Nassau Cruise Port: Plan your visit!

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When taking a cruise to the Bahamas, you’ll likely spend one day at the Nassau cruise port. All the major family cruise lines stop here, including Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, and Carnival Cruise Line.

Carnival Cruise Ship in Nassau Cruise Port at Festival Place.

Ships dock at the Nassau Cruise Port at Prince George Wharf on New Providence Island, what most people refer to as “Nassau.” For decades, visitors coming to this Bahamas cruise port were greeted by customs officers at a rundown, concrete block building lined with vendor shops.  With crowded, noisy corridors and dim lighting, it was not a welcoming first impression to the city.

In 2020 and 2021, the old Festival Place was demolished and rebuilt to create a fresh, welcoming atmosphere. On a Carnival Elation cruise earlier this year, I was quite pleasantly surprised by the transformation. Today’s visitors to Nassau are minutes from paradise, and they never have to cross Bay Street!

So, if you’ve never been to the Nassau cruise port or if it has been a few years, like it was for me, check out all the great things to do in the port near downtown Nassau.

Things to do at Festival Place in Nassau

On your Nassau Bahamas cruise, you don’t need to book an excursion to enjoy great shopping and entertainment. With the recent improvements, there’s no need to hire a taxi unless you want to venture further into the city. And, the fresh updates to Festival Place make it easy to enjoy Bahamian food, shop for souvenirs and enjoy live entertainment without the stress or expense of added shore excursions.

Shop, Eat and Drink

With more than 45 shops and restaurants, you don’t have to leave the secure area at the port to enjoy Bahamian culture. The new design, with bright colored, open air shops, air conditioned restaurants, and wide walkways shaded by palm trees, is an inviting option for cruise travelers who want to relax in port.

DIrectory for Festival Place at the port Nassau, the Bahamas.

You’ll enter the Festival Place shopping and entertainment area through a walkway between the Arrivals Terminal (1) and the Welcome Centre (2). Going back to the ship, you’ll go through the same area, showing your cruise ID and personal ID (driver’s license) if over age 16.

The Festival Place Port Marketplace (4) offers Bahamian shopping, from inexpensive souvenirs to resortwear and art, as well as popular hair braiding, bars and restaurants.

Port Marketplace in Nassau with Carnival Elation in the background and palm trees offering shade.

The Port Amphitheatre (6) did not have live entertainment when we stopped, but people who visit on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays can enjoy live music! The open amphitheatre space is a good spot for kids to play — we saw a dad and young boy playing catch away from the crowds late in the afternoon.

There are three large restroom areas in Festival Place as well, marked 9, 10, 11 on the map, much improved over the past. And, the taxi and tours area, for those who book independent excursions, is more organized and easier to navigate.

People relaxing after a shore excursion by a directional sign outside Junkanoo Museum at Festival Place Nassau.
Signage makes it easy to find where you need to go

Besides shopping, dining and drinking at Festival Place, there’s more to do at the Nassau cruise terminal area.

Junkanoo Museum

As you enter Festival Place from the port, you’ll see the Junkanoo Museum just across the walkway.

Entrance to the Bahamas Museum of Junkanoo at the port Nassau.

Junkanoo, begun as a 3-day Christmas celebration for slaves, has evolved into a vibrant, cultural parade celebrating the spirit of the Bahamas. The “Educulture Junkanoo Museum in Nassau” shares the history, preserves the culture and shares colorful displays from the early days of Junkanoo to today.

Colorful display in the Junkanoo Museum in Nassau Bahamas.

The museum is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with the last tickets sold 30 minutes before closing. Current ticket prices are $10.

If you want to experience more of the culture of Nassau, consider one of these Bahamas excursions that include admission to the museum as part of the tour! The “Authentic Bahamian Culture Experience” is a great short excursion that hits the highlights of New Providence Island including the Queen’s Staircase, Parliament Square, Junkanoo Beach and the Straw Market, ending at the museum with plenty of time to get back to the ship.

There are other things to do near port besides hang out at Festival Place that don’t require a ship’s excursion and also don’t take all day allowing you the freedom to explore at your own pace.

