If you’re taking a cruise, then there is a good chance it will include a stop in Nassau, The Bahamas. The port of call is one of the most visited ports of call on the planet, with more than 4 million passengers visiting in 2023.
Just because it is a busy port, however, doesn’t mean it is perfect. Nassau has a reputation among some cruise goers as being more dangerous than other ports. Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department recently issued a security alert for Nassau regarding violent crime.
So is it safe to visit Nassau on a cruise? Here’s what to know before you get off the ship.
Crime in Nassau: What to Know Before You Visit
When it comes to ports of call, Nassau is a bit different than many others. While many cruise ports cater only to tourism, Nassau — while certainly being a major tourist hotspot — is much more than that. It’s an actual city and the seat of the Bahamian government.
As a result, there’s much more than just a quiet spot with a few hotels and things for tourists to do. In fact, the city has a population of around 270,000, or more than half of the entire population of The Bahamas.
In general, you’ll find that most people are extremely welcoming and friendly. And each day literally tens of thousands of passengers visit without incident. Crime, however, does happen in the city.
According to statistics from the Royal Bahamas Police Force there were 113 homicides in New Providence (the island where Nassau is located) in 2022. There were 536 armed robberies.
Overall, the murder rate of The Bahamas came in at 31.2 incidents per 100,000 people in 2022. In the United States, the rate across the nation was 6.4. Some states such as Mississippi (23.7 per 100,000 in 2021) and Louisiana (21.3) are much closer to what’s seen in The Bahamas, however.
Perhaps most disturbing is that police say robberies (different from armed robberies) in 2022 totaled 118 — or about one every three days. This crime was most likely to “occur on a Friday and Saturday than any other day of the week and these incidents peak between the hours of 8am and 4pm.” This is a time when cruise ships are in port and visits are at their peak.
A Government “Security Alert” for Visitors
There’s little argument that crime in Nassau can be a worry. In fact, the U.S. Embassy in Nassau issued a “Security Alert” in January 2024 letting citizens know that there had been 18 murders since the beginning of the year.
“Murders have occurred at all hours including in broad daylight on the streets. Retaliatory gang violence has been the primary motive in 2024 murders,” the alert said.
Meanwhile, the State Department gives a label of “Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution” to The Bahamas overall.
“In Nassau, practice increased vigilance in the “Over the Hill” area (south of Shirley Street) where gang-on-gang violence has resulted in a high homicide rate primarily affecting the local population. Violent crime, such as burglaries, armed robberies, and sexual assaults, occur in both tourist and non-tourist areas,” the advisory says.
One thing to note is that Level 2 is the same rating given to the Dominican Republic, Denmark, Germany, Italy, and more than 60 other destinations.
Our Personal Experience Exploring Nassau on a Cruise
We will be honest, reading warnings from the State Department and hearing personal stories can put even a seasoned traveler on edge. The feeling on the ground, however, can be different.
Remember, your time will be spent in port during the day and most often in heavily crowded tourist areas. That doesn’t mean that crime can’t happen, but your odds of being a victim are fairly low.
For instance, we recently went walking alone, exploring Nassau around a number of tourist areas. This included walking from the ship to Junkanoo Beach, the National Art Gallery, Queen’s Staircase, Parliament Square, both in touristy areas and off the beaten path.
It’s purely anecdotal, but overall we felt no sense of danger. The vast majority of our walk we were near other tourists and in busy, populated areas. There was also a police presence here and there.
We will say that it certainly didn’t feel like walking around Disney World. One person at the beach asked if we were interested in buying drugs (we politely declined). Walkways and sidewalks were often rough, uneven, or non-existent. At one point we stepped off a curb to cross the street and nearly into a moving car coming from the opposite direction (in The Bahamas, they drive on the left side of the road, and not the right).
And during a visit several years ago to Cabbage Beach, we did witness young female come back from a jet ski ride and accuse the a man who drove her friend on another jet ski of sexual assault. Police were later involved.
Is Nassau Safe?
Literally each day tens of thousands of passengers visit Nassau with no problem. Over the course of the year that figure reaches into the millions. We’ve personally visited several times without feeling unsafe, even walking on our own.
That said, there’s little argument that crime does occur in Nassau, even to the point where U.S. government officials feel the need to alert Americans.
In our opinion, using common sense and being aware of your surroundings can go a long way in keeping you safe. If a place, person, or situation makes you feel uncomfortable, then avoid it. Being flashy with money or jewelry is also a bad idea. Overconsuming alcohol is also a “no-no.”
To us, there’s reason to be informed about crime and safety in Nassau, but not a reason to let it scare you from enjoying your vacation.
Alternatives for Those Worried About Safety
Say you just aren’t comfortable in Nassau given everything you’ve heard. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stay on the ship.
Cruise passengers worried about safety can book shore excursions that are vetted by the cruise line instead of venturing out on their own. These excursions are guided, with transportation and guides that know their way around, and you travel in a group. That should go a long way to alleviating any worries.
Don’t want an excursion? There is also an enclosed port area as you exit the ship that is only open to passengers and approved port personnel. It’s fenced and gated with security officers ensuring no one gets in that isn’t supposed to. This area features shops, a museum, and places to get something to eat or drink.
Finally, if you want to explore Paradise Island (where the Atlantis resort sits), you may be more comfortable. This island is just across the channel from Nassau, but is more affluent and filled with tourists.
More on Visiting Nassau:
- 30 Fun Things for Cruise Passengers to Do in Nassau
- Nassau: How to Make the Most of 8 Hours in Port on a Cruise
- The 5 Closest Beaches to the Nassau Cruise Port (Free to Visit)