Headed into Nassau for a cruise? If so, you’re no doubt looking for something fun to do.
While there are a number of things to do in Nassau, one of the most popular things is to take the ferry to head to Paradise Island.
Located across the channel from the cruise piers, you’ll notice Paradise Island right away. Dominating the island is the Atlantis Bahamas resort. The mega hotel features a casino, shops, restaurants, a waterpark, and a dolphin encounter.
But Atlantis isn’t the only reason people take the ferry to get to Paradise Island.
The island has some of the closest and most beautiful beaches to the cruise ships. Cabbage Beach is a popular destination thanks to its powdery, white sand and electric blue water. Also on the island are a number of beach clubs, restaurants, a golf course, and more.
If you want to get to Paradise Island, then you have two choices — a taxi cab or the ferry. Both cost about the same, but in our opinion the ferry is the more memorable experience.
If you’re wanting to take the boat across, here’s everything you need to know about the cost, where to catch it, and what to expect.
The Ferry to Paradise Island Costs $7 Each Way
One of the great things about taking the ferry? It’s actually pretty cheap although rates have risen in recent years. Rates are $7 per person each way, or $14 round trip. Be sure to bring cash, and it’s ideal that you bring exact change. If you don’t have exact change, don’t worry, as they can make change for small bills. We certainly wouldn’t bring $50 or $100 cash to pay for the fare.
U.S. dollars are accepted. There’s no need to change money.
Catch the Boat Inside the Port Area
In years past, you had to leave the cruise terminal area to catch the ferry. Now you can get a ride right near the ships.
When you exit the cruise ship in Nassau, head to the middle docks (often where Carnival ships dock). You’ll see a small booth advertising “Water Ferries to Paradise Island” on the side opposite of the ships. Trouble finding it? Just ask one of the many information attendants helping to direct traffic around the dock.
Once paid, you’ll enter the marina area and walk down to the boat to board or to wait until a boat arrives.
In total, it’s only a five-minute walk from most of the cruise ships.
The Ferry Ride Takes About 10 Minutes
As you’ll see from the cruise ship, Atlantis and Paradise Island aren’t that far away. In total, the trip to the island only takes about 10 minutes.
As you leave, you’ll go out around the cruise ships, giving you a great photo opportunity of the ships from all sides. You’ll then cut through the middle of the channel, right beside Atlantis, and finally dock underneath the causeway bridge between Nassau and Paradise Island.
The Boats Are Open-Air (and Slow Moving)
Don’t expect luxury or a speed boat when you buy your ticket. The ferry boats are older and just cruise along; this isn’t a thrill ride.
Passengers come on board and sit wherever they can find a seat. If the ship you are on has two levels, then the shaded spots on the lower deck fill up fastest. We’d estimate that most ships hold between 30-50 people.
One thing to note is that the ferries are not accessible to those in wheelchairs or having mobility issues. In fact, you may have to climb over a short wall at the pier or step over ropes to get onto the boat. If you or your traveling partner needs more than a handhold to get on the ship, they would be better off catching a taxi cab.
There’s a Tour Guide on Every Boat
Don’t expect to just have a quiet ride over to the island or back to the cruise pier. On each ride there is a “tour guide.” While the captain drives the boat, the tour guide gives a running commentary telling you a number of facts and history about the Bahamas, Nassau, and Paradise Island. He will point out the sights along the ride, including the “Michael Jackson” suite at Atlantis that costs $25,000 a night… with a four-night minimum stay.
Truth be told the tour is pretty interesting the first time you hear it, but you’ll hear the same one if you head back on the ferry to the cruise ship.
At the end of the ride the tour guide will ask for tips. A buck or two is a nice gesture.
Ferry Boats Run Every 30 Minutes From 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
If you need a ride, then the schedule is pretty easy to remember. Boats run every half hour between nine in the morning and six in the evening. This includes Sundays and holidays.
In our experience, they actually run more often than that. In fact, we’ve never waited more than 10-15 minutes for a boat to arrive.
Still, one thing you don’t want to test is the time of the last boat to the mainland. If you are on Paradise Island and want to take a ferry back to the ship, we’d recommend arriving at the dock no later than 5 p.m. to ensure that you get back well before the last ship departs.
Returning to the Cruise Ship is a Similar Process
Ready to head back? In this case you’ll just make your way back to the spot underneath the bridge where you were dropped off.
Once there, you can head to one of the blue booths to buy a ticket back. Sometimes they will simply ask you to pay as you board the boat instead. On the ride back you’ll get the same “tour” and the trip takes about 10 minutes, with great views of the cruise ships.
Thirsty? Want to do some shopping? There are a couple of small souvenir stands and drink stands where you get pick up something before you leave.
Have more questions about taking the ferry between the cruise ships and Paradise Island? Let us know in the comments below.