highlights that the cruise traveler should consider visiting when calling for the day at the port of Nassau. The following are the Editor's favorites in alphabetic order:

  • Adastra Gardens
  • Arawak Cay - Fish Fry
  • Atlantis Resort
  • Balcony House
  • Bay Street
  • Cabbage Beach
  • John Watling's Distillery
  • Junkanoo Beach
  • Marina Village
  • National Art Gallery of The Bahamas
  • Paradise Island
  • Pirates of Nassau Museum
  • Pompey Museum
  • Straw Market

The famous Atlantis Resort is a must see with lots to do but, in Paradise Island (where Atlantis is located), the public Cabbage Beach is another highlight to be explored. The private islands (already mentioned) are secluded sites which must absolutely be experienced.

Photo of Adastra Gardens in Nassau

Adastra Gardens in Nassau

Photo © IQCruising.com

The Straw Market as seen better days but the 4 museums of Nassau are all worth visiting: National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, Balcony House, Pompey Museum and Pirates of Nassau Museum.

The Adastra Gardens, Zoo and Conservation Centre is a delight for cruisers traveling with young ones, the John Watling's Distillery is a major landmark where rum tasting is offered on a tour, and the Arawak Cay (aka Fish Fry) is the place to taste typical Bahamian flavors.

Beach-day passes

Altough Junkanoo Beach and Cabbage Beach are public beaches with easy access from the cruise terminal in Nassau, both tend to get crowded. For those that prefer a more upscale beach expoerience, there are hotels, resorts, and parks that offer a day-pass to cruise passengers. Here is an alphabetic list of the ones offering day-passes, which we reviewed:

  • Atlantis Resort
  • Bob Marley Resort
  • Breezes Resort and Spa
  • British Colonial Hilton
  • Clifton National Park
  • Graycliff Hotel
  • Melia Hotel
  • Riu Palace Hotel
  • Sandals Royal Bahamian
  • Warwick Hotel

Active pursuits on your own

Photo of Blue Lagoon Island in Nassau

Blue Lagoon Island in Nassau

Photo © IQCruising.com

For those interested in more active pleasures, the Atlantis Resort offers great adventures and exciting fun in its Aquaventure Water Park. The cruise passenger will also find the delights of diving, snorkeling or dolphin encounters in the Blue Lagoon Island, the Balmoral Island or at Stuarts' Cove, and challenging golf at the Ocean Club Course. All of these can only be accessed on a shore excursion.

But there are also a few activities that can easily be enjoyed on your own. Sightseeing can be enjoyed on a Horse Drawn Carriage, a Segway tour, or on a self-driving boat ride. Here are top activities in Nassau to enjoy independently:

  • British Colonial Hotel
  • Fat Tuesday Beach Club
  • Fishing Trips
  • Graycliff Hotel
  • Horse Drawn Carriage
  • Jyah Beach Bar
  • Segway Sightseeing
  • Self-Drive Boats
  • Tiki Bikini Hut Beach Bar

Major landmarks in Nassau

On Bay Street (or relatively close by) there are some interesting landmarks. Farther away cruisers will discover other interesting landmarks. In alphabetic order here are the top 10 churches, monuments, squares, buildings and streets in Nassau:

  • Christ Church Cathedral
  • Fort Charlotte
  • Fort Fincastle
  • Garden of Remembrance
  • Government House
  • Nassau Public Library and Museum
  • Parliament Square
  • Pompey Square
  • Queen’s Staircase
  • Woodes Rodgers Walk
Photo of  Balcony House in Nassau

Balcony House in Nassau

Photo © IQCruising.com

The Fort Fincastle and the Queen’s Staircase are two highlights amongst the major historical landmarks of Nassau. Although within walking distance, both require some guidance, as does a tour of the imposing Fort Charlotte. Within walking distance of the cruise terminal and Bay Street, there are a few streets and squares such as Charlotte Street, King Street or Rawson Square, to also keep in mind when exploring more than shopping or the beaches.

Shore excursions and tours

All cruise lines offer many and diverse shore excursions in Nassau. Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean offer as many 38 shore excursions. Carnival lists 44 shore excursions. Oceania Cruises organizes 25 shore excursions, and Princess has 15 excursions available.

