Nassau is Bahamas' main (largest) seaport as well as country's capital city - located east of Florida USA. Port Nassau is on New Providence Island's northeastern coast. The city has population around 275,000 and covers total area approx 80 mi2 (207 km2).
Just offshore (opposite Port Nassau) is the world-famous Atlantis Paradise Island (privately-owned resort and residential property). Approx 40 mi (65 km) to the northwest of Nassau is Berry Islands' largest island - Great Harbour Cay, and the nearby-located cruise line private islands Coco Cay (RCI-Royal Caribbean, originally named Little Stirrup Cay) and Great Stirrup Cay (NCL-Norwegian).
The cruise port handles annually nearly 3 million cruisers. The Bahamas in Americas' 3rd richest country by GDP (USD 9,792 billion / USD 26,000 per capita in 2018) and its main industry is tourism. The Bahamas is a Commonwealth (UK crown dependency) in which HM Queen Elizabeth II is the reigning monarch and head of state. Nassau City was named after William III of England (aka William of Orange, 1650-1702), from the House of Orange-Nassau (European aristocratic dynasty).
The port city is a unique mixture of modern resorts and British colonialism heritage, with numerous historical sites and amazing beaches, the most popular of which are Junkanoo Beach and Cabbage Beach. The largest festival is Junkanoo - colorful street parade of people in brightly costumes dancing to the rhythm of drums, whistles and cowbells. The celebration is held on January 1, July 10 and December 26, beginning in the early morning hours (1 am) and ending at ~10 AM.
Passenger ferries provide regularly scheduled shipping service from Nassau to the surrounding islands, and mainly to Paradise Island. Nassau's main seaport is Prince George Wharf, also serving cruise liners. Shipping and transportation around the Family Islands is primarily by mailboats homeported at Potters Cay. Arawak Port Department serves cargo shipping. High-speed ferries to Exuma, Harbour Island and Spanish Wells are available daily.
Downtown Nassau is just within 10 min walking distance. City's main shopping street (Bay Street) is a block from the cruise terminal. To reach it, you have to pass Festival Place Welcome Center. The building offers a lot of services for tourists like information and brochures. There a lot of possibilities for shore excursions, offered by the cruise ship companies or organized by your own.
In late-February 2019, a 3-party consortium won the bidding for redevelopment and management of Prince George Wharf and cruise port's related areas. By this project (budgeted USD 250), the number of docking berths will be increased (from the current 6 to 8), also will be constructed a new passenger terminal (building) with an adjacent complex for leisure (entertainment area, retail shopping, bars and restaurants). The new cruise terminal will be also integrated into Bay Street and downtown.
In this newly-formed consortium, Global Ports Holding PLC (subsidiary of Global Ports Holding BV / wholly-owned subsidiary of GIH-Global Investment Holdings) owns 49%, Bahamian Investment Fund owns 49%, and 2% are owned by Yes Foundation (Youth Entrepreneurial Service). In August, the consortium (Nassau Cruise Port Ltd) signed a 25-year concession deal for Nassau Cruise Port's Prince George Wharf. Operations officially started on October 9, 2019. The consortium will invest ~USD 250 million in expanding the cruise port's capacity and enhancing the passenger terminal and downtown touring experience. The project's construction phase started in 2020-Q1 and is scheduled for completion in 2022-Q4. The expected annual revenues are in the range USD 35-40 million.
In the period May 4-15, 2020, Nassau Cruise Port raised USD 130+ million through private bonds offered to private investors and stakeholders. The money was for the cruise port's redevelopment project planned in 3 phases:
- Phase 1 - demolition of the old buildings and structures
- Phase 2 - completion of marine works - including berth expansion, infrastructure upgrades
- Phase 3 - completion of landside works and constructing of the new buildings - passenger Terminal, Plaza, Junkanoo Museum, Amphitheater, Market Place (retail shopping complex), food-beverage-entertainment venues
The 2020-raised funds are to be used in Phase 1 and Phase 2. Funds raised in 2021-Q2 (through an initial public offering via Bahamas Investment Fund) will be used for Phase 3.
