Nassau, Bahamas | Cruise port of call | CruiseBe
Average: 8 (1 vote)

Nassau, Bahamas

Nassau is the capital of The Bahamas, a member of the British Commonwealth. It is the largest city in the Bahamas and its low-rise sprawl dominates the eastern half of New Providence Island.

Founded around 1650 by the British as Charles Town, the town was renamed in 1695 to honor the ruling house in the Netherlands (and later England), which ultimately derives from Nassau Castle, Rhineland Palatinate. Due to the Bahamas' strategic location near trade routes and its multitude of islands, Nassau soon became a popular pirates' den, and British rule was soon challenged by the self-proclaimed "Privateers Republic" under the leadership of the infamous Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. However, the alarmed British soon tightened their grip, and by 1720 the pirates had been killed, switched to more legitimate... Read more

Nassau, Bahamas


Nassau is the capital of The Bahamas, a member of the British Commonwealth. It is the largest city in the Bahamas and its low-rise sprawl dominates the eastern half of New Providence Island.

Founded around 1650 by the British as Charles Town, the town was renamed in 1695 to honor the ruling house in the Netherlands (and later England), which ultimately derives from Nassau Castle, Rhineland Palatinate. Due to the Bahamas' strategic location near trade routes and its multitude of islands, Nassau soon became a popular pirates' den, and British rule was soon challenged by the self-proclaimed "Privateers Republic" under the leadership of the infamous Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard. However, the alarmed British soon tightened their grip, and by 1720 the pirates had been killed, switched to more legitimate businesses or driven out.

Nassau grew immensely after the end of the American War of Independence as many loyalists (and their slaves) who did not move to Canada settled here. Later free Blacks - including those freed from illegal slave ships by the British Navy settled here.

Nassau would again profit from events in the US during the American Civil War when blockade runners made a small fortune and when it became a party destination for those who could afford it during prohibition. The Bahamas in general and Nassau, in particular, were one of the first destinations for the international "jet-set" of people rich enough and blessed with enough free time to take - then prohibitively expensive - jet aircraft to party locations around the globe. The Cuban Revolution of 1959 further benefited the local tourism industry as the new regime was a lot less lenient towards gambling Americans and the mob or other North American "bourgeoisie" owning everything worth owning in Havana. Today Nassau has both become more accessible to people of more modest means and less exclusive due to it, but its close location to the US as well as its economic political and cultural ties to the US and the Commonwealth still make it a common tourist destination.

Today, with a population of 260,000, Nassau contains nearly 80% of the population of the Bahamas. However, it's still quite low-rise and laid back, with the pretty pastel pink government buildings and the looming giant cruise ships that dock daily.


Orienting yourself in central Nassau is fairly easy. Bay Street, which runs parallel to the shore, is the main shopping street, filled with an odd mix of expensive jewelry boutiques and souvenir shops. The hill that rises behind Bay St contains most of the Bahamas' government buildings and company headquarters, while the residential Over-the-Hill district starts on the other side.


Located slightly north of the tropics, Nassau has a tropical monsoon climate with considerable differences throughout the year in amounts of rain and rainy days. December to April are the driest months with 6-8 rainy days per month, whereas the rainiest time of the year corresponds to the Northern Hemisphere summer months. Temperatures are warm throughout the year.

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Nassau, Bahamas: Port Information

Cruise ships dock at the Prince George Wharf near the Rawson Square. Downtown is about a 15-minute walk away.
You will be welcomed with music; the atmosphere is great. 

Get around Nassau, Bahamas

By water taxi

A water taxi service is an available alternative to a taxi to get to Paradise Island from downtown. It is picked up under the bridge. The water taxi stops operating at 6 PM.

By minibus

Minibuses (locally known as jitneys) act as the bus system of Nassau city and New Providence island. Jitneys are found on and near Bay Street. The famous #10 Jitney to Cable Beach loads passengers on George & Bay Streets (in front of McDonald's, across from the British Colonial Hilton). Other jitneys are located on Charlotte & Bay Streets. A bus will typically wait until it's full before departing. Understanding the various routes can be complex. Many have destinations painted on the bus, but there is no standard as they are run by multiple companies and individuals. Ask around for your destination. Note that there is no jitney that goes to Paradise Island (Atlantis Resort).

A round trip, even if not getting off the bus, is counted as two rides. Payment is received by the driver when disembarking. No change is given, and there is no transfer credit for changing busses.

