Many Caribbean cruises stop in Nassau in the Bahamas for good reason. It’s an island with beautiful beaches, eclectic shopping, and lots to do. The problem is most cruises don’t stay in Nassau for very long. It’s smart to decide what you want to do before you get there so you don’t waste any time. In this post, I will give you some general information about the port of Nassau and give you some ideas of things to do in Nassau on a cruise. Of course, you can also take advantage of these attractions if you plan to stay in Nassau longer.
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Nassau is the capital of the Bahamas. It is located on the 21-mile-long-island of New Providence and is connected, via a bridge, to Paradise Island. Nassau is a popular stop for cruises because it is located less than 200 miles from South Florida and has an abundance of attractions. Three million cruises passengers visit Nassau annually. Up to seven cruise ships can dock at the port at the same time.
Cruise ships dock at Prince George Wharf, near Rawson Square and the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. Downtown Nassau is less than a 15-minute walk away. To get there you will pass through the Festival Place Welcome Center where you will find some local crafts and foods. There is also a tour desk if you want to be spontaneous and have time.
The currency in the Bahamas is the Bahamian dollar, which is equivalent in value to the U.S. dollar. Both U.S. and Bahamian dollars are accepted interchangeably throughout the island. Euros and GBP are not.
Booking Cruise Excursions for Nassau
I remember the first time I went on a cruise (many years ago!) I booked all my excursions through the cruise. They were expensive, but I didn’t know there were other options. Now, there are many options for booking cruise excursions. You can save a lot of money if you book the tour directly or through a third party.
Be aware that if you book your own tours the cruise ship will not wait for you if you are late. If something happens with your tour and you don’t make it back in time, you are in trouble. When booking directly through the cruise, the boat will make sure to wait for you. This shouldn’t be a problem as long as you are careful to allow for extra time in case of traffic or other unforeseen issues. In some cases, tour operators will cover the cost to get you to the next port.
In Nassau, you can book tours the day you arrive at the tour desk at the Festival Place Welcome Center, but it is risky. Popular tours may sell out especially on days when several ships are in port. If there is a tour that you have your heart set on, don’t wait just book it. That ensures you will be doing an excursion you like, and precious port time isn’t wasted booking it.
Nassau Shore Excursions
Nassau has something for everyone! From beautiful beaches to shopping to historical spots, you have a wide range of things to see in Nassau. You can even do a day trip from Nassau to another island. There are also several Nassau excursions you can do on your own. Together with some of my fellow bloggers, I have compiled a list of things to do in the Nassau Bahamas port.
Visit the Atlantis Resort
Atlantis is more than your typical resort and it’s only two miles from the Nassau cruise port. In addition to two gorgeous beaches and 11 pools, it has a waterpark (Aquaventure), casino, aquarium, and more. Plenty of attractions cater to kids and there are also some water slides (like the Leap of Faith) for only the very brave. My favorite ride was the Current which is like a lazy river on steroids.
All cruise lines will offer excursions to Atlantis. Be sure to review the details to make sure it includes the attractions that you want to visit. Day passes can also be bought directly from Atlantis, but they are not cheap and can sell out. I recommend buying online in advance. There are different levels of day passes but to get the full Atlantis experience make sure it includes Aquaventure.
If you are a group of 3-4, instead of booking Atlantis day passes, it may be more cost effective to book a night at the Comfort Suites Paradise Island. Guests of the Comfort Suites can access Atlantis for free. Check the prices for the Comfort Suites here, be sure to add in the resort fees and charges for extra people when deciding if it will be cheaper than buying day passes for Atlantis. Most cruises also offer a day at Atlantis as an excursion.
If you arrange the day pass on your own, you can take a taxi or shared van from the port to Atlantis on Paradise Island. There is also a water taxi that leaves from the docks immediately behind Festival Place to Paradise Island every 30 minutes from 9 am to 6 pm.
Trip to Rose Island
Recommended by Jennifer from Luxe Adventure Traveler
The Bahamas’ famed sugar sand beaches are something that has to be seen to be believed. If you ever wanted to feel like Gilligan on a stretch of totally undeveloped white sand beach with the bluest water, then head on a day trip to Rose Island. The island is uninhabited other than one small house and has more resident peacocks and hermit crabs than the small group day trips that make their way there for a day of fun in the sun.
There’s plenty to do and there’s a beach bar that opens with a buffet lunch and drinks exclusively for the day trippers. With a coral reef ringing the island, Rose Island is a perfect place to snorkel. You can also use the beach bar’s kayaks and make the short kayaking trip over to another uninhabited island aptly named Gilligan’s Island since scenes from the tv show were filmed there.
