If you're sailing on a cruise to The Bahamas, you are likely stopping at Nassau. Situated on the island of New Providence, Nassau is the capital of the Bahamas and offers cruise ship passengers numerous different activities and tours that cater to different interests.
Rather than get off the vessel, seasoned cruisers sometimes opt to enjoy the ship's amenities with fewer people onboard. While there's no wrong way to spend your vacation, it's worth getting off the ship for a little bit, even if just to grab lunch at Pirate Republic Brewing, the first production craft brewery in The Bahamas.
If Nassau is one of many beachy ports of call on your itinerary, you might be looking for something different to do. You might, for instance, be visiting a cruise line private island like Perfect Day at CocoCay or Half Moon Cay where you have access to complimentary beaches!
Here are the 9 best reasons to get off your cruise ship in Nassau.
You can check out the new cruise terminal
Nassau spent $300 million upgrading Prince George Wharf, with the first phase of the redevelopment opening to the public in May 2023.
In addition to increased capacity, cruise ship passengers will also notice a new shopping plaza filled with local vendors, outdoor bars with cocktails for around $15 each, hair braiding stands, and more.
You don't actually have to venture into Nassau to buy a trinket for a loved one back home!
Plus, there's the Nassau Cruise Port Junkanoo Museum, which is an immersive experience that aims to share the story of the national cultural festival, that you can visit, too. While not free, it's a great way to learn a little about the culture of The Bahamas without leaving the port.
Since the second and third phases have yet to open, you can explore everything that's inside the terminal in less than an hour, if you skip the Junkanoo Museum, so you can both enjoy Nassau and an empty ship!
Try some local hotspots on a food tour
(Photo taken from Tru Bahamian Food Tours' TripAdvisor page)
No, Señor Frogs does not count as a local eatery!
One of my favorite ways to experience the local culture is through food. I love having the opportunity to try dishes that aren't available where I live.
In Nassau, there are a couple different food tours that you can take, whether they're through your cruise line or a third party.
Tru Bahamian Food Tours is an independent operator that has a five-star rating on Google and TripAdvisor. They offer a couple of different tours that range in pricing.
The "Bites of Nassau Food Tasting & Cultural Walking Tour," for instance" costs $79 per adult and $49 per child between the ages of 4 and 12, whereas their "Private Historical Nassau Walking Tour – Lunch & Landmarks" is $55 per adult and $39 per child between the ages of 4 and 12.
The latter is a great option for those who want to experience the local cuisine and get a guided tour of some of Nassau's famous landmarks.
Relax on a beautiful public beach
Nassau has both public beaches and private island escapes meaning that if you don't want to spend an arm and a leg on an excursion, you can simply take a taxi to a public beach and enjoy the crystal clear waters for a lot less. Popular public beaches include Junkanoo Beach, Cabbage Beach, Saunders Beach, Cable Beach, Love Beach, and Jaws Beach.
For those looking to stay closest to the cruise ship pier, you'll want to venture to Junkanoo Beach is the closest public beach to the cruise ship pier. In addition to chair rentals from locals, you will find restrooms, showers, and changing facilities. There are also plenty of bars and restaurants within walking distance if you find yourself wanting to eat before returning to the ship.
Cabbage Beach isn't located on the island of New Providence. To reach this public beach, you'll have to have a $10 round-trip water taxi ride to Paradise Island. Once you arrive, you can either walk to Cabbage Beach or take a $3 taxi ride.
Families might enjoy Saunders Beach, as it's only a 10-15 minute ride away. It's also quieter than other beaches. Even though there aren't any vendors on the beach, there are restroom facilities and a small playground for children to enjoy.
Cable Beach is about a 25-30 minute taxi ride from the cruise ship pier. The public access strip is smaller, as the beach is lined with famous resorts including Baha Mar and Sandals Royal Bahamian. However, you'll find tons of vendors with chair and umbrella rentals.
If you want a quieter option, Love Beach is worth considering. Even though it's a little further than Cable Beach, it won't be as busy. Plus, you can enjoy lunch at Nirvana Beach Bar without wandering far from your beach chair.
The furthest option is Jaws Beach, which is where Jaws III was filmed. If you want to spend the day snorkeling, this is one of the best places to do it without booking a snorkeling tour, as Hollywood memorabilia can be found beneath the ocean's surface. Clifton Heritage Park is located close, too, which is a great place to have a picnic lunch.
Splurge on an island escape
Of course, you might prefer to book an island escape through your cruise line. You'll find tours to Pearl Island, Balmoral Island, and Blue Lagoon.
