With 1 million cruise ship passengers visiting each year, the Nassau is an immensely crowded place. It’s close to East Coast departure points, and an easy first stop on many sailings. The result: unavoidable crowds in the winter high season, and as many as seven ships in the port at a time.
Still, the tourism industry is a well-oiled machine here. Nassau's vendors are ready for the throngs of visitors, and the British-bred manners keep the hard sell to a minimum. Best of all, if you’re willing to look past the touristy shops and restaurants that cluster around the port, you’ll find plenty of treasures worth seeking on the other side.
Breakfast: The Cricket Club Restaurant & Pub – This institution, an easy 10-minute taxi ride from Nassau's cruise port, serves traditional English breakfast (eggs with baked beans, sausages, and fried tomatoes) all day. You can also order what the Bahamians tend to prefer: tuna fish with grits, or sheep tongue souse — a form of pickled meat. Sports fans will be happy to see the plethora of flat-screen TVs showing both American sports and live cricket matches.
Lunch: Tony’s Seafood – Potter’s Cay, a row of seafood shacks under the Paradise Island Bridge is the spot for fresh conch. You’ll find locals as well as in-the-know tourists queuing in front of their favorite stall looking for a quick lunch. Of all the seafood on offer, Tony’s is our favorite stop, and the conch salad is the top draw — the mollusk is cracked right in front of you and chopped up with tomatoes, onions, green peppers, and your requested amount of spice. (Many locals like it hot, but you don’t have to ask for it that way.)
Dinner: Anchorage Market & Restaurant – If you choose a cruise that stays late or overnights in Nassau (Carnival does, FYI), you’ll be able to dine at this oceanfront hot spot in the popular Arawak Cay Fish Fry area, which is a pleasant 20-minute walk from the port. Couples flock to the upper balcony tables, a most romantic place to catch the sunset while sipping on a rum drink and savoring grilled grouper and spiny lobster.
Dessert: Bahamas Rum Cake Factory – Plenty of islands have rum cakes, but the bundt-style goodies from this shop on East Bay Street come with a tiny jug of rum syrup to pour over the cake for added kick. The cakes are made with Don Lorenzo Rum, distilled in Freeport on Grand Bahama Island, and come in a variety of flavors, including piña colada, banana, and chocolate.
For Everyone: The Pirates Museum – You’ll learn all about the island’s history of hosting famous swashbucklers, including Blackbeard and Anne Bonny, at this museum on the corner of Marlborough and George Streets. Visit the museum on your own, or sign up with your cruise line for a full island tour that details local lore and begins at the gangway of your ship.
For Couples: Breezes Bahamas Resort – It’s hard to ignore the allure of Atlantis — Paradise Island’s biggest resort, which has several hotel towers, a casino, and many restaurants and activities. Most cruise lines offer a package with a day pass, which (for about $100 per person) includes transfers and use of the beach facilities. But you’ll get more bang for your buck — and avoid the throngs of children — by heading to this adult-only, all-inclusive resort, where $65 per person buys all you can eat, drink, and play. Call ahead and reserve your pass, and then take a taxi from the port.
For Families: Educulture museum – This West Street museum is dedicated to the Mardi Gras-like Junkanoo parade, which takes place every December 26. Here, you can learn year-round about the history of the event and try on elaborate costumes and masks. Call ahead for an appointment, and you’ll be taken to the large shacks where floats are built — and learn about the islandwide competition to make the best one.
For the Adventurous: Stuart Cove's – The bravehearted can sign up here for a two-tank dive that takes you to see reef sharks up close. This underwater tour outfitter, which has been in operation in 1978, also offers snorkeling and underwater scooter tours. Bonus: They’ll pick you up from the cruise port.
Bypass the Straw Market on Bay Street and instead peruse the artisanal vendors right inside the Festival Place cruise terminal at Prince George Wharf, which you have to pass through anyway to return to the gangway. You’ll find only authentic Bahamian goods rather than mass-market items that are often made in China; we especially like the conch shell jewelry at Andeana Designs.