Royal Beach Club Bahamas (Royal Caribbean) on Paradise Island
In mid-March 2020, RCCL-Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd announced plans to build a second (after St Johns Antigua) Royal Beach Club (private resort property) at Paradise Island's western end. The complex will be exclusive (for RCI cruise tourists only) and visited as a "beach day" shore excursion option (via private tours) from Nassau.
Royal Beach Club Bahamas will be developed with premium beaches and RCI's signature beachside resort amenities and service. In February 2020, RCCL purchased land ("multiple real estate parcels") on Paradise Island's western coast, at the cost of ~USD 54 million (~EUR 50 million).
Nassau cruise terminal
Nassau Cruise Port terminal serves major passenger shipping companies as port of call. Most of the liners that dock at the passenger terminal are operated by Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Disney, NCL-Norwegian, Costa, MSC.
Nassau cruise terminal is at Prince George Wharf, located on island's northern coast. The port has capacity to handle up to 7 cruise vessels simultaneously.
In the end of 2018, to The Bahamas government received bids for cruise terminal concession. Bids were submitted on December 7 and opened on December 11. The three bidding entities were Providence Advisors (representing Nassau port partners), Cruise Ports International Ltd (representing Carnival, Disney, NCLH Norwegian and RCCL-Royal Caribbean) and Global Ports Holding (world's largest cruiseport operator).
Nassau tours, shore excursions, hotels
City Tours and Shore Excursions
- Festival Place: only a minute walk from Nassau cruise port terminal. You can buy ”truly authentic” Bahamian goods.
- Educulture Museum: 10 minutes away from the terminal by taxi (it will cost you around six dollars). It is dedicated to the Junkanoo parade (Mardi Gras resembling). There is an admission, address: 31 West St.
- Fort Fincastle: 5 minutes away from Nassau cruise port terminal by taxi (estimated cost is four dollars). The fort dates from the 18th century. It is tiny, hilltop located and served for pirate invasions watch. There is an admission.
- Potter’s Cay: 8 minutes from the terminal by taxi (around five dollars), under the Paradise Island Bridge you have to try the seafood shacks.
- Crazy Johnny’s: 8 minutes from Nassau cruise port terminal by taxi. It is a popular old rock and roll night club with karaoke and live performances of local bands. A beer will cost you five dollars.
- Doongalik Studios Art Gallery: 10 minutes from the terminal by taxi. Great exhibitions housed in a gorgeous old residence located in a beautiful garden.
- Sandy Toes: you will have to take a taxi (eight minutes) to reach the ferry terminal and then you will need forty more minutes by a boat. The private Rose Island’s beach offers possibilities for snorkeling and kayaking.
- John Watling’s Rum Distillery in Nassau was established over 200 years ago. It takes 20-25 min taxi ride (USD 10) and includes climbing a large hill. Upon arrival guests are greeted with a pina colada sample. Follows a 10-15 min grounds tour which ends up in the gift shop. The tour of the property is free of charge. There is a good bar where guests can sample 3 types of rum or order the sampled in the begining pina colada.
- Graycliff Hotel is not very large and offer day passes (around USD 100 per person). The hotel has several dining rooms where guests can order the hotel's famous pizzas (around USD 20). Near is the Grayliff Chocolate factory offering free samples in its gift shop.
- Queen's Staircase was carved by slaves in the end of the 18th century and has a total of 66 steps. The area is shaded, and free of charge.
- Baha Mar Resort was inaugurated in 2017 and is located on Cable Beach. At the resoty guests can enjoy gambling, premium shopping, visit bars and explore the property.
- Junkanno Beach is public and at short walking distance from the cruise port. There are cheap drinks and clean restrooms, as well as free Wi-Fi.
Next are listed the most popular Carnival Cruise Lines tours in Nassau, with USD prices per adult:
- Ardastra Gardens and Zoo ($50)
- Atlantis Resort ($120)
- catamaran and snorkeling ($60)
- kayaking ($60)
- jeep tour ($60)
- parasailing ($90)
- historical tours ($45)
- scuba diving tour ($130)
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