The Jitney is definitely a very inexpensive way to enjoy the local culture. Be aware that the jitneys stop operating between 6 and 7 PM. The only way back to downtown after 7 PM is by taxi which can be quite expensive. The buses (also called Jitneys) are 32-seaters and travel to many parts of the Island. They operate from 6:30 AM to 6 PM daily, except on Sundays when there is limited service. The schedule is as follows:

From Bay Street (opposite Parliament Street) to the Eastern end of the Island (including foot of the bridge to Paradise Island) and return -- Bus Numbers: 1, 9, 9A, 9B, 19, 21, 21A, 23

From Bay Street (opposite Market Street) to the Marathon Mall and return -- Bus Numbers: 1, 1A, 3, 19, 21

From Frederick Street (Bay Street) to Town Center Mall and return -- Bus Numbers: 4, 4A, 5, 5A, 6, 6A, 11A, 12, 15, 15A

From Bay Street (George Street) to Cable Beach and return - Bus Numbers: 10, 10A

By taxi

Taxis, often minivans and always identifiable by their yellow license plates and little Gothic blackletter "Taxi" lettering, roam the streets of Nassau. They're equipped with meters but will usually refuse to use them, so agree on the fare in advance.

By car

You could also rent a car. All major U.S car rental shops are in Nassau. Worthy of note for travelers from the UK is the very British feel of the roads. Unlike the nearby US, the Nassau roads are left-hand drive, have UK road signs and even the odd roundabout.

By scooter

Scooter (small motorcycle) rental is also popular in Nassau.

By bike

Bicycle rental is not popular and not recommended as traffic is bad, there are many blind corners in the old streets of Nassau, and cars drive recklessly and on the left side of the road, which you may not be used to.

By foot

Within downtown Nassau, you could walk around. Distances are very short and a walking tour is a pleasant way of exploring downtown Nassau.

What to see in Nassau, Bahamas

  • Take a walk around Old Town, an interesting mixture of abandoned buildings and bright Caribbean structures. It doesn't take long to get away from the over-scrubbed tourist areas in the very center. Walk ten minutes uphill to the pink Parliament Building, which has a statue of an enthroned Queen Victoria out front.
  • Ardastra Gardens, Zoo & Conservation Center

    , ☎ 242-323-5806NOCC, fax: 242-323-7232NOCC, e-mail: 9 AM-5 PM. Visit the Bahamas' only zoo. See the marching flamingo shows. Let the parakeets land on you as you feed them. 
  • National Art Gallery of the Bahamas, West & West Hill Streets, ☎ 1-242-328-5800NOCC. Tu-Sa 10 AM-4 PM. Opened in 2003, this showcases Bahamian art from the pre-colonial era to the present. The quality of art is rather uneven, to say the least, but the renovated building — once the residence of the Chief Justice — is a sight in itself. 
  • Pirate Museum, ☎ 1-242-356-3759NOCC, e-mail: M-Sa 9 AM-6 PM, Su 9 AM-noon. Recreations of a pirate town, a pirate ship, and a pirate battle, with a few real artifacts mixed in. Cheesy, but fun. Try to catch a guided tour. 
  • Fort Fincastle

    . A small fort built in 1793 which overlooks the city of Nassau from a small hill south of town. Several cannons are on display. Tours are conducted Monday through Sunday, 8 am to 3 pm.

What to do in Nassau, Bahamas

The bus tours are pretty interesting. They'll drive you around, and tell you about the local government, tell you about different points of interest, and take you to old forts, and to Paradise Island, to see the famous Atlantis hotel resort and its stunning aquarium.

What to eat and drink in Nassau, Bahamas


Get out of the hotel and try real Bahamian fare. You can get greasy fish, sides, and desserts at one of the holes-in-the-wall in downtown Nassau. On the upscale side, there's no shortage of waterside seafood restaurants. Sbarros, McDonald's and Chinese restaurants are mixed in to satisfy the budget diner or someone who has had enough conch.


  • The Shoal Restaurant and Lounge, Nassau Street, ☎ 323-4200NOCC. Sa-Th 7:30 AM-11 PM, Fri 7 AM-7 PM. If the tourist crowds are getting you down, take a taxi out to where the locals eat. Enjoy fish that falls off the bone, friendly service, and a dessert of guava.


