Welcome to Nassau cruise port!
The port of Nassau is definitely one of those places where you always want to return to, especially if you haven’t had the chance to visit its gorgeous private islands, the historic city highlights, or explore its fascinating reefs.
I’ve been to Nassau several times as Shore excursion staff onboard beautiful cruise liners, and guess what… I can never get enough of it! In this article, I want to share with you the Nassau port information and some insider tips that you should be aware of. Also, I want to advise you on the best things to do while on the Nassau cruise and share with you the tips regarding the top 10 Nassau shore excursions.
- Nassau cruise port info (cruise terminal, how to get around in port)
- 15 best things to do in Nassau downtown
- Top 10 Nassau excursions
Nassau Cruise Port Info
Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas, is conveniently located on the northern coast of the tiny island of New Providence and represents the cultural, economic, and administrative center of The Bahamas. Due to its proximity to the coast of Florida, lying only 180 miles away from New Providence, Nassau is one of the most visited and popular cruise ports in the Caribbean cruise itineraries.
With its popularity comes a large number of visitors and tourists each year. In 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the cruise port Nassau hosted 5.43 million cruise visitors! Given the size of the city and the cruise port, you’ll agree that number is quite impressive.
Nassau Cruise Terminal
Nassau cruise ship terminal is located at the heart of the city of Nassau, within easy walking distance from its main historic landmarks, shops, restaurants, and bars.
Cruise ships dock at Prince George Wharf cruise terminal, consisting of three long piers with berthing spaces built to accommodate up to eight cruise ships, depending on their size. Despite a large number of docks, the distance between them is short and you don’t need more than 5-10 minutes to exit the terminal, regardless of where your cruise ship docks. Due to the closeness of the berths, the terminal area is constantly packed with cruise passengers and seems quite chaotic, so it’s good to be prepared ahead and keep your party together in case you travel with friends or family.
There is only one cruise terminal building, known as Festival Place, and all cruise passengers need to pass through it upon exiting/coming back to their ships. Although the building has been under renovation for several years, it consists of the necessary facilities to ensure your pleasant stay in Nassau. At Festival Place, you’ll find a tourist information desk where you can pick up Nassau maps, brochures and get information regarding the local transportation, ferry boats, and tours. There are tour booths where you can rent a car, or book a tour with local tour operators, ATMs, a post office and phone booths (that don’t actually work), restrooms, a food area, duty-free shops.
Outside the terminal, you’ll find an array of shops, souvenir stores, eateries, internationally recognized brands such as Harley Davidson (opposite the Festival Place), Starbucks, Burger King, Hard Rock café, Senor Frogs, and many others. Get ready to be harassed as well, as you’ll come across countless local vendors offering car/scooter/off-road vehicle rentals, excursions, walking tours, day passes to famous local attractions, ferry, boat, or taxi rides.
When it comes to taxis, there is parking right outside the terminal, and it’s easy to get one. I advise you to pay in cash (US dollars are widely accepted) for the taxis and everything else you purchase because Nassau is not the safest place when it comes to money. Always make sure you keep an eye on your belongings as it’s hard to spot pickpockets in large crowds.
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Important note: Upon coming back to the terminal, both the Ship Card (SeaPass card) and a physical photo ID will be required to show to the security staff. Copies of ID documents are not accepted, so make sure you bring a physical ID document with your photo on it to avoid inconveniences.
Nassau Shore Excursions – Tips
Whether you book the shore excursion with the Independent Tour Company or your cruise line, it is very important that you follow the instructions written on your tour ticket/booking confirmation sheet. As I mentioned earlier, Nassau port is an extremely busy place, and people easily get lost or get confused with their tour meeting place.
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The majority of cruise line-sponsored shore excursions will have a meeting place on the pier, right outside of the ship (However, some of them will meet inside the ship, so make sure you read the instructions on your tour ticket).