Blackbeard’s Revenge Pirate Adventure

Blackbeard’s Revenge is an interactive pirate adventure for the whole family, with special attention given to kids! The all pirate crew will take you back to the glory days of pirate life as you sail around Nassau Harbour.

Blackbeard's Revenge pulling out of Nassau cruise port toward Paradise Island.

The tour includes rum punch for adults and fruit punch for kids, and a cash bar is available for those who want a bit more.

The ship sails from the cruise port, making this an easy excursion to book on your own!

PRO TIP: Book your pirate sailing at least 90 minutes after your ship should arrive in port to allow for customs clearance and time to walk across the pier. You’ll save money if you book this excursion on your own — just read the cancellation policy!

Shop on Bay Street

Sure, there are lots of shops in Festival Plaza, great for souvenir shopping, but Bay Street is where you’ll find the jewelry stores and other shops popular with frequent cruisers.

Crazy tree and bright buildings on Bay Street in Nassau.

And, there are some fun photo ops to be had!

Pirate fun on Bay Street in Nassau.

Explore the Straw Market

For many people, at least those on their first trip to the Nassau Cruise Port, a visit to the Straw Market is an interesting experience. The Straw Market is packed with local artisans and vendors who sell Bahamian made souvenirs.

Entrance to the refreshed and remodeled Straw Market in Nassau.

It’s a crowded space and can be too much for some. If that’s you, stick to the perimeter and it’s less overwhelming.

Outer shops at the Straw Market in Nassau with handicap ramp out front.

Consider shore excursions

If hanging out for a couple of hours near the port sounds boring, you’ve got lots of shore excursion options in Nassau. Book through the cruise line for peace of mind. Though, our family always does something independent of the cruise line without any issue. If you’re not sure whether to book your own or use the cruise line, this guide to shore excursions should help.

Ardastra Gardens

My favorite thing to do with kids is Ardastra Gardens, a flamingo preserve and tropical garden oasis that’s absolutely beautiful. I recommended it to a reader whose daughter loves flamingoes, and they said it was the highlight of their cruise.

Flamingoes posing at Ardastra Gardens.

Beach Day Getaway

For a beach day that’s hard to beat, head to the British Colonial Nassau, which is walking distance from the Nassau cruise port (just past Senor Frog’s). The wide, sandy, sheltered beach is beautiful, and the newly renovated property is simply stunning. It’s a historic jewel ready for the next 100 years.

British Colonial Serenity Beach near the Nassau harbour.

I know many people plan a beach day at the Atlantis Resort at Paradise Island, but I haven’t heard good reviews recently. It takes a while to get there. It tends to be crowded. And, it’s really expensive (they no longer offer the sister hotel day pass). As beach days go, I’d pick the British Colonial near port or Margaritaville next door to that before going to Paradise Island.

Swim with pigs

True confession, I have not done this one yet. But, I know it’s quite popular! So, if swimming in the ocean with pigs sounds amazing to you, then this shore excursion is right up your alley! Have fun, and let me know how it goes. Here’s an easy booking link to reserve your spot — it sells out months ahead!

Nassau Food and History Tour

On our spring break cruise, our dinner table mates took this food and history tour and said it was the most fun and informative day they’d had in a long time. They raved about the food, how attentive the staff was and how much they enjoyed learning the history of the island from a local. The next time I go to Nassau, I’ll be booking this tour for myself! Book your tour, which has pick up right at the port, through this convenient link. This five star rated tour sells out early.

I hope this post has made planning your day at the Nassau cruise port a little easier! The people of Nassau are certainly ready to welcome you!

Man with coconuts running past Festival Place with Carnival Elation in the background.

If you want simple, hang out at Festival Place and the Junkanoo Museum just past the cruise port. This newly renovated area is relaxed, but also vibrant and fun. Venture a little further afield to explore the shops and restaurants on Bay Street, including the world famous Straw Market. Or, plan a fun day: a pirate ship adventure, a food and history tour, a relaxing beach day or a swim with pigs! Nassau is a fun island with lots to do! Enjoy!