With beach volleyball, tubes for floating in the ocean and a lot of beach to explore, even the most active traveler won’t be bored. Or just relax on the gorgeous stretch of white sand beach that lines the length of the 11-mile long island. A massage therapist can even be arranged for the ultimate relaxation.
The trip departs from and returns to the Paradise Island Ferry Terminal, which you can easily reach by water taxi or regular taxi.
You can also book this tour to Rose Island that picks you up close to the port.
See the Queen’s Staircase
Recommended by Courtney from the Solo Traveler Diaries
The Queen’s Staircase is a beautiful limestone staircase with 65 steps (originally 66), located in downtown Nassau, New Providence. The steps were carved using slave labor from 1793 to 1794 in order to create a direct pathway from Fort Fincastle to Nassau. It’s amazing to see what was able to be created, yet sad knowing the attraction’s dark origins.
Once you reach the bottom of the staircase, there is a beautiful waterfall and you are surrounded by a corridor of limestone. The thick mossy limestone and waterfall work to provide a refreshing cool breeze, which is really nice in the warmer months to escape the heat. At the end of the pathway, there is a charismatic Bahamian local, who provides facts about the staircase and its origin.
The Queen’s staircase is easily accessible from the cruise ship terminal. It’s roughly a 10-15 minute walk. Take East Street up until you pass the treasury and then take a left on Prison Lane. Before you reach the Queen’s Staircase there will be several booths selling souvenirs.
Admission to the Queen’s Staircase is free.
Recommended by Luke from Backstreet Nomad
A short walk from the terminal and Downtown Nassau is a small patch of sand called Junkanoo Beach. You won’t find this name easily on Google Maps, but the Bahamas tourism website also calls it Western Esplanade Beach, which Google agrees with.
Junkanoo is a calm beach facing the inlet where ships come and go. Small huts selling food and drink add a shade of excitement to the strip so you can sit on the sand eating conch fritters — a Caribbean specialty — while throwing back $1.50 bottle of Carib — the local beer.
It can also be exciting when a ship is leaving or arriving so it can be a fun place to have a few drinks of an evening as the ships set off for their next destination overnight. And if you happen to be leaving on a cruise ship to continue your adventure, wave from the decks to the smiling faces on the beach you are leaving behind. To get Junkanoo from Downtown Nassau simply walk west along Bay Street and follow the water until you hit sand. Based on the above description, you’ll know when you’re there. It’s the closest beach to the Nassau cruise
There is no admission charge for Junkanoo Beach, making it an ideal option if you are looking for cheap things to do in Nassau.
If you are looking for some fun in Nassau, Señor Frog’s is the place to go. In addition to serving specialty fruit cocktails or the drink of your choice, they provide entertainment. In many cases, the entertainment includes audience participation. People are friendly and it’s a good place to make new friends. Fair warning though, drinks can be pricey and it may not be appropriate for young kids.
Señor Frog’s in Nassau is located a short walk from the port. You will also find Señor Frog’s at some other popular cruise ports. I have visited several locations including Cancun, Cabo, and Miami.
Mini Sub Tour
Recommended by James at Travel Collecting
If you want to experience being underwater without diving, then taking a mini-submarine tour is the way to go. Being down among the fish is very cool. The excursion includes pickup to and from cruise ships, so it couldn’t be easier. You get a full briefing on the boat on the way to the reef, then get kitted out in a wetsuit before being installed in your own mini sub.
You sit down with your upper body inside the minisub, and you can slowly propel your way around the area. You’re connected to the boat above, so movement is fairly limited, but you will be too busy looking at the fish and coral to want to go zipping around. This is a great chance to be down among the fish and coral without being a licensed scuba diver. There is also time to snorkel afterwards before the return boat trip back to Nassau. It’s a fun shore excursion to take on your Bahamas cruise.
If you are not sure about doing the mini-submarine, there are plenty of traditional snorkeling tours. It’s one of the top things to do in Nassau because the water is calm and clear – ideal for fish spotting! You can expect to see lots of tropical fish and colorful coral. Some tours, like this one, will let you swim with sharks (if the conditions are right) or watch them from the boat. They provide your snorkeling equipment and will pick you up and drop you off at the port.
Excursion to Pearl Island
Recommended by Jen from Jen on a Jet Plane
Nassau is a common stop for most cruise lines and can often feel crowded. Up to seven ships are able to dock here at the same time, meaning you could be dealing with nearly 20,000 other tourists all hoping to see the same attractions. An excursion to Pearl Island takes you away from all of that and transports you to a secluded oasis just 15 minutes from the port by speedboat.
Once there, put your feet up and relax with a beachside drink, go snorkeling with the on-site instructor and indulge in a Caribbean lunch. Kids will enjoy jumping on the trampoline in the water and all guests can take a souvenir photo before they leave. While these activities are common throughout Nassau, the sense of privacy and exclusivity that you get on Pearl Island is worth every penny – or should I say, every Bahamian cent.
