Traveling on a cruise from the East Coast? If so, then chances are high your trip will include a stop in Nassau in The Bahamas.
Located just about 180 miles to the east of Miami, Nassau still feels a world away. That’s because for centuries it was under the rule of the British (it’s now an independent Commonwealth), creating a culture and atmosphere that’s distinct from the United States, despite the proximity.
These days millions of cruise passengers call on the port each year and it’s among the busiest stops in the Caribbean/Bahamas area. Of course, with so many tourists coming each year, Nassau has rolled out the red carpet to give all those cruise passengers something fun to do. No matter what sort of activity appeals to you — from adventures to history to food to gambling — the area has something that you’ll love to do.
To give you an idea of what’s available for cruise passengers to do on Nassau, we’ve rounded up dozens of ideas. Keep in mind that these are just a start. If you’re looking for more ideas you can check out what excursions are offered through your cruise line.
Try Your Luck at the Atlantis Casino
Sure there is a casino on the ship, but it’s nothing compared to a land-based one. If you want to get your gambling fix, head over to Atlantis. In the complex you’ll find a large casino floor with all the games you’d expect — slots, table games, and even a sportsbook. There are also freeplay offers for new players so you can play without spending a fortune.
Take a Walk Down Queen’s Staircase
This might be the most photographed spot in Nassau. A set of 66 steps carved by slaves out of solid limestone, it took a staggering 16 years for more than 600 slaves to complete back in the 1700s. Today the staircase is named in honor of Queen Victoria, who abolished slavery during her reign. Take a visit for a classic photo op. It’s only about a 10-minute walk from the cruise ship.
Go Yacht Spotting
Nassau is a playground for yachters. If you like looking at the boats, head to the Atlantis Marina on Paradise Island. There, located behind the hotel is Paradise Lake, which serves as the marina. You can see some expensive yachts here, and dream about what it’s like to own a cruise ship of your own.
Head to Aquaventure Waterpark
If you’re traveling with the family, then the kids will want to head to the Aquaventure water park at Atlantis. With waterslides, a river ride and nearly a dozen pools, it’s a day’s worth of activities and a fun way to spend your time in port. Kids will especially love the water slide that zooms underwater and through the shark pit. There’s no other slide like it in the world.
See the Famous Swimming Pigs
We mention the swimming pigs with the powerboat ride below, but they deserve a standing all their own. In the Exuma Cays is Big Major Cay with about 20 pigs and piglets that live alone on the island. It’s become a tourist hotspot to watch the animals swim and is featured on countless travel programs.
Watch a College Bowl Game
To be fair, you can only do this one day a year. But if you are visiting on December 21, 2018 then you’ll be in town at the same time that the Bahamas Bowl is being played. The game pits Conference USA and the MAC against one another at Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium. Last year Ohio University beat the University of Alabama-Birmingham 41-6. It’s a fun way to spend the afternoon if you’re a football fan.
Head Out on a Powerboat for Adrenaline and Views
Feel the need for a little adventure? Then Powerboat Adventures can give you a thrill with a ride on one of their boats. The speed boats take you on an hour-long trip to remote cays about 40 miles from Nassau. You’ll see the famous swimming pigs, have the chance to feed stingrays, and also eat a delicious fresh lunch. It’s a bit pricey (more than $200 per person) but it’s a lifetime memory. And if you book online you can save 10%.
Have a Drink at the Famous Tiki Bikini Hut
When you think of beach bar, you are likely envisioning something like the Tiki Bikini Hut. The open air bar sits right on the beach just a short walk down from the cruise ship pier. It’s got a party vibe with folks playing limbo and hanging out on the beach or playing in the water. Meanwhile the drinks flow freely. If you’re looking for a simple way to just hang out for a few hours and enjoy the beach, this is a good bet.
Take a 360 Spin on a Jet Boat
It’s a cross between a jet ski and a powerboat. Jet boats can sit about a dozen passengers and take off doing all the moves a jet ski can do. From roaring quickly over the water to insane 360-degree spins, if you have a pulse then your heart will be pumping. Teens and older kids looking from something exciting to do will have a blast skimming over some of the most beautiful water in the world.
Learn About History at the Pirate Museum
The Bahamas has a long history of pirateering, going back centuries. If you (or the kiddos in your family) are into pirates, then you’d likely enjoy some time at the Pirate Museum. With displays and exhibits of what it was like to be a pirate, you can learn a lot — and get a break from the heat of Nassau inside the air conditioned building. Be sure to get your picture with your head and hands in the pillory while you’re there.
Take a Tour of Fort Charlotte
Nassau has a lot of history as an important colonial outpost. If you’re interested in the city’s past, check out a tour of Fort Charlotte. Built around the time of the American Revolutionary War, it was designed to be a defense outpost from the Spanish. Fort Charlotte is the largest on the island and just about a mile from the cruise port. There are also reenactments on Wednesday and Fridays.
Visit Parliament Square
As the capital of The Bahamas, Nassau is like the nation’s Washington DC. You can visit Parliament Square, which houses the House of Assembly and the Senate. It also houses the Supreme Court of the Bahamas. Don’t expect anything like the U.S. Capitol. The pink building are much more approachable than their American counterparts.
Hit the Beach…And Do Nothing
Want to keep things simple and cheap? Just hit the beach. One of the most famous is Cabbage Beach, just down from Atlantis. There is a public access but you will have to pay for a ride to get there. The sand is sugary white and the water is electric blue. Just be warned that it can get pretty busy on days when lots of ships are in. You’ll be able to find a space, but you will have to deal with vendors.
Get Out on the Water Aboard a Catamaran
If you’re headed to the Bahamas, then you no doubt want to get on the water. What better way than to head out on a catamaran? You can typically book trips through your cruise line. They usually last a half-day and include a chance to snorkel and a lunch.
