Nassau is a popular port found on many Bahamas cruises, but some cruisers are intimidated by the crowds and the touts. Some repeat visitors even opt to simply stay on the ship instead of enjoying the beaches, shopping, and water-based activities in port. With so much to see and do in Nassau, it’s a shame to miss out on all the fun. With a little bit of planning, you can have a fantastic day while the ship is docked in Nassau.
Follow these 11 tips for navigating Nassau to make the most of your day in the Bahamas.
How To Get The Most Out Of Your Day In Nassau
1. Get off the ship early.
Chances are your ship will arrive in the Bahamas right around sunrise. Wake up early and hit the top decks for a great photo op. The channel leading into Nassau is downright beautiful, with a lighthouse at the tip of a peninsula. Once the ship has docked, disembark as soon as possible.
Nassau is a very popular port and often has as many as five ships visiting on a single day. That means 20,000 passengers or more will be hitting the island at the same time. Get out early to beat the crowds to the beach and shops.
2. Don’t be afraid to negotiate.
An army of tour vendors will be waiting for you at the pier, hustling for your business. They have a lot of competition, which makes it a buyer’s market.
Don’t like the price they’re asking? Walk away. Chances are good they’ll follow with a lower offer. And if not, someone else will. I once watched a family of five negotiate an island tour down from $200 to $125. Don’t feel bad for the vendor when you agree on a lower price. Trust me: He’s making money.
Read More: Breezes Bahamas Day Pass Review
3. Walk along the pier to snap great photos.
Don’t lie: You want to make all the people back home jealous of your awesome vacation. Heck, isn’t that the whole reason Facebook exists? Fortunately, you don’t have to go far from Nassau’s pier to snap the perfect photo. From the pier itself, you can get great shots of the ship, the colorful shops and the waterfront. Or walk into town to find more opportunities to clog your Instagram feed.
4. Never pay full price in shops.
The same way you negotiated with vendors trying to sell you on a land tour, you’ll want to haggle for the best price in Nassau’s shops. The merchants expect it, and set their prices accordingly. Sure, they hope that naive tourists will walk in and simply plop down their money, but they know that most people will try to get a bargain.
If someone offers you a t-shirt for $15, ask if they’ll take $20 for two. The worst thing that can happen is they say no, and you go make the same deal at the next shop.
5. Take the water taxi to Atlantis.
Want to take a cheap tour of the island? When you walk out of the cruise terminal area, turn right and head to the water taxi pier. A ride on the water taxi can be a mini-excursion on its own that helps you avoid paying inflated cruise ship excursion prices. A boat will take you on a 20-minute narrated ride to Atlantis Bahamas, an expansive high-end resort on its own island. The tour guide will hit you up for tips on the way out, but in my opinion, the trip is well worth the cost.
Once at Atlantis, you have a choice of activities and price points. You can pay a ton to hit the waterpark, beach, and aquarium; explore the hotel’s restaurants and casino; or check out the gorgeous lobby for free.
6. Eat lunch on the ship.
You already paid for the food on your cruise, so it makes no sense to eat overpriced burgers in Nassau when you get one for free onboard. On one visit, we paid $10 for a beer and almost $20 for a burger at Atlantis. Never again.
That said, if you want to try some of the local fare, there are several fantastic joints serving up conch fritters, many with outdoor seating. Ask a local for recommendations of where to get the best Bahamian fare for the lowest price.
7. Take the bus.
If you’re thinking of visiting Baha Mar, a resort on New Providence Island’s popular Cable Beach, or simply don’t feel like walking down to the Fish Fry, skip the taxi. For $1.25, you can catch the local bus to numerous stops along the waterfront. The bus service is laid back, so if you want to stop somewhere along the way, you can ask the driver to stop. Take the #10 bus, which heads down Bay Street along the coast.
8. Don’t rent a scooter.
The Bahamian locals have a saying about visitors who rent scooters: “They come as passengers and leave as cargo.” Translation: A lot of people who rent scooters on the island wind up hurt. The traffic flow in Nassau can be downright terrifying, and this leads to a lot of accidents. Save the $50 it costs to rent a scooter (and potentially your life) by taking a cab or bus instead.
9. Don’t limit yourself to excursions offered by the ship.
Yes, there are valid reasons for taking shore excursions booked through the ship, especially if you’re a first-time visitor. You don’t want to get lost and be left behind when the ship leaves port. But you pay dearly for that peace of mind. In the Bahamas, plenty of reputable vendors sell Nassau shore excursions at far better prices than you’ll get if you book through the cruise line.
If you’re looking to visit a resort, you don’t need to book a tour. Breezes Bahamas is a great one on Cable Beach, and all the taxi drivers know it. Looking for a family excursion or a tour of the island? Cruising Excursions offers island tours, as do other operators. Still fearing you’ll be left behind if you go with someone other than the cruise line? Stick to our tried-and-true technique: Plan to return to the ship two hours before the stated “all aboard” time.
READ MORE: Cruises From Nassau: What You Need To Know
10. Plan an easy beach day at Junkanoo Beach.
Want to hit a beach, but don’t feel like taking a cab or booking an excursion? Junkanoo Beach is an easy 15-minute walk from the cruise pier. It’s located just past the Colonial Hilton. You may have to kindly-but-firmly reject a few pushy vendors, but that’s true of pretty much everywhere in Nassau (outside of the high-end resorts).
If you’d like to stop for a drink after your day on Junkanoo, the wildly popular Señor Frogs is located directly on your route back to your ship from the beach.
11. Look for port-day specials.
If you decide to stay on the ship, make sure to check the daily program left in your cabin for port-day specials. Maybe you can get a relaxing massage at the spa for 25 percent off or a discounted day pass to the thermal suite. Look for fun onboard events designed for cruisers who choose to stay on the ship, or enjoy the lack of crowds by the pool or on the water slide. Sometimes, when ships stay in port into the evening or overnight, they offer dining specials to encourage people to spend their money on board as opposed to in port.
Video: 5 Tips for Navigating Nassau, Bahamas
What do you do when you’re in Nassau?