There are also excursions offered by the following reputable private online services and local tour operators:

At the time of writing shore excursions by online tour services were not feasible. However, this may change without notice and it is advisable to check with your cruise line before sailing to Nassau.

Shopping in Nassau

Photo of Bay Street in Nassau

Bay Street - Nassau

Photo © IQCruising.com

Well known by savvy cruisers as one of the best shopping paradises in the Caribbean cruise itineraries, you will have onboard your ship at least one 'shopping lecturer' promoting and marketing selected shops in Nassau. The onboard guide will offer all sorts of bargains, coupons and shopping deals but it is advisable to also look at many other shops that are not promoted by the cruise line. In fact, there more shops in Nassau than the ones recommended where the cruise traveler can get great deals. With few exceptions, all major stores are located on Bay Street.

Restaurants, bars and local flavors

Considering that Bay Street - the main street of Nassau where most shops are located - is so close to the cruise terminal many a cruise traveler returns to the ship for lunch after a shopping spree without exploring much farther.

Photo of Cafe Matisse in Nassau

Cafe Matisse in Nassau

Photo © IQCruising.com

However, either because you may want to continue shopping or because you may want to taste local flavors, close to Bay Street there are some very nice places to enjoy the delicacies and delights of both Bahamian and international cuisine. And, of course, there are also well-known places to just hang out, enjoy live entertainment and a drink or two - places like Fat Tuesday, Hard Rock Cafe, Señor Frogs or Sharkeez. Truly Bahamian flavors like conch salad or fried fish are particularly delicious when tasted on Arawak Cay - aka Fish Fry, a bit over 2 miles west of Downtown.

Safety, crime and basics

As much as you may read scaremongering reviews about Nassau's crime and safety, it should be strongly underlined that the local population is not the criminal association that some portrait. You should be aware that there are many 'bloggers' making a living out of sensationalist crime reports stating that "burglaries, armed robberies, and sexual assault are common during daylight hours in tourist areas".

Ridiculously stupid as this may sound, in these days when fake and factual news become blurred, it is up to the reader to decide what to believe.

In fact, besides the initial sales pestering, once outside the Terminal, the cruise traveler will be pretty much left alone. Like in many Caribbean Islands (and in most touristic areas everywhere in the World) when passing by shops and restaurants you may be offered all sorts of bargains but if you cannot deal with this maybe you should choose Switzerland or Norway for your vacation.

Unfortunately, it looks like most bad mouth commentators never left the Terminal Building and judge the island 'by the cover'.

There have been lots of reports and warnings about crime in Nassau however, considering that the port is visited by close to 3 million cruise passengers per year, crime-rates should be understood with an overall perspective.

Nassau has close to 250.000 inhabitants and you should be aware of your surroundings. Like in any city (in the US or elsewhere) basic safety in Nassau is really basic common sense. In one word, if you don't feel safe, go back to the cruise ship.

Safety, US travel advisory and basics

For comprehensive and updated information about traveling to Nassau see the U.S. Department of State website page evolving advisory. The US Embassy in Nassau also has useful COVID-19 Information for travelers.

Nassau Basics

LanguageEnglish is the official language.
Currency:The Bahamian Dollar is the official currency but the the US$ dollar is widely accepted and you will not need to exchange money.
ATM's:ATM's dispense US Dollars. You will find ATM's in the Terminal building and on Bay Street.
Phones:Country Code: 1 | Area Code: 242. Many US phones may work but is advisable to check with your provider to avoid roaming charges.  
Entry Requirements: Passport is NOT required for U.S. citizens with valid photo ID such as a driver's license. Non-U. S. visitors (Canadian included) are required a valid passport with an expiry date that is NOT less than 3 months.
Electricity:Standard American 120 V current.
Driving:Not advisable - driving is on the left and parking scarce.
Car Rental:Budget and Avis can be found at the Airport, 5 miles west of Nassau
Emergencies:Ministry of Tourism: 302-2000
Drinking:Legal drinking age is 18 years.
Smoking:Smoking is prohibited in restaurants and public buildings. Bars may allow smoking outdoors.

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The information on this page was accurate when last updated and published but changes may have occurred without notice.
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