You can also book this tour to Pearl Island which includes lunch and leaves from the Paradise Island Ferry Terminal.
Nassau Rum Tour
Recommended by Jennifer from Luxe Adventure Traveler
The Bahamas has a long history of piracy and rum running. For any foodie and spirits lover, it’s definitely worth taking 2.5 hours to discover the Bahamas’ rum history on a small group guided food and rum tour of downtown Nassau. And with a tour meeting point just a 1-minute walk from the Prince George Wharf cruise ship terminal, this tour is perfect for cruise ship passengers.
The tour weaves through downtown Nassau, while a knowledgeable guide gives an entertaining history lesson on piracy and rum from the local area. It’s all accompanied by plenty of stops at some of Nassau’s best bars, breweries, and distilleries with shots of rum and rum cocktails. Since rum is also used in Bahamian cooking, you’ll sample boozy foods like Bahamian rum cake and rum filled chocolates from Nassau’s best chocolatier.
The tour finishes up with a look at the production of Bahamian rum at the John Watling Distillery with, of course, pina coladas, and more rum. The tour leaves off at the distillery, where you’re free to enjoy more cocktails at the distillery’s bar or it’s just a short walk back to the cruise ship
Visit the Cigar Factory
Recommended by Halef from The RTW Guys
Cigar smokers will agree: Cuban cigars are the best in the Caribbean. But a close second place is arguably the Bahamian cigars.
The Caribbean islands with their fertile soil have been producing top-notch agricultural commodities like sugarcane for hundreds of years. The tobacco industry thrives here too.
If you are interested in learning more about the cigar industry in the Bahamas, you are in for a treat. The Graycliff Cigar Company has an open house cigar factory, or the boutique Cigar Company as they call themselves. They have 16 master rollers, called torcedores, each specializing in producing handcrafted cigars. You can learn more about the production, as well as ask questions you may have regarding the cigar industry, here at Graycliff.
Bahamian cigars are relatively affordable compared to their Cuban counterparts – you can choose from five brands of cigars to try on site or to bring back home.
Graycliff Cigar Company is located in downtown Nassau, and it is within walking distance from the Cruise Port – if you are up for walking in the Bahamian heat.
Note: Cigar smoking is hazardous for your health and is not endorsed or recommended by Two Traveling Texans. The visit to the cigar company is included here as a means of experiencing a key part of Bahamian culture and trade, but we recognize that not everyone will be comfortable with the ethics of supporting this industry. Please exercise personal discretion.
Nassau Island Tour
An Island Tour is one of the best things to do in Nassau Bahamas while on a cruise because it gives you an idea of what the island has to offer in a short period of time. In addition to seeing some of the popular sites, you can learn about the British influence and history of the area. I like this tour that takes you to the Bahamas Rum Cake Factory, Atlantis (for a quick stop), the Queen’s Staircase, the Graycliff Chocolate Factory, and the John Watling’s Distillery. You have the option to be dropped off at Junkanoo beach at the end of the tour.
There are many other Nassau tours options with different itineraries. You can book it through your cruise line (which will probably be more expensive) or check out the options on Viator. Pretty much all the Island tours will pick you up (and drop you off) at the cruise port.
If you are looking to see the sites and be adventurous on your Nassau port excursion, how about an ATV tour, like this one? You can drive your own ATV or ride as a passenger. Your tour guide will teach you about the history of the Bahamas and you will visit historical sites, the Straw Market, and Paradise Island. Plus, you will have time for a beach break and lunch at Charley’s Philly Steaks.
They will pick you up and drop you off at the port. You will be provided with a helmet. The tour price includes your lunch, snacks, and bottled water.
What to do in Nassau for One Day
Now you can see why Nassau is such a popular port for cruises. One of the downsides of cruising is that you probably won’t have enough time to see everything you would like in Nassau. Pick one of the Nassau excursions, it’s hard to go wrong especially when the beaches are gorgeous and the people are friendly. Don’t worry, most Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises make a stop here, so if you do another Caribbean cruise there is a good chance you will be back to explore more.
Have you been to Nassau on a cruise? What do you think are the best Nassau cruise excursions?
Expert Tips for Things to do in Nassau on a Cruise
- Book your tour in advance, you don’t want to waste time or have the excursion sell out. This is especially true if you have your heart set on an Atlantis day trip from your cruise ship.
- Remember if you book Nassau excursions on your own, allow extra time to make sure you don’t miss the boat.
- You can use both US and Bahamian dollars in Nassau.
- There are plenty of amazing beaches around Nassau and Paradise Island, but Junkanoo Beach is the closest one to the Nassau Bahamas cruise port.
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