The Bahamas sees thousands of visitors each year, including many who come ashore from a cruise ship for just a few hours. Most cruise ships dock at Prince George Wharf in Nassau, the capital city on New Providence Island. While you can sign up for shore excursions that will take you to other Bahamian islands or on high-thrill activities, if you're just looking for a laid-back day in Nassau, you'll find plenty to see and do within walking distance of the cruise ship pier.
Do A Little Shopping
Take advantage of the souvenir and tourist shops just steps from your ship at Festival Place, which is where all passengers exiting the port must pass through. The indoor marketplace is decorated to look like a traditional Bahamian village. You can get everything from T-shirts and shot glasses to handmade straw hats, jewelry and decorative art work. You can also enjoy a variety of cuisine in the food court, including sampling the local conch that the Bahamas are famous for. Festival Place also has an Internet cafe if you need to send an email to loved ones back home. To the right of the cruise pier, about five minutes down Bay Street, you'll find the Straw Market, which is essentially a much larger, open-air version of what is offered at Festival Place. You can bargain in this market, however; and you are more likely to find better deals.
Hang at the Beach
A few blocks to the right of the Straw Market is British Colonial Hilton, which has a private beach where you can relax for a few hours. You must purchase a day pass from the front desk to use the beach, but the pass also includes a food and beverage credit, and access to the hotel's pool, beach towels and non-motorized sports activities. If you walk another five minutes past the British Colonial Hilton, you'll run into the free public beach, Junkanoo Beach. While it may not be as well-kept as the private beaches, plenty of tourists take advantage of the free beach near the cruise pier, and the water is just as perfect for swimming and snorkeling as any other beach. You can also get fresh conch salad, fritters and other Bahamian fare at rock-bottom prices at one of the many tiki huts along the beach, something you would pay a premium for at private beaches.
See the Sights
Many of the cool sights in Nassau are no more than a 10- to 15-minute walk away from the cruise pier. Walk straight down Parliament Street from the cruise port and you'll run into local attractions such as the Cenotaph Monument, which is dedicated to Bahamian war heroes, and the Nassau Public Library, which used to be a jail in the 1800s. From the library, walk a short distance left on Shirley Street until you reach Elizabeth Street, where you'll see the historic Queen's Staircase, a steep limestone staircase built by former slaves to honor Queen Victoria's role in abolishing slavery in the Bahamas. Near the staircase is Fort Fincastle, which gives you an uninterrupted view of downtown Nassau. Other notable sights within walking distance include the Christ Church Cathedral on George Street and Parliament Square where you'll see the famous bubblegum pink Government House.
Hit the Museums
For a bit of culture, stroll to the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, less than a 15-minute walk from the cruise pier. The art gallery is home to the National Collection of Bahamian Art, displaying historic artwork from renowned Bahamian artists, as well as rotating exhibits of more contemporary Bahamian artwork. The walk is worth it to see the collection of paintings, ceramics, stone sculptures and photography. For families with kids, the Pirates Museum cannot be missed. Just five minutes from the cruise pier, the museum is entirely interactive, with lively pirates escorting you into their world. You can climb aboard a pirate ship replica and explore what life was like on a pirate ship. Kids will get a kick out of being put in the wooden stocks and learning some pirate language.
- Cruise Critic: Nassau Overview
- Cruise Port Insider: Nassau On Your Own
- Nassau Beach: Festival Place
- Bahamas.com: Straw Market
- Bahamas Cruise Excursions: British Colonial Hilton Day Pass
- 10 Best: Bahamas - Junkanoo Beach
- Frommer's: Walking Tours
- National Art Gallery of the Bahamas: The National Collection
- Pirates of Nassau: The Pirates Museum
- Photo Credit Brand X Pictures/Stockbyte/Getty Images