  • Cafe Matisse, Bank Lane (behind Parliament Sq, off Bay St), ☎ 1-242-356-7012NOCC. Tue-Sat noon-11 PM. Tucked away on a quiet lane, Matisse serves excellent Italian food with fresh local ingredients. Reservations recommended; try to get a seat in the delightful garden courtyard, which is shady by day and lit up at night. "Proper" dress (no shorts or sandals) required for dinner.


Nassau isn't a spring break mecca for nothing. The club scene is nightly and rowdy. Some popular establishments:

  • Señor Frogs, ☎ (242) 323-1777NOCC. 11 AM-3 AM. right next to the cruise dock. Situated next to a stinky sewer pipe, check which way the wind is blowing before you order. Doesn't serve Kalik.
  • Club Waterloo, East Bay Street. 8 PM-4 AM. on the north side of the island, about two miles from the dock.
  • Cocktails and Dreams, West Bay Street, ☎ (242) 328 3745NOCC. draws a sketchier crowd, although it is on the beach. Come here in a group.
  • Club Fluid. draws a very local crowd. You will get lots of recommendations from Bahamians you meet but it is not a tourist club at all.

You can also opt for an all-inclusive entertainment pass, which will include a schedule. Expect to follow this itinerary with at least 5,000 other co-eds. (It might be a good idea to pick up this schedule even if you don't plan on participating. It will give you a good idea of places to avoid on certain nights.)

Drinks in clubs can get expensive, depending on the club and its location. Many locals "drink up" before going out, to defray this cost. Otherwise, they may be found in the parking lots with a cooler. Rum is cheap and plentiful. Cocktails with rum at a club will be strong.​

Shopping in Nassau, Bahamas

  • Straw Market, Bay St. Originally a locals' market, this is now devoted to touristy bric-a-brac. If you are in the market for some souvenirs, this is the place to come. Don't be discouraged by the initial price of things, as this is the only place you can haggle for a better one. Americans don't have to worry about exchanging any money either, as US currency is accepted universally.
  • Potters' Cay, under the Paradise Island bridge. Best known for its fish market, and there are plenty of stalls that prepare fresh conch salad, conch fritters, and other Bahamian seafood delicacies, but there's plenty of other exotic tropical produce available too.

Safety in Nassau, Bahamas

The "Over-the-Hill" area south of downtown is the poorest part of Nassau, and tourists might want to be wary. It is, however, much nicer than "slums" in the Third World and, indeed, parts of the United States.

Some criminals target restaurants and nightclubs frequented by tourists. The most common approach is to offer victims a ride, either as a "personal favor" or by claiming to be a taxi, and then robbing and/or assaulting the passenger once in the car. Take care to ride only in licensed taxis, identifiable by their yellow license plates.

Be wary of touts offering goods and services. As in other tourist destinations, some people try to take advantage of visitors. Common ploys in Nassau are to try to convince you to join on jet-skiing or booze cruise excursions.

Locals may solicit tourists with offers of marijuana, hair braiding services, or a taxi ride. It gets monotonous but a friendly "no, thank you" and moving on will keep both you and the local happy.

Most Cuban cigars for sale in Nassau are counterfeit. Buy only from reputable dedicated tobacconists. See warning on main Bahamas page.

There is a high crime rate in Nassau at the moment. US Dept of State has labelled New Providence "Critical" and Grand Bahama "High". Crime previously among drug-related groups has now moved toward armed robberies of tourists. Recent local news reports suggest this is not abating.

Language spoken in Nassau, Bahamas

While English is the official language of the Bahamas, a vast majority of the population speaks Bahamian Dialect. There are some minor regional differences from island to island in terms of pronunciation.

African influence In Bahamian dialect, some African words and expressions have been retained, such as:

yinna - you (plural) (Yoruba) jook (v.) - to stab or poke (Fulani). nanny -(v.n.)- feces or the act of defecation (probably of Kongo origin, from the word nene, of similar meaning) cut eye - an expression found in many Caribbean and Atlantic creoles, meaning to glare, literally squint or 'cut' your eyes /roll your eye Jumbay - ghost, related to the Kongo word nzumbi of similar meaning Yam - to eat, still in use in some southern and eastern islands, related to the African word nyam' Bey - meaning boy or a young boy or young lady


7:04 am
January 22, 2022


24.71 °C / 76.478 °F
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22.51 °C/73 °F
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22.48 °C/72 °F
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24.62 °C/76 °F
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25.11 °C/77 °F
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