In addition to the convenience of booking through your cruise line, island escapes tend to offer a more all-inclusive experience, which is great if you are looking to enjoy unlimited cocktails and a delicious island buffet.
Finally, you can look into resort day passes. These allow cruise ship passengers to enjoy hotel and resort amenities for the day.
Depending on the available options, you may find an all-inclusive option, whereas others might provide you with a monetary voucher for food and drinks. Some don't include anything other than the hotel's amenities, meaning that you'll be responsible for all food and drink purchases.
Popular options include Margaritaville Beach Resort & Water Park, RIU Palace, Warwick Paradise Island Bahamas, Baha Mar, and Breezes Resort and Spa. In most cases, you can expect to spend at least $100 per adult.
In 2025, Royal Caribbean will be opening an exclusive beach club that's only available to guests onboard their ships. Located on Paradise Island, the 17-acre Royal Beach Club will be comprised of four different beaches for guests to enjoy: Tranquility Beach, Hideaway Beach, Sapphire Beach, and Harbor Beach.
There will also be private cabanas available for rent, as well as a larger pool and splash and wading pools for kids.
Read more: What to do in Nassau, Bahamas cruise port
Sample chocolate at Graycliff Chocolatier
Whether you want to learn how to make your own chocolate, indulge in a chocolate and spirits tasting, or simply tour the factory, Gracycliff Chocolatier has a couple of different tours to choose from to satisfy every chocolate lover.
The best news is that all tours are under $75 per person. If you just want a standard tour, it'll cost just $10 per person. The most expensive option is the "Graycliff Chocolate & Spirits Pairing," which is $75 per person and lasts about one hour.
It's easy to pair the Graycliff Chocolatier with another attraction in Nassau, as all tours are relatively short, too!
Be your own tour guide on a walking tour of Downtown Nassau
Most of the sites in Downtown Nassau are a short 5-10 minute walk from the cruise pier. Rather than booking a tour with your cruise line, you can go on your own walking tour, which will give you more flexibility, as you can visit each site for as little or as long as you desire:
- Named after Queen Victoria, the Queen's Staircase is a 66-step staircase that was carved out of limestone in 1793. It was built to provide a direct route from Fort Fincastle to Downtown Nassau.
- Also built in 1793, Fort Fincastle is a small historic fort that was constructed to protect Nassau from pirates. Admission is $2.
- To learn even more about the heart of piracy from 1690 to 1720, visit the Pirates of Nassau Museum. You can even walk on a replica of a historic pirate ship! This museum costs $13.50 for adults and $6.75 for kids between the ages of 4 and 17.
- Browse some of the many shops on the way back to your ship and sample rum cake! If you're hungry (or thirsty) stop by Pirate Republic Brewing, the first production craft brewery in The Bahamas.
Bargain at the Straw Market
Nassau is home to a large straw market that sells souvenirs ranging from handmade Bahamian straw products to factory-made items like t-shirts, magnets, and bracelets.
While the vendors will give you a specific price, you should aim to haggle. Most people are willing to negotiate, so it is possible to walk away with the perfect souvenir for less than you were anticipating paying.
Plus, since the straw market is located in Downtown Nassau, it's a great stop on the way back from the Queen's Staircase or Junkanoo Beach.
Read more: The best Bahamas cruises you should try
Spend the day at Atlantis
While a day pass is certainly cheaper than planning a vacation to Atlantis, it's one of the more pricey ways to spend your day in Nassau. Through Carnival Cruise Line, for instance, you can expect to shell out around $220 per adult and $150 per child for an Atlantis Aquaventure Day Pass.
With this, you get access to the 141 acres of water rides and pools, Atlantis beaches, The Dig, casino, and Marina Village. Note, however, that food is usually not included and will be an extra expense.
If you want to visit the resort without spending hundreds of dollars, you'll able to access certain areas without paying any sort of admission fee. These areas include the casino, indoor retailers, several dining venues, and Marina Village. You can get a taxi to Paradise Island from inside the cruise terminal now, too, as the stand is located just past the security checkpoint.
Tour John Watling's Distillery
In addition to other attractions in Downtown Nassau and local food tours, those looking for a beach-free day might consider visiting John Watling's Distillery.
John Watling's Distillery is home to John Watling's rum, and they offer complimentary tours of the Buena Vista Estate every single day of the week, except for national holidays.
The Estate is where John Watling's rum is crafted by locals. You're also able to do some shopping and try signature cocktails at the tavern.