On a recent cruise on the Disney Dream, I had my first chance to visit the port of Nassau. I’d heard stories of others’ experiences, and that perhaps the port wasn’t exactly something you’d want to get off the ship in order to see. When you have a ship as nice as the Disney Cruise Line ships are, there’s always the possibility that you might want to stay on the ship and enjoy all that it has to offer instead of touring a port. Totally understandable. Been there, done that.
The majority of my previous cruises I’d been on featured the Western Caribbean itinerary. Our family has a favorite restaurant in Cozumel (Palmeras), and we normally enjoy shopping around on our way up the street to Palmeras. Lately, I’ve come to refer to our time walking up the street to the restaurant as the “running of the gauntlet.” The shop employees are lined up outside of the stores, and they ask incessantly if you’d like to come and see something. I get it; it’s their job to reel in potential customers. However, over the years, the shop keepers have grown more and more aggressive in their techniques, and will now even touch your arm as they try to coax you into their shops.
It’s with this frame of reference that I stepped off of the Disney Dream and into Nassau. I had no excursions booked, but simply wanted to walk around the port area and get a feel for it. I’m usually up for an adventure. A love exploring and learning about a new place, and the weather was simply gorgeous the day that we visited Nassau.
As you depart the ship, you’ll walk through Festival Place. Festival Place is a gateway of sorts into Nassau from the dock area. Nassau can host up to eight cruise ships a day; the day that we were there, there were only two ships in port.
Upon walking into Festival Place, we discovered that a new port entry point will be completed in early 2022. The artist’s renderings of the new complex are impressive, and, as a Festival Place team member told me, the plans include a new cultural center and amphitheater.
If you need a public restroom, there is one in Festival Place. You can find maps and shop information in Festival Place as well.
As you walk around Nassau, look down. The pavement is uneven throughout the port, and they have signs everywhere to remind tourists to watch their step. It’s true. Please do. There are different levels and drop offs all around.
Prince George dock/plaza is located directly behind Festival Place, and will be your one stop shop for all things Bahamian crafts and such.
Small booths feature just about everything touristy that you might want, including local food and drink.
In the middle of Prince George dock sits an elevated pavilion where visitors can have their hair braided. The vendors will ask you if you’d like to have your hair braided as you walk by.
I’ve never had my hair braided in a port before, and it was a lovely day, so I decided to go for it. On my way back to the ship, I approached Rosalee (who had asked if I wanted my hair braided as I walked through the area the first time), to see if she was available to braid my hair, and she was.
I cannot say enough good things about Rosalee. It turns out that she was the president of Prince George dock for 26 years. The land that the dock sits on is reclaimed land. Nassau leaders decided to fill the area in and create the dock years ago. Rosalee filled me in on the port’s history. I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with Rosalee, and loved the 5 small braids that she meticulously placed in my hair. If I’m in Nassau again, I will definitely ask for her.
Local transportation services are available as you walk out of Festival Place and into the Prince George dock area.
Along the street that lines the port (Woodes Rogers Walk), you’ll find a sign that tells you how to access the main shopping area of town.
A short walk through a shop-lined pedestrian alley lands you on Bay Street. You’ll find all sorts of shops along Bay Street, from the ones you’d expect – like Diamonds International – to smaller, locally-owned souvenir shops.
I found that the shop employees were just fine with you not coming into their shops if you didn’t want to, and were not at all pushy like they can be in Cozumel.
You’ll find two Starbucks locations in port, just in case you’re missing the taste of your favorite caffeine fix from home.
There are several historical spots close to port for those who enjoy getting a feel for the history of a place. Visitors to the port can stop and read about the history of Pompey Square, and can visit a plaza in the middle of town that houses a large statue of Queen Victoria.
Plaques describing the establishment of the Bahamian government are affixed to the buildings in the plaza, and, just down the street, a statue dedicated to the first governor of The Bahamas after the nation gained its independence stands in an open square.
The main thing I’d heard most about before visiting Nassau was the Straw Market. The Straw Market building itself is currently undergoing a renovation, and is closed.
The vendors who would normally sell their merchandise inside the large building are now located just outside of it under awnings along the waterfront.
You’ll find that every type of souvenir is available from these vendors, from large shiny conch shells to carved wooden figurines and woven straw bags and baskets. The people that I spoke to while in port do not know how long the renovation of the Straw Market will last, but seem to be making the best of having to temporarily relocate.
I enjoyed my time in Nassau, and, to be honest, I’ll probably get off the ship again the next time I’m in port. The people were friendly, and the atmosphere was relaxed. I liked having the chance to get a feel for the place and people, and anytime that I can soak up a little historical background information about a place is a huge win in my book.
Have you stopped on a Disney cruise in the port of Nassau? If so, what did you think? Do you have a favorite excursion while in port? Please let me know in the comments section below.