Relax in Luxury with a Hotel Day Pass
Sometimes you just want to hang out by the pool, eat good food and have a waiter bring you umbrella drinks while you soak up the sun. Luckily, a number of hotels in Nassau will be more than happy to accommodate you. For instance, the Graycliff Hotel provides a day pass with a welcome drink, access to the pool and amenities, and a three-course lunch, as well as towels, changing rooms, and showers. It’s an easy way to spend the day while enjoying your time in Nassau.
Get a View Under the Water in a Semi-Submersible
Want to see the beauty under the water in The Bahamas but don’t (or can’t) want to go snorkeling or diving? Head out on a semi-submersible. These boats offer a comfortable place to sit and see under the waves all without you getting wet. You can book these trips through your cruise line, where it costs about $50 per person for the trip.
Take in Breathtaking Views While Parasailing
As soon as your ship arrive in port, you’re likely to see people flying in the sky, suspended by a parachute. Parasailing is a popular sport in Nassau and there are a number of vendors who will give you a ride. We suggest booking through your cruise line and NOT simply finding someone on the beach offering rides for cheap. Your safety is worth the extra money.
Explore Under the Waves with a Snorkeling Tour
As we mentioned you can take a semi-submersible to view under the water. However, it’s more exciting to take a snorkeling tour. With abundant wildlife around the island, there is a lot to see and a good guide can take you to the hot spots. As well, you don’t have to worry about bringing your own gear. Snorkels, masks, and flotation devices are available on any tour and included with the price you pay.
Party at Senor Frogs
You’re on a cruise. Chances are you want to party! If that sounds like fun to you, then you’ll be happy to know there is a Senor Frogs within walking distance of the cruise ships. Walk over, enjoy the music, dance, have a drink, have a drink, have a drink, and then when you’re ready, you can stroll back to the ship. It doesn’t get much more fun than drinking cocktails in The Bahamas… although you might be forgetful after a day here.
Take a Brewery Tour
The Bahamian Brewery offers tours of their state of the art facility where a number of local beers are brewed and bottled. Of course the tours includes the opportunity to taste the local brew, which includes Sands, High Rock, Bush Crack, and Triple B. You can also purchase some in the gift ship to take home with you as a souvenir.
Hit the Casino at Baha Mar
Sure Atlantis will get your attention — after all it sits prominently right by the cruise ports. However, it’s another resort that actually has the largest casino on the island. In fact, at 100,000 square feet, it’s the largest casino in the Caribbean. Inside you’ll find more than 1,100 machines and nearly 120 tables games for you to try your luck. When it comes to gambling in Nassau, it simply doesn’t get any bigger.
Take a James Bond Tour
Nassau and James Bond go way back, acting as a backdrop for scenes in Thunderball and more recently Casino Royale. You can still see many of the filming locations today. Not sure where to go? There are websites that track the filming locations of the famous scenes so you can set an itinerary of what you want to see to walk in the footsteps of Bond.
Hit the Links to Get in a Round of Golf
If you are a golfer, then you’ve come to the right place. There are a number of courses around Nassau where you can squeeze in 18 holes while the ship is in port. What makes it so special is playing golf in one of the most beautiful natural surroundings you can imagine. It’s hard not to have a good round (even if your score isn’t so hot) when the backdrop is electric blue water.
Head to the Spa For a Relaxing Massage
Tired of the go, go, go? How about a nice massage to help you relax? There are a number of places to go in Nassau, but the highest rated on TripAdvisor is Wellness Spa Bahamas. It’s $85 for an hour massage. So you can make an appointment, treat yourself for an hour, and still have plenty of time to do other activities on the island.
Shop ‘Till You Drop on Bay Street
Located just a block from the cruise pier is Bay Street. It’s a shopping destination with store after store for blocks on end. You can find anything you’re looking for when it comes to souvenirs — from t-shirts to diamond rings and everything in between. If the weather is bad when you are in port, this is a good option as the stores have a covered walkway between many of them. There is also the Straw Market, housed indoors with dozens of vendors.
See the Wildlife at Ardastra Gardens & Zoo
Kids and adults will enjoy a trip to Ardastra Gardens. The four-acre lush tropical garden with tons of flora also features a lot of fauna. See flamingos, jaguars, lemurs and more. There is also a petting zoo for the little ones who want to have a hands-on experience they won’t soon forget.
Experience Swimming with Dolphins
If you’ve ever wanted to swim…or paddleboard…or kayak with dolphins, then here is your chance. Head to Atlantis for the opportunity to experience these creatures firsthand in their 14 acre sanctuary. You can also rest easy know that the resort has partnered with a number of universities and is a member of several zoological societies. So you know that the animals are respected and cared for.
Try Your Hand at Rolling Cigars
The Graycliff Cigar Company is located just a few minutes from the cruise pier and gives you the opportunity to tour a real cigar factory. And if you want to try your hand the company also gives cigar rolling lessons where you can roll your own. They will even show you how to properly light and enjoy your cigar once you’re done.
Have an Adventure on the Nassau Native Quest
Never heard of the Native Quest? It’s a fun scavenger hunt where you get to explore the area, while learning about its history and culture. You’ll battle against other teams in the competition, playing games and also tasting local foods and drinks (including the Bahama Mama). Check with your cruise line for more details.
Stay on the Ship
Ok, maybe it’s not the most exciting way to spend the day… but it’s your vacation. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with just hanging out on the ship when stopped in Nassau. It’s nice to relax and have fewer people on the ship. Many people use this time to book a spa package to pamper themselves while everyone is away or hang out by the pool with smaller crowds.