Normally, you will be assigned the number of a station where you’ll meet your tour guides. Again, the stations are right by your ship and visually indicated, so no need to get outside the terminal area to look for them. The tour guides will hold the sign with the tour name on it, so you’ll easily spot them. Make sure you have your tickets in hands because there will be cruise passengers from another ship as well, and you don’t want to join the wrong tour with a similar name.
Sometimes, tour guides show up at the last minute, so don’t panic if you showed up at the meeting place on time and they are not there. Tour guides are often late as they manage tours for other ships in port as well. My colleagues from the shore excursion department will be there to assist you and inform you of potential delays.
15 Best Things to Do in Nassau Downtown
If you decide to skip an excursion and stay in Nassau’s vibrant capital, there are numerous things you can do and see.
- Queen’s Staircase and Fort Fincastle – Carved out of limestone by hundreds of slaves in 1793 as an escape route from the Fort Fincastle, Queen’s Staircase represents one of the major landmarks in Nassau. The staircase was constructed as a shortcut to Fort Fincastle, a defense fort built in the 18th century to protect Nassau from pirates. Both landmarks are located within a 10-15 minute walking distance from the Nassau cruise terminal and are well worth visiting if you want to soak up some local history. A staircase consists of 65 steps that will lead you to the fort from where you can admire beautiful panoramic views of the harbor and city.
- Woodes Rodgers Walk – This is the street parallel to the harbor, and you’ll spot it upon exiting the terminal. It is filled with cafes, bars, restaurants, souvenir shops, and numerous local vendors. On the waterfront boardwalk, you’ll come across the ferry terminal where you can catch a ferry to Paradise Island.
- Bay Street – This is the main street in Nassau where you will find the majority of shops, restaurants, bars, and tourist attractions. It is located parallel to the Woodes Rodgers Walk, a 5-minute walking distance from the pier, and is home to several historic landmarks, including Pompey Museum, Rawson Square, and Parliament Square.
- Pompey Museum – Located only a 10-minute walk from the port, in Bay Street, Pompey Museum is a museum of slavery built on the site of the 18th-century slave auctions. Housed in an old, brightly colored pink building, it is a simple and small museum with an impressive story where you can learn about this dark period of Bahamian history.
- Pirates of Nassau – At a stone’s throw from Pompey Museum, the fascinating Pirates museum reveals the 18th-century history of the city when Nassau served as a pirate base. You’ll see fantastic artifacts, a replica of a pirate ship, and exhibits that will throw you back to the era of pirates.
- Nassau Straw Market – Situated alongside Woodes Rodgers Walk, the Straw Market is a bustling market where you can buy traditional Bahamian handicrafts, authentic gifts and souvenirs, clothes, wooden toys, and much more. Bring cash and don’t forget to bargain, as you can get some amazing deals and quality stuff here.
- Fort Charlotte – Located a 30-minute walk or less than 10 minutes drive from Nassau cruise port, Fort Charlotte is a 100-acre limestone fort with dungeons and moats constructed in the 18th century. Surrounded by lush vegetation and botanical gardens, the place boasts an interesting history and offers exceptional views of the city and harbor. It takes about 1 hour to tour the whole place and you need to be able to walk uphill to reach it.
- Christ Church Anglican Cathedral – Right between the Pirates of Nassau and Pompey Museum, in King Street, the impressive Anglican church dates from the 19th century and was built in an exceptional Gothic style. It is the oldest and largest church in Nassau with astonishing stained-glass windows and wonderful acoustics.
- Government House – Only a 10-minute walk from the cruise dock, you’ll come across a 19th-century residence of the British Governor-General housed in a well-preserved pink and white colonial mansion. It sits on a hill overlooking the harbor and boasts beautiful gardens ideal for a leisurely stroll.
- National Art Gallery of the Bahamas – If you appreciate art and would love to learn about the local culture, head over to the Art Gallery showcasing the Bahamian artworks and history. It is situated near the Government House, 15 minutes walk from the Nassau cruise port. It’s not a touristy place which makes it even more appealing to those in search of authentic, local experience.
