Nassau is a major port for cruises to the Bahamas and around the Caribbean, and it has a lot to offer during a visit. Guided tours can make the best of the trip – especially to help avoid crime in the area. Petty theft is the main concern, but the U.S. recently warned about an increase in armed robberies in 2014 and 2015. For that reason, we recommend spending time in Nassau exploring what's under the sea or on land, but with a reputable tour provider.
Here are eight excursions that top our list for cruisers heading to Nassau.
There are plenty of snorkeling options through both the cruise lines and independent operators, but oftentimes they can be overcrowded and lack a personal feel. Blue Hole Watersports hosts a minimum of two people on trips and maximum of ten people. With smaller group sizes, these trips are a great way for solo travelers to meet friends. Snorkeling adventures to coral reefs last two hours, and the meeting location is at the British Colonial Hilton Hotel — a 20-minute walk (best option) or $9 cab. Trips operate three times daily.
A unique experience in Nassau is the SUB (Scenic Underwater Bubbles) adventure, a personal “submarine” for cruise passengers. Machines are similar to bicycles, but guests ride underwater with their heads in a helmet that's filled with fresh air from a scuba tank. You don't even need to wear a piece of goggles. After orientation, travelers can explore a coral reef at a depth of 15 feet. Stuart Cove provides free round-trip pickups at the cruise ship dock for guests, and the excursion lasts around five hours total.
At Graycliff Chocolatier, learn about the process of making chocolate — from cocoa beans to the final product — and have a chance to make and taste a few treats using ingredients such as mango, lime and bacon (yes, chocolate with bacon). Kids can also participate in this activity, which lasts about two hours. The tour is bookable through Carnival and Royal Caribbean with transportation.
Sandy Toes is a private resort about a 30-minute boat ride away from the ferry terminal. The rest and relaxation starts the minute you get off the boat and step onto the beautiful soft-sand beach. The private resort also has a hammock garden, beach games, guided snorkel tour and a lunch buffet; it is all bundled in the package. A bar is on hand for cocktails (one drink is included) and additional options are available, like beach massages. The tour starts at 10:15 a.m. and returns to the ferry terminal at 3:45 p.m. It’s available on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Land taxis are readily available to go to and from the ferry terminal, and they cost around $6 one way. Tip: When you take a cab, agree to the fare in advance to avoid overpaying, and note that prices can vary depending on how many people are in the cab. Water taxis are not recommended because there are often delays.
For a fun way to explore the island, take a Segway tour provided by Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line, Costa Cruises and a few others. The two-hour tour starts a few blocks from the port and glides past Nassau Harbor to Junkanoo Beach. It also visits the famous “Fish Fry,” Nassau’s famous collection of conch shacks and seafood restaurants, located just 15-minutes walking distance from the port. The tour encourages a little friendly riding competition on the way to Fort Charlotte, making it easy for solo travelers to engage with the group. Tours are also bookable directly with Caribbean Segway Tours, where a complimentary van will transport passengers.
Certified divers are in for a treat in Nassau, where crystal-clear waters provide excellent visibility of thriving ecosystems. Most major cruise companies (Royal Caribbean, NCL, Carnival) offer two-tank diving excursions that last around five hours, with transportation included. Although dive sites vary, guests will encounter coral reefs, shipwrecks, sharks, sea turtles and an array of tropical fish. If you want to book directly (usually less expensive), Bahama Divers has a two-tank morning dive (leaving at 9 a.m.) that lasts three hours on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays, but guests must walk 15 minutes or take a $10 taxi to the shop on East Bay Street. All divers must be scuba certified.
Most cruise lines have one or more excursions to the iconic Atlantis Paradise Island, which is a destination in itself. Its water park consists of 141 acres of pools and lagoons, a mile-long river ride with rapids, and 18 waterslides — including one on a Mayan temple with a 60-foot drop into a shark-filled lagoon (on the other side of the glass).
There’s also a soft-sand beach and marine habitat with lionfish, eels, jellyfish and other sea creatures. Atlantis is extremely kid-friendly with its own area for kids. When booked through the cruise lines, the Aquaventure option includes beach and water-park passes, as well as transportation and can cost $145 for adults and $110 for children for a half day (four hours) at the park.
Almost every cruise line offers a unique (but pricey) excursion that is on many travelers’ bucket lists: swimming with dolphins. The gentle creatures will “hug and kiss” passengers as they swim around them, followed by the grand finale: a fast-paced “Superman” push through the water. On NCL, the “Blue Lagoon Dolphin Swim” excursion lasts three-and-a-half hours and costs $251 per adult; on Royal Caribbean it costs $259 and lasts four hours (transportation provided). Kids will love it (and probably never forget it), but they have to be at least 6 years old.