- The Bahamas Rum Cake Factory – Located a 10-minute walk from the Nassau cruise port, this is the place where you can get the best rum cake in the Bahamas! The factory produces several mouth-watering flavors of rum cakes including pina colada, banana, and chocolate.
- Junkanoo Beach – When it comes to the Nassau beaches, the nearest one to the cruise terminal is Junkanoo Beach, located within a 20-minute walking distance from the port. It is a nice beach to spend your day if you want to keep a low budget and still have a fun day. Of course, you’ll definitely find the best beaches on the private islands and Paradise Island, but Junkanoo beach is a great alternative as it’s free and offers a variety of facilities to enjoy your day. It is a sandy beach with clear water and great swimming opportunities. Right next to it is Western Esplanade Beach, where you can find bar restaurants and sometimes there are live performances. These are the public beaches and expect a lot of crowd and noise.
- Saunders beach – You can reach this beautiful beach within less than a 10-minute driving distance from the port of Nassau. It is a quiet stretch of white sand with crystal clear water where you can snorkel right off the beach. It’s not crowded and you can spend some enjoyable time with your family and friends away from the hustle and bustle of the city. If you get hungry or thirsty, you’ll find several food chains and shops across the street. Restrooms and changing rooms are available too.
- Cable Beach – This beach is located near Saunders beach, a 15-minute drive from Nassau cruise port. It is a small piece of heaven lined with hotel resorts, boasting crystal clear turquoise waters and white sands where you can swim, snorkel or simply sunbathe under the palm trees. There are bar restaurants and watersports available. It is considered one of the best beaches in Nassau.
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- Paradise Island – On the Woodes Rodgers Walk waterfront promenade, you’ll come across the ferry terminal where you can catch ferry boats to Paradise island where the famous Atlantis resort is located. You’ll see the sign and a small blue kiosk where you can buy tickets. The ferry runs every 30 minutes and costs around $ 4.00 one-way, and $ 8.00 round-trip. Bring cash, as credit cards are not accepted.
The Paradise island ferry terminal is located under the two bridges connecting Nassau and Paradise Island, and from there you can walk to Atlantis resort. Keep in mind that it can be very crowded on the way back (as most of the cruise ship passengers go to the island by ferry), so always save at least 1 hour for the transfer back to the ship. An alternative option is to take a taxi to Paradise island that will cost you approximately 5.00 $ per person one-way.
Paradise Island, besides the Atlantis Resort, has stunning beaches, such as Paradise beach, Cabbage beach, Cove Beach, Smugglers beach, Arawak beach, and others. The beaches are public, so you can freely come and enjoy the Caribbean vibes on some of the world’s most beautiful beaches.
Top 10 Nassau Excursions
When it comes to Nassau excursions, there is a wide variety of shore excursions and activities you can choose from. You can choose between the cruise-line sponsored Nassau shore excursions and the ones organized by the Independent Tour Company. As a Shore excursion staff who has worked in Nassau multiple times, I can say that this port of call doesn’t have any major issues when it comes to the tours, so feel free to choose the one that suits your budget and preferences.
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For exclusive, insider shore excursion tips, make sure you sign up for FREE Shore Excursion Guide below.
1. Pearl Island
This gorgeous tiny island is definitely my number 1 when it comes to the Bahamas. It is nestled around 8 miles off the coast of New Providence and a 15-minute boat ride from Nassau. If you seek peace, sugar-white beaches, snorkeling, and delicious Bahamian cuisine far from the bustling city and tourist resorts, you are at the right spot!
I spent a wonderful day at this tiny piece of paradise and every time I would suggest my guests book this tour – they adored it! The island is private and therefore it’s not crowded. You can take a dip in the crystal clear blue waters, enjoy frozen cocktails at the bar, relax in the loungers or climb the white lighthouse (the symbol of Pearl Island) for spectacular 360-degree views of the island. Island personnel is friendly and helpful, and will do their best to make your stay pleasant and enjoyable!
Read more about Pearl Island in my article: 7 Private Caribbean Islands to Visit on a Cruise
2. Blue Lagoon Island
I’ve been to Blue Lagoon island twice and both times I had a fantastic time. Blue Lagoon is located a 20-minute scenic boat ride from Nassau and is larger in size than Pearl island. You’ll recognize it by the concrete tower that guards the entrance to the hidden lagoon and the incredible turquoise water surrounding the island.
On this island, you can meet dolphins and sea lions in their natural habitat, join Eco walking tours and Segway rides around the island, indulge in grilled Bahamian specialties, kayak, snorkel or swim in a secluded sugar-white beach known as Salt Cay, and much more. They also offer VIP packages where you literally feel like a king/queen! I tried it, and it was one of the best treatments I’ve ever had!
I definitely suggest you visit this family-friendly place as you will have an absolutely unforgettable Bahamas experience!
Read more about Blue Lagoon: 7 Private Caribbean Islands to Visit on a Cruise
3. Balmoral Island
Another gorgeous island awaits you just off the northern coast of Nassau. Besides powdery sands and aquamarine water, Balmoral island offers animal interaction programs (dolphin and stingray encounters), great snorkeling, delicious food, and a stunning beach where you can relax in the cabanas or sunbathe under the hot Caribbean sun.
Ferries run regularly between Nassau downtown and Balmoral island, so you can come here on your own too.
4. Atlantis Resort
The world’s largest open-air marine habitat, breathtaking beaches, oceanfront golf course, Aquaventure water park, Atlantis casino, and hotel resort facilities await you on this incredible adventure to one of the most famous resorts in the world!
This place is truly spectacular and a lifetime experience that will make your Nassau cruise absolutely unforgettable!
The resort boasts numerous facilities and offers a wide range of activities and unique experiences:
Dolphin Cay – One of the largest marine-mammal habitats in the world where you can swim and snorkel in a deep-water lagoon alongside sleek bottlenose dolphins, play with sea lions, or kayak, and paddleboard while adorable mammals swim alongside. You can also sign up for one of the dolphin educational programs, or relax at the private beach while the dolphins cheerfully jump and play a few feet away.
Aquaventure Water Park – A unique, 141-acre water park, home to thrilling water slides (The Abyss, Leap of Faith, The Falls, Jungle Slide, The Surge….), a mile-long river with through tunnels, rapids, and waves, a magnificent water-play fort, eleven stunning swimming pools, and twenty swimming areas. Set in a lush tropical environment, this water park is a spectacular attraction equally enjoyable for both kids and adults.
Marine Habitat – You can explore 14 lagoons with over 50.000 sea animals representing over 250 marine species.
Snorkeling, snuba, scuba diving, walking with sharks, golf & tennis courts, a spa, the largest casino in the Bahamas, and extraordinary shopping are only some of the things you can experience in Atlantis… the list is endless!
Atlantis also offers access to five miles of gorgeous white sandy beaches to top off your day: Cove Beach, Atlantis Beach, and Paradise Beach.
This place is incredible and should be on everyone’s Nassau bucket list! There are different day passes and packages, so based on your preferences and wishes, you can choose the one that suits you the best.
Cruise lines offer shore excursions to Atlantis, but you can also book on your own. Check the prices on their official website: atlantisbahamas.com
5. Nassau Off-Road Adventure
If you want to explore Nassau in a thrilling and adrenaline-packed way, go for an off-road tour around the city and the island of New Providence. You’ll stop at the famous attractions and landmarks such as the Bahamas Rum Cake Factory (you’ll taste them and see the rum cakes-making process!), Fort Fincastle and Queen’s Staircase, Fort Charlotte, Clifton Heritage National Park, plantations, historical villages, rum distillery, and many more.
Get ready to get dusty and dirty as you drive through Nassau’s rugged terrain and explore the hidden gems of New Providence island.
Make sure you bring a driver’s license if you are a driver (but before that, check the tour operator’s age requirements!)
6. Snorkeling and Scuba Diving
If you are a fan of underwater activities, you should know that the Bahamas offer some spectacular snorkeling and scuba diving sites. You can opt to snorkel from the beach on your own (Cable Beach and Cabbage Beach are great choices), and in that case, make sure you bring your own snorkel gear.
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However, if you want to explore the depths of Bahamian waters, you should book a boat trip to Nassau’s beautiful coral reefs hiding an abundance of incredible aquatic life. The tours will usually take you to the Rose Island Reef, located only three miles east of Paradise Island, an exceptional snorkeling and scuba diving location. Besides beautiful marine life, you’ll also find two shipwrecks that make this place even more attractive to snorkelers and divers.
Goulding Cay Reef is another fascinating reef located at the western end of New Providence that is said to be one of the best shallow water snorkeling sites in the world. It attracts both experienced snorkelers and beginners and is suitable for people of all ages.
However, if you prefer to stay dry and would like to observe the aquatic wildlife from a safe distance, you can go for a glass-bottom boat trip, Seaworld Explorer (semi-submersible), or simply stay on board a luxury catamaran while the rest of the group snorkels.
7. Swimming with Pigs
Swimming Pigs are one of the major attractions in the Bahamas! It’s a fun and unique experience where you get to meet these friendly guys living the Bahamian dream! There are several locations where you can swim and play with pigs, the two most popular ones being Rose Island (Sandy Toes) and the Exumas island (Pig Beach), both located up to 1-hour boat ride from Nassau cruise port.
Not only will you have the chance to swim and interact with sociable pigs, but you will also get the opportunity to enjoy the sapphire-blue waters, secluded beaches, deserted cays, snorkeling with sharks, and an array of fun activities.
8. Island Sightseeing
Besides awe-inspiring beaches and fancy resorts, Nassau boasts a rich historical and cultural heritage that you can explore on a sightseeing trip around the island. For more adventurous ones, you can opt for off-road island exploration, bike tours, or Segway sightseeing tours; For those who want to avoid the traffic jams, you can book one of the Nassau walking tours, while those who prefer to explore the Nassau highlights in the comfort of a bus seat can choose between a wide range of bus sightseeing tours.
These tours include various stops including Atlantis Casino, The Bahamas Rum Cake Factory, Queen’s Staircase, Fort Charlotte, Graycliff Chocolate Factory, John Watling’s Distillery, and many more. If you want to combine both the sightseeing tour with some snorkeling or a beach break, a combo tour is a perfect pick for you!
9. Nassau Food Tasting
Ready to treat your taste buds with the Bahamas’ handcrafted rum cocktails, delicious seafood, traditional mac ’n’ cheese, and a variety of authentic specialties? Embark on a food tasting journey that will take you to the heart of the Nassau culinary scene and reveal to you the highlights of Bahamian cuisine!
Food tasting tours normally include stops at numerous locations where you’ll taste different types of local food and drinks. They are operated in small groups to maximize the guests’ experience, so your overall expectations are exceeded.
For foodies, food tasting in Nassau is a must!
10. Private Charter in Nassau
As Nassau has so many attractions and activities to offer, sometimes it’s difficult to decide on how to spend a day in the Nassau cruise port. Booking a private charter in Nassau allows you to design your own itinerary and enjoy an exclusive sailing experience along the vibrant coast of New Providence and Paradise Islands.
Away from crowded touristy places, you can spend your day deep-sea or near-shore fishing, snorkeling, relaxing at a secluded beach, or sunbathing on your own private yacht!
Enjoy a fully private tour and let your captain show you the best of Nassau on a customized half-day or full-day yacht trip along the mesmerizing Bahamian islands.
To Wrap Up
Your day in Nassau will depend on how you choose to spend your day. I suggest you always plan ahead and have several options on your mind in case your trip gets canceled due to weather or other unforeseen situations.
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It’s good to be organized and familiarized with all those beautiful things that Nassau as a cruise destination has to offer, but also keep in mind the little practical things that I mentioned earlier in the article (such as bringing the photo ID with you) to avoid potential inconveniences.
I wish you happy cruising and a wonderful stay in the port of Nassau!
This article may contain affiliate / compensated links. For full information, please see